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IanMorrison
10-05-2009, 10:51 PM
My characters are going to be travelling through hostile territory and need to be loaded for bear. Their society was at a roughly 1930's-40's technology level about 150 years ago, but was cut off from most of its infrastructure, people and resources. As such, they've got firearms with them, but the weapons and their ammunition are rare, unreliable, and valuable. As such, the rifles in their possession cannot be the end-all of their defenses, and will have to be rationed to meet major threats. Lower tech backup weapons like swords, spears, and axes are required to fill the void. Bayonets are an option, but some members of the group have cultural/personal preferences for swords and to me a bayonet seems to me a poor man's spear, so I'm inclined to think that many will attempt to carry a dedicated melee weapon in addition to a firearm, especially since they probably won't be allowed to openly carry guns when they get to their decidely more urban destination.

My question, then, is what is the most practical way to be carrying firearms AND large melee weapons simultaneously, without the weapons getting in your way, yet still allowing either to be brought to bear quickly? My initial thoughts were to sling the rifle over the shoulder with a strap and keep a sword at the hip, but that seems like you could tangle yourself up in one weapon or the other, and there wouldn't be a way to store the gun with a sword draw... you'd have to drop it on the ground, which seems like a bad idea when firearms are rare and valuable! Would there be a specific scabbard type one might employ to keep things under control? Am I being completely unreasonable to suggest that anything more than a gun with bayonet might be necessary?

As an aside, the sword type I'm thinking will be prevalent here is inspired by the Chinese Jian, though possibly a little longer and heavier. I don't know how much that would influence the scabbard type required. The group size is also quite small, with four adults tending a few wagons and the necessary draft animals to pull them.

PeterL
10-05-2009, 11:01 PM
I think that it might make sense for someone to carry a rifle for distance and a Bowie knife or a Khyber knife for close work. It would be inconvenient and heavy to carry more. Bayonets have net=ver been all that good or useful.

Chase
10-05-2009, 11:12 PM
I don't know if it's any help for your story, but I carry multiple "weapons" when I hunt deer in bear country.

The primary is a single-shot Browning .45-70 carried by a split (two-shoulder) sling much like biathlon rifles. It's secure, yet comes off quickly.

My backup and in-case weapon is Ruger .480 Alaskan carried in a shoulder holster inside my blaze vest or parka.

My walking staff is five feet of hardwood with a metal spike tip.

I carry a Leatherman folding tool knife/saw/pliars, etc, on my belt.

I also have a fanny pack or ruck sack with water, food, and other stay-alive items.

Shattuck
10-05-2009, 11:34 PM
Carrying a rifle and a large melee weapon is going to be a pain, especially if you are traveling large distances on foot. 30 pounds might not seem that heavy, but when you are carrying it for miles it really sucks. Actually, a good example is the short story "The Things They Carried", about a group of soldiers in Vietnam. It shows exactly what they carried and how a lot of the government issued stuff got thrown away or traded out for lighter things they found because it was just too much work and stress to carry so much when you are scared, traveling all day, and might be shot at any moment.

For something realistic I would say a carbine, pistol, and a small close combat weapon. Though you may not like bayonets, one option is something like the Russian SKS Carbine. It was designed in 1944 so it might fit your timeline, it was relatively light (a bit over 8 pounds) and it had an integral bayonet which was permanently attached to a lug under the barrel and could simply be folded out for use. A bayonet might not be ideal, but when you have one attached to your carbine it doesn't hurt to have it just in case. Besides that, you could always use it for spearfishing or something.

For a pistol something you might want to look into is a revolver, as they are very reliable and if ammo is hard to come by the downside of their decreased capacity is sort of offset.

A close combat weapon would most likely be a knife. It doesn't have to be anything giant, but it shouldn't be a pocketknife either. You could also use a Trench Knife (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trench_spike) which is pretty unique and cool, or even an entrenching tool (foldable shovel), which was used as a makeshift weapon frequently in Vietnam, and has the added benefit of utility since it is a fully functional shovel.

Sarpedon
10-06-2009, 12:07 AM
I wouldn't knock the spear. If I were worried about a bear and didn't have a firearm, I'd pick a spear, a hefty one. It can be used as a walking stick, so it would be in hand already. You could also carry a pistol or something. A Colt .45 would be a good choice. They've been around since 1905 or thereabouts.

