This article is dual-statted for both DC Heroes 3rd Edition and Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition. Neither of these systems is oriented toward fine-grained distinctions, and a set of stats can easily cover an entire category of weapons.
We’re not going to draw any distinctions between, say a 9x19mm and .40S&W round, because the game systems simply do not support it. People interested in finer distinctions are better-served by more details-oriented games (my favourite is GURPS 4th edition).
This also means that this article isn’t about long lists of guns – they’d all have the same stats !
The illustrations in this article mostly come from the Internet Movies Firearms Database, and we own the copyrights to absolutely none of it. If you like the photos, hit the IMFBD, there are many more and they’re larger.
Return of the caveat
As noted above, and as heavily emphasised through the article, this text is about firearms as depicted in comics books, action movies and video games plus some related genres like pulp novels. This is all about fictional things. It’s not meant to cover anything like real world weapons, which behave differently, and makes no claim whatsoever about realism.
The article does provide some useful facts and figure about how these things work, but this is all intended for verisimilitude, not realism. When the common depiction fiction is very different from the real world we’ll mention it, but the goal is not explain how it works in real life.
The tone and content of the article are probably clear enough that this disclaimer isn’t necessary, but many people have a rigid stance on the subject. Better safe than sorry, heh ?
Since a lot of long guns we are going to cover are rare and unusual – this is about firearms in fiction, after all – we’re going to make two rounds through the categories of guns covered in this article.
The first round will cover the 2-3 common types of weapons in each category, the ones that represent the vast majority of models. Then the second round will cover the “special application” firearms in each category, which are much rarer.
Many firearms reference special rules — for instance Long Reload or Autofire in DCH, or Armour-Piercing or Shotgun Blast in DCA. See the corresponding New Rules Files for each game system.
Submachineguns – the basics
The XXth century loved submachineguns (SMG) – weapons that are shorter than a carbine and can fire a pistol cartridge in bursts or full-auto. Those were generally manoeuvrable, cheap, easy to make and perfect for short-range engagements such as indoors combat.
It was eventually determined that the three-round-burst mode (one squeeze of the trigger spits three bullets in rapid succession) was the best use of this type of weapon, conserving ammunition while allowing good lethality and accuracy. They usually fire 9x19mm or .45 ACP rounds.
From the 1920s onward, these weapons were very common in fiction and popular imagery – gangsters and Untouchables, WWII US marines and SS stormtroopers, SWAT operators, Navy SEALs, Ronald Reagan’s bodyguards (using Uzis concealed in briefcases), moustachioed British commandos, the Terminator, etc.
DCH Submachinegun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 07, R#02, Advantage : Autofire]
M&M Submachinegun [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 4]
There are many famous examples with their special mystique. To keep our selection short, here are illustrations for :
- The Heckler & Koch MP5, used by the SAS, Navy SEALs and many, many SWAT teams. The MP5 became a strong visual symbol of anti-terrorist and tactical police units.
- The mini-Uzi, a compact Israeli SMG that was ubiquitous in 1980s fiction
- The Thompson M1928 or “tommy-gun”, “Chicago piano”, etc. that is an important part of pre-WWII American gangster mythology
- The Thompson M1, a simplified variant of the former that was the symbol of WWII US marines and continued to be seen in comics many decades after the war. WWII comics such as Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandos or Our Army At War are full of M1s.
The HK MP5 has an action-heroes-friendly feature – once you have inserted a fresh magazine, the bolt has to return to its forward position to chamber a round. This is called the “HK slap”, since the correct method is actually to hit the cocking handle on the top with the fat of your hand to let it fly forward unassisted with a satisfying, macho metallic sound.
Shotguns – the basics
A pump-action and/or semi-automatic rifle-sized firearm, usually firing buckshot. Shotguns see a lot of use in police work, particularly in the US. While in the real world their advantages are debatable in movies, video games, comics and the like shotguns are really, really powerful.
They’ll shred everything, send people flying and are great for shooting monsters, zombies, etc. This inflated image of power is probably tied to the pump action used in many models, giving the impression that each shot is so large and powerful that it needs a strong, loud, vigourous move to be readied. Ka-chink !
These guns nearly always fire 12-gauge, 00 buckshot. In fiction and games, such a load is usually powerful enough to defeat body armour yet spreads quickly enough after leaving the barrel to hit two persons standing close to each other. It has essentially no downsides.
Shotguns have access to numerous speciality ammunition types that are usually depicted as being even more powerful than buckshot.
Just like action heroes might rake the slide of their semi-auto pistol before a fight, they pump a round into their shotgun (sometimes even if the weapon doesn’t have a pump !) before they go in because this looks even better.
DCH Repeater Shotgun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06 (Diminishing), Range: 03, Ammo: 07, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, Advantage : Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Drawback: Very Long Reload]
M&M Repeater Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 5]
Older shotguns that only have a pump action require an Automatic Action (in DCH) or a Move Action (in DCA) to ready a new round before shooting. This can be alleviated with removing a bit called the disconnector – when you do that you can just keep the trigger depressed and every round you pump into the chamber will immediately be fired.
Some early pump-action shotguns never had a disconnector. Modern shotguns often have a semi-automatic action, and can be fired without expending extra Actions.
The examples illustrated here are the ubiquitous Remington M870 that can be found in American police cruisers (and in the hands of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in Terminator II), the Benelli M3 Super 90 which is strongly associated with SWAT teams, and the Franchi SPAS-12 whose distinctive appearance earned it to be drawn in many comic books and to be the shotgun in the arsenal of many, many video games.
The last shot is also of a M870 – but fitted with a pistol grip, a vertical foregrip and with its stock removed. The specifications do not change, but it *looks* different and fiercer and that’s what counts.
We can now… yes ? Ah, good point from our friend Angelina about visuals. Here’s one last example of how to make a repeater shotgun look scarier on the movie screen or comic book page. What’s Ms. Jolie is about to demonstrate was also used by Barb Wire in her comic book during the 1990s :
The weapon used here looks like some brutal house-clearing monster, but it’s a normal repeater shotgun (a H&K FABARM FP6 – presumably the Entry model with a 14” barrel).
