A three-barrelled high-velocity .25 calibre air rifle that could be switched from triple volley to full auto, hung from the flexible mounting above the cockpit. A ground-crewman checked the two racks inside the cockpit filled with 180-round magazines … With a comparatively high rate of fire of one hundred and eighty rounds a minute, they were able to direct an almost continuous rain of nickel-coated lead …
‒ Patrick Tilley, The Amtrak Wars 1: Cloud Warrior (1983)
Patrick Tilley’s The Amtrak Wars (1983-1990) is a six-part epic chronicling the events in 2989/2994 AD prior to the fulfilment of the “Talisman Prophecy.” It is set in a devastated and substantially changed North America, with several factions involved in a deadly struggle for supremacy. These include various tribes of Mutes, the Iron Masters, and the Amtrak Federation ‒ inexplicably changed to the Lone Star Confederation in the later reissue, making the many train connections obsolete. It is perfect as a setting for a GURPS After the End campaign.
Here I would like to present my interpretation of the primary small arm of the Amtrak Federation in GURPS terms. This is an air rifle, a triple-barrelled burst-fire weapon that is used by the Trail-Blazers both as an infantry shoulder weapon and as the flexible armament of the Skyhawk MK 1 ultra-light aircraft. It will work especially well together with my article “Tactical Shooting: Tomorrow” in Pyramid #3/55.
Unfortunately, the six novels and the encyclopaedic Dark Visions: An Illustrated Guide to the Amtrak Wars (1988) authored by Tilley present contradicting specifications for the air rifle. For example, the calibre is variously given as .25 (6.35mm) or .125 (3.125mm), the magazine capacity is given as 180 rounds or 60 rounds ‒ in either case the magazine is supposed to be small enough to store in a breast pocket ‒ and the cyclic rate of fire is given as 180 rounds per minute, which is really rather slow. The main problem is that realistically, pressurised air severely limits the maximum muzzle velocity to around 375 m/s (1,230 fps). This in turn limits the overall muzzle energy. Below I present three different interpretations.
This uses the parameters listed in The Amtrak Wars 1: Cloud Warrior. This version gets a reasonable Dmg that lines up with the descriptions in the books. However, the 180-round magazine is pretty bulky and not as easily carried as the book suggests.
Amtrak Air Rifle MK 1, .25 (Amtrak Federation, 287?-)
The air rifle is a three-barrelled air gun firing .25-calibre full-metal jacket projectiles. The 2.8-lb. lightweight high-density magazine holds 180 rounds in three different compartments, each feeding one barrel. The gun is able to fire three-round high-cyclic controlled bursts (GURPS High-Tech, p. 83) or full automatic at RoF 3 (note that this is not enough to actually gain a Rapid Fire bonus). Firing three bursts gives an acceptable RoF 9#. A 1-lb. pressurised air bottle under the barrel cluster acts as propellant. It lasts for 540 shots (three magazines). The air rifle has virtually no firing signature (GURPS Ultra-Tech, p. 139) – no muzzle flash, no smell, no infrared signature, and no ejected cartridge case (GURPS Tactical Shooting, pp. 34-35). It also makes little sound (High-Tech, p. 158) – “chu-witt-chu-witt-chu-witt!”
The air rifle is a “smartgun” (p. B278) and features an integral HUD link (Ultra-Tech, p. 149), with its digital camera and targeting laser assembly (Pyramid #3/55, p. 8) in the carrying handle on top of the action. Trail-Blazers typically wear a helmet with integral MK 1 Target Acquisition and Ranging Display (TARA). Rifle and helmet are linked by a umbilical. There is a 4× telescopic sight (High-Tech, p. 155) in the handle in case the rifle has to be used without the helmet. An improved thermal-imaging sight (High-Tech, p. 157) that simply clips in front of the scope is also available.
The entire weapon is camouflaged (Tactical Shooting, p. 76), typically in the four-colour red/orange/brown/black pattern of the overground.
This uses the parameters listed in all the novels after the first, with .125-calibre barrels and three 60-round magazines. This has pathetic performance and the use of three magazines makes not only for a bulky weapon layout but also means that reloading takes three times as long as with one magazine. The individual magazines, however, are small enough to be carried in a pocket, as claimed in the books. An illustration of this version can be found in Dark Visions (p. 48), although that is an ergonomic nightmare designed by people who seem to lack familiarity with rifle-use of any kind.
Amtrak Air Rifle MK 1, .125 (Amtrak Federation, 287?-)
The air rifle is a three-barrelled air gun firing .125 full-metal jacket projectiles. It uses three 0.11-lb. lightweight magazines each holding 60 rounds, each feeding one barrel. All the other parameters are as per Version A.
Already the first novel mentions “needle-pointed” projectiles but uses an otherwise imprecise technical description. The Amtrak Wars 4: Blood River seems to suggest that the projectiles are really .125-calibre flechettes ‒ it mentions “finned” and “darts … designed to keyhole on impact, causing explosive wounding.” Using saboted flechettes fired from .25-calibre barrels solves the calibre issue and also increases the muzzle velocity, although Dmg is still sub-par. Saboted flechettes cannot be reconciled with the descriptions in any of the books, which call for classical jacketed lead projectiles, often described as “steel-tipped” and “copper-jacketed.” Although Dark Visions and the later novels firmly establish that the weapon has three 60-round magazines, my version keeps the 180-round magazine of the first novel. This is still pretty large, but much lighter.
Amtrak Air Rifle MK 1, .25 (Amtrak Federation, 287?-)
The air rifle is a three-barrelled air gun firing .125-calibre flechettes through .25-calibre barrels using sabots ‒ so-called SAPFSDS ammunition (High-Tech, p. 168; note that it defies the minimum calibre of 10mm/.40). The single 1.3-lb. lightweight high-density magazine holds 180 rounds in three different compartments, each feeding one barrel. All the other parameters are as per Version A.
See pp. B268-271 for an explanation of the statistics.
GUNS (RIFLE) (DX-4 or most other Guns at ‑2)
|9||Version A: Amtrak Air Rifle MK 1, .25||2d+1 pi||3||230/2,400||10/2.8||9#||180(5)||9†||-5||2||$00||2|||
|9||Version B: Amtrak Air Rifle MK 1, .125||1d pi-||3||110/800||9/0.11×3||9#||60×3 (3×3)||9†||-5||2||$00||2|||
|9||Version C: Amtrak Air Rifle MK 1, .25||2d+1(2) pi-||3||350/3,600||10/1.3||9#||180(3)||9†||-5||2||$00||2|||
 Very Reliable. Won’t malfunction unless lack of maintenance lowers Malf. (p. B407).