Do Guns Work in Space? Scott Manley Covers Small Arms Use in Null G and Hard Vacuum

[It's a real shame this game is dead. Just saying.]

[It's a real shame this game is dead. Just saying.]

Due to both tradition and treaty, space today is a realm of peace between nations (although firearms have been taken up). However, it wasn’t always clear that it would be. At the dawn of the Space Race, both the Americans and Russians sought to weaponize space before the other, and plans were drawn up for everything from weaponized satellites to military Moon bases. Of course, it’s also true that even though space is peaceful now, in the future it may not be. Either angle begs the consideration: Could firearms be used in space, and if not, what sort of weapons would space infantry use in null gravity and hard vacuum?

Scott Manley, a Scottish astronomer, gamer, and part-time YouTube channel host, sets his sights on this question in a recent video, embedded below:

In the video, Scott cites a report, creatively titled The Meanderings of a Weapon Oriented Mind When Applied in a Vacuum Such as on the Moon, which addresses these questions. That report is available on Scribd, here.

There are a few immediate questions that come to mind when thinking about guns in space, like:

  1. Do firearms work when there’s no air (in a vacuum)?
  2. Would a gun’s recoil cause problems in null g?
  3. How would you use a gun in a space suit?

And these are good questions, indeed! For 1, the answer is that gun propellant contains both fuel and oxidizer, and therefore does not need air to burn. So the gun could fire, but the vacuum might affect the mechanical operation of the weapon due to thermal loads, evaporation of lubricants, and other potential problems.

Regarding 2, this depends greatly on the firearm in question. A very large and powerful weapon with a lot of recoil, like a Barrett M82, might impart significant thrust and rotational momentum to the shooter, while a very low-recoil gun like the P90 would produce low enough recoil levels that they could be compensated for by an EVA suit’s reaction control thrusters.

As for the interface between someone in a space suit and the weapon itself? Well, just like how body armor has changed the ergonomic requirements of modern firearms, a pressure suit would, too. You can probably expect all space guns of the future to adopt the mitten-friendly saber-type trigger guard, like this one:

IWI-Sights-on-IWI-X95



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • TheNotoriousIUD
    • A bearded being from beyond ti
    • valorius

      How that scene would’ve really happened:

      Lt Gorman: “Apone, I need you to collect magazines.”
      Apone: “Can’t read you sir, you are breaking up.”

      • Joshua

        and then they’d puncture the tanks above them, the reactor would go critical while they were still there, the whole site would be sterilized and Ripley would never escape to penal colony and we would be spared the next movie, all around good things

        • Tassiebush

          How can you say that? Especially when you factor in the alien vs predator films…

          • Joshua

            Aliens was actually my favorite movie of the series, it was mostly downhill from there

          • valorius

            I agree about Aliens- it’s my favorite action film of all time (And Alien my favorite horror movie), but Resurrection was pretty solid too. The AvP movies sucked.

          • Joshua

            I said mostly, not entirely, my problem with them, as with many Hollywood flicks, I know more about tactics than the producers did, which means I’m sitting there yelling at these “Trained Marines” about how they’re missing something so obvious as to be painful

          • valorius

            Like landing with their drop ship and opening the rear ramp to do whatever the heck it was he was doing? Then not immediately going into full combat mode and warning everyone when there’s slime on the ramp? D’oh. lol.

            Aliens required several suspensions of reality for the plot to work. Still a great movie though.

          • forrest1985

            What i find strange is for anybody that has read the Colonial Marines Technical Manual the group in the film were seriously outgunned and short staffed compared to a regular USCM platoon. For starters they would have had x2 air crews and x2 APC’s! Still a terrific movie though…

          • valorius

            The movie doesn’t work with 2 flight crew and 2 apcs, or if the gunship stays in a lazy orbit over the compound to provide air support as it surely would have.

          • forrest1985

            Tactics and directors don’t mix

          • noob

            The idea was that it was a Vietnam War allegory – an under-strength platoon with hand-me-down gear goes up the river to the heart of darkness and winds up in their own personal apocalypse now.

