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A Sociology of Some Guns

Though guns are relatively rare in human space, it does not mean they are absent. Indeed, many interesting things can be said about the various ranged weapons used by humans in the 26th century. In her book, A Sociology of Guns, sociologist and war studies specialist Irene Wembly talks about some of the most memorable guns of the interstellar era, and the sociological, cultural and technical values they carry. A few of these weapons are examined in the following snippets.


The Earth Pattern Rifle Model 47 is one the most widely produced weapons in history, based on an ancient blueprint that dates back to the industrial era. Chambered in 7.62 millimeters, itself an ubiquitous caliber, the Model 47 is the main battle rifle of most USRE and Laniakean infantry. Modern models are a far cry from the Low Age weapon that served warlords and nomads alike. A standard Model 47 incorporates full VR integration, guided ammunition compatibility, modular sights and the whole array of cutting-edge combat apparatus. Yet, the design remains mostly unchanged. There are no real, hard, technical reasons for the persistence of the Model 47. It would certainly be within the reach of the USRE to push for a full replacement that wouldn't be yet another variant of the Earth Pattern Rifle...but none of the prototypes ever pass selection, despite their technical advantages. The 47 remains because the Earth is a machine that carries on with inertia, where the last proper war occurred more than two centuries ago and the ghosts of the industrial age are everywhere. Why would the USRE or Laniakea strive to replace the Earth Pattern? It has always been in use. It has always been here. It is war, for all intents and purposes.


The SA-Saiph battle rifle is a weapon manufactured on Elora and found almost exclusively in military or paramilitary service. This compact gun is widely considered as a decent, if not extraordinary weapon, known for its versatility. Its high rate of fire and ability to mount grenade launchers is appreciated against unmanned ground vehicles, while its compact nature and compatibility with zero-zero (hard vacuum, zero gravity) ammunition make the Saiph one of the rare standard battle rifles suited to EVA combat. In the end, the Saiph is a remarkably mundane weapon: great at nothing, yet average at almost everything.

What makes the Saiph stand out among other guns is that it is the first mass-produced output of Elora's "artisanal-industrial" complex, where dense networks of cooperatives rely on custom 3D printing and open source designs to meet the production targets of their overarching federations. For such a widely produced weapon, the SA-Saiph is staggeringly diverse. With thousands of models and millions of individual variations, it is a figurehead of modern warfare, led by bottom-up entities in a world where the very idea of centralized standardization has become unthinkable.


While the myriads of anarchist communes on Smyrnia-Silesia are great producers of weapons, few of them reach out to the wider world. While it does not lack in quality, most of the local output is either too niche or too artisanal to be adopted beyond Flux State denizens. The Ravachol submachine gun is the most notable exception.

Using the Ravachol is an experience in and of itself. It is not a gun for people who love to take care of their firearms. By default, even when it's in a pristine state, the Ravachol routinely jams, breaks, or ceases to interface with q-augs. Its shoddy quality is not a flaw: it is a design feature. The Ravachol is entirely made of transbiological cardboard that any self-respecting gardener can grow in an hydroponics farm. While a far cry from milspec materials, it is just strong enough to manufacture a working gun. Yes, the Ravachol breaks all the time, but it quite literally grows on trees. Fire it, trash it, remove the metal parts, recycle the organic parts: circular economy applied to warfare.


The Irenians of Phi Clio rely on an industrial-artisanal system not unlike Elora's, albeit on a much smaller scale. Their spaceborne communities manufacture complex works of art and industry that are then sold or exchanged to personal and institutional clients all across human space. This logic extends to their weapons, of which the Shamshir is a great representative.

Though the Irenians call it a "submachine gun", the Shamshir is in fact a very compact weapon blurring the lines between assault rifle and pistol. Firing programmable, guided flechettes, the Shamshir is a deliberately quirky weapon: it is equipped with an integral suppressor, a peculiar magazine inserted beneath the handle, an exotic proprietary feeding mechanism and a custom software suite. The Shamshir is most suited to close combat in the confined environment of a space station. Assembled by hand in Phi Clio, the "submachine gun" is a fully custom weapon: every single one of them is tailored to the needs and requirements of a specific customer, reflecting the Irenian ethos of cutting-edge artisanal manufacture, where every object -- for better or worse -- is a prototype.


Most modern guns are on the low lethality side of things -- wars are low-intensity and their weapons favour reliability over sheer firepower. The Phaeres, however, was never designed to fight human beings, but to engage Sequence warforms. Bulky, only usable with a full combat exoskeleton, the Phaeres Accelerator uses side-loaded electromagnetic racks to accelerate dense cannisters of micromissiles. A single trigger pull can expel more than a hundred projectiles towards the target; the use of self-powered ammunition allows for limited recoil and more controlled fire, all the while enabling very high terminal velocities. Such a "metal storm" system would be cost-prohibitive against human targets, but it is the best way to counter the self-regeneration abilities of Sequence warforms. The Phaeres-X variant even has the dubious honor of being the single most powerful man-carried weapon in history: instead of a stream of micromissiles, it fires a compact tactical nuclear warhead.

If all the weapons in this list are reflections of a society first and foremost, the Phaeres is a means to a simple end: annihilation.

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