The setting is a post-apocalyptic Earth, a few hundred years after a "world-ending" war. What remains of humanity is beginning to emerge from Fallout-esque shelters, but (more importantly) magic creatures who were formerly in hiding during modern times have also begun to re-emerge from humanity, albeit altered now with so much human blood mixed in over the centuries.

The new mythics (as they're called) have built up their own societies at roughly medieval levels of technology but with some knowledge and information of how the world was before. Scouts frequently find surviving documents and such in old city ruins. Recently, one of these colonies has found the blueprints for an 1873 Springfield Trapdoor Rifle and decided to recreate it for purposes of hunting.

Magic is also a thing that exists among the new mythics, however it's not convenient to cast in a rush as it requires a magic circle to be drawn (or carved or other means of marking) onto an object before the individual can pulse their own magical energy through it to let it manifest. Permanently marking something isn't commonly used as the magical energy can wear away at weaker materials, so this practice is typically only used to essentially "enchant" metal-based objects such as swords or tools. This drawback also discourages people from tattooing circles on their own bodies, except for use in healing magic.

My question is thus: An individual who specializes in fire-based magics has received a newly-recreated carbine version of the aforementioned rifle. I want to know if, considering how the bullet cartridges work, she could somehow use her fire magics to either enhance the gun's power/range capabilities or to fire the rifle if the hammer was somehow disabled. Basically, can fire magics make an unmodified* rifle work better or would the ammunition have to be fundamentally changed for magic to be useful with it?

*(not counting the implementation of magic circles)

Key Points Summarized:

  • The gun in question is a Carbine 1873 Springfield Trapdoor Rifle recreation
  • Magic works via putting one's own magical energy into a magic circle
  • The circle would have to be carved either onto the gun's barrel or onto individual bullets
  • The individual in question specializes in fire-based magic
  • I'm aiming for minimal changes in the fundamental design of the rifle itself, but I am okay with changes to bullet design if it would facilitate the use of fire magic on it
  • No is a perfectly acceptable answer, but reasons why must be given. If I as the writer don't understand why it doesn't work, I can't explain why it would work within the story and I can't find good ways to work around it.
  • $\begingroup$ To increase the power and range of the rifle you need to increase the energy liberated by the propelland and at the same time increase the strength of the material of which the rifle is made so that it is able to resist to the increased pressure. So you need to enchant both the rifle and the cartrige. P.S. (1) The "bullet" is the little piece of lead which is thrown at high speed. The ancient Romans used lead bullets, thrown by slings. (2) If they can make Springfield model 1873 rifles and the cartridges that go with them, they are waaaaay above medieval technology level. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 23 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ What kind of fire magic are we talking about here? The ability to generate sparks, the ability to generate explosions? $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Mar 23 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed Generally speaking, the magic's effects would depend on the creativity of the person drawing the circle as different runes will play with each other in different ways. One could use the magic to create sparks, as you said, or generate a flame, however making an explosion solely from magic would probably require a more complicated circle than one could reasonably carve onto such a small surface, since explosions generally have a lot going on very fast. $\endgroup$ – WillowRiver Mar 23 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP what technologies would be required to make the rifle, in that case? I can tweak aspects of the technology for what's needed, since they are theoretically able to re-learn tech from before the apocalypse, and I can possibly use certain aspects of the magic system to enhance what they're able to do as well. In regards to the strength of the rifle itself, is there a normal method of strengthening you think might work without adding much weight or bringing things too close to modern tech? If not, I have an idea for a more "proper" enchantment method for enhancing a material's properties. $\endgroup$ – WillowRiver Mar 23 at 23:48
  • $\begingroup$ Metallurgy. Machine tools. Chemistry. All at levels very much above the Middle Ages. Technology developed during the three centuries between the end of the Middle Ages and the second half of the 19th century. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 24 at 0:16


There are ways that fire magic can be used to enhance a rifle. A bullet travels by way of explosion, and increasing the power of the explosion increases the power of the bullet. It's possible to engrave fire magic on the end of the bullet and, instead of using a striker to hit the primer, the black powder is detonated via magic fire circle, and possibly the fire circle is a bit stronger so it's a more powerful blast, and thus a more powerful bullet.

