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I know I’m flirting with “Primarily Opinion Based” here, but I’m hoping there’s some established knowledge out there in the community that I might be completely oblivious to.

If you look at pretty much any science fiction setting, the design for any kind of ranged weapon is based on a modern gunpowder firearm. My issue is that these weapons are primarily designed around the requirements of the mechanism. Modern rifles and handguns are just about as ergonomically optimized as they can be, but the primary design considerations always start with the receiver/magazine/barrel assembly, and the next most important thing is recoil control.

So, the question is: If you have a solid-state kind of ranged weapon, directed energy or otherwise, where you can start with a clean slate on the shape and mass distribution, what would it look like if your PRIMARY design objective were to make it as easy as possible for a human being to aim intuitively and instinctively.

For the purposes of this exercise, assume the weapon isn’t going to be applying any force vectors itself (no recoil or vibration), but that we DO want to make the point of aim as stable as possible.

I feel like the right answer is probably:

  • Three points of connection to the body at both hands and one shoulder (just like a modern firearm).
  • Center of mass directly above the firing (rearward) hand, or directly above the line from the firing hand to the point of connection at the shoulder.
  • Weapon’s axis of fire should be aligned as closely with and to the line made by an extended index finger from the firing hand. (e.g. using the weapon as a natural extension of the
    hand)

Are these the right assumptions though? Are there better and/or more stable ways to hold a ranged weapon to optimize hand-eye coordination? Am I missing any important ergonomic factors here?

EDIT: For this particular question, I'm looking for designs that passively align themselves most effectively to the body's natural hand-eye coordination, rather than something that (for example) relies on servomotors and measurement of the user's eye movements to mechanically align the aimpoint of the weapon to the eyeline of the user.

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    $\begingroup$ A (semi-)professional photo camera or a pair of binoculars is anchored to the body via the hands-forearms-elbows and the facial structure of the photographer. I dont' see why any alignment with the index finger would be necessary in order to maintain the aim line. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 31 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch like a firearm, a bow is a compromise between optimal ergonomics and the mechanical requirements of the machine that's throwing the projectile. What happens if you don't need the limbs or the drawstring or to pull back the arrow? $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Jul 31 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP That's an interesting perspective... I hadn't thought about cameras. A videocamera is probably a better analogue for an infantry weapon, but why WOULDN'T you just attach a sidearm directly to the user's face if you could? Huh. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Jul 31 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ Why is a videocamera a better analogue? Clean slate is clean slate. And please note that both still and moving picture photographers have developed and use a large variety of devices to improve the stability of their cameras. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 31 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP I was just thinking of size and weight. Ergonomics aside, I'm assuming that the weapon you issue to your infantryman is going to be as powerful as he's capable of carrying and wielding effectively, which will probably tend more towards 4-5 kilos rather than 1 or 2. And yes, I had thought about Steadicams. Clearly so had James Cameron. =P avp.fandom.com/wiki/M56_Smartgun#cite_note-SF.26F48_41-12 $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Jul 31 at 19:14

19 Answers 19

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From OP: what would it look like if your PRIMARY design objective were to make it as easy as possible for a human being to aim intuitively and instinctively.

If you want instinctive, it would look like a rock. Humans would throw it.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/one-thing-humans-are-better-other-species-throwing-180949897/

The more we learn about animals, the less seems separates them from us. Elephants are brilliant, dolphins are dastardly, apes can do almost anything humans can. But there is at least one thing that does set us apart: our ability to throw stuff.

Evolution has nothing to do with bows and arrows, or rifles, or catapults or cannons. But humans are instinctive and intuitive rock throwers. Our bodies and minds are evolved to throw rocks with precision. We have got culture and learning up the wazoo but if there is something we are hardwired to do as a species, it is to throw rocks. Even little kids are so much better at throwing than our ape cousins that the apes just look pathetic when they try to throw stuff. Humans are fearsomely lethal with thrown rocks.

A projectile that behaved like a thrown rock would be very easy for humans to use because thrown rocks are very easy for humans to use.

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    $\begingroup$ Well god damn. Consider my mind blown. If we applied this to science fiction weapon design, basically we're talking about a Smart Grenade. Or perhaps more of a Smart Javelin. That's freaking brilliant. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Jul 31 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ A potential drawback: it would be slow. Throwing involves a much bigger range of motion than pulling a trigger or pushing a button. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Jul 31 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ Although we are certainly better at throwing stuff than other species, I don't think we are nearly good enough for it to be a valid replacement for modern weapon design. I, for one, would not be able to throw a rock with enough accuracy to consistently hit a target beyond a few meters - not to mention hitting a target at the ranges that weapons are normally used today. $\endgroup$ – Birjolaxew Aug 1 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ Throwing rocks or javelins with some degree of accuracy takes training - it's nice that we are biologically adapted for this (i.e. we are better at it than elephants, apes and dolphins - and can train to be really effective with such thrown weapons), but I think that in most factors (rate of fire, range, accuracy, physical effort, possible firing postures, limit on carried ammo etc. etc.), a smart grenade / homing javelin / batarang / killer mini-drone falls short (heh) compared to modern weapons - and definitely compared to futuristic solid-state, directed energy weapons. -1. $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Aug 1 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ I too would also prefer a BFG over a sack of rocks if confronted with a pack of wild marmots. Really the most effective way is to nuke the entire site from orbit; only way to be sure. But the OP wanted intuitive and instinctive. For a dog that would be bite. For humans it is throw. $\endgroup$ – Willk Aug 1 at 11:45
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I think it should just be a pair of laser binoculars. If you can have a "clean slate" for pure accuracy and aiming purposes, I would make the weapon hit where you look through some binoculars. For example, in Zelda BOTW, there is a scope, similar to binoculars where you can aim it and click a button to leave a pin where you pointed. Do something similar, but have it be a death disc of destructive energy or something. If it is closer to your eyes, and it can pass through the same location you look through, then it will be very accurate. I know you wanted it more involved with the arms, but the most accurate way to shoot it would be to center it around your eyes. For stability, you can strap it around your head, and stabilize your head the way we know best, lay down. This takes the off center arm aspect and the aspect of an unsteady hand as well.

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    $\begingroup$ I mean, you're not wrong, but i'm going to assume that an infantryman's issue weapon is always going to be larger and heavier than a pair of binoculars, no matter what the actual shape is. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Jul 31 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 I actually specifically excluded things like this. Have a look at the Edit at the end of my post. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Jul 31 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat fair enough $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jul 31 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ "I just want sharks with f--n laser beams attached to their heads" - Dr Evil $\endgroup$ – user662852 Aug 1 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat I think this is still right. There doesn't need to be servos to have a gun shoot where your head is looking, and you don't need full binoculars, just a pair of glasses with targeting lines and perhaps a zoom lens in one eye--the gun shoots where you are looking. Any more of a UI is useless except for blind shooting around corners type of fights I suppose. $\endgroup$ – Bill K Aug 2 at 17:04
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A Smart Weapon

The issue isn't so much the shape of the weapon but how you target it. The weapon in theory doesn't even need to be held or even near the shooter.

The idea weapon then is a pair of glasses. It can track eye movement and lock onto what the shooter is looking at. A voice command, button press or even a thought could then trigger a smart gun with a tracking guided bullet to hit the target.

Suddenly it doesn't matter if it's a hand gun or an orbital cannon or even a cruise missile. You could even go hands free parrot gun like in Predator.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ This answer is very similar to jwrecker's answer - and goes against the edit stating "For this particular question, I'm looking for designs that passively align themselves most effectively to the body's natural hand-eye coordination, rather than something that (for example) relies on servomotors and measurement of the user's eye movements to mechanically align the aimpoint of the weapon to the eyeline of the user." $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Aug 1 at 10:06
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    $\begingroup$ This has one distinct advantage over jwrecker's answer which is that the gun is not actually on your head. When shooting around corners/ laying cover fire, the last part of your body you want to expose more than you need to is you head. If the gun has a camera on it, you could just hide behind something, telescope your gun out, and start shooting from the relative safety of your cover. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki - Reinstate Monica Aug 1 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ Hope the Predator doesn't suddenly see a target down and to the right of him and decides to take a shot. That could be embarrassing. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 2 at 5:13
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The most natural way to indicate a target is to point at it. So, a weapon that allows you to point would be effective - something wrapped around the wrist and arm. enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ +1, but I'd put the actual projectile out the end of the index finger if at all possible. After all, that's how many people teach handgun marksmanship. Rest your index finger along the barrel of the gun and "point" at your target with it. $\endgroup$ – bvoyelr Aug 1 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ This although it should look better. Like a tattoo that coils up the whole arm. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Aug 2 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ An old grandma wagging her index finger against loud kids suddenly gets a lot scarier... $\endgroup$ – Taju Aug 2 at 11:03
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    $\begingroup$ I don't feel like that would be really precise, just like a normal firearm, maybe even worse. Try to strap a laser pointer on your arm, and activate it when you think your aiming is right, I guarentee you won't be precise after 20 meters. $\endgroup$ – Asoub Aug 2 at 13:17
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There are examples of what you might be looking for in special mounts for cameras or scopes where a primary consideration is stability. Take, for instance, something like the BushHawk:

enter image description here

And here's a single-handed version:

enter image description here

You'll note the main points: two or three contact points for stability (hands and shoulder). The primary mass is carried between the dominant hand and the shoulder support, which keeps it close to the body and allows for quicker movement of the "muzzle" end. Because recoil isn't an issue, the frame can be very lightweight, and the attachment to the actual "weapon" doesn't have to be heavy; theoretically, you might be able to keep the same basic carrying frame and switch out the package, so swap the actual specific type of weapon you're carrying while keeping all controls in exactly the same positions, making it easier for the user.

Were I to make that a weapon, I'd give it a folding or collapsible stock so the size could be reduced as needed. The aiming system would be remote: connecting to a pair of protective glasses/sensor goggles/whatever I'm looking through that could act like a HUD, displaying the point of aim if I'm looking in that direction so I don't need to get my head behind the weapon, or as a full video display so I could, say, peek and shoot around a corder just by sticking the weapon out without exposing my head or torso. The latter would also enable it to work like a telescopic sight.

Iron sights would be included, of course, just in case.

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    $\begingroup$ If nothing else, I know what I'm using as the structural foundation for any sci-fi weapon I build for a cosplay now. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Aug 1 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat, they have all sorts of variations, some very cool looking that I'm surprised I haven't seen used as a basis for weapons on TV or in movies. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 1 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ The other thing I like about these is the angle of the shoulder stock. If recoil control isn't a primary concern, then your stock can sit more on top of the shoulder rather than pressing directly against the front of the shoulder. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Aug 1 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ With that type of design, you could adjust grip positions, grip angles, stock angle, and stock length to individual preferences. As you said, without needing to worry about recoil you have a lot more flexibility in how the holding portion of the rifle is set up. You might have someone who is comfortable firing from the hip (with remote aiming), in which case they might like their forward grip sticking out to the side, like how some people (incorrectly) hold a Sten. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 1 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ Is that the Sega Menacer ? $\endgroup$ – Asoub Aug 2 at 13:23
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As Paul TIKI points out, the length and design of a modern rifle isn't just about maintaining the mechanism -- a longer barrel is actually much more stable to aim. The answers that suggest a glove-based or camera/lens/glasses-based design are missing this essential point: even a tiny movement (such as the operator's breathing) will change the aim profoundly at distance. Therefore, a longer barrel is a good thing, much more accurate and stable, and safer. That's why we train our kids on BB rifles and not on BB pistols.

The chief limitation of a long gun is that it's bulky, can be heavy to carry around, and can limit your ability to aim it quickly (for example, when going through a doorway if you want to be able to rapidly scan left and right). Many people prefer shorter-barreled rifles (aka carbines), shotguns, or pistols, for home defense situations because of that. They give up a little long-range accuracy (not needed inside a building) to gain speed and freedom of movement.

In your science-fiction scenario, therefore, you will probably keep the general size and grip style of a modern combat rifle, but you can make a few ergonomic changes based on hand-waving the technology. For example, maybe the barrel can telescope from a pistol-length to a rifle-length for different situations. Maybe the pistol grip and the "front grip" are the only actual hardware components, so you can holster one piece on each hip, and the rest of the weapon is force fields or laser lights that only come into effect when you put the two pieces together. That'd be a lot easier to carry around and still put into action quickly!