            There was supposed to be a huge disconnect between how things were meant to go and how things went.

          • Sulaco5

            I don’t know, my favorite Christmas Movie “Die Hard” is right up there.

        • valorius

          Reactors don’t go critical that fast. Remember the Smart gunners shot it full of holes anyway. 🙂

          I still want to know why they had 2 drop ships and only 1 aircrew. 😀

          I agree Alien III did NOT need to be made. Terrible flick.

        • Seth Hill

          He he he…… you said penal

    • codfilet

      “In Space, no one can hear you scream”….they can’t hear the sound of a shotgun racking,too…..

  • xebat

    I am 100% sure that DARPA has developed a few space small arms already but has to keep them a secret.

    • TheNotoriousIUD

      Hope they work better than the early AR or its gonna be game over man, game over.

      • xebat

        Just give it 30 years of refinement and it will be the best of it’s kind ;D

    • I have no doubt that they have in the past and will in the future.

    • Anonymoose

      I need a modern Gyrojet.

      • Tassiebush

        Me too! I could totally use one. The low noise and the fact it’d probably work under water gives me all sorts of cool ideas.

        • Seth Hill

          DNR: Sir, you are fishing without a license.
          Tassiebush: I was not fishing for fish, do you see a hook and line or net? I was hunting fish and since there is no license to hunt fish or law against it, your statement is invalid.

    • KestrelBike

      I would give your left nut to see those!

      • xebat

        I’d give my left nut to become a United States citizen to finally have the right to own guns.

        • Bradley

          I’ve heard the process is difficult, but I’m pretty sure theyes don’t require that.

          • Ambassador Vader

            We only accept the right ones.

  • MrBrassporkchop

    I heard the Russians had a Canon on one of their space stations.

  • Vitor Roma

    One issue is the extremely low temperatures of space, and metals can become very unreliable in such environment. A loaded AR has aluminum, different type of steels, brass and copper to deal with, and every one of those metals will react differently changing the tolerances quite a bit.

    • Anomanom

      In addition to the issues of extreme (like seriously extreme) heating and cooling, you’d have to be wary of preventing components from vacuum welding themselves together.

  • mechamaster

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8417e56e8eff4b674d4b2fcc333dbb4f76c4ee5b0a9399203d124f973bd88b95.gif

    The problem of small arms in space is the penetration capabilty. The Space Suit is capable to protect the user from small micrometeorite and small debris with the speed of bullet. And aiming the gun in space is a problematic one because the sight system is different.

    I think the most realistic scenario is a missile launcher / rocket launcher / recoilles-rifle / high-low grenade launcher system design with high explosive and guidance system for maximum concussion damage to the space-suit user and knock him out into outer space.

    If the combat entered CQB scenario, well, maybe the combat knife to cut and puncture the suit and concussion weapon to crack the helmet glass is preferable rather than projectile weapon.

    • Mr Mxyzptlk

      Space suits can stop micrometeorites travelling at speeds much faster than a bullet, but the way that they do this is that micrometeorites are generally far smaller than a bullet, and due to their high speed as soon as they meet resistance they disintegrate. If you were to fire a 5.56x45mm round at a space suit it would go straight through it.

      • ostiariusalpha

        That 5.56 bullet would also be just as deadly at a couple thousand meters in a vacuum as it is at 10 meters.

        • Mr Mxyzptlk

          Only if you knew where the other guy was going to be 11 seconds from when you fired.

          • ostiariusalpha

            At 945 m/s from a 508mm (20″) barrel, you’d actually have a pretty good chance of making a hit at 2000 meters, whether on the moon or in a microgravity orbital scenario. By necessity, everything is more deliberate in these environments, making quick evasion less simple and more impractical. As long, as you’ve accounted for the strongest gravity field, you can call your shot placement very reliably.

    • n0truscotsman

      “If the combat entered CQB scenario”

      Shotguns. In the 8-10 gauge range, firing tungsten buckshot. Preferably magazine loaded.

