Here’s a question for you all that I actually want answers to so please reply with your thoughts.
In DoaDR (Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman) the dwarves do not employ cavalry. They have mounted infantry but these are Dragoons- they ride to the battle but dismount to fight. As such their two main infantry weapons are the Infantry Long Rifle and the Infantry Slug Gun. Both of these weapons are single-shot breech-loaders that are very difficult to use while mounted or while lying prone because you essentially fold the weapon in half to cock it. These weapons fire heavy cylindrical slugs with good sectional density so they are quite good at piercing even heavy armor. The ILR is long-ranged and very accurate. The ISG is a smooth-bore and is therefore relatively short-ranged and depends on the massed fire of formations for good effect.
Skirmishers need a weapon that is simple to operate and easy to use while prone or in cover. Mountain Guard Rangers (police) need a weapon that can be used mounted so a repeating carbine was developed for these forces. These carbines differ only in that the military version has a spring-loaded bayonet. These are cocked by a long lever, allowing it to be reloaded while mounted by bracing it against your hip or any of number of ways while firing from a prone position or from concealment. These weapons have a twenty-round tubular magazine so that their users will not have to fumble with loading under adverse conditions. They fire a round lead ball because these are easier to manage in a tubular magazine than lead slugs.
The problem with round balls is that they are light weight compare to a conical or cylindrical bullets and do not maintain their energy well over a distance. They are also awful at piercing armor, which will surely be a concern as medieval cavalry tends to wear heavy armor. This makes the existing carbines less than ideal for use by a heavy cavalry force.
Human cavalry tend to rely on weapons used at contact-distance; lances and swords primarily. Lightly armored human cavalry tend to rely on the bow and holding their enemies at a distance. Goblins use repeating crossbows and depend upon sheer volume of fire to achieve the same effect. The goblin repeating crossbows are no better at piercing armor than the dwarven carbines but have a much greater rate of fire and rely on putting so many projectiles in the air that they are bound to hit something useful.
The dwarves can rely on heavy armor and contact-distance weapons, rapid-fire goblin-style crossbows and light armor or some combination of the two. Bows are out of the question as it takes years and years to train good horse-archers and they simply don’t have time. The first approach is problematic as the Dwarves, with their short reach and small ponies cannot go toe-to-toe with human heavy cavalry. Even if they had the time to breed proper warhorses the reach problem is still difficult to overcome. The second approach is workable, but puts them at equal footing against goblin cavalry, and what sort of idiot wants to be in a fair fight?
I think the dwarves would be inclined to combine approaches- heavy armor for close-contact engagements but with some stand-off ability as well. They could use a goblin-style repeating crossbows for this; they are certainly technically capable of building such a thing. But that brings up logistic issues since the sort of saturation-fire that makes these workable requires a large ammunition load. With the weight of the dwarves heavy armor and the inevitable kit needed by soldiers on the move carrying enough bolts would be problematic.
They could use the standard repeating carbines and just accept the limitations of these weapons- that it will require a good hit to circumvent their opponent’s armor. This requires very accurate shooting, though, which limits the effective range that a mounted man can engage the enemy at and degrades the ability to ‘stand-off’ a foe that they dare not come to grips with.
The alternative is to develop a weapon with the ease of use of the standard carbine but with the anti-armor punch of the infantry weapons. This brings up issues of expense, distribution, logistics as well as design issues. Should these weapons be rifled? Given that they will be firing primarily from the backs of moving ponies should they opt for the cheaper, shorter-ranged smooth-bores? In either case they should use the ammo of either the ILR or ISG to simplify logistics. Since these cylindrical slugs are pointed and have a hollow-base a tubular magazine is pretty much out of the question- what sort of mechanism should they use?
I haven’t decided; each of these options will have a different effect on the story and how the cavalry can and must be employed. What do YOU think? What would you choose? Is there a solution that I haven’t thought of? Am I wrong in thinking that their encounters with Baasgarte cavalry indicate the need for cavalry of their own? Can they get by without it, simply adapting their traditional force structure to the potential threat? Comments will be enabled on this site or can be made on Facebook at http://facebook.com/dwarvenrifleman