Stillwater News Press

Our World

August 8, 2012

How would a shootout work in zero gravity?

In a climactic scene in the new sci-fi actioner "Total Recall," our heroes Hauser (Colin Farrell) and Melina (Jessica Biel) find themselves caught in a zero-gravity shootout near the center of the Earth. Would guns really work in zero gravity?

Yes. Unlike most ballpoint pens, for example, which are famously ill-equipped for the weightlessness of outer space, gravity has nothing to do with the mechanical functioning of a gun. Instead, both semi-automatic and automatic guns rely on springs (not gravity) to bring the next bullet into the chamber, before a small explosion within the gun fires the bullet.

However, as in the film, a zero-g gunman should exercise some caution, as firing a bullet would also send him or her flying in the opposite direction. When you shoot a gun under normal conditions on Earth, the friction between your body and the ground keeps you in place. With every shot you experience recoil (your arms and shoulders are forced back by the force of the bullet's projection), but with an experienced shooter it's only about an inch to a foot, and you should have no problem staying on your feet. In zero gravity, on the other hand, even the smallest recoil would send you backwards. In most cases this would be very manageable, however, bouncing you back at a speed of less than one meter per second, so you wouldn't have to worry about seriously injuring yourself. Even if you fired a .44 Magnum, for example, and weighed only 100 pounds, the recoil velocity would be under 0.5 mph, which is still less than walking speed. If you wanted to really propel yourself using a gun, you'd want to use a really big one.

What about the bullet? Would it be more quick and deadly in space? Not really. The speed of the bullet would remain roughly the same in zero gravity as it is on Earth, so shooting in space is not going to make your gun any more or less lethal to your space enemy. The only way you'd see a noticeable difference is if you were firing the bullet over a long distance. On Earth, a combination of air resistance and gravity slows the bullet and gradually pulls it down towards the Earth. This is why when you shoot your weapon, you have to aim slightly higher than your target. This force is so small, however, that over short distances there would essentially be no difference in the shot's trajectory.

---

Thanks to L. Nelson of Bishop's University and L.P. Brezny of Metro Gun Systems.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Our World
Must Read
Buy & Share Photos
NewsPress e-Edition
NewsPress Specials
AP Video
Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando
Stocks
NDN Video
Heartwarming 'Batkid Begins' Documentary is Tear-Jerker Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up Broken Water Main Floods UCLA "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad