Bad ‘Mechs – Rifleman

Rifleman Coffin Dance

Courtesy of Eldoniousrex

Corporal O’Moore didn’t know what the Dracs were thinking. Wave after wave of aerospace fighters fell to his RFL-3N Rifleman‘s paired Imperator Autocannons and Magna Mk. III Large Lasers, many before they could even fire a salvo or release their bomb payloads. His Rifleman‘s Garret D2J–still state of the art even after half a century of warfare–continue to work like a dream, swatting down Kuritan Sabres like flies. 

It was enough to make O’Moore forget he and the rest of the First Clovis Guards were desperately trying to defend their home. But it only lasted for a few moments.

“They’ve broken through!” came the panicked voice of Major Yasser over the unit-wide comms. “First and second battalions fall back to waypoint Charlie. Third battalion, we need you to defend the logistics corps until they can pull out.” 

Third battalion. That was O’Moore’s unit. He took his eyes off his Rifleman’s scope for a moment to bring up his external cameras. Soldiers were all rushing to vehicles being loaded with munitions, desperate to pack as much as they could before the Kurita forces arrived. 

It didn’t take long. Not two minutes after the last of the Sabres fell to O’Moore’s guns did the first Drac ‘Mech appear on sensors. A Panther, of course–you couldn’t spit without hitting a Panther in the DCMS. But its particle projection cannon still made it dangerous. 

O’Moore’s targeting computer easily picked out the 35-ton ‘Mech as it confidently stomped into range. At 600 meters, he squeezed both triggers, sending twin bursts of tracers that stitched explosions up the Panther’s chest. He followed up with both his heavy lasers that melted more armor over the light ‘Mechs left arm and right leg. The machine staggered under the sudden loss of so much armor, but managed to fire its PPC in response, missing O’Moore’s Rifleman wide. 

Another salvo should take it out, O’Moore thought. Once again he depressed both triggers, but this time the paired autocannons that made up the Rifleman’s arms were silent. His internal diagnostics reported his ammo bins had run dry firing at the Sabres earlier. And with his ammo being whisked away on the beds of his regiments’ logistics craft, they wouldn’t be refilled anytime soon.

Instead, O’Moore fired his heavy lasers again. One struck the left arm again, shearing it off at the shoulder. The other hit the Panther dead center, opening a smoking wound that made the machine’s heat signature spike on O’Moore’s screen. An engine hit. No doubt that Panther’s cockpit was a sauna for its pilot.

And no less hot for me, he noted as a fresh wave of heat caused O’Moore’s cooling jacket to kick into overdrive. His Rifleman’s heatsinks weren’t designed to dissipate repeated firings of his large lasers, so he’d be down to just his Magna Mk. IIs. That’d be enough to finish the Panther off.

Just then, O’Moore’s radar pinged with another signature–this time a Dragon. Its own Imperator-A struck him in the shoulder, while a flight or LRMs rang deafening explosions just outside his cockpit’s glass. Slapping the override button, O’Moore fired at the new threat with everything he had, desperately trying to convince the Drac to find a new target.

Alarms were blaring and his cockpit was hotter than an active volcano, but O’Moore knew there was no escape. The Dragon could just run him down, and besides, the Rifleman’s heat burden made it feel like it was trying to move through molasses. 

The Dragon’s pilot was smart. Rather than engage in a slugfest, it began maneuvering to O’Moore’s right, threatening the truck convoy that was making its escape. He turned with it, slowly, trying to breathe air hotter than the sun while deciding if he could survive firing even a single laser just one more time.

He never got the chance. The Dragon suddenly pivoted and before O’Moore could react, it was in his rear arc. The Rifleman’s paper-thin rear armor couldn’t hold up to a stiff breeze let alone a full brace of autocannon, missile, and laser fire. His only consolation, as a flash of light signaled his Rifleman’s fusion engine losing containment, was that at least the Drac pilot was blowing him away rather than the retreating convoy of First Clovis Guardsmen.

RFL-1N RiflemanThe Rifleman is an exceptional ‘Mech. Exceptional in that the only reason why the Rifleman remains popular is because every attempt to replace it has somehow miraculously managed to be worse. This gave the Rifleman‘s engineers centuries to come up with better, more combat-viable variants. However, while the RFL-3N Rifleman is perhaps the most popular and numerous variant, it remains one of the worst heavy ‘Mechs ever designed, so cripplingly handicapped by a lack of ammunition, armor protection, and heat capacity that it’s only useful for guard duty in rear supply lines or in one-on-one gladiatorial combat where the pilot won’t have to gauge heat spikes beyond a single opponent. 

