In the world of The Star-Runner Chronicles, gunblades are a relatively recent invention. The first stable prototype was completed in the year 1018 P.W.D. by a weaponsmith by the name of Artemis Rainier, who sought to prevent swordsmen from becoming obsolete by inventing a blade with the long-range capabilities of a combat rifle. From the very beginning, however, the development of this weapon was plagued with an endless stream of engineering challenges and technical difficulties.
Rainier began developing the gunblade in the year 987, after hearing the many complaints of warriors feeling put out and frustrated by the growing trend of militaries and paramilitary organizations attempting to phase out the use of time-tested melee weapons such as swords, spears, and axes in favor of the gun. As in our world, guns are efficient killing machines which allow anyone who can hold one, take aim, and pull the trigger to kill a target in one quick shot without even having to look it in the eye. The gun allows a fighter to detach himself from the kill and dehumanize his enemy much more easily as well…which is exactly what these expert swordsmen, lancers, and axemen were upset about! Many a warrior spoke of how the gun was slowly eroding long-standing traditions of respect between fighters in the field by making killing a man, as one veteran put it, “as easy as any child’s game!”
However, the very attributes about the gun that these traditionalist fighters hated were the ones that their superiors adored. Guns were easier to use, which meant it required less training to get a group of a hundred new recruits ready for battle. Guns made for a quicker kill, which meant that more enemy combatants could be taken down in a given time frame. Guns kept fighters detached from the kill, which meant fewer soldiers going around contemplating things like honor and the value of a life when the main focus needed to be killing off the enemy and completing a specific goal. Of course, on top of all that, guns were also far more effective long-range weapons than any bow had ever been. So, honor and tradition be damned, every military and paramilitary organization wanted their fighters equipped with whatever would kill the most the easiest.
In his attempt to bridge the gap and keep traditional weapons and the skills required to use them from becoming mere footnotes in history, Rainier drew up plans for a hybrid weapon with the inner workings of a combat rifle and a sword blade fused to the barrel. His first prototype, however, lasted less than three minutes in field testing. The gun parts were too delicate to survive in working order after the weapon had been used to hack and slash a target. The components would break or be shaken loose in the process and the gun would jam or fail to fire…a potentially fatal scenario on the battle field. Another problem was that it did not survive well as a blade either. The barrel-blade combo broke off at the point where it attached to the rest of the weapon far too easily, another big no-no for a military-grade weapon.
Rainier returned to the drawing board hundreds of times over the next nineteen years, inventing sturdier parts and more durable bodies that could stand up to the punishment of an actual battle. Finally, in the autumn of 1018, Artemis Rainier sent out an open invitation to a demonstration of the AR-001 Blade Rifle. In attendance were generals, presidents, prime ministers, kings, and queens, as well as representatives from such organization as The International Werewolf Hunters’ Association (IWHA), The Grande League of Monster Hunters (GLMH), and hundreds of random warriors, technophiles, and weapons buffs.
The AR-001 performed extremely well in the demo and Rainier was nearly buried in orders directly afterward. The AR-001 was put into production just a week later…but there were problems. The first of these was that learning to efficiently switch between the melee and long range uses of the weapon was more difficult for most than anyone had anticipated. It required a lot of coordination and excellent timing to truly master and those who had little familiarity with swords or guns had the most difficulty of all!
Secondly, the AR-001 may have been sturdier than the prototypes which had come before it, but the jamming problem still cropped up about twice as frequently as in a combat rifle of equivalent power. The gun parts themselves needed more frequent maintenance as well, and often needed to be repaired or replaced after heavy melee use…especially the safety. This, of course, made the weapon very expensive and time-consuming to maintain in comparison to a regular sword or gun.
As Rainier and his team attempted to further refine the gunblade as they worked on the AR-002, the copycats came along. Some had blades fused to different types of guns (revolvers, shotguns, etc.), while others were straight knock-offs of the AR-001. Some were actually of slightly better quality…but most were a lot worse. It’s the glitches inherent in the AR-001 and the poorly designed copycat weapons which ultimately made gunblades into the worst disaster in the history of weaponry.
Militaries and paramilitary organizations soon abandoned the gunblade and went right back to their previous plans to phase out traditional melee weapons. For several intrepid weaponsmiths, however, the gunblade was far from a lost cause. These visionary inventors and engineers saw the great potential in Rainier’s concept and threw themselves into improving and even completely redesigning the gunblade to be a weapon truly worth wielding.
While live ammo type gunblades, such as the AR-001, have been greatly improved over the years, the greatest strides in gunblade technology have come from the development of magi-ammo types. Of course, guns which use magical energy as ammunition instead of live rounds are nothing new. The very first such weapons appeared in the early 860’s. However, they never quite took off because regular firearms were so efficient all by themselves. They still hung on as a niche market, though, and were mostly owned and used by mages or collectors of exotic weapons up until the gunblade revolution of the 1020’s.
For weaponsmiths and gun companies that specialized in magi-ammo firearms, gunblades were a new and exciting frontier. They were the one type of gun that was difficult to pull off with live ammo…the perfect platform for magi-ammo to show off its superiority. The very first magi-ammo gunblade, the Squall SQS-8.0, channeled the power of two 3.5 inch air magicels and concentrated it into wind bullets powerful enough to rip through a three inch thick steel wall. Unfortunately, since there was no power setting dial and each pair of magicels could produce only ten rounds of such incredible power before needing to be swapped out…well, it wasn’t a big seller. It was a good start, however.
The main advantage of magi-ammo type gunblades is that they are sturdier, due to requiring fewer moving parts. Rune channel models require none at all, due to the fact that the magic is drawn directly from the wielder’s own spell casting ability. Because they run on magic, most magi-ammo types also possess and “elemental blade” mode, which allows the wielder to charge the weapon’s blade with elemental magic in order to deal extra damage to an enemy. Some of the newer models even allow the wielder to charge the blade with healing magic, which is not only advantageous against the undead, but also a convenient (if sometimes awkward) way to quickly heal comrades in the heat of battle.
Although gunblade technology has made great strides over the past twenty-five years, the vast majority of militaries have not given these weapons a second chance. The technology has improved to create more stable and reliable weapons, but the level of skill and talent needed to wield a gunblade efficiently has not changed. Paramilitary organizations such as the IWHA have given the go-ahead for their members to wield them “at their own risk,” however. Most gunblade wielders today are mercenaries, pirates, and independent adventurers, and most of the best wielders were already well-trained swordsmen and marksmen before taking up the gunblade.
Well, that does it for this week. Join us next week for an informative piece on sealing spells! Until then, you can find The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner now on Amazon.com (print and Kindle ebook), createspace.com (print book), and Tower Books (print book). Also, mark your calendars for the release of Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire, coming the first week of November! And, if you want to keep up with status updates on the upcoming release and other randomness, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @DanielleVFreman. You don’t have to follow me on Twitter…but it would be a nice gesture all the same.