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In last night’s Daily Digest, Dan the Man revealed  that “the maker of the famous AK-47 rifle is building ‘a range of products based on neural networks, including a ‘fully automated combat module that can identify and shoot at its targets.” In the video below, we get another look at the Navy’s first laser weapon. All of which begs the question . . .

What’s next for the personal defense weapon, The Artist Previously Known as Gun?

Gun control advocates are future-pimping “smart guns” — firearms that will only fire for their owner. Never mind their lack of reliability, gun rights advocates are just saying no to any gun that can be remotely monitored and/or disabled.

Meanwhile, TASER has moved the non-ballistic ball forward with its gun-like Pulse, an electroshock weapon that inflicts a 30-second charge on a perp (facilitating the recommended GTFO strategy). On the ballistic side, bullet technology continues to improve, making even mouse guns mightier.

Given the rapid pace of technological change, what what do you see as the future of guns? Not just big picture stuff. What small improvements does the future hold?

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  1. Simple, the next war is fought with nukes, the war after that with sticks and stones.

    • We have had quite a few wars since the advent of nuclear weapons. The countries that have them, including secondary ones like India and Pakistan, have been very careful never to push each other too far. Mutual assured destruction means they are useful only as a deterrent. Actual use would be suicidal. Even the fat loudmouth in Pyongyang knows that. What does worry me is use by terrorists. MAD doesn’t apply because the victim would have no fixed target to retaliate against.

      • Actually, there would be lots of fixed targets, all of which would likely claim at least somewhat plausible deniability…

    • Nonsense. War… war never changes… the following war will be fought power armor, rediculously huge revolvers, and gatling lasers.

      • +1 for the fallout reference.
        Even if we never get a Fat Man launcher, I’d be tickled pink if we got VATS.

  2. It’s gonna be a while before batteries are advanced enough for compact laser weapons with reasonable capacity, so chemical propellants are gonna continue to be the thing for quite some time.

    • I agree, with the added fact that these high tech “smart” laser (“directed energy”) weapons require a sophisticated computer and huge amounts of electrical power, not something anyone will be walking around with any time in the foreseeable future. The linear accelerator long range artillery system being tested by the Navy also requires a massive charge of electricity. Until small, reliable fusion reactors are invented, nothing less than a semi will be needed for these weapons.

      For personal weapons, then, chemical reaction is the way to go, though it’s anyone’s guess what new propellants will be concocted. Caseless may at some point have its day, but we are not there yet. Bullet technology will be pushed more based on environmental (i.e. lead pollution) regulations than any real need for a better bullet. At some point I would think that some replacement for copper will need to be found due to the limited resource.

  3. What I do NOT anticipate: fancy stuff because it will have too many vulnerabilities and be too expensive.

    What I do anticipate: still better bullet designs, and quite possibly even “exotic” bullet designs.

    As far as firearms (especially handguns) go, I don’t anticipate much change there. Firearms are already available that are effectively too light (yielding too much recoil), amazingly durable (capable of shooting 20,000+ rounds before catastrophic failure), and stunningly reliable (zero failures to function per 1,000 rounds). Thus, I don’t see any possible improvement in terms of weight, durability, or reliability. Perhaps we will see slimmer handgun designs with existing capacities that are easier to conceal?

    Oh, and I definitely anticipate more modular firearm platforms, in both long guns and handguns. People love to tinker, tweak, and personalize.

    If someone ever develops the equivalent of a Star Trek phaser (on stun setting), that could very well lead to a greatly diminished classic firearms market … and corresponding offerings. How someone would do that is beyond me.

  4. The evolution of new weapons for personal defense will make the wisdom contained in the 2nd amendment all the more important. New weapon designs will undoubtedly be seized upon by progressive, authoritarian minded gun-controllers as a justification for setting aside our constitutional rights regarding the possession of firearms. To combat this, we will need a literal, unalloyed, interpretation of our constitutional rights. The 2nd amendment has to mean exactly what it says. Period. End of argument.

    • Garrison, you have hit upon the far more important facet of this question. One which we ought to exploit.

      A century or so ago, we saw the first appearance of this question in the form of Bowie-knife control. A gun was too expensive for the unwashed White-man to own; but, a Bowie-knife and other knife-fighting weapon was available to the meanest citizen. So, the elites began to pass knife-control laws and concealed-carry laws.

      A couple of decades ago stun-guns were invented; and the elites realized that they undermined concealed-gun-carry control. Then MACE; and the pepper-spray laws were passed to complement the stun-gun laws.

      What do we see in the crystal ball for portable arms? Hard to tell; yet, we can look to “designer-drugs” as the handwriting on the wall. The elites are committed to a program of passing a new law to prohibit whatever might be invented as an effective self-defense device. Legislators and inventors will begin a race-in-earnest where one innovation is followed by a new law; and another innovation; another law.

      We ought to argue that this escalating arms/law race is inevitable and as futile as the designer-drug/law race has proven. Indeed, the race might prove as counter-productive as the pot-ban leading to designer-drugs. (Imagine ladies carrying poisoned hat-pins for self-defense.)

