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9 out of 10 action heroes agree: Repeating a pump-action shotgun looks and feels just plain awesome.

But besides the rule of cool, why would we still use pump-action guns in a future scenario 100-200 years from now? Semi-automatic and even fully-automatic shotguns already exist today. And whether you are fighting a gang war in a cyberpunk slum or get ambushed by a swarm of xenomorphs in an abandoned space station: anything which allows you to kill your enemies faster and easier will save your life.

I've done my homework and found out that today's pump-action shotguns have the advantage of being able to fire a larger variety of ammunition and that the smaller number of moving parts means they are more reliable, more durable and a lot cheaper. But those seem to be engineering problems to me which could easily disappear within a few decades of technical advances.

And that's assuming we keep using firearms with chemical propellant in the future. When we start using electric acceleration (railgun, coilgun...) then we have enough power in our gun to drive the cycling mechanic for our projectiles electrically. And when we go even further and switch to energy-based weapons (laser, plasma, sonic, particles, etc...) then we won't even need projectiles at all.

What technical reason could there still be for guns to have that sweet tchk-tchk BOOM pump action in the future?

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    $\begingroup$ Sure, we don't use flintlocks nowadays. But... Why do we still use revolvers? What about recoil operation? Some schemes are more durable than others. $\endgroup$ – Oleg Lobachev Jul 18 '18 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ Consider that guns aren't used exclusively for assault or protection. Many hunters use standard bolt action rifles. Single action revolvers are still in production - for things like rattlesnakes on the ranch or some such minor threat where your concern is not marauders but the everyday creatures that can wander on your land. $\endgroup$ – Kai Qing Jul 18 '18 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ Pump-action shotguns were introduced in the 1850s, 150 years ago. We're already in that future scenario. Assuming firearms are used at all, all the same reasons we still use them today would remain 100-200 years in the future. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Jul 19 '18 at 4:55
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    $\begingroup$ I'd question your assertion that engineering problems will just go away in the future. They're likely to be tradeoffs that will remain no matter what, especially since semi-automatic firearms are very mature technology by now. $\endgroup$ – JollyJoker Jul 19 '18 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ At the army when we where supervised in watch-duties it was suggested to us that the sound of cocking your G3 Rifle would be quite effective for intimidating strangers. Short of giving a warning shot, we where advised that wasting a round by cocking again a already loaded gun could do the trick. A shotgun is even more impressive in this regard! $\endgroup$ – Daniel Jul 19 '18 at 11:43

20 Answers 20

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Legality.

For hunting Titan's bears and Jupiter's sharks you need a high calibre round, only doable with military hardware or shotguns.

You can not justify AA 12 Saiga, with full auto for hunting.

Some legal limitations once birthed the Messer, a knife that was almost a sword.

Maybe your space station supresses the integrated circuits on weapons frequency, so in the seedier places you carry old school weapons.

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    $\begingroup$ "turns out those fancy high output shields are only effective against the high tech beam energy weapons everyone is using..." $\endgroup$ – Michael Jul 19 '18 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ "You can not justify AA 12 Saiga, with full auto for hunting." That entirely depends on what you're hunting. $\endgroup$ – Ian Kemp Jul 19 '18 at 11:33
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    $\begingroup$ @IanKemp, Hunting is a sport and demand skill. If your hunt need 30-90 round in full auto you are just using the wrong gun. For big hunt game like planet eating entities we use bigger gun like the AAA 21 Xaiga. It's fun to hide on the overside of planetary system just looking at the main star, waiting for one of them to show up. And til the last second so you can head shot both it and the planet. $\endgroup$ – Drag and Drop Jul 19 '18 at 12:07
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    $\begingroup$ It depends on the hunter. Some want to hunt a dear with one bow, one arrow, and one knife. There will always be one showing up with an AA 12 Saiga full auto modified, even if it's archaic. $\endgroup$ – Drag and Drop Jul 19 '18 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ @DragandDrop Nobody complains that you're a bad hunter when you hose down a hornets nest with three cans on Raid (Chemical warfare! Oh no!) because you're not in it for the sport - you just want to kill all the hornets. $\endgroup$ – UIDAlexD Jul 19 '18 at 14:30
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Reliability and versatility, with no real downside

A semi-automatic shotgun offers very little advantage in fire rate over a pump-action shotgun not equipped with a trigger disconnector in the firing mechanism, as the latter can be slam fired by holding down the trigger while pumping the action.