Getting to the RFL-3N will actually take more than two centuries of failure. The initial RFL-1N was first designed in 2505 by Kallon Industries as a medium fire-support unit. As one of the earliest ‘Mechs ever made, one can forgive Kallon for some missteps. The RFL-1N suffered from chronic overheating owing to its all-energy payload and criminal lack of heatsinks. Over fifty years later, Kallon would improve upon the 50-ton ‘Mech in the RFL-2N, upgrading its primitive components to open up payload capacity to replace the 1N’s large lasers with twin PPCs and add two additional medium lasers as well as six additional heat sinks. Although a marked improvement, the RFL-2N still suffered from the original’s dismal overheating issues. 

It wasn’t until 2770 that Kallon introduced the RFL-3N during the Amaris Civil War. Intended for long-range fire support and anti-aircraft work, the Rifleman RFL-3N was ten tons larger than its forebears. It used that additional weight to mount an Imperator-A AC/5 and a Magna Mk. III Large Laser in each arm. A pair of Magna Mk. II Medium Lasers offered the RFL-3N additional defense should it lose any of its main weapons, but its paltry 10 heatsinks made it impossible to continuously fire its energy weapons without suffering massive heat spikes. 


What made matters worse for the RFL-3N was its equally paltry ton of AC/5 ammunition shared between both cannons. This offered pilots just ten shots before needing to resupply. Combined with its inadequate heat-sinking and mere seven-and-a-half tons of armor, the RFL-3N is completely unable to perform in sustained engagements. 

Scholars will argue that the Rifleman was never intended to serve as a front-line heavy ‘Mech. In its intended role of defending supply lines from marauding air assets and the occasional light scout, the Rifleman excelled. Its Garret D2J targeting-tracking system–a system so potently accurate that it remains in production to this day–allowed the Rifleman to easily swat down incoming aerospace assets and deter lighter ‘Mech elements from a safe distance.

However, as the Succession Wars wore on, House militaries pressed more specialized ‘Mechs into roles for which they were never intended. The Rifleman increasingly saw postings to front-line regiments where its lack of armor (especially in the rear arc), ammo, and heat capacity were a liability.

Despite this, the Rifleman remained popular with MechWarriors thanks to its menacing silhouette, its impressive firepower, and its unique ability to swing its arms 360-degrees in order to engage opponents attempting to approach the ‘Mech from behind. This tactic was made famous by Solaris champion Gray Noton, whose custom Rifleman, Legend-Killer, ended the career of more than one promising competitor who thought they’d managed to get the drop on Noton.

3025 Rifleman

Before the ultimate dissolution of the Star League, two replacements emerged for the Rifleman. Kallon introduced the JagerMech in 2774 intended to replace the Rifleman in the anti-air role, while Technicron Manufacturing brought the Quickdraw to market in 2779 as a front-line heavy ‘Mech. Neither ‘Mech succeeded in replacing the Rifleman in either role, with both machines instead serving alongside Riflemans in various militaries across the Inner Sphere.

The RFL-3N would exist for over two centuries before finally seeing significant improvement. The RFL-3C, introduced by Davion engineers in 3026, replaced the twin AC/5s and large lasers with paired AC/10s and an additional two medium lasers as well as an extra ton of armor and autocannon ammo. This variant finally fixed the Rifleman‘s heat problems, although its ammo remained limited. Eight-and-half tons of armor was also still regarded as insufficient for a 60-ton ‘Mech.

The Gray Death Memory Core offered enhanced technology as the solution to the Rifleman‘s problems. Double heatsinks (including two more) effectively solved its heat issues, while an additional ton of armor mitigated some of the ‘Mech’s protection problems. One issue that was made even worse was its singleton ammo bin, which was tasked with feeding two ammo-hungry Ultra AC/5s capable of exhausting that bin twice as fast. 

It wasn’t until the Civil War era that the Inner Sphere saw a Rifleman that was truly capable of extended firefights. The RFL-8D saw Vicore Industries remove the Rifleman 5M’s armament in favor of twin Mydron Model RC rotary autocannon/5s fed by a staggering six tons of ammunition. Double heatsinks and a pair of ER medium lasers kept the ‘Mech cool, and 12 tons of armor kept it well protected too. Jump jets provided the Rifleman with an all-new feature for the chassis, and the same Garret targeting computer continued to direct its new armaments at any foe unwise enough to approach.

