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    Guns In Space

    Here's a fun topic that I hope we might discuss. No Googling, let's talk about this and then see where it goes. The Question: Will a normal slug-throwing gun fire in the vacuum of space? I do know the answer to this, but it'll be fun to see what everyone thinks and the reasoning behind it.
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    Commander Daryn SkyStrike
    Ascenseon - The Avian Planet

    “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob

    #2
    Interesting. I don't know all that much about firing mechanisms of guns, so I'm having to presume a few things about how they work. From what I understand, the trigger links to a moving part that causes a miniature explosion (striking and sparking against a combustible part at the rear of the shell) which propels the bullet forwards? If this is the case, I suppose being in space may affect the movement of that part. How does a lack of gravity affect elasticity? If you stretch a rubber band taut and then let go in a vacuum, does it snap back? I have no idea.

    I would imagine that if the explosion that propels the bullet still occurs, then the bullet would still fire. Rocket propulsion works in space, doesn't it? I'm pretty sure you can use it in KSP to affect your flight path XP

    So if explosions and combustion still propel solid objects, I guess the bullet would still fire. Might it even be more effective in a sense, given the lack of air resistance and gravity affecting the bullet?
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      #3
      This is an interesting topic. To answer the topic's question, though, no a gun wouldn't fire in space.

      Well, it would, but only partially.

      Here's a diagram of a bullet:

      diag_bullet-cutout.jpg

      When the gun's striker strikes the bullet's primer, it sets off a chain reaction that causes the powder to burn. There is enough oxygen in the space in and around the powder to start it burning, but the rate at which the powder burns would consume this very quickly. From there on, the powder would rely upon the oxygen in the air to continue burning. And so, in the vacuum of space, you'd have the primer go off, but then have the powder go out before it was able to develop enough force to send the bullet out through the barrel of the gun. In the best case scenario, you'd have a bullet that was ejected from the barrel, but at a velocity too low to do any harm. In worst case, you'd have your bullet lodge in the barrel of the gun, rendering the firearm useless until the bullet could be removed. Which would more than likely require a hammer and rod to achieve.

      As to rockets, they require a source of oxygen be brought up into space with them. In the vernacular of rocketry, this oxygen is called 'Oxidizer'.

      As to a rubber band, of course it would. A rubber band's stretching has nothing to do with gravity. It is due to the way the molecules in the rubber are linked. It has to do with the science of elasticity. Here is a pretty good article on it.
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        #4
        So far one says yes, it would, and one says no it wouldn't. This is one thing someone will have to actually try in the conditions of Space itself because the answer I have relates to vacuum. A firearm will fire in a vacuum. As slice suggested, it will also fire faster, about 5% faster because of the lack of air resistance. It also turns out that this lack of air resistance makes the explosion of the ignition a lot larger.

        So I still don't know if a gun will fire in Space, but it will fire on Earth in a bullet-proof vacuum chamber. Which leads me to ask whether the presence of atmosphere or gravity are factors? If a gun will fire underwater, then it stands to reason that the reaction needed to fire the bullet doesn't depend on air being present. Yes, a gun will fire underwater, but the bullet isn't going to be very effective. So I guess there is probably more to this.
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          #5
          Originally posted by Daryn View Post
          If a gun will fire underwater
          Doing this is extremely dangerous, though. When you fire off a gun underwater, there is a column of water in the barrel that the force of the ignition and bullet needs to push out. And since water doesn't compress, if there is any flaw of any kind in the gun's mechanism or barrel, the gun could be blown apart.

          Not something for the kiddies to try at home.
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            #6
            Originally posted by Rick Canaan View Post
            Doing this is extremely dangerous, though. When you fire off a gun underwater, there is a column of water in the barrel that the force of the ignition and bullet needs to push out. And since water doesn't compress, if there is any flaw of any kind in the gun's mechanism or barrel, the gun could be blown apart.

            Not something for the kiddies to try at home.


            Oh definitely, you should NEVER do this. I probably should have made that clear.
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              #7
              Originally posted by Daryn View Post
              Oh definitely, you should NEVER do this. I probably should have made that clear.
              Haha, bit of culture shock there - it hadn't even occurred to me that kids could get their hands on the ingredients to try firing a gun underwater XD

              Also, this is somewhat off-topic, so I apologise, but talking about firing guns underwater reminded me of this fantastic scene from Top Secret!:



              (Skip to about 30 seconds in to get to the part I'm referring to)
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                #8
                Oh god yes. Here in the States, guns are as ubiquitous in households as common cats. I started learning how to use guns at the very tender age of eight.
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                  #9
                  I've known the answer since I was pretty young.

                  The answer is yes. This is due to the fact that black powder has its own oxidizer in the form of saltpeter.
                  Last edited by Rusakov; 1 week ago. Reason: technical corrections and brevity.
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                    #10
                    Actually, after doing some reading, I discovered that yes, a gun can be fired in space. As Rusakov pointed out, one of the components of gun powder is saltpeter (potassium nitrate), which is an oxidizer. It produces oxygen when it burns.

                    That comes with a caveat, however. Old-style gunpowder (also known as 'Black Powder') may not fire reliably in space. Saltpeter is too unreliable as an oxidizer to be trusted to produce the desired result in the absence of ambient oxygen. Modern gunpowder, coined Smokeless Powder, however, uses nitrocellulose as its oxidizing component - which produces oxygen at a much higher and much more consistent rate. Moreover, modern gunpowder undergoes deflagration. It does not detonate or explode but burns at a supersonic rate of ignition, which propagates the oxygen production as rapidly as it burns. Therefore it would be able to be used reliably in the absence of ambient oxygen. Also, unlike old-style gunpowder, most of its after-product is gaseous. Black powder, however, produces large amounts of unburned product (carbon byproducts that manifest in large amounts of smoke), which serves to retard the ignition process.
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                      #11
                      Indeed. It's not a good idea unless you've got something to counter the recoil - it's liable to send you tumbling unless you're latched onto something - but a modern gun will work in an environment with no oxygen.

                      Also, this might surprise you, but there are in fact guns designed specifically for use underwater. They're not frequently used (they're very much a specialist weapon, typically only used by special forces like the SEALS, and maybe military divers), and they don't tend to work well in air, but they do exist.
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                        #12
                        Originally posted by Rick Canaan View Post
                        SNIP nitrocellulose
                        So I was technically correct, the best kind of correct.
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