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In my setting a large city state has been cut off from the rest of civilization through the appearance of a large alien forest that sprouted up during the medieval times and cut off the city state from the rest of the world. The forest's main goal for the purposes of the story is to contain the city state, so any humans that try to cross or fly over the forest are met w/ essentially a wide array of monsters from the hyper fast, to humanoid sized, to large scaled beasts. At present the city state has technology ranging from WW1 up to the interwar period.

I am trying to arm a special squad of soldiers whose goal is to explore the forests w/ weapons that they can use to counter a wide variety of threats. They are specialized in high mobility/ fire and maneuvering.

What shoulder mounted infantry weaponry would allow them to deal with a wide variety of targets that vary in size that fit within a diesel punk setting or period of technology up to right before the start of WW2. I am fine with a small amount of handwavium/unobtanium so long as it's grounded in some basic reality/physics.

The main issue I have is having a shoulder mounted weapon that can deliver an effective punch, but not be ridiculously heavy to lug around the battlefield in a forest for a squad of soldiers who have to be moving constantly since the battlefield for them is 360° rather than an established frontline. Ideally it would also be something that would be attached to a shoulder rig so that it can be fired while they are on the move via a remote trigger/switch.

The heaviest and largest opponent they would end up facing would be a large organism like say a minotaur that is tall and heavily armored up to a point before square cube law comes in and makes it unreasonable for the organism to be combat effective.

Edit Upon seeing the answers so far, I am going to advance the tech into the realm of WW2 all the way up to the end of it. It appears the limitations of WW1 and interwar are simply just to much to handle. The purpose of this weapon is to augment/add an extra layer of firesupport and flexibility. They will still be able to carry normal fire arms. This is just a way for them to rapidly deploy a weapons platform while on the move to help them.

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  • $\begingroup$ This sounds like you need to do a search of period weaponry to determine what you are comfortable with. ~50cal elephant guns (rifles), 30cal light machine guns(like the BAR), Thompson submachine guns, portable flame throwers. Hand grenades. Bazooka/panzer Faust and assault rifles are not until into WW2. If only one weapon, I'd go BAR since it's original concept was to be a general infantry gun, but it's a heavy thing for a man carrying a good supply of ammo to haul around. Play a WW2 shooter game for some flavor of these weapons. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Apr 12, 2021 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ Of course, if this is coming from just one city, it will be whatever they make there. Why do the people in the city need guns? The guns they have will reflect this motive. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Apr 12, 2021 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "shoulder mounted?" Does a rifle count? Does it have to be permanently attached to the shoulder? $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Apr 13, 2021 at 1:04
  • $\begingroup$ The series The War Against the Chtorr is similar to the situation your soldiers find themselves in - an advanced, semi-aware alien ecosystem. google.com/… $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Apr 13, 2021 at 1:04
  • $\begingroup$ Shoulder mounted as in it should be attached to a rig that lets the soldier use it while walking. It doesn't have to be permanently attached to the solider, but firing from the shoulder should definitely be something that it is capable of. $\endgroup$
    – FIRES_ICE
    Apr 13, 2021 at 4:15

3 Answers 3

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The Bazooka

A shoulder-fired man-portable anti-tank/bunker rocket launcher was conceived by Dr. Robert Goddard during WWI, and was demonstrated to the US army in November 1918. The war ended like a week later iirc and the US being the US the whole thing was discontinued. In WWII it became the go-to man portable US-army anti-tank weapon with little/no modification from the 1918 version. (For the launcher anyway, the round it fired underwent a good amount of trial-and-error style advancement during and after the war.) The germans captured a few in North Africa and created the excellent Panzershreck based on the captured designs. For your purposes this is near-perfect for a couple reasons.

1: It hits the man-portable requirement perfectly, and unlike some other shoulder-fired weapons of the era it's reusable. You have a 12.75lb launcher with each round weighing about 3lbs. So instead of carrying around half a dozen heavy single-use launchers your squad has 1-2 guys with these and a maybe 10 rounds, with extra rounds carried by the rest of the squad. Maximum Rate of Fire is five rounds a minute for the first-gen version, though later tweeking doubled that number.

2: It's firmly in the tech-range you're looking for. Even better, since design-work in the real world was essentially halted for 20+ years. Your city obviously would have taken an interest in the production and development of such weapons for decades, which gives your bazookas a reason to be better than they were in the real world in the 40s. Then again, since they're hunting monsters in a forest and not Tiger tanks, they might not need the penetrative power or range increases the real bazooka got in WWII and beyond.

3: It's not fiddly. The technology is all pretty basic. Apart from the intricacies of armor-penetrating warhead design the technology to build a bazooka was around for decades prior to its invention. It's just that nobody had a need to punch a hole in a pillbox/tank with a man-portable launcher from 1880-1916 because they didn't exist! This also makes it pretty robust for troops lugging it through the woods.

Your guys would probably back two different rounds, monster dependent. The first would be your standard "anti-armor" round which is designed to get inside a thing an explode. Actual amount of armor-penetration would be monster dependent. Then you'd have another type designed to explode on contact to shred smaller monsters with shrapnel. In real life the bazooka wasn't an anti-infantry device, but there's no reason the rounds couldn't be modified to provide a sort of short-range direct fire light artillery support. Fun aside, they also made a bazooka round that fired white phosphorus as smoke round. White phosphorus burns hot, long, and is damn near impossible to extinguish. Might be a useful round for roasting big beasties from the inside out!