RFL-8D Rifleman

Curiously, it wasn’t merely Inner Sphere armies that saw the future potential of the Rifleman. Alexander Kerensky’s SLDF had several Riflemans amongst its regiments, eventually leading clan engineers to upgrade the design. The Rifleman IIC leans into its anti-aircraft role by pairing four large pulse lasers with an Active Probe. Even with five additional tons added to the chassis, the Rifleman IIC is curiously slower than the RFL-3N, although it does mount three jump jets to better position the ‘Mech to address incoming forces. Eleven tons of ferro-fibrous armor keep the ‘Mech protected and 19 nineteen double heatsinks keep the pilot relatively cool, although they can eventually be overwhelmed by repeated alpha strikes.

Both the Inner Sphere and the Clans have so many different variants of this venerable design that the chassis requires its own encyclopedia to identify them all. One could attribute the Rifleman‘s success to the business acumen of Kallon Industries, who spread production of the ‘Mech across multiple facilities in multiple House nations to ensure the design survived the Succession Wars. Kallon also licensed the design heavily, allowing other manufacturers to make their own variants using common parts. This kept the Rifleman fighting even as so many of its contemporaries faded into obscurity. 

But let’s not forget that it took centuries for iterations of the Rifleman to eventually raise the chassis to its fullest potential. And while the Rifleman remains in service with militaries, mercenaries, and even Solaris gladiators, the most popular machine isn’t always the most potent. 

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

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About Sean

Hooked on BattleTech at an early age, Sean honestly can't remember whether it was the cartoon, the serial novels or the short-lived TCG that did him in. Whatever it was, his passion for giant shooty robots never died, so now he writes about the latest and greatest in 'Mech related news.

48 thoughts on “Bad ‘Mechs – Rifleman

  1. Bishop Steiner

    great article as always.

    but a couple of minor mistakes;

    Legend Killer was not customized, but a stock RFL-3N, confirmed by the Line Developer. The rest are canon rumors.

    The 3C is either poorly stated or inaccurate. “he RFL-3C, introduced by Davion engineers in 3026, replaced the twin AC/5s and large lasers with paired AC/10s and an additional two medium lasers “. It doesn’t have an additional set of Medium Lasers, simply the same RT?LT mounted ones standard on the 3N.

    other than that, great stuff!

  2. Mendrugo

    The Lancelot was also mooted as a replacement for the Rifleman.

    The 1N, 2N and 3N all have their flaws, but the award for worst Rifleman variant goes to the Free Worlds League. The Green Guard (the Nestor planetary static defense unit) kit-bashed their Riflemen, yanking the lasers and replacing them with autocannons, giving each Rifleman two AC/5s on each arm. And then they loaded each Rifleman with four (count ’em, four) shots per ‘Mech. One round for each AC/5.

    To top it off, they sent them out to escort a Vedette loaded with Janos Marik’s personal whiskey collection. And a full load of ammo in its single AC/5.

  3. BLR-IIC

    I used to think that the Rifleman was bad, but I didn’t really understand how to use it at the time I thought that. A volley of 1 large laser and 2 AC/5s almost every turn is pretty respectable. And when you manage to blow through the ammo, alternate firing the lasers. I think firing both large lasers at the same time is a big no-no and asking for trouble.

    I see the RFL-4D was left out. that’s one machine where I consider there being redundant weapons because there’s no way anyone’s going to be shooting all the big energy weapons unless they’re masochists.

  4. Pingback: Roasting the Rifleman! – Astray3

  5. Chaosticket

    In 3025 the Rifleman RFL-3N has many flaws. It doesnt have enough armor, heat sinks, or ammunition. It mostly just looks cool with quad cannons.

    Altering it a little makes it more like a Marauder or Warhammer, but a good chunk lighter.

    That said its still iconic and all the upgrades really change how it works.

  6. Goodnight, Gyr

    Specialized ‘mech not intended for prolonged frontline action proves ineffective at prolonged frontline action. Right up there with “I hate my microwave, you can’t even send an email with it!”

    Weak showing, author.

    1. SilverCyanide

      What IS the Rifleman intended for? Can’t be long range fire support, it doesn’t have the ammo for it and the Larges will make it overheat so much whatever ammo it has left will blow up. Anti-Aircraft work? With the paltry amount of ammo, it won’t knock anything but the lightest flyers around before being primaried by the air wing which can easily target its incredibly poorly armored back. It can’t do anti-infantry work unless you cripple it since you only have 1 ton of ammo to swap with other types, can’t do front line support or combat due being armored like a snowblower, can’t hunt lighter ‘mechs because its also not fast enough.

      The Rifleman is a bad ‘mech, whatever Tex says. It doesn’t do ANYTHING well, outside of being cheap and plentiful, which gives it a chance at being included in almost any force following the rule “the best ‘mech is the ‘mech you have”.

