Why are assault rifles in games always made to have low damage and slow bullet velocity?

In most games, submachine guns have become significantly inferior to rifles and are rarely used I understand that submachine guns are also gradually being replaced in real life, but they still have a place in reality So why are submachine guns so underwhelming in games?

Differences and balance of weapons in shooting games

In shooting games, submachine guns are an awkward presence.

Games and reality are different, and the differences in weapons in games focus on two points: 1. Differences, 2. Balance.

Differences ensure that you have enough diversity of choices, while balance ensures that your choices are meaningful.

In 2D shooting games, differences come from spatial variations, such as scatter firepower (shotguns) and concentrated firepower (machine guns). So, shotguns have an important status in 2D games.

In 3D shooting games, differences come from temporal variations, such as high-frequency firepower (machine guns) and low-frequency firepower (sniper rifles).

In less realistic shooting games, bullet speed can also be a source of differences. For example, in Quake 3, high-frequency rapid fire is like a machine gun, high-frequency slow fire is like a plasma gun, low-frequency rapid speed is like a railgun, and low-frequency slow speed is like a rocket launcher.

Therefore, in 2D shooting games, the status of sniper rifles is a bit awkward because the task of hitting a single point is handled by machine guns. Therefore, sniper rifles only have an opportunity to appear in tactical or stealth gameplay.

On the other hand, in 3D shooting games, the status of shotguns is a bit awkward because although low shooting frequency results in high power like a sniper rifle, it can also be used as a melee weapon if the player is slightly proficient.

This can also answer another question: why is it difficult for machine guns to suppress in shooting games? It is because, for balance, the damage of single shots from machine guns is greatly reduced.

So, there is a compromise between machine guns and sniper rifles, which is the assault rifle. Its shooting frequency and single-shot power fall between the two extremes.

As for submachine guns, they are very, very awkward and do not have their own unique role. Unless, you address its recoil, such as in CS, where submachine guns have much less recoil, making them very easy to handle.

Or, like in some World War II shooting games, where submachine guns take the place of machine guns since they don’t appear. An example of this is Call of Duty 2.

The Differences between Submachine Guns in Reality and in Games

In reality, submachine guns have already been mostly phased out.

Interestingly, if the advantages and disadvantages of submachine guns in reality were directly incorporated into games, submachine guns would actually be far superior to rifles in games, almost god-like weapons. Therefore, game designers have to weaken submachine guns in order to achieve balance.

Let’s first talk about submachine guns in reality.

The advantages are that they are lightweight and compact, have low recoil and controllable burst fire, high accuracy at close range, a larger ammunition capacity for the same weight, and are easier for beginners to use.

The disadvantages are that they have a shorter range, weaker firepower, and weaker armor-piercing capabilities.

As a military weapon, submachine guns reached their peak in World War II.

In the early stages of World War II, submachine guns were mainly used by auxiliary military personnel for self-defense, such as drivers and logistics personnel. Submachine guns, which were lightweight and compact and easier to handle than long and heavy rifles, were more suitable for them.

The second application was that early rifles could only fire in single-shot or semi-automatic mode, making submachine guns advantageous for close-quarters combat due to their automatic firing capability.

Therefore, submachine guns achieved great success during World War II, when both sides were equipped with a large number of submachine guns. This was closely related to the large-scale armored assaults and urban warfare of World War II, which resulted in shorter engagement distances for infantry.

Submachine guns were the standard weapons of infantry squads in World War II. Usually, a machine gun served as the core firepower, with other weapons serving as auxiliary firepower. Submachine guns were used to supplement close-quarters combat.

The Soviet Union even had a submachine gun platoon equipped with submachine guns for all personnel. This special formation was based on the high degree of mechanization of the Soviet army and the high demand for urban warfare.

Of course, at that time, submachine guns were relatively easier to manufacture compared to rifles, with a shorter manufacturing cycle. This was also due to the large-scale nature of these wars and the high consumption of weapons, making submachine guns appropriate for the time.

After World War II, submachine guns basically disappeared from the standard weapons inventory of infantry squads. However, some countries still equipped them as infantry weapons, mainly because assault rifles were not fully equipped after World War II, especially in Western countries, where there were deficiencies in squad automatic weapons.

A typical example is Israel, where the Uzi submachine gun was developed as an infantry weapon and was indeed extensively equipped by infantry squads.

However, with the popularization of assault rifles, submachine guns capable of automatic fire lost their advantages.

Submachine guns that use pistol rounds have the disadvantage of significantly shorter range than rifles. The effective range of most submachine guns is around 100 meters, although they can reach 200 meters, their penetration power significantly decreases, making them unsuitable for military use.