  • guest

    I had an idea fro a “space gun” one based on a Saiga-12 (or similar).
    Basically take the common 12 gauge shell, fill it up with way too much powder, and use “slugs”. The idea is that right after the chamber two openings are made into the barrel to which two tubes are welded. These tubes continue along the barrel towards the muzzle to each separate nozzle behind the brake. Both nozzles, as the brake itself, are pointed to the sides and backwards. The angle would have to be determined experimentally as the gases should not impact the shooter or the whole idea would be counter-productive. The shells would then be loaded with “slugs”, or more like shells, with miniature shaped charges and tracers according to need. And btw the barel would have to be rifled, and those two nozzles behind the brake would have to be bent in an angle.
    Once the gun was fired, the most obvious would happen and the shell would be accelerated out of the barrel. At the same exact time as the shell would leave the cartridge the powder gases would be supplied to each nozzle, thus counter-acting recoil *as well as* the torque caused by the projectile being spun up inside the barrel. The idea behind using shaped charges is that a… what should we call him… oh, right, “space marine”, for the lack of a better terminology, would have to shoot at two targets of interest – other people clad in space suits and/or body armor and vehicles of any kind which would be pressurized. So a small shaped charge solve both problems nicely.
    The more tricky part would be to keep powder/gun/shell at acceptable temperature levels, something that may be tricky in a vacuum as insulates extremely well which in turn can lead to extreme freezing temperatures or if in direct sunlige to excessive heat, so it would have to be connected to the above mentioned “space marine’s” suit which must have some kind of temperature regulation system to begin with.
    Now due to relatively low muzzle velocities it would mean the gun could only be used in any practical way in zero g, but I guess the Moon could work too.

    One of those crazy ideas I get once in a while, for no reason what so ever.

    • mechamaster

      Personally i like the combination of “AK-107 balanced recoil + the angled muzzle brake + specially designed propellant” in microgravity shooting scenario.

      Like the inside of space station, the gun propellant must not triggered the flame inside space station, and not too overpressure too. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9a0b56c1da0d7f1084b62bfc66cc35c24e98afdc02220bcad0939812ae328c3c.jpg

      • Mr Mxyzptlk

        The problem with a muzzle brake is that by definition you are redirecting the muzzle blast back at yourself, and in an environment as confined as a space station this would be a very bad idea. Also, a balanced recoil system wouldn’t do anything to stop you drifting backward, it would just stop the gun “rattiling” in your hands. In order that a muzzle brake would be efficient enough to counteract the recoil form the bullet leaving, you would have to have overpressured rounds that would make the whole muzzle brake muzzle blast issue even worse. Let us say that you had a system that was tuned perfectly to work in a space station, this would also not work the same in vacuum so you would either end up tipping forwards or backwards (I can’t quite get my head around which, but I think it would drag the muzzle brake forwards more).

        • guest

          To answer your and everyone else’s comments at a time so this does not turn into one of those iksnilol-ish 1000-post threads:

          “Why not bazooka?” – because even IF there is some armor used in space, most likely it will be extremely thin or task-specific. For example Shuttle used dual hull with highly flexible aluminum that was spaced, so a micro-meteorite would shatter on the first hull and then the “dust” from that shattered little thing would be stopped by the second.
          “Why not bazooka?” part 2: it would work, but here a man would operate a man-sized weapon, with multiple shots, doing the exact same with less. The idea is a gun, not an artillery substitute.
          “Does not need rifling” – yes, it does. There are almost no projectiles (except shot) that do not require ANY stabilization what so ever. Using a small shaped charge shell would absolutely demand use of stabilization, even more so if a tracer is used.
          “ballistics make no sense in Space” – yes, they do very much so. Especially so for a man-portable weapon.
          “gyrojet and bazooka” – no. The whole point would be to mitigate recoil while at the same time not using a retarded little rocket that never really worked, on a gun that is proven by all means, with very few modifications, achieving the exact same result a classical recoil-less gun would, without having it fire powder gases directly to the rear.
          “bullets in space work differently, no air bla bla bla” – yes, they would work exactly the same. Gyroscopic effects work just as well in cosmic vacuum, proof of which is the extremely stabile axis of rotation of ALL celestial bodies that do rotate.
          “balanced system” – not needed, since there won’t be enough ammo for effective full-automatic fire. Balancing mitigates active vibration during full auto, however if a recoil impulse for ONE shot is cancelled out in its entirety by powder gases – the shooter would perceive recoil (all impulses, shot itself, barrel/rifling drag, impulses from internal components like bold/carrier etc) but in reality no recoil as such would take place as the shooter would stay exactly where he was, and not get “knocked back”. Vibration during firing/charging would however be perceived, with no penalty.