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  • $\begingroup$ This is exactly my question though. The way we hold a modern firearm and the kind of grips we use are largely a result of continuous refinement of a set of design elements that were created to accommodate the firing mechanism of a gunpowder weapon. Think about a weapon that starts out as something the size and shape of a 3' long piece of 2x6, for example. You can carve grips into it literally anywhere you like. Is the grip arrangement we use with modern firearms really the best one, or do we just keep using it because that's what everybody is most familiar with? $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Aug 1 at 15:48
  • $\begingroup$ They can make firearms in virtually any shape these days. There are already guns shaped like cell phones, pocket knives, belt buckles, etc., but they're mostly novelties because the common designs are very ergonomically practical, evolved over 500 years of firearm use. In particular with AR-15s and shotguns there are plenty of after-market stocks you can buy including pistol-style grips, extendible and foldable stocks, wooden paddle-shaped stocks, etc. If head-mounted firearms or glove-mounted firearms were practical, we would have them. $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Aug 1 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ This is so close to my thoughts, I need not write my own answer, but I would suggest one change: Use a pistol grip, even on a long gun. A stock is useful for mitigating recoil, but they can get in your way when fighting in close quarters or when you need to quick draw. Also, removing the stock lightens the weapon and moves the center of mass forward which will help reduce handshake and make the user pivot the weapon on his lead hand for finer accuracy. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki - Reinstate Monica Aug 1 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki, the stock isn't primarily for mitigating recoil all the time. Consider a biathalon rifle: when they shoot, you can't even see the thing move as it's only firing a .22 round. The reason for the stock is stability: it uses the body as a solid base for aiming. If the shooters didn't have that stock there'd no way they'd have the accuracy they do. If you need to shorten the weapon, use a folding or collapsible stock. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 1 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ You're both right. Modern combat rifles have both a pistol grip and a stock that braces the weapon against the shoulder for stability (the latter may be foldable or collapsible). I would imagine in a sci-fi scenario the stock could push against the shoulder with a tractor beam or magnetic levitation or something visually awesome instead of a big chunk of walnut. You could get real creative... $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Aug 1 at 16:31
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It's going to depend on the mission.

An infantry soldier who has to slog through some difficult terrain is going to want light weight, reliable, probably rapid fire. He wants something that he can carry 20 km through mud and brush and weeds, and have it fire without fail when the opposition shows up. Maybe he hasn't time to aim, he just wants to give the other side things to think about other than shooting him. Switch between single-shot and rapid-fire is good. A round that will reliably kill anything he hits is also good. But the rounds can't be too heavy because he has to carry a lot of them. Noise and smoke from the weapon may actually be desirable as psychological things.

A sniper wants distance, accuracy, and the ability to fire and not be detected. So minimal smoke, for example. And minimal muzzle flash. It would be nice if the weapon didn't weigh too much. But snipers can operate in teams, and move slowly through the area of the battle, so that's less important than for infantry. Maybe less noise is important, but maybe not. A very heavy round is not so bad because he may only carry a small number. Or he might stash a bunch in a convenient location. Maybe he has a second weapon for less accuracy-requiring situations. Maybe recoil isn't so important, as he might be able to brace the weapon.

Vehicle mounted military are going to have very different desires. They want a weapon that is gross overkill. When the guys in the armored transport with turret mounted guns show up, they want to be seen as things to run away from. You get into vehicle design very quickly. How much armor and where. How much engine. What sensors and what coms. Vehicles can also have a lot in the way of computer assist. They can have heads-up-displays and over-the-horizon assist from things like radar planes. They can mount a lot of stuff like ultraviolet and infrared cameras. And they can have tons of counter measures like smoke, loud speakers, special purpose rounds like tear gas, etc. They can do crazy stuff like putting their scope on a periscope, or launch a drone and use it to laser-paint a target.

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    $\begingroup$ I"m not sure this is an 'answer' as much as it as a list of potential design considerations though... I'm very familiar with weapons technology and functional constraints of how the weapons system should operate. This question is about how to design it for an infantryman to be able to wield it most instinctively and intuitively, and you don't really talk about that at all. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Jul 31 at 21:04
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Aiming and maintaining your point of aim, as the OP states is paramount.

