11 May 2013

FWS Armory: The Future of Bullets

Since the 12th century, humans have been using gunpowder to propel metal projectiles into the bodies of their enemies. Prior to this invention of gunpowder, around the 11th century, human used bows and slings to kill their enemy at a range. Now, that mankind is at the dawn of the 21st century, it seems that the traditional firearm is here to stay. However, there was an active attempt in the 1980's to bring new firearms technology to the battlefield over the traditional firearms of that day. One of these projects was the Hecker & Koch caseless G11 rifle, and the other was headed by the US Army. Between 1986 and 1990, the United States Army held the Advanced Combat Rifle Program (ACRP) to explore possible replacements for the M16A2 using next generation firearm technology. The requirement was for a 100% improvement over the (then) Colt M16A2 platform, because the Army's own infantry school felt the M16 had already at an apex. This blogpost originated way back in 2008, when I was working on my first military science fiction novel, and I was interested in keeping the book as real as possible. I quickly decided on using more conventional weapons, but wanted them with a next-gen twist. This sparked research, but I was unable to locate much in the way of a resource for the near future of the classic bullet and led to this blogpost which has been on the draft slush-pile for three years!

Why We Still Use Bullets and not Beams
According to science fiction, the 21st century should have ushered in an era where directed energy were the weapon of choice for soldiers. However, the rifle that they were using at the time those stories were written, is still in-service with the US military. Lasers are on the modern battlefield, soldiers today can and do mount the laser PEQ aiming system to their weaver-rail carbines. Not long ago, compact laser devices like the PEQ were  thought not to be rugged enough for combat duty. When it comes to lethal laser directed energy weapon system, the US Navy and the US Army are working on large-scale DEW systems for defensive roles, but there is no handheld laser rifle on the horizon. The simple answer are that current technology is unable to delivery a DEW rifle that is lethal enough without needing a massive power and cooling source that is superior to the traditional firearm..even if the soldier worn a power-pack on their back.
Then we must also consider that a laser DE beam achieves the kill via the duration of time-on-target (dwelling time), and the more powerful the beam that hits the target, the less dwelling time, but the greater the power pack. Bullets and the weapons that fired them require no electricity, and while penetration is a factor for all firearms, there is no dwelling time...just aiming. Weather is not much of a factor as it would be for a laser DEW. At the end of the day, traditional firearms are doing their jobs just fine in the reality of modern warfare  

Large Caliber Assault Rifles
For as long as I've read guns magazines, there have been the haters of the 5.56mm round, and since the late 1990's, there has a flood of custom produced large caliber  cartridges for the AR15 platform. These are rounds like the .50 Beowulf, the .458 SOCOM, and the .450 Bushmaster, and all share were designed to increase the power of the AR-15 assault rifle. This is interesting twist of history, because it was the larger, more powerful rifle cartridges of the 20th century that hindered development of the assault rifle concept. It wasn't until the 3rd Reich developed the intermediate cartridge that the assault rifle was born, and it seems these smaller firearm companies are seemingly turning back the hands of time. Fueling the developing of these powerful cartridges for AR15 is an increase in lethality in a familiar weapons' platform for the shooter. Are these massive rounds the future of the bullet? No really...not a large scale anyways.
This would be one of those weapon systems assigned to a specific purpose and could be kept near the soldier for deployment  like in an HUMMV. They are expensive to use, not tactically flexible, train, and they place stress on the frame of the weapon. with. And besides, what would some of these cartridges be used for anyways? Developers of the .50 Beowulf were interested in bring firepower to an M4 user for stopping cars at checkpoints and putting firepower in the hands of operators in a smaller package. Some other rounds, like the .458 SOCOM, could be an sniper rifle-only round over the 7.62x51mm. These could be useful if we develop time travel and hunt dinosaurs like in Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder. Would this be a good element for a sci-fi work? That depends on how you place this massive rounds into the fictional world. I have a super-soldier book that has this armored soldiers using rifles chambering the .50 Beowulf round. But, only because their bodies and armor allow for this caliber's usage and there was a specific reason why the round was fielded.