However it seems very dangerous because it has been shortened (normally the barrel is longer) and thus looks thicker, and a heat shield has been added over the barrel so it’s thicker, heavier and has a perforated pattern that evokes an old machinegun — which is… just about the only use of a heat shield nowadays.
The actress also uses a grip that leaves the matte pump in evidence to make it clear it has a manly pump action. This is a typical set-up that visually suggests power, and inspire the depiction of shotguns in action media — this shot is a nice example of why shotguns in fiction have such high stats.
Thanks, Angelina ! You’re a dear.
Double-Barrelled Sawed-Off Shotgun
A break-open shotgun, usually with two side-by-side barrels. Said barrels have been sawed to shorten them, and in many cases the butt-stock has also been removed.
Such a weapon is wielded by disparate but influential types of characters. It was at first strongly associated with Mafia assassins, who needed a weapon that could be hidden under a coat yet deliver a powerful one-shot attack at close range – it is sometimes called a lupara (“gun used against wolves”) since before that it was associated with shepherds.
Later influential users were Mel Gibson in the Mad Max movies, the anonymous marine in the DooM video games and Ash in Evil Dead, with his “boom stick”. No wonder that the 12-gauge sawed-off has developed an image of brutal power going even beyond that of the full-sized shotgun — basic ballistics be damned.
DCH Double-Barrelled Sawed Off [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 07 (Diminishing), Range: 02, Ammo: 02, R#04, Recommended STR: 03 Advantage: Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Drawback: Long Reload. Note : EV can be raised to 08 Diminishing by shooting both barrels at once, expending two Ammo and increasing Recommended STR to 04]
M&M Double-Barrelled Sawed Off [Shotgun Blast 6 Wide Choke, Diminished Range 1, Limited 1 (One shot, then must be reloaded)]
Rifles – the basics
Infantry Bolt-Action Rifle
The sort of rifle that was the standard weapon for soldiers during much of World War Two – and before. This is chiefly of interest to campaigns set during the war. While the heroes will probably sport submachineguns, many of their opponents and allies will have bolt-action rifles. And of course, these weapons remained in use for decades in guard units, militias, poorer countries, etc.
“Bolt action” means that there’s a sort of knobbed lever above the trigger. You work it to get a new round into the chamber so you can fire. As can be imagined, having a lot of practice considerably improves the rate of fire of such a rifle. The ammunition is stored in a magazine, but not the kind you can eject – you reload it bullet by bullet then lock it back in position.
These weapons were replaced by semi-automatic rifles (such as the M1 Garand) and soon by battle rifles and then assault rifles. Bolt-action rifles endure today in some applications, such as sniper rifles and hunting rifles.
DCH IBA Rifle [BODY 04, Projectile weapon: 06, Ammo: 05, R#02, Drawback: Long Reload, Misc.: an Automatic Action is needed to ready the next round by working the bolt]
M&M IBA Rifle [Ranged Ballistic Damage 5, Quirk (a Move Action is necessary to ready the next round by working the bolt]
Some bolt-action rifles had more ammunition. For instance, the excellent Lee-Enfield SMLE had a magazine holding ten bullets.
The leading bolt-action rifles of the first half of the XXth century look very much like each other – so we’ll only illustrate one.
The most classic is probably the Mauser Karabiner 98 Kurtz (which is neither a carbine, nor short), which armed German soldiers. This exceptional design is one of the weapons that did wonders for the Mauser brand name and the image of German gunmakers in general. Its bolt action is still used by most modern sniper rifles.
The standard infantry weapon worldwide. Though previously a symbol of soldiers, the assault rifle started spreading to other users in the 1980s.
In particular, US fiction had the archetypal arm of the USSR, the AK-type assault rifle, as a symbol of social disorder arming revolutionaries, terrorists and gang members. Conversely the archetypal American gun, the M16 type assault rifle, came to arm law enforcement agents.
Beyond the symbolism, this reflects various real-world trends. There are literally millions of cheap, durable AK rifles worldwide since the 1960s. Conversely, by the 1990s SWAT teams in the US started favouring M4-type assault carbines instead of SMGs, while some police agencies started using semi-automatic M16-type rifles as their long arm of choice.
Assault rifles became the standard in the military since most infantry engagements now occurred at limited range – powerful, long-range bullets were no longer an advantage. Furthermore, short bursts of automatic fire are an efficient means to hit the enemy, and the light rounds used by assault rifles are easier to carry in large quantities – yet remain deadly enough in most applications.
DCH Assault Rifle [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 08, R#02, Advantage : Autofire]
M&M Assault Rifle [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 5]
A few emblematic models:
- A type 2 AK-47 as a common AK-series Russian assault rifle
- A M16A3 as a common M16-series American assault rifle
- A M4 as a common M16-type American assault carbine
- The Steyr AUG is an Austrian 1970s weapon, but its unique visuals often led to it being used as a symbol of an advanced/next-gen assault rifle.
- The FAMAS F1, an older French assault rifle, also has a unique look that has been sometimes used to signify an advanced/sci-fi-ish weapon. It is often featured in the landmark Metal Gear Solid video game.
- The SAR21 is a modern Singaporean assault rifle, and would be a good prop for a comic book futuristic assault rifle.
M1 .30 Carbine
This American carbine from World War Two wasn’t the greatest. Its .30 round was nothing to text home about. But it was convenient, it was easy to use, and it was ubiquitous.
You can find it in all sorts of stories from the later half of World War Two to the early 1980s (when they get replaced by submachineguns such as Uzis). And it’s used by everyone – soldiers, policemen, gangsters, thugs, mercenaries, militiamen, terrorists, ex-soldiers, agents… everyone !
