USRE FA-Saiph Battle Rifle
The Saiph Battle Rifle is, with that gun, one of the most common firearms in human space, albeit it is exclusively found in military or paramilitary service. Prototyped during the late interplanetary era, this weapon is based on archeotech designs, presumably recovered by Low Age nomads in the western European reclamation zones. This bullpup chemical rifle fires universal 6.2 USRE steel-cased cartridges and is meant to be used by infantry, standard or exoskeleton-equipped.
It is...a decent gun. Though somewhat lacking in the firepower department, its high rate of fire (1,000 to 1,200 shots per minute depending on model), great variety of ammunition (explosive, target-seeking, double-zero optimized*, armour-piercing, among others, all swappable on the fly) and reliability make it a versatile option for military personnel. The compact configuration is appreciated by close quarters specialists, and the possibility to mount active cooling mechanisms to further increase the rate of fire can turn the Saiph into an acceptable anti-Sequence small arm. There’s also a version of the Saiph that is the only assault rifle in history to have been specifically balanced and stabilized for usage on horseback, a leftover of the nomadic Low Ages. Finally, flower warriors sometimes use Saiphs in conjunction with low-lethality tracer ammunition.It is not rare to find religious carvings or inscriptions on a Saiph, either outside or inside the weapon, especially on Earth-made rifles, reflecting the quasi-spiritual aura of a weapon of war in the post-Low Age context.
None of this is particularly relevant. Wars are not won or lost on battle rifles.
What makes the Saiph interesting is that it was one of the first productions of what can be considered as the “military-artisanal system” — the vast network of Earth and later Elora-based communes that replaced the vertically integrated industries of the thermo-industrial age. In short, the Saiph was never conceived by a top-down authority, but emerged as an organic project from within the USRE’s myriad of manufacturing communes, all united under the umbrella of the Union’s socialist entities. Though more than five million Saiph battle rifles have been manufactured on Earth, individual production runs rarely numbered above a few thousand. All Earth-made Saiphs, without exception, have been assembled by individual manufactures and workshops, producing their own guns based on the blueprints and loose supply targets given by the USRE. As such, every Saiph is unique, with its own quirks and slightly divergent parts. In the age of industrial wars and worldwide standardization, this would have been unthinkable, and clearly detrimental to the weapon. However, in the post-Low Age era, there is no such thing as industrial wars anymore, and standardization is seen as a flaw, not an advantage, in the face of humankind’s sprawling diversity of polities and armed forces. Thousands of versions of the Saiph exist, all of them sourced by different communes, all of them with their own advantages and disadvantages. This kind of diversity is somewhat reduced in the Traverse, where weapons are exclusively manufactured by qiths, that are larger and more complex than communes — in effect, they can be understood as small nationstates with their own agendas and procurement strategies.
Regardless of local differences, the Saiph is truly emblematic of warfare — or what remains of it — in the interstellar age: conflicts are local, fractured, and led by bottom-up entities born out of the Low Age and its redefinition of human polities in a world where standardization has become effectively impossible.
*Double-zero ammunition refers to projectiles optimized for use in zero-g and hard vacuum conditions, typically post-decompression boarding or EVA combat. They often incorporate microscopic RCS modules to control their trajectory.
Illustration: stock art by Eldar Safin.
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