          • FrenchieGunner

            No you certainly do not need any spin or involve any gyroscopic stability in space because there’s no pressure or drag being applied on the projectile, so there wouldn’t be any tumble involved.
            In fact giving a spin to the bullet would make things worse since you are making the center of mass spinning off axis and since there’s no fluid compressing the projectile, it is dynamically unstable and will increase the yaw angle as it goes.

    • Rasq’uire’laskar

      This, uh, modified Saiga 12 design… are we going to call it “Vera”?

    • Mr Mxyzptlk

      Why do you think that a gun in space would have to be rifled? The point of rifling is to improve aerodynamic stability, and what with their being no air in space this wouldn’t be a concern. Rifling wouldn’t even stop key-holing in a vacuum, in fact I think it may make it worse.

      I believe that a space gun would be better with just a spherical slug. If it was in a sabot when it was fired (which depending on how it was propelled this may be needed) you would need some kind of spring or elastic material between the two which would compress under acceleration, but when acceleration stopped the two would drift apart from the stored energy in the spring.

      As for the gun design itself, the most recoil free method would be something like a hybrid between a Gyrojet and a bazooka. Imagine a tube that was over your shoulder that was open at both ends, and the cartridges were small self contained rockets like a Gyrojet’s. It would be practically recoilless as the rocket gasses would not be contained in a chamber, the only action on the firearm would be a certain amount of forward movement caused by torque as the rocket dragged forwards along the barrel. It would be possible to counteract this by a calibrated partial obstruction at the rear of the tube to create a certain amount of forward pressure. A design like this would also have the advantage of having very few moving parts so it wouldn’t need lubrication which is problematic in hard vacuum.

      You could also go more with the recoilless rifle route and have a counter balancing mass coming out the back, but if that is the case you have to be damn careful how you use it.

      • marathag

        bullets aren’t perfect, there is dynamic stability as well to consider.
        But in space, no problem using wadcutters for long range work

        • Mr Mxyzptlk

          Bullets only get dynamically stable due to air resistance acting on their sides when they are off axis, which wouldn’t happen in space so bullets would tumble exactly the same if they were spinning or not. in fact I think they would tip faster than a non rifled bullet due to the fact that the centre for gravity is spinning around an axis. I believe that they would eventually flatten out to the point where they are 90 degrees on their side and spinning around, whereas a non rifled bullet would be tumbling forwards forever but not spinning.

          • ostiariusalpha

            That is not totally correct. Gyroscopic stabilization occurs in a vacuum as well as in atmosphere, that’s why space stations and satellites depend on mechanical gyroscopes to maintain certain orientations.

          • marathag

            Rotation provides dynamic stability, as bullets are not perfect shapes, be they cylinders or Ogive

      • Cannikin

        Actually no, rifling is not specifically for aerodynamic stability, it is to impart angular momentum for gyroscopic stability, i.e. it resists changes to its direction or rate of spin. It is the same principle that causes the Earth’s north pole to continuously point to the North Star (Polaris) while going around the sun at 67,000 mph, or lets astronomers point the Hubble Space Telescope at a single star continuously for hours without use of thrusters. In space the only forces acting on a bullet would be gravity and impacting other objects, so a spinning bullet would be gyroscopically stable and pointing in the same direction almost indefinitely.