      1. Goodnight, Gyr

        Tex? No. Pre-existing preferences and discussions with TT players, what few there are.

        > which gives it a chance at being included in almost any force following the rule “the best ‘mech is the ‘mech you have”.

        Welcome to the periphery. You wanted a Wolverine, here’s a microwave.

        1. SilverCyanide

          It would be nice if you actually addressed any of the arguments I made, all of which clearly points out that the Rifleman is an awful ‘mech that you will only use when that’s your only option, aka rolling poorly on a RAT or running a scenario. Even the more “modern” versions of the RFL-series are awful and get massacred once fielded, generally for the exact same reasons I pointed out. The IIC series is a fair bit better, mind you, but that is not what is being mainly discussed here.

          Honestly, my Kill to Deployment ratio against Rifleman on tabletop is almost 100% for and against, and even when salvaging rights come into play, I will skip it compared to most mediums and some lights, except if it’s one of the designs with an XL engine, which you can resell for a nice tidy profit with almost no risk.

          1. CoKien

            “Honestly, my Kill to Deployment ratio against Rifleman on tabletop is almost 100% for and against, and even when salvaging rights come into play, I will skip it compared to most mediums and some lights, except if it’s one of the designs with an XL engine, which you can resell for a nice tidy profit with almost no risk.”

            Honestly, you’re using it the wrong way. The Rifleman 3N has a few downsides, but also a few upsides. For instance, it is quite cheap (either in C-Bills or BV2.0), and it has amazing firepower, if you`re diciplined enough to use it properly. I used the Rifleman 3N quite a few times, and it usually performed quite well, and, in fact, it hasn`t been killed yet.

      2. Owl

        The Rifleman being “bad” is also due to the change in rules. As an anti-air mech, it’s quite potent because the rules in the past rewards multiple hits instead of a single big hit. You don’t need to actually penetrate armor to cause some serious problems for an aerospace fighter, so the split up AC/5 + Large Laser combination can cause quite some problems since they crit a lot easier than battlemechs. The rule changes as well as the trend to only focus on Mech vs Mech combat in games covers up this advantage of the Rifleman too easily, not to mention the focus on criticizing mechs based on deliberately overmatching it with something that outclasses it. If anyone recalls the Stackpole books, what the Rifleman excelled in was also killing light scout mechs. Most don’t have the weight of weapons to safely breech the Rifleman’s armor nor the range to counter the AC/5 and LLs (most lights usually carry things like medium lasers and SRMs) and that is where the Rifleman can shine, as a scout mech killer. It’s no Atlas for sure but it’s not all doom and gloom either.

  7. Vermonster

    Not enough heatsinks or ammo to win a fight, not enough armour to survive one. In its ADA roll next to the HQ it works okish with proper flak ammo, but a tank would be better. It looks good, dies well, and its best usage would be stripped and put on display outside VFW-type organizations.

    With changes, like DHS (in 2770!? Yes, common) it could have sucked less, so the lore retcon is as bad as the stats. Introducing two (2) separate replacements is an in lore admission of badness. The -3C is a brilliant upgrade, but too little too late. And by 2850, the only reason to make more is you are unable to retool. To anything.

    Agreeing for once. Bad Mech, it should feel bad, and you should prefer a firing squad to being assigned to one.

  8. Lanzman

    Remove the two medium lasers, replace with a ton of armor and a ton of auto cannon ammo. Does not much for the heat issue, but makes for a Rifleman that can hang in the fight much longer.

  9. Charon

    Certainly an inefficient machine when viewed in it’s many flaws, but one common reason for this rarely gets pointed out… Much like many of it’s “unseen” brethren (like the previously brought up LAMs) it was basically a picture they snagged from Macross/Robotech, which required stats based on game rules for. Quad AC/2s would have worked for weight, but almost no power. Quad large lasers would be even more insane; so they went with what they did. Plus, despite fluff writings, ACs of small size, even using flak/Anti-air ammo was never as good as advertised (being based more on “real life” aircrafts, which don’t fly with tons of slab armor)
    Honestly, by game use, and picture based, the two Med Lasers were rather unneeded, that would at least have allowed for a ton of ammo for each gun, plus one extra heat sink. Then it could have alternated arms of fire, while moving at full speed, and simply have a redundant arm in case one were blown off. Or, alternatively switched between double lasers or alpha striking and just double cannons to maintain heat.
    Like most things with AC5s, I would normally just swap them for LRM15, and a bit of extra ammo, for long range; no mediums, and extra heat sinks for the larges closer up, until double heat sinks came along and lots of new options showed up for adding armor.