Considering that a semi-automatic mechanism is more vulnerable to failures due to off-spec loads, gas fouling, and the likes than a pump action is, and that a pump-action can handle oddball rounds (like beanbags) more readily than a semi-auto can because an oddball round may not produce sufficient recoil or chamber pressure to cycle the action properly, the continued existence of pump-action shotguns is practically guaranteed, even before you enter legality into the picture. (Anywhere there is legal waterfoul hunting, pump-action shotguns with long barrels will be legal on at least some level, as they represent the baseline of modern shotgun technology.)

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    $\begingroup$ By extension, this is why people still use double-barrel shotguns for home defense. Even less to go wrong. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Jul 19 '18 at 4:52
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    $\begingroup$ "...pump-action shotguns with long barrels will be legal..." except in Australia, where pump action shotguns are treated like battle rifles, whereas lever-action shotguns are treated the same as a bolt action .22 rifle. Never underestimate the inconsistency and stupidity of legislators. $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Jul 19 '18 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ I can't agree with your fire rate. Aimed shots cannot be slam fired. A semi auto also requires less operator skill. In the real world semi auto shotguns are plenty reliable and tolerant of a wide range of ammunition type. Hunters use them in all conditions. $\endgroup$ – geoO Jul 19 '18 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ The idea of pump-actions being more reliable than semi-autos may have been true half a century ago, but now you are far more likely to short-stroke a pump-action under stress than experience a failure with a quality gas-operated semi-auto. $\endgroup$ – Catgut Jul 19 '18 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ Reliability is exactly the answer, unless they make advances between now and then. Never had a pump fail me, but have had semi-autos fail me. That's with >70-yo pumps and <20-yo semis. $\endgroup$ – Don Branson Jul 19 '18 at 19:51
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Action heros? Who cares about those whiny little girls? Real villains use pump-action weapons! Because NOTHING says "wet your pants on command" like the most recognizable sound in the known universe.

Why do people take the mufflers off their cars? Or ride Harley Davidson motorcycles? Or shoot skeet without ear protection?

Because they can!

Sound is second only to smell in its ability to elicit emotional responses. Let that someone special murmur the right sequence of syllables and you'll follow them around like a puppy — and you'll thank them for it!

But what do villains want? You betcha! FEAR! We want people to respect us in the most obvious way possible. We want them weeping at the mere mention of our approach. We want them trembling at the memory of our last visit. We don't want them to cheer our names! We want them to WHISPER our names in abject terror! And we want them to do it all the time!

And for that we need recognizable sounds. Sounds that are easily replicated. Sounds that occur frequently.

We want pump-action weapons! And we want them so badly that we'll subsidize and distribute the weapons to make sure NOBODY forgets what they sound like! And just to make everything better, cycling that action takes an extra three-quarters of a second! You'd be AMAZED how much panic can ensue in just three-quarters of a second!

Oh, yeah, baby! Join the winning team! We WILL supply the preferred weapon! Ah... just one thing more... there's only one opening, so make it quick....

