My characters have a base in near-future Ethiopia. A powerful AI has some of "her" computers there, but the focus is on the people and their attempts to build infrastructure. They've got a machine shop based on the "Global Village Construction Set" including a few lathes, saws &c. Trouble is, they need to defend the place in a few weeks against a rogue general who's sending a hundred or so troops to seize the goodies. This is a ragtag army squad, but absolutely brutal. I can change the details as necessary to make the conflict interesting.

The locals and their Western backers reluctantly decide defense is better than fleeing. What guns and other defenses should they build? I'm thinking Sten guns or Kalashnikovs for their ease of manufacture. Probably, the locals are frightened of the enemy and have the hope (realistic or not) that they can make electric crossbows, remote-controlled traps, and other clever stuff to make up for having limited ammo and few pre-made guns. I can say that the defenders have some ammo of whatever caliber, but it's probably tough to justify them making their own ammo in a hurry even with all the formulas and machinery. They need confidence-builders as well as hardware.

In short: What should these guys build to help poorly-trained villagers drive away a ruthless maniac warlord?


closed as too broad by Aify, bowlturner, Erik, Scott Downey, Frostfyre Jun 23 '15 at 13:22

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    $\begingroup$ Can you provide a map of the area, goodies placement on a village map, etc? A defense is much better designed if you keep the lay of the land in mind. For example, if this base was situated in a forest, ambush weapons (eg: hidden snipers) could be set up - however, if the place had a city's design (eg: streets and tall buildings), choke point weapons (eg: machine gun placements) using the goodies as bait might be a better plan. The composition of enemy troops also ties in importantly to a plan. Without this information, however, this question is too broad. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 22 '15 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ I voted not to close, presuming Aify's remarks are incorporated in a subsequent edit. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jun 23 '15 at 6:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz I've voted to close because of lack of said edit. When the edit comes, I'll retract, or in the case where it's already closed and he edits, i'll vote for reopen. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 23 '15 at 7:23

To elaborate on what has already been said, the difficulty lies in making parts of the ammunition (percussion caps) and not so much in manufacturing the fire arms. For fire arms, I'd use whatever is in circulation in the area.

If ammunition is available but weapons are not, then make something that could use the ammunition available in the area. For most of Africa, this is likely AK-47 ammunition 7.62 mm (bullet diameter) x 39 mm (cartridge length).

But this conventional method of fighting doesn't mesh with the fact that you have an AI directing your defense. Use the strengths of your AI and Western backers.

For instance, I'm certain the AI has access to all the information on the internet and has the cpu resources to find just about any reference information it requires. The western backers likely have access to real time intelligence regarding the movements of the warlord and his likely approaches.

Why not use superior intellect to defeat the general? Use the knowledge of the internet to construct a series of traps that mangle maim and/or kill horribly the warlord's troops? Use these traps to funnel his troops into an apparently indefensible approach to the compound.

In military terms, this is called a killing field. Use your information, tactics, and manufacturing skills to make weapons to annihilate anything that crosses that killing field.

For instance, how about a "machine gun" firing those 7.62 mm rounds but controlled remotely by the AI? Maybe the AI doesn't require the volume of fire. Perhaps set the AI up with remote controlled sniper positions - which never (or rarely) miss. Why not do both?

Perhaps use a series of small drones (tracked, wheeled, crawling, flying, ground effects) all controlled by the AI for recon, bait, moving explosives around, or even mounting fire arms on them?

Have some positions manned by people and others (those you plan / expect to be overrun by your enemy) crewed by the AI. When the enemy troops achieve the objective, detonate large and nasty explosives. Heck with the AI, you can set the explosive to detonate only after a large group of troops assembles on the spot - long after everyone assumed the place was safe.

Imagine how demoralizing it might be to have explosions decimating your ranks randomly after you "take control" of a given piece of ground. Any bit of technology, fuel, or weapon which can burn or explode could be rigged to do so. Every time the bad guy "wins" an objective, you detonate it along with large groups of his troops.