  10. Eric Karau

    The Japanese Battletech game has a MUCH better-looking original Rifleman artwork-wise that is more accurate to the description of the RFL-3N design! I do like the ability to swing most of the armament
    180 degrees to the rear though! The Jagermech and Galahad designs also have that too!

  11. gRik

    Thanks for an article that gave me a good laugh! Even the Japanese MechWarriors have a strange attachment to the Rifleman.

    One interesting thing omitted from this article is that the RFL-3N-2 (80t) for the Royal Division existed 50 years before production of the RFL-3N began.
    Personally, I believe that the RFL-3N was not an upgrade of the 2N, but a “cheaper version of the 3N-2” that the SLDF needed after losing the advanced technological base of the Terran Hegemony that was needed to produce the 3N-2.

  12. Patrick Rich

    I have a Rifleman from the Wolf’s Dragoons heavy star. If you’ve never heard of that box, it’s a Barnes & Noble exclusive. The Alpha Strike card lists it as a RFL C 3. Stats are TMM 1, MV 8″, 4/4/4 dmg, with a +1 Overheat, 6 Armor, 5 Structure, and CASE.

    That is NOT a bad mech by any standard.

  13. Eric Karau

    FYI: The original FASA Rifleman was based on Macross’ Destroid Defender/Robotech’s Raidar X and carried four 78 mm.
    autocannons, all chain-fed, from the ammo boxes on each of the shoulders (RT and LT) which puts it in between the AC/5 and AC/10 ratings in Battletech! Can you imagine the fireworks display if an Inner Sphere
    Rifleman, Succession-Wars era tech and outfitted with ONLY autocannons and nothing else as armament
    took a hit in it’s ammo bins? CASE, where are you when we need you? Be pretty wild to watch, but like the unfortunate pilot at the beginning of this article, the pilot of this Mech would also be, what’s the word?
    Ah yes: TOAST!

  14. scott bier

    Please stop with these articles. They have gone from bad to worse. The author can’t even get his facts straight.

  15. Flashfreeze

    I wonder how many people here played on the tabletop when this game first came out properly in 1985, with a bare 16 Unseen ‘Mechs to choose from.

    Speaking as someone who did start early, the RIfleman 3N’s role was and remains direct fire support. It’s meant to hang around on the edges of maps or in choice terrain (water, forests) and fire out.

    If you were doing it right, you simply denied the enemy the chance to approach your back armor: where’s he going to go, off the map? The rules didn’t allow for off map travel so would-be flankers could be denied an entire approach. Even if you had to set up in an obvious area, you could still protect it with other units. The whole game was predicated on unit vs unit combat after all, not just solo duels.

    With that in mind, running hot was also not as detrimental as you’d imagine it was. In safe enough terrain, you could forego your TMM to do a reliable 2xAC5 + LL for 10 turns. And by 10 turns most Riflemen would be beat half to death so lacking ammo wasn’t such a terrible fate, and kicking + 2ML is about as good as heat-efficient as you could get at the time.

    Don’t get me wrong, the Rifleman is kind of terrible, but it’s honestly the kind of terrible that has a niche in 3025, specifically hugging the map border and projecting threat for cheap.

    1. Owl

      So this. I was one of those that got the game with only the 16 mechs that were all copyright infringements and the Rifleman was one of those that had its place. Then the franchise bloated/exploded and even the Clans came out and the Rifleman slowly became obsolete.

      1. Flashfreeze

        Retroactively, it also became the cheapest substantial ‘Mech from the original 2Ed box set when they launched the BV (1) system in 1997.

        Fielding a heavy Mech for 797 BV? Sign me up for some of that. You had to pay 838 BV for a Phoenix Hawk and 918 BV for a Shadow Hawk. Under those conditions the Rifleman is an absolute steal because it has enough threat projection to do the job.

        The only things that were BV-cheaper than the Rifleman in 2Ed were the Locust, Stinger, and Wasp.

      2. Brian

        I should note they where, or so FASA belived, lisenced at the time, the macross lisence was, back then a bit of a cluster ****

  16. The General

    I mean, seems to me the Rifleman was more or less a heavy AAA platform, not really supposed to be in the field. It’s supposed to be at the base with the supplies, defending it from air assaults as part of a formation of solely rifleman. Right next to the ammo supplies. All the legs and arms and mechness is to give it the ability to swing its barrels around and engage a ground target that sneaks its way in. Is it a bad frontline mech? Yes. Is it a bad mech, not when its being used as the heavier than normal AAA platform that it seems to have been built to be. It’s a perfect example of super specialized mech.

