Will a Gun Fire in Space? Has anyone tried to discharge a firearm in space?

Aug 6th 2021

Will a Gun Fire in Space?

Can you shoot a gun in outer space? Will it shoot the same as it would on Earth? Why are there not more sci-fi movies with people using guns in space opposed to laser guns? What is with that?

Can you Shoot a Gun in Space?

Weirdly enough, you can shoot a gun in outer space. You may be thinking, “but what about the oxygen needed to ignite the propellant?” Well, bullets actually carry their own oxidizing agent in the cartridge where it explodes. You might be wondering why bullets have an oxidizing agent when they are not made with space in mind. Well, even if there is plenty of oxygen in the air on Earth, this does not mean it is available quickly enough and in adequate amounts for proper combustion. In order to increase the reliability of bullets, the oxidizing agent is included.

Can you Shoot a Gun in Space

space bullet by WikiImages from Pixabay

Did you know that guns actually do make it to space?

Historically, the Russians included a weapon with three barrels and folding stock in their survival packs. The weapons are included for a safety precaution when they land. The idea is, if they land on enemy territory when they re-enter the atmosphere, they have a firearm to protect themselves with the hope of returning back to Russia. Even though the firearm is not for space use, it could, hypothetically, be used in space if needed.

Effects of Shooting in Space

If you really did bring a gun to space and shoot it, the outcome would look very different from what you currently know.

Consider the sound? You would not be able to hear the gunshot in space. You could even shoot a 460 Weatherby Magnum with an 18 inch barrel. You couldn’t hear those 170 decibels when shooting a Weatherby in space.

What about the smoke trail? Is anything more satisfying than seeing the smoke rise off the end of the barrel? In space, the smoke would have a completely different trail. It would look more like an expanding circle of smoke. It would not trail up, but all around the center of the smoke would continuously spread out.

Effects of Shooting in Space

Shooting by Ralf Vetterle from Pixabay

Potential Problems with Shooting a Gun in Space

Even with shooting in space being possible, there comes the consideration, is it probable? There are so many factors that could come into play and become a barrier for shooting a gun in space.

  • Unstable Atmosphere: Wide variations in temperature may have an effect on your firearm. Temperatures in space can go up to 248 degrees Fahrenheit or even higher when in direct light from a star. Direct sunlight can have negative effects on the operational functionality of your weapon. It can make the gun hot enough to explode the ammunition spontaneously. The temperatures in space have such a wide range that they can even plummet to negative 148 degrees Fahrenheit. Low temperatures will make metals brittle and prone to malfunctions. These kinds of temperatures would cause problems with the primer, not even allowing your firearm to go off.
  • Gravitational Pull: If you were to shoot in space, where you shoot matters. If you shoot too close to a planet with a strong gravitational pull, you would not have the opportunity to have your bullet get close to your target. It would get pulled into a gravitational pull and the speed would be accelerated exponentially. Even consider the effects of shooting a firearm when orbits are considered. Objects orbiting planets are in a constant state of orbiting. The lack of a gravitational pull to bring the bullet down eventually would make the trajectory of a bullet pretty interesting to watch in space.
  • Newton’s Third Law: If you shoot a gun in space, Newton’s law of motion still exists. You will still have an equal and opposite force from the exertion of the bullet. This is what creates the kickback when shooting. The problem is, with the lack of gravity, you would not have the same gravitational pull and anchor to brace yourself against the reverb. You would start moving backwards and may not even realize how much you are being pushed after shooting your firearm in space.
  • Expanding Universe: If you miss your target and shoot your bullet off into space, there is a chance that the bullet could travel for millions of light-years. The universe is ever expanding. It is expanding at a rate that the bullet could not keep up with. The bullet will keep going, literally forever. The target would forever be out of reach. It could never keep up with the estimated 73 kilometers per second of growth that the universe is constantly growing.

So even though shooting is possible, it will not look like the shooting you are familiar with on Earth.


Considering the laws of physics, how objects respond on earth with gravity in play is not how objects would respond in space. Whatever we do on Earth, from pouring a glass of water, to shooting a gun, the outcomes will be varied when attempted in space. Many of the results will depend on where you choose to fire your firearm in space. Are you looking to shoot on the moon? In the orbit of a planet? Out in the middle of space where you can fly backwards for an eternity with the recoil of your shoot? Wherever you choose to shoot your gun in space, be sure of one thing, keep the temperatures in the back of your mind. It does not sound fun to have unpredictable bullet combustions in your gun. Nor does it sound enjoyable to have parts of your gun breaking apart due to brittle metal breaking off in the extreme cold temperatures. On second thought, shooting on Earth is pretty great.