The 6.8mm SPC
Back when I was a kid in the mid-80's, it seemed that every gun magazine was toting the 10mm Auto pistol cartridge as the next big thing. Of course, the 10mm round fizzled out with only a few guns were manufactured, and no military adoption, but some law enforcement acceptance. The round continued in production for the civilian market. Why am I talking about the 10mm Auto? Because the story of the 6.8x43mm Special Purpose Cartridge (SPC) round is very similar, a round that goes from stardom to obscurity in a few short years. In 2002, Remington worked along side the USSOCOM to develop a more lethal round than the 5.56mm for use in the M4 carbine. It was thought that a bullet that fell in-between the 5.56mm and the 7.62mm, could be very useful in the realities of modern warfare.
The tests proved positive, and Remington believed that they had  hit on their hands for a new milspec round. Around 2004-2006, it is rumored that members of the Special Operations were using the new round in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan with specially fitted M4 carbines that could chamber the 6.8mm SPC. Adding fuel to the fire was video games like Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon II which projected wide-scale adoption by the US Military in the near future. This was the intention of Remington, for the 6.8mm SPC to be cartridge of the Special Forces, while the rest of the armed services utilized the 5.56mm. However, by 2010, the 6.8mm SPC military round was dead, despite the good performance on the firing range. Part of it was the way Remington went about getting the round military approval, some of it had to do with the massive wars we were involved in at the time, and some in USSOCOM didn't believe that their operators needed a special cartridge that would add to the supply chain. Today, the 6.8mm round is primarily used by Hog hunters here in Texas, where it has gained respect as a good round, but is it not likely to be the future path of the bullet. Would this make a good element in a sci-fi work? Yes, this is a solid, respected round that would be solid in a fictional military.

The 6.5mm Grendel 
The 6.5mm (.264) round is nothing new in firearms. No less than ten cartridges are similar size, and been used by military organization over the course of a century. However, most of these were full sized rifle rounds, and issues begin to pop up when the 6.5mm was cut down to be an assault rifle cartridge. The 'Grendel' was a custom designed caliber designed by Alexander Arms in 2004 to be, yet another, improvement on the 5.56mm round. Unlike the 6.8 SPC, the 6.5 Grendel was never formally tested by the US Military  nor was it in the running for a replacement cartridge for the 5.56mm. Rumors around the internet say different, and that the Russians will be releasing AKs in 6.5 Grendel, but the truth is that the round wasn't up to the challenge of being a milspec round due to low long-range ballistics  the round's dimensions cause weakness in the bolt of AR15 weapons. Is the 6.5 Grendel a good element for a sci-fi work? I'm not sure...it would not be the worst cartridge for an futuristic fictional assault rifle, but there are better.

Are We Going Back to the 7.62x51mm?
The NATO 7.62x51mm cartridge is one most widely used military rounds in Western military organizations, and despite the widespread usage of the 5.56mm, the 7.62mm still maintains its role as a heavy-hitting bullet. From machine guns, DMRs, battle-rifles, and sniper rifles, the 7.62mm is a flexible round that seems to be making a comeback since the conflicts in Iraq and A-Stan. When developed in the 1950's, the 7.62x51mm NATO round was the universal cartridge for NATO. Weapons like the M60 machine gun, FN FAL, and the M14 all chambered this round. However, by the 1960's, the Americans had gone to the 5.56mm, and the Soviets were exploring their own smaller cartridge. By the 1990's, the 5.56mm was spread throughout the NATO nations, and the 7.62mm seemed doomed to limited service in machine guns and sniper rifles.
The weakness of the 5.56mm were starting to be seen by military units during the Battle of Mogadishu, and by the time of operations in Afghanistan, there was a push to bring back the heavy-hitter. Soon, more DMR type weapons were being deployed in the 7.62mm, including the new British L129A1. In March of this year, it was leaked to the British Press that the famed SAS Special Operations Unit is exploring the possibility of switching from the 5.56mm to the 7.62mm round. It seems that the 7.62mm NATO is enjoying a reinsurance, and given the history of round, this could be a likely prospect for the future of the bullet....I guess it is like fashion, where everything that is old is new again. Is the 7.62x51mm a good element for a sci-fi work? Science fiction is already predicting that the 7.62mm will be with us when we reach out to the stars. The MA5B and DMR from the HALO universe, along with the Marine M590 from Space: Above and Beyond all chamber the 7.62mm round, and it seems logical with the power of the round.

