Sunday is GunDay: GURPS Ultra-Tech Pistols

GURPS Ultra-Tech is a nifty book full of some fine inspiration. It is, however, a victim of being one of the first Tech books out there from fourth edition, and one that tried to be a few things at once, possibly while it was being written, possibly during playtest, and certainly during the post-playtest rewrites that occurred.

The projectile weapons are . . . in need of some work. There are some notable issues for the weapons, and honestly what they’re in need of is a redesign, rather than a rationalization. So, without further ado, here are some thoughts.

I’ll redesign each of the four TL9 pistols in the book, trying to keep close to as many of the stats as possible, but changing the ones that make no sense.

Heavy Pistol, 10mm CLP

This is a 10mm handgun, designed with caseless ammunition of large caliber and high velocity in order to hit both 3d damage (1.5 points more than a 9mm) as well as the GURPS breakpoint for pi+ injury. Truthfully, doing this with a ball pistol round is probably overkill, though I do love me some 10mm pistols. Still, it’s an interesting choice, not just because some of the more recent 9mm ammunition expands to a ridiculous degree, and can pretty legit hold a lot of bullets in a small package.

Now, the 10mm is not that. The fact that the GURPS UT weapon shows 20 cartridges is a problem in and of itself, as a Glock 20 is a full-sized pistol that is a monster to grip (it’s every bit as hefty as the also-beefy Glock 21, though not quite as dear God what have I wrought as a Desert Eagle). That Glock 20 holds 15 rounds. Making a pistol bullet caseless doesnt’ lower the diameter, so really, that’s about all you’re going to get out of it, unless you do something like the G11 rifle and mount a 20-round double-stack magazine horizontally, or horizontally but sideways like the P90. That might be plausible and such a mount would be tall (probably 17-20mm thick including the magazine structure itself), relatively short front to back (a 200gr bullet will be about 21mm long for just the bullet, and a small cake of propellant welded to the back might make the full cartridge about an inch long, instead of the 32mm specified for cased ammo.

Here’s the thing, though: the most energetic round listed on Wiki is over 1,000J – a light, fast bullet, which is perfect for GURPS. It’s also still heavier than the 124gr (8 gram) 9mm that is the standard NATO round. THAT bullet out of a 4.6″ (117mm) barrel cooks along at almost 490m/s, and will do 3d+1 pi+ at Tech Level 8, and with a hollow-point round is probably 2d+3 pi++ or 3d-1 pi++.

And that’s just TL8.

The pressure of the round is already 37,500 psi, so increasing this by a bit to account for advancements in propellant energy isn’t a stretch: let’s boost it by 20%. That gives a near rifle-like 45,000 psi and increases the energy by about the same amount (it should – pressure is force, and force integrated over distance is energy). Knocking down the length of burn from the base 10mm Auto level still ekes out 3d+2 from a 4.5″ barrel, and delivers about 1,100 J of energy from a handgun.

Still, if we really want to talk, we’ll try a sabot round. A jacketed tungsten 5.5mm projectile with a 110gr mass and 15gr sabot will exit at 520m/s and hit 4d (2) pi- damage, which is darn respectable and more appropriate for a TL9 weapon, I’d say – since it will penetrate better than a TL8 bog-standard assault rifle (5d pi), though still delivering not-great wounding. If there were an ammo type (and there may be – I’m just looking at Ultra-Tech right now) that kept the pi damage type, that would be ideal.

Note the “official” rules for a 10mm sabot round doesn’t suffer from this problem: 10mm APHC according the strict rules will do 3d+2(2) pi, which is entirely respectable. I’ll use that on the table.

TL Weapon Damage Acc Range Weight RoF Shots ST Bulk Rcl Cost LC WPS
9 Heavy Pistol, 10mmCLP 3d+2 pi+ 2 215/1,950 2.3/.45 3 15 10 -2 2  $650/40 3 0.021
9    with APHC 3d+2 (2) pi 2 425/2,875 2.3/.75 3 15 10 -2 3  $650/40 2 0.039
9    with APDS 3d+5 (2) pi 2 850/4,675 2.3/.45 3 15 10 -2 2  $650/40 2 0.022
9    with APHEX 3d+2 (2) pi+ and 1d-4 cr ex [1d-2] 2 425/2,875 2.3/.75 3 15 10 -2 3  $650/40 2 0.039
9    with APEP 3d+2 (3) pi 2 850/4,675 2.3/.45 3 15 10 -2 2  $650/40 2 0.022

