Guns of the Future… Today: While the “far future” may hold the promise of blasters, phasers, disrupters, and all sorts of laser or plasma-based weapons, the “near future” likely will see weapons that aren’t much different from what we use today. Firearm evolution isn’t dead, but it tends to focus on enhancements such as better ergonomics and improved form factor.
So-called “smart guns” that are equipped with digital ammunition counter, built-in targeting systems, and other high-tech gizmos have thus far proven to be more hype than reality.
Developed for NATO in the mid-1980s by the Belgian-based FN Herstal, the P-90 personal defense weapon (PDW) is a compact yet powerful firearm that has been in service since the early 1990s with vehicle crews, operators of crew-served weapons, support personnel, special operators and counter-terrorist teams. It essentially takes on the features of a “bullpup” assault weapon, where the action and magazine feed are concentrated aft of the trigger unit, and this allows a full-length barrel to be utilized in a more compact package, but with a modern twist.
Typically with bullpups the magazine is located in the underside of the stock, but designer Stephane Ferrard placed the transparent magazine on the top of the weapon. This resulted in a fixed, slightly oversized stock that included an integrated pistol grip and carrying handle. The result is a weapon that is just 19.9 inches in length and unloaded weighs just 5.7 pounds.
The Belgian-made FN P-90 remains a go-to weapon today – not just for the forty-some international police and military users around the world – but for movie and TV armorers who desire such a “futuristic” looking yet compact submachine gun. The P-90 can be seen in such films as The Hunger Games and Looper, as well as in sci-fi TV series such as Stargate: SG1 and Doctor Who.
The first truly successful bullpup design, the Steyr AUG was developed for the Austrian Army in the 1970s. The select-fire weapon, which utilizes a conventional gas-piston-operated action and fires from a closed bolt, was based around a Modular Weapon System that allowed it to be quickly configured as a rifle, a carbine, a sniper rifle, a submachine gun or even as an open-bolt squad automatic weapon.
It is another weapon that has appeared in movies and TV shows as a weapon of the future. It first appeared in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy when it was carried by Soviet soldiers. It later appeared in RoboCop but the first true “action star” to carry it onscreen was actually pop singer Madonna in the film Who’s That Girl. It was later featured prominently in the film Die Hard, and was reportedly chosen to show a more exotic weapon than the M16s carried by the LAPD’s SWAT team.
Some firearm designers have attempted to “reinvent” the wheel, but the developers of the KRISS Vector simply looked to improve upon it. Whereas other submachine guns have a tendency to pull up and to the right, the Vector’s patented system, instead allows the block and bolt to recoil off-axis into a recess behind the weapon’s magazine well. In fact, the in-line design nearly eliminates the recoil and muzzle climb. The Vector fires from a closed bolt and is a select fire weapon offering semi-automatic, two-round burst and full-auto modes. In the latter it has a rate of fire upwards of 1,100 rounds per minute—a blisteringly impressive rate for a modern SMG.
In addition, the Vector SMG was developed to meet the needs of close quarter battle (CQB) and law enforcement SWAT operators, and the weapon’s mass has been placed very close to the shooter. The barrel is in line with both the shooter’s shoulder and hand, much like a target pistol, and this further reduces the recoil and muzzle climb. It further allows for fast target acquisition and transitions but also makes the Vector SMG easy to maneuver in tight spaces. The KRISS Vector has been seen in such films as the 2012 remake of Total Recall and the 2014 remake of Robocop, and has appeared in John Wick: Chapter 2 and Taken 3.
Since its introduction, the Kel-Tec KSG has proven to be true 21st century take on the iconic “double barreled shotgun,” and it offers the biggest leap forward in shotgun technology in more than a century. Instead of a magazine tube, which necessitates an overly long weapon, or a vertical box magazine that limits the compact nature of a CQB (close quarters battle) weapon, the KSG features a dual-tube magazine that provides the ability to change out the ammunition load without emptying the shotgun. The two magazines are parallel to one another and use no extra vertical space.
The military/law enforcement KSG Tactical is about as compact as it comes, and is just an inch and half over a foot in length, while it weighs just 6.2 pounds (2.8 kg) unloaded. Yet it can still hold 4+4+1 or 5+5+1, depending on shell size. This allows the weapon to be configured and then adjusted as the mission is determined – where one tube could be used with mini-shells the other could be filled with 3-inch buckshot. A manual selector level allows for either a fast reload or swift ammunition change on the fly. The KSG could be seen in Suicide Squad, John Wick, and TV’s The Black List.
Briefcase guns have been seen in a number of films, but most are non-functional props. The Magpul FMG-9 is also an actual weapon that borrowed elements from the Folding Machine Gun designed by Francis J. Warin for Eugene Stoner’s company ARES Inc. in the 1980s. Warin conceived of a self-defense gun for high-ranking politicians and wealthy businessmen in kidnapping prone nations.
The FMG-9 built on that concept using a modified Glock 18 machine pistol, and a mocked up version (possibly an Airsoft gun) appeared in 2012’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence. Now a fresh take on the FMG9 could hit the market as the Folding Defensive Carbine-9 (FDC-9), a discrete PDW developed by Zev Technologies. While it would still be an NFA-regulated short-barreled rifle, it could be just the thing to give professional bodyguards a bit some added firepower – and possibly look good in the movies.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is a Contributing Writer for Forbes Magazine.