Smaller High Velocity Cartridges
Back in the 1980's, a new type of bullet and weapon systems was developed, the Personal Defense Weapon (PDW). Their custom compact high-velocity cartridges designed specifically for taking down targets wearing body armor. The first of these new weapon was the FN P90 and its 5.7x28mm round, and it spelled the end of the traditional SMG. Other firearms companies soon caught on, developing their own PDW with HV cartridge, like the H&K MP7. Today, the PDW is widely adopted firearm in military and law enforcement circles.President Obama is guarded with Secret Service guards wearing P90s, the Navy SEALS use the MP7s, and the Chinese have their QCW-05 (the source of the Chicom CQB in Black Ops: II).
Certainly, with the spread of body armor, these little guns with their custom HV rounds will continue to one arm of the future of bullet. Are these HV rounds a good element for a sci-fi work? Very much so. HV ammunition is only going to be more important with the developed of next-gen body armor, and the continued urbanization of our planet. Masamune Shirow has been a pioneer in showing us the future uses of the PDW, and most of his weapon act as a bridge between the current arms to the possible future. One of these 'bridge future weapons' could be the 'Peacekeeper' PDW/Commando Carbine hybrid weapon from Black Ops: II
Caseless Ammunition
It was believed in the 1980's, that the future of the bullet could be liberating it from its metal casing, and wrapping the bullet in  propellant. and causing the bullet to resemble a piece of chewing gum or a leftover clay. This would save weight, and allow the future soldier to hump more ammunition. The closest caseless weaponry ever came to wide-scale approval was in the late 1980's with the West German Army/ H&K G11 project that was nearly the standard rifle of their army.
However, the Wall coming down, unification of the Germany, economic issues caused the cancellation of the G11, and caseless weaponry has remained in the shadows ever since.What the G11 project demonstrated was the strengths and weakness of milspec caseless ammunition. While there is weight saving, higher RPM, and more rounds carried, the ammunition itself is fragile, and prone to cracking. During tests of the G11, the ammunition was the hardest to prefect, and even after years of trial-and-error, the 4.73mm ammo would still crumble like a dry cookie if handled to much. This is a major disadvantage of caseless rounds, today's soldiers do not have to worry about the elements breaking down their ammo, unlike soldiers of the past. If caseless ammunition was adopted on a wide-scale, this could be a concern again. Could there be a future for caseless weaponry? Some believe that caseless guns could enjoy a comeback when there is armed conflict on off-world colonies because caseless weapon can be sealed more than traditional firearms, so that no pesky Lunar or Martian dust gets into the action of the rifle. Is caseless ammunition a good element for a sci-fi work? Yes, if used properly. I included caseless ammunition in my MSF novel Endangered Species (that is at a few publishers at the moment) and I felt it was a good match for the environment.

