Monday, October 3, 2011

On scytheguns

Hi all,

In one of my stories ("Forgiveness"), I made reference to a bug-hunting weapon called a "scythegun." Following the story, someone asked a question about what these guns were and how they worked.

I never answered this because there is no definite answer. I figured not every hunter would be ill-equipped for the job--someone must have a gun that would "mow down" the bugs easily. This thought of mowing down is why I came up with the term "scythegun." Once I thought of it, I used it because I thought the word sounded cool. I never detailed what it was or how it worked. Such details were unimportant to the story I wrote at the time.
I figured if anyone else wanted to use a scythegun and explain how it works, he or she could make up whatever sounded plausible. I figured the term "scythegun" did not have to be linked to an actual scythe because it could be a sort of brand name, assuming brand names exist in the future world of Avenir Eclectia.
If you want me to make something up, I can do that on the spot: I heard once that a military engineer had an idea to link two cannonballs by chain and fire them from two separate cannons at the same time. The idea was the cannonballs linked by chain would form a line of destruction, not only killing what the cannonballs hit, but everything in between them that would be hit by the chain, hugely multiplying the potential destructive force. In practice, however, one of the cannons always fired slightly before the other, so that cannonball would arc around in a loop while the other ball was still anchored to the inside of its cannon. This proved fatal to cannon crews and effectively "killed" the idea.
So I'd make a scythegun a double barrel kinetic energy weapon, firing two small shotput sized balls linked by chain. A modern machine could time them so they come out at exactly the same time. This would punch two fist-sized holes in the bug's exoskeleton maybe 1 to 2 meters apart and cut through the tissue in between. That would effectively scramble the bug internal organs in an instant without breaking the exoskeleton into minute fragments as a large explosive projectile would do.
You could set it up so the scythegun fires one ball at a slightly faster speed (though still simultaneously leaving the barrels). I think that would make the two balls and chain whirl through the air, spinning with a sinister-sounding whoosh, perhaps becoming more accurate over distance due to rotational stability. I didn't describe that whoosh in my story, but maybe not all scytheguns would work exactly the same--perhaps some could fire straight and some rotate. Speaking of not being exactly the same, crude scytheguns of the sort I just made up would be fired by gunpowder cartridges, while fancy once would be powered by EMF--Electromotive Force, essentially mini magnetic catapults electrically hurling out a steel-balls-and-chain set.
I hope the above is helpful and makes sense. Please let me know if I can help with these ideas any more in the future.


  1. Hmm... very interesting. With my cast of characters I don't have much use for something like a scythegun, but I'm a huge fan of weapons in general so this was very thought-provoking for me.

  2. It's partially my fault that he had to address this scythegun issue early on in the game, Mary Ruth. I went ahead and used it in one of my stories even though I didn't even know what it was because my miners needed to be well equipped to deal with any kind of bug since they are on the fringes of landside civilization. I pressed him for the answer.

    Thanks for explaining, Travis. I hope you don't mind that I put switches on the gun in my story. I sort of envisioned something more along the lines of the Ghost Buster's gun with lightening beams coming out of it, but the ball and chain version will work quite well in taking down those nasty critters.

  3. The damage done by the weaponry such as Travis' scythegun and the other hand cannons used by the meat hunters is the main reason the shell hunters use traps. This is talked about in a post scheduled for 13 October 2011, "Herding and Shell Hunting in Eclectia's High Country."

    Travis, what sort of ignition system is used on the scythegun? I'm assuming it uses powder of some sort (black, smokeless) or gun cotton (nitrocellulose).

  4. There's a great historical precedent for such a weapon: Chain shot, a special cannon load that used a chain between shells to cut through ship masts in the early days of naval warfare.

    There's also a contemporary specialty shot gun shell called 'Bolo Shells' that uses a steel cable between slugs.

    I've often thought that the best way to take down a giant beastie the size of a T-Rex or even Godzilla would be a similiar projectile weapon with a mono-filament wire in between that would slice through things on a molecular level.

  5. To comment on some comments, I had never heard of a "bolo shell" but I am familiar with historical chain shot. I was thinking of essentially the same thing as a bolo shell, but fired from two barrels instead of contained in a single casing, making projectiles on a larger scale.

    Scythegun ignition could be with switches for a modern electric railgun type. An older model using gunpowder would have a trigger like a double-barreled shotgun.

    Hope that's helpful!

  6. Thanks, Travis. I'll keep the information in mind.