One of the many things that sets the steampunk genre apart from straight Victorian novels or from the average Science Fiction novel is the creativity required to place advanced technologies in the hands of people who historically had limited access to anything more advanced than a shotgun.
Science Fiction allows for advancements based on Technology we have, and is usually set far enough in the future that one does not need to suspend too much disbelief in order to appreciate the technologies that are available.
with Steampunk, a little more effort may be required. You need a pistol for your hero to protect himself from an attacker? No problem, pistols and revolvers were available in the Victorian age? You need a laser blaster for your pirate to protect cut down a group of automatons? it is 1824? No problem, you just need to invent it, and make it feel believable within the reality you are creating.
That is the beauty of the genre – you can make nearly anything you want happen in your story. The only thing that is truly necessary is to justify the existence of each outlandish item.
I have been a bit obsessed with the weapons as of late, mostly because in Mademoiselle Durand and the Pirates, the main characters are under attack throughout the story, so weapons are necessary. Given the time period, pistols are more prevalent than other weapons, but I must admit I like swordplay as well.
A combination gun/sword for fighting close range or from afar. An interesting idea that I’ve seen mentioned in a few different works.
A dagger that could easily be concealed, and looks sufficiently “steampunk”.
This combination axe/pistol is a new one for me. I actually like the design. I could easily see a wood cutter fighting off hordes of the undead with one of these. Or, your character can chop down a tree AND participate in a shootout!
A common theme to many of the steampunk weapons you can see online is combining long range and close range into one item that could, in theory be equally efficient in both situations. While I question how effective they would be in a real fighting scenario, the creators all get an A for effort. Especially the creator of the Axegun.
Not being much of a physical builder, I find these pieces to be quite inspiring. I wish I had the physical coordination to make some items like these. But I can admire them, and use them as inspiration for weapons in my stories.
Sometimes, the weapons are more realistic, simply invented in the reality you are creating before they were actually invented in reality. Steampunk machine guns for the war effort, in an American Civil War entering its tenth year would be a bit fantastical, but entirely possible in an arms race to end a war that has torn a country apart. Or maybe a rocket launcher to bring those pesky Union airships out of the sky.
So, writers, do you have any fantastic weapons (Steampunk or not), that you like to include in your stories? I’m attempting to become more knowledgeable on the subject, myself. My search history must look awfully strange to the outsider. But, that is the life of a writer.