As an unrelated side note, the domestically produced Chinese AK-47 was called the Type 56 “submachine gun” after being cloned. The reason it was called a submachine gun is because this weapon took on the ecological niche of submachine guns from World War II that were not directly replaced by assault rifles. It acted as an auxiliary automatic weapon alongside the semi-automatic Type 56 rifle and the Type 56 machine gun.

After the popularization of assault rifles in various armed forces around the world, the use of submachine guns greatly decreased and they became obsolete in the inventory of standard infantry weapons.

Today, even as self-defense weapons, most firearms in military units are short assault rifles.

Submachine guns have already been phased out from military use in reality, but they still play an important role in games.

However, the descriptions of submachine guns in most games are intentionally weakened.

The main reason for this is that the disadvantages of submachine guns in real-world scenarios are not significant in game environments.

The biggest issue with submachine guns as military weapons is that their effective range is too short, usually not exceeding 200 meters, and the best usage scenario is within 100 meters. This distance is definitely not applicable in reality.

However, in games, the combat distances in shooting games are much smaller.

After all, if game scenes were to completely replicate real war environments, it wouldn’t be fun to play. Therefore, the combat distances in game scenarios are artificially reduced.

In close-quarters combat, submachine guns, with their larger ammunition capacity and better control over continuous fire, actually have an advantage over rifles.

In shooting games, the concept of health or armor is introduced to balance the power of weapons. This naturally leads to intentional weakening of submachine guns in order to achieve game balance.

This weakening in games also corresponds to the reality in a way, otherwise players would not be able to fully immerse themselves in the game due to conflicts between the game and reality.

Advantages and characteristics of submachine guns suitable for newcomers

While the experts have focused on the real-life aspects, let’s talk about the game.

In CS:GO, submachine guns may not be as effective as rifles overall, but they are more affordable. In PUBG, submachine guns are suitable for medium to close-range combat. They excel in close-range battles compared to rifles, and have an edge in mid-range combat over shotguns. Their positioning can be considered moderate. Rainbow Six Siege submachine guns have a clear advantage in rate of fire. In a game where there is a lot of peeking and quick movements, submachine guns can dish out more bullets in a short period of time.

In conclusion, it is a subjective judgment to claim that submachine guns lag behind rifles in all aspects. They offer price advantages where they lack in attributes, and have a higher rate of fire where they lack in damage.

Furthermore, submachine guns are very suitable for building confidence in newcomers. They are much simpler to use compared to semi-automatic or fully automatic rifles - just a few bursts and the job is done!

The Function and Application Range of Submachine Guns

Submachine guns are simply inadequate.

The only role of submachine guns in modern battlefields is as Personal Defense Weapons (PDWs), and they are not treated as primary individual weapons, even in Close Quarters Battle (CQB) operations.

Originally designed for CQB operations, submachine guns have now been completely replaced by compact assault rifles. Whether it’s the GIGN or SCO19, they are equipped with CZ BREN and MCX. Even urban law enforcement units no longer rely heavily on submachine guns. Faced with increasingly effective body armor, some 9mm submachine guns are unable to penetrate, placing combatants in dangerous situations.

The main reason why submachine guns are still seen in some grassroots departments is their affordability. The guns themselves and the ammunition are cheap, and many of them are still usable. It would be wasteful to destroy them directly, so it is better to equip personnel who originally lacked combat power, such as urban police officers who carry semi-automatic pistols, with submachine guns to strengthen law enforcement. Having submachine guns is certainly better than not having them, as these police officers usually face ordinary criminals who lack protection. Submachine guns naturally perform better than semi-automatic pistols.

Another use of submachine guns is as PDWs. As mentioned earlier, in small vehicles such as aircraft and tanks, assault rifles are difficult to use effectively. Therefore, some vehicle personnel are equipped with compact submachine guns as emergency PDWs. It can be said that the recent design of submachine guns is primarily for PDWs rather than CQB weapons for special police units. Especially submachine guns that use 5.7mm ammunition, such as the P90, were initially designed for these units. (Of course, considering logistical pressure, some vehicles are still equipped with short carbines that have the same caliber as infantry rifles.)

In competitive games, the existence of submachine guns is solely for the purpose of balance. For example, in Rainbow Six Siege, if the defending side were all equipped with assault rifles, it would be too powerful. In Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), submachine guns are offered as additional tactical choices to enhance the dynamic balance of the game. Apart from competitive games, submachine guns are generally used as PDWs. In more flexible games, such as Escape from Tarkov, it’s rare to see someone equipped with a submachine gun, even in CQB combat. Players would rather modify the AK and AR to be more compact. The use of submachine guns on the battlefield is uncommon unless it’s for the purpose of trolling, such as running around with a knife. Many games that require players to unlock upgrades and equipment place submachine guns like the MP7 and MCX in the last unlockable category. Can you guess why?