        Of course orbital mechanics are highly complex, and “point and shoot” will almost never work as everything is moving at the same time. A bullet may have the same “sidereal” (relative to stars) orientation, but if it follows the orbit of its target to the other side of the planet it will be “pointing” in the opposite direction of its target. Not to mention the whole issue of imparting any sort of change of speed to an object changes its orbit.

    • gunsandrockets

      Or, you could just use an RPG-7!

  • Ark

    A bigger challenge would be finding anyone dumb enough to go into orbit and attempt to kill someone else. It’s a suicide mission for everyone involved. Run out of suit propellant? Drift until you suffocate. Any hit of any kind? Depressurize and suffocate. Your ride takes even the smallest amount of damage to its heat shield? Burn up and die on reentry.

    No cover anywhere. No stealth. No real chance of rescue or recovery. Accidental deaths just as common as those caused by enemy fire.

    You could put a swarm of remote-operated satellites into orbit for the cost of one human-sized sack of water and the requisite plumbing. There nothing in orbit worth sending people to physically capture. Everything in orbit can be blasted from the ground, and as soon as you start doing that in earnest, the debris begins to multiply at an exponential rate until everything between 50 and 300 miles in altitude has been turned into scrap.

    I have no doubt we could design a firearm that would function in space. Humans are engineers, it’s what we do. But it’s much harder to imagine a realistic scenario in which a human would carry it into space and use it. I sure as hell don’t want that job, because there’s no way it ends in anything other than gruesome death.

    • Porty1119

      Just because a thing is unwise, does not mean it won’t happen.

      • Rick O’Shay

        I mean, look at Florida Man. He’s always doing stuff that’s unwise.

        • VanDiemensLand

          Made my day!!!

        • Ambassador Vader

          The Adventures of Florida Man!

      • Anomanom

        We invented nuclear weapons and Twitter after all.

        • iksnilol

          Yeah, good God, we’ll never recover from Twitter.

          *shudder*

      • valorius

        LOL, to support your point: cause charging machine guns with infantry across no man’s land was wise. 😉

    • Anomanom

      Not necessarily in orbit, but in the interest of resource exploitation, the moon or even a largish asteroid could become a host to armed conflict.

      • valorius

        I would say that at some point in human history, it’s almost inevitable. We’ll probably be using energy weapons by then though.

    • valorius

      Space suits are actually designed to withstand hits from micro debris traveling at speeds many times faster than a rifle bullet. I have no idea what their NIJ rating is equivalent to, but i’ll bet they’re at least IIIA.

    • Lee Attiny

      The CIA actually had a program to put spies in spacesuits into orbit before the advent of spy satellites.

    • n0truscotsman

      Its bound to happen.

      Infantry combat will only evolve, not become obsolete (as is always predicted by naval and air power people).

      If we manage to go into space in respectable numbers (which is extremely iffy IMO), I foresee the necessity for orbital and terrestrial infantry engagements (think heinlein, haldeman, and bungie’s Halo series) to simply take and hold battle space.

      It will probably be like the Ender saga (cant recall which book specifically), where Marine infantry boarding engagements are an extremely costly endeavor. In fact, speaking of the Halo and Ender franchises, battlefield deaths are an all too frequent occurrance, and they’re particularly gruesome. You have a point there…

  • 40mmCattleDog
  • A bearded being from beyond ti

    One thing that i though was sorta interesting was that in CoD Ghosts, the rifles that we’re used in the space levels (the ARX 160 and X95) appeared to in one way or the other use CO2 as a propellant for the bullets. Basically the world’s deadliest airsoft guns.

    CO2 would obviously kick less and since there is no air slowing the bullet down and only very minimal gravitational pull, maybe that could work, maybe.

  • ButtStuff?

    Complete novice here… wouldn’t the lack of oxygen cause the metal components to spontaneously cold weld together? Good chance I’m an idiot and that not applicable.

    • Mr Mxyzptlk

      Although cold welding is a real thing, I think it is kind of a myth about how much of a problem it would be in practical terms. In order for materials to spontaneously cold welded they have to be exactly the same material, have zero corrosion or contamination, and be pushed together with a lot of force. With a firearm, it would basically never happen due to material differences (both in terms of chemical composition and heat treatment), not enough force, and the inevitable contaminants and corrosions that would interfere with the process.