      Do voters want to be led down this path by legislators crying “But we have to do something!”? Or, should voters recognize that the genie-is-out-of-the-bottle on arms-/artifact-control.

      By now, America understands firearms. They are defined well-enough; they can be detected by metal-detectors for GFZs such as prisons or airports. Let’s concentrate today on controlling felons-in-possession and leave law-abiding citizens at relative liberty to carry firearms.

      How much of society’s, Congress’s and SCOTUS’s time can we spend fruitfully on cases such as Shaneen Allen or Caetano?

  5. In terms of conventional somethging pushes a bullet out of a barrel chemically, better chemicals and materials that permit yet higher and higher pressures.

    For the rest? Depends on how dense of electrical storage we can get.

    • “For the rest? Depends on how dense of electrical storage we can get.”

      This man gets it. Physics is the limiting factor for directed-energy weapons. You need to discharge a massive amount of juice in a very short timeframe, and that’s as dangerous for the pitcher as it is for the catcher…

  6. Eventually there will be some type of laser gun that is small enough to work for home defense or concealed carry. However it is a long way off if things stay trending the way they have been. In the interim I believe there will be caseless ammunition finally in a small reliable format that works well consistently. This will be fire electrically and likely be in a very lightweight projectile at very high velocity. This accomplishes a lot of improvements over todays conventional ammunition and handguns. Caseless ammo allows for more reliable functioning of the weapon as it eliminates extraction and ejection issues by eliminating extracting and ejecting. That is 2 of 4 functions for a semi auto and in a revolver format 1 function. If the rounds are fired electrically then you greatly reduce lock time which aids in accuracy and allows for complete adjustment of trigger pull factors. You can set how long or short the pull is, where the weight increases or the wall, how long the pull is after the wall is hit and overtravel all without affecting how hard the striker or firing pin hits a primer as an impact is not required. Add in no movement of mechanical devices moving once the sear is released like a normal gun and there is less movement in the gun again adding to accuracy. By using a battery along with a piezo electric back up system the reliability and life could be super long.

    Lastly by using very light projectile at high velocity you can get rifle like terminal ballistics and extended range flatter shooting bullets with effective temporary stretch cavities that damage tissue. This comes with reduced recoil or similar recoil to todays high velocity but heavier bullet ammunition. If a street or carry comp is used with the high velocity rounds you can also gain in muzzle flip reduction.

    • My understanding is that one of the big problems with careless ammo that was discovered in the past when the idea was first floated, and which has yet to be resolved, is heat management. Traditional brass cases act as a heat sink that remove heat from the chamber upon being extracted, whereas with caseless ammo that heat buildup continues without mitigation with extended fire, to the point that cook offs become a major issue. It makes me wonder if the “thermal clips” used in Mass Effect 2 and 3 would be something that could be implemented in some way to combat that.

  7. A Ruger American Rimfire in .22LR LEFT HANDED DAMMIT!

    Beyond that – I’d like to see some revisitation of the caseless ammo ideas…

    • Even in the Federation gun control is a failure. Kivas Fajo owned 4 of 5 of those disruptors ever made.

    • “Kiss developed the “Love Gun” in the 70s.”

      Yeah, but Tommy Lee made it *famous* in the 80s…


  8. Sci fi guns aren’t all that far fetched, the way technology is going. The big hurdle is a power source, but the way I see it, we carry multiple magazines to reload our guns, usually. Why wouldn’t we carry multiple batteries/power sources the same way?

    • IR laser weapons have been used in an effort to blind police at riots in Europe.

      There’s a UK company that makes some good protective specs.

  9. The main issues are energy storage density and energy discharge rate. But more the latter, as gunpowder isn’t an especially high energy density medium, but it’s really good at releasing its stored energy quickly.

    An average 5.56×45 round can deliver, say, 1.7kJ at the muzzle (varies a little with bullet weight, we’re spitballing averages here). A single alkaline AA battery stores around 9 kJ. Even if we assume half the battery’s energy is lost to the firing mechanism, it’s still holding comparable energy to a few typical AR rounds.

    The issue is getting that 9 kJ out and delivered (via railgun or mass driver projectile, laser beam, charged particle beam, or whatever) within about a millisecond or so. A kJ of laser energy delivered over a second is a kW peak power, which isn’t going to be enough to damage through ablation effects and isn’t enough total energy to do a lot of real heating. That same kJ delivered over a millisecond is now 1 MW peak power and starting to get interesting.

    Batteries generally can’t safely (or unsafely for that matter) discharge that fast, so we need to pre-charge a capacitor, say. But caps have absolutely abysmal energy storage density.

    So we don’t need much better batteries, but we do need much better ways of delivering what they store. Supercapacitors are one candidate technology, but they tend to be limited to pretty low voltage, whereas most electric weapons I know of are better driven at high voltage. Even a laser with 10-V diodes is still well above a typical high-capacity supercap’s comfort zone.