There are components to modern rifle design that impact a weapon's performance. You are right that some of it is based around the mechanism. Another large factor is barrel length, which has a large impact on accuracy. Longer barrel, better accuracy over distance. The third design aspect is use case. A design called a Bullpup compacts as much of the mechanism into the shoulder stock to bring the barrel back as close to your shoulder while leaving the trigger in a natural position for your hand. It gives you similar accuracy as a standard rifle, but given the weapon's shorter overall length you can use it easily in more confined areas like inside buildings.

Some of these aspects have additional benefits. Barrel length also impacts how you aim as well. With a very short barrel, like a pistol, very small movements alter the point of aim significantly. A longer barrel tends to be more stable on point of aim because small movements won't impact point of aim as much. I recently read an article comparing two pistols (I wish I could find it now) Both pistols had the same length of barrel. One was about an inch overall longer. This resulted in the slightly longer distance between front and rear sight creating a noticeable more accurate weapon.

All of this to say the human ergonomics are as important to your weapon design as the physical mechanisms of today's weapons.

Now, If I had the tech to create a non mechanical weapon with a directed energy beam, I would mount it to my shoulder with a stable gimbal mechanism with servos to quickly alter the point of aim. Link it digitally to glasses with a HUD, so one could aim with their eyes. The trigger mechanism would be in the glove. All of this to create a weapon that you just wear, doesn't impact movement, and will likely be far more accurate than any traditionally carried weapon. Think the three dot aiming mechanism in the movie Predator.

Just keep thinking about how it is to be used, and that may help you decide how to design it.

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  • $\begingroup$ That would be a horrible design for multiple reasons. Since you references the Predator, consider the limitation of the design. The user can't aim to one side because the head is in the way. Except in rare circumstances, you'd have to expose the head to enemy fire in order to use the weapon. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 1 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison not necessarily. You could have the gimbal follow a track either on to the chest or the back. Or even better, one on each shoulder. There are all kinds of ways to make it work around the limitations you mention. I mentioned Predator because it it was the closest common reference to what I imagined. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Aug 1 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ Still limited. How do you put down suppressive fire around corners or over obstacles? And as to the chest or back mount, I assume you believe your soldier will never have to go prone? $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 1 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ I would envision it more like a spider-robot, which can climb over your shoulders to any position and lean out around corners for suppression fire. When you run or dive, the AI will automatically crawl to the position least hindering you, while providing a clear line of fire at anything in your view. $\endgroup$ – Falco Aug 2 at 14:25
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Given your constraints (where a handheld energy weapon would appear to qualify)I would say something shaped like brass knuckles, the device would wrap around the fingers with the emitter lined up with the base of the middle finger and the trigger mechanism falling under the thumb. If accuracy is needed without invoking anything like goggles showing where the beam would land the user would hold out their arm and aim across the back of their palm.

Of course if some amount of tech is allowed for aim control (even fairly near-tech) like a camera in the device that shows where the beam would hit even holding out the arm wouldn't be necessary. In that case accurate aiming could be accomplished from nearly any position, perhaps braced on something if distance is involved. However I suspect recoilless light-speed weapons would have far less issues with distance as compared with firearms. Firearms need far more mass than I am imagining for an energy weapon, both for the mechanism and to bring recoil under control. With that great mass reduction I believe holding a stead aim would be much easier, there is also the issue that there wouldn't be recoil to bring the weapon off target for even a moment.

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Technically not hand-held, but it is a one-handed weapon.

enter image description here

Aiming is intuitive and precise, and the signal to fire is unambiguous.

enter image description here

How it works: An onboard computer infers the line of sight from the position of your eye and the position of the fingertips the moment they touch. From there it is simple to solve for the correct line of fire, adjust a servo-mounted weapon, and shoot. And as you can see from the second image, the trigger mechanism allows for a quick rate of fire.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for head crusher $\endgroup$ – Chris Cudmore Aug 1 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ This is closest to what I was thinking, but I'd like to add a few refinements. Closing the fingers offers too much chance at imprecision especially when tracking moving targets or changing targets. Better to just point the index finger at the target. Then the firing command would be to touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth and utter the sound children make when pretending to fire laser blasters, "tew...tew,tew,tew". There, I just fired once, then 3 times in rapid succession. $\endgroup$ – Glen Yates Aug 1 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ You also announced your position, and you fired slower than someone fired those same three shots by methods including pressing a button. And you've eliminated the ability to communicate while firing. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 2 at 1:28
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    $\begingroup$ @GlenYates - I believe you meant they'd say "Pew... Pew,pew,pew". $\endgroup$ – Kevin Aug 2 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithMorrison You don't have to voice it any louder than breathing really, so no worries about announcing your position. I believe I can click my tongue to the roof of my mouth as fast (rapidly) as I can press a button with my finger. Agreed, it would be hard to talk while rapid firing (but wouldn't you be announcing your position). But mostly, there's the problem of unintentional discharge, if you are pointing at one of your squad members and say something that sounds too much like the firing command - oops. And Kevin, 'pew' will work too, 'tew' was really intended to sound more like 'chew' $\endgroup$ – Glen Yates Aug 2 at 17:28
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TL:DR: Look at drone jammers and man-portable rocket launchers

