Plausible lunar weapons.

Lets say history went a little differently and the US established a permanent moon base in the 1970s, but the Russians or whomever is also setting one up nearby. Lets say NASA was worried about a possible invasion from the Russians. What kind of weapons would be plausible that would work on the moon, would be practical, and could be used by an astronaut? Are there are pistols that someone wearing an astronaut glove could accurately fire? Were there any proposals to equip astronauts with weaponry?

Im assuming a reliable pistol could have been used. Not sure how well it would fire. Could there be enough O2 in the cartridge to fire the shot? Let say this is all circa 1972-1982. Nothing too crazy sci-fi (laser guns, etc). Being on the moon, cost, weight, and reliability are big factors.

I think most or all of the Oxygen used in gunpowder ignition is contained in the powder itself. So lack of atmosphere wouldn’t be a problem.

Nitrocellulose, gunpowder and similar propellants do not require atmospheric oxygen to burn properly, so just about any gun’d work on the moon, so long as its parts don’t jam when it gets hot or cold. Given the lower lunar gravity, lack of an atmosphere to slow things down, and the fact that a single small hole in a spacesuit is likely to be rapidly fatal, I expect shotguns would initially see a lot of use on the moon.

That and sniper rifles. Can’t use much lubrication though, and moon dust sucks so reliability might be reduced.

Bow & arrow

Most weapons would sort of work on the moon. However cold and heat would do funny things to the metals and that would be a huge consideration. Further, ballistics (and so aiming) would get strange so you need to take that into consideration. Grenades and other explosives would need some thought. With no air to compress, the shock wave would be reduced, although fragments would fly farther.

I wonder if the powerful unfiltered sunlight on the moon might be used for some evil purpose.

Shotguns don’t penetrate very well, so even a modest kevlar lining would make them inneffective. Also, I’m not an expert, but it would seem to me that the lack of an atmosphere would adversely affect the spread of the shot, making it a really small spread.
Moon dust would also be a big issue, so the weapons would need to be sealed against dust rather well, since field stripping with bulky space gloves is not an option.

Another thing to consider… The complete lack of atmosphere would make infrared scopes very effective. In earths atmosphere they have a relatively short range, since air is not all that transparent to infrared. This also means that camouflage would be rather ineffective.

Would moon dust really be an issue as long as you don’t drop your gun on the ground? It’s not going to get kicked up and float around. Without an atmosphere, every dust particle will fall like a rock.

What temperature would they read? An astronauts skin isn’t exposed. Is the spacesuit going to be that much different from the surroundings?

There’s always flechette rounds, though yeah, I don’t think the shot will spread out.

As noted, modern cartridge-firing arms would be workable on the Moon, but would have reliability issues. If a conflict went on long enough to justify specifically engineered weapons, perhaps something along the lines of the “Metal Storm” weapons much hyped a few years back would make sense – lack of moving parts would confer more critical advantages.

I might add that the lack of atmosphere and reduced gravity would tend to give projectile weapons greater range and lethality than they have on Earth.

Re: Infrared – I think there’d be such glare during the lunar day as to make infrared detection or homing near useless. Dusty gray camo should be pretty effective. At night, even insulated, facilities and personnel should stand out nicely in infrared.

Re: Dust – While it doesn’t remain “airborne” long, I believe it tends to cling electrostatically to suits and equipment. Plus the particles are “sharper” than those on Earth, being in an environment with much reduced erosion, and are that much more abrasive.

Guns would pose a problem. Guns get very hot, very fast. On Earth, this isn’t a problem because of the atmosphere, and I suspect it might not be a problem on the moon, as long as you didn’t plan on shooting more than a hand full of shots before you could get somewhere to “heatsink” your gun.

Astronauts have been given weapons (technically, cosmonauts), have access to a firearm that is, quite intelligently, included as part of the Soyez survival gear. Although that’s not really relevant to the question you asked.
I suspect that a CO2 powered projectile weapon would be far more effective than an actual firearm. With less gravity, and no wind resistance, you don’t need to achieve as high velocities or worry about tumbling/rifling, you only need to get a piece of metal going fast enough to pierce the other guys space suit.

I suspect claymore-esque mines and CO2 rifles.

Not a big fan of CO2 weapons, because in 1975 the first Kevlar bullet proof vest comes out. Just carry multiple firearms and you are fine.

Accuracy can always be improved with training and good sights. But yeah there is going to be some adjustment.

Keep in mind, Kevlar vests are designed specifically to protect from bullets. They do not protect from knives.

Launching, via ultra high pressure CO2 cartridge, a very sharp projectile, you could pierce Kevlar. Also, Kevlar is stiff, and can’t be used in the face plate of a space suit. A full-bodysuit of Kevlar is going to be even more difficult to move around in than the hardvac suit itself.

As it is on Earth, CO2 guns can accelerate.17 pellets to faster than the speed of a .22 long rifle. I’m sure with some alterations and development, you could get it going up to speeds fast enough to get sharp objects to pierce Kevlar.
As for carrying multiple firearms: I’m still not sure about the ability to carry and effectively use any firearms.

Nope. Co2 from a cartridge requires a somewhat warm environment. Pressure drops off all to heck even on cold winter days on Earth. You could generate gas through a chemical reaction, although that is what conventional weapons do, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

It seems to me that recoil might be a serious concern with the low gravity.

One possibility that occurs to me would be “Gyrojet” weapons; rocket guns, basically. Little recoil, and mechanically simple. I’d think it would help with the heat problem too, since the thrust come from the projectile and not the gun itself.

Might work if you make the a big caliber (like 15 mm) and use a HEAP (Shaped Charge) warhead.

Yeah, recoil is going to be a problem. Probably you could still use a 5.56 and have them hit the dirt and use a good muzzle brake and fire single shots.

I am pretty sure that Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story (I think it was Robin Hood on the Moon aka Saved! by a bow and arrow, referenced above by Peter Morris) that included a reference to a small shooting war on the moon that resulted in a number of bullets orbiting the moon at low altitude for many years after, requiring a strict timetable for excursions. This was science fiction, of course. Surface lunar orbital velocity is about 1600-1700ms[sup]-1[/sup] - very few common weapons have that sort of muzzle velocity.


In the 70’s the Russians had a manned spy platform with a conventional 23-mm Nudelmann aircraft cannon. It was tested in space.

Pulling a bow inside a bulky space suit?:smack:

Have you ever seen a space suit?:dubious:

Not possible.

Go with a crossbow.