Admissions of Stunning Calibre

Vince of GalacticEmpireWars.com (who I commonly have referred to as Clonetrooper Vince as his site often seemed to be an HTML text version of Young's video arguments) has made a startling post at StarfleetJedi.Net.

"A little off topic but I have to admit, especially after re-watching the original series, that I do feel that phasers should be considered more potent than blasters (max settings). 
Because it doesn't matter what category we look at, vs organic, rock, walls, or metal, phasers have demonstrated the ability to destroy greater sums of mass (usually seems like a multiple). I don't think they are hundreds of times more powerful or anything like that, or compare to tank cannons, but more powerful nonetheless. Phaser resistant animals and materials must just be very well armoured."
That is a pleasingly shocking recognition coming from a staunch defender of Brian Young's Holy Grate argument, wherein a puff of smoke is claimed as instantaneous DET vaporization of iron, so hats off.

I responded with the below, and I felt it sufficiently interesting by itself to post it here:

Why Vince, I tip my hat. No offense, but I would've expected you to follow Young's reasoning and declare 23rd Century weapons more powerful.  Keep this up and I'll have to stop referring to you as Clonetrooper Vince and apologize.

Young's argument is that Starfleet of the 24th Century intentionally reduced the firepower of phasers, using as a model the modern reduction of battle rifle calibers from the WW1 and WW2 .30-06 (7.62x63mm) to a brief flirtation with 7.62 NATO (.308ish, 7.62x51mm) to today's 5.56 NATO (.223, or 5.56x39mm).

However, his argument rather ignores the rationales behind the reduction, and the fact of the 20th Century being a very transitional period for weapons. Circa 1900 is when most militaries were discovering the benefits of pointy bullets instead of round-nosed, for instance.

To summarize what follows, the modern philosophy is more rounds headed toward the enemy, which hardly applies to a beam weapon.

To expand this further:

If you have no idea about real firearms through history, start with a primer:

These are the battle rifles, not the height of technology ... it is the height of economical, mass-produced technology. The WW1-era BAR was a full-auto-capable magazine-fed twenty-pound .30-06 slinger, but too expensive to hand out like candy. Over a short time, however, we have reached a point where lightweight BAR-esque weapons are plausible for all.

1. Capacity

The M1 Garand dominated WW2 insofar as default infantry rifles because it was a semi-automatic -- a shot each trigger pull -- facing mostly bolt-action rifles where you have to load a new cartridge by manipulating a handle between each shot. Sure, it is possible to work a bolt-action fairly quickly, but not as quickly as you can fire a semi-auto burst, and certainly not after several minutes of sustained combat.

When it comes to a bolt-action, the speed of working the bolt is such that there is no real difference between a .22LR and a .30-06, so you might as well whack the shit out of the other guy if you hit him at the cost of reloading with a fresh clip (in the Garand's case) more often. Reloading only takes a small amount of time compared to your slow rate of fire.

But with semi-auto and full-auto, the game changes. Magazine or clip capacity suddenly is more of a determining factor of your sustained rate of fire, and since you can fire more often you need to carry more spare rounds. The Garand had 8-round clips, the M-16 usually has 30-round magazines.

2. Recoil

Less powder, as seen in the 12mm reduction of the 7.62s, means less bullet velocity, and thus less recoil hitting the shooter's shoulder. A less massive bullet, however, like the .223 allows even less powder and less recoil at similar bullet velocity.

The .30-06 is considered to be near the upper limit of comfortable recoil.

This has corollaries:

A. Gun weight

A heavy gun lessens felt recoil because the mass of the gun doesn't move as fast. Firing a lighter bullet with less recoil thus means your battle rifles need not be as heavy. Heavy equals slower, more tired dudes in an increasingly mobile force.

The Garand, for example, is a heavy SOB by modern standards.

B. Follow-up

Less recoil equates with better follow-up, all other aspects of gun design being equal. (I say that because there are other ways to deal with recoil, such as center of mass changes and even weird stuff, but that's a bit outside my scope at the moment, no pun intended.)

If you have an arm cannon chambered for 2-bore and an identical one chambered to .22LR, for instance, you can fire on the same point at greater rate with the .22, because while you are still dusting off your ass and nursing your sore shoulder after landing on your back with your arm cannon pointed at the sky, the gentle .22 has gotten back on target like six times and is entirely bored.

And of course, an old bolt-action sucks for this purpose, because you're off the trigger messing around with a separate doodad rather than getting back on target.

3. Damage

The 5.56 at certain barrel twist rates was thought to be a great tumbling round upon contact, flipping end over end and thus doing more damage to meaty targets. In other words, despite being smaller, it was believed to be punching well above its weight class.

A 7.62 poking a straight wound 7.62mm wound channel and going out the other side might lose a certain amount of energy in the meatbag, but a tumbling 5.56 would be similarly effective in delivering energy to the target, in other words. That was the theory, anyway.


So basically the idea was more shots with similar damage potential, better-handling guns, and more spare ammo, even if the pure KE-per-second is a bit less. So of those many points which led to the 5.56 (ignoring here the fact that many folks want a move to the Grendel and other 6 or 6.5mm rounds), what conclusions can we draw about phasers?

Well, the thing is, approximately zero of the above have any relevance in the world of phasers. It is possible to make up some different possible technobabble reasons, but most of them are silly.

So, too, is Brian's argument.


I hope to see more such fair posts in the future.  For myself, my follow-up to that post made the point that I would quite possibly prefer to take an SW weapon to war assuming certain things are true, so for those who try to claim I am an evil Trekkist or somesuch similar nonsense, there you go.

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