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Author Topic: How to limit range of firearms in literature  (Read 1201 times)
hardlec
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« on: November 20, 2013, 12:25:27 am »

I want to write a combination RPG and miniatures game.  For a variety of reasons I want to restrict the maximum range of direct fire to 1000 yards.
I don't want to resort to handwavium as a literary device.
Any ideas?
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« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2013, 12:44:01 am »

Tasers, with 1000-yard wires attached to the darts.
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Narsil
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« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2013, 01:03:11 am »

This shouldn't be too difficult.

Direct fire generally refers to weapon systems with a direct line of sight between the firing position and the target. In the context of infantry combat it is relatively rare that the terrain allows direct engagements at this sort of range. There are certainly very few personal weapons which are effective at this distance.

In fact up until the relatively recent experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq most infantry tactical doctrine was geared towards engagements at much shorter ranges, often only a few  hundred meters. The role of infantry essentially being to take an hold ground so there was seen to be little point in firefights at extreme ranges when assaulting a position from 1km away just isn't practical.

This has meant that  infantry weapons have been designed with close assault in mind, most being chambered for 5.56mm ammunition, which, although it has a relatively short effective range (effective suppressive fire up to maybe 600m and accurate shooting to perhaps 300m) the ammunition is much lighter so you can carry more of it. In practice personal infantry weapons are not really about inflicting casualties on the enemy so much as disrupting their ability to maneuver and return fire. You don't have to hit them, you just have to make them stay put and think twice about breaking cover to shoot back. This allows your own units to close the distance to a position from which an assault can be launched.

The relatively open terrain and tactical situation in Afghanistan in particular has change this somewhat as the open terrain allows engagements at much lobger ranges than were anticipated in a european ground war. On the other hand the need for a lightweight personal weapon with a large magazine capacity remains as close assault or building complexes is still a significant requirement.

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Prof Marvel
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« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2013, 08:28:57 am »

...For a variety of reasons I want to restrict the maximum range of direct fire to 1000 yards.
I don't want to resort to handwavium as a literary device....


One can always refer to ballistics tables and documents relating to "effective fire" at various ranges.
Ballistics tables (or similar software) generally show basics such as muzzle velocity, mid-range trajectory, and bullet drop at various ranges. For example, the .450-577 martini henry and the .45-70 sharps and trapdoor rifles share similar ballistics - a 400-405 grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of ~ 1400 fps, which, when "sighted in"

Wiki discusses the "Sandy Hook" Tests of the 45-70 in which they determined the maximum effective range against individuals to be ~ 1000 yards, as well as the "rainbow-like trajectory" which is nearly alwyas the limiting factor in projectile weapons. Whilst some tables were calculated,  terminal ballistics for the Victorian time period was nearly always obtained via experimentation and penetration test results were often given in "number of oak or pine boards penetrated" - ie ( from Wikipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.45-70 ) :

"The heavier 500-grain (32 g) bullet produced significantly superior ballistics, and could reach ranges of 3,350 yards (3,120 m), which were beyond the maximum range of the .45-70-405. While the effective range of the .45-70 on individual targets was limited to about 1,000 yards (915 m) with either load, the heavier bullet would produce lethal injuries at 3,500 yards (3,200 m). At those ranges, the bullets struck point-first at a roughly 30 degree angle, penetrating 3 one inch (2.5 cm) thick oak boards, and then traveling to a depth of 8 inches (20 cm) into the sand of the Sandy Hook beach*."

an example of trajectories for the 45-70, if sighted for 100yards , the bullet would be ~ 2inch above point of aim at 50 yards, but drop 7 inch below point of aim at 150 yards; over 20 inches below point of aim at 200 yards; and over 300 inches low at 500 yards. By contrast he more modern 30-06 (developed in 1906) would be 1.5 inch llow at 150 yards, 4.3 inch low at 200 yards, and 54 inch low at 500 yards.

Thus trajectory is one limiting factor, as the shooter must be able to estimate the range very accurately or his bullet will fall short or go past his target.

Another limiting factor is physical accuraccy of the barrel/cartridge combination. Modern rifle makers attempt to achieve 
what is called "1 minute of angle" or less, which translates to all bullets fired making a group of 1" or less at 100 yards.
this equates to 10" at 1000 yards. "Most" rifles are considered acceptable if they can achieve 2-3 MOA (Minutes of angle) which is a 2-3 inch group at 100 yards, or a 20-30 inch group at 1000 yards . Remember, a typical adversary only present a "useful" target 10-15 inches wide ... Further, as a barrel heats up when firing, accuraccy get worse. Can you see where this is leading?

Older rifles wre capable of this level of accuracy but were more finnicky....

Then there is wind drift to consider - wind can easily drift a bullet from an inch to a foot at 100 yards, and changing cross winds further downrange makes it worse.
 
