ISU study to demystify Hollywood’s science fiction guns

You’ve probably seen a bullpup gun even if you don’t know what it is. Millions of moviegoers have seen the futuristic-looking guns appear in the hands of Peacekeepers, the militarized law enforcers of the dystopian Capitol government in “The Hunger Games” films.

The unusual shapes of bullpup guns have also been featured in many past science fiction films such as the “Terminator” films, “Total Recall,” “Stargate” and the “Robocop” series. But military, law enforcement and civilian gun users remain divided over whether the bullpup design represents an improvement over conventional gun designs.

“This argument between bullpups and standard guns has been around for 60 years,” says Richard Stone, an associate professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering at Iowa State University.

To help settle this dispute, Stone conducted a study that had two showdowns between conventional and bullpup guns.

First, the conventional Smith & Wesson M&P15T (a variant of the M4 rifle) was pitted against a FN Herstal FS2000 (which coincidentally appears in “The Hunger Games” films). Second, a conventional Ruger 10/22 rifle went up agains the bullpup configuration of the Ruger 10/22 rifle.

Participants tested each of the guns in a “Vice President” combat drill that required them to fire 12 shots into three targets at a distance of 25 yards. Such a distance is roughly similar to the standard scenario for law enforcement officers engaged in firefights with “active shooter” suspects.

In the end, the bullpup guns showed a small but significant boost in accuracy compared to the conventional guns. Similarly, the biomechanical tracking of user stability found that the bullpup guns offered better stability for their users. Reload times and overall time to complete the drills were not significantly different from a statistical standpoint.

A post-study questionnaire showed that a majority of those participants favored the conventional guns in terms of comfort level — not surprising given how few U.S. military and civilian gun users have used bullpup guns. In fact, most believed they had performed better with the conventional guns before they saw the results.

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