This article used to be part of our Weapons Locker – Modern firearms – Chapter #2 – Small Arms article.
Howbeit, the material was cleft. So now it’s easier to peruse on slow connections and less powerful devices.
For a full guide to our Weapons Locker articles (because there’s a lot of those) see, err, our guide to weapons locker articles.
Table of content
Special applications submachineguns
Special applications shotguns
- Street sweeper.
- Clip-Fed repeater shotgun.
- Drum-fed shotgun.
- Radically Shortened repeater shotgun.
- Breaching shotgun.
- Underbarrel Shotgun.
- Clip-Fed Underbarrel shotgun.
- Dual-feed repeater shotgun.
- Assault shotgun.
- Heckler & Koch CAWS.
- Monster shotgun.
- Four-barelled combination gun (“Vierling”).
Special applications rifles
- Battle rifle.
- Survival rifle.
- Badass Badass Mosin-Nagant rifle.
- Fictional High-Tech Heavy Assault rifle.
- Fléchette Assault Rifle.
- All-Inclusive Assault Carbine.
- Integrally Suppressed Assault Carbine.
- Large bore Air rifle.
- High-powered Sniper rifle.
- Anti-materiel rifle.
- Single-shot Anti-materiel rifle.
- Bullpup Anti-materiel rifle.
- Elephant rifle.
- Heckler & Koch G11 4.7mm caseless assault rifle. Added in February of 2023.
Other special application weapons
- Microwave gun.
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.
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.
For a technothriller or cyberpunk story, the Magpul FMG9 could be used as a base for visuals. It was a 2008 “concept gun” that never was produced, but has a sleeker design than the utilitarian UC-M21.
Badass tommy gun
The Thompson M1928 (a.k.a. “tommy gun”, a.k.a. “Chicago piano” and many others) was the landmark SMG of the 1920s and 1930s. It acquired an iconic status due to the mythologisation of the American underworld of that time.
Both Mafia made men and “untouchable” gangbusters used it. It was also a mainstay of pulpsCheap, often lurid novels in the US during the 1920s and 1930s era vigilantes such as the Shadow or the Spider.
It is often depicted as being practically a machinegun, blazing away and cutting down everything. Such depictions use these “badass tommy gun” stats, whereas more realistic depictions will use WWII submachinegun stats. But with an Ammo of 09 if the drum magazine is used.
In the actual world, the design had some debatable features. The Cutts compensator, venting part of the muzzle flash upward to compensate for the recoil, may have have been better at impairing vision than at keeping the gun level. And the impressive 50-round drum magazine was heavy, noisy and not that reliable.
But of course, none of that matter for the badass version of the M1928.
DCH Badass tommy gun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 10, R#03, Advantage : Autofire, Edge (Projectile weapons)].
M&M Submachinegun [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 4, Enhanced Advantage (Takedown)].
The Serious Sam video games feature a M1928 rechambered in .223. No, this doesn’t make any sense – but it’s a good example of the gun’s aura.
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.
This weapon was prominently featured in the Stargate TV shows (1997+). 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, 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].
Here’s a competitor, the H&K MP7 (featured here with the front grip, shoulder stock and iron sights deployed). 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.
The picture below is an airsoft replica by Umarex. The weapon’s visuals are good for many near-future stories.
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.
This SMG fires a light, low-powered round such as .22 LR. But it has two or three times the fire rate of most SMGs, negligible recoil, and a huge (200+ rounds) magazine.
A forerunner of this was the Casull M290. There were a few other attempts at these, but these remain niche weapons with low production runs.
Rimfire SMG [BODY 03 , Projectile weapons: 03, Ammo: 20, Thief (Stealth): 01, Drawback: Long Reload Time, Limitation: Thief only to muffle the weapon, R#03]. The reload time assume you have a pre-filled pan drum handy.
If the wielder of a Rimfire SMG wins Initiative, they have access to three weapon-specific Combat Manoeuvre :
- Focusing Fire only attacks one target, but with + 2 APs of EV. This expends two Ammo.
- Area Sweep instead gives the weapon a 1 AP Area of Effect. This expends two Ammo.
- Suppression Fire as normal.
Short video showing the weapon being operated. And yes, it looks like a Thompson M1928 with a Lewis machinegun pan drum magazine atop. These are simple, proven designs and thus good to reuse.
Here’s a 20mn+ documentary about the American 180. Seeing how a very simple rimfire weapon is built, using other classic weapons designs, can be interesting for some post-apocalyptic RPG campaigns.
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 wasn’t uncommon to have it featured as if it were a grenade launcher.
DCH Street Sweeper [BODY 04, Shotgun Blast (Range: 03): 06, Ammo: 12, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, 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 6 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, Shotgun Blast (Range: 03): 06, Ammo: 08, R#03, Recommended STR: 02].
M&M CFR Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 5].
The traditional example is the Franchi SPAS-15, though it was only produced in small quantities. 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.
More 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. It’s a cheap and poorly-regarded weapon, but one that resembles many cyberpunk/near-future street weapons. Or comic book shotguns that have been drawn with an added box magazine to look even deadlier.
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.
Given 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, Shotgun Blast (Range: 03): 06, Ammo: 12, Charisma (Intimidation): 02, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, 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, Shotgun Blast (Range: 02): 06, Ammo: 03, R#03, Recommended STR 03, 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 — a Custom Wilson version of the S&W M3000 — was used by Det. Ricardo Tubbs in some seasons of the 1980s Miami Vice TV series.
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 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 frangibleSomething that disintegrates into small fragments on impact. 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.
- Is pump-operated since the ammunition may not cycle a semi-auto shotgun.
- 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, Shotgun blast (Range 00): 08, Ammo: 04, R#02, Limitation: Shotgun blast only against doors, locks and hinges. Against other targets treat as Shotgun blast (Range 02): 04, 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 appeared during 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 useful against monsters vulnerable to certain types of attacks such as fire.
However, changing one’s grip to pump in a new round is awkward. 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, Shotgun Blast (Range: 03): 06, Ammo: 04, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, 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 loade 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 series 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, Shotgun Blast (Range: 03): 06, Ammo: 05, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, 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-as-of-this-writing fielded by the US military. It can also be used as a stand-alone box-fed shotgun by attaching a stock and pistol grip, but those MPs who were issued with one tell me that’s a pain in the arse to use.
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). This ammunition is stored in two distinct tube magazines, with a mechanical switch between the two.
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. This is the South African brand that commercialised the first such design.
DCH DFR Shotgun [BODY 04, Shotgun Blast (Range: 03): 06, Ammo: 15, R#03, Recommended STR: 02, Advantage: Misc.: can carry two different ammunition types (4 pts), 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. On this shot there are aftermarket shells holders saddle-mounted on both sides.
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” or even sci-fi small arm, but on this shot you can see the dual 7-round tubes. Photo from Gunsumerreport.com .
Here’s an example of a UTS-15 that has been mocked up as an energy weapon in the 2010s The Flash TV series. Here it is a laser rifle wielded by Iris West (played by Candice Patton).
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, Shotgun Blast (Range: 03): 06, Ammo: 08, R#02, Recommended STR: 02, 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. It is 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. Perhaps 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 — 23mm, so roughly 6-gauge — and weighing 8.6 pounds (3.8kg).
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, Shotgun Blast (Range: 03): 07, Ammo: 03, R#03, Recommended STR: 03, 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].
A comparable weapon exists in the real world – the KS-23 special-purpose gun, sometimes nicknamed the drozt (“thrush”). It is made using a repurposed aircraft cannon barrel. So *technically* it’s a rifle, though in practice it’s operated like a pump-action shotgun.
The IMFDB photo below depicts a KS-23 in riot-gun-like configuration. Other models have a fixed wooden stock, or a wire stock.
Four-barelled combination gun (“Vierling”)
“Combination guns” are usually a side-by-side shotgun, with a rifled barrel underneath (“drilling”).
Here we’ll go with an even rarer format – two over-and-under shotgun barrels, *and* two side-by-side rifled barrels. The contraption is reloaded with a break-open system, like most two-barelled shotguns.
These weapons are chiefly used when hunting, to have a choice of ammunition. As an extreme example you could have birdshot in the smooth barrels, and boar-hunting rounds in the rifled ones. This is chiefly done in Europe, especially in Germany.
The example in this picture is a custom-order Fanzoj gun, photo by the manufacturer . The shotgun bits are 12-gauge, and the rifle bits are for 9.3x74mmR rounds. This is a traditional German boar-hunting bullet, which also works for medium-size safari prey.
DCH Vierling [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Shotgun Blast (Range 03): 06, Ammo: 04, R#03, Recommended STR 02, Drawback: Long reload]. As you can see, we’re keeping things simple with a single Ammo pool for both “modes”.
M&M Vierling [Array: a/ Shotgun Blast 5 and b/ Ranged ballistic Damage 5. Unreliable (four shots)].
Special applications rifles
Battle rifles are what existed during the era between the old WWII-era rifles and the modern assault rifles. These 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 US 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. Which 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.
Here’s a vintage FN-FAL, with its distinctive carrying handle.
Here’s a H&K G3 in a Norwegian variant, so made circa 1970 I guess.
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. And it’s been the survival rifle stored in US Air Force airplanes since forever.
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.
And since I’ve been mentioning the assembly/disassembly a fair bit, here’s a helpful bloke showing how it’s done.
The Model 1891 rifle is a .30 (7.62mm) Russian bolt-action rifle with a 5-round integral magazine. It and the Mauser 1898 are two of the classic designs of that time.
The M1891 is often called the “Mosin-Nagant”, especially abroad.
It was designed after the Russian troops, equipped with old single-shot rifles, ran into Turks equipped with repeater rifles. A more modern rifle reloaded using a stripper clip was thus deemed necessary.
For more about repeaters, stripper clips and other considerations of these times, see our Old West Firearms article.
The M1891 :
- Is a robust, proved design.
- Was produced in gigantic quantities. And as per Soviet methodology, that led to millions of rifles being carefully stockpiled for decades, and millions more being handed over to allies.
- Is one of the firearms that remained in service for the longest time – about 60 years.
- Remains a working choice for sniping and — especially — hunting. And is still deployed in the many, many civil wars of the late XXth and early XXIst century, 120+ years after it was designed.
It has thus developed a mystique as an indestructible weapon, one that’ll exist forever and keeps working no matter what. There are many “tall tales” jokes about a Mosin-Nagant continuing to work fine after been exposed to comically exaggerated bad conditions.
This over-the-top image is, of course, the one reflected in our “badass” game stats.
DCH Badass Mosin-Nagant [BODY 06, Projectile weapon: 06, Ammo: 05, R#02, Advantage: Slowed Ageing, Drawback: Long Reload, Misc.: an Automatic Action is needed to ready the next round by working the bolt].
M&M Badass Mosin-Nagant [Ranged Ballistic Damage 5, Feature (Exceptionally durable), Quirk (a Move Action is necessary to ready the next round by working the bolt].
High-Tech Heavy Assault Rifle
Another “Cable gun” – a category for futuristic imaginary weapons often seen during the 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 since-defunct 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. You can tell it’s a good weapon because the lights are red, and so the bullets will go faster.
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).
All-Inclusive Assault Carbine
An heavily-modified modern assault carbine with multiple, but not over-the-top, sighting systems.
Technically, this doesn’t need a separate entry. It is a shortened version of a very common gun, with standard optics you can read about in the ammunition & accessories section of this series. However :
- It looks different.
- All-in-one stats can be useful.
- This example was wielded by Michelle Rodriguez, which makes it cool.
If you look at the grip and receiver (the parts above the grip and the magazine), you can recognise a standard AR-15/M16 part. From there you go with a compact carbine stock, a high-end upper with a short barrel, and a good front grip assembly. The weapon is loaded with a 60-round drum mag.
On top on the weapon is an optical sight (the magnification likely goes up to 6x). In front and under it is a weapon-mounted flashlight (about 1K lumen max output).
If you click to see the full, lightboxed photo you can also see a sort of small screen on the right of the weapon. Like a red-ish camcorder display. This is a common red dot sight, but mounted at an angle (an “offset”). So in close-quarter combat, the weapon can be tilted toward the left, to aim using the dot rather than the magnifying sights.
All-Inclusive Carbine [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 15, Flash: 05, Telescopic vision: 02, R#02, Advantage : Autofire, Limitation: Flash is Steady Illumination Only in most circumstances, and its AV in the applicable Weaponry score].
Photos from the IMFDB, for the 2017 Fast & Furious movie.
Integrally Suppressed Assault Carbine
A high-end model with three strong points :
- A modern integral suppressor making the weapon real quiet.
- A compact build (only 24″ long), for operation in tight spaces.
- Being chambered in .300 Blackout.
.300 BLK is one of the more notable rounds of the 2010s. It is meant to replace the traditional 5.56mm rounds while offering markedly better ballistics. Even when loaded for subsonic velocities — so as to be used in “silenced” weapons — it retains good performances. This makes it quite interesting for special operations.
This is based on the real-world Lewis M&T Confined Space Weapon. Because that one looks futuristic-yet-credible.
I.S.A. Carbine [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 06, Thief (Stealth): 03, R#02, Advantage : Autofire, Limitation: Thief only to muffle the shots].
Photo from the manufacturer.
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 body armour or a 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 in the previous article.
The Remington M700 and the Arctic Warfare from 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 that more clearly visually convey their power.
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 and accurate 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, and in some Hitman promotional images.
The Barrett M98 and a CheyTac Intervention M200 in .375 would be two good examples for this category. Both have a distinctive look that suggests deadliness in a visual medium story.
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.
The heavy, fast bullet is also useful for sniping at an abnormally long range. As of 2017, the longest-range kill is a bit over 3,500m, using a .50 BMG McMillan Tac-50.
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.
The traditional pick in this category is the Barrett M82A1, pictured below. It’s so big — about 13Kg (29 lbs) — that an early version of the M82 was used as a prop for a near-future assault canon in the 1987 Robocop movie.
Since the heydays of the M82, there have been many releases in this category. Let’s go with a French one, if only because of its ominous name – the PGM Hécate II. Like most rifles in this category, the Hécate is a bolt-action rifle. It’s about 14 Kg (32 lbs) loaded, though it feels heavier.
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 (Long Reload), 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 muzzle brake in particular looks like it belongs to a tank’s main gun.
The Hungarian Gepárd M1 is an example of an early anti-material rifle, derived from 1940s anti-tank rifles. Its workings are kept real simple to it’s reliable and accurate. This could be an inspiration in a setting where people need very powerful sniper rifles to fight mutant alien dragons or whatever, but have limited gunsmithing resources.
Bullpup anti-materiel rifle
Oh well, as long as we’re talking about Hungarian anti-material rifles… Here is the Sero GM6 Lynx, a far more recent inheritor to the Gepárd design lineage.
It uses a bullpup configuration — the chamber and magazine are behind the pistol grip — to be more compact without diminishing barrel length. It also reuses a cannon-like recoiling barrel Gepárd design, which means it can be carried in an even more compact manner.
This weapon is notable for our purposes since :
- The bullpup aesthetics have become associated with sci-fi weapons due to Halo and some Metal gear weapon models. Both are hugle popular video game series. So it’s a good fit as a visual shorthand for a powerful future tech semi-auto precision rifle.
- The manufacturer emphasises the ability to use it in dynamic tactical situation, as opposed to a static sniping position.
- But at 13 kilograms combat weight (nearly 29 lbs.), actually doing that requires a good workout regimen. Which would justify various popular things in fiction (soldiers who all look like body-building champs, genetic enhancement to strength/muscle gain, hardsuits with light strength amplification, guns meant to be used by orcs or trolls, etc..)
DCH Bullpup A-M Rifle [BODY 02, Projectile weapons: 08, Range: 10, Telescopic vision: 04, Ammo: 5, R#02, Recommended STR: 04 (02 when using a bipod and the Bracing Bonus), Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range, use the Range given next]. A realistic Rec. STR score would be 03. Here it is highballed to a heroic STR score to make it more spectacular, and because we already use a highballed EV value for anti-materiel riefles.
