Been having a bit of a creature feature craving lately so this weekend I sat down and watched Them! and Aliens. I've got to say that I prefer Them! A much superior film. Just imagine what it could have been like with today's top line special effects! Anyway, while watching Aliens I got to thinking about the hardware the Colonial Marines carry. The Smart Gun and Pulse rifle tend to stand out in the movie. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that a lot of people could name a Pulse Rifle before some of the characters' names.
The thing about the Smart Gun which made it smart- and which wasn't really explained in the movie- is that it operates like the remote sentry guns: a scanner mounted on the gun detects movement and moves the gun automatically towards the target, hence the articulated arm on which the gun is mounted. The gunner helps to steer the weapon but seems to be essentially little more than a mobile platform.
From The Colonial Marines Technical Manual- "There's no need to fight the gun; just be firm and it'll point where you want it"
It's a neat idea but I'm not fond of the concept at all because I like sci-fi details like this to be rooted in practicality. Giant ants and aliens I can accept but an MG attached to the shooter meaning that they can't get prone? Nah, I don't buy it. Rumour has it that James Cameron originally developed the gun to be used in Rambo III.
The Pulse Rifle- the M41A- is another kettle of fish altogether. It's probably the most famous sci-fi weapon (with Robocop's modified Beretta 93R next?) and that's down to it's looks and sound. Pulse Rifles sound cool. The rifle was made up from a Thompson with the grenade launcher section coming from a Remington 870 and the cowling from a SPAS 12. My only problem with the M41A was the notion that the magazines, which we see in the film at several points to be very slim, hold 100 rounds of 10mm ammo- not likely. I'd have preferred it if the effects people had made up a thicker magazine to fill up the chunky magazine housing, but that's just because I'm a real geek with too much time on my hands to think about this sort of stuff. Anyway, at risk of sounding like a sixteen year old nerd, Pulse Rifles are cool.
BTW, my own personal favourite sci-fi weapon has got to be Deckard's blaster from Blade Runner, which was made up using the action from a Steyr SSG bolt action rifle. Any other ideas?