As far as the swords go...maybe one of the big Montante blades would work against a bear, or else something short and heavy, like a cutlass or messer. I wouldn't even think of going up against a bear with a lighter blade. Certainly not a jian. I think a dao would be better. Swords in short probably wouldn't work at all, because the bear has the reach on you. If you had to try it, you'd probably want one with a hefty blade so that the mighty beast doesn't break it.

And needless to say, the only way I'd think of using a knife on a bear is if it already had me pinned down and I had nothing else to do.

IanMorrison
10-06-2009, 02:53 AM
@ Chase:
That's very helpful, especially the bit about the rifle sling! I'd forgotten about the biathletes.

@ Sarpedon:
Well, to be fair, I did say that the swords were probably larger than the Jian! I was more speaking in terms of style and aesthetics (I'm probably a little too partial to how the jian looks!). Size wise, they're supposed to be war swords only a bit smaller than a european longsword. Still, you're absolutely right, not the first choice where large land predators are involved, and my story has land predators a hell of a lot nastier than bears. That's why the guns and their precious ammunition have prioritized use. You don't want to be out of bullets when something really mean rolls around. Swords might be more effective, however, against the stone age nomads that regularily attack caravans in the area.

In the end though, even if the effectiveness versus the specific threats isn't ideal, some of the people in this setting are going to be carrying swords for cultural reasons, so they might as well be prepared to use them. This is somewhat analagous to the Sikh wearing a kirpan, which used to be a full length sword back in the day if I recall correctly.

@ Shattuck: 30 pounds is far more than they'd need on their person. An 8-9 pound rifle plus a relatively small amount of ammunition, and a sword isn't going to be more than 3 pounds on the heavy side. Most of their other supplies can be left on the wagon, since they aren't travelling cross country. Weapons, however, must be close at hand.

An SKS style rifle is a good choice, and I'd expect to have a few weapons of that sort of design in the setting, but it'd be on the high end of things. Due to the permanent and critical loss of infrastructure and resources in this setting, the production of smokeless powder is incredibly difficult. In large part, they've regressed to use simpler black powder when making their firearms cartridges. Unfortunately, that makes most semi-auto weapons very impractical, since the residue from firing would quickly gum up the works. Though, a revolver would remain viable, now that you mention it. :)

Shattuck
10-06-2009, 04:46 AM
If they have regressed to black powder you might look at some of the old lever action Winchesters or other "cowboy guns". Some of them were about as close to semi-automatic as you could get with black powder. However, also keep in mind that if your society isn't completely regressed to black powder and regular gunpowder is just more scarce, a lot of the old Russian weapons were forced to shoot through a pretty caustic mix of black /smokeless gunpowder. Some in particular to look at are the Nagant Revolver and the M38 Carbine, a derivative of the Mosin-Nagant rifle. There is a carbine platform from 1907 as well as 1938 and the Mosin Nagant rifle itself came into service in 1891. It is a big rifle though, very long and almost 9 pounds unloaded. The carbine is much shorter, a bit lighter, and would be able to fire a black / smokeless powder mix almost indefinitely provided that your character could stop after every few firefights to run a swab through the barrel and clean the moving parts in the breech.

IanMorrison
10-06-2009, 05:00 AM
Now THAT'S interesting! I'm going to have to look into that. For the few producers of smokeless powder in my story, that would definitly be something they'd look into to stretch their product out further.

[edit] A cursory search found me information on the M38, but I wasn't able to find any mention of the mixed powder ammunition. Was this a weapon designed for smokeless powder, but ended up robust enough to withstand a mixture?

Also, what kind of effect would that mixture have? I'm presuming that muzzle velocity would drop and you'd get a buildup of caustic residue, though not to the extent of a fully blackpowder round.

hammerklavier
10-06-2009, 06:03 AM
Black powder generates about 1/9 the power of smokeless powder (at least that's what I remember from mythbusters). It could still pack a wallop, though. I would look for catridges that have a lot of empty space in them when loaded with smokeless powder (like the 30-06) and then get the lightest grain bullets I could and pack them full of black powder.