The 'Duplex' Round
During the US Army's 1986-1990 Advanced Combat Rifle Program that was seeking a replacement for the aging M16 rifle, Colt fielded the ACR concept to the test that fired a unique ammunition type: the Duplex cartridge. Packed within the 5.56mm cartridge was two similar sized bullets. The round submitted for trials by the Army's ACRP had an exposed bullet that was 35 grains and hidden round was 33 grains.  The idea was for each 5.56x45mm NATO round fired by the shooter, two bullets would be speeding down-range to the target, created double impact on the hostile. It was believed that this duplex round would result in greater fatalities with less rounds expended, even if the target was wearing body armor.
While this sounds great, and the Colt ACR was very similar to the (then) present day M16A2, there was issues. Inaccuracy was the most common issue, and for long-range engagements, beyond 325 meters, the shooter would have to switch to traditional M855 5.56mm NATO ammunition...which would be bitch under combat conditions like we've seen in Iraq. It is likely these issue would have been worse in today's M4 carbines. Given the lack of development of duplex ammunition since the end of the ACRP, it is unlikely that the duplex round is not the future of the bullet. Could the duplex ammunition be a good element for a sci-fi work? Not really, given the weakness of the range and abandonment of the concept, and the rarity of knowledge on the concept. BTW, that oddball rail-rib on the foregrip on the Colt ACR M16 was designed for point-and-shoot concept using iron sights that used the eye's natural abilities.

Cased Telescoped Ammunition (CTA)
Sandwiched between the completely caseless ammunition and the traditional meta jacketed cartridge is the cased telescoped ammunition or CTA. Instead of a metallic casing or a propellant casing, CTA uses lightweight metallic or polymer, or plastic. The bullet rests deeper in the new type of casing due to the use of consolidated propellant. It is best to think of CTA has in the middle of the traditional cased and the fully caseless, and as properties of both. CTA is not as weak in structure as the fully caseless ammunition and safer for combat operations in all types of environments, but saves weight over the traditional metallic casing. This is one of the current pathways of the future for the bullet. Already the US Military is exploring using cased telescoped ammunition in their LSAT next-gen SAW LMG...which is seen in Black Ops: II, and could be a nice element in a sci-fi work.

Polymer-Cased Ammunition (PCA)
In another weight-saving measure being currently explored is the polymer-cased ammunition or PCA. This saves up to 35% of weight over conventional ammunition, easing the burden of modern warfighters, and allowing for more ammunition to be carried. PCA operators very smiliar to traditional ammo, and has the same all-weather survivable as brass-encased ammunition. This is mostly likely the short-term future of bullets, especially when combined that the new lead-less 'green' bullets. PCA would make a nice addition to a sci-fi work, but it is a small thing.


Flechettes are nothing new, shotgun shells have been packed with these nasty little fuckers for years, and from the 1960's onward, they were believed to be the next step in military firearms. During the US Army's ACRP, two separate weapons used carbon steel flechette ammunition: the Steyr ACR and AAI ACR. Similar in design to the AUG bullpup assault rifle, the Steyr ACR fired lightweight plastic telescoped synthetic 5.56mm case flechettes that traveled at 4,757 FPS, where the conventional 5.56mm travels at around 3100 FPS. Unlike the Steyr, AAI's ACR was a more traditional layout, but shared the idea of using the 5.56mm shell for their dart. Despite the similarities between the 5.56mm magazines, the AAI ACR could not accept the M16 mags, and firing traditional 5.56mm ammo would damage the barrel.
The advantage of these darts is their compact size, uber-high velocity, flat trajectory  psychological effect, and high fire-rate. However, the flechette has equal disadvantages. It was shown that the high rate-of-fire coupled with the dart sabot damaged the barrel. Then there was the danger of ricochet, and that the dart would just pass through the target, causing an in-and-out entry and exit wound pattern that had little knockdown power. However, the AAI prototype fired their dart at 4500 FPS, and could cause the  'hooking' effect, and massive damage to the target when the bend dart entered the body. When the Army was done with the ACRP, they noted that flechettes were lethal, but not suitable for a rifle system, and more effective when spread out over a large area, via artillery. Could flechettes be the future of bullets? Maybe, and that depends on how next-gen flechettes were about to pierce future bodyarmor. Could you use flechettes in a sci-fi work? I think so...I have in my flash ficiton serial Custom, and found these darts to be a fun story element, and they do have a great realistic and violent nature.

