This article covers some basics about modern heavy infantry weapons – stuff available from the XXth Century onward, give or take.
There are more elements of context about realism, stats, etc. on our ever-so-handy guide to Weapons Locker articles.
The main bit being that all our Weapons Locker article are about modelling stories, rather than real-world ordnance.
Table of content
That’s the ordnance, mate.
Light and medium machineguns
A large gun that can fire long bursts of rifle ammunition. It usually features :
- A longer and heavier barrel than a rifle’s. It might even be replaceable in the field to bypass heat and wear issues stemming from heavy use.
- A feeding mechanism that accepts long belts of ammunition, for continuous automatic fire.
Light machineguns (LMGs) usually come with a bipod so they can be operated prone. The machinegunner often has an assistant who carries more ammunition and keeps the machinegun fed.
Ever since World War II, the LMG has been the lynchpin of the infantry fireteam. A squad without one loses about half its firepower.
We don’t need no steenkin’ taxonomy
Starting with the 1980s (the Rambo movies starring Sylvester Stallone) and for a few decades, US fiction had a tendency to depict hugely muscled men operating such weapons all by themselves. Firing from the hip and mowing down their foes by the dozen.
As a result, the delineation between light machineguns and medium machineguns, which can get hazy even in the real world, doesn’t quite exist in action stories.
Furthermore, real-world evolution has been toward lighter, one-person machineguns – the Squad Automatic Weapon, discussed below.
Stats and examples
DCH LMG [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 07, Ammo: 06, R#03, Recommended STR 03 (none when using a bipod and the Bracing Bonus), Advantage: Autofire, Drawback: Long Reload, MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2 APs above the Rec. STR].
LMGs are generally belt-fed, so it is possible to increase the Ammo score by increments of 6 as long as additional belts of ammunition can be carried – and attached to the belt(s) being fed in time.
M&M LMG [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 6, Takedown 1, Quirk 2 (requires STR 1 to use without a bipod, heavy and cumbersome (cutting movement speed by 1) unless your STR is 4+)].
Squad automatic weapon (SAW)
The notion of a light machinegun continued to evolve. The idea was to have a gun + ammunition that was easier to lug around and operate, but could provide more sustained fire than a battle rifle.
The development of assault rifles using a lighter ammunition (such as 5.56mm (.223)) made that more feasible.
This was at first more of a niche ordnance. Say – paratroopers, or countries where men tend to be smaller, or countries with lots of difficult terrain such as jungles. But over time, as infantry became more autonomous and worked more in difficult terrains such as cities, SAWs spread.
Though they use lighter ammunition than the previous infantry machineguns, SAWs remain larger/heavier and have a different tactical role than the common assault rifle.
Stats and examples
DCH SAW [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 07, Range: 06, Ammo: 12, R#03, Recommended STR 02 (none when using a bipod and the Bracing Bonus), Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range and uses the listed Range instead, Advantage: Autofire, Drawback: Long Reload, MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 1 APs above the Rec. STR]. Ammo assumes a 200 rounds belt container.
M&M SAW [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 5, Takedown 1, Quirk 1 (heavy and cumbersome (cutting movement speed by 1) unless your STR is 1+)].
The Browning Automatic Rifle, universally called the Bar, was a sort of proto-battle-rifle. But during World War II and the 1954 Korean war, it was used not unlike a proto-SAW.
This weapon arrived at the tail end of World War One. But it was very popular during the 1920s and 1930s as a sort of heavy assault rifle. Bonnie and Clyde used Bars, as did famous lawmen and criminals of the Roaring Twenties before them. Clyde sawed off the barrel and stock of some of his Bars.
American infantry during World War Two was big on those. They often tried to scrounge up additional Bars to increase the team’s firepower – particularly for suppressive fire. The 20-round magazine was a clear limitation, but since the M14 didn’t exist yet…
DCH BAR [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 04, R#03, Recommended STR 02 (none when using a bipod and the Bracing Bonus), Advantage: Autofire].
M&M BAR [Ranged Multiattack ballistic Damage 4].
After the BAR came other, loosely similar weapons. They were light machineguns firing rifle ammunition, but they also were fed using a medium-sized box magazine.