I'm just going to point out that there are currently weapons we have developed that don't have recoil.

We have rocket launchers, recoilless rifles and guns, and now we have drone jammers (which might not technically count as weapons, but I think they count since you do have to aim at a moving target.)

RPG-7, image by Michal Maňas via Wikimedia, cc-2.5 (RPG-7, image by Michal Maňas via Wikimedia, cc-2.5) enter image description here (US Special Forces soldier firing a Carl Gustav rocket during a training exercise conducted in Basrah Iraq. Note the backblast. U.S. Army, public domain)

Now, recoilless rifles and rocket launchers, when used by a soldier, have to go over the shoulder because of the exhaust gases. However, we can still take notes from them. Some rocket launchers do have a pair of pistol grips, while others don't. The ones that don't (like the US M72 and AT4) must simply rest in the user's hands, which we don't want. Balancing over the shoulder might be a good idea, as it balances the weight better. It also puts the pivot point at the middle of the weapon, which makes it faster to move it but less stable. You'll also notice that even the RPG-7, which does have two pistol grips, has no stock because it has no recoil, and is not intended to be fired while moving. These weapons will probably benefit from a stock since they'll be the primary weapon and as such will be used in more situations.

Now, drone jammer guns are pretty much the closest thing we have to DEWs. They're recoilless, have no backblast, and need to be pointed at the target to work. So what do they look like?

3] (Australian police holding a drone jammer gun. Via ZDnet)

That's right, they look like guns that shoot bullets and have recoil. Because bracing against the bulk of the body and having both hands on the weapon turns out to be pretty effective against recoil, and what's effective against recoil turns out to be pretty effective against things shaking the weapon other than recoil as well. Plus, bracing against the shoulder means the weapon is close to the eyes for manual sighting or using a scope. And while you can use some sort of smartsight system that gives the ability to look around corners, the systems in development put those under the barrel, to not interfere with the ironsight.

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How about a tube (stock) with another tube (barrel) attacked, like a boomerang, or a pipe (tube)? It has a button near the thumb, or perhaps pressure sensors, so the user just holds the weapon with both hands, points their index finder, maybe braces on their body, points the weapon and squeezes their hand. You can edit the tube's weight however you like. The human eye can align a point at the end of a tube relatively well, that's how early humans calculated length and distance.

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  • $\begingroup$ Maybe add a sketch of this design? I'm having a hard time picturing this weapon. $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Aug 1 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ @GOBLiN It is called a gun, The Cosmic Truth just described a gun. $\endgroup$ – Garret Gang Aug 1 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ no just a tube. It's like a rifle basically, but with less stock. Someone once described a rifle as "a natural extension of your body". $\endgroup$ – The Cosmic Truth Aug 1 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @GarretGang - not trying to be contrary here, just pointing out what was vague or ambiguous to me. The sentence "a tube with another tube attached like a boomerang or a pipe" already lost me - it suggest two cylindrical objects connected somehow (at what angle, roughly? what are their dimensions?), then the answer skips to some trigger mechanism "near the thumb" (not sure where and how one holds the weapon), adds that the weapon is held "with both hands" while "point[ing] with the index finger" (at what? which hand's index finger? - the same one next to the trigger mechanism?). $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Aug 6 at 13:02
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that it is vaguely worded. And if was a person who hadn't seen/used a gun before I would have no idea what he was talking about. This answer needs improvement. $\endgroup$ – Garret Gang Aug 6 at 15:49
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I think the form that best takes advantage of eye-hand coordination is the hand.