The 'Smart' Guided Bullet
Self-guiding bullets are a fusion of the traditional bullet and the guided missile that allows for a bullet to leave the gun and be able to change direction and/or speed via an onboard flight control system. Sounds great, doesn't it? Well, it could be the future of some types of bullets, especially sniper rounds, and the US government is already hard at work on this. One of the issues for these smart guided bullets was computer systems that could handle the shock of being launched out of the barrel, and in January of 2012, the concept was proven in a live-fire test in the deserts of New Mexico. During this test, the smart bullet hit a target one mile away.  While similar in appearance to traditional ammo, smart bullets are not technology packed in a 7.62mm or .50 round, but are four-inch dart-like projects. These could be used in .50 sniper rounds, allowing for great (and more badass) long-distance shots. There is even talk of fitting these smart bullets with sensors to allow for micro-UAV capabilities. These could be an exciting element in a science fiction story, and these represents one avenue of the future of bullets.

Gryojet rounds
Back in the 1960's, rockery was hot, and application of technology was hot as well. It was during this phase, that Dr. Robert Mainhardt and Dr. Art Biehl joined forces to developed products based around rockets via the company MBA. Their first venture was a micro solid-rocket flare-launcher system, that attached the attention of the US government, who suggested that they develop an handgun based around rocket propulsion. That give birth to the gryojet, a gyroscopically stabilized rocket-propelled .51 caliber projectile. MBA was original eyed the gryojet for military usage (including in conflicts in outer space!) by developed a family of firearms. MBA envisioned gryojet rifles, carbines, LMGs, pistosl, and underwater weapon. However, before US GIs began taking out Charlie in the jungles of 'Nam with rocket-bullets, the gryojet was discovered to have critical issues that prevented adaptation.
There was a 1% failure rate of ammunition not launching, they were expensive, the pistol was not magazine-fed, and there was a very low muzzle velocity when the 13mm round was first fired. It was comically so slow, that you could actually stop the gryojet round from leaving the barrel with your finger! Then it would take 25 yards before the gyrojet projectile to reached enough velocity to be lethal. Since the gryojet was not rifled, that projectile could go off course, and they did. From 1960 to 1969, MBA manufactured about 1,000 gryojet 'rocketeer' pistols for the civilian market, and several were carried by American soldiers in Vietnam as personal arms. Neither of the two known gryojet that went to the 'Nam were fired in combat. By 1969, the party was over, and the gun and MBA passed into history. The uniqueness of gryojet has not been lost to science fiction creators. Both the Battletech and Warhammer 40k universe use rocket propelled bullets...but could it be the future of the bullet? No, not it's current form. Due to the projectiles the low-muzzle velocity at short ranges, and its basic lack of improvement over current firearms. There could a possibility of gryojet weaponry in a sci-fi work, if it was done correctly, like Warhammer 40k.  

Leadless "Green" Bullet
Given the toxic nature of lead-based ammunition and its abilities to containment soil at firing ranges, the US Army is exploring the use of leadless 'green' bullets. This also helps with lead vapor that floats about during indoor shooting. This has been one element to the Army's mission to be more environmental friendly that was undertaken in 1994. These so-called 'green' rounds are a composite of tungsten, tin, and/or zinc fitted within the traditional cooper-jacketed. The goal was to be lead-free by 2005...and they didn't met that. These lead-free ammunition is going to be the future of bullets in the short-term, and would be a good element for a science fiction work.

Magnetically Propelled Bullets
Another possible future for the bullet is to liberate it entirely from its metal casing and chemical propellant via electromagnetism. Either by coils or rails of magnets, these futuristic kinetic energy weapons can propel the sabot at alarmingly fast velocities. These are not science fiction, railguns are in the working prototype phase for the US Navy, and will be deployed onboard combat ship around 2015. What about handheld KEW systems? That is where is becomes complicated. Given the basic design of the railgun, it would not be a good candidate for a rifle-like KE infantry weapon.
It is possible that railguns could be anti-material weapon, but it likely that coilguns (AKA Gauss guns) could be the candidate for a future KE infantry weapon system. For years, mad scientists have been creating powerful homebrew Gauss pistols and rifles that can knock down cans and even damage wood, and filming them for all of us to enjoy on youtube. What is holding back Gauss weaponry is the power requirements, switching between the coils, saturation of the FE projectile, and being rugged enough for field work. I personally love to include Gauss guns in my MSF works, and it is possible these types of weapons will become the future of the bullet... eventually.