In Western Europe, the best-known example was the Bren gun, based on a Czech design. This British weapon started being produced not long before World War II, and remained in service with British troops and some of their allies for decades.
On paper and from a modern standpoint, that weapons like BARs and Bren Guns were so popular with squaddies is a bit puzzling. It just looks like a bulkier battle rifle. So keep in mind that :
- Guns such as the Bren were vastly more reliable than most designs. This was a bit less true of the BAR, which couldn’t have its barrel changed in the field. But a gun that *keeps working* is invaluable.
- Machineguns with a higher fire rate, such as the MG42, ran into logistical issues with ammunition and parts. By contrast, suppressive fire from a Bren or BAR was done in short bursts. But it could keep that up for a long while, and moving to a new firing position was easy. You could even shoot a few more suppressive bursts on the go, from the hip, if necessary.
- The gun’s mass — about 25 pounds (11½ Kg) — plus the bipod and heavier barrel meant that the bursts were controlled and accurate.
- Infantry sections were in closer physical proximity back then. So all men could carry spare mags for the Bren (starting with the gunner’s assistant) and pitch in to keep their support machinegun shooting.
A Bren-type gun uses the same stats as a BAR, but with a R#2. In a cinematic story the Bren wouldn’t have a R# at all, emphasising its reliabiity.
The prop weapon seen in the 1987 movie Predator impressed an entire generation of action movie enthusiasts.
It gave rise to an entire weapon category. Wot is often encountered in comic books and video games, particularly for troops that are meant to be somewhat futuristic. It’s just more visually interesting than a “normal” machinegun.
In some stories and games, *all* machineguns have multiple rotating barrels to signify a high rate of fire. In games the main early example was the chaingun in DooM (1993), though players may notice that it fires the same round as the basic pistol. See our DooM-specific Weapons Locker article.
These are fantasy weapons. In the real world:
- Carrying enough ammo is impossible without a vehicle.
- Rotating barrel arrays do not work as commonly depicted. They don’t need a warm-up time, only the barrel aligned with the chamber actually fires, etc..
- There’s the matter of maintenance and lugging around an electric battery for the motor. The Predator prop gun was actually fed using a cable hidden in the background.
- The weapon with about twenty seconds of ammo would weight 150+ pounds (68+ Kg.).
But it looks good.
Real-world machineguns with rotating barrels (such the M134 Minigun, whose name is often used as a shorthand for the whole category) are normally used from speeding aircrafts who have a short time to strafe a zone. They need to deliver a high volume of fire over but a few seconds, especially since they are often unable to see what they’re firing at due to foliage and other concealment.
As to the multiple barrels, they are a workaround. The goal is to handle the problems with machinegun barrels heating up when a bunch of rounds pass through them.
This approach was used many decades before with the old Gatling machinegun (the barrels rotated as the operator… turned a crank), and miniguns are thus sometimes called gatling guns.
Stats and example
DCH MP Minigun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons (Area of Effect 1 AP): 08, Ammo: 10, R#04, Recommended STR 04, Advantage: Autofire, Drawbacks: Very Long Reload, MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2+ APs above Rec. STR)].
M&M MP Minigun [Array : either Line-area 4 Ballistic Damage 7, Takedown 2 — or Cone-area 3 Ballistic Damage 6, Takedown 2. Quirk 2 (requires STR 2+ to use), Quirk 2 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 5+].
Man-portable minigun – “Young Painless”
The man-portable minigun craze eventually resulted in mere mooks toting one.
This was originally a comic book thing. Every person with a machinegun in a book drawn by Jim Lee since 1992 has one.
Despite the looks, these guns do not appear to perform much better than your standard squad automatic weapon. But they put out more volume and are good at eliminating other mook-type opponents.
To tell them apart from the real thing we’ve nicknamed those “Young Painless”. This is a small joke about the Predator minigun, which was nicknamed “Old Painless” on the movie set.
Stats and examples
The stats for those are essentially a weaker version of the miniguns used by “named” characters:
DCH Young Painless [BODY 03, Projectile weapons (Area of Effect 1 AP): 07, Ammo: 08, R#04, Recommended STR 03, Advantage: Autofire, Drawbacks: Very Long Reload, MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2+ APs above Rec. STR)].
M&M Young Painless [Array : either Line-area 4 Ballistic Damage 6, Takedown 2 — or Cone-area 3 Ballistic Damage 5, Takedown 2. Quirk 1 (requires a STR of 1+ to use), and Quirk 2 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 4+].
Disposable infantry rocket launcher
These weapons derive from the WWII Panzerfaust concept. They are a one-shot rocket launcher fired from the shoulder to hit a large vehicle, a bunker or even (with lots of luck) an helicopter.
One such Soviet weapon, the RPG-7 (rocket-propelled grenade model 7) was a huge success. It has become a symbol of asymmetrical warfare – highly mobile irregular troops with small arms who can attack forces that are using much heavier and expensive equipment.
There was something of a race between modern tanks and disposable infantry rocket launchers. Launchers did not win, but still remain useful. Even if the warhead has little hope of penetrating the front armour of a modern main battle tank, it is still possible to achieve a mobility kill by crippling a tread.
And in most cases, the “tanks” you are likely to encounter are much lighter Armoured Personel Carriers.
In fiction, this type of launcher is usually portrayed as accurate enough to hit people with. Particularly when employed against bulletproof superhumans such as Luke Cage.
In the real world, rocket launchers and enclosed spaces do not go well together. There’s a lot of burning gas from the backblast, a strong shockwave and a huge sound blast.
In fiction, however, firing rocket launchers indoors, from helicopters, etc. is common so this issue can be completely ignored.
Some real-world models of launchers can be fired indoors. They usually use a piston that shoots the rocket out of the tube. The rocket then fires up its jet engine, but it’s already far enough away for that to be safe. Such launchers often eject a bunch of plastic flakes as the piston’s reaction mass.
Stats and examples
DCH RPG [BODY 01, Bomb: 04, Projectile Weapons: 09, Sharpness (Projectile weapons): 02, Ammo: 01, Bonus: Projectile weapons and Bomb can be Combined (Bomb rides the Range of Projectile weapons)].
M&M RPG [Ranged Damage 9, Burst Area Ranged 6, Takedown 1, Armour-Piercing 2, Limited 2 (One-shot)].
Four-shot infantry rocket launcher
Commando — the ultimate 1980s action movie, encompassing and transcending its own parody — featured a four-tubes man-portable rocket launcher.
This was a M202 FLASH, a weapon that normally launches incendiary rockets. These were mostly intended to attack bunkers. But in the movie it was depicted as launching explosive rockets.
Given how popular that movie was with Generation X action movie fans, portraying four-tubes launcher (Ammo: 04 in DCH, drop the Limited 2 in DCA) in action stories should not pose problems.
Demolition Infantry Rocket Launcher
Originally, disposable infantry rocket launchers were intended for use against armoured vehicles – and, in a pinch, fortifications.
But eventually came weapons that look similar, yet fill a different role. The main real-world example are the RPO Russian launchers.
These fire larger (93mm) rockets. The available warheads aren’t intended to punch through armour, but to blow stuff up. Their tactical role is thus somewhere between demolitions, a long-range flamethrower, and man-portable one-shot short-range field artillery.
RPOs were first seen during the 1990s, then gradually made their way to forces buying Russian weapons (or Chinese variants). They have little presence in fiction that I know, but are the sort of weapons that get used in tabletop RPGs. Probably to kill a horde of mutant psionicPsionics are sci-fi style psychic powers undead alien armadillos.
The available warheads are :
- Thermobaric (a.k.a. fuel-air explosive). These barbaric (except when *we* use them, of course) warheads first explosively disperse a cloud of special fuel over a large area, then set it on fire. Since that burns the very oxgen in the air, an even larger implosion follows the explosion. So long pressure wave, huge cloud of fire everywhere, sudden pressure drop that wrecks lungs and eardrums, then long pressure wave in the opposite direction to replace the piece of atmosphere that just burned off. And the fuel is usually toxic.
- Incendiary. Basically napalm.
