GeDeCo Suram Rifle
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue
The Suram rifle is something of an oddity: a deliberately low-tech weapon manufactured using high technology. The General Development Corporation operating in the Trojan Reach created the rifle for use on underdeveloped worlds where high- or medium-technology ammunition and maintenance utilities may be scarce. There are whole ranges of GeDeCo goods that work on the same basic principle: high-tech manufactured gadgets that are sturdy and serviceable, and can be maintained and repaired with local materials at a much lower technology level than they were produced at.
As such, the Suram is either sold to low-TL barbarian tribes of the Reach as part of GeDeCo’s development programme, or issued to operatives or settlers on frontier worlds. It has been very successful in all these roles, and pirated copies have made their way into the Spinward Marches, where they are found on low-tech worlds or in self-sufficient enclaves.
Use and Effect
The Suram is a rugged breechloading gun with two long rifled barrels in an over-and-under configuration. It is loaded much like an ancient cap-and-ball revolver; the chamber is filled with gunpowder, and a round bullet made from zinc or lead inserted. A lever is pulled to work a loading ram that compresses the powder and primes the chamber. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer strikes a shaped piece of flint against a grooved iron surface, igniting the powder and triggering the shot. The firer may choose to fire only one barrel or both at the same time; if both are triggered simultaneously, a single attack roll is made, with a -1 modifier, but if successful, the target is hit two times.
Ammunition may be carried in sturdy waterproof wax-paper cartridges that hold the correct amount of powder and a bullet each. The cartridge is ripped open for use, and acts as a funnel to pour the powder into the breech.
Ready-made cartridges containing high-quality, finely ground powder and precision-forged sintered zinc-alloy ball can be obtained from GeDeCo outlets, but the prime advantage of the rifle is that ammunition can be easily manufactured even in outlying communities. Simple black powder can be mixed from two parts charcoal, three parts sulphur and thirteen to fifteen parts saltpeter, all of which are readily obtainable even in primitive societies. Similarly, suitable bullets may be made from any soft metal, preferrably lead, tin, zinc, or copper; casting tongs for the correct caliber are supplied with the rifle and fit neatly into a bracket in the gun’s stock.
Homemade ammunition will yield very different results from batch to batch, depending on the quality of the basic ingredients, how finely ground and pure the powder is, and the specific weight of the ball’s material. A shooter using homemade cartridges will be at -1 to all shots until xe has zeroed the rifle with a few (1D6) trial shots (on a successful ROUTINE, Gun combat/slug, UNCERTAIN, SAFE check). Every new batch of ammunition needs to be zeroed again, as each may behave differently from the last batch.
Any of the Suram’s parts, if damaged or worn out, can be replaced or repaired at TL 2 (approximately the early Terran Renaissance age) using local materials, although the gun’s performance may decrease somewhat – it is not possible for a low-technology gunsmith to match GeDeCo’s original exacting tolerances. The result is usually workable, though. It is not unusual to see a Suram with its barrels replaced by locally-made smoothbores, or sporting a replacement stock inlaid with ivory and decorated with tribal patterns.
The Suram Rifle in Use
When it is introduced to primitive cultures, the Suram is usually superior to the local weapons and becomes a prestige weapon carried by chieftains, champions or the retinues of kings. In societies where hunting is important, it is usually the chief hunters that are issued the rifle. In most cases, this period is followed by a phase of rapid technological advancement as local gunsmiths start copying the principle and experimenting with the gun – which is exactly what GeDeCo intends. The rifle is high-tech enough to trigger the natives’ curiosity as to the underlying principles of its manufacture, but low enough on the technological scale not to induce cultural shock.
The rifle’s breechloading mechanism and lever-action loading ram make it possible to reload without standing up, which places it at a definite advantage over muzzle-loading TL2 and 3 muskets. Its range is also significantly greater, and the folding range-scaled iron sights ensure that a trained soldier is able to exploit this characteristic to the fullest. The rifle’s superiority usually enables a nation or city-state equipped with it to quickly surpass or conquer its neighbours. GeDeCo routinely sells the rifles to those tribes and nations whose rulers are favourable to trade and contact, to give them an advantage over hostile or isolationistic neighbours.
In this way, the company sows the seeds of technological progress and ensures that those states favouring interstellar trade are also the most influential on the planet. At the same time, the rifles are still very much inferior to automatic weapons or laser rifles, so if a ruler backed by GeDeCo turns out to be a bad choice, xe can still be easily defeated by mercenary troops in the company’s employ.
Being easy to use and very robust, Surams tend to stay in circulation long after the society has progressed to a higher technological level; even after a planet’s equivalent of the Industrial Revolution, rural communities and the planet’s Third World regions may still have a Suram knockoff in every hut.
Settlers on newly colonised planets also favour the Suram as a hunting rifle, because of its rugged reliability and its independence from external supplies. This has created a “secondary market” of explorers, settlers and frontiersmen. The Suram’s success in these circles prompted the Imperial Scout Service to commission the Scout Carbine from GeDeCo, which shares many parts and operates on a similar principle (to be covered in a later article).
|Suram rifle||10||150 m||3D||5 kg||Cr300||2||Cr 5||ROUTINE (6+) Gun combat (slug) check to reload|
|using poor homemade ammunition||10||100 m||3D-3||5 kg||n/a||2||Cr 5||ROUTINE (6+) Gun combat (slug) check to reload|
|w/ shortened barrels||10||100 m||3D||4 kg||n/a||2||Cr 5||ROUTINE (6+) Gun combat (slug) check to reload|
|shortened barrels and poor ammunition||10||75 m||3D-3||4 kg||n/a||2||Cr 5||ROUTINE (6+) Gun combat (slug) check to reload|
|w/ homemade smoothbore barrels||2||75 m||3D||5 kg||n/a||2||Cr 5||ROUTINE (6+) Gun combat (slug) check to reload;-1 to shooting|