  • Evil13RT

    How much shooting are we expecting?
    The M6 seems purpose made for basic astronauting needs.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bf7b50560d95013f81c32a822fe6f44b4918508b4840304a29d2fd002dfff3f8.jpg

    • iksnilol

      A single shot .410 and .22 hornet against xenomorphs or Space Commies?

      Get real.

      • roguetechie

        What about Orks in their dakka heavy space technicals?

        • forrest1985

          Terminator Armour

          • roguetechie

            Ah, fair enough

            Yes genetically modified psychopaths in power armor should solve the Ork space technical / dakka situation nicely…

            Unless we run out of psychopaths before they run out of Orks…

            Or… If they run out of Orks and we still have a crap ton of heavily armed and armored psychopaths left…

            That could be bad too

  • woodgrain

    A laser would be good enough to cook a hole in your enemies suit and say bye-bye to your enemy as he freezes.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Space isn’t really cold.

      • Paladin

        Hard vacuum doesn’t really have a temperature. In space the only way to transmit heat is through radiation. If you’re exposed to the sun, or some other source of thermal radiation you heat up, if you’re in the shade, you freeze as your body dumps heat via black body radiation. Also of note, even if you’re in the sun, you’ll have a day and a night side. Unless you’re rotating, the day side will bake while the night side freezes.

        The discussion is largely academic though, if your suit was breached you’d freeze-dry from your body’s water content evaporating, but you’d probably already be dead from suffocation if you had the sense to breathe out, or from ruptured internal organs if you didn’t.

        • ostiariusalpha

          It would take literally months for your body to reach a low enough temperature to freeze water from radiating heat away in a hard vacuum, assuming you were not touching an already cold surface or exposed to any radiant heat. In fact, your body temperature would evaporate the water inside you away in a matter of days, leaving you a mummified husk. Realistically, your punctured opponent would pass out in a matter of seconds from rapid deoxygenation that occurs at low pressures, and then die from subsequent cardiac arrest, assuming the bullet didn’t outright kill him in the first place.

          • Paladin

            Do some research on how freeze drying works. In order for water to evaporate it has to draw energy from its surroundings. In a hard vacuum, water will simultaneously freeze and evaporate, as the evaporating water cools the remaining water sufficiently to freeze it.

          • ostiariusalpha

            I know how it works pretty well. Where are you getting the notion that enthalpy of evaporation will be high enough to freeze the water, none of the studies I’ve seen show that occurring in a vacuum at fluid temperatures near that of a human body.

          • Paladin

            As you no doubt are aware, any substance at a given temperature actually contains particles occupying a bell-curve distribution of temperatures. Liquid water is not stable at pressures below it’s triple point (~0.61KPa). Below that pressure it will either evaporate or freeze. The water molecules with high enough temperatures will boil (violently so in fact), while those below the freezing point in a vacuum (~200K) will freeze. Moreover, the water that does boil off, being in a vapour phase, can now radiate heat away very quickly causing it to drop below the freezing point and desublimate. This has, believe it or not, been experimentally demonstrated. Astronauts evacuating their liquid waste into space noted that it boiled very rapidly, then froze into a fine mist of ice crystals.

            The speed at which this would happen inside the human body would likely be reduced to some degree on account of the pressure generated by the cohesive forces of the body, but you would, eventually, turn into very literal astronaut ice cream. This is however, as I mentioned before, purely academic, since you’d be dead before any of this had a chance to happen.

          • ostiariusalpha

            Ah, you are completely correct! I totally “spaced” on the triple point state of water; so, your erstwhile opponent would indeed get turned into human gelato from the outside-in over about an hour or so. I should point out that the liquid waste example is not perfect, as it is pretty much aerosolized when dumped, which causes it to freeze more rapidly. It’s still the same principle though.