Stats and picture
DCH RPO launcher [BODY 01, Range: 06, Ammo: 01, Telescopic vision:02]. The Range is used to propel one warhead :
- Thermobaric [Pyrotechnics (Diminishing Area of Effect 3 APs): 06 Combined with Mental blast (Diminishing Area of Effect 3 APs): 06, R#03].
- Incendiary [Flame project (Diminishing Area of Effect 2 APs): 09, R#02].
- Smoke [Fog: 09, R#03].
Flamethrowers were used back when static defences such as trenches, fortified tanks, machinegun nests and bunkers were a major issue.
Getting close to these hardpoints and splashing them with burning fuel was a pretty good idea back then. Since infantry couldn’t otherwise carry enough firepower to deal with those. Grenades can seldom be thrown with enough precision in real life.
Shoulder-fired rocket launchers started replacing flamethrowers in some such roles. Furthermore, precision airstrikes and artillery support made static defences increasingly untenable.
Smart grenade launchers might eventually be the solution that fully replaces flamethrowers, which have not been in general use for decades now.
A flamethrower is usually a pair of steel tanks carried on a backpack-like infrastructure and filled with thickened fuel. It is released at a high pressure through a sprayer, which also ignites the fuel as it is spurted out of the barrel.
With a arcing spray it is sometimes possible to splash things at 25-30 metres (80 to 100 feet), but 20 metres (65 feet) is a more common range.
Fuel gets spent quickly. Even with excellent trigger control and quick spurts there’s maybe 6 to 10 seconds of fuel in a typical flamethrower.
DCH Flamethrower [BODY 03, Flame project: 07, Ammo: 06, Range: 03, Rec. STR 01, Advantage: Autofire, Bonus: Flame Project does Continuing Damage (like Disintegration) for up to 5 Phases, Limitation: Flame project has No Range, use the listed Range, Drawback: MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2+ APs above Rec. STR), No Reload In The Field].
M&M Flamethrower [Cone-Area Flame damage 6, Secondary Effect 4, Quirk 1 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 1+)].
In fiction, it is almost inevitable that somebody’s flamethrower will get hit and explode in a huge fireball. This is an unrealistic, but well-entrenched trope.
Flamethrowers can thus be targeted with a Trick Shot (in DCH) or with a -5 attack penalty (DCA). They are usually hit by random fire, though (a double that hits its target in DCH, a Critical in DCA). If the attack has any incendiary property (even a bullet will do, somehow) and damages the flamethrower, then boom (Bomb: 10 in DCH, Burst-Area 2 Flame Damage 9 in DCA).
20mm anti-tank rifle
Anti-tank rifles (ATRs) are among those weapons wot only made sense during an era of technological change. Roughly speaking, from the second half of World War One to the first half of World War Two.
Before this era there were practically no tanks. After this era tanks had become too tough for a rifle-type weapon to damage. Infantry anti-tank firepower evolved along the lines of the Panzerfaust and its successors, the infantry reocket launchers.
The earlier models were loosely comparable to high-powered sniper rifle. Eventually they resembled primitive anti-materiel rifles (such as the .55 Boys ATR), albeit with less impressive ballistics than modern weapons.
The last weapons in this category were essentially light cannons, and it would be a stretch to call them “man-portable”.
However, in fiction there certainly are folks who can tote and fire a 7’ (2.13m) long, 55Kg (120 lbs) cannon – and it can look good on a vehicular mount.
There are also… niches. Such as having to engage the larger dinosaurs, giants, alien power armourStrength-enhancing body armour, like Iron Man’s., practically indestructible zombies amalgamating the corpse of 20 people and pulsing with unholy radiation, superhumans, etc.
Similar weapons are used by Seras Victoria in Hellsing, thanks to her superhuman physical power as a vampire.
Stats and example – early
DCH Boys ATR [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 07, Sharpness (Projectile Weapons): 01, Ammo: 05, Rec STR 04 (02 when prone and using the bipod), Drawback: MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 1+ APs above Rec. STR), R#05].
M&M Boys ATR [Ranged Damage 7, Quirk (Unreliable)].