Now, even if your equipment can manage to place a bullet in a 1 foot circle at 100 yards (if tied down in a vice) , *and* the shooter can accurately estimate the distance and wind correction, and correctly adjust his rear site in the heat of the fray, the human factors of vision, good "sight picture" (sight alignment), good trigger control (gently squeezing the trigger and "breaking the shot, vs slapping or jerking the trigger and pulling the rifle off-target) and breath and muscle control are involved! When one tries to shoot "offhand", standing unsupported, one will find that even the heartbeat will affect the rifle and it is necessary to time the "squeeze" with the pulse  .

Thus, with all these factors, empiracle evidence has shown that with most modern standard equipment the "effective" range of a common infantryman is "about" 300-500 yards, of a "rifleman" perhaps out to 800 yards and a marksman or sniper ~1000-1200 yards "depending".

As Narsil mentioned, recent events have shown longer ranges achieved.

hope this helps
yhs
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« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2013, 09:24:44 am »

I want to write a combination RPG and miniatures game.  For a variety of reasons I want to restrict the maximum range of direct fire to 1000 yards.
I don't want to resort to handwavium as a literary device.
Any ideas?

What is the tech-level and general environment of your scenario?

As already stated, the limit of effective range with projectile weapons is generally already within your limit.  I seem to remember that the original Cyberpunk (not 2020) RPG weapons section opened with a quote from an FBI(?) report on the typical urban gun crime, where the usual range between shooter and victim was about touching distance or slightly more.  But it's going to vary whether you're planning something based on the Zulu wars, Victorian crime in London or a modern conflict in Afghanistan.

Unless I'm missing something in your question.
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« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2013, 05:27:18 pm »

What kind of combat scenario are you looking at?  Infantry?  Armored calvary?  Airships?  Hurled insults?  Wink

Looking from the RPG side, precedent exists for ranged weapon fire to operate on a range increment, where accuracy is best within a fairly short range, maybe 20 yards for infantry, and a penalty is applied for each range increment beyond that.  This may relate to a combination of weapon angular accuracy, size of target, and the target being able to dodge.  At some point the projectile may be able to cover the distance, but has a vanishingly small chance of hitting a target smaller than the broadside of a barn.

For other ranged effects, such as a flame thrower, there is a fixed maximum range beyond which the effect dissipates.
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MWBailey
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« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2013, 05:59:59 pm »

I don't generally pay a lot of attention to tables and whatnot; they tend to rely heavily on rigidly-controlled situations that aren't really going to happen much in the actual field. The average Sharps gun could hit something as big as a buffalo (american bison, for all you pedants out there) and kill it at about 300 yards. Whether or not the death was immediate, or due to massive hemorrhage, or exhaustion relating to hemorrhage, is pretty much immaterial. It was (usually) dead by the time the hunter got to the corpse, or nearly so. That was pretty much the extreme limit of 'direct fire' or 'smallarms' weapons that were common up until the late 1800s (1880s, say).

Yes, there was a cartridge-firing rifled artillery piece that became available in the 1880s through the early 1900s that fired a round of about .90 caliber, usually  solid. It could manage 1000 yards, maybe a bit more, accurately, with a relatively flat trajectory; I can't recall the name or exact particulars, but suffice to say, it was far heavier in propellant load, and projectile weight, than any human could handle without the carriage that the thing was mounted on (no, I think it could have been stocked and carried in the field, albeit by a team or about three men the size of Lurch from the Addams Family sitcom, or maybe some bodybuilder types, taking frequent turns to avoid extreme exhaustion. Fired without a carriage? I kind of doubt it, my characters' previous RPG exploits with such calibers notwithstanding.

A 1000-yard smallarms rifle? Could be, I suppose. I will say that I think smallarms accuracy at that range in that day and age would be absolutely incredible, since one cannot actually see a human target through the intersection of the crosshairs at that distance, let alone past the muzzletip blade or bead of an open-sighted firearm. Maybe with something like a Creedmore(sp?) sight, but even then I'd be skeptical.

On a slightly different note:
Pardon the risky(?) deviation into the mid-20th century, but .30 caliber heavy machineguns of then-standard Army issue were used to bombard an objective on the other side of a mountain during the second world war. I quite honestly don't know the actual ballistic distances involved, but I'd be willing to bet that it was a bit further than 1000 yards. Just saying.
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« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2013, 06:20:46 am »

My Good Msr Bailey -

The average Sharps gun could hit something as big as a buffalo (american bison, for all you pedants out there) and kill it at about 300 yards. .... That was pretty much the extreme limit of 'direct fire' or 'smallarms' weapons that were common up until the late 1800s (1880s, say).
....
A 1000-yard smallarms rifle? Could be, I suppose. I will say that I think smallarms accuracy at that range in that day and age would be absolutely incredible, since one cannot actually see a human target through the intersection of the crosshairs at that distance, let alone past the muzzletip blade or bead of an open-sighted firearm. "


I am not so much disagreeing with you , since the average shot is as we both agree "not so good" past 300 yards.
My word, I myself can barely see a critter or beastie at 300 yards these days!
Rather I am offering some historic commentary on what was achieved "in the day" remembering of course that these are the notable exceptions rather than the rule.

