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One of the deadliest species of dragon is the dreaded Marksman Dragon. This beast has immense physical power and a bad temper, but its most potent weapon is its breath.

The Marksman Dragon can shoot incredibly hot fire at very high pressure over long distance with pinpoint accuracy. Its fire is so hot and is shot with such force that it can cut/melt through solid steel plates from 10 yards away, and can cause grievous bodily harm at more than 25 yards from the pressure alone.

The fire is far hotter than most other dragons’ and is fired as a narrow, cohesive beam that stays together over long range. Add to that the dragon’s incredible accuracy and you have one of the most dangerous beasts around.

Sounds cool right? But I have a problem. How does this dragon create and propel such