    • A capacitor could be recharged from a battery between shots. Cyclic rate would be limited to what the battery could put out. The problem with caseless ammunition is that current propellants cook off when the chamber gets too hot. An inert propellant, vaporized by discharging a capacitor, would avoid that. I could imagine a magazine in which the top section contains projectiles bonded to propellant and the bottom section contains a battery to provide the energy. The engineering challenge would be managing the flow of such high currents.

      • Sure.

        Problem is, those caps get huge and they’re pretty fragile.

        Energy stored in a capacitor scales as 1/2 C V^2, where C is the capacitance and V is the voltage. Let’s say we try a big electrolytic capacitor.

        The biggest C I can find on Digikey is a 2.2 Farad capacitor. It has a voltage limit of 10V. So this sucker, which is 4″ in diameter and 10″ long, stores a whopping 100J. Compare that to 160J from a .22LR out of a pistol.

        The highest voltage electrolytic cap I found is rates for 650V but only has C=0.0047F. That one will store almost 1 kJ, so we’re around 1/4 of the way there … But it’s still about as big as the one above, and now we need high voltage converters and switches.

  10. People probably wondered the same thing 100 years ago. Little did they know that John Browning’s designs would still grace some of the best in the world.

  11. A light saber would be nice!
    Or how about laser-guided bullets in all calibers from .17 and up?
    But realistically? I have a design for a pistol that completely eliminates muzzle rise and muzzle flip.
    The only problem is that it would currently be classified by the NFA as a “machine gun” because it fires two shots simultaneously with one pull of the trigger — one shot through the upper barrel, and one shot through the lower barrel.
    Not only would this eliminate muzzle rise, but firing both barrels at the same time would do twice the damage, or if you need less recoil, it would enable you to do the same amount of damage with a smaller bullet.
    Too bad the NFA will never allow this to be manufactured.

    • That has nothing to do with the NFA. Simultaneous firing two barreled weapons have been available for centuries. They are called double rifles(and double barreled shotguns). they can all fire simultaneously as long as they are of the two trigger design.

    • Yeah what Kenneth said. The Double Barrel 1911 got around the NFA by keeping the firing mechanisms for each side separate up until the hammer itself. Their first model had a single mechanism and the ATF got snotty with them because of it. (I forget who makes them.)

      • “Yeah what Kenneth said. The Double Barrel 1911 got around the NFA by keeping the firing mechanisms for each side separate up until the hammer itself. Their first model had a single mechanism and the ATF got snotty with them because of it. (I forget who makes them.)”

        Unless Arsenal changed them to have two separate triggers (and I’ve seen nothing to say they have), they still fire two rounds with each single actuation of the trigger, the NFA definition of an automatic firearm.
        The question of how the ATF allowed this was brought up when it was announced, and the answers given were extremely sketchy. The idea that because there are two sears doesn’t alter the fact that one trigger pull fires two rounds.
        But then, we are talking about a government agency here (the BATFE(ARBF)), so logic is neither required nor expected.

        “[A]ny weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manually reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”
        NFA, 1934.
        Disregard any definitions that say that an automatic firearm is one that continues to fire until the trigger is released, or the gun runs out of ammo. The above quote is the legal one.

  12. If the last decade or so is any indication, we can expect the future to bring us a huge number of “me, too” copies of decades-old (and century-old!) designs, which will be breathlessly marketed as somehow vastly different than all the other nearly-identical guns on the market…

    I would love to see innovation in the firearms world, but until there’s a big breakthrough like caseless ammunition or inexpensive 3D printing of metal strong enough to build a gun from, I don’t think we’ll see much changing on the rifle/pistol front.

  13. Current regulations restrain a lot of potential for development, all the “this is what a firearm is, a rifle, a pistol, a short barreled rifle”. We might see more experimentation if you didn’t have to have certain overall lengths or features in certain configurations.

    Integral surpressors if they become less regulated. Might see more things like the b&t usw- but then add on a Sig/steryr-like modular trigger pack, now it can be a pistol, rifle, pdw, compact?

    More 3d printing, both for prototyping and actual production

  14. For smaller than battleship sized guns and larger than handheld (for now), liquid propellant is very promising.

  15. In the handgun world red dot sights on pistol will become more common. Everybody i know is complaining about price, but nobody wants to go back to just iron sights.
    With ammunition i expect slight changes first, maybe the new NAS3 shells first, later down the road we might get cased telescopic or caseless ammo with all the benefits at a affordable price. Biggest thing would be a drastic improvement in propellant, an explosive that would allow for greater speeds or the same bang in a smaller package.

  16. Realistically? Being from Kali, I’m thinking a major portion of future gun design will be (is) politically driven. Check out all the latest devices for compliant ARs that are actually faster than a bullet button… I hate to admit it because infringement sucks but I’m actually a little excited about seeing new designs that will come forward if semi-autos are ever banned. Think short stroke AR/AK mag fed lever rifle…

  17. The cause of freedom can only be assured with arms that can be easily understood, maintained, wielded, etc. The regular person can understand guns as they are now. A laser? No. A energy beam? Not in the least. We don’t want to have to call an IT nerd to fix our gun.

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