Since the weapons are directed energy and not projectile their use can take advantage of correcting the aim while the weapon using continuous fire -- say 1-2 seconds or 0.5 half a second duration.

Then, the attack would be a chopping or a twisting motion with the hand.

See our opponent, draw the thing that fits in your hand and point at your target and power it up. If you missed, sweep the beam into the center of mass, slashing your opponent. Since the weapon is instantaneous, a warrior would be trained to have stable hands like surgeons and delicate movements like a fencer to bring down their foe with a minimum of power expended.

R. Heinlein used this style of weaponry for dueling in "Beyond This Horizon"

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Look at target shooting

The three criteria you make, copying modern firearms, are mostly there for the purposes of managing recoil, so that recoil doesn't alter your aim, especially in the first fractions of the second while the bullet is still in the barrel. If you remove recoil from consideration, then those aspects aren't as important anymore.

The most accurate tools we have for low recoil shooting are the olympic target pistols. The main difficulty in firing them accurately is the fact that the trigger squeeze tends to slightly alter the aim.

Based on that, it seems that the winning design for a very accurate weapon would be an "pistol" - essentially an aiming device with accurate sights - on your dominant hand which allows you to intuitively&quickly point at short range targets, and also very accurately point at long range targets; combined with a trigger that's pressed by your other hand.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd argue not: the reason for the pistol design is that it's a sport pistol competition. You'll note that they don't assume the most accurate stances for handgun firing, namely two hand to stabilize the gun, because of the purely arbitrary rules, which also reduces or eliminates to trigger pull problem. If accuracy is the prime consideration, you'd want two hands and the shoulder for the most stable firing base, so you're really looking more at something like a submachine gun with collapsible stock. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Aug 1 at 15:22
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A Steadicam

The ideal targeting device should remove the uncontrollable human movements from the equation, such as breathing and unsteadiness, while giving easy and fast adjustments to aim. The modern steadicam is a good starting point, anchored to the body for stability. Assuming you don't need a lot of mass in the weapon, you could make it much smaller, maybe to the point where it can just sit against the users chest when not in use, giving them full use of both hands.

For aiming, either add a screen and aim from the waist, the way the current steadicam works, or raise the height so that you aim at eye level. You can customize resistance on the fly with a button, the same way professional gamers today switch between high- and low-sensitivity to allow both fast reactions and prices, small adjustments.

The end result? Imagine a soldier sprinting aross a battlefield, jumping over obstacles, breathing heavily, etc, all while maintaining steady fire with high precision. She dives to the ground, catching herself with both hands, but it's not a problem because the weapon is fastened to her chest anyways.

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  • $\begingroup$ Pretty sure this is exactly what James Cameron had in mind for Aliens. I think there's something similar in Edge of Tomorrow as well. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Aug 1 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat Edge of Tomorrow had full mech suits, right? I think a big point that makes this better is the assumption of better materials tech. So instead of a big bulky contraption, it could more a much lower-profile, elegant tool that doesn't take up much space, maybe even collapses into a toolbelt or something. $\endgroup$ – Cain Aug 1 at 15:27
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There are a number of answers already dealing with this, but I couldn't resist quoting. What you are looking for is basically this:

enter image description here

Maybe with a ring on index finger with a targeting reticle for precision fire. If you remove constraints of size, the weapon should indeed be attached to your wrist, with a flexible barrel attached to the underside of the index finger. Possibility to change shooting modes or ammo by attaching a sensor to one or more other fingers.

Basically you are looking at magic combat, as frequently portrayed: wizards shooting fireballs. Only with science.

The question about long barrels seems to be irrelevant unless there are more constraints on weapon type (long/short range required).

You can just have a variable-strength magnifying scope in your targeting reticle ring and use your other hand for stabilization. If you want to go sniper mode, you could also have a monopod expanding from your wrist to the ground. Or perhaps an balanced antigrav cushion + mass amplifier for the weapon.

