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Inspired by this question, so credit to them for the core idea. How might a slow fire energy weapon reliably neutralize its target? Here are some details about the precise design I had in mind:

  • It does not consume a limited source of ammunition, such as a reservoir of chemicals or other similar things, allowing it to be used indefinitely assuming it is maintained and reducing the cost of large armies for obvious reasons.
  • Its rate of fire is comparable to the flintlock muskets used during the American revolution.
  • They must be ranged.
  • These are intended to be infantry-type weapons.
  • It does not necessarily kill or maim its target, it can disable an enemy combatant in whatever way is the most efficient (or interesting). Ideas other than killing are inducing paralysis, knocking unconscious, inducing a medical condition like heat stroke, etc.
  • It must be cheap (in theory, since we are talking far future here), with minimal risk of exploding or otherwise damaging itself or the user.
  • If a type of weapon besides energy weapons works best for these constraints works better, please share and tell me why. One idea that pops into my head is a musket that launches genetically engineered, fast acting flesh-eating bacteria.
  • Last point, it does not have to be humane. The most brutally efficient weapon with these constraints/parameters is what I am looking for.

Some extra bonus points if you can also justify using bayonets on these rifles, since I feel that's a question that isn't large enough to justify its own question. Entirely optional point, however.

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    $\begingroup$ By "slow fire", do you mean "low rate of fire"? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Apr 17 '18 at 0:04
  • $\begingroup$ What kind of weapon specifically? Infantry? vehicle mounted? orbital? $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Apr 17 '18 at 0:04
  • $\begingroup$ Because you haven't mentioned a need for it to be a ranged weapon, the best weapon I can think of that strictly meets your requirements would be a poisoned sword or pike. VERY cheap, almost infinitely reusable, doesn't have to kill to disable and even solves for bayonettes. $\endgroup$ – Tim B II Apr 17 '18 at 0:04
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn I have made some edits addressing each comment so far, in the second, third, and fourth bullet points. Is there anything else you would me to clarify? $\endgroup$ – user49634 Apr 17 '18 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ @TCAT117 They are intended to be infantry weapons $\endgroup$ – user49634 Apr 17 '18 at 0:09
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PEPS (Pulsed Energy Projection System)

The military is currently working on a laser based weapon that would be able to be mounted on a specially designed Humvee. It is a pulse laser that when fired vaporizes a minute bit of the target material, then fires a second more powerful pulse only microseconds later into the expanding gas cloud to ionize it into a plasma, which then explodes violently. It is a pretty small explosion mind you, about enough to knock you on your backside, the secondary effects are actually more interesting. The electromagnetic phenomenon produced by the blast disrupts neurological activity in a (supposedly) less than lethal manner that is said to be incredibly painful and disorienting. The idea is for a weapon that can be dialed to incapacitate or kill as needed. With a current understanding of physics and technology it can reasonably be built to fit an infantry vehicle specially equipped to have a large battery, capacitor bank and dedicated generator instead of a passenger area. Nothing with the sort of energy storage required to fire such a weapon can be made that would be considered man portable at present, but the technological concept itself is pretty solid. There's no reason some sort of hand wavium based power source couldn't be written up to power a man portable version of this concept.

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  • $\begingroup$ That's not historically true. Archery provided a much higher volume of fire but many armies from history converted to crossbows and firearms. Even when early fire arms provided much less stopping power , range, and accuracy than either crossbows or regular bows armies were still switching to them. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Apr 17 '18 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ The advantage of firearms was they hit with an order of magnitude more energy than any comparable long or crossbow, and were relatively easy to train people to use. This is the real reason firearms swept bows from the battlefield. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Apr 17 '18 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ Point being, rate of fire is not the sole determination in outfitting an army. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Apr 17 '18 at 5:16
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, if nobody did that already! While every Stack Exchange site has its own distinct differences, Worldbuilding is “more different” in some ways. In particular, you ought not Accept an answer before waiting at least 24 hours. A full explanation can be found on this meta post. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 17 '18 at 9:07
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Here is a weapon for infantry, with a slow rate of fire, inexhaustible ammo, which works by knocking out or breaking a bone of the opponent. It is ranged. It is extremely cheap. It has a long history of successful use in combat.

enter image description here Assyrian sling troops. https://www.ancient.eu/image/2806/

The sling.

http://www.romeacrosseurope.com/?p=7607#sthash.g7OLlWsu.dpbs

Ancient peoples used the sling in combat. Armies included both specialist slingers and regular soldiers equipped with slings.

As a weapon, the sling had the advantage of its bullet being lobbed in excess of 1,300 ft. A bow and arrow could also have been used to produce a long range arcing trajectory, but ancient writers repeatedly stress the sling’s advantage of range.

The sling was light to carry and cheap to produce, while stones for ammunition were readily available and often to be found near the site of battle.

The sling was mentioned by Homer and by other Greek authors. Xenophon in his history of the retreat of the Ten Thousand, 401 BC, relates that the Greeks suffered severely from the slingers in the army of Artaxerxes II of Persia, while they themselves had neither cavalry nor slingers, and were unable to reach the enemy with their arrows and javelins.

Energy weapons are fine but eventually you will run out of charge. You can pick up rocks everywhere you go. Getting hit hard by a rock will slow you down.

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  • $\begingroup$ was this meant to be sarcastic? $\endgroup$ – user49634 Apr 17 '18 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ Not at all sarcastic. Slings meet all of your criteria except they do not shoot energy, and your bullet point makes clear that is not necessary. Slings are the only ranged weapons usable indefinitely with inexhaustible ammo. Slings are not silly; ask Goliath. They might be unexpected in a far future scenario - great! $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 17 '18 at 1:30
  • $\begingroup$ ................ $\endgroup$ – user49634 Apr 17 '18 at 1:33
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    $\begingroup$ You might want to have your troops use rocks a little bigger than that. Unless your troops are also very small. $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 17 '18 at 1:47
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    $\begingroup$ Slings are used in 4GW situations for insurgents to pelt soldiers and police with rocks from greater distances than people can throw. Since soldiers and police only have firearms to respond, the propaganda imagery of rifle armed troops shooting "children throwing rocks" is immense. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Apr 17 '18 at 4:25
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Sonic weapons

See Long Range Acoustic Device

Blinding lasers

See Dazzler

Given time both these technologies have the possibility of being shrunk down to man portable designs. Both don't have a huge power requirement which means it can be reduced and used for long periods

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  • $\begingroup$ How might one use either of these to take a soldier out of the fight for the rest of the battle? Both seem like they would be used for either crowd control or in tandem with a more lethal substitute $\endgroup$ – user49634 Apr 17 '18 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ The dazzler can be upped in power to give permanent blindness. Pretty sure the major super power have them, Russia and China especially despite being against international law. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Apr 17 '18 at 3:50
  • $\begingroup$ The LRAD also can be upped to give permanent deafness and vertigo $\endgroup$ – Thorne Apr 17 '18 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ Could you include a brief summary of the idea, rather than just a link to it? That is the standard for Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 17 '18 at 9:11

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