Saturday, May 31, 2008

Futuristic Ammunition

A while ago, after watching the Firely series, I pondered what handguns in the future might be like.

I recently read about three new developments in military ammunition. At this date none are relevant to handguns, but this might be only a matter of time until the technology shrinks.

First, there is an ADS weapon system currently so large it must be mounted on a vehicle that sends millimeter waves to cause a heat/pain sensation (and thus trigger an instinctive flight response) without normally doing actual tissue damage. This sounds a bit like that box from Dune but with long range.

Second, the FN303 takes a different approach to crowd control by being an overly powerful paintball rifle. I can understand that in certain situations when the riot is violently unlawful the "paint and bruise" approach would be an appropriate compliment to the previous "make everyone run" weapon.

Finally, for the times when a soldier is trying to kill the enemy, there is a new rifle that shoots small, programmable grenades. The rationale for such a weapon requires a bit of history.

The U.S. was part of the Hague Convention of 1907 (although not the prior one of 1899), of which part of Declaration III is an attempt to make warfare with guns more chivalrous. It restricted bullets to the "ball" kind that do not expand or fragment and thus pass through the enemy with a minimum of damage. The idea was for a successful hit to take two enemy soldiers out of commission (one wounded and a second to remove him from the battlefield) with little chance of killing anyone.

Even though warfare is no longer attempting to be chivalrous, and even though that agreement only applies to uniformed members of an enemy military (thus not to terrorists), the U.S. military is very hesitant for political reasons to use the hollow point bullets that would be safer for nearby innocents due to less frequent over-penetration. (Hollow point bullets are the standard for hunting and police work, because no one wants to shoot through your deer or criminal and hit someone innocent.)

Thus the appeal of a rifle that replaces bullets with small grenades. They are not bullets, so that treaty does not apply. A small grenade could also damage an innocent bystander, but once the system is honed a few grenades programmed to explode after traveling a certain distance into a room or to an intersection will be more controlled than dozens of "ball" bullets traveling through walls or ricocheting down the street.

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