Although submachine guns are less commonly seen in warfare because the battlefield situation changes rapidly, range is still crucial. However, in law enforcement situations, it’s a different story. The use of 5.56mm bullets may lead to overpenetration in urban environments. American police officers have made mistakes using assault rifles, accidentally penetrating walls and killing civilians on the other side.

Submachine guns also serve a unique role in special operations, so they are used by special forces.

The Basis for Choosing Game Weapons Depends on the Scenario

Are there any useless weapons in games? Not necessarily, each has its own uses.

Look at Dust2 in CS: GO, don’t a group of people shout “p90 rush b” every day? How many people shout “ak47 rush b”?

Because the scenarios leading to the b point are relatively small, there are more opportunities for spraying. For players, weapons like the p90 with low damage but dense bullet spread have better performance than rifles like the ak47 and m16. Low damage is still better than not being able to control the gun without training and not being able to hit the enemy even after firing a shot, right?

What about the a point in Dust2…don’t rifles and sniper rifles still shine?

As for the decrease in the use of submachine guns in reality, it is because infantry protection is strengthened, and bulletproof vests now have protection against direct shots from rifles. So what can submachine guns, which use pistol bullets, do?

Not to mention that submachine guns were invented to clear trenches, and the significance of trenches in modern warfare is no longer as important as it was in World War I.

As for the mention in other answers that police and special forces often choose submachine guns for combat in reality, this is not always the case, such as the famous Kunming Railway Station terrorist attack. The police used the 81-1…

The Embarrassing Status of Submachine Guns in Games

Compared to short-barreled assault rifles, submachine guns now find themselves in an awkward position in games. They lack outstanding firepower and distinctive functions. In a way, games also reflect the real-life status of submachine guns (๑• . •๑)~

One of the main advantages of submachine guns in the past was their compactness. Before short-barreled assault rifles became popular, submachine guns were chosen not for their firepower, but for their better compactness, low recoil, and controllability during rapid fire. Additionally, it was mistakenly believed at the time that small-caliber rifles were more prone to over-penetration and excessive power after hitting the human body, leading law enforcement agencies to choose submachine guns as their main weapons.

However, in the past decade or so, with advancements in propellant, materials, and muzzle flash suppression technology, compact short-barreled assault rifles have become widely adopted. Most of these short-barreled rifles are now controlled at or below 26 inches (660mm) in length and weight, making them essentially on par with submachine guns in terms of size and weight.

At the same time, modern ballistics research has also demonstrated that small-caliber rifle rounds have higher initial velocities and lighter projectiles, resulting in better stopping power, less likelihood of over-penetration, and more fragmentation upon impact on the human body. On the other hand, handgun rounds with heavier projectiles are more problematic when it comes to over-penetration and ricochet injuries.

In other words, not only do short-barreled assault rifles excel in firepower, but they also match submachine guns in terms of safety and compactness, directly displacing submachine guns from their ecological niche after becoming widely used.

British CTSFO equipped with the short-barreled Sig MCX assault rifle

All in all, the main reasons why submachine guns are still being used are:

  1. Large quantities in stock, allowing for continued use and lower costs compared to rifle rounds in terms of usage and training.

  2. The ability to achieve extreme lightweight and compactness, meeting the needs of specific narrow environments, one-handed operation (shield users), or concealed carrying. For example, Hong Kong’s Railway Rapid Response Team (RRT) is equipped with the Mpx submachine gun, which is usually carried in backpacks during patrols.

  3. As personal defense weapons for special forces, they are issued to helicopter pilots, tank crews, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams, and so on. If PDW weapons like the MP7 are also classified as submachine guns, then their deployment is still considerable. (By the way, even F-22 pilots in the United States Air Force are now equipped with fast-attach modular rifles like the GAU5 as personal defense weapons -_-||).

Hong Kong’s Railway Rapid Response Team equipped with the MPX submachine gun

The MPX is stored in a backpack when the RRT is patrolling in plainclothes.

…Returning to the topic of game design

Therefore, considering all these factors, it is difficult to reflect the three “negligible” advantages of submachine guns in games. Firstly, most shooting games do not have a weight system, so the special forces' need for submachine guns cannot be accurately represented. Secondly, the environmental systems in most shooting games are unable to recreate the advantages of submachine guns in concealed carry and narrow environments.