Anyway, you don't have to defeat this guy, you only have to convince him to move along.


Making guns isn't too difficult with a well equipped machine shop, although unless they have the proper materials most of these weapons would have very short service lives before the barrels were burnt out or a major malfunction crippled the weapon. That being said, the real issue isn't so much the building of guns but rather the supply of ammunition. If you can make 1000 firearms but don't have bullets, then you have 1000 not very good clubs.

Following the lead of the other posters, weapons that are good in close quarters for ambushing the enemy troops are ideal, since you have the best chance of actually causing damage and casualties. Knives, machete's, hatchets and so on are excellent melee weapons and don't need a huge amount of training to use effectively. For distance work, crossbows would be the best choice. They led the "Infantry Revolution" in the late middle ages since ordinary people with little training could use them against knights and men at arms (English longbows required training from early childhood and constant practice, so they are a poor choice in this situation). Treating steel plate stock so it has similar properties to leaf springs will make a very powerful set of arms for the bow, but be prepared for a slow rate of fire. With enough time and some research, pulley systems could be added to make a "compound" crossbow, with a lot of power but much less draw weight for the bowman.

If there is access to chemicals or hydrocarbon fuels, then flame weapons would be the next thing to invest in. A traditional flamethrower consists of a high pressure tank of nitrogen, one or more fuel reservoirs and some plumbing and valves as a minimum. The Soviet era LPO-50 used essentially a large shotgun cartridge firing into the fuel tank for pressurization, as an alternative to using heavy compressed nitrogen tanks (An LPO-50 has a range of @70m, so this is a formidable device). Flame weapons have a huge psychological effect on unprepared troops, and are devastating when used against fortifications (if the invaders are being driven back by the other weapons, they may build trenches and bunkers for protection). The downside is they have short ranges compared to conventional infantry weapons, and once you light off, everyone knows where you are.

Finally, each and every one of the people in the "factory" need to be impressed with the need to capture every enemy firearm they can from killed or injured enemy soldiers, as well as all the ammunition. There is a reason these guys are not marching towards your position with just bows and swords...


Regular, if ragtag army yes? Hopefully the environment provides good cover.

  1. Train your combatants in hit-and-run and supply suicide pills.
  2. Move all non-combatants to a safe place. This is your morale boost.
  3. Set up a trap on the incoming road and pickle it with roadside bombs.
  4. Use the few good rifles and ammo you can make for sniping. Hardest to find will be the snipers.
  5. Booby traps. Start simple, continue to double traps etc.
  6. At your base, create escape hatches and small subterranean corridors for guerilla warfare.
  7. Plant poisoned food and/or liquor in one big batch for them to find. Stage this very convincingly. Possibly a fake base or base storage.
  8. Poison all the accessible water, snipe on resupply attempts.
  9. Last ditch: Molotov cocktails.

Probably looking at wooden stocks and aesthetics.

A bizarre influence I know, but some of the crafted weapons from Fallout 3 and the like may be good inspiration; pressure guns that require a manual re-pressurisation (but able to change ammo type), shotgun shells rigged as traps, shotguns and the like used in farms, whatever the police force has (I'm presuming modern day, so maybe MP5's if you really need it, though it may not fit too well, a couple .44's or M1911's may work). The locals know the land, so I imagine they'd turn Guerilla (Think Vietnam) and largely set traps, ambushes and pick off soldiers one by one in streets and forests via CQC (So knifes, machetes, etc) before taking their weapons and stuff to use. Tanks don't perform well in urban areas and require infantry escort to stop explosives/ sabotage; have them use household supplies to create IED's, traps, chemical weapons (Acids and alkalis would be the sort of thing) and EMP's from magnets/ wire. Improvised Flamethrowers (Aerosol can+lighter) and molotovs are also cheap makes using common ingredients.

