There’s an interesting problem – or at least an observation – when looking at the near-future slugthrowers from GURPS Ultra-Tech. The weapons themselves are a mixed bag of “well, it must be better!” and “there’s hardly any way that can happen.” It’s understandable, but leaving that aside, a futuristic pistol is a problem no matter how you slice it.
Why? The presumption of evolving threats, and a natural asymptote in the evolution of a design that debuted, fundamentally, in around 1900. The broom-handle Mauser C96, the M1900 Browning, and of course the M1911 Colt .45 ACP are all basically TL6 designs that evolved through two tech levels (in GURPS terms) to arrive at the early 21st century darn near as improved as they’re going to get.
One of the things one has to realize about a pistol is that they’ve always been secondary weapons. They were a one-shot (or even six-shot, in the US Civil War) first-strike to be wielded along side a saber, the primary weapon, initially. Then they were an officer’s weapon or signature, carried by commanders partially in order to remind them that their role was to direct troops, not engage in personal heroics.
Side note: I’m not necessarily making that up. I knew, personally, a Navy SEAL commander who was in Viet Nam. He was the course leader for the McKinsey and Company “mini-MBA,” and a great guy. He was quirky – he went swimming five times a day – but he told great stories, and his charisma and leadership were palpable. Naturally, I engaged him in conversation, and he told me that he rarely (maybe not ever) carried a weapon larger than a pistol, for that exact reason. His troops were there to kill the enemy; he was there to direct his troops. Staring over a gunsight robbed him of strategic vision. Hrm, says I.
But the thing about a pistol is that it’s not a primary weapon. As the old joke goes, “if I were expecting trouble, I’d have brought my rifle.” It’s a defensive or backup weapon that you can have with you all the time. While there’s no question a pistol can seriously kill you, it’s not a “serious” weapon for offensive purposes in nearly any case .
So we need to define what the mission of the weapon is. And I’m going to be pretty restrictive about it.
- It needs to be something you can carry with you at all times, comfortably. This probably limits total weight and size
- In many cases, it needs to be something small enough to carry concealed at all times, and be comfortable doing so
- It needs to pose a credible threat to an unarmored person
- It needs to be accurate and controllable enough to be used in two or three round salvos; if it’s worth shooting, it’s worth shooting twice
- It should hold as many bullets as possible without violating rules 1-4
Note how I don’t say “it should penetrate body armor.” Punching through armor is an offensive task. If you really want to stretch it, you can say that it should potentially be able to incapacitate someone through light armor, and by light we’re probably talking about car doors or casual protection – probably no more than DR 8, maybe even as low as DR 4. If the threat is wearing more than that, you need a rifle.
What does “incapacitate” mean? Heck, it probably means a single vitals hit will make you start rolling for unconsciousness. That’s an average penetrating damage of about 1d+1 pi. Asking a “casual” hit to the torso to do that will put the requirement of base damage in the 3d to 3d+2 range . . . which is 10.5 to 12.5 points of damage. With a pi+ bullet, that’s 2d or 2d+1.
That’s a reasonable ask in either case. Continue reading “The TL9 Pistol – Design Directions (GURPS)”