What is the future of small arms technology?

First of all, this is not another Second Amendment debate. This is meant to be a technical discussion.
My question is what is the future of small arms like handguns, rifles, and military smallarms? Mostly incremental changes to design, materials or ergonomics? Smart munitions and advanced optics?

Lets keep it to weapons firing ballistic projectiles, not exotic sci fi stuff like laser rifles, phasers and phased plasma rifles in the 40kw range.

The next big step will be smart ammo, like this:

And smart targeting like the “lock and launch” system that automates firing solutions for whatever target you designate, supposedly turning any rifleman into a sniper.

I’ll put money on lighter/stronger materials, and improvements in propellants. If you can make a lighter weapon, with lighter ammo, with the same ballistic qualities, you’ll have happier troops.

“Smart technology” is expensive, and I don’t know if I see the US fielding those systems to the average grunt until the costs come way, way down.

I like my light rifle.

This runs up against a problem however: to do damage a bullet has to be either heavy, fast (meaning lots of propellant), or a combination of the two, so you don’t want to reduce ammunition weight too much. And while making a rifle lighter sounds nice, the point is reached where the gun doesn’t have enough mass to adequately soak up the recoil from the bullets. There might be room for improvement but ultimately if you’re using kinetic projectiles there’s only so far you can go.

Caseless ammo is pretty much the near-term revolution. Although the HK G11 had a type of caseless ammo years ago, it hasn’t ever caught on in any appreciable fashion.

I expect that to change in the very near future- transport costs will be lower, ammo costs will ultimately be lower, and gun actions will be simpler. What’s not to like?

In the longer haul, I imagine it’ll be continuing use of exotic alloys and composites in guns and barrels, as well as better optics and targeting electronics.

I can envision some kind of optical target recognition software, that prevents the gun from firing at targets recognized as “friendly.”

Someone proposed something similar, where the gun wouldn’t fire unless there was a very definite target there at all. Why waste shots shooting between people, or over their heads, if you can have your targeting scope wait for a certain shot? (A friend of mine wrote about this in a sci-fi story. He called it “murder helper,” because it increased the lethality of a mass-murder public-shooting situation.)

Possibly some sort of HUD targeting system, which will provide shooters with a FPS-type targeting reticle on their goggles, showing where the rifle is pointed (and perhaps also taking factors like range and wind into account as well).

Yeah, I figured there was a reason they have been using 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammo for 40 years. There is only so much you can change the parameters of a ballistic projectile to improve performance.

Some might argue, but there have really been few advancements in the last 100 years. The same .30-30 and .30-06 rounds that were popular then, are popular now.

I don’t see how you can keep the question out of politics. If there were to be a real advancement, it would quickly be made illegal for civilians.

I am sure fingerprint/biometric technology is on the horizon for handguns and law enforcement.

Perhaps, but I wasn’t thinking of that as technology of the firearm per se.

Caseless ammo has one serious drawback: the casings actually serve a useful purpose, absorbing heat from the chamber and promptly ejecting it from the gun. Overheating is exacerbated in caseless ammo designs.

The Russians have been working on some type of recoil reducer that uses a counterweight piston to negate the push back. But I don’t think they’ve had much success. There’s also the concept of better cushioning materials to manage recoil. The idea is for not eliminating recoil per se, but of mitigating it’s effect on accuracy.

Whatever it is, it will be too late to help the poor T. Rex. :frowning:

Military weapons are under no such restriction.

I suppose a that could be mitigated by using space-age polymers that disipate heat.

Caseless ammo also has the technical challenge of finding a propellent that can be molded into shapes, is hard enough not to chip or crumble, is stable enough to not explode or cook off if mishandled and burns completly on ignition.

As I understand it, the vast, vast majority of shots fired in wartime is suppressing fire.

Bad idea. The most obvious countermeasure would be to disguise yourself as something that was not recongized as “hostile target” or put up decoys that are. At the very least you would want the weapon to “dumb” fire at whatever you point it at.

Optical recognition software and small guided projectiles already exist in at least a developmental form. And “smart guns” are a classic sci-fi trope (remember Gene Simmon shooting his guided rocket pistol at Tom Selleck in Runaway?). I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until the technology reaches a point where weapons with some sort of active targeting and guidence exist IRL.

I would suspect so. Much combat occurs at ranges of several hundred yards between camoflaged opponents using cover. My WAG is that the low ratio of combat casualties to rounds fired is due to the fact that it’s very hard to hit something you can barely see a couple hundred yards away while shit is exploding around you.

The elimination of the Human component. Small, cheap Infantry Robots.

Then, Skynet…

I remember reading that the original caseless ammo also had problems absorbing moisture from the air and becoming, at best, unreliable and, at worst, one long, gluey block of explosive with bullets attached to it. Has that been resolved?