Holdout Pistol, 7.8mm CLP

So this one’s an interesting choice, originally in 7.5mm caliber, largely because the caliber is very small, and most folks will say that you really don’t want to go below about 9mm in a self-defense round. On the other hand, there’s also the fact that it’s better to hit once with a .22LR than to miss 10 times with a .50AE, also. So let’s change the caliber around until it is basically a wound channel of 0.76 using my design model . . . just enough to jump over the edge to pi rather than pi-. For a ball round, we’ll stick to about a 1.8 aspect ratio and a specific gravity of 10.5 which is basically jacketed lead. This gives us a target projectile of about 83 grains (5.38 grams) and 7.8mm. If it is caseless, and again we invoke the magical propellant that sits at the base of the bullet without wrapping it, we probably have a projectile that’s about 14mm long with a few millimeters of propellant at the base – maybe it’s wrapped in a cellulose case for shape-maintenance or something. In any case (see what I did there?) the entire thing is a bit smaller than a 9x19mm cartridge case, and so will be quite handy. The magazine is probably about 70mm long for this thing, so with some reasonable room for a spring system, you can probably fit 15 projectiles in a double-stack configuration, or 8 in a single-stack. For a true hold-out pistol the size of a Kahr PM9, which deliberately sacrifices magazine capacity for concealability, you might get 7 shots in there. If we assume a “bullpup pistol” configuration, we can probably get 8. Let’s do that. The Boberg bullpup pistol is reputed to have had teething problems, and the patents were picked up by Bond Arms . . . but is basically what we’re trying to recreate here.

Taking the 14oz weight of that weapon and knocking off a bit for TL9 construction, you get about a 0.8-lb. weapon that can hold 7 shots of 7.8mm ammunition. With as much pressure as a full-power 10mm but a charge appropriate to the cartridge size, we can tune this to 2d+1 out of a 3.35″ barrel (85mm). (That’s the exact barrel length of the Boberg XR9-S)

What do we get for that? Well, let’s charge the same as if we were buying the Kahr CM9, the polymer-framed pocket pistol that is the “cheap” version of the PM9 mentioned ealier – about $300-350, so call it $325.

The likely two alternate ammo choices here are hollow point and armor piercing.

TL Weapon Damage Acc Range Weight RoF Shots ST Bulk Rcl Cost LC WPS
9 Holdout Pistol, 7.8mm 2d+1 pi 1 225/1,725 1.2/.2 3 8 8 -1 2 $325/35 3 0.015
9      with JHP 1d+3 pi+ 1 225/1,725 1.2/.2 3 8 8 -1 2 $325/35 3 0.015
9      with APHC 2d+1 (2) pi- 1 225/1,725 1.2/.2 3 8 8 -1 2 $325/35 3 0.015

Magnum Pistol, 15mm

Yes, this is a revolver. But it’s a 15mm revolver!

For when the ever-ridiculous 12.7mm pistol just won’t do. this is basically a weapon for the supernaturally enhanced or the criminally insane, overconfident, or overcompensating. In fact, only extremely sophisticated recoil-management systems could probably tame this beast. I think the only real reason to throw something this large is to fling APEX out of it, though why you want this instead of a PDW or rifle is a fantastic question. This thing is going to look like the Desert Eagle, but bigger. In fact, we’ll just treat it like one, but bigger: 6 shots instead of 7, $50 for an empty magazine, which weighs 0.7 lbs.

TL Weapon Damage Acc Range Weight RoF Shots ST Bulk Rcl Cost LC WPS
9 Magnum Pistol, 15mm 5d pi++ 2 450/2,950 4.5/0.7 3 6 12 -3 4 $2000/50 3 0.096
9      with APHEX 5d (2) pi+ and 1d-2 cr ex [1d-1] 1 225/1,725 1.2/.2 3 6 12 -3 4 $2000/50 3 0.096
9      with APDS 6d+1 (2) pi+ 1 675/4,500 4.5/0.7 3 6 12 -3 4 $2000/50 3 0.096

Medium Pistol, 7.8mm

This is a “service length” version of the holdout pistol. We’ll give it a double-stack magazine of conventional length, so there’s no reason we can’t eke out 20 shots here. Extending the barrel to 5.75″ (145mm, due to the bullpup you get a longer barrel) and nudging the standard ammo up to 90grains gives a fairly bog-standard 2d+2 pi damage . . . just about the same as a 9mm from way back in TL8.