Early on the M1 Carbine — like the Garand rifle — had the immense advantage of being a semi-automatic, clip-fed weapon in a world still mostly equipped with bolt-action rifles. Furthermore, it was small and light compared to a ‘real’ infantry rifle. So you could take it with you in a vehicle, airdrop with it, or wield it even if small and underfed.
15 shots before a quick reload was an edge. And of course, having a long barrel and a stock, it was much more precise than any pistol (at least in the real world).
Whenever somebody in a campaign set in the 1940s to the 1970s needs something heavier than a pistol that is not a shotgun, assume a M1 Carbine. And for snipers who are just mooks and are not meant as a serious threat ? M1 Carbine with a scope.
DCH M1 Carbine [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 15]
M&M M1 Carbine [Ranged Ballistic Damage 4, Extended Range 1]
The first carbine below is a typical late 1940s one. The second is a airborne version (presumably a M1A1), with the distinctive folding stock.
A powerful, accurate, long-range rifle fitted with a precision scope.
Snipers appeared during WWI, and by WWII started being mythologised (particularly Red Army lone snipers). The Kennedy assassination, movie hitmen, elite infantrymen such as the USMC’s Scout-Snipers, and successful video games with potent sniper rifles (such as Counterstrike) continued this trend.
Sniping in a military context usually takes place in the 500-to-800 metres range.
It is an exacting technique. Howbeit fiction tends to either completely overlook the realities of sniping (align cross-hair with target, pull trigger) or be detailed about all the considerations it implies. Ammunition-specific ballistic tables to calculate bullet drop, precise ranging, wind speed and direction, humidity, controlled breathing, hand-loaded match-grade ammunition, etc.
Fiction seldom depicts the heroes being sniped out of the blue (unless they’re bulletproof). GMs should consider having the first shot from a sniper automatically miss, or kill somebody who’s not important to the plot.
The third cliché is the grazing hit. Usually it knocks out the heroes rather than kill them and is presented as an amazing stroke of luck. The last cliché is the “laser glint” (see the Accessories and Ammunition article).
Sniper rifles are fragile, and the realities of the field can easily throw something out of alignment. It’s not uncommon to operate with the rifle protected by a sort of special padded backpack to isolate it from random small impacts.
DCH Sniper Rifle [BODY 01, Projectile weapon: 06, Range: 08, Telescopic vision: 04, Ammo: 06, R#02. Limitation: Projectile weapon has No Range – use the Range given next instead]
M&M Sniper Rifle [Ranged Ballistic Damage 5, Improved Range 1, Improved Critical 1, Senses 1 (Extended visual 1), Quirk 1 (Fragile)]
Certain bolt-action sniper rifles can have the drawback of requiring an Automatic action (DCH) or a Move Action (DCA) to chamber the next round, as with the infantry bolt-action rifles above.
The Remington M700 series is the archetypal American sniper rifle. It is used by both the police and the military. The Accuracy International Arctic Warfare 7.62mm, seen in many video games, has a visual design that even more strongly evokes the image of a sniper rifle.
The SVD Dragunov is a Soviet rifle. While not intended to be used at the ranges a dedicated sniper rifle works at (it’s a squad’s marksman rifle, not a real sniper rifle) its ominous name and lines give it all the properties of a sniper rifle in fiction.
Finally, the DSR-1 is included because of its unusual looks. It’s a bullpup rifle, with the magazine and chamber behind the pistol grip, making it more compact than older designs. The magazine in front of the trigger guard is a spare one, it doesn’t feed anything.
Special applications weapons
We’ll now cover each category again, in the same order – but now that we’ve done the basics, we’ll cover much rarer, specialised weapons.
Special applications submachineguns
An unusual example of a SMG is the Auto-9 in Robocop. The firepower is that of a SMG, and it is stated to somehow have 50 rounds. This is visibly impossible, but matches the gunfights in the movie. Very similar weapons have occasionally popped up in other movies since.
The Auto-9 is essentially a modern submachinegun compacted to the size of a huge pistol. It has the usual stats, but we have assumed that the user needs a vise-like grip to use it properly.
DCH Auto-9 [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 07, R#02, Rec. STR 04, Advantage: Autofire]
M&M Auto-9 [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 4, Quirk 1 (Requires Strength 2+ to use)]
A special submachinegun that can be folded in two to become a sort of box. The box is made to look like a piece of equipment such as a satellite phone.
Though it will not pass a metal detector, it allows for carrying a SMG without looking armed. And without even carrying a suitcase large enough to hide a normal submachinegun in.
Fictional models would be more compact and better-disguised than what actually exists. For instance they could be convincingly disguised as a large laptop computer, one with a 17” screen.
DCH Undercover SMG [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 03, R#04, Advantage : Autofire, Insta-Change (it takes a Dice Action to flip the weapon into an useable mode)]
M&M Undercover SMG [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 4, Feature 1 (Can look inconspicuous, though it takes one Standard Action to flip the weapon into a useable mode)]
The main real-world example is the UC-M21, based on the old Ares Folding SMG design.
Fabrique Nationale P90 Personal Defence Weapon
This model of modern submachinegun drew attention through a combination of futuristic aesthetics, distinctive ergonomics and new high-performance ammunition. Most gamers know this weapon since it was prominently featured in the various Stargate TV shows, and from there in numerous video games.
As if it weren’t enough, it is balanced in such a way that it can credibly be shot one-handed if needed. *And* there was extensive discussion as to how well its new 5.7mm round could defeat body armour (in fiction, the answer is of course always “very well if a good guy uses it, not so much if a mook does.”)
The cherry on top is the transparent magazine, with a high ammunition capacity but also allowing for dramatic close-ups to show that ammunition is running low.
Personal Defence Weapons are, in the real world, mainly useful for tactical operators needing a high-performance, very compact, armour-defeating weapon. This usually means special operations commandos, anti-terrorist elite soldiers, and SWAT units expecting to run into paramilitary forces with body armour.