    1. SilverCyanide

      A Partisan costs 1.8mil C-bills and has no rare or fancy technology associated with it. It has significantly more armor AND more ammo overall (even though it does lack in that category). It also can serve as an Anti-Infantry platform since it carries machine guns, which is important when on guard duty in a base.

      The Rifleman base model runs you 4.8mil C-bills, requires a Fusion Engine and dedicated repair berths to be serviced. While it has those large lasers to compensate for having less ammo, you can barely use them before your ‘mech efficiency starts dropping due to heat. The Rifleman is more mobile, of course, but if we follow the logic that it’s a glorified flak cannon, doesn’t serve much purpose. The Rifleman is lucky that all replacement AA ‘mechs are ALSO garbage (and, to be realistic, the real reason it is sticking around is because it is one of the original ‘mech design in the game).

      1. The General

        I don’t disagree there are better options, better tools, better mechs. But the key factor is rule of cool. It’s just a cool mech. Like, it just looks neat. And it’s battletech. Statistically a partisan or a SAM site are certainly better…but this is a game of stompy robots. Combined arms definitely matters but when it really comes down to it, it’s about the mechs.

        Also, lets be fair, it was part of that era of in lore development where every specialized mech was getting approved because they were mechs, they were new…and also that sweet sweet hegemony money just made anything with the word battlemech in it happen.

        But yeah, original 3N, trash. 8D, 7N2, and 6X are fun though, and perfectly functional. Not the best, but eh, it’s all about the fun and shenanigans anyway.

  17. Steel Shanks

    I Agree and Disagree here… The Early Rifleman is not great… However, the later Rifleman designs are pretty good. Once you put RAC’s or a plethora of PPC’s, increase the armor, and have double heat-sinks, yer starting to get a good Mech. I’ve never used, or fought one in Table Top, however, I’ve killed a ton of them in Mechwarrior Online. The crap armor is the weakest part, but once upgraded to Ferro, or just increased, they get slightly more tanky. Would I use one? No. Do I like it? No. But it does get better with new tech… I have one in HBS BattleTech game with dual AC2’s, one Large Laser, and one Medium Laser, with added Heat Sinks. Works good, not great, and as long as nothing gets close, it stays alive…

  18. Spudeus

    I think there’s a charm to older ‘bad’ designs in that they have character, and they present a challenge to use effectively. I kinda like the 3025 rifleman in theory, finding a nearby hill and plinking away at medium ‘mechs that can’t muster a response. Otoh, if it’s meant to be a stationary sniper just reduce its speed to 3/5 and give it more armor and sinks.

  19. Some Guy

    Head canon, but it always seemed like the 3N was developed with Double heat sinks in mind. Add those in and, while the armour is still lacking, the Rifleman becomes a very threatening fire support mech. Must’ve been victim to one of the few SLDF budget cuts. The 3N does make sense as a foreign export model, but you’d expect the regular army if not the Royals to have a DHS alternative.

    As for the Succession Wars, I find it a bit strange that there was never a 2xPPC or 4xAC2 variant, even from 3rd party salvagers. PPCs were what the 2N used, and while it would increase costs it’d fix a lot of problems while providing similar firepower and range. A quad AC2 variant improves chance-to-hit against fast fliers. I suspect part of the reason for the 3N’s design was to maximize PSRs against fliers, especially heavy fighters or loaded bombers, however as the Succession Wars raged conventional and smaller aerospace would’ve likely become more common. Switching to AC2s would’ve allowed the Rifleman to better compete against lighter assets while also helping with staying power when further away from supply lines.

  20. André

    The RFL-3N is a funny beast. Can dish out enough damage to make it dangerous but is under armoured and the lack of HS’s and ammo make it a problem to command. Personally way back in the 80’s I suggested to my group that anyone could knock off an AC/5 for more HS’s and armour or remove a Lg Laser for more ammo and armour. The suggestion was approved and that’s what most people used. Or the AC/10 version which I think was mentioned in TRO 3025 1st Ed. Then there’s the remove all arm weapons and ammo for a pair of PPC’s and extra HS’s and armour version which is the most capable Rifleman in 3025. For general purposes. Of course as soon as you introduce alt ammo for the AC/5’s they become useful so remove the medium lasers for ammo/armour.
    If you go way back then you could stick 4 HS’s in the legs and then if you can get it to stand in L1 water heat isn’t as big a problem. My group never took to the rule where HS were included in the engine and not displayed on the crit location sheet. We found them too useful for padding out locations with ammo, empty slots in the CT & head etc. By the time DHS were introduced we had stopped playing and moved on to alcohol, drugs and girls. Sex, drugs and rock n roll. Should have grown out of that by now.
    But yeah, given the current rules set the RFL-3N has very limited usefulness.

