One of the social proposals to support the rapid expansion of the human presence in outer space is the supposition of each asteroid colony devoting a tenth of its resources and population to founding yet another colony.
Howdy, all space buffs and armchair theorists! My name’s Clyde. Clyde Belshe. I’m an astronaut, and I love my job, just like all the others, here. But I’m not gonna talk about mines, smelters, and cutesy flowers and tomatoes grown in space.
I’m gonna talk about neighbors. The neighbors you will have in orbital space stations, Mars, and among the asteroid settlements. Neighbors you may not like very much, but they’ll be there. And if you’re smart and lucky, they’ll be close by. They won’t be people, you understand. But they’ll be necessary. They’ll be settlers just like yourself, and you’ll even know their names.
Samuel Colt, John Browning, and Jim Bowie.
Yes I know. Out in space, with the extreme dangers of vacuum, radiation, and a thousand things that can go wrong and kill you in just a few seconds, you’d think we’d all get along better. After all, we’d be facing all those dangers and depending on each other. But wherever two or more are gathered is one thing. When you get a dozen, two dozen, or a hundred dozen gathered and living together cheek by jowl, then tensions are gonna develop, sure as gamma rads. And some of those differences are gonna be settled with shock and awe.
Now the futurist hacks love to talk about lasers, particle beams, plasma projectors, and magnetic rifles. But they’re expensive and complicated to make. Especially when you cram all that fancy gear into a pistol-sized weapon. Let’s face it, everyone knows when you fire a laser, no bullet can match 180,000 miles per second. However, when you’re in a room where the range is ten feet, then the difference means nothing. Let’s also face the fact that those fellow settlers are way less costly to make than any of the fancy Buck Rogers stuff. The steel, lead, and bit of propellant that go into these gents and their products (bullets) can be made up in any shipboard machine shop or a branch tunnel in a settler’s rock. We’re looking at cost effectiveness, here.
Even in the future, a .45 bullet can settle a lot of arguments. It can be spoken from the mouth of a revolver or a semi-auto pistol, but its message will be delivered,
hard and fast.
On the other hand, we can’t neglect the fact that in a microgravity environment, particularly on those asteroids where there is no spin yet for artificial gravity, the effects of recoil will be greatly exaggerated. A man firing even a pistol would be violently thrust backwards, or his arm would spin around and him too. For that matter, a man firing a submachine gun would become a lethal pinwheel, spreading bullets all over the place like a sprinkler system.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way. A simple folding bar could be attached under the barrel of almost any weapon. This bar can be swung down and locked, allowing the user to hook it over any secured, convenient mass, such as the edge of a bolted-down table, the side of a door, or over a piece of machinery. In space, where deep cold could make the metal of a gun brittle, a simple battery with a heating element could be attached, or even connected to the power pack of a suit.
Oh. -You say firearms will be forbidden in a fragile compartment where you don’t want any extra holes punched? That’s where Jim Bowie comes in. –Or one of his cousins, such as Fairbarne-Sykes or Mr. KaBar himself come to the fore.
Don’t get me wrong. They’re tools as well as weapons. Men and women have found a sturdy blade to be indispensable in all manner of home chores throughout the centuries, and in every single culture and place. Pioneer wives in the Old West on Earth had several in their kitchen, for everything from chopping potatoes to skinning deer. And yes, if some hormone-ridden wanted to make unwelcome advances on one when Hubby wasn’t around, she had the implements handy to change his mind in short order.
Soldiers have long used knives for chores such as opening cans and cutting branches. Astronauts will, too. In space, not all the environments will be steel and rock. There will be a need for blades out there as well. There can well be electrical wires to cut, fabrics that have to be trimmed, various forms of plastic pipes or paneling that have to be worked on, or even old space suits or small fixtures to be dismantled. Also the hollow handle of a typical knife is supremely handy for carrying extra wire, smaller tools, cutting cables, batteries, and whatnot.
However, we can’t forget that a blade is a blade. Every frontier society has a source of booze and drugs. Whether it is created in a hidden still or chem plant, or grown hidden in a hydroponics crop; some organic form of a buzz will reach those who want it, and it will bring out the worst, even if only for a short period of time.
One of those citizens can grow crazy some night, grab a piece of rebar or a length of pipe, and go hunting for justice in a crowded room. Unfortunately, Mr. Blade will have to respond.
Now there’s no need to get worried or depressed over this. Such things are just as much a part of life as a suit puncture or a failing engine. Most of the settlers will be too busy growing crops, processing ore, and constructing settlement additions to worry overmuch about bandits and crazies. There are metallic asteroids and dormant comets to find, claim, and then process and sell (volatiles and water will ALWAYS have a big market). There will be a crying need for transport pilots and crew of every size, and waypoint stations to make and staff. At those places, there will be spots where folks can eat in company, or a bar (yeah, made out of kerogen plastic or aluminum, but who’s complaining?) to have a quiet, legal drink, and there’s always that nice girl a few rocks away.
Just mind your business, make sure all your tools are clean, and keep your powder dry.