DCH PDW [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 05, Sharpness (Projectile weapon): 02, Ammo: 12, R#02, Advantage : Autofire]
M&M PDW [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 4, Armour-piercing 2]
Below is a P90, followed by its main competitor, the H&K MP7 (featured here with the front grip and shoulder stock deployed and a railed-on red dot sight). Due to its less radical design, the MP7 often appears in movies (and some games) as a submachinegun with the basic stats rather than PDW stats. But it does fire a high-performance, unique round, the 4.6x30mm.
High-Tech Close-Quarter Battle Weapon
An imaginary, futuristic, high-powered submachinegun drawn without a specific reference. This weapon is here in the same spirit as the High-Tech Combat pistol in the Handguns chapter — as a comic book weapon and “Cable gun”. Most characters wielding such a weapon can make their left eye glow.
DCH HTCQB weapon [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 10, R#02, Advantage : Autofire]
M&M HTCQB weapon [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 5]
Here’s an imaginary design for such a weapon.
Special applications shotguns
Street sweepers are brutal-looking shotguns that carry 12 rounds. This is achieved with a large cylinder, like a giant revolver. The earliest versions of this weapon actually relied on a spring action to have the cylinder work (you had to wind it beforehand) but this charming steampunk detail disappeared in later versions.
This weapon was designed in South Africa. Whilst the anti-apartheid embargo was going couldn’t be sold in the US. This caused street sweepers to develop a mystique as a super-shotgun – some even thought it could fire full-auto.
In movies, it isn’t uncommon to have it featured as if it were a grenade launcher.
DCH Street Sweeper [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06 (Diminishing), Range: 03, Ammo: 12, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, Advantage : Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Drawback: Very Long Reload]
M&M Street Sweeper [Shotgun Blast 5]
Clip-Fed Repeater Shotgun
Though shotguns are usually awesome in fictional battles (such as movies and video games), in the real world they have varied limitations. The ammunition capacity is one. Most repeater shotguns hold about 7 shells, which can be an issue in a running gun battle. Worse, this ammunition is usually stored end-to-end into a tube under the barrel.
This means two problems. First, the shorter your shotgun is, the shorter the tube is and thus the fewer rounds it holds. Since one niche of the shotgun is close-quarter battle, where you want a manoeuvrable and thus short weapon, this can be a bother.
The second is that inserting shells into that tube, one by one, takes a while and adds something for you to fumble in the tension of combat.
Enters the clip-fed shotgun. Good ammunition capacity, easy and quick reload, magazines that are easy to carry (if a bit large). One problem solved !
DCH CFR Shotgun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06 (Diminishing), Range: 03, Ammo: 08, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, Advantage : Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead]
M&M CFR Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 5]
Historically the main example has been the Franchi SPAS-15. This is a SPAS-12 with detachable magazines and ergonomics closer to that of an assault rifle. USAS-12 shotguns in semi-autos have also filled that niche – see the assault shotgun category below.
Recently, the category has been dominated by the Saiga-12, which is more or less a shotgun AK and is available in numerous variants. Lastly we’ll throw in a Norinco SAS – a cheap and poorly-regarded weapon, but one that resembles many cyberpunk/near-future weapons.
A variant of the above, where the clip is replaced by a drum. This is usually done using a conversion kit for a semi-automatic shotgun. The Knoxx Sidewinder may have been the most famous such conversion kit. It is used by the Punisher in the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, the base weapon being a Mossberg 500.
Give the size of 12-gauge shells, a drum holds 10 rounds. The stats below exaggerate it to 12, since drum magazines are popularly seen as being very high capacity ones.
DCH DFR Shotgun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06 (Diminishing), Range: 03, Ammo: 12, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, Advantage : Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Drawback: Long reload time]
M&M DFR Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 5]
Radically Shortened Repeater Shotgun
Like the sawed-off, this is a shotgun you can hide under a coat, for short and close-range gunfights. Whereas luparas are associated with assassins, those guns tend to be associated with bodyguards.
Sometimes they are portrayed much as sawed-offs – a compact, brutal weapon with an enormous muzzle flash and recoil. Sometimes they are featured as a lighter version of a repeater shotgun, and some large characters (or gunmen with slightly superhuman strength, such as Nomad (Jack Monroe)) use them much like a pistol.
DCH RSR Shotgun [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 06 (Diminishing), Range: 02, Ammo: 03, R#03, Recommended STR 03, Advantage : Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Drawback: Long Reload]
M&M RSR Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 5, Diminished Range 1, Quirk 1 (Three shots)]
Like Repeater Shotguns, RSR Shotguns that are pump-action only require an Automatic Action (DCH) or a Move Action (DCA) to ready a new round to fire.
The closest real-world equivalent is this Serbu “Super-Shorty” conversion of a Mossberg 500, which has been sold to some Hollywood armourers. A similar weapon was featured in the old Miami Vice TV series that marked the 1980s.
When storming a building, every tiny detail and every little thing becomes technical and dangerous. Turning a corner, entering a room, crossing an open space are all things you need to heavily train for, and don’t get me started on stairwells.
Among this laundry list of issues, there’s the matter of… doors. Particularly closed doors that are tough enough that a good kick isn’t going to reliably open them.
After decades of SWAT experience, the usual solution is to blow up the lock (and in some cases, the hinges) by shooting it point blank, then smash the door open and follow with either a grenade or a cross entry, depending on context.
However, shooting locks at point-blank is easier said than done. If you do that with a handgun it may not work (even with specialised training) and the chance of a bad ricochet is significant.
A breaching shotgun fires a frangible slug that will wreck and wrench even a good lock with no chance of a ricochet. It is a compact weapon – since it’s not the operator main weapon and doesn’t need a lot of ammunition.
It’s pump-operated since the ammunition may not cycle a semi-auto shotgun. It also has a special attachment at the end of the barrel so the burning gas can safely flow away even though you’re firing point-blank against a hard surface.
