Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Is Small Arms Technology Stagnant?

The Firearms Blog posses the question of whether small arms technology has plateaued.
It’s often said that small arms technology has plateaued; that development of better kinds of weapons is essentially unfeasible for the moment, and that non-optic related small arms technology had pretty much reached its peak by 1965. It would be very difficult to cover the state of the art and how to improve it in-depth, so I won’t. Instead I want to take only a moment of our readers time to explore an often-missed element of firearms technology that is the key piece in understanding the technology “plateau” and how to end it. 
That element is volume.
The example used by the author is caseless ammunition, which has not been able to work because, the author argues, it is not possible to make the ammunition blocks precise enough, in high enough volumes, to be cost effective. He notes a similar problem with arose with breach loading firearms, which were invented and made in small numbers centuries before industrialization made such firearms economically and technically feasible.

The firearms industry is what is generally described as a mature industry or technology. The low-hanging fruit for the technology has long been harvested, and remaining improvements will mostly be refinements or incremental improvements rather than large leaps forward that the technology saw in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. (Of course, it doesn't help that firearms and their manufacture is so heavily regulated). That is why many people are comfortable using a 100+ year old pistol design (the Colt 1911) as a self-defense weapon or even as a combat pistol, and why the basic service rifles of the United States and Russia haven't changed much in 50 years. Even the Glock makes use of design features that were developed nearly 100 years ago. Most of the advancements we've seen over the last 50 years have been with new and better materials, manufacturing techniques, and optics--and these are derivative, to a large extent, of the computer revolution--rather than any basic advancement in firearms technology per se.

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