Ideas on Bayonets

A revolution is an idea that has found its bayonets.
—Napoleon Bonaparte
Thoughts on weapons, wielding, and, uh...I can't think of another word that starts with a W.
  • The "strong" position on the right to bear arms, that private citizens have the right to any weapon the government uses, "in order to resist government tyranny", is laughably false (as false as the "strong" position on gun-control, i.e. that banning firearms will magically make violence go away). In actual fact, there is no right to armed resistance against one's own government, until the point is reached that that "right" becomes a duty. Or in other words, the only government you have a right to resist by force is one you have a duty to overthrow by force. It is no use citing the constitution, since it is self-contradictory to appeal to the authority of an institution in support of a right to subvert that institution.

    The real—and incontrovertible—rationale of the right to bear arms has nothing to do with resisting the state at all. Rather, it has to do with a different understanding of what the state's role is. "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away"; also the courts have ruled that the police have no legal obligation to defend any one person. They couldn't rationally have ruled any other way, or else any person who was the victim of a crime automatically has a (legally actionable) grievance against the police. This necessarily means, however, that primary responsibility for the individual's defense rests with that individual (and his fellows).

    The primary role of the police, and the state edifice of justice generally, is not protective but vindictive—they mainly protect the civic peace by punishing those who violate it after the fact, not by direct combat with violators. Because, while the individual has an unquestionable, inalienable right to defense, "civilization" means, and has meant since it was handed down from heaven at Eridu, that the right of vengeance is delegated to the community at large. This is for two reasons. One, it frees up people's time from having to carry out vendettas, and being on the watch against others' vendettas; and two, it ensures (since there is some sort of adjudication-process built in) that whether there's actually a grievance to be avenged is somewhat more objectively determined than the feelings of the ostensible wronged party.
  • You know how weapons used to wear out in Elder Scrolls games, something Skyrim finally got rid of? Diablo had it too, and apparently D3 still does. I wonder, is that RuneQuest's fault? RuneQuest was always the hipster RPG, the one for people who liked to attack D&D—generally straw versions of it, e.g. those people I complained about who said it was unrealistic that D&D's economy would be based on gold (which is why D&D's economy was based on silver, at least through 3.5E—adventurers are like drug dealers, throwing around Benjamins when everyone else is using ten-spots).

    I sorta understand the rationale for this in a tabletop RPG, though I think I prefer D&D3E's way of handling it (item durability is only an issue in unusual circumstances); but in a videogame, it's an unfortunate injection of realism that'll just make the unrealism stand out more. I mean, if I have to make sure not to break my sword by beating on rock monsters with it, shouldn't eating and sleeping be less matters of temporary bonuses, and more matters of not dying? And why do RPGs do it, when even the simmiest of FPSs don't bother with things like having to refill your magazines (tactical reloads don't result in only having one partially-full magazine, in real life), or the fact that guns jam?
  • One thing that always bugs me about FPSs: why do the guns all use different ammo? Militaries standardize—there are whole books worth of standardization agreements—so that most weapons's ammo can be interchanged, with a minimum of work. Video games, on the other hand (and with the honorable exceptions of Dark Forces and at least the first Red Faction, where several guns had ammo in common), have every damn gun need its own ammo, even in the case of weapons like the needler and the needle rifle, in Reach, which were expressly made as variants of the same design. Why can't I shove one set of pink needles into the other gun, gentlemen?

    Come to think of it, I don't play WWII games. Can you, e.g., refill your M1911A1 with a dropped Tommy gun's ammo? In those games' more-recent-setting offshoots, can you refill your MP5 from your dead CO's spare sidearm ammo, or your M16 from an M249 SAW's belt? I'm given to understand SAWs don't like feeding from M16/M4 magazines (your guess is as good as mine why not—presumably they feed differently from the belts it's designed for), but the individual rounds are identical.

    As a general rule, in most modern militaries, the rifles and machineguns use one or at most two types of round (except for special purpose things like anti-materiel rifles), and then handguns, used by most officers as sidearms, use a third, the same type as submachine guns (which are mainly used by special forces). There have been exceptions, though—famously, the Winchester repeater rifle came chambered in most of the same rounds as the Colt Peacemaker and S&W Model 3, so you could load your rifle and your revolver from the same box, or use found (or "found") ammunition no matter what gun you carried. And the Warsaw Pact, for some reason, only really seemed to standardize on rifle rounds (the ones used by the AK47 and the AK74); their pistols and SMGs were all over the place, including in Western calibers. E.g., of the seven versions of the Czech Szkorpion SMG, only two were chambered in a Warsaw Pact round.
  • So, trying to find out why the SAW doesn't like assault rifle magazines (turns out the spring in the magazines isn't designed to feed the whole mag at once), I come across an article saying that higher-capacity magazines for the M16/M4 might mean the SAW will be phased out. Only, A) presumably we're here talking about 50-60 round casket magazines, while a standard SAW belt holds 200 rounds, and B), that funny-looking handle on the front of the SAW doesn't just look cool, it's to make swapping the barrel out easier.