The vintage US Army's ACRP footage


  1. Jerry Pournelle was always convinced that the military would go back to the heavier rifle cartridge. He makes a point of it in virtually all of the Co-Dominion books explaining it for a couple of reasons, including accuracy and penetration power since he believed in teh future, there will be cheaply available body armor that is reasonably reliable again smaller rounds. Who knows if he is right, but part of me thinks he is.

    1. Those books were dumb. Yeah sure, Nemourlon. Because shellfire doesn't cause 95% of casualties and you can't just shoot them twice.

      A pistol bullet cracks ribs through his space kevlar. A rifle round would probably threaten organ damage two would almost certainly drop someone.

  2. I believe you forgot HE (high explosive) rounds.
    I read a sci-fi fan fiction where the 7.62mm NATO rounds where replaced with HE rounds, and it seemed like a good idea to me.

    Quote from the story "It also has a smart sensor system that detonates a small HE charge once it pierces several centimeters of flesh or it loses most of its kinetic energy."

    Think about it, it would be one hell of a deadly bullet, a bomb that goes off in side a solider.

    1. But HE rounds weighing under 400 Grams are illegal under the Hague convention of 1899

    2. One could argue that the Hague convention is only valid for wars between humans and humans, not humans and non-humans.

    3. The part where it has the arms causing unnecessary suffering: https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/customary-ihl/eng/docs/v2_rul_rule77
      It explicitly mentions the human body. Nothing about other human beings, hunting using expanding bulllets for example is still allowed for example.

      If you read the relevant introduction it explicitly mentions international several times. At the time of writing these conventions, this was the globe. Just this globe. So for purposes of these conventions one could easily argue international does not mean interplanetary, does not mean intraplanetary, or anything of the sort. One could also argue international means between nations, as in no nation, no convention. Or also: not on a nations property, no convention. This is the excuse some nations used to blow away Somali pirates in international waters using banned arms. So in the cold unclaimed space or unclaimed planets or abandoned stations or what have you no convention.

      One also needs to be aware that many countries do not abide by these conventions regardless of the fact they said they would or signed it, only abide by some parts of these conventions whether outright stated or not, and there are numerous ways to circumvent these rules. A more wellknown example is the Israëli military using white phospherous. Use of WP on humans is highly illegal under the Hague convention because all it really does is burn any flesh and keep burning causing the victims to die from bloodloss or shock, absurdly painful. So they used WP to "lay a smokescreen", anyone unlucky enough to get caught in the WP smokescreen, oh well. Another example is the Brazilian army in APC's using nightvision and heatvision and only tracerrounds to lead paramilitary troops like BOPE to narco hotspots. This would normally be a violation, using the military on your own civilians. However, since they only provided "target designation" with heavy machine guns and autocannons and no heavy fire support no biggie. Any dopedealers accidently hit by a 40mm tracer is just collateral damage, cannot be helped.
      Enough ways around it.

    4. Related question: would´nt the .303 Britis (slightly more powerful than .300 Winchester)be a better round for future guns that the .30 NATO?

  3. I thought that was interesting about Pournelle's observation on firearms...and something I had forgotten about. Given the way body armor is going, Jerry could be correct...he just forgot about HV round.
    I did some research into micro-explosive bullets, and I thought about adding it, but it was hard to find some firm data on rumored explosive bullets. They are a common fictional technology...from Bond to sci-fi...explosive bullets are just cool. They could be similar to the tank's HEAT rounds...hmmm....good catch!
    Thanks fro reading and commenting!

  4. Regarding the "Duplex" round, it first appeared during WW2 in Nazi Germany as one of the projects. Just for information ;)

  5. Ah! Thank you! There is very little information on the 'duplex' round, and I believed that the 1980's ACRP was the first and last appearance.