          • Tassiebush

            It calls for a practical experiment

          • RocketScientist

            I run an environmental test lab with many vacuum chambers. On Bring your Kids to Work Day, we perform a lot of demonstrations. One of which is to place a small tray of water under one of our glass bell jars and evacuate the chamber using a turbopump. Within a minute or two you’ll see the water start to boil, while simultaneously freeze. Neat trick.

        • iksnilol

          From what I know, according to NASA you could survive about a minute of exposure to space without a suit if you had the good sense to breathe out before getting exposed. There’s an astronaut who had his hand slightly exposed for like half a minute but he was fine later on IIRC. I remember reading about it.

          • Paladin

            Yeah, given timely rescue one could possibly survive exposure to hard vacuum. You’d probably still end up with some pretty serious injuries from full body exposure though.

    • Mr Mxyzptlk

      If that weaponry became practical people would start wearing highly reflective suits which would massively decrease the effectiveness of a laser. It would also be pretty effective camouflage for the most part.

      • roguetechie

        What is it with people and thinking highly reflective suits will do anything to a weaponized laser?

        1. Heist movies aren’t shown in physics class because they pretty much ignore physics chemistry etc by their nature.

        2. The Rifts RPG may be cool, but future warfare won’t involve glitter boy power suits, because highly reflective surfaces wouldn’t work to stop lasers.

        Besides that, we’re more likely to face PEP based weapons.

      • noob

        This is an Optical Beam Stop. Physics students make them by gluing a stack of razor blades together and then bolting them to the bench.

        It will absorb a high powered laser by reflecting it multiple times in the gaps between the blades absorbing the light and dissipating the heat.

        No idea how to wear a suit of razor blades, but I’m sure an engineer will come up with something. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/aabaaccdf81ea05a14ad73b3fd64dca66c15069532fba0143424ecf27f2f8cea.jpg

    • Airrider

      Y’know how to defeat a laser? Hair. Cage armor.

      The laser has to burn through any upper layers before it gets to the lower ones, and diffusing the beam with an extremely uneven surface can go a long way to buying a defender time to plug their opponent.

      Unless you can straight up vaporize them in the blink of an eye, kinetic or chemical (explosive) energy rules the roost.

      • Secundius

        A 5-Watt Laser will Cut Bone. Boeing is Field Testing a Portable ~650-pound 10-kilowatt Pulse Fiber Laser with a Range is excess of 22-kilometers and can Easily Kill a Human. That come in Five Pieces and can be put together by a Squad of 8-men in as little as 15-minutes…

  • marathag

    Scott Manley is probably best known for his videos on Kerbal Space Program, miniature humanoids who ride the rockets you design.

    It’s Minecraft for Space Nerds

    And a lot of fun, if you’re into that.

    • Paladin

      And a decent way to establish a more intuitive understanding of orbital mechanics.

      • marathag

        It’s a fun way to learn physics. Wish that was around when I was a kid.

  • Edeco

    Spike shoots his 941 in space in Cowboy Bebop, they feel like they could handle it.

    Would the bullets pop out or jam up against the inside of the mag due to gas inside? May have to use 38 wadcutters crimped over the bullet for space gunfighting.

  • wetcorps

    Americans would be absolutely crushed in a space firefight because you can’t get a good cheekweld in a spacesuit 🙂

    • iksnilol

      People from the Middle East would be dominating space combat :O

      • LCON

        because they keep shooting Saturn

  • Somebody said that America was too busy going to the Middle East to bother funding a trip to Mars. One can only imagine where potential space gun money is being squandered right now! Maybe the geothermal crochet lobby secured it instead?

  • Dave

    Shattered Horizon was an awesome game, pity it always had a small community.

  • valorius

    Gun powder is self oxidizing, so yes. However, in actual outer space the temperature extremes can be enormous. Heat dissipation is also extremely problematic in a vacuum. So the metallurgy and cooling system required would necessitate a very, very expensive end product.