DCH Breaching shotgun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 08, Range: 00, Ammo: 04, R#02, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Limitation: Projectile weapons only against doors, locks and hinges – otherwise treat as Projectile weapons (Diminishing): 04 with a Range of 02, Drawback: Long Reload, Misc.: Needs an Automatic Action to ready a new round to fire]
M&M Breaching shotgun [Close Ballistic Damage 7 with three Ranks having Limited 3 (Only effective against doors, locks and hinges, Quirk 1 (Requires a Move Action to ready a new round to fire)]
Here is an archetypal breaching shotgun, with the barrel attachment clearly visible. This specific weapon was prepared by an armourer in Ontario , presumably for a Canadian police officer.
A shortened pump-action shotgun without any grip, fitted with adapters so it fits just right on the rails mounted under a rifle. This sort of weapon started appearing in the 1980s, and the main use is as a breaching shotgun. Rather than carry a breacher slung to the side, you have it right on your rifle. Presto !
Such weapons are not always breaching shotguns. Heroes interested in always having a less-than-lethal response available might consider it worthwhile to mount one with, say, baton rounds. And it might be very useful if enemies include monsters vulnerable to certain types of attacks such as fire.
Changing one’s grip to pump in a new round is quite awkward, however, and underbarrel shotguns are not really meant to discharge multiple rounds in quick succession. That’s the job of the rifle.
DCH UB Shotgun [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 06 (Diminishing), Range: 03, Ammo: 04, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, Advantage : Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Drawback: Very Long Reload, Misc.: Requires two Automatic Actions to ready a new round to fire]
M&M UB Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 5, Quirk 2 (requires two Move Actions to ready a new round to fire]
These stats do not assume a specific kind of ammunition, but are normally loadew with frangible slugs to go doors-a-busting. Simply use the stats for a Breaching Shotgun for those, but note how it takes one more Action to pump in a new round due to the necessity of changing grip on the weapon.
The standard Underbarrel Shotgun is the KAC Masterkey, whose name hints at its intended role.
Clip-Fed Underbarrel Shotgun
A compact clip-fed, bolt-action shotgun that can be railed under a rifle or carbine.
This specialised weapon is chiefly useful as an improved breaching shotgun. Between the removable box magazine and the bolt action, it’s easier to use on a succession of doors without breaking stride. It can also provide an immediately-available less-than-lethal option, for instance to shoot a tear gas shell or two into a suspect house.
Basically, an improvement of the tube-fed, pump-action original.
DCH CFUB Shotgun [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 06 (Diminishing), Range: 03, Ammo: 05, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, Advantage : Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Drawback: Misc.: Requires an Automatic Action to ready a new round to fire]
M&M CFUB Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 5, Quirk 1 (requires a Move Action to ready a new round to fire]
Note the faster action (the bolt is much closer to the normal grip on the rifle than a pump is) and of course the faster reload and slightly higher ammunition capacity.
The standard CFUB Shotgun is the M26 MASS, recently fielded by the US military.
Dual-Feed Repeater Shotgun
A carbine-sized shotgun with a bullpup configuration, making it look powerful and dangerous. It carries twice as much ammunition as most full-length repeater shotguns (14 rounds, plus one in the chamber), and this ammunition is stored in 2 distinct tube magazines, with a mechanical switch between the 2.
In fiction, it allows a shotgunner to quickly switch between two different types of rounds — say, buckshot and less-than-lethal baton rounds. It is also possible in reality, but would generally be a bad idea in stressful combat conditions that just breed mistakes.
This type of weapon is sometimes called a Neostead, which is the South African brand that commercialised the first such design.
DCH DFR Shotgun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06 (Diminishing), Range: 03, Ammo: 15, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, Advantage : Scattershot, Misc.: can carry two different ammunition types (4 pts), Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Drawback: Very Long Reload]
M&M DFR Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 5, Feature 1 (Can alternate between two Alternate Powers without having to reload)
Pictured below is a Kel-Tec KSG, an American shotgun in this category (photo from the manufacturer).
Another example is the UTAS UTS-15 (for the built_in flashlight, see the Firearms accessories article). Its visual design can make it a stand-in for almost any “near-future” small arm, but on this shot you can see the dual 7-round tubes. Photo from Gunsumerreport.com .
This menacing weapon was a unique design for a shotgun. The idea was to fire as quickly as a semi-automatic weapon and have a solid ammunition capacity – yet be simple, compact and highly reliable. The hammer rotates between 8 single-shot barrels, which are loaded with 20-gauge 3” magnum shells.
This design is based on the 1960s Colt Defender. This apparently promising law-enforcement weapon never made it past the prototype stage due to budget constraints. The front trigger is used by a tear gas spray nested in the middle of the barrels – see the Less-than-Lethal article.
Fictional versions of this weapon would almost certainly feature rotating barrels rather than a Hillberg rotating hammer – in the process both missing the point of the design and looking cool.
DCH Octoshotgun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06 (Diminishing), Range: 03, Ammo: 08, R#02, Recommended STR: 02, Advantage : Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Drawback: Very Long Reload]
M&M Octoshotgun [Shotgun Blast 5], possibly as part of an Array with pepper gas.
Pictured below is a Defender ; the weapon is 17 ¾ inches long (45cm) and weighs 8.6 lbs. (3.9 Kg).
A shotgun with a large ammunition capacity and the ability to fire bursts or full auto.
The other salient characteristic of such shotguns is that they are uncommon animals. Most designs were never actually produced, or produced in small quantities, or are usually found as semi-automatic models, etc. since they don’t quite have a genuine tactical application.
Of course, in stories, procurement is seldom a problem. And autoshotguns are presumably more in demand on worlds where gunmen have to tackle storming buildings full of zombies, or engage hordes of evil alien crab-rats with cybernetic implants.
DCH Assault Shotgun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 08 (Diminishing, Area of effect 1 AP), Range: 03, Ammo: 03, R#03, Recommended STR: 04, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range, use the listed Range]
M&M Assault Shotgun [Multiattack Shotgun Blast 5 Wide Choke, Accurate 1, Quirk 1 (Three shots), Quirk 1 (Requires a Strength of 2+ to be used)
The USAS-12 is the main example of this weapon class – shown here with a drum magazine, since otherwise it looks too ordinary for visual purposes.
