A lot of players familiar with the Fallout series would kill to experience the feeling of starting a new game and opening the vault for the first time again. The open world radioactive wastes of the Capital Wasteland in Washington DC, the dilapidated but still functional remains of the Vegas Strip or the post-apocalyptic charm of the Commonwealth in Massachusetts have a certain charm that’s hard to capture.
Some people enjoyed exploring irradiated crumbling ruins and interacting with the many colorful characters of the wasteland, but what really sold the game for me was that it meant that I finally had a role playing game where I didn’t have to settle for shooting at mooks with a bow anymore – now I could shoot at mooks with things that went boom!
When my friends told me that Fallout was like Oblivion (a first person medieval fantasy game from the same developer, Bethesda) but with realistic guns, I was stoked. However, when I picked up the first firearm in the game – the 10mm pistol – I stared at it and thought,
“What. Is that.”
For a game that’s supposed to have technology from the late 21st century, the guns were technologically appropriate but… odd looking.
The 10mm Pistol
It looked like it weighed about 8 pounds, compared to its actual in-game weight of 3. For a kid who actually shot a custom 10mm M1911, I figured they could’ve chosen the design of that iconic pistol instead of something that looked like someone slapped the tin roof of a house onto a Desert Eagle and welded a CO2 cylinder under it for decoration. Then again, since the game was set in post-apocalyptic America, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps in a fit of desperation, someone really did slap the tin roof of a house onto a Desert Eagle. But then I played the Operation: Anchorage DLC, and discovered these 10mm pistols actually came out of the factory with this level of ugly.
It was a good thing that it was the starting pistol, because as any FPS gamer knows, you never stick to the starting pistol. I was very satisfied with the appearance of the next pistol I found, but that didn’t make up for its horrible combat performance.
In the world of Fallout, the Chinese and the United States were in a state of war over resource shortages, something eerily plausible in today’s geopolitical climate. Chinese airborne troops attacked Alaska for its oil, and a massive marine invasion was to land on the east coast, where Chinese troops would join American Communists to storm Washington DC – this invasion was cut short when the nukes started flying, and the whole world went to hell in a handbasket as every nuclear capable nation began firing retaliatory strikes until there was nothing left but rubble. According to the lore of the game, nobody knows who launched the first nuke, but by the time of the game, set 200 years after the war, Chinese weapons littered the wasteland, still in use by the many survivalists, scavengers and raiders that inhabited the ruins of post-apocalyptic America.
The Chinese Pistol
I tactically acquired my first Chinese Pistol from a raider that I un-alived in completely justified self-defense. It appeared to be a faithful copy of the Mauser C96 Broomhandle, except it was chambered in the same 10mm ammo that the Desert Uggle uses. Intentionally or unintentionally, this seemed to be somewhat accurate to the Shanxi Type 17, a Chinese copy of the C96 chambered .45 ACP. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to imagine that the Chinese rechambered their standard issue military pistol to fit the type of ammo that was most abundant in the theater of war they would be landing in, which is exactly why the Chinese province of Shanxi decided to create their .45 Broomhandle, since it used .45 ACP, the round which was most prevalent in the province during the 20s and 30s.
However, unlike the real-world Shanxi Type 17, which was a handgun unique to a single province in China, the Fallout 3 Chinese Pistol seemed to have been the standard sidearm of the entire People’s Liberation Army. Also, unlike the real-world Type 17, some Chinese gunsmithing magic happened inside this weapon which made the normally powerful 10mm round spit out with the velocity of a BB pellet. This is not an exaggeration. The in-game BB gun has a damage of 4, which is the same damage as the Chinese Pistol.
With a 10 round clip (yes, a clip, fed through the top of the weapon) of 10mm ammo, this would’ve been a decent weapon in the real world. The sharp edges of the Mauser design make it an elegant but dangerous looking, but its in-game stats made it more efficient to clobber an enemy with a baseball bat than to shoot one to death with this thing. The Chinese Pistol was a waste of ammo and only existed as junk to be sold to merchants.
The rifles from the Fallout series are just like its pistols – a bag of mixed nuts. Some of them are faithful replicas of their originals, others are Frankenstein’s monster variants of real world firearms. One of the weapons that looked deceptively close to something from the real world was the cryptically named “Hunting Rifle.” This ubiquitous weapon has been around ever since the very first non-3D Fallout game all the way back in 1997, and ever since then it has never been given a proper name.