    1. Duplex roundss have come in all sorts of forms. They're referred to multiplex ammo for a reason. I believe there have been experiments with pentaplex rounds, but at some point you have to wonder why you're not using a shotgun instead.

  6. In the video game Dust 514 there is a "Flechette Gun" category of weapons

  7. I may have to play this game...it looks seriously cool! Thanks for the information!

  8. Will I thought you and all the other FWS boys might like to know that SOCOM has started a new programme for a future soldier suit/tech called "TALOS"

    They want everything from flexible vid screens to exo skeletons to medical monitoring/treatment and everythng inbetween..

    The request info is at the link.


  9. Thanks for the information! I will add to my upcoming Powered Armor blogpost that will be published around FWS 3rd Anniversary (July 11th).

  10. Sorry to bug you again Will but here is something more I think you'll like. The DARPA "Warrior web" project

  11. Flechette guns seem neat with all that KE, but the trouble with tiny darts is they have very little momentum. Tests during SALVO and SPIW found that bullets would deflect off absolutely ridiculous things, including leaves and even raindrops.

    Explosive bullets were pretty common prior to their banning by the Hague convention in 1896; they've been used by snipers since then, and were available for civilian purchase in the US until 1981 when John Hinckley Jr tried to assassinate Reagan.

    The main problems are the fuzing for such a small warhead tends to be unreliable (which would only get worse with war-level mass production), and that most HE rounds actually produced have poor groupings compared to conventional rounds due to all the gubbins inside unbalacing them. HE-tipped rounds are used by anti-material rifles, though.

  12. You might be interested to check out the Benelli CB M2 and the Gerasimenko VAG-73; both used a round that was a cross between a normal bullet and a gyrojet. The casing and bullet were one piece, with an opening in the back sealed by a combustible cover. This allowed them to be fired without an ejecting case, but also without the difficulty of G11-style caseless ammo.


  13. Oops, now that I check your post on caseless ammunition, I see that you already included these two guns. My bad.


  14. one great system that you forgot to mention was the o'dwyer gun AKA metal storm. achieving 1million rounds per minute with a figure 8 set of barrels and projectiles lined up in a tube.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91PcRli231U <pistol
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8hlj4EbdsE < 1 million rounds a minute
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKlnMwuCZso nade launcher

  15. just so you know the army issnt adopting the "Green" bullet because its invironmently friendly that is just a side bare to the fact that they are about 30% better than the old lead rounds they have much better ballistics they are zeroed ar 100M not 25m

  16. Fun and informative article. Mind if I offer a critique to help you improve it? Consider it unlikely that NATO nations will return to full-power thirty cal for the rifle squad. If they did, they'd soon rediscover all the reasons why they dumped 7.92mm Mauser, .303 British, and 7.62 NATO in the first place... I won't rehash those reasons here, except to say: 1) I disagree with the notion in this thread (attributed to Jerry Pournelle) that body armor availability will encourage a thirty-caliber renaissance; and 2) I feel the 7.62 NATO "comeback" is mainly ad-hoc solution to the local problems of Iraq and Afghanistan, and does not represent a global trend.

    Instead, I suggest that sci-fi writers re-examine those 6.5mm Grendel and upgraded M855A1 concepts, and perhaps combine them with the telescopic and polymer case concepts. For a hard-science, prediction fiction in particular, our future of warfare remains in a small caliber, high velocity rifle round with high ballistic coefficient bullets and clever composition.

    At the same time, thirty cal may indeed come back to the future, but think of it as a VLD-VLAM: a Very Low Drag, Very Light Anti Materiel round...

  17. The 6.5mm Grendel seems to be a specialized cartridge that might get its day, but not in the very near future. The M855a1 EPR or the so-called "Green Round", is cool concept and demonstrates how you can upgrade the bullet, instead of replacing the weapon. However, I've read negative things on Guns&Ammo about the EPR.
    I do agree with you about the temporary reassurance of the 7.62x51mm NATO round. That round, while very effective in the light machine guns and DMR platforms, they make poor assault rifles cartridges.
    Recently science fiction works, like AVATAR and Elysium have their futuristic slugthrowers firing 6mm high velocity rounds with high-capability magazines, much like the real-world 5.7x28mm and the 4.6x33mm rounds
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  18. Terrible spelling, grammar and editing. Interesting material though.