The NRA in England held Wimbledon rifle matches in 1860 with muzzleloading rifles of various makes, but shooters with  the Enfield and Rigby rifles often took the day.  Targets were whitewashed iron plates six feet square with a black bulls-eye 2 feet in diameter set at  two distances: 500 yards and 1000 yards (which was reported in one newsrag as "nearly as mile off").
The reason a 2 foot Bull was chosen was so that the shooters could see them!

These were later emulated by the American NRA which first held the International Creedmore Matches in Sept 1876. The matches at Creedmore were shot at 800, 900, and 1000 yards. Some cartridge rifles such as the Sharps and Remington were used, but the winners most often had custom built muzzleloaders the best of which incorporated hexagonal rifling (such as the Whitworth - also used by U.S. Confederate Sharpshooters who killed U.S. Union General John Sedgwick at nearly 1000 yards at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House) or progressive depth rifling such as the Enfield Type 3. Interestingly the model 1873 and 1878 US Springfield Trapdoor did quite well at extreme ranges, especially with the complex Buffington rear sight.

The most celebrated Sharps Rifle shot was by Billy Dixon at  Adobe Walls ( a Texas Trading Post). The outpost was attacked and held under siege  (for trespass and treaty violation) in June 1874  by a "large band" of Kiowa and Comanche led by Quanah Parker.  Dixon shot at a distant group on a hill  (later measured as over a mile away) with a borrowed Sharps "Big 50" , and killed a man with his third shot. The Kiowa and Comanche dispersed.

With the advent of the cartridge military rifles virtually all incorporated adjustable sights with extreme ranges - both  the Model 1893 and 1898 Mauser rear sight is graduated out to 2000 meters! Bear in mind that these ranges were not intended for accurate individual fire, but for directed "volley fire" against distant fixed emplacements (like artillery) or columns of soldiers, both of which are more readily seen.

A number of us have discussed (on a completely different forum) the "maximum" long range Muzzleloading RoundBall shot, the consensus was around 400-500 yards since the ballistic coeffient of a ball is so pathetic. At the opposite end of the scale as you pointed out in the late Great War Number 2, incendiary rounds were used at night to good effect to "walk in" .30 MG fire onto a target at great distance, even over hills. the historic films showing the huge arc of the "tracers" is as impressive as it is terrible.

yhs
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« Last Edit: November 21, 2013, 06:33:52 am by Prof Marvel » Logged
RJBowman
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« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2013, 09:22:48 pm »

Wikepedia's page on Sniper Rifles has a brief list of maximum ranges for several types of rifles:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sniper_rifle#Maximum_effective_range

It looks like the best modern arms are useless beyond about 2500 yards. Weapons of the past would have a shorter range.

So if your RPG's back story needs a reason for gun play to be limited to 1000 yards, just say it's the limit of the firearm technology of the game world.

And the mechanic of the game would have the accuracy and destructive power of the projectile decrease with range, and taper to nothing at 1000 years.
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MWBailey
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« Reply #9 on: November 21, 2013, 10:25:20 pm »

Quote
The most celebrated Sharps Rifle shot was by Billy Dixon at  Adobe Walls ( a Texas Trading Post). The outpost was attacked and held under siege  (for trespass and treaty violation) in June 1874  by a "large band" of Kiowa and Comanche led by Quanah Parker.  Dixon shot at a distant group on a hill  (later measured as over a mile away) with a borrowed Sharps "Big 50" , and killed a man with his third shot. The Kiowa and Comanche dispersed.

I had forgotten this account, to be honest. As a descendant of a close white relative of Quanah, I'm familiar with his and a few of Adobe Walls' legends.

Much though I rail at pedants, I am compelled to be one myself and note that one should remember that  a "mile" in those days was not usually the same as our modern standard (1600 and something meters); the English or "London" Mile, which is the most likely measure the Anglo settlers would have used (The american statute mile was not adopted until the early 1880s), was about 1200 and something meters. I'm sorry, but the exact numbers escape me just now. In any case, it was over 1000 yards, so I stand corrected.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2013, 10:28:56 pm by MWBailey » Logged
hardlec
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« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2013, 06:00:23 pm »

I am thinking WAS technology. 
250 meters seems a good effective range for Infantry weapons.  If optics are expensive, my guns will be hard pressed to hit tanks over 1000 meters. It would seem the limit is the mark 1 eyeball. 
Without good wireless communication, indirect fire is problematic. 

Without much fuss I can restrict range to 1000 meters. 

If my models are N scale, 1:160, and my ground scale is 1:1600, up by a factor of 10, a 4x4 foot table means my forces start out of range of each other.
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