Firearms development is a funny thing; for centuries it crept along. A 16th Century musketeer would have had little difficulty understanding and mastering an early 19th Century firearm. Then, in the second half of that century there was an explosion of development. Metallic cartridges, repeating weapons, machine-guns and semi-automatic rifles and handguns. Then things slowed down again. A soldier from World War One would have no trouble figuring out and using modern firearms. The 20th Century was more a time of refinement than of revolution. Designs were optimized and materials science improved, but the basics remained the same.
This trend has continued into the 21st Century. manufacturing methods and materials have improved, but only relatively insignificant refinements to the weapons themselves. Projectile designs have also been refined for greater reliability, but as yet no revolutionary technology has come along.
The US Army adopted the M16 Rifle about fifty years ago, and they have several times made extensive studies of potential replacements. None of those studies succeeded in coming up with anything enough better to bother. The design has been refined and modified into other configurations (like the M4) but the basics are the same.
Firearms are an apex technology; they have reached levels of efficiency and effectiveness that make it very difficult to make significant advances. In the near future all weâ€
Well, yes and no.Â While the weapons havenâ€
An infantry squad is pinned down by a heavy machine-gun in a bunker 800 meters in front of them. It is beyond the effective reach of either their individual weapons or grenade launchers. They need help.
One soldier flips a monocle attached to his helmet over his eye and extends his weapon. A camera on his weapon transmits the image of where the weapon is pointed to the monocle. He centers the cursor over the bunker and presses a button. Now a lot of things happen very quickly.
A black-box on the gun locates the weapon to within a half-inch using GPS. A laser range-finder ranges the bunker. Another system notes the weapons exact bearing and elevation and uses this information combined with the range to generate an exact GPS coordinate for the bunker, then alerts the soldier. He presses another button and a â€˜call for fireâ€
Twelve miles from the bunker a self-propelled howitzer gets the call for fire and stops. An on-board computer consults meteorological data generated by satellites, sensors deployed by artillery or individual soldiers and drones flying between the gun and the target. It takes this data, the gunâ€
The gun fires a dumb, un-guided high-explosive shell with an accuracy of plus-or-minus two meters at 13 milesâ€¦ thirty seconds later the bunker is vaporized and the squad can continue towards their objective. Elapsed time approximately 3 minutes.
Sounds like science-fiction, right? It isnâ€
The gun may stay the same, but the interface between soldier and gun- and other systems in support- will continue to improve and become easier, more intuitive, to use. Weâ€
My advice to writers about near future weapons is this- donâ€