I would also look into dum-dum and exploding bullets for standard small arms. A bolt-action .45 or even semiautomatic rifle with dum-dum or exploding ammo could give bear-sized things and smaller a Very Bad Time and be well within your tech range. Dum-dum rounds are designed to expand on contact, and create truly hellacious exit wounds. Exploding bullets, well, explode! Both of these existed for decades before WWI, but were banned by international convention. While they would be unlikely to down an elephant-sized thing they'd be great for the smaller, faster monsters running around your woods. Plus you'll need something to provide weight-of-fire. Shoulder-fired rockets are all well and good until you realize that the average guy can only carry a few. Meanwhile your dun-dum/explosive ammo isn't all that much heavier than normal rounds.

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  • $\begingroup$ Both the Thompson SMG and Browning BAR were also invented for WW1 and never used on any significant scale. I mentioned this in the comments, but feel free to add these to your answer. I saw the OP expanded their time frame, but I honestly don't think it matters much (unless they want to add a basic assault rifle and cheap SMG's like the grease gun. I think more than ONE weapon is allowed, and all these would be pretty comprehensive. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Apr 13, 2021 at 1:00
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There is no one weapon

Frame challenge, based on history - I cannot think of an army that had only one weapon system.

  • Roman legions had their swords and pila (pilums?) plus their skirmishers with slings and a range of other weapons.
  • Renaissance armies had muskets (hence musketeers), swords, lances, cannon and so on.
  • When I was in the infantry, we had assault rifles, light machine guns, hand grenades, grenade launchers, claymore mines, 66mm anti-armour weapons and bayonets - all just within a 9-man section!

All of the above examples are just for humans fighting other humans and being prepared for different circumstances. If we were also fighting minotaurs, sling-wielding chipmunks, sentient wasp swarms and enemy humanoids then we would need an even greater variety of weapons - elephant guns to deal with the minotaurs, some kind of flame or gas weapon for the wasps and .22 rifles for the chipmunks. No one weapon system is going to cover all of it - the best you can hope for is a combination weapon that is clumsier than a single-purpose weapon.

EDIT: Increasing the tech level to WWII does not change the picture significantly. (Note also that it was a stretch to see how an isolated city state could support an early 20th century tech base with the wide variety of industries and resources required, it is even harder to see how they could get to WWII level.) Elephant guns were a mature technology in the 19th Century and could bring down elephants, they should work adequately against minotaurs. The problem is that while a 130 g (!) slug may be needed against an elephant / minotaur, they are overkill against smaller and less heavily armoured targets.

If it is critical that each soldier has the same single weapon then a combination gun may be the way to go. One heavy "elephant gun" barrel, plus two shotgun barrels for engaging the lightly armoured fast movers. I would still strongly recommend that each soldier also carries a sidearm and if swarms are a factor then at least one or two soldiers should carry a short ranged flame or gas weapon. The weapon cannot be too heavy or the soldiers can't patrol with it at the hip. (No, it is not practical to tape the rifle and flame thrower together like Ripley did in Aliens - she had "16 minutes to reach minimum safe distance", but the soldiers need to patrol alertly all day with a well balanced weapon that they can reload quickly.)

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  • $\begingroup$ There was a book series The War against the Chtorr, where flame throwers were the decisive weapons to use against invading biologicals. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Apr 13, 2021 at 1:02
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus if the "minotaurs" are dumb animals then a flamethrower will probably make it back off - animals do not tend to run into fires if given a choice. However, flamethrowers are heavy, require significant fuel, short-ranged, maintenance-intensive and probably not a good choice if the forest around is flammable. I also missed out on ever playing with one because the last ones in service were retired the year before I did my flame warfare module :-( $\endgroup$ Apr 13, 2021 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ True, but there's nothing better to kill a marauding horde of killer wasps or sling-wielding chipmunks. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Apr 13, 2021 at 1:20
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WW I era is before rocketry and explosive rounds, so the best you'll likely get is some variant of the wheel-mounted Maxim gun. It's not shoulder-mounted, but technology was not advanced enough to produce a submachine gun or anything like a bazooka or anti-tank gun (all of which appeared late in WW II and after). Maxim guns are comparatively light (circa 60 lbs, without the ammo or carriage), but they do take a two to four man crew to operate. The wheeled version is better (in this case) because the gun is already mounted in firing position.

Hand grenades are also an option, but might not be as effective against a large charging opponent as a heavy machine gun. With a dumb and mindlessly aggressive opponent (like a minotaur) you might have the option of an explosive-tipped spear (basically a pole with a small impact grand on the tip), but I wouldn't like your chances if you missed.

WW I did have actual tanks, which (though not particularly fast or nimble) would be proof against typical monsters. If you based your patrols in a mobile fortress of that sort it would expand their range.

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  • $\begingroup$ "WW I era is before rocketry and explosive rounds"?? Rocketry was used as early as the Mongol Invasions, and before that by the Chinese. And as for Explosive rounds? Specifically rifle-sized explosive rounds? They were already banned by the St Petersburg Declaration of 1868, which states that explosive or inflammable projectiles, with a weight of less than 400 g, should never be used in the time of war. Strange to ban something that is unknown. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Apr 12, 2021 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ @PcMan: You're right about the explosive rounds, apologies. But WW I and the interwar period only had ballistic projectiles. They may have known the concept of rocketry, but lacked the materials science to turn them into effective infantry weapons. $\endgroup$ Apr 12, 2021 at 15:40

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