Thus, submachine guns in games find themselves in a more embarrassing position than they do in reality (#-.-)

Realism in games is different from reality

In real life, all you need is firepower, but in games, balance is necessary.

The bullet velocity is slow, that’s true. The projectile velocity of handguns is generally within the range of 300 to 500m/s. In comparison, even with a short barrel, rifles are typically 700m/s or higher. To some extent, this could be considered realistic… maybe.

But just take a look at the mainstream shooting games on the market. Is there any bulletproof vest that has been meticulously designed? Ha! Not a single one! They either reduce damage or add hit points. It’s impossible to achieve true authenticity.

Even in a game like Escape from Tarkov, which has a well-developed ballistic system, there are still many inconsistencies with reality in terms of protective levels and penetration data.

If you were to really shoot a 7N31 round from a Vityaz or PP-2000, with it being able to penetrate Level IIIA body armor up close and having a cavity no smaller than 7.62x39mm M43, would the AKM still be viable? It wouldn’t stand a chance. That’s why it’s impossible.

So, in the end, games are just games. The realism in games is always relative.

Rate of Fire and Characteristics of Guns

AR: Good day, sir. How may I assist you?

SR: I have something to say, but please don’t be afraid.

AR: We are powerful firearms, we won’t be afraid.

SR: I got killed instantly by an SMG in the game…

AR: Which model of SMG are you referring to?

SR: Not a specific model, but the type of gun that shoots very fast.

SG shows a picture (UZI)

SR: Uh… it’s a bigger gun than that.

SG shows a picture (Vector)

SR: Not a compact one! The kind that is longer.

SG flips a picture (MP38/40)

SR: A gun from World War II?! I’m talking about a more modern type!

SG shows a picture (MP5)

SR: This…

AR signals to stop, makes a sound of firing (EVO3)

SR: Something more modern, with a lot of bullets…

SG: Pfft.

SR: What are you laughing at?

SG: I just remembered something funny.

SR: What’s so funny?

SG: I just sniped a camper around the corner.

AR: Pfft.

SR: Why are you laughing again?

AR: I also just sniped a camper around the corner.

SR: You… killed the same person?

SG: Yes, yes (holding back laughter).

AR: (Composing words) Uh, no, we killed different campers at the same time.

SR: I’m saying it again, I’m not joking!

AR, SG: Yes, yes, yes (suppressing laughter).

SR (hitting the table): Hey!

AR: Alright, SR, let’s get back on track. Is the gun you mentioned earlier powerful?

SR: It’s not about whether it’s powerful or not, it’s really unique. It doesn’t seem like a gun that many people use. It has a high rate of fire and explosive damage. I couldn’t even see behind the wall. Unfortunately, I got killed too quickly and couldn’t see what gun it was…

SG: (Giggling)

SR: You’re going too far! I’ve tolerated you for a long time!

SG: I just sniped another camper.

SR: You’re clearly laughing at me, you haven’t stopped!

SG: SR, we have received professional training. No matter how funny it is, we won’t laugh unless we can’t control ourselves.

AR: How about this, SR? You go back and find a more open place, stand farther away, and we will come to help you let off some steam.

SR: Okay, I’ll go back and find a game with a larger map. Remember to keep your distance, it’s very dangerous. Let me figure out how to shoot as fast as it and I’ll join you soon.

SR leaves…

Inside the room: Hahaha

SR comes in…

SG: (Serious) SR, is there anything else you want to add?

SR leaves.

Inside the room: Hahaha

SR turns around…


(Note: The given text has a conversational tone and includes some gamer slang. The translation aims to capture the tone and meaning while making it readable and understandable in English.)

Limitations of Submachine Guns

(Subheadings were kept for easier organization)

Submachine guns are not practically useful in reality and are lackluster in games, making them mediocre in both real life and gaming.

Initial Role and Value

Initially, submachine guns were meant to supplement the close-range firepower of bolt-action rifles used by infantry. They use pistol ammunition, which has less power, but they are still automatic weapons that can beat bolt-action rifles at close range. Therefore, submachine guns had value in the first stage, which is also reflected in World War II games. (New players with the Sten gun, don’t fight over submachine guns!)

Competition with Assault Rifles

In the second stage, after the gradual transition to assault rifles, submachine guns were surpassed by carbines in terms of power, with their advantages in rate of fire being negligible. However, they still exist. Why? There is a new battlefield waiting for them, counter-terrorism. Let’s analyze its obvious advantages over early carbines: it has low penetration and relatively low recoil. The poor penetration prevents bullets from passing through terrorists' bodies during close quarters combat, avoiding the secondary damage caused by overpenetration and preventing friendly fire. The low recoil allows counter-terrorism forces to aim more accurately, also preventing friendly fire.