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    $\begingroup$ Especially in a Cyberpunk setting, where a huge point of it is people doing things for no reason other than "It's Cool" $\endgroup$ – Sydney Sleeper Jul 18 '18 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ In real life, some police allegedly carry their weapons uncocked, because cocking the weapon serves as an extra step of escalation between drawing and firing. So even the heroes might want to scare people occasionally. $\endgroup$ – Jeffrey Bosboom Jul 19 '18 at 1:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JeffreyBosboom In real life, you're supposed to. Because accidentally shooting yourself or a bystander when you snag your holster the wrong way (most recently, famously, when a cop decided to demonstrate a backwards somersault!) is generally considered a Bad Thing. It's far more likely for that to happen than for the cop to need that half-second extra. $\endgroup$ – Graham Jul 19 '18 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ :) When I bought my Harley (for daily commuting) I was concerned with annoying the neighbors. And then they both told me I'm better than their alarm clocks.... $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell Jul 19 '18 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ @JeffreyBosboom, it's not just police. I've seen an uncocked pump-action shotgun recommended as a home-defense weapon in a number of places: the loud, distinctive sound of the slide being worked apparently makes for a pretty good deterrent. $\endgroup$ – Mark Jul 19 '18 at 21:43
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The pump could power a small electric generator that powers whatever is needed to make the gun fire. Think about it like those crank-operated emergency lights or radios. This makes them useful in missions in unpopulated areas/planets where there is no easy way to recharge the weapon.

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    $\begingroup$ The amount of times you'd need to crank the pump action to generate any sort of electrical charge makes me think you'd look like you were operating a Shakeweight $\endgroup$ – Sydney Sleeper Jul 18 '18 at 23:00
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    $\begingroup$ I am loving the image of a gun with one of the those little fold-out crank handles like on emergency torches $\endgroup$ – Chromane Jul 19 '18 at 1:04
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    $\begingroup$ There is a gun exactly like that in Fallout 4 - the laser musket. $\endgroup$ – Turksarama Jul 19 '18 at 3:35
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    $\begingroup$ The pumping would not generate enough charge to be used as a round. However, it could be used to power other aspects of the gun so that the energy round or whatever can be safely fired. Much like how high powered breakers sometimes have primers that need to be pumped before they are flipped. The breaker has to close extremely fast to prevent arcing that could damage the switch. $\endgroup$ – Anketam Jul 19 '18 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ Thinking of this, the Mechwarrior RPG had hand powered generators in the equipment list, so if all else fails you could recharge your power packs without external power. $\endgroup$ – PhasedOut Jul 19 '18 at 13:26
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Putting what has already been said in a slightly different context, why do we still have stairs? Why don't we have flying cars and hoverboards? We have the technical advances necessary, but when you get right down to it the answer comes down to two considerations; energy efficiency and fail conditions.

Stairs take exactly zero power to run. That means that compared to (say) and escalator, their energy efficiency is basically infinite. Sure, you have to employ your own energy to climb them, but that's good for you in any event and it's a hidden cost because you have to eat regardless; only the energy value needed changes, and even then not by huge amounts.

Also stairs don't have a fail condition. Alright, this isn't really true but for the purposes of energy utilisation, they don't because stairs aren't powered. That means, that even if your skyscraper loses all power, you can still use the stairs. This is a 'fail-safe' condition, rather than a 'fail-badly' condition. Escalators fail in a way that makes them expensive stairs, which isn't too bad.

By comparison, think about hover cars or hover boards. They would fail badly. Like, falling to Earth badly. Cars on the other hand, fail in a way that makes them just stop. This is why there is so much engineering and investigation that goes into modern passenger aircraft; when they fail, the net result is (in a word) bad.

Cars are also far more energy efficient. That's because all the energy they generate goes into lateral motion by comparison to the surface of the earth. Why? Because they can't fall any further than they already have in Earth's gravity well (Again, we'll assume normal road-like conditions). That means they fail safely, AND they're more energy efficient.

So; your pump action for shotguns. VERY energy efficient, like stairs. They fail safely to be sure, but generally they're also VERY reliable. Easy to manufacture (simple design) and when they fail (usually a jam), relatively simple to fix.

Compare this to automatic actions on weapons, or even powered actions, and clearing a jam in the field is much more likely to take longer and require more understanding of how the weapon works.