The Pancor Jackhammer is a weapon well-known to role-players and shoot-em-up video games enthusiasts, who usually overlook the fact that it was never actually produced. The Jackhammer is loaded with a circular ammunition cassette behind the receiver.
An intriguing, fictional model of autoshotgun was briefly seen in The Matrix. Thanks to the IMFDB , we learn that these were actually working weapons – 12-gauge, 25 rounds electrically-driven rotating cylinder, 900 rpm. The ergonomics look intriguing, and are certainly memorable.
Another weapon that was never actually produced. This Heckler & Koch shotgun was a prototype candidate to the aborted Close Assault Weapon System competition organised by the US military. It looks very similar to another H&K prototype weapon, the G11 assault rifle.
Beyond the G11-style ergonomics, this “near-future shotgun” is magazine-fed (back then a rarity), offers a burst fire capacity, and uses special ammunition. These huge brass shells reportedly pack a lot of powder and a bunch of tungsten-alloy pellets – presumably to brute force through any limitation inherent to buckshot.
DCH CAWS [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Range: 03, Ammo: 10, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, Advantage: Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range, use the listed Range] w/optional burst-fire that increases EV and Rec. STR by one but eats three shots.
M&M CAWS [Multiattack Shotgun Blast 5 Wide Choke, Quirk 1 (Three shots), Quirk 1 (Requires a Strength of 1+ to use)]
An enormous pump action rifle chambered for a stupidly large round — roughly 4-gauge or 23mm — and weighing almost 9 pounds loaded.
This cannon is usually seen as a specialised, extremely powerful weapon for people (often cyborgs) who hunt monsters. Sometimes it is a weapon used by a superhumanly strong gunman and bought from a supplier such as AIM. The second example might have a higher ammo capacity than the example stats below.
DCH Monster Shotgun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 07 (Diminishing), Range: 03, Ammo: 03, R#03, Recommended STR: 03, Advantage : Scattershot, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Drawback: Long Reload, Misc.: Requires an Automatic Action to ready a new round to fire]
M&M Monster Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 6, Quirk 1 (Three shots), Quirk 1 (requires Strength 1+ to use), Quirk 1 (requires a Move Action to ready a new round to fire]
Such a gun actually exists in the real world – the KS-23 special-purpose rifle, sometimes nicknamed the drozt (“thrush”). It is made using repurposed aircraft cannons barrel.
The KS-23 is meant as a sort of hybrid between shotgun and grenade launcher (though the barrel is rifled), and is normally used for violent riot control. Specialised rounds (tear gas, baton, slugs that can wreck an engine block, etc.) exist. Photo below from guns.ru, note the size of the trigger block compared to the body of the gun.
Special applications rifles
Battle rifles are what existed during the era between the old WWII-era rifles and the modern assault rifles. Battle rifles still used a heavy, long-range rifle ammunition (usually 7.62x51mm) like bolt-action rifles but also had an automatic fire capability like assault rifles.
These can be seen in comics from the 1960s to the mid-1980s. Howbeit, they didn’t have that much of an impact on English-language fiction.
This may be due to the American rifle in this category, the M14, having had a short career. It was replaced by the M16 within a decade. Furthermore, the M14 looked very much like a semi-automatic Garand-type rifle from World War Two. This made it difficult for it to visually suggest special qualities.
Outside of this historical context, such rifles could occupy a niche as “heavy assault rifles”- as they do in some cyberpunk RPGs. Or even (ironically) as near-future assault rifles that are more powerful than present-day 5.56mm weapons.
DCH Battle Rifle [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 20, Bonus : May use a burst mode increasing EV by one and diminishing Range by 1 – each burst costing three Ammo (5pts), R#02, Recommended STR: 02 (03 with bursts)]
M&M Enhanced Battle Rifle [Array. The first setting is Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 6 with Diminished Range 1 and Quirk (requires a STR of 1 or more to use) ; the second setting is Ranged Ballistic Damage 5 with Extended Range 1, Improved Critical 1 and Senses 2 (Extended visual, low-light vision)]. The DCA version is an Enhanced Battle Rifle, see below.
The two main examples of this category are the Belgian FN-FAL and the German H&K G3 series. Both were ubiquitous worldwide throughout the Cold War. If a military didn’t get M16s or AKs, it probably had FALs or G3s.
Enhanced battle rifles
A recent variant of the concept is the return of 1950s rifles in modified versions as Enhanced Battle Rifles. This is a weapon that serves both as a marksman’s rifle and as a high-calibre assault rifle without any adjustment. Both DCH and DCA are loose enough that it can just be treated as a Battle Rifle with a scope.
EBRs are useful in theatres such as Afghanistan where ranges of engagement can quickly go from long (outdoors) to close (indoors). A famous US weapon in this category is the Mk14 Enhanced Battle Rifle (based on daddy’s M14). Its image is associated with the Navy SEALs.
Similar European weapons have been around for decades. The best examples being the H&K G3 variants that pushed toward the sniper rifle role then ambled back toward the battle rifle role, such as this H&K G3 SG/1. Jack O’Neil uses one in the Stargate series.
A low-calibre, light rifle. It is certainly not a combat weapon, but it takes very little room. Our example, the AR7, can be quickly disassembled and fits entirely in its own (waterproof) stock, with two loaded magazines.
Having somebody assemble a light rifle from practically nowhere can be visually impressive. Fictional versions of the weapon can also probably fit a low-powered telescopic sight in the stock.
This weapon is associated with pilots and people who spend a lot of time alone in the wilderness. It is light and compact enough to be part of your survival kit, it will survive a rough landing (even in water), and it is invaluable to kill varmint and hunt small things (say, rabbits) to eat while waiting to be rescued. It could thus easily play a role in survival and post-apocalyptic stories with scarce resources.
