It’s tough being a gun guy and watching Sci-Fi TV shows.

I can’t count how many shows that take place in the future, where somebody is armed with an FN P90.

Of course, the reason for that is the audience thinks:

“Check out that bad-ass with the futuristic-looking gun.  It’s like right out of HALO.”

I, on the other hand, think:

(In a mocking tone) “Look at me, standing on a hostile alien world, waiting to be some space bug’s lunch, and all I have to defend myself with is a glorified 22 WMR with shitty optics and reliability issues, and a magazine that has a tendency to spray its contents everywhere when it gets bumped.  Hooray.”

I’ve been tempted to put in my resume with Blue Horizon, and if I get a job with them, I think I will appoint myself company armorer for exoplanet exploration.

“Look, I’ve seen this movie and I know how it ends.  Spoilers, you might want to pack an M107A1 and a couple of Mk48’s.  You don’t have to listen to me.  I’m just the material scientist.  But if you don’t want your crew to have extraterrestrial ovipositors rammed into them like a gangbang orgy porno directed by HR Giger, you might want to arm up a little bit more.”

I just don’t think I will mention that in the interview.

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By J. Kb

19 thoughts on “Prop guns and sci-fi”
    1. Yes; A Stargate’s event horizon is 4.8768 meters wide, give or take about 10% if the effects team needed to fudge things to get the best possible shot for dramatic purposes. An M551 Sheridan is 2.8 meters wide by 2.3 meters tall.

      Frankly, I’d think a HMMV would be more useful…

  1. The network execs would never greenlight it, but a sci-fi series with someone who does that, and actually gets listened to (and maybe a callback “Man those mk48s sure did come in handy”) would peg the ratings, guaranteed.

  2. The one and only sci-fi series where use of the P90 made sense was Stargate SG-1. Okay, so the main reason they switched to the weapon was that it’s smaller size and ease of carry let the actors use their hands more for, well, acting…

    But “in universe” the switch to a personal defense weapon instead of the rifles and carbines used in early seasons matched SG-1’s primary mission of diplomatic first contact (the combat oriented SG teams and SGC security kept on using rifles and heavier weapons) and the P90’s superior armor penetration compared to the MP5 (which they used briefly) made it quiet useful against the armored J’affa (if you watch the series and pay close attention, the MP5 takes as many hits as their M9 pistols to stop an armored J’affa. The P90 performs much better.) But on missions when SG-1 knew combat was unavoidable, they’d switch back to assault rifles.

    Since the series was also set in the “present day,” they also didn’t have to pass off modern guns as some sort of 31st Century design.

    Not sure why they never swapped out their sidearms. They kept using M9’s for the whole series… Frankly, given the very real possibility of being stuck on an alien planet for weeks without being able to get back home (which was the plot of a fair few episodes) one would think that the ammo compatibility of the P90 and Five-seveN would be useful. But, film and television production is pretty much standardized around the 9 mm blank and it’s a lot easier to make a fake SMG than it is a fake pistol.

    1. As time went on, I seem to recall the humble M9 increasing I’m lethality as well. Season 9 and it no longer takes a hole magazine but a few “well placed” shots sort of deal.

  3. See, when SG-4 was under the Russian Federation (part of the deal of them loaning the Russian Stargate), they were armed with AK variants and a PKM.

    Be like SG-4.

    In-universe SG-1 and other ‘exploratory/diplomatic’ teams had PDWs. The USMC and Russian Federation teams were the rapid response/combat teams.

  4. 🙂

    Steyr AUGs are another example of an old design that stands in for a lot of in-the-future weapons … I just saw them in something the other day. (I can’t remember what show it was … Clearly the gun made a bigger impression than the film.)

  5. I remember the Calico popping up a couple times as well.

    Video games are as bad as Hollywood, and in some cases worse. My personal favorite is still the Soma assault rifle, from Warframe. It doesn’t look terrible, but for some reason the magazine feeds from the top and ratchets its way through the rifle downward.

    Excuse me, sir, how am I supposed to AIM with this thing?

  6. Larry Correia does a good bit about writing future weapons.
    http://monsterhunternation.com/2010/05/14/ask-correia-3-sci-fi-weapons/

    However, we are not talking about how it is used, we are talking about how it looks.

    Yes, the FN P90 may be selected because it starts out looking futuristic, but do not assume that looking like today’s rifle means it shoots like today’s rifle. Prop people need to start somewhere, and something like the Beretta U22 NEOS would be a good place to start for a pistol, just like the P90 is a good place to start for a rifle.

    Heck, Han Solo’s blaster started out as a Mauser C96.

    1. I read the post. Then I read some of the comments. Then I followed the link in the post. And so on…

      Two hours later…

  7. Fun fact: the original concept for the assault rifle for the first Halo game looked so similar to the FN2000, FN threatened a law suit if they didn’t change the design.

  8. One of my favorite sci-fi guns comes from the Honor Harrington series of novels by David Weber. The main heroine of the series, Honor, carries a reproduction M1911A1 in honest to John Moses Browning .45 ACP… It was a gift from her uncle, who built it as a project as part of his Society for Creative Anachronism hobby. That’s how you justify putting a modern gun in the hands of your far future space hero!

    Weber also has most of the other characters react to it with a mix of horror and amusement. They’re all used to electronic mag-coil “sliver guns” that make virtually no noise and fill the target full of itty-bitty hyper-accelerated needles. A .45 ACP is basically a goddamn cannon by comparison. It only fires a single, slow, and heavy projectile. But it causes massive bodily trauma and a horrible exit wound…

    Your Grace,” [Honor] said, “I have only one question. Do you wish this man crippled, or dead?

  9. For a competent treatment of personal weapons in SF, not surprisingly you can go to L. Neil Smith. Libertarian and gun rights activist, former gun smith… he understands. So he uses familiar items like .38 S&W, not so familiar ones like the Grizzly Win Mag, or fictional but plausible sounding firearms like the Ngu Departure and the .270 REN “Staggercyl” 12-shooter. He also has electric needle guns somewhere, not to mention lasers and plasma guns.
    Quite apart from that, he writes good stories.

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