Pump actions are simple. They don't take a lot of knowledge to understand or operate, they're relatively simple to manufacture and they're energy friendly. Why on Earth would anyone replace that? It would be like getting rid of the wheel, and we haven't done that yet either.

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent answer. Two things I'd like to add though: First, pump actions are more intuitive for most people than bolt or lever actions, so it makes sense that they would be preferred over those despite equivalent energy efficiency and fail safety. Second, there's one potentially nasty failure condition for them if you're using center-fire cartridges with pointed bullet tips, namely that recoil can set off the tlentire magazine (this is why you almost never see pupm actions on anything but shotguns and small caliber rifles). $\endgroup$ – Austin Hemmelgarn Jul 19 '18 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ As far as shotguns are concerned, pump-actions are more likely to jam under stress (short-stroking) and have comparable failure modes and difficulty in resolving jams when compared to modern semi-autos. I'm not sure where the idea that resolving a jam on a semi-auto is more difficult comes from; on both a pump and semi a failure is generally either an FTF/FTE that can be resolved by cycling the action, or the gun's out of commission until it can be field stripped. $\endgroup$ – Catgut Jul 19 '18 at 15:00
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Improvements in durability and price will help a pump action gun just as much as a semi-automatic gun. So sure, your \$700 Saiga semi-automatic shotgun might cost only \$350 in the future, but a \$300 Mossberg 500 pump action shotgun would only be \$150 in that same future.

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    $\begingroup$ I can very easily imagine every home having a general purpose 3d printer on it, especially once we have colonized other planets. To print an assault rifle or energy weapon, you need to get a part or two sent from Earth (a long way off, and very expensive). When the barbarians are at the gates, there is only one option to choose. The bolt action rifle takes too long to operate and reload. A simple revolver doesn't give you enough killing potential. The Remington Model 870 is blissfully simple and perfect for turning flying bug aliens into skeet and raging ogre aliens into swiss cheese. $\endgroup$ – Dent7777 Jul 19 '18 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Dent7777 this doesn't seem like a suggestion for improvement or question (which is what comments are for). You should make it into an answer. That alone without being edited would be a fine answer. $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Jul 19 '18 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Dent7777 Agreed, this is a great answer and shouldn't be a comment. You have a +1 from me if you convert it. $\endgroup$ – kuhl Jul 19 '18 at 17:02
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There's an assumption in much science-fiction that assumes that just because there's a fancier way of doing something or making a tool more sophisticated it makes it better, and the old tech will be replaced.

That is far from the truth. If something works perfectly well for what you use it for, while people may tend to try and replace it with something fancier, almost inevitably practicality will cause people to continue using the existing tech.

A good example is the axe. The basic concept (heavy chopping head + handle) is possibly hundreds of thousands of years old. Every now and then, you'll see people try to produce something to improve the basic design. One I saw years ago for a chopping axe had two pivoting levers that was supposed to push the pieces of wood apart when you split the wood. Sounded good in theory. I've never ever seen one in person, I've never seen one in a store. Why? The old-fashioned axe does its job perfectly well.

Similar to weapons. The pump-action shotgun works perfectly well for what it's needed for. The M1911 design is over a century old and still works perfectly fine. The Ma Deuce .50 heavy machine gun will easily go into its second century. The Mauser bolt-action design is still used even it was patented in 1895 and semiautomatic and fully automatic mechanisms have been developed since. The basic Kalashnikov mechanism will easily go into its second century as well.

And, as mentioned, do not underestimate the intimidation factor. Pull out a semi or full auto shotgun, you've got nothing but its visual appearance to use as psychological warfare unless you actually fire it. Cycle that pump action, combining an obvious visual and auditory cue, and now you're showing you mean business.