Note that the 5.7x28mm Five-seveN pistol also holds 20 shots, but the cartridge base is 7.8mm, and the case wall is 7.95, so it’s an analogous situation. In fact, the overall length of the 5.7x28mm is 40.5mm, which means that if we look at the 7.8mm round with a 1.8 aspect ratio, the bullet itself is only 14mm long, so we could have a much more compact cartridge – the 9x19mm is only 29.7mm also. So we could have 10mm of propellant caked to the back of the round if we wanted to and the thing would be 24mm long – about an inch, a bit less – and more slender. That is going to provide a much, much more comfortable grip than the 5.7mm pistol (which is a bit long) and feel more like conventional pistols, which is a good thing.

TL Weapon Damage Acc Range Weight RoF Shots ST Bulk Rcl Cost LC WPS
9 Medium Pistol, 7.8mm 2d+2 pi 2 250/1,900 2/.4 3 20 8 -2 2 $700/35 3 0.016
9      with JHP 2d pi+ 2 250/1,900 2/.4 3 20 8 -2 2 $700/35 3 0.016
9      with APHC 2d+2 (2) pi- 2 470/2,700 2.2/.4 3 20 8 -2 2 $700/35 3 0.025

Still, against unarmored folks, 20 shots of the equivalent injury as a .45ACP isn’t anything to sneeze at.

Acessories and Improvements

A lot of what makes TL9+ firearms interesting is really the doodads. The weapons are assumed to come with an integral laser sight (+1 to Guns skill to the basic 1/2D range of the weapon), which is even better than a +1 to Acc. I’d be cooler with a pop-up reflex sight that doesn’t change the silhouette of the weapon, and just makes a dot float where the bullet will go – a “glassles” reflex sight. That way you don’t reveal your position. Failing that, a HUD-link and HUD goggles will do the same thing.

Parting Shot

Slugthrowers like this are back-up, or defensive weaponry. They’re what happens when you have to shoot something and aren’t prepared otherwise, which is why I have an issue with the 15mm pistol – if you need something that badass, bring a longarm. A 15mm pistol like this is basically a 20-gauge shotgun. You will get all the pros and cons of this – limited ammo capacity, recoil like a goosed T-Rex, ginormous meat-paws required to grip it, ridiculous flexibility in ammunition loadout, and the capability to throw honest-to-Zuul payloads rather than bullets.

Still, if you can heft around this monster, you can probably heft around a bullpup shotgun instead.

Also, certainly what I have here isn’t the last word on Ultra-Tech sidearms, even just the TL9 ones. There’s probably room for a high-velocity, larger-caliber 10-13mm pistol, and if you can get a homing round in that 15mm launch platform, that might be an entirely different kettle of fish.

Another pair of possibilities would be – at least for the larger weapons – integral sound suppression. “Silencers” are largely fiction, but moving the thunderclap of a pistol to “only” the sound of a jackhammer or a large stack of books being dropped on a table would be a nice improvement, and be even better for routine carry and less-deafening self-defense use. The second would be some sort of advanced recoil compensation system.

Finally, while I referenced it briefly, the Boberg/Bond Arms concept, if it can be made to work reliably, doesn’t give up much on full-size pistols, and would be a good TL9 migration.

And a final, final note: the 7.8mm does “as well as it does” by virtue of playing with breakpoints. If we were to use the size and speed/range table type wound channel mods, or allow more gradation than the usual pi-, pi, pi+ scale in this range, the 7.8mm would do 2d+2 {0.7} rather than 2d+2 {1.0}. The round design takes very deliberate aim at breakpoints.

Precis – Sunday is GunDay, and while this one’s a bit late, it’ll hold the fort for a while. I look at the pistols from Ultra-Tech and tweak the design and specs for both mission focus and a bit of tweaking for plausibility in some cases.

8 thoughts on “Sunday is GunDay: GURPS Ultra-Tech Pistols

  1. I’ve found that WPS for the lighter UT rounds to be incredibly low. For example, as written, about 166 7.5mm CLP rounds weigh a pound. What’s your take on this?

    1. Some of the projectile weights were given very little thought or rationalization. It’s commonly bandied about on the forums as a complaint, so if you’re finding issues with weights there, you’re in good company.

  2. You give the monster 15mm Magnum to the really big guy whose also carrying the entry shield. That way he’s got a pistol that at least has a chance to deal with the armor everyone’s running around with at TL 9. I like the shotgun pistols for the same reason.

    Thanks for a great article!

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