Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tab Clearing...

  • A very insightful and much-needed reminder that everyone is not Just Exactly Like Me. That's part of the reason I make myself watch one or two MSNBC talk shows on weekend mornings as well as reading web stuff from SoCons and foreign policy hawks.

  • The downside of being a firearms hobbyist is that firearms are a very mature technology. Real, honest novelty is a rare thing in this business. I've seen only a handful of truly novel guns in the last thirty years. It can be argued that, other than advances in materials and manufacturing techniques, there has been nothing new under the metallic cartridge sun since the '30s.

  • Perhaps the driest bit of humor I've seen all month. A line so dry that I didn't melt into laughter, I sublimated.

21 comments:

azmountaintroll said...

Re: Firearms innovation.

The next genuine innovation is going to be directed energy weapons, and the holdup is the power supply. Just as the metallic cartridge had to wait for metallurgy to advance, power packs are waiting for something we probably don't even know exists yet. It'll steam engine when it's steam engine time.

RevolverRob said...

Re: Firearms innovation.

I think we're facing a problem of metallic cartridges. Being realistic here, the limitation on firearms design is more about how to strike the primer and launch the metal cased projectile, and then how to get the next one to line up, to be struck in the most efficient manner.

It's a similar problem in the automotive world, we are still building engines that are essentially big pumps in design and until we figure out how to use a different engine type (not even a different fuel type), we will be limited by design.

-Rob

Kristopher said...

I want an x-ray laser rifle. One powered by expendable small chemical rockets blowing copper laced exhaust into an induction chamber will do.

Something similar to the Airforce's current efforts, but man-portable.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"The next genuine innovation is going to be directed energy weapons, and the holdup is the power supply."

I have to disagree: I think the next genuine innovation is going to be in rail/coil guns. The basic technology is there and could be quickly adapted for deployment, but the power supply is still the big holdup - I think we've hit an upper level on development with current power supply technology, and only minuscule advances are possible until that barrier is cracked.

OTOH, once that energy barrier is cracked, I think we'll see significant advances in both technologies simultaneously.

fast richard said...

I'm still trying to get my mind around the idea that the anarco-caps have a flag.

Comrade Misfit said...

Where's the 20-watt pulsed plasma rifle?

Tam said...

CM,

"It's only what you see, pal."

Chris said...

So dry I sublimated. Well played.

Will said...

I think you can forget directed energy and railgun type weapons in civilian hands.

To start with, and probably the main reason: the range capability for both is "line of sight". What's the missed shots percentage for cops? 80+%?

Beam/energy types against humans will not be as effective as you might think, due to the type of wounds they would inflict. Forget CW type lasers. A pulse type would have to contain enough energy to vaporize a significant percentage of it's impact zone. Measured in inches. I'm thinking an inch wide, clear through the torso. Minimum. And preferably larger.
Will it flash boil the target's blood? Maybe. You sure aren't getting any bleeding with them, as they are all self-cauterizing.

On a battlefield, where you might not care about collateral damage, maybe.

Angus McThag said...

You must also be a cool kid to have the observation about the static technology to be noted.

Uncool kids can say it for years without note making them think that perhaps their livejournals were be plundered for ideas. Except that nobody reads their live journal pages because they're not cool.

jimbob86 said...

"Real, honest novelty is a rare thing in this business."

"Honest" novelty....heh ..... so many Taurus Judge owners defend their purchase as "a novelty", a fun gun ..... but honest? Not when Taurus marketed them as just the thing for women accosted in dark parking garages to defend themselves with ..... (if attacked by a gang of overripe watermelons on sticks).

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is that many (most?) gun owners are cheap SOB's. If you want to do R&D outside government contracting - truly ground-breaking R&D, you need deep pockets for not only the R&D side, but heaps more money to overcome FUD from keyboard commandos and bait shop experts who don't know their ass from a hot rock about... well, much of anything, but are plenty happy to opine what some new development is worth.

One thing that is becoming more and more apparent to me is how much of an ad budget is necessary to overcome the baitshop "experts" who hang around Bubba's Boob Calendar and Bait Shop. They're considered "experts" by their local group of Cletus and Joe Bob's, and they don't think very hard about what they're spouting. They're standing there, at the retailer's shop, spouting off about products about which they know nothing. Any manufacture who is doing something new and radical can't post an engineer at every retail outlet to counter this twaddle - they have to budget for huge splashes in magazines, TV shows, etc to explain their product.

Example: For these guys, the Remington 700 is the be-all, end-all rifle, facts to the contrary need not be articulated. Go ahead, explain why a non-Rem700 rifle is better/safer for hunting... you won't get very far.

Example 2: How much FUD there is surrounding MIM parts in guns.

Example 3: How many people (some gun makers too) use the phrase "machined from billet..." when the truth is rather far from this and it is quite clear that most people using the term "billet" wouldn't know a real billet of steel or aluminum if it were dropped on them.... mostly because they'd be squashed like a bug under a size 12EE boot.

We need to face the fact that there's a large plurality of gun owners who are just not going to help support any new developments. Seeing as how business people don't run their lives like a bunch of trust-fund children, it's easier to make money with the existing technologies out there.


The two technologies that could really push progress in firearms I've not seen get off the research lab bench are:

1. Electrical ignition of primers or propellant, thereby achieving faster lock times, as well as eliminating a whole bunch of mechanical complexity that is currently used in lockworks to prevent firing pins from striking primers due to a gun falling against a hard surface, etc.

2. Caseless ammunition, which would reduce weight and manufacturing costs, as well as simplify firearms design in that you no longer need to worry about ejecting a spent case.


If you could combine the two into a hand-borne weapon, you could have something akin to MetalStorm in a pocket heater.