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  • $\begingroup$ As a counter point to the axe, even though we have not made a better axe we have invented the chain saw. Much like how we have not invented a better horse, but have invented the car. $\endgroup$ – Anketam Jul 19 '18 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Anketam Counter-counter point. An axe is useful for more than just chopping logs in half. You can de-bark a tree with an axe. You can use it as a hammer to drive stakes. You can use it as a club to smash down doors. You can hike with it cross-country because it's simple, light, and doesn't require any gas. And, should you find yourself in an absolutely desperate situation, it makes a fantastic melee weapon. A chainsaw, on the other hand, is good for cutting logs in half and mortally wounding a single person before the chain gets seized up by blood and gore. $\endgroup$ – UIDAlexD Jul 19 '18 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Anketam Note that we have been making better horses for possibly millennia. We're still breeding horses today (though many of their uses have been obsoleted by things like steam engines). That's the core of Keith's answer - just because we have something new and flashy doesn't mean we're going to stop using the old stuff. We no longer use horses for all logistics, but they still have tasks where they are rather hard (and expensive) to replace - e.g. forestry, or places with bad infrastructure. It's simpler to feed a horse than to feed a car (Firefly is a great sci-fi example). $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jul 23 '18 at 7:35
  • $\begingroup$ (1/2) There's a good example of what I mean in the 2009 Star Trek film: When Kirk and Old!Spock find Scotty, the door they use to enter the base has an old-fashioned crash bar mechanism. Now, obviously it's because they filmed on location and that was the door that was there, but look at it in-universe: Starfleet needed a door, they needed a way to keep it closed, what's wrong with a simple mechanism that had proven itself (by that point) for centuries to do a simple job? $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Jul 23 '18 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ (2/2) Now compare that to at least the first season of Space:1999. In order to open the interior doors on Moonbase Alpha, even doors to unrestricted areas, the personnel had to take out their little communicator-thingie and punch in a code just to open the door. Why? What possible benefit does that provide over a wall-mounted control (like in Star Trek and other SF), an automated door (as seen in your average store) or, and this might seem crazy, a simple handle? It looked futuristic, but it wasn't practical. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Jul 23 '18 at 17:17
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/But those seem to be engineering problems to me which could easily disappear within a few decades of technical advances./

And then reappear as the world goes to hell. In your future, most stuff is made by barely competent amateurs with a trailer full of scavenged tools. You paid the big bucks for a refurbished vacuum suit because you can't have that pooping out in the big empty. As for firearms, the Albanian is cheap, unpretentious and turns out firearms that so far haven't exploded in your face. His pump action shotguns get the job done and the shells he loads up have thick paper and plenty of powder. He makes a decent pair of boots, too.

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    $\begingroup$ You don't even have to go to the future - there's plenty of "underdeveloped" regions on Earth today. There will always be places where the latest tech is not only too expensive, but outright unusable. Especially if you consider the kind of future where we colonize outer space :P $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jul 23 '18 at 7:37
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The other folks here have covered old fashion slug-throwers and their intimidation factor quite well. However, a shotgun that blasts out slugs or shot is cool and all, but deep space operators know they want a laser or plasma weapon for that extra kick. A slug-thrower might ventilate a vacsuit, but real operators have to deal with powered armor and blast doors. And when faced with such resistance, an energy weapon has got you covered. Accept no substitutes.

Now as any self-respecting space mercenary knows, these things get hot. Radiating out this heat is an important part of keeping your weapon safe and operating at peak efficiency. However, any merc with more than a single op under their belt also knows that continuously dumping out a load of heat is a fantastic way to get lit up by every tango with a thermal sight. And that presents a problem for weapons manufacturers. Material science has gotten us to the point where you can shield that heat for a while but eventually, you'll have to get rid of it. Other companies get around this problem by limiting fire-rate or with cumbersome, disposable heat-sinks. But if you're having to carry around spare heat-sinks, you might as well carry a slug-thrower.

That's where our patented 'Rack-n-Vent' technology comes in. No disposable heat-sinks and up to 60% higher maximum fire rate than our competitors. Cool down whenever you need to. Simply rack the slide backwards and the integrated circuits will vent coolant over the radiator-fins hidden beneath the heat-resistant grip, cooling your weapon in moments. Or, with a simple touch of the button, you can forgo the coolant vent and simply radiate passively, guaranteeing optimal firing condition.