However, most games are unable to truly showcase these advantages. Penetration… even though many games now simulate bullet penetration, causing damage from stray bullets with trajectory calculation for each bullet, this must require a supercomputer (which seems to exist, but is not widely used in games). As for low recoil, many skilled players prefer guns that are difficult to control but have good statistics (C8 SFW with 2.5x extended barrel: Meow Meow Meow) rather than guns with poor statistics but good stability (UMP45/9: I’m dead).

Submachine Guns' Pointing Performance

Someone mentioned that submachine guns have better pointing performance, let me explain. Considering the current context, I’m comparing it to carbines, as they have similar lengths and the weight difference is not significant. Not to mention bullet weight (you won’t carry many magazines for counter-terrorism, let alone for personal defense). So, I didn’t mention weight. Objectively speaking, this is certainly an advantage. However, it is still not widely reflected in games because, after all, people who run out of bullets run faster than those who are fully loaded, which game has this?

Misconception about Type 56 Submachine Gun

These days, are there still people who think the Type 56 is a submachine gun???

Underlying Inferiority of Submachine Guns

In terms of effects, when it comes to urban warfare and using submachine guns as PDWs (Personal Defense Weapons), submachine guns and carbines should have their own advantages, which I admit. But why do I still consider them mediocre? Why are they not widely equipped by armies? As a weapon that is already specialized for urban warfare and PDWs, submachine guns still do not have an obvious advantage compared to carbines in the aforementioned situations. Not to mention the need to equip it with additional ammunition that is different from the main guns. The cost of three keys is nine yuan, can you afford it?

Additional Advantage of Submachine Guns

I also thought of another advantage of submachine guns. No matter how compact carbines are, submachine guns that use (similar) pistol ammunition can still be made even smaller. This excessive compactness may not be significant during normal combat, but for covert agents or civilian PDWs that require concealed weapons, this high level of concealment is still very useful. I remember similar settings in “Payday”, weapon concealment value, but it seemed that the bulkier the weapon was (referring to deterrence), the better. It’s quite awkward, you can add more to it.

Fair Comparison

When comparing, we need to be more accurate, such as under what circumstances submachine guns perform better than carbines, which would facilitate better discussions. Because the general assault rifles and submachine guns do not have a direct competition in the current ecological niche of submachine guns, submachine guns should be compared with carbines. For example, as terrorists increasingly wear bulletproof vests, standard pistol ammunition is no longer able to penetrate, and in terms of stopping power, rifles should have the upper hand. After all, the energy generated by firing powder is crucial compared to the caliber itself. In terms of weight, it is undeniable that carbines are generally heavier than submachine guns, but compared to standard assault rifles, carbines are already significantly lighter, and I don’t think the slight weight difference matters much. As for length (with the stock attached), standard submachine guns like the UMP9, MP7, and MP5 are around 600mm, while the US military’s MK18 CQB, China’s QBZ-95, and the Russian AK74U are also around 590mm-650mm. I don’t think the difference is significant. Furthermore, I believe that 600mm is already the shortest length comfortable for shoulder firing, decreasing beyond that would compromise accuracy, and for submachine guns that occupy the main stronghold of precision shooting in their ecological niche, counter-terrorism, demand should be quite high.

To be honest, when discussing, we should clarify which type of submachine gun we are talking about, whether it is a standard-sized submachine gun, a PDW, or a micro submachine pistol.

Let’s not bring up armor penetration when discussing PDWs and their 5.7mm armor-piercing bullets, or discuss bullet versatility when talking about standard submachine guns in 9mm and .45 caliber. When discussing portability, let’s not start with examples of micro subs, and when talking about recoil, let’s not revert to standard-sized submachine guns.

Are we taking advantage of honest people?

Summary of Comparisons (in the case of large-scale equipment):

Comparing with standard-sized submachine guns: carbines have cost advantages, power advantages, and recoil disadvantages, as well as a disadvantage in ammunition capacity (both below).

Comparing with full-sized PDWs: carbines have cost advantages, ammunition versatility advantages, and recoil disadvantages.

Comparing with micro subs: carbines have cost advantages and power advantages. Size disadvantages and recoil advantages (if the submachine pistol’s stock is fully extended, this point is not significant, but at the same time, the size advantage of micro subs is not obvious).

To be honest, even with such obvious cost advantages, even if carbines have no other advantages, submachine guns deserve to be replaced.