  19. Our editor was out the day this was posted with a terrible case of syphilis. He has since been whipped in the breakroom of the FWS offices for the amusement of all staff. We have increased his pay, though, to allow him to hire a higher class of lady-of-the-night to avoid such incidents in the future. Thank you for pointing this out and reading FWS.

  20. I would like to provide a brief update, since I know you have a lot of writing and reading to do for this blog; along with your outside life.

    The 5.7 round was rejected during the very period of NATO testing that resulted in it coming into existence. The Brady campaign goes on and on about how the civilian 5.7 rounds are "cop killers", but the truth is vastly more dark then that. The civilian round is not armor-piercing and nether is the military round, in fact NATO found that 9x19mm is better at beating body armor up to 50m. So if the 5.7 round out of the handgun is not as good as what we already have, there is no point in an SMG using such a round separately. 4.6x30 preformed much worse in testing and has no handgun to go with it, so clearly it's even more of a failure then the 5.7 round.

    Grendel is based off of a Russian hunting round, a really good Russian hunting round. In the past ten or so years the rounds have been tested here and there, making them very popular with well...people like us? From what I can tell they are actually pretty solid rounds, they just need more testing. I think the biggest problem is that they are new and the military refuses to change rounds. Alexander has expanded their site quite a bit and sells a lot more weapons in this round. I assume that "The Truth About Guns" or some firearms enthusiast has tested the rounds in some way, but you should at least have several reviews out there somewhere on this topic. I could go over them for you if you want?

    6.8mm is more or less exactly as you described it, it's still not that popular. The problem I think is range to a degree as it's a heavy round, but the other problem is that there is another round taking it's spot. The 300 AAC Blackout is basically 7.62x39mm only its made for silenced weapons and made by Westerners. The idea is that you want something that kills people really close to you, something to replace SMG ammo with and remain silent. I have no idea if 300 AAC Blackout is used by anyone, just that it's gotten more traction inside the military.

    The composite casing to replace rounds has really improved and gotten much more popular, the only downsize is cost and some minor issues that are being worked out right now.

    If there is anything else on this topic you want looked into, you let me know.

  21. I'm surprised ArmA 3 never comes up in your articles. It's a military sim game, but by default it's set in the near future with plausible looking weapons and equipment.

  22. A thought on potential impact of "smart bullets" and "smart scope" systems. Both systems result in increased accuracy and precision, but also mean bullets will become more expensive. So the focus will shift towards semi-automatic weapons. Because soldiers are more likely to get hit, the solution will be heavier body armor, and to counter heavier armor guns will use larger calibers, and the battle rifle will supplant the assault rifle. Ecentually there will be a point where the strongest armor won't be enough, or mobility will be compromised. Just like armored vehicles are beginning to employ Active Protection Systems to overcome this problem soldiers of the future will be fitted with there own APS. Sensors detect targeting lasers or incoming bullets, and deploy small interceptors that detonate to either deflect the bullet completely, or destabilize it enough that it's penetrating power is reduced. Essentially, a realistic "deflector shield".

    1. Personal deflects shields would be effective in medium or long range combat, but deficient in close quarters due to combination of insufficient early warning, and risk of collateral damage to squad mates or non combatants due to deflected bullets or interceptors.

  23. What can I say another fantastic post, so happy to have discovered your blog. I had no idea about the gyro jet pistol. There was a similar weapon in the Star Frontiers RPG I played in the mid-eighties. Have you done a post on the future of Camouflage? If so I can't find it.

  24. It's amazing what has happened over the years.

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    1. Mfw the bullet that's little better than .50 AE Is praised as some sort of super bullet

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