The .55 Boys anti-tank rifle debuted in 1937. It’s essentially a huge bolt-action rifle that fires a variant heavy machinegun round.
Unlike the 1918 attempts at the concept, it was more or less useable. But it quickly developed a reputation for being unreliable. And though it could engage early World War Two tanks, the .55 Boys round was soon rendered obsolete by progresses in main battle tank armour.
But though it had a short useful life and a terrible reputation, it could certainly have a role in stories. Particularly those set in the mid-XXth century and with tough monsters, dieselpunk robots or whatnot.
Stats and example – vintage
DCH 20mm ATR [BODY 04, Projectile Weapons: 09, Ammo: 10, Rec. STR 05 (00 when positioned and mounted), Drawback: MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2+ APs above Rec. STR), Long Reload].
M&M 20mm ATR [Ranged Damage 8, Quirk 1 (requires a Strength of 04 or more to carry and use by oneself), Quirk 1 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 6+)].
Stats and example – modern
Modern weapons exist in this category, though of course they are not meant as “anti-tank” weaponry. 20mm precision weaponry is closer to being a very heavy anti-materiel rifle.
DCH Modern 20mm ATR [BODY 03, Projectile Weapons: 09, Ammo: 03, Telescopic vision: 013 Rec. STR 05 (00 when positioned and mounted), Drawback: MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 1+ APs above Rec. STR), Long Reload].
M&M Modern 20mm ATR [Ranged Damage 8, Senses 1 (Extended visual), Quirk 1(requires a Strength of 04 or more to carry and use by oneself), Quirk 1 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 5+)].
Like 20mm rifles this goes a bit past the original scope of the article. But there is a G.I. Joe character who absurdly totes around such a weapon.
Furthermore, the damage number for a heavy machinegun is an important benchmark. This is especially true in DC Heroes, which uses lowballed numbers reflecting Silver Age and Bronze Age stories, where military forces aren’t terrible effective against giant monsters, superhumans, outer space aliens and the like.
Here we’ll use higher, more realistic numbers. These reflect evolutions in the depiction of military firepower. Which, in turn, has a fair bit to do with the outsized role of the US military in American blockbuster movies.
Heavy machineguns (HMG) are almost always mounted on vehicles. The smallest practical one would be a WWII-style Jeep. It works particularly well on a light military vehicle (Humvee or lighter) or in the bed of a pickup truck.
A heavy machinegun usually fires a 12.7mm (.50) or 14.5mm round, often with a specialised warhead (Armour-Piercing Incendiary being a common choice – this is what is assumed in the stats).
Between the extremely powerful round and the rate of fire, a heavy machinegun can destroy even lightly-armoured vehicles (including many armoured personnel carriers) and wreck stoutly-built houses.
HMGs can be deployed by infantry in some circumstances. The limitations are obvious – a common model of tripod that can be used to mount and use a heavy machinegun weighs 20 kilograms, and there’s the matter of carrying the weapon and its ammunition.
The stats below do include a benchmark for superhumanly strong users.
These numbers assume the existence of a specialised advantage boosting strength to use heavy weapons. In DCH that’s the Mighty Thews Schtick, in DCA it would be Lifting Strength that is further Limited to lugging around and shooting heavy weapons.
In many stories, all machineguns are considered the same and instead have the stats of a light machinegun. Bulletproof people will withstand HMG fire. Quickly comparing the size of a 7.62mm round and a 12.7mm one will make it obvious that there are significant differences, though.
DCH HMG [BODY 06, Projectile weapons: 09, Ammo: 10, R#02, Recommended STR 06 (none when using a tripod or vehicular mount), Advantage: Autofire, Drawback: MPR (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 2+ APs above Rec. STR), Note: Multiple ammunition belts can be chained to provide more Ammunition as needed.]
M&M HMG [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 8, Takedown 1, Quirk (Strength of 5 or more needed to use it like a rifle), Quirk 2 (heavy and cumbersome – cutting movement speed by 1 – unless your STR is 7+)].
Helper(s): Roy Cowan, Chris Cottingham, Eric Langendorff, Azraelfl, Max, Darci, Pawsplay and (allegedly) Angelina Jolie.