No overheating, no heat-sinks, no survivors. Cyncorp Rack-n-Vent, for real professionals.

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    $\begingroup$ For the most part, for a fight on a spaceship, almost all of the time you want to avoid puncturing the hull. The low penetration of shotguns (which can be very easily changed by using different ammo) is perfect. And you don't have to worry about your lasers being stopped by a bit of smoke or reflected back at your own people (or hostages/civilians) after hitting an innocuous metallic surface. On the other hand, guns might make things hard for the air recyclers... $\endgroup$ – Luaan Jul 23 '18 at 7:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Luaan That very much depends on your intended goal during boarding actions. When your goal is to get attackers off of your ship, you're going to want to stick to lower-powered weapons, as you don't want to damage your own ship. If, on the other hand, your goal is (for example) an enemy ship's datacore and everything else is secondary, you strap on your power-armor, prepare for a fight in vacuum and try not to aim in the direction of the computers. Blowing out a bulkhead and letting the less prepared (or hard-core) enemy be sucked into space is a bonus in this scenario. $\endgroup$ – Valthek Jul 23 '18 at 9:46
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Why Pump Action Is Used In The Future: 3D Printing

Now before you down this answer because of the much-abused buzzword above, hear me out. In the modern day, most folks get their equipment one of a few different ways:

  • From a Brick and Mortar Store
  • From an online retailer
  • From a personal sale (or gun show)

Only a very select group of people actually attempt to make their own equipment from complete scratch. For good reason: equipment these days can be complex in design, complex in materials, and easy to mess up, especially when it comes to firearms.

Enter 3D printing; in the modern day, 3D printing is quite limited. Very few households have a printer in them, and those that do almost exclusively have simple hobbyist plastic printers. Ceramics and Metal printers of any reasonable quality are prohibitively expensive.

The Future

Now Imagine a distant (or not so distant) future. We are long past the days of Amazon. Every home and workshop has an advanced, generalized 3D printer/assembler closet. You receive monthly shipments of raw materials:

  • Steel Alloy Pellets
  • Bricks of Silicon
  • Space-Age Plastic Resin

with less regular deliveries of heavy metals and less common materials. Shipping raw materials is cheaper and more efficient for all involved, if all the manufacturing can occur at the destination.

The Boomstick

Say you are in a remote outpost, lightyears away from civilization, and the aliens come knocking at your bio-dome. You don't have time to order a shipment of sophisticated weapons, nor the rare materials to print them locally. All you have is your current resource stocks and a database of files. Furthermore, your fellow farmers/miners/philosophy factory workers have no advanced weapons training.

The classics have long passed into the public domain. The Kalashnikov, the Mossberg, the 1911 remain. The arms of your forefathers are a sorely needed gift in this crisis:

  • Simple to print (increasing print speed, reducing error likelyhood)
  • Simple to use (no fancy scopes, no charging lasers, no friendly ballistics AI)
  • Durable in the field
  • Significant stopping power, but not enough to puncture a ship hull, biodome, etc
  • Easy to fix (less moving parts than some modern ballpoint pens)

Conclusion

Rival gangs in your dystopian vertical flavela? Predators in your jungle? Space Zombies on your ship? Facist CorpoGovernment got you down?

Do as your forefathers have done. Paint your face, rip your sleeves off, and rack that slide baby.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, you rather lost the flavor of your comment in your "fleshing out." Don't underestimate the value of authorial voice. I don't see swiss cheese or skeet mentioned a single time in this answer; what a let down. ;) $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Jul 21 '18 at 3:22
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The nice thing with shotguns is they're massively versatile (Taufledermaus loads all sorts of crazy rounds into shotguns). Unlike a air pressure or energy weapon, shotgun rounds are more or less self contained.