Some hitmen might also use it, calling their shots and using one of the nastier speciality .22 rounds rather than standard .22 Long Rifle. But the normal role of the gun is being a varmint rifle.
DCH Survival rifle [BODY 02, Projectile weapons: 03, Range: 05, Ammo: 08, R#05, Insta-change (can be stored into its own stock), Limitation: Projectile weapon shas No Range, use the listed Range instead]
M&M Survival rifle [Ranged Ballistic Damage 2, Extended Range 1, Feature 1 ( Can be stored within its own stock)]
Here’s a modern Henry AR-7 survival. On this photo (from the manufacturer’s website) one clearly sees where the stock detaches to start storing the rifle within itself. The AR7 has been the survival rifle stored in US Air Force airplanes since forever.
High-Tech Heavy Assault Rifle
Another “Cable gun” – a category for futuristic imaginary weapons often seen in 1990s Guns And Pouches Age of comics. These guns are huge past the point of unwieldiness, and bristle with high-tech, expensive-looking gizmos. Expect two distinct barrels, two ammunition feeds, two sighting systems… or more.
Such weapons are usually procured from speciality, high-tech manufacturers. In the Marvel Universe, Advanced Ideas Mechanics comes to mind.
DCH HTHA Rifle [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 07, Ammo: 20, Telescopic vision: 03, Ultra-vision: 06, R#02, Recommended STR: 03] plus Under-barrel Grenade Launcher [Range: 07, Ammo: 04]
M&M HTHA Rifle [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 6, Feature 1 (Grenade launcher), Senses 2 (Extended visual, Low-light vision)]
Here’s an imaginary example of such a rifle – and it’s reasonable compared to some of the things that ended up in comics. And yes, the chamber is not aligned with the barrel as a little joke about some 1990s comic book artists.
Though it can’t be displayed on a side view, assume that there are actually two magazines and magazine wells, side-by-side in front of the trigger guard.
Another design is the full-length Morita assault rifle from the movie Starship Troopers – just add a scope. The original version of this photo is from the Starship Troopers props site bugsinmyhead.com .
And finally here’s Sylvester Stallone in (and as) Judge Dredd with a good example of a cinematic HTHAR, because Angelina wasn’t available that day.
Fléchette Assault Rifle
There were decades of research to build a selective-fire rifle shooting fléchettes — miniature metallic arrows.
Tests showed that this type of ammunition had a flatter trajectory, good penetration, could be fired in larger bursts due to the lower recoil, weighted less, etc. Weapons firing fléchette rounds did not achieve tight groups, but the larger bursts were seen as more than compensating for that.
The fléchette technology ended up using saboted rounds. That is, the tiny arrow is held in a little box that flies open and is discarded when the ammunition leaves the barrel. This combines the advantages of bullets and fléchettes.
In practice, no such rifle was ever produced. It never quite worked, or worked but was too expensive, or implied changes in logistics that were too far-reaching, etc.
In fiction, you sometimes see this technology as “needle weapons” or “needlers”. Examples include one of Nick Fury’s signature guns in the Marvel Universe, or the arsenal of some sci-fi role-playing games. Fléchette assault rifles are neat for super-agents, like S.H.I.E.L.D.
DCH Fléchette AR [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Sharpness (Projectile weapon): 01, Ammo: 10, R#03, Advantage : Autofire, Scattershot]
M&M Fléchette AR [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 5, Armour-piercing 1 Linked With Line-Area 3 Ballistic Damage 4 Armour-Piercing 1]
One of the prototypes of a fléchette-firing assault rifle was this Steyr ACR, which looks futuristic while still resembling a real-world weapon (the Steyr AUG).
Large-bore air rifle
These weapons use compressed air rather than gunpowder to shoot a soft metal pellet. Though the technology is popularly associated with recreational and educational BB guns, it can be employed for much more powerful weapons that can do precision shooting and hunting.
In a techno-thriller style story, the niche of these weapons is usually to serve as a sort of silenced sniper rifle, with the lack of noise being exaggerated. They are still depicted as less powerful than a firearm (in real life, a air rifle will usually kill larger animals through blood loss rather than impact) but could be invaluable to, say, destroy surveillance cameras at a range.
Thus, they’ll usually come scoped.
DCH Large-bore air rifle [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 04, Range: 05, Ammo: 05, R#03, Thief (Stealth): 02, Limitation: Projectile Weapons has No Range, use the listed Range instead ; Thief only to muffle the shot]
M&M Large-bore air rifle [Ranged Ballistic Damage 3, Extended Range 1, Feature 1 (suppressed)]
Our pictorial example is the AirForce Texan, shooting a .45 projectile at a slightly subsonic speed. Its futuristic appearance make it perfect for comic book-style stories, cyberpunk, techno-thriller, etc.. Note the compressed air bottle doubling as a stock, with its pressure indicator, and the folded bipod.
High-Powered Sniper Rifle
Shooting a more powerful bullet is rarely a bad thing when it comes to sniping. Flatter trajectory, lower time-in-flight, less chance of some pesky body armour or shattering window spoiling the hit, less sensitive to wind, longer range, etc..
Specialised ammunition — such as .300 Winchester Magnum or .338 Lapua Magnum — thus appeared, with performance beyond the standard 7.62mm or .30-06 rounds.
High-powered sniper rifles have the following stats :
DCH HPS Rifle [BODY 01, Projectile weapon: 07, Range: 09, Telescopic vision: 04, Ammo: 06, R#02. Limitation: Projectile weapon has No Range – use the Range given next instead]
M&M HPS Rifle [Ranged Ballistic Damage 6, Improved Range 1, Improved Critical 1, Senses 1 (Extended visual 1), Quirk 1 (Fragile)]
Older, bolt-action high-powered sniper rifles can have the drawback of requiring an Automatic action (DCH) or a Move Action (DCA) to chamber the next round, as with the infantry bolt-action rifles above.