Black powder generates a lot of smoke, crud, and is corrosive, so you do have to clean often. If you're lucky enough to find a rifle with a chrome lined or stainless steel barrel, then you don't have to worry about the barrel rusting or pitting (just the other parts).

Black powder is also more likely to go off by accident, so making it can be hazardous. Once inside the cartridge, it's pretty safe.

quixote100104
10-06-2009, 12:53 PM
For a pistol something you might want to look into is a revolver, as they are very reliable and if ammo is hard to come by the downside of their decreased capacity is sort of offset.
Another advantage of a revolver in a limited ammo setting is that it's much more tolerant of variable ammo loadings/quality. If a cartridge in a semi-auto pistol has a poor quality powder load, or is too hot or too light, you can run into serious problems. This is much less likely in a revolver.

RobinGBrown
10-06-2009, 01:48 PM
Having carried a variety of weapons for cross country LARP events I'd want to be holding my favoured weapon in hand in case of ambushes and have the other one slung.

Where the rifles are precious to use I'd expect that people would have the melee weapon in hand and the rifle slung. If the ammo is expensive you're not going to want to waste it on unaimed snapshots.

What about bows and crossbows? Cheap to manufacture and cheap ammo.

Sarpedon
10-06-2009, 04:58 PM
It occurs to me that there were lethal air rifles in Napoleonic times. If gunpowder is in short supply, perhaps there'd be a revival of sucn weapons.

IanMorrison
10-06-2009, 06:44 PM
Crossbows and even bows might be used by those looking for a cheap ranged weapons. Shouldn't be too hard to find visual references for box and crossbow sheaths, right? ;)

Air rifles are an interesting possibility, though I wonder how difficult they'd be to build and maintain with very limited infrastructure. At least with firearms, you've got a few pre-cataclysm munitions and weapon factories to work from... would you be able to build such a weapon using the tools available to the average gunsmith?

Chase
10-06-2009, 10:30 PM
Air rifles are an interesting possibility, though I wonder how difficult they'd be to build and maintain with very limited infrastructure.

Lewis and Clark carried an air rifle on their voyage of discovery. From what I recall of journal entries, it was a muzzle-loader which looked like any other of the first decade of the 1800s, except for a spherical tank below the "chamber." It "fired" lead ball of at least 50 caliber.

As for the ability to craft one, competent gunsmiths are engineers and craftsmen which never cease to amaze me.

quixote100104
10-06-2009, 11:12 PM
Air rifles are an interesting possibility, though I wonder how difficult they'd be to build and maintain with very limited infrastructure. At least with firearms, you've got a few pre-cataclysm munitions and weapon factories to work from... would you be able to build such a weapon using the tools available to the average gunsmith?

The Lewis and Clark expedition carried one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9WEsILY92o

and I'd be inclined to doubt that there is any tools or materials availible to a gunsmith in 1803 that wouldn't be availible or (in the case of outdated tools not common any more) replicatable by one with 1940s technology.

IanMorrison
10-07-2009, 10:48 AM
Oy. That could be a problem, then, because if weapons as effective as that would be redeveloped in the 150 year timeframe I've got, that could pretty much kill any rationale for low-tech weaponry at all. Such weapons wouldn't have a problem with ammunition scarcity, so they could be used with impunity.

What factors could I use to limit their introduction without heavily downgrading resources and infrastructure even further? I'm fine with a few of them showing up, but if they're anywhere near as simple and effective as the one in that video then there's a real danger of them being too widespread for my purposes.

quixote100104
10-07-2009, 02:03 PM
Oy. That could be a problem, then, because if weapons as effective as that would be redeveloped in the 150 year timeframe I've got, that could pretty much kill any rationale for low-tech weaponry at all. Such weapons wouldn't have a problem with ammunition scarcity, so they could be used with impunity.

What factors could I use to limit their introduction without heavily downgrading resources and infrastructure even further? I'm fine with a few of them showing up, but if they're anywhere near as simple and effective as the one in that video then there's a real danger of them being too widespread for my purposes.

As I understand it, they were fairly rare at the time, requiring fairly skilled craftsmanship. Keep in mind, when Lewis was toting that thing around, the flintlock was still the main issue firearm in the world's militaries. And steel was still pretty common, with military swords still being practical weapons instead of the decorative ceremonial toys they've evolved into today. People carried and used them.