  21. Slyrr

    I love these articles, keeps me coming back to Sarna in between looking stuff up. The story at the beginning of each to emphasise the awfulness is always fun.

    The Rifleman is pretty iconic to the game. How effective it is really depends on the game you are playing and the era. TT 3025 it isn’t great but most of the 3025 TRO mechs aren’t great either. Games are more prolonged slugfests where heat management actually matters and there is the fun of it. Plus random head hits because Battletech happens. video games tend to be more customisable so you will transform a Rifleman into something terrifying more easily.

    A lot of the 3025 stuff was kitted out to fit the “unseen” picture so we end up with a lot of terrible designs. Min/maxing for efficiency with max armour and alpha strike every turn out the box makes for a boring game. In longer campaigns you have to earn that be it TT, Mechwarrior, Mechcommander or HBS Battletech and the great mods for it. That’s the fun of it. Start with crap, make it deadly.

    Any mech can become serviceable with enough tech and tinkering. I love to play with Chargers like that. Are they any good? No. I would probably be better off up-engining an Awesome. Rifleman is similar. You can make it good or find a good variant.

    As for in-game lore the Rifleman suits its purpose. A lot of in-game lore good mechs are terrible in the various games when you play them.

  22. Max

    I love the rifleman I’ve had so many good times with it (sometimes it being a grenade is fun and yes I giggled when I’ve failed overheating and blew up like turn 2.) It’s a bad mech flat out. I’m sure and agree with many above aside it’s great looks cool lore and history going back to first press of BT. It is not good.
    Sure X Y Z helps but the standard (as our author focused on) is bad. Personally for flavor looks and my own style I’ll take it over a Jager but, that both needs a round of beers to min max debate and (hint hint) a bad mech page of it’s own .

    Either way, I greatly enjoyed this as I just really enjoy this series. The comments are great and I like hearing how people use them and the other lay outs both in lore and home brews.

    Cheers to all and looking forward to next bad mech.

  23. Eric IKarau

    In canon, Hanse “The Fox” Davion, Prince Victor’s late father, who was very fond of the Rifleman, was likely
    to tinker with the design! Most likely, he changed his mind, especially after he heard how much superior
    Clan OmniMechs ripped apart with no problem a Rifleman on The Rock on August 13, 3049, witnessed by Victor’s cousin Phelan Kell! That was what most likely motivated Hanse Davion to come up with a design
    which would, in his own words, “tame the Jade Falcons.” That design, of course, is the FLC-8R Falconer 75-ton Heavy Mech, one of the Inner Sphere’s best post-3050 designs and a personal fave of mine! Now THAT design would go through the Rifleman with NO problem, as the Falconer was designed to take on and win against a Clan OmniMech! Maybe someday, the poor Rifleman will get a break….maybe….???

    1. Owl

      Wait, what? Hanse Davion piloted a Battlemaster! He took to the field when Liao Death Commandos raided the NAIS during the 4th Succession War.

  24. Wolfbane2004

    I am surprised you didn’t mention the hilarity of the Rifleman RFL-4D. All those heavy energy weapons and not a snowball’s chance in an arctic environ that the RFL-4D can sustain any weight of fire with those energy weapons. Heck, it’s hilarious in the HBS BattleTech game to see one of them try firing an alpha strike anyplace that’s heat neutral or worse. Not even (Prototype) DHS’s can save the design.

    If only Davion was smart enough to ditch the large lasers on the RFL-3N (or the AC/10s for AC/5s on the -3C) and do a 4 ML and 2 AC/5 loadout in 3025, it’d be a proto RFL-8D but with the original standard fusion engine, a good stockpile of ammo AND armor comparable with a DRG-1N. Only tweak for recovered tech would be using Endo Steel, upgrading the heat sinks to doubles and adding CASE (and maybe upgrading to LB 5-Xs).

  25. MightySchoop

    Probably the single biggest issue with the Succession Wars Era Rifleman is that it is over-engined. Speed is not the chief concern for a fire support Mech. If it had a Walk speed of 3, that would free up enough tonnage to ameliorate heat and ammo concerns, and at least pay lip service to armor coverage.

  26. MiaFillene

    Rifleman was the first mech I ever piloted, back in 1986, at my first gaming convention. I fought a Griffin at point blank range. Nearly won, too. But a jump over my head to three hexes behind me, without the arm flipping rules, lead to a center torso hit and my demise. But I loved that rifleman. I still have the og miniature in my collection. Itay be terrible, rather, it IS, but I still love my old Calamity Jane.