They're a tube, with the cocking mechanism actuated by the user - so a lot less moving parts. You'd probably design them a lot differently from an earth-designed gun, designing the firing mechanism to avoid a cold cementing and vacuum welding. The right rounds could allow for breaching, or even area denial. Maybe handwave that its simpler to do a sealed, nitrogen or gel filled action that works better in space.

Inside a space ship, you're fighting in an environment remarkably similar to a submarine, ideally you don't want to make holes in the space ship - so you cans switch to net or immobilising rounds for hard armoured targets, or good old shot for soft targets. Unlike a magazine, you can quickly switch round types, and a few competition shooters can load pump guns quickly.

You might also choose to go for a larger caliber - I'd imagine a grenade sized round in a shotgun style launcher would have more SNICKT.

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Safety

Remember the old pump action bb guns that the more you pump, the more powerful the shot? Once we move to any of the electronic weapons:

  1. One pump = "this is going to sting"
  2. Two pump = "oops I messed myself and I can't stand up"
  3. Three pump = "where am I and why am I restrained"
  4. Seven pump = "Jimmy, bring the dustpan and a DNA bag"
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    $\begingroup$ "Pump shotguns to stun." $\endgroup$ – John Montgomery Jul 19 '18 at 21:15
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Because they're dirt cheap, easy to maintain and can down just about any dang critter this side of the galaxy.

What need would a humble mega-tuber farmer have for a fancy military grade plasma caster when the ol' 12 gauge has served him and his forefathers for generations?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, Jeremy! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox (both of which require 5 rep to post on) useful. Here is a meta post on the culture and style of Worldbuilding.SE, just to help you understand our scope and methods. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental Jul 18 '18 at 23:51
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Picture this. It's night, you're a burgler. It's all quiet and dark, you creep real good. And then the silence is broken. A loud tchk-tchk echoes. "Oh crap, this guy is for real" you say to yourself while reconsidering your career.

The sound of the pump is the sound of shizzle getting real, making the pump itself a deterrent for home defence. It's a bit like rule of cool but actually useful. Actually, it's one reason why it's a good candidate for home defence today.

If you are interested by the pump action for the rule of cool, then you could justify having your guns make cool sounds when getting ready for action. Could be a sharp whirr when loading the battery pack in the laser gun, or the click of a mechanical switching when turning the railgun on.

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    $\begingroup$ Supporting your answer, I have a deep-seated love for the sound of a capacitor charge-whine "Bweeeeeeee......". Instilled by the sound of the Plasma Rifle in Doom 3. $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Jul 19 '18 at 13:02
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Post apocalyptic scenario

In a post-apocalyptic world where the fabrication of bullets has been impaired, fire weapons will have to use only powder. And eventually the expensiveness of the (manually fabricated) powder will make the surviving humans take advantage of the free air replenishment for their pump action weapons. And powder will only be used in long range and/or heavy weapons (for tear down a wall, for example).

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As others have said, one reason is that they are perfectly good weapons. They never run out of power, are easy to use, and have fewer moving parts than semi-automatics, meaning they're more reliable.

Another reason they may be preferred is that when fighting on spaceships one must be extremely careful not to breach the hull. High-powered rifles, lasers, railguns and the like are all easily capable of penetrating walls, and would be too risky to use. Shotguns are believed to be better because they'll do plenty of damage to a human target but the spread-out shot is less likely to break through a wall. (People on spaceships don't wear heavy body armor, of course, because when you're accelerating to near-lightspeed every ounce of mass is expensive. The crew probably aren't even issued underwear.)

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Re: Why not engineer better semiautomatics?

... pump-action shotguns have the advantage of being able to fire a larger variety of ammunition and that the smaller number of moving parts means they are more reliable, more durable and a lot cheaper. But those seem to be engineering problems to me which could easily disappear within a few decades of technical advances.