    • Chris

      I tried to shoot a .22lr stinger cartridge at -65 degrees Fahrenheit ,(the rifle and ammo had been at that temperature ,or lower for several hours) when I pressed the trigger ,I knew something was wrong,the bullet barely made it 10
      yards …the noise sounded like ” ffittzz”
      or something ?
      Anyway, I think the primer compound in the rim was all that even Simi-worked because of the cold .
      And it was much lower powered than the other primer powered rimfire ammo that several companies offer (Aguila ,.22 Colibri is primer powered , propelling a 20 grain bullet at 500/600fps ) No,… this was closer to a 32gr. Bullet at only 50/60 fps!
      So if negative 65 degrees screws with priming compounds and powders like
      this , then imagine what 200 below zero would be like ???
      Or 220 degrees or higher in heat …slight rise in chamber pressures ,maybe ???
      DEFINITELY need to look into how extreme temperature effects propellants .
      Wonder how a sling shot would work ? Find a substitute for the surgical rubber tubing that could stay stretchy at temperature extremes ? A lead .50 cal ball
      Smacking into your face plate ,under the stresses of vacuum ,could be unpleasant ?

  • valorius

    “Phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range.”

    • RA

      Hey hey just what you see on the shelf buddy!

  • There have been zero recoil guns made for space. An AK variant and for the West, a recoiless Shotgun. Made specifically for Space use.
    And considering the primers and powder both contain oxygenating agents… and can fire underwater…. yes… Guns in Space are a thing.

    • marathag

      Smokeless powder now is optimized for a zero to 140°F, and some doublebase powders get weak under 25°F

      Magazines may need heatpipe radiators and peltier coldplates to keep ammo in a good range of temps

  • ozzallos .

    I like scott, but i would think THB would be chasing a slightly more, um, credentialled source for something like this.

  • iksnilol

    Yeah, that gun wasn’t really made for shooting at each other in space. It was made as a survival gun. Think M6 or AR-7.

  • Evan

    So while reading the article I was thinking of solutions to some of the issues:
    -Evaporating lubrication:
    Dry lubricants, aswell as naturally lubricious materials.
    -Cold/vacuum weldign if metals:
    Different coatings on adjacent moving parts
    Different metals(it would be best if it wasn’t just a different alloy of the same metal)
    Use electronic firing systems
    Recoil:
    -Repurposed muzzle brakes that work as small RCS thrusters(it would only eliminate part of the recoil velocity and rotation gain but it’d be there).

    We’d also probably use caseless ammunition since space debris is bad(though then what about the bullets?)

    If we ever reach a point of firearms being used in space then we’d probably have migrated to projectile weapons that use rockets, or railguns/gauss rifles, or energy weapons(something I doubt due to the ease of defending against these).

  • LazyReader

    Of course they work in space, oxidizer is present in the propellant and no gravity and no atmosphere means no drag or bullet drop.

  • dhdoyle

    Here is a serious issue with operating moving parts in a hard vacuum and in the cold of space. Without the small cushion of air between moving parts, metal-to-metal contact will cause terrible galling. This is even an issue when turning screws in a vacuum. Shooting a bullet down a rifled barrel without ruining both will be a major feat of technology.

    Lubrication will also be a problem in temperatures near absolute zero.

  • Secundius

    Well Sure? There a One Atmosphere Pressure inside the Cartridge to Ignite the Powder Charge! But watch out for Newton’s Third Law of Motion…

  • BeenThereDoneThat

    Uhmmm, Most of the responders are commenting like we have ZERO information about how materials react in the “extremes” of space! We already have a “space station” where many of the things everyone is all worried about have been addressed! Metal shattering in the frigid non-atmosphere, friction grinding away on contact surfaces… There are enough moving parts on that space station to already determine lubricant efficiency.

    Pretty simple! Recoil will be a problem, item mass, equal and opposite, etc. Trajectory will not be an issue since “bullet drop” won’t be. Whatever the distance of the bore over the line of sight will be the same at point blank and wherever the target is down range. Also, there will be no velocity drop due to range, terminal velocity will the the same +/- fractional inches per second affects of interstellar gravity. Probably an easy way to figure that issue is to use the muzzle energy and free recoil of the firearm as starting points. A FN PS90 has more mass to recoil energy than a M4. It’s all SCIENCE!!!