    See, many machineguns are carried with spare barrels, designed to be quickly swapped out, because prolonged firing on full-auto makes the barrels overheat. Not only does the heat sometimes warp the barrel, it can even conduct back into the chamber, and not only fire the chambered round without you touching the trigger, but even cause "cooking off", where the rounds in the magazine go off before being chambered, from the heat igniting their propellant. And while a belt-fed gun doesn't have to worry (as much) about cooking off, an assault rifle using a high-capacity mag sure as hell would.

    The modified HK416 the USMC is thinking of replacing the SAW with, the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, is A) still a light machinegun, not an assault rifle, and B) not capable of anything like the same sustained fire as the SAW, because it doesn't have swappable barrels. The Army, whose tactical approach requires sustained machinegun fire more than the USMC's does, is looking into either just getting new M249s to replace their old ones, or some newer, but still typical, machinegun (like the LSAT LMG), not even a modified assault rifle.
  • I am torn, I really am, on whether I should rewrite the guns in my SF book. See, on the one hand, the zledo's current guns, based on the same inertia-control system as their ships, are awesome sauce, and I've done all kinds of calculations for them. On the other hand, I don't know if being able to miniaturize that technology to that degree is very realistic—nor if you'd want a gun whose mechanism needs recourse to relativity equations to describe it.

    I mean, my humans' guns are basically about as high-tech as a car cigarette lighter. Well, in terms of the actual firing mechanism, anyway; their feed-mechanism is basically like our guns, and they don't need ejectors except to clear dud rounds. Caseless, electronically-fired guns do require coolant systems, which are, as they say, "another thing to go wrong", but all told I'm guessing the simplicity of not having empty brass to worry about evens things out. Besides, caseless ammo is half as heavy.

    I don't know what I'd give the zledo instead, though—EM needle-guns, maybe, or flechette-guns—and your house is full of things whose mechanism needs recourse to Maxwell equations to decribe it (they're called electronics). Also? It's a hassle to rewrite entire scenes when you've already finished two 200K-word books and are half done with two more. So I ain't gonna.
  • It is universally agreed among the gun cognoscenti that the whole idea of "smart" guns, i.e. biometrically (or, more usually, RFID) locked ones like in the Metal Gear games (where's it's just a game mechanic to limit when you can pick up which guns), is crazy. Again, "another thing to go wrong"—know how many people have been screwed by those RFID chips in their car keys (my parents' truck being exhibit A)?

    Also, it occurs to me, if you have those things, what's to stop, say, robbers, from jamming the RFID chips in the house of a potential victim? The possibility of getting shot is a major deterrent to home-invasions and "hot" burglaries (those committed while residents are present); let's not screw with a good thing, mmmkay? Admittedly the possibility of jamming the RFID in bank robbers' guns would probably make gun-control enthusiasts salivate, but criminals are, by definition, the kind of people who are willing to illegally remove RFID devices.
  • So, you know what you never see in discussions of the sword, in things about knights or samurai? The fact the things are sidearms. Yep. Knights and samurai are a warrior class, not because they were markedly better fighters than anyone else, but because they could afford the upkeep on horses. Knights were heavy cavalry, and samurai, though they were armored like heavy infantry and fought as such on foot, were light cavalry. A knight's main weapon was the lance; a samurai's was the bow. Ever notice the odd way you move a bow, when you draw it, in Japanese archery—you bring it up above your head, then lower it as you draw back? Yeah, that move is designed to bring it clear of your horse's neck.

    And while, of course, if a knight or samurai for some reason lost his lance or bow and had to draw his backup weapon, he wouldn't shy away from hitting guys with his sword from horseback (and the katana is a variant of the same Central Asian cavalry sword that gives you the saber and the scimitar), swordsmanship was mainly restricted to foot encounters. Up till the Mongol invasion that the Holy Wind prevented, actually, the Japanese fought their battles in two stages—several horse-archer sweeps to soften each other up, then the samurai officers on both sides would fight a series of highly formal single combats.

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