The Remington M700 and the Arctic Warfare in the sniper rifle entry could show up again. Variants chambered for more powerful ammunition are common in this category, and the aforementioned .300 Winchester Magnum can be used by most rifles chambering .30 calibres (7.62mm). But let’s mention a few more types.
The Walther WA-2000 is a dedicated sniping weapon, built from the ground up to exacting specifications and in small quantities. The striking visuals make it a good signifier of a powerful sniping rifle – even though it has been out of production for more than 20 years. It was used to that effect in a James Bond flick.
The Barrett M98 and the Mauser SR97 are both typical rifles in this category that have visuals suggesting greater power than a Remington 700 firing the same round.
These are broadly similar to sniper rifles, but use a much more powerful, heavy-machinegun-class bullet. These weapons started appearing in arsenals — both real and fictional — circa 1990.
The 1990 movie Navy SEALs , showcasing spectacularly exaggerated performance for one such rifle, was one of the main vehicles to put this weapon on the map of firearms in fiction.
The actual use of these rifles is to dispose of explosives at a long range, and to demolish high-value targets (radar dishes, truck engine blocks, parked jet fighters, etc.) often in a special operations context. Shooters have also experimented with using them for counter-sniper work. In fiction, using such weapons against superhumans, dinosaurs, demons and the like is a logical step.
DCH Anti-Materiel Rifle [BODY 02, Projectile weapons: 08, Range: 11, Telescopic vision: 05, Ammo: 11, R#02, Recommended STR: 05 (03 when using a bipod and the Bracing Bonus), Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range, use the Range given next]
M&M Anti-Materiel Rifle [Ranged Ballistic Damage 7, Improved Range 1, Improved Critical 1, Senses 1 (Extended visual 1)]
Bolt action anti-materiel rifles can have the drawback of requiring an Automatic action (DCH) or a Move Action (DCA) to chamber the next round, as with the infantry bolt-action rifles above.
In fiction, the featured rifle is almost always a Barrett M82A1 or variant, pictured below. For variety’s sake we’ll also throw in a more modern French rifle in the same class, if only because of its ominous name – the PGM Ultima Ratio Hécate II. Like most rifles in this category, the Hécate is a bolt-action rifle.
Single-Shot Anti-Materiel Rifle
Most early models of anti-materiel rifles were single-shot, and some recent ones still are – since generally, you’re only going to take one shot with these.
To reload you usually need to unlock the receiver, slide the barrel forward, manually insert a new round, slide the barrel back and lock the whole thing again. A trained operator can do that relatively quickly.
This doesn’t change the stats by much, but enough to be noticeable :
DCH SSAM Rifle [BODY 02, Projectile weapons: 08, Range: 11, Telescopic vision: 05, Ammo: 01, R#02, Recommended STR: 05 (03 when using a bipod and the Bracing Bonus), Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range, use the Range given next]
M&M SSAM Rifle [Ranged Ballistic Damage 7, Improved Range 1, Improved Critical 1, Senses 1 (Extended visual 1), Limited 1 (One-shot, reloading takes a Standard Action and a Move Action]
The Steyr HS .50 is a good-looking example in this category, and what it does is pretty clear from looking at it. The Hungarian Gepard M1 is an example of an older anti-material rifle, derived from old anti-tank rifles.
These are heavy, high-powered rifles intended to hunt huge animals. Such hunts tend to happen in Darkest Africa and involve Great White Hunters, since these rifles chiefly had a presence in late XIXth and early XXth century stories.
Elephant rifles are normally custom-made, since this is a tiny market. They use rare, specialised, huge calibres such as .600 Nitro Express or .458 Magnum African.
Elephant rifles have maintained a specific presence in role-playing games. Specifically, the The Call of Cthulhu games where those players interested in action attempt to defend themselves against the less unearthly monstrosities using the most powerful gun they can get. Which, in the 1920s where the games are usually set, means a pricey elephant gun.
It can also be a good investment if you notice than the leader of your exploratory expedition is named Professor Challenger .
DCH Elephant Gun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 07, Ammo: 02, Recommended STR: 03]
M&M Elephant Gun [Ranged Ballistic Damage 6, Improved Critical 1, Limited 1 (Two shots)]
Below is a Holland & Holland, from the famous makers of high-quality, custom-built, horribly expensive ($100K+) elephant guns.
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When it comes to firearms in fiction, perception is everything, and one of the key branding elements for guns, sports cars and other macho pieces of equipment is nationality.
Though this will not usually matter for off-the-rack equipment, equipment specifically used by a Player Character or recurrent Non-Player Character might have the following adjustments based on common stereotypes :
- Israeli equipment (Desert Eagle or Jericho pistols, various sorts of Uzi submachineguns, Galil or Tavor assault rifles, etc.) and Russian equipment (AK-series assault rifles, Dragunov precision rifle, Guyrza pistol, etc.) are super-tough, need little maintenance – and in the rare case when they jam, they can be fixed with a manly slap on the receiver. In DC Heroes you can increase BODY by 01 and/or decrease R# by 1. In Mutants and Masterminds you can add Feature 1 (Exceptionally rugged).
- German equipment (MP5-series submachineguns, USP-series pistols, PSG-1 sniper rifles…) is super-accurate and a marvel of precision engineering. In Mutants and Masterminds you can consider Accurate 1, in DC Heroes giving it a Range 1 AP higher than normal.
- Other countries do not have enough of a marketing image on the US market to develop such stereotypes, though most emergent countries (China, Brazil, Mexico…) are liable to see their guns considered as less reliable purely out of stereotype.
- American guns are the standard and inform the base stats of the weapon categories in this article, such as anything “magnum” or with a pump action (real or imagined…) being more powerful. One niche is the mythology that existed (and still exists) around the stopping power of the .45 ACP round – in some stories it may be strong enough to give some .45s the stats of high-power semi-autos.
Helper(s): Roy Cowan, Chris Cottingham, Eric Langendorff, Azraelfl, Max, Darci and (allegedly) Angelina Jolie.