Since in the ongoing series about the Legions I’m obviously going to be talking about their guns, seems to me that I ought to maybe describe the terminology used for those just a bit so that you know what I’m talking about.
That is, inasmuch as terminology has changed from what could reasonably be translated into our firearms terminology, inasmuch in turn as these guns technically aren’t firearms – they’re powered by mass drivers rather than chemical explosions – so while some of the words are familiar, the definitions have changed.
Let me sum up:
There are four basic classes of guns (in the slugthrower sense, that is, and ignoring needlers which no-one counts as slugthrowers even though they technically are) used in the Empire. These are referred to as pistols, carbines, snipers, and slugguns.
The first three of these all work by firing tiny flechettes at HOLY CRAP speed.
A pistol is, basically, any flechette-firing mass-driver handgun.
A carbine is the common flechette-firing mass-driver long gun. The original definition as “shorter-barrelled than a rifle” has more or less gone away, since there are no more rifles – the mass drivers spin their projectiles purely through EM fields – but it translates to the vast number of general-use longarms intended for use in pretty much all combat situations from close-up defense to long-range suppressive, essentially filling both the PDW and assault rifle role.
A modal example has a bullpup configuration and probably has a form factor not dissimilar to the FN P90, the weapon I would expect to play them on television if any of this were ever to be made into television. The barrels, in general, are not significantly longer than the main body.
A sniper is the only really long longarm, long-barreled and equipped with specialist software and sensors for even more accuracy than you’ll get out of an already accurate carbine. They’re the descendants of sniper rifles, only shortened in name because, well, they’re not rifles.
The sluggun isn’t a flechette weapon; it fires macroscopic metal slugs in an anti-material role, or canisters which you can put just about anything in, up to and including using it as a launcher for bore-compatible grenades and gyroc micromissiles.
A battle carbine isn’t a special class of its own; it’s what you get when you mount a regular carbine and an underslung sluggun in the same case for maximal versatility, usually sharing their redundant components.
Of our other common firearm types, this can be said:
There aren’t shotguns, because a simple software change to a carbine can emulate them by firing a burst and oscillating the final stage of the mass driver to produce a spreading cone of flechettes, with all the stopping power and spread of the real thing. You can do the same thing with a pistol to emulate a sawed-off shotgun. Alternatively, you can fire canister shot out of a sluggun to much the same effect.
There aren’t submachine guns, because you just configure your carbine to fully automatic rapid fire, and you have exactly the same effect. Likewise, the machine pistol and the pistol.
Over on G+, this was asked:
If the gun is sniper, what’s the guy who uses one?
Any differences in magazine sizes depending on role? Ie, a gun in the SMG role needs a lot more of it than a gun in the pistol role, even if they’re otherwise identical. (Of course, magazine both in the sense if the projectiles and the power pack) (And even with all the magic tech I’d have thought that with lower usage requirements there could’ve been gains made in weight for a lower endurance design)
Also “sniper”. (You only have to glark the difference from context in English, of course, since the original language has affices that make the distinction clear.)
As for the magazine sizes, etc., these are very similar to the guns in Mass Effect, inasmuch as the magazine is a block of metal off which tiny flechettes are chipped in use, but which is good for tens of thousands of shots, and the energy density of superconducting-ring-stack powercells is such that you’re not going to run out of power for hours, either, even in enthusiastic firing modes.
The main limitation, of course, is heat generation by the mass driver. Now, a weapon slanted towards use in the SMG role may well come with a bigger heat sink and/or more radiative striping on the weapon, but that’s not really enough to define a different class of gun – especially since you can yank the heat sink and put in a bigger aftermarket one easily enough, or for that matter – in many, mostly military, designs – swap ’em out with fresh ones mid-battle, thermal-clip-style if you’re firing in a sustained enough manner to overrun your weapon’s dissipation capacity.
As for gains made in weight vs. endurance – you can do that, which indeed is what they do for really small pistol models sold as “derringers” and other holdout weapons. But for standard-issue pistols and carbines, cutting the weight down significantly would actually be a disadvantage ; even with their fancy recoil damping systems, the lighter the gun for the same muzzle velocity, the worse the recoil, and accuracy goes all to hell.
“the mass drivers spin their projectiles purely through EM fields”
Why is needed to spin the projectiles, flechettes, at all? The term flechette means ‘little arrow’ (in French).
Flechettes are fin stabilized not spin stabilized, true some experimental flechette rifles did had very shallow rifling (low twist rate) but that was primarily to break the sabot once the flechette cleared out of the barrel. Does the mass drivers of your setting need sabots?
“The barrels, in general, are not significantly longer than the main body”
Didn’t you meant that the barrels aren’t significantly SHORTER than the main body? I mean that one of the bullpup selling points – the barrel is very long while the gun total length remain short. Yes the terms ‘main body length’ and ‘total length’ aren’t interchangeable but unless a long barrel is poking out in front the body, which it isn’t in the case of the P90, I think that the barrel should be shorter than rather longer than.