And now I pose the question: Do you need a more powerful bullet? Stronger is better, sure, but while the Model 1873 did have a rifled barrel, it wasn't that accurate. There are two main advantages to be gained by increasing a bullet's power: range and penetration. But, like I said, a rifle made in 1873 isn't accurate enough to gain anything major by way of increased range, and I'm not sure what you're fighting against that a normal round can't punch clean through, given the time era you're dealing with. So the increase in power doesn't actually do much for you.

The two greatest problems that such a rifle had was aim, which you can't help with using fire magic, and reloading speed, which you also can't have help using fire magic. The aim, as I said, isn't anything compared to a modern rifle and thus improving the range isn't useful, except in mass volley. You could do that, I suppose, but it's your protagonist you're dealing with who is presumably alone. The second is the rate of fire, which, given that this is a breechloading rifle, isn't great. And it can't be improved at all using fire magic.

The best use for fire magic, therefore, is a rather depressingly mundane use - a primer substitute. A bullet cartridge used in the 1873 Springfield (and in fact the vast majority of cartridges) would have a primer on the back of the bullet which is struck to ignite the gunpowder within the round. And black powder is a lot easier to make and manufacture than a bullet primer, given that the chemical ingredients for the latter are a bit more exotic. Given that, it might make sense that your magic user, who is adequate enough to make her own cartridges, just ignores primer when making her own bullets. Don't bother with making the bullets that much stronger - just focus on making the bullets easier to make.

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  • $\begingroup$ for that matter, as long as the magic circle doesn't warp to the point of unusable on the shells, they can be repacked and refired easily. no replacing the primer means less back end deformations that would ruin the circle. $\endgroup$ – IT Alex Mar 24 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ "a rifle made in 1873 isn't accurate enough to gain anything major by way of increased range" - Increased velocity improves accuracy by decreasing the time that wind has to act upon the round. Making the trajectory flatter is also a big deal. Rifle scopes and 500 yd shots were already a thing in the American civil war. Being able to push a larger bullet at the same speed is very helpful at long ranges. $\endgroup$ – Wayne Conrad Mar 24 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ @WayneConrad Sure. But it's not that helpful. They were using spinning conical bullets at the time, which were already pretty wind resistant. Not to mention that a flatter trajectory doesn't help when the underlying problem is the barrel itself. Don't get me wrong, the barrels they made back then were nice, but don't hold a candle compared to a modern sniper rifle. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Mar 24 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ If you are using magic to replace primer, replace all the propellant. Fire magic should be able to produce hot gas on demand and the unmodified rifle can contain it. It might be tricky to figure out how much is too much - if you split your rifle barrel it will not be good for much. $\endgroup$ – Willk Mar 24 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk The question is speed though. It's true that you can even use water as a propellant if you expand it fast enough, but it's pretty hard to expand it that fast - read: it takes a lot of energy to do so. Black powder, on the other hand, is much better. If you can easily get that much fire magic, though, yeah, you could replace everything but the bullet. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Mar 24 at 22:12


I'm going to make some big assumptions about what a fire specialist can do. These may not be valid in your case.

  • Auto-aiming : the magician can inscribe a circle on the front edge of the muzzle (or maybe on the sight) that auto-magically lines up the rifle to a target of the magician's choosing (the magic is drawn to body heat like a compass to a magnet)

  • Easier cartridge loading : a magic circle in the breech could light empty copper casings, replacing the need for gunpowder. The magic could even pack more punch into the shot than gunpowder ever would have. Maybe, in a pinch, the cartridge can be done away with and the wizard can muzzle-load anything he or she can get his hands on.

  • Stronger shots : a magic circle on the muzzle could strengthen the rifle against detonation, especially if the wizard plans on doing anything reckless like muzzle-loading the weapon with found debris. This could be paired with more explosive power in the breech.

  • Bio-metric safety : the wizard can enchant the trigger ring to burn anyone but the wizard trying to use the weapon.

  • Kill switch : the wizard could also enchant the breech to quench fire, essentially disabling the weapon in the event it was ever pointed at the wizard. This could be automatic, so that even if the wizard was unaware his weapon was being pointed at him, the weapon is put in a "safe" mode.

  • Recoil compensation : circles could be inscribed along the outside of the barrel that, when the weapon is fired, generate magically-quick-cooled exhaust gas recoil compensation. Allowing even more power.

  • Rod ammo : if using magic to add weapon power, strengthen the barrel, aid aim, and dampen recoil; the wizard could go for longer rounds, which would do a better job against heavy armor.

  • Enhanced bayonet : all sorts of things could be done to the bayonet, like magically super-heating it.

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