  27. Steven Newsom

    Works well as designed as a AAA Platform, was designed when mechs were all specialized to some extent or another. In the AAA role that 5 dmg from a AC/5 and 8 from a LL is enough to force Lawn Dart or Critical Hit rolls on most ASFs.

    Thrown willy nilly into the SW’s as HeavyAssault, Battle, Striker, and Recon roles, well, you can use a hammer to drive a screw, and a screw driver to drive a nail, but it isn’t going to be pretty in either case.

  28. Xt6wagon

    I think it’s primary issue is its the wrong weight. Often these bad mechs are just the wrong side of a weight class. So at 60 tons the rifleman is lumped in with superior designs 10-15 ton heavier. It also can’t really compete with the 55 tonners which let’s you pick a wide variety of mechs that are tougher and more mobile.

    I mean if I was rolling a 240ish ton lancein 3025, I’d anchor it with a archer, Warhammer, or marauder. Then fill in with 55 tonners around what’s needed. Rifleman would likely lose its arm before leaving the dropship anyway.

  29. typhusprimus

    I really enjoy these little blog things, especially the stories at the beginning.

    Do I feel like some of these issues are a bit overblown? Sure, but you’ve gotta poke fun at the things you enjoy. If anything it makes it more endearing

  30. JMcMillen

    I honestly wonder if part of the original Rifleman’s design issue was because, at that time, there was only one autocannon available in the rules (AC/5). Because if they had fitted it with AC/2’s instead, that would have freed up 4 tons that could have gone towards more ammo, armor, or (importantly) heat sinks.

    1. Argus

      True. But the fluff seems to follow that: The AC/5 was introduced in 2240, the next was the AC/2 in 2290. But that can´t explain why only the AC/5 was first used for Mechs, which is of course completly game-related.
      And your suggestions for a Rifleman-armament are clearly an improvement. It´s okay for a mech to generate some heat, you can use that, but the Rifleman goes clearly over the top.
      One suggestion a last: Autocannons can be used as flak without using design quirks (Campaign Operations). In the Tactitcal Operations – Advanced Units & Equipment special autocannon ammo can be found. Among these are the Flak Autocannon Ammo, which was introduced into the Terran Alliance in 2310.

  31. Neobushido

    I wouldn’t really call it a bad mech. Its a mech with a clear role and does fine within it and calling it a “bad heavy mech” is disregarding its purpose as a fire support/flak gang mech in which it performs well and even then with good placement and adjusted loadouts it can undertake even other rolls well just don’t be an incompetent dumbass thinking because its heavy its supposed be right there at the front and besides plenty of even heavier mechs that do much worse in ANY role like the definition of “please kill me from range” that is the banshee

  32. Richard A Uherka

    I wasn’t thrilled with the Rifleman either until a one-off tabletop game where I ended up fighting a Crusader solo even after taking an early engine hit thanks to an opponents lucky CT crit. Many rounds later, even with the horrid heat problems, I’d savaged the Crusader and was still in the fight. After that I ran Rifleman’s regularly in Mechwarrior RPG games because I enjoyed how much the mech is underestimated. I defeated everything thrown at me every time. The light ammo meant that I could run out before seeing the bin explode several times, and the weak rear armor was less of a problem when there wasn’t anything in the side torso’s to be damaged other than the MLs. The heat problems just needed careful management. A big part of any combat simulation game is tactics, learn to use them.

  33. Craig

    The light AC/5 allows (barely) an engine upgrade to a 300 standard, with endo steel structure. Without upgrading armor, you get one ton for each arm (and CASE for one torso) and with double heat sinks you can blast downrange and run without buildup. Also the large lasers and light ACs match on range.

    The Rifleman has many problems, namely heat, armor, and mobility in that order. This upgrade fixes #1 and #3 as well as allowing the mech do maneuver out of trouble when surrounded by 4/6 brawlers (helps #2).

    A faster Rifleman would allow it to truly deliver in a fire-support role, instead of being too slow and taking all that fire. Keep moving Rifleman.

  34. George Spelvin

    I’ve always assumed the Rifleman was a victim of LosTech. Sure it was a bad mech in 3025: paper thin armor, shallow ammo bin, and heat management problems up the wazoo. Then TRO:2750 came out and suddenly the Rifleman made a lot more sense.

    Swap in some combination of an XL engine, ferro-fibrous, endo-steel, and double heat sinks and you have enough tonnage and cooling available to make the Rifleman a VERY effective mech. I figured the weaksauce Rifleman of 3025 was what was left after those technologies were lost, making do with less capable alternatives because even a barely functional mech is better than no mech to the Disposessed.

    Then that darn Tex had to go and ruin my beautiful theory with his Battletech history.


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