The “Hunting Rifle” and its incarnations have been chambered in everything from .223 and .32 short to .308 Winchester and .50 caliber. In Fallout 3 and New Vegas, it resembled a generic bolt-action rifle held together with baling wire and happy thoughts, but in Fallout 4, the base version of the rifle is a sawed-off bolt action similar to a Russian Obrez. That itself isn’t a strange thing, because it would be easy to justify desperate people burning buttstocks for firewood and chopping off barrels for scrap metal, but what’s odd is that every single Hunting Rifle in 23rd century Boston, where Fallout 4 is set, is left-handed.
The reason behind this is odd mirroring is that the developers thought that seeing the mechanism of the bolt looked “cool.” However, this also meant that the player needed to awkwardly cycle the bolt with his left hand. This visual oddity hardly went unnoticed among gamers who knew firearms, and modders went to work to correct this intentional mistake.
Now, to those who have a passing familiarity with Soviet WW2 weapons, the wooden furniture and ventilated barrel shrouds in the two weapons above might call to mind the PPSh-41 submachine gun, but keen observers might note that the magazines are way too thick for the 7.62x25mm round that the PPSh is chambered in.
Appearing in Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, these two weapons are designated as “Combat Shotguns.” While they’re not as strange as some of the other designs, it still felt odd to hear the boom of a shotgun when one expected the brrrt of a high capacity submachine gun.
Semi-automatic shotguns already existed within the game, but the designers of Fallout 3 and 4 probably wanted to do something “unique to the franchise.” However, New Vegas’s creative department probably knew a thing or two more about firearms and decided to stick to a real world design that had just as much “oddity” in its aesthetic value.
For those who think the idea of a drum-fed pump action shotgun is absurd, you should know the New Vegas Riot Shotgun is based on a real weapon. The Hawk Type 97-2 is a magazine-fed Chinese pump action shotgun designed for riot control and used by the Chinese People’s Armed Police and People’s Liberation Army for that express purpose.
Continuing in the vein of Chinese firearms in Fallout, next up we have one of the wasteland’s most iconic weapons: the Chinese Assault Rifle. Featured only in Fallout 3, this rifle was designed to be used by pro-Communist Americans in support of the Chinese invasion, which is why it was chambered in 5.56x45mm. That’s the only part of the weapon which makes much sense.
The weapon is the unholy love child of an RPD machine gun and an AK. While it would technically be possible to recreate this weapon in real life if one had access to an unscrupulous gunsmith who didn’t mind ruining a few Soviet weapons to make this wretched chimera, it’s far from the most aesthetically pleasing. The thing that bothers me the most is the cleaning rod that is meant to be bent at an angle, but otherwise everything is where it needs to be. The ejection port, gas tube, firing mode selector switch and sights are normally where they would be on a real AK-style rifle. The problem is that they’re all uglified versions of the real thing, which is par for the course in the capital wasteland, where everything is improvised.
If Fallout 3’s Chinese Assault Rifle has ugly parts in the right places, The Handmade Rifle of Fallout 4 has somewhat correct factory parts but mirrored to the left. Just like the Hunting Rifle, every single AK in 23rd century Boston is left-handed, but everyone in the game is right-handed, which means that either the people of post-apocalyptic New England enjoy the feeling of hot casings ejecting in their faces or the developers don’t consider the fragile feelings of actual firearms enthusiasts. The particular cursed gun pictured here is called “the Problem Solver,” and is stronger than the other “Handmade Rifles” scattered around the remnants of the Nuka World amusement park, the only place where this rifle can be found in the game.
The AK is probably called the “Handmade Rifle” in reference to a legendary Internet user who only goes by the name “Boris.” In 2012, Boris took a shovel and an old Romanian AK parts kit and through some backwoods blacksmithing and redneck engineering managed to make a fully functioning AK that actually shot a solid group with 40 year old surplus ammo at 50 yards.
There are many more ridiculous firearms in the Fallout games that would make a gun snob cringe, but they’re still very fun to shoot in-game, especially because you’re not focused on how ugly they look when they’re saving you from the super mutants and growling ghouls that call the wasteland their home.