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  • $\begingroup$ I mean, this answer isn't WRONG, per se, but I probably should have included in my post the assumption that the 'weapon' is something roughly the size and WEIGHT of a modern combat rifle, it just doesn't have to be the same SHAPE. $\endgroup$ – Morris The Cat Aug 1 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat well then I don't think we have anything better than a handle with a tube. Consider that weapon handles as well as tool handles haven't changed much. If you wish you can adapt the second part of answer to match your weapon -- extendable monopod, targeting reticule with variable zoom and/or anti-gravity cushion should dispense with need for long barrels so you can have modern rifle the size of camera $\endgroup$ – Gnudiff Aug 1 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ And of course monopods existed for a long time before use in cameras: i.pinimg.com/736x/be/7e/26/… $\endgroup$ – Gnudiff Aug 1 at 16:34
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If there is no mass or size requirement I would say something head-mounted like a pair of glasses. Something like google glass but with a weapon instead of a camera. Trigger on a separate handheld controller. Look, shoot, look, shoot, look, shoot. enter image description here

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Before 1970, John Brunner wrote in his novel The Jagged Orbit: "Man is made to use a club, and a gun is the ultimate in clubs. Just point and make a fist, and if your enemy is close enough to see well, he'll go away."

I would submit that it's hard to imagine a ranged weapon more intuitive to aim and use than a well designed pistol. Something between the Colt 1911 and the Luger P-08 will give the perfect grip angle for a gun that points naturally, and fits the Brunner rule: point and make a fist.

The only way I see to improve on the natural pointing of a well proportioned pistol is a weapon from Joe Haldeman's The Forever War -- the space suits worn by Mandella's unit during their training on Pluto had "laser finger" weapons built in. Point, and kill.

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It would depend on the intended combat style.

For close combat weapons, accuracy is probably less important than speed. I see three options:

  • The obvious thing would be to use gaze direction, as even untrained humans can already rapidly and accurately focus their gaze on a target. There would be a component that accurately tracks gaze direction, and the weapon itself would have fast servos that match it. It is the best option, although you have excluded it.
  • The next closest thing is head direction. Turning your head to align with your eyes is slower, but still very fast, precise and instinctive. You can make this passive by mounting the weapon on your head. Cons: Can't do it for heavy weapons, puts head in harm's way (what if the weapon explodes?).
  • "Point and shoot" where the weapon is directed by the hand or wrist. This was actually a shooting style taught for pistols by US military around WW2. It leads to terrible pistol accuracy, but that has to do with recoil and trigger pull. If you can arrange the trigger mechanism so that activating it doesn't disrupt your aim, you can do pretty well with something aimed with the index finger or the hand in a similar position. As you can observe from laser pointers, it is not very precise unless some feedback is allowed for, so you will probably need to fire 3-5 shots per target. If the weapon is moderately heavy, you can attach it to the wrist. Heavier weapons can be mounted on the chest and rely on instinctive alignment of torso with gaze, or hang from the shoulder and aimed with the hands like modern bullpup submachine guns. Weight allowing, these weapons would be dual wielded, pointing in different directions at rest, to minimize how much they need to be swung for any given target.

At the so called intermediate ranges (300-400 m) accuracy becomes important so you want something that can be pointed precisely, for extended time. For lighter weapons your posture would be similar to an assault rifle, with a bent arm stabilizing the weapon against the shoulder or chest, with sights in line with your eyes. Unlike an assault rifle, the weapon need not extend past your wrist unless barrel length is a factor. It can be shaped like a circle, triangle, or any other shape that fits into your elbow. Heavier weapons can be balanced on the shoulder (like a modern camera) to prevent the weight from interfering with aiming. At these distances it is nigh impossible to instinctively point with accuracy, so sights are necessary. Gyroscopic stabilization would be very helpful when making fine aiming adjustments. These weapons should also be designed to be usable when lying flat on the ground, so they would be flat on at least one axis.

Longer range weapons (1 km+) would have advanced sights and stabilization, at least a bipod or tripod. The closest analog here is a telescope or sniper rifle. You could deliberately make it long or heavy to help fine aiming. Beyond the concept of aiming through a sight, instinct is not useful at this range.

I think the weirdest design would be for fire-support weapons such as machine gun. These could evolve into something like Steadicam. The operator can then fire accurately while moving, and weight of the weapon (eg. battery packs) actually improve accuracy as well as allowing greater volume of firing, which in turn helps suppress the enemy and make up for the exposed posture. Because the whole point of this design is to make the device hard to move, it would not work at closer ranges where you need to cover a wider arc.

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