Also consider that, despite the good qualities of that weapon, it and it's descendants never made a big splash in the weapons world. Firearms dominated then and have ever since. So there's plenty of precedent for them being restricted in availibility.

I don't know enough about the history of airguns to explain why, but I'd guess it had to do with the aforementioned need of skilled labor for manufacture and perhaps difficulty of maintenance. The seals would be under a lot of strain in a powerful airgun (recall in the video the need to pump it 1500 times to get a full charge) and might have a high fail rate.

Another thing to consider is going back to flintlocks themselves. The techniques of making them are not that big a reach for 20th century gunsmiths and machinists and have survived in the custom gunmaking trade as a niche market. They are workable as both handguns and longarms (not sure about a high powered, repeating air-handgun). They require only common materials to manufacture, low grade powder that can be made as a home industry and virtually no industial base to support on a small scale (many flintlock shooters traditionally molded thier own ammo and trimmed thier own flints).

GeorgeK
10-08-2009, 02:26 AM
LOL...I actually deal with this on a semi regular basis. Lug an SKS (cheap knock off/scaled down AK47) and a long sticking knife
http://budk.com/product.aspx?sku=17%20BKC2&
when you have to be able to climb over fences and sometimes run. The rifle is to shoot the pig in the head after it's cornered and the knife is to stick the heart to get it to bleed out. Anything with a traditional scabbard will trip you when you run or climb. I sewed an extra pocket onto my jeans. The pocket is for inserting the dagger and its scabbard so that the tip of the blade is at my knee and the hilt is at my hip. The knife is snug so it doesn't get in the way and if you adjust the straps on the rifle you can make one loop around the wrist and it will effectively be tied on so you don't drop it in the mud.

If you are looking for a cap and ball revolver but want a cannon, look at the Colt Walker. It's a 45caliber 6 shot that takes a few minutes to load and weighs 5 pounds but takes a big enough charge to ahve the same range as the muskets of the day.

IanMorrison
10-08-2009, 06:19 PM
If you were interested in maintaining freedom of movement, what options would you consider to manage a larger weapon?

Sarpedon
10-08-2009, 06:45 PM
DMMG: Donkey Mounted Machine Gun

IanMorrison
10-09-2009, 10:28 AM
Crap, now I've got to resist the urge to stick 50. cal tripods on top of donkeys. :P

By larger weapon, I specifically meant large melee weapons like a longsword. Aside from mounting one on your back, would there be specific methods of carrying on on your hip/waist that you'd want to consider/avoid?

GeorgeK
10-11-2009, 02:36 PM
You could have a back mounted sheath but it would either need to be some especially designed thing or the length of the weapon needs to be shorter than the length of the character's arm. The alternative would be to not have the sharp portion of the blade extend all the way to the hilt. A One and a half or a two handed sword would need someplace the person could grab hold a second time to extract the weapon from the sheath. I suppose you could also have one person carrying the weapon for another; like they pull each other's weapons. Of course in a super dangerous area, what happens if your buddy carrying your sword gets killed before you can draw your weapon?

quixote100104
10-11-2009, 03:04 PM
You could have a back mounted sheath but it would either need to be some especially designed thing or the length of the weapon needs to be shorter than the length of the character's arm.
I've seen over-the-shoulder sheaths designed for long blades that only fullly enclosed the last 6-8" of the blade, with the balance being basically a leather strap between the weapon and the wearer's back and the hilt tied with a thong and a slipknot. This would leave the bulk of the blade exposed to the elements, but I always figured if I used one, I would add a new piece (essentially a sheath or scabbard open at both ends and sized for the rest of the blade and fitted loosely. That way the blade would be fully protected and the middle sheath would drop free in the draw.

IanMorrison
10-12-2009, 09:26 AM
Assuming a longsword sized weapon, would a hip or waist mounted sheath become problematic?

RobinGBrown
10-12-2009, 09:40 AM
Every time I've tried to carry anything longer than my forearm around across country I've invariably ended up just holding it in my hand(s).

Mounted scabbards for larger weapons, despite much novelisation, are not easy to use.

Realistically, you hold them, but many readers would not know that and even the ones that do will probably allow for a suspension of disbelief.