Technologies I do see coming down the road, albeit at the high to very high end:

1. Putting a small embedded system-on-a-chip into a rifle scope that can do computation for ballistics. Add in external interfaces through a knob with a push-button switch for field interface, a WiFi or Bluetooth interface for programming tables for various bullets, and you can use a menu system to choose your range, angle, wind, etc. Add in a small weather sensor into the stock and you have a pretty powerful upgrade for snipers in that they can get their ballistics tables of corrections through a display in the scope.

2. Suppressors are going to become much more mainstream in states where they are allowed.

rickn8or said...

Okay, but I'll still dream of a pulsed-laser pistol that ejects dead AA batteries instead of cartridge cases.

Dan F said...

@ Anon 258: With 'cyberwar' being the Next Big Pucker-y Thing, better make that interface a hardline or USB. Just sayin, because it would suck to have some script kiddie in Shaanxi make your reticle turn into NyanCat.

RandyGC said...

Being the BHP Fan Boy that I am, I've been saying for years that there has been no significant improvement in auto loading handgun design since 1935.

Course, I usually say that around Glock fan boys ;-)

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"I think you can forget directed energy and railgun type weapons in civilian hands."

Of course, the catch is that both are already being made by hobbyists - especially rail and coil guns. Once the power density and delivery problem is cracked, John Q. Public is going to be able to make combat effective versions from his garage.

"To start with, and probably the main reason: the range capability for both is "line of sight".

Not so much, really. They might have a significantly greater range than conventional firearms, but both must still bow to physics. The effective range of a weapons-grade laser in atmosphere is going to be seriously degraded by simple atmospheric dust - not to mention smog or smoke grenades - and atmospheric distortion from temperature gradients, etc. will create accuracy issues over extreme ranges (you know that heat shimmer over your car hood when the engine is hot? Imagine how much something like that would throw off your aim at 300 yards).

Rail/coil guns will still have to deal with gravity and atmospheric drag. The effective ranges will probably be significantly longer, but then they'll also be limited by the operator's skill and available targeting systems - at ranges where atmospheric distortion, dust, etc. start interfering with visually-based targeting systems.

But my first point is the most important one - the only way to stop civilian possession of these weapons would be to ban them from the beginning, and I think everyone here knows exactly how effective that would be.

Anonymous said...

Looking in the wrong place. There have been quantum improvements in ammo, specifically bullets in the last several decades and it just keeps getting better. HPs that actually work, frangibles, less lethal and I think there is more to come. Also as someone above commented-optics. I am waiting for affordable thermal. Too much is off limits due to legal constraints for civilians, especially in non-US countries. Military types everywhere want big iron and spend the money on that rather than hand portable stuff.

Frank W. James said...

As for 'mature' technologies; I think the same thing could be said for knives and swords, but that doesn't mean they won't kill you or that they would be useless in a fight.

For the short term, more advances will probably be made in the 'sighting' equipment and acquiring the target.

For the long term future of small arms, it will be the propellant or whatever is chosen to replace our present type of propellant.

It might be 'caseless ammo' because the US Gov't bought all the G11 caseless technology from the Germans and Dynamit Nobel after The Wall came down and they were suddenly bankrupt.

And it is my understanding that development of that technology has continued, only here in US hands, but it remains Top Secret.

For squad level small arms, I personally think the reseach into complete electrical conductivity at room temperatures will yield the hyper-velocities usually found with rail gun like weapons. They just won't be individual small arms, but rather crew served weapons to take down aircraft and defeat armored or 'hard' targets.

My guess is something will appear and it will be on the battlefield after everyone else has assumed there is nothing new under the sun...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Will said...

@Jake:

Minor quibble: I wasn't talking about accuracy at extreme distances, I was referring to the fact that the killing range of each type would be at least as far as the eye can see. That is what makes it impractical for normal use.

And frankly, the thought of any sort of high power laser being used for this purpose scares the crap out of me. The potential danger to random eyes within line of sight of the initial line of sight (beam path) is very real. An eye injury from a very low power laser with a wide divergence gave me encouragement to work in a different area of optics.

I suspect the rail/coil gun idea will turn out better, especially if a non-metallic object can be launched. Maybe a metal vapor coated mini wiffle ball would work. Something very light that would loose velocity quickly with air resistance.
This would move the light, fast, bullet argument to a whole new level!

docjim505 said...

What MIGHT the "gun of the future" be like?

Death ray?* Gauss gun? Rocket gun? Some sort of "neural weapon" that might do anything from disorient the person to knock them out to fry their entire nervous system? (And, yes, I DID play a lot of Traveller in my youth!)

Or, as others have suggested, are we looking at improvements in associated technologies, e.g. propellant, projectile, sighting systems, etc?

Anonymous @ 5:58 PM, April 15, 2012 - Part of the problem is that many (most?) gun owners are cheap SOB's.

I disagree. Yes, there are the people who are content with dad's old revolver and a half-empty box of thirty year-old cartridges, but when I look at the wide availability (which bespeaks a fertile market) of expensive firearms and accessories such as red dot and holographic sights, I think that American gun owners are more than willing to plunk down flippin' great wads of cash to have the latest-and-greatest.

To borrow from advice allegedly given to Hiram Maxim, "If you want to make a pile of money, invent something that will enable these Americans to put holes in paper, game animals, and each other with greater facility."**

===

(*) This would give a whole new meaning to the term "lazing" people at the range!

(**) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiram_Stevens_Maxim

Zendo Deb said...

Bullets that you can give direction too. Exploding projectiles that are given a range - before they are fired.

Hell, guns that shoot around corners.

Shells that are ejected FORWARD instead of to the right or left.

These are relatively new, are they not?

But I am still waiting for my electromagnetic rail gun. (They are too expensive to build one-off. And clunky)