Cutting-edge complicated tech can always be refined and made relatively more reliable, durable, and inexpensive... but minimalist solutions can rarely be out-minimalized. You're not going to engineer your way into a semi/full-automatic with fewer moving parts than current pump-actions without simultaneously engineering a way to create new pump-actions with even fewer moving parts.


Re: Why Load Anything?

And that's assuming we keep using firearms with chemical propellant in the future. When we start using electric acceleration (railgun, coilgun...) then we have enough power in our gun to drive the cycling mechanic for our projectiles electrically. And when we go even further and switch to energy-based weapons (laser, plasma, sonic, particles, etc...) then we won't even need projectiles at all.

You're assuming that future-weapons will be able to accelerate/generate their payloads entirely by electricity via some sort of attached battery-pack. However, it might be the case that having all that energy stored in a single monolithic part might make for a horrible analogue to "powder stores" of old battleships.

A simple-yet-effective solution to such a problem would be to bank a much smaller energy reserve and refill as needed with small recharge sources. Essentially, you would have a bandolier of batteries rather than true "ammunition". These charges sources need not even be traditional batteries, either. It could be that they're simply a combination of stored chemicals that react to provide the charge/photons/phonons/neutrons/etc needed for each "shot".

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  1. In post apocalyptic world, technological advancement and manufacturing would halt. So if the apocalypse started in the near future, your access to weapons and technology would be even less 100 years from now than what it is today.
  2. Even if you have an automatic weapon, it may not be practical, because it would waste scarce ammunition.
  3. A shotgun scatters pellets, so you can still hit multiple targets for each shot.
  4. If you're being chased by hoards of zombies, then your best survival strategy would be to stealthily avoid contact and migrate to a remote region without zombies. The shotgun is just to get out of an occasional jam. You'd be a fool to act like a one man army.
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As a backup system to recharge them

As seen in Pandorum, some of the advanced computers in the ship are completely down, but the crew members manage to get them working by using handles that generate kinetic energy to power up the dead machines and use them.

That being said, the pumping could be an alternative to switching magazines in a future where you have energy-based weapons.

A futuristic pumping weapon may be a better solution than developing a battery that has to be small and store huge amounts of energy ('cause I don't really think a laser gun that melts a door - or a human body - has a low energy consumption).

Of course you could always say that the battery is an engineering limitation that could vanish down the line. But even then, what if the battery dies or gets defective? Having a backup kinetic recharge system sounds like a good idea to me.

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Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Why do bicycle couriers use track bicycles with fixed gears?

enter image description here Wikimedia Commons, ProfDEH, CC BY-SA 3.0 2008-05-01

No, it is not because fixed gears are kewl or because only "manly" mens and girls ride them or that it has any advantage for bicycling. Forget hollywood bullshit like "Premium Rush". Gears optimize the power output of the human body, good brakes are stopping the bike in a fraction of time and distance counterpedaling needs and mudguards allow you to bicycle in rain without spraying you with water at the front and back.

The reason is simply that you do not earn that much money as a bicycle courier and every non-existing part does not need to be repaired or replaced if broken or stolen. It is also much easier and faster to repair something if you have no components which must be dismantled (flat tire, chain broken etc.). So you have a bicycle which allows you to come forward, nothing more, nothing less.

Back to guns: For semiautomatic or automatic operation you need a power source, so your gun need extra parts, adding points of failure. Even if you use the power of the shell, you need a mechanism to catch the expanding gas and use it to move a shell in the chamber.

While those guns with almost legendary robustness like the AK-47 are still complex, they reduced the complexity to an absolute bare minimum. The designers cleverly designed the gun so that it needs a minimum of parts..

Simplicity has also the benefit that errors or malfunctions are much easier to detect and fix because the source is much more obvious.

So given that pump-action shotguns have still in place in the future.

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    $\begingroup$ The only bike couriers that use fixies live in flat cities. You ain't using a fixie in DC, San Fran, or the like. $\endgroup$ – Dent7777 Jul 19 '18 at 13:11

protected by Philipp Jul 21 '18 at 0:17

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