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I'm not a fan of the word "handwaving" it just makes me sound like I'm bullshitting something I want into my story with various excuses. Essentially I want to have all of the world's governments and societies to sport more intrigue for firearms. Many real-life firearm prototypes were created, but never saw the light of day in the field of battle, a much more pro-gun world would be my way of including guns like the Pancor Jackhammer, Sunngård, and the Triple Action Thunder as commonly occurring armaments. These weapons may have been overlooked in real-life, but in this fictional reality they were adopted into use.

I'm thinking the divergence could occur at some point in the early 20th century prior to World War II, since full-auto firearms really began to pick up steam around this time. This was also the point irl where everyone everywhere was attempting all sorts of odd concepts like pen guns, pistols that could literally fit in the palm of your hand, and dart guns made for use by assassins.

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  • $\begingroup$ What exactly do you want? All countries have lots and lots of firearms, millions and millions of them, usually many more than they could put to use. Just for an example, thirty-seven million Mosin–Nagant rifles were produced between 1891 and 1965. I don't exactly see how to justify making more firearms. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 13, 2020 at 23:20
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    $\begingroup$ Just 37 million? But there are 7.8 billion of us, and surely everyone deserves a collection of multiple guns, right? $\endgroup$
    – cowlinator
    Aug 13, 2020 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ "Companies being sticklers about which firearms they choose to adopt and produce": this is not how it works. It doesn't matter if it's firearms, or fountain pens, of fine liquor, or fluffy toys: companies produce those items which are in demand. Nobody wanted to buy a single-shot handgun in 2004; single-shot handguns had been obsolete for a century and a half. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 13, 2020 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ @cowlinator it's 37 million of one type of gun. There are many more types out there, in addition, as an educated guess here - we produce more guns than we dispose of on a yearly basis. So, I find it highly likely there are enough guns to arm everybody in the world. I've not checked the numbers, though. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Aug 14, 2020 at 8:32
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    $\begingroup$ You know, one eccentric billionaire gun nut could fund Dardick trounds and gyrojet rifles on his own, then distribute them to gun clubs on a cost-basis. It would be the gun equivalent of self-publishing. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Aug 14, 2020 at 20:24

4 Answers 4

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Decentralization and distributism

In many ways the modern economy of most of the world favors ever-larger corporations in a "winner takes all" competition for the last penny. Products become virtually the same, even from different companies, because the basis of competition is agreed on by all, regulated by informal things like trade magazines, reviews, and the training of the industry's employees.

Consider another industry, the auto industry: every major manufacturer has almost identical car models, the same sizes, the same categories, the same price points. You can pick any Toyota or any Hyundai and say "this is their equivalent of Ford's _________". If you go looking for something unusual, like a full-size truck with a stick shift, you'll find that despite the millions and millions of trucks sold each year, made by manufacturers around the world, not even one company offers even that little variation from the pattern. In my mind, a country of 330 million people could have hundreds of auto manufacturers making different designs that appeal to different audiences, but instead we have maybe ten companies designing vehicles around the "lowest common denominators" that offend the most people the least amount.

What I want to see in autos, is what you want to see with firearms: lots more variety. Implicitly, variety means there will be, for any individual, gun designs that he loves, and gun designs that he hates. Instead, we have a number of major manufacturers that all make variations on tried-and-true designs that work best for the majority of people: the "lowest common denominators" that you probably won't hate, but maybe can't love. This homogenization is driven partly by marketing, and partly by the nature of public stock companies to never take risks, and partly by large customers like militaries and police departments.

The way you change the world to do it, I think, is to fragment the markets. You could have an economy that outlaws stock corporations, so every corporation is family-owned or a partnership of real people who work together. That would reduce the maximum practical size of a company, so you might have hundreds or thousands of medium-sized firearm manufacturers instead of a dozen or so large ones. Or your world could simply have a lot of smaller countries, higher duties and tariffs, higher transportation costs, or other factors that encourage local areas to have their own independent firearm industries, and discourage multi-national brands.

It might also help if your people had more of an entrepreneurial spirit (perhaps they live in a country where "employee" is a less attractive legal status) and where tinkering/engineering skills are more broadly available. This could be America in 10-20 years when 3D printers are cheap children's toys and every real man has a CNC machine in his garage. If people have the skills and tools to make their own firearms, the designs of those firearms may be driven more by fashion and fun than by economic pragmatism.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for the extra belated question, but what exactly are stock corporations and how are they different from standard corporations and incorporations? Are they the same thing as joint-stock companies? $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2021 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ Also wouldn't the outlawing of stock corporations (and by extension the stock market) cause industrial stagnation and result in a drastically less advanced society? $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2021 at 8:13
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    $\begingroup$ Hi @Niobium_Sage, I think I mean the same thing as joint-stock companies. The defining characteristic of these, I think, is that the founders are long gone, the managers are not the owners, and the owners do not know or care much about the work, only about the stock price. In short, no one cares. These factors push them to that risk-averse, "lowest common denominator" approach that I mentioned in my answer. Real innovation usually comes from private tinkerers and entrepreneurs, or passionate founders (think Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, etc). $\endgroup$
    – workerjoe
    Mar 19, 2021 at 12:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Niobium_Sage As to the second question, I don't think so. Certainly all the people who get rich on Wall Street (without ever entering the doors of the businesses they "own") and all our institutions that get paid by Wall Street (i.e. Congress) would tell you so, but we really don't have a control group to compare our economy to. I think if stock were outlawed, large projects could still be accomplished by joint ventures and co-ops between smaller businesses, and finances could be raised by issuing bonds. No economist could really predict it though, because way too much would be different. $\endgroup$
    – workerjoe
    Mar 19, 2021 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ sound like you want to take the limited out of limited liability. $\endgroup$
    – Allan
    Aug 9, 2021 at 10:47
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PEOPLE HAVE TO HATE AND FEAR GUNS LESS:

If people around the world are going to love guns more, they need to hate guns less and romanticize a firearms culture. A lot of pushback about guns comes from the horror of war. So I imagine a world where WW1 was fought by traditional, honor-bound rules between rivals that felt war was honorable. Cannons, machine guns, barbed wire, and airplanes were viewed dimly, and governments using them suffered real-world consequences. As such, weapons like the Thompson submachine gun and BAR saw actual use in this war. The attitude was that if a man couldn't carry it, it was unseemly to kill someone with it.

Naturally, governments had superior access to advanced guns, so when revolutions happened, they made newer, better small arms for their troops. But the revolutionaries weren't hopelessly outclassed, and also romanticized small arms. All this small arms fighting resulted in less universal devastation in wars like WW2. Assault rifles developed early and perpetuated an image of a man with a gun solving the problems of the world. John Wayne was HUGE. Westerns never stopped being popular. Mobsters were glorified even more, as were the police fighting them. Snipers had bubblegum trading cards in the fifties.

Eventually as bigger machine guns and RPGs became more man-portable, they would also be really popular. The range of man-portable deadly weapons would be truly frightening and include generations of flame throwers and the like. Suicide vests might be more common as well. Tons of money and resources would be lavished on man-portable arms development, and probably on advanced body armor as well.

With all this romance of insanely lethal small arms, what fool would go out on the street without a gun, when the guy robbing the convenience store was probably carrying enough firepower to level the place? And why have just a pistol, when you could have an advanced gyrojet weapon like in the alternate reality version of Dirty Harry?

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I think for maximum gunphilic madness you need to combine the benefits of DWKraus's and Workerjoe's answers and engineer a timeline where there is both much higher demand for guns and more diversified production. So here goes:

For the first point, we need most of the industrialised world to adopt American-Style fetishisation of gun ownership (as of 2018, US citizens owned more guns than the next 25 countries put together, and ownership of civilian firearms per capita there is twice as high as the nearest competitor). So let's say Hitler's streak of outrageous luck holds for another year or two and he successfully occupies the UK and USSR. A decade-long Cold War with the USA follows, in which most of the fighting is done by resistance movements armed and supplied by the Americans. Germany tries to confiscate all civilian firearms but fails and the Nazi Empire collapses, leading to a unipolar world dominated by the USA and a bunch of ex-partisans for whom private gun ownership is a highly emotive symbol of freedom. Consequently, when the world order is rebuilt, the UN Declaration of Human Rights copies the US constitution even more heavily and includes a 2nd-amendment-style right to bear arms, which many countries also incorporate into their domestic constitutions.

This ought to secure a greater worldwide market for personal sidearms, but how are we to diversify that market? Let's say that, in the decades after WW2, production is initially still dominated by the big US manufacturers. However, other countries' governments are becoming increasingly concerned about skyrocketing levels of gun violence (for example, if the gun death rate in the UK matches that of the US, it would be 50 times higher than it is in our world). They can't ban gun ownership because that would be an unconstitutional human rights violation, so they try to cut off supply by banning all firearms imports. This helps in the short term, but in the long term domestic production rises to meet the demand, so governments try to drive up prices further by breaking up large firms which can offer economies of scale. Furthermore, a legal arms race ensues as states introduce ever more elaborate regulations in order to limit gun violence without banning ownership, and companies produce ever-weirder designs in order to exploit loopholes in the laws (government's just imposed background checks on anyone bringing firearms to work? Our latest product is technically a pen with incidental ballistic capability!). Eventually, almost every country has its own highly diverse firearms industry consisting of lots of small-scale manufacturers, plus plenty of illicit backyard production.

Finally, a few years before the present, the international import ban regime collapses; probably the US gun lobby used its influence to finally get what it wanted in an even more America-centric world. This leads to a brief chaotic period in which the world is awash with the products of hundreds of highly balkanised national firearms industries, and market Darwinism hasn't yet culled off the more outlandish designs. This is the climate in which your story will be set. It ain't going to be pretty.

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While this isn't strictly making guns more accepted by the general populous. In terms of increasing firearms variety & having weird weaponry it would work.

A higher prevalence of mercenaries. One of the biggest things that impacts firearms development is military requirements. But there are only a few major militaries, & most are too large to switch service weapons. At the same time mercenary groups would mostly be piggy backing of the supply train of a conventional military & conventional militaries would be used to supplying different equipment to their own. So each unit in a mercenary company would have more fluidity in what they could have. So gun makers would have larger variety of customers & could make more weird things for sale to these mercenaries.

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