M&M Bullpup A-M Rifle [Ranged Ballistic Damage 7, Improved Range 1, Improved Critical 1, Senses 1 (Extended visual 1), Quirk (requires STR 3 to operate, see the DCH notes)].
Since we’re talking about dynamic tactics, let’s have a video instead of a picture. Now, the manufacturer’s promotional run-and-gun footage don’t quite make sense. Sure, having this possibility for the unit’s designated marksman is better than not having it, but don’t bring a heavy sniper rifle to a short-to-medium dynamic firefight…
… unless you’re in a story where you need to .50 (or Eastern European 12.7x108mm) round to engage monstrously tough, or heavily armoured, opposition. Which is what this article is more about.
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 tabletop 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. This specific one is an elaborately engraved, two side-by-side barrels .700 Nitro Express piece.
H&K G-11 4.7mm caseless assault rifle
The G-11 was an experimental German assault rifle. It was mostly developed during the 1970s, and commercialization attempts started in 1980.
The striking design fired a different kind of round. Rather than a bullet and powder within a brass casing, it was a bullet embedded in a rectangular block of solid explosives. This carried significant advantages :
- The rounds were smaller and lighter than comparable cased bullets, though their stopping power was reportedly a bit under that of .223. That allowed for 50-round magazines.
- The action could be streamlined. Which meant the ability to fire a rapid three-round burst where the felt recoil was reportedly the same as firing a single shot.
- And my personal favourite – no casings to eject. So no stovepiping, one less annoying bit to clean, one less entrance point for dirt and sand and water, no risks of getting casings burns, etc.. Though maintenance required extensive training since the weapon was mechanically complex, it was reportedly much less frequent than with a stock assault rifle.
In stories, this could be exaggerated as being able to operate in the worst environments, and even underwater.
The weapon had three fire modes (safe, semi, burst, auto). And a built-in reflector sight in the carry handle (kinda sort of like an early red dot sight, also helpful to aim in mediocre lighting).
For a time, this weapon was seen as the possible future for infantry assault weaponry.
This hype led to the G-11 being found in 1980s guns-rich genre products. Such as Greg Gorden’s James Bond TTRPG, the landmark Fallout 2 video game, action thriller comics such as the 1980s Checkmate run, the second Project IGI game, etc..
The “magnetic accelerator” Wesley Snipes wields in Demolition Man (1993) also was a prop imitating the G-11.
But in our reality, no military ever picked up. A few hundreds were produced for tests – then it vanished in the indifferent dustbins of cold history, in the rain.
Stats and photo
H&K G-11 [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 12, Telescopic vision: 01, Ultra-vision: 02, Advantage: Autofire].
These are of course the “print the legend” TTRPG stats. With perfect reliability, a huge magazine, and an exaggerated version of the integral sight.
H&K G11 [Ranged Multiattack Ballistic Damage 5, Senses 1 (1.5x visual magnification and minor low-light capabilities), Feature (caseless)].
These imposing, futuristic-looking small arms use an array of directional antennae to bombard a target with microwave radiation.
The goal here is to jam any radio communication aimed at the target, even if the enemy is using frequency-hopping and other ECCM.
(The microwaves will overpower the radio signal by occupying the same frequencies. You can have fun with this principle at home on a small scale, as microwave ovens share a range with WiFi.)
A typical application is to disconnect a drone. When an unmanned aerial vehicle is cut off from its operator, it is typically programmed to land in place. This allows for capturing the UAV. Or just for shooting it to pieces because everybody hates drones.
Other applications include any radio jamming over a tiny area. For instance, if there’s an explosive charge you suspect is set to be radio-detonated, or if preventing the use of a smartphone is critical.
DCH Microwave gun [BODY 02, Neutralise (Radio communications): 06, Ammo: 10, Telescopic vision: 02, Recommended STR 02, R#04, Note: Neutralise can be its own AV, since the beam is fairly wide].
A comic book version would no doubt instead have the EMP Power. Making it a “shutdown gun” able to disrupt all sorts of electronics (including modern engines).
Helper(s): Roy Cowan, Chris Cottingham, Eric Langendorff, Azraelfl, Max, Darci and (allegedly) Angelina Jolie.