Really, I'd say look at post apocalyptic- zombie, nuclear, that kind of thing- for inspiration on improvised weaponry. Just look at what's in your own home and think "How would I use this in a survival situation?" And you can get some pretty cool stuff.


I am making the assumption that the AI allied with the defenders is a "strong" AI, and does not have any qualms about killing humans.

A machine shop may very well churn out firearms, but you will need ammunition to feed them. Making a lot of AKs or Sten Guns definitely would be possible, assuming somehow they can get ammunition for them.

Even if they lack ready ammunition, other weapons can be built to rapidly arm people. Because of the machine shop is in the town, machine out a very good spring and mount it to a stock and you have a cross bow, and other close-combat weapons can also be easily fabricated.

Since this is a infrastructure development project, there is bound to be a lot of petrochemicals laying around. Hook a tank of combustible liquid or gas to a pressurized gas tank and you have yourself a flame thrower. Even better, if the AI has the proper formulae stored, explosives definitely would be a good option. A well-planted field of various mines and booby traps can hold up the attackers for quite some time.

If the situation becomes desperate enough, you may consider synthesizing chemical weapons from the available raw stocks. Quite a few lethal and weaponizable chemicals can be produced from relatively simple ingredients, although this is not a recommended option, because of political backslash and the need to limit fratricide and collateral damage.

Because the locals are untrained, I would rather not trust the battles to them. You have an AI, after all. If it is possible to manufacture electronics, I would recommend building and programming combat drones, slaved to the AI, to take out the attackers and gather intelligence. They can be as simple as quadcopters with a bomb strapped to it, or can be scaled up to remotely-piloted tankettes or AI-directed gun turrets. They can serve a further psychological blow to the sub-Saharan warlord, who may not be used to fighting unmanned combat systems.

Even outside the battlefield, the AI could shine. Assuming the AI has sufficiently powerful backers, the AI can simply phone home to request things like satellite footage, or rally political sentiments to the defender's favor, which may allow further aid from outside.

All and all, since the defenders have an AI on their side, they might as well as put it to good use. It is the age of information warfare, after all, and the AI is probably much more suited to modern war than the army of the warlord.


Sorry, but this question doesn't make sense.

  1. So these people have western backing, and have several weeks until the battle? Why isn't the west sending them any help? I assume they are supplied in this position because any number of people living in a cut off location aren't going to survive weeks without food and water. So why can't guns, ammo, troops be included in their resupply?

  2. We are talking military attackers here. In war, guns don't kill people, high explosives kill people. Any half decent military force is going to have mortars and grenade launchers at a minimum. Not to mention armoured personnel carriers and even tanks. At which point any puny little machine gun is going to do you zero good.

  3. Let's suppose you can hold them off, then what? Do we expect these attackers to walk lemmings like into your prepared defences until they all die? No, that's silly. You'd have a siege situation with the attackers cutting off food, water, power, and can just wait and starve the defenders out. They have been planning to attack for several weeks, they can wait a few more days. In short, the defenders don't just have to defend, they need to attack and drive the bad guys away. That's a very different proposition.


While others have mentioned crossbows, you mentioned a need for confidence builders. This can also take the point of scaring the pants off the invaders.

The Ballista

Now given we have an AI here we must have good computing ability. Mount the giant crossbow on a computer controlled mount, add a wind speed sensor, camera and some algorithmic fun to plan shots and you have a very scary anti personnel weapon.

Medieval versions were reported to have a range of about half a kilometre and a skilled operator could pick individual men off of a castle wall. With computer control you might be able to match this in a couple of weeks. An electric winch should get the re-fire rate up. Explosive warheads and other additions can be added if your feeling kinetic energy is not enough.

Seeing the man next to you get taken out by a bolt the size of your arm would probably deter the attackers some what. You don't need to kill them all you just need to be more likely to kill them than the warlord leading them in their minds.


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