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Old July 2nd, 2017, 03:36 PM
nobby-w nobby-w is offline
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Default Musings on the humble ACR

What might the ACR market look like after a few centuries or millenia?

The humble ACR is the AK of the Traveller universe, forming the staple of many a mercenary campaign. Although considered obsolescent it is arguably the most widely used small arm in most Traveller settings. Most Traveller rule system variants make it reasonably effective against all but the heaviest body armour.

I dare say some folks in this forum have implemented similar ideas in their 'verses, and I have certainly been using most of these since the 1980s. However, here's an article that pulls it together in one place and pontificates a little on the wider ecosystem of the ACR.

A common design like this inspires variants and an ecosystem of components and third-party manufacturers. Similar phenomena can be seen with AK designs (many third party factories during the cold war) and the ecosystem of AR pattern rifles and parts on today's market. Here are some thoughts on what this sort of market might look like in a Traveller 'verse.

Major ACR Variants
Here is a starter for some major ACR variants that might have sufficiently unique characteristics to be noteworthy.
  • Standard battle rifle: This is the ACR as described in Mercenary and various other rule sets. It is described in depth elsewhere, but we'll note its key features as: Electronic sight, Gyro unit and RAM grenade launcher.
  • Personal defence weapon: A cut down version for self-defence by rear-echelon troops, or possibly used for built-up locations or other confined areas. This would be 10-15cm shorter than a standard ACR, perhaps 0.5kg lighter at 3kg and would miss most of the key features listed above. It is fitted with simple iron sights or maybe an optical or parallax sight and is somewhat cheaper at around Cr400.
  • Counter-sniper variant: This is a variant of the ACR with a heavier barrel, designed to issue to designated marksmen or similar specialists. Although not a true sniping weapon, this has a longer effective range than a standard ACR. It is fitted with a match barrel, a bipod, an uprated sight and a gyro unit, but no grenade launcher. At Cr2,000 this variant is more expensive than a standard ACR due to the higher spec barrel, sight and quality control. It is also somewhat heavier at 4.5kg.
  • Light Support Weapon: A heavy barrel variant designed to provide section level fire support. It can take a larger magazine (which could also be fitted to a standard ACR) and the barrel has an up-rated heat sink to facilitate higher rates of fire. This variant has a bipod, a sight similar to that on the standard ACR but no grenade launcher.

Other weapons firing the same ammunition
The ubiquitious nature of the ACR makes ammunition relatively cheap, both due to economies of scale in manufacture and presence of surplus ammunition on the secondary market. A variety of other weapons are introduced - both military and civilian - to make use of the commonality of ammunition with the ACR.
  • 'Advanced' Machine Gun (AMG): A general purpose machine gun firing the same ammunition as an ACR. This could be mounted on a vehicle or carried by infantry. It is fed from a belt of ammunition held in a box that can be attached to the side of the weapon; some variants can take two belts, or a belt and a secondary magazine feed. It has a bipod, a sight similar to that on the ACR and a much heavier barrel with a heat sink arrangement for heat dissipation. The heavy barrel and heatsink make this weapon much heaver than a standard ACR at approximately 8kg with a unit cost around Cr5,000
  • 9mm Rotary Gun: A gatling style rotary gun with a high rate of fire. This can be mounted on grav sleds or other vehicles, typically in pintel mounts such as door guns. Ammunition is fed from drums holding approximately 1,000 rounds (some may be larger). Even on an unstabilised pintel mount, the rate of fire makes them quite effective against ground targets. Rotary guns of this type can be mounted on a tripod but the consumption of ammunition makes them somewhat impractical as infantry weapons. The base weapon weighs approximately 15kg with a unit cost around Cr10,000.
  • 9mm Rifle: A civilian hunting rifle built to fire the same ammunition as the ACR, taking advantage of wide availability and low cost. The relatively powerful 9mm rounds make this weapon a popular hunting rifle against medium-sized animals up to 2,000kg. Some variants of this are purpose built hunting rifles and some are little more than commercial variants of the ACR modified to comply with local regulations. Usually these rifles will lack the electronic sights, gyro units and grenade launcher, substantially reducing the price to approximately Cr350; normally the rifle will weigh around 3kg. Normally civilian variants of the rifle use a smaller 5 or 10 round magazine, although many will fit standard ACR magazines as well.
  • Sniping or match Rifles: Although lasers tend to be popular in sniping roles, sniper rifles firing ACR ammunition do get issued in quantity. These tend to be purpose-built weapons rather than accuratised versions of the ACR. Normally they are fitted with a bipod, high-specification sight and a heavy match barrel. Some may take smaller magazines but (like civilian rifles) many will accept standard ACR magazines. The heavy barrel and high-specification sight mean this type of weapon typically weighs approximately 6kg with a typical unit cost of Cr5,000

High-tech life extension programmes
Although it has reasonable penetration, the discarding sabot ammunition used by the ACR is designed primarily for high volume manufacture, sacrificing some performance in order to make it cheap enough to issue as a standard service round to infantry. Higher-tech body armour makes these rounds less effective from TL11-12, giving the ACR its reputation for obsolescence.

At TL12, stable superdense armour technology also informs superdense penetrators for armour piercing rounds, and TL12 superdense armour-piercing rounds are often used to extend the service life of existing ACRs. These are substantially more expensive than standard DS rounds but have higher penetration, making the ACR effective enough against this type of armour to remain useful.

This type of armour piercing round might be expected to have a unit cost an order of magnitude more than standard D/S ammunition. It is also less of a mass-market item than standard D/S rounds so is likely to be less widely available to riffraff like your party. However, a well connected dealer may be able to lay their hands on a few cases from time to time ...

Third party modifications and accessories
One might also expect to see a variety of third-party modifications and accessories such as uprated sights, attachments for torches or laser spot projectors or even bottle openers.

Where might one encounter these?
(Or, how are a bunch of riffraff like your party going to get hold of them)
  • Most of these would be germane to a mercenary campaign, although one could reasonably encounter some of these items in a more general adventuring setting.
  • The 9mm rifle (or a match grade variant) might be a popular civilian sporting weapon due to availability of relatively cheap surplus ammunition. With appropriate permits it might be imported into many jurisdictions without looking out of the ordinary.1 It just happens to be capable of firing armour-piercing ammo ...
  • ACR or PDW variants might be found in a ship's locker, in the hands of NPCs, or purchased through not-so-legal channels by a streetwise party. ACRs are widely available on the grey market so all sorts of shadier folks might be encountered using them. PDW variants are shorter and handier and may be more popular with criminal elements such as gangs. Depending on local law level and what's being secured one might also encounter police or security guards carrying ACRs. ACRs are going to be the most widely used service rifle in most regions of a Traveller 'verse so they're a sort of de-facto standard for arming folks who might have cause to defend themselves as a part of their job.
  • Support weapons might be issued to troop units in a mercenary setting. Rotary guns might be fitted to a grav sled, perhaps as door gun mounts.
Because of their ubiquitous nature they are also likely to be imported to worlds with lower tech levels. Poorer worlds might not be able to afford ACRs and may drop back to rifles or assault rifles, but the ubiquitous nature of the ACR means it will show up in all sorts of places.

1For example, one could make a roll on 2D for 8+ with a DM of -1 per law level over 5. Positive DMs might be allowed for skills such as Admin or Hunting.

I've got some stats for these in various CT/MT era combat systems. BBCode table syntax is quite fiddly but I can write up what I've used if folks are interested.

Last edited by nobby-w; July 2nd, 2017 at 07:41 PM..
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