One thing I see a lot of in game design is a lack of comprehension of firearms and how they do damage. Usually, the thought is “bigger number must mean bigger damage.” You’ll hear this echoed even in the gunnerati out there. (“If it doesn’t start with four and end in five, it’s not enough.”) Bullet punch a hole in things, and bigger holes can mean more bleeding, but they also drop a lot of their energy in a target on the way through creating a “temporary wound cavity. This is the idea behind the “hollow point” or from as they would be called in the 1930s, “dum-dums”; the hole in the front of the bullet acts as a brake, making the bullet fold outward and dropping more hydrostatic energy into the surrounding flesh.

And this means the energy of the bullet is more important than the cross-section (or the “caliber”, for the uninitiated.) That means small and fast bullets can deliver a lot of energy, on par or more than a slower, heavier bullet. (There are years and years of arguing about this going on, right now, on pretty much every gun-related board online.) Fast tends to mean flatter trajectories and more accuracy and well as higher energy; slower, heavier bullets punch a bigger wound channel and it is thought have more “felt energy”, what is sometimes and erroneously called “knockdown power.”

Hollow Earth Expedition gets a lot right in their desire to make weapons stats simple. Statistically, you need about two and a half hits with a pistol to incapacitate a person, and their 3L damage for just about every pistol is about right. Light pistols, which used weaker cartridges like .25 and .32, usually have 2L. If we are kind, and say the break point between 2L and 3L is about 200 ft-lbs. of energy, most of the damage ratings are correct. However, the problem comes when pistols get over 3L in damage. Most of the rifles in Ubiquity get 4L damage for cartridges delivering 1600-3000 ft-lbs. of energy. This is in keeping with the statistical 2 rounds to incapacitation for most rifle rounds. However, even taking the “accuracy as part of the damage” into account, there’s no way a .357 magnum’s 500ish ft-lbs. of energy is doing 5L. This is a case of non-shooters thinking “magnum” means you can shoot through the core of the planet.

So here’s a few suggested corrections you can completely ignore, if you so desire, for the guns of Hollow Earth Expedition.

The Webleys! I own two, and have had another. They’re superb pistols: robust, accurate, but they shoot a 262gr bullet at roughly the speed of smell. (Seriously, if you pay attention, you can see the damned bullet heading downrange.) They’re punching about 250-300 ft-lbs. of energy, depending on the load. That’s still gonna hurt, but it’s not 4L for the .455 round. The Webley’s do 3L. No other changes needed.

S&W .357 Magnum. NO! The muzzle energy is about 500 ft-lbs. for the original loads. That’s still double the usual .38 special, and yes it’s accurate. 4L for damage is much more realistic. And on that note — another round that was designed to increase penetration trough the heavy car hulls of the period was the .38 Super. It used bullets about the same weight as the 9mm Luger, but moving at 1400fps (about the same as the .357 magnum) and had a very flat trajectory. It’s such of straight shooter it is more popular than 9mm in competition shooting. The stats on the weapon on pg. 98 of the Secrets of the Surface World are wrong: Damage: 4L  STR: 2   Rng: 50′   Cap: 8(m)   Rate: M   Speed: A is correct. Alternately, to account for the flat trajectory and full-metal round-nose bullets, you could give it a Dam 3L but a Rng 75′, which would also work well.

So, by this thinking, shouldn’t the Mauser Broonhandles on pg. 98 have a damage of 4L, Scott? Well, figuring the accuracy into damage (which is why the .38 Super get a boost; their use of full metal round-nose bullets often meant they zipped right through the target without the addition of dropping energy into the surrounding tissue) the answer is a resounding NO. Seriously, shoot one. It’s an ergonomic disaster. The range of 75′ listed is the other reason to give the Mauser a 3L; it’s taken into account the accuracy of the weapon in the range stat. This should also be applied to the Mauser 712.

On the same note, the Tokarev TT-30 used a smoking .30 round moving at similar speeds to the .38 Super, but again with FMJ rounds meaning they zipped right through their target. The TT-30 in pg. 110 of SotSW should read: Damage: 3L   Str: 2   Rng: 75′   Cap: 8(m)   Rate: M   Speed: A

Things get worse in the military section of the book. The Lee-Enfield rifle is given an anemic 3L damage…for a rifle pushing 3000 ft-lbs of energy and which was extremely accurate. I know. I own one. Damage for this and the Lewis gun (which also used the .303 British round) should be 4L, as should the Hotchkiss M1914 and other French rifles. The Japanese Nambu rifles were terrible on accuracy and deserve their 3L for that reason, but their rage should be 100′. The Arasaka deserves a 4L. All of the Russian and US rifles deserve a 4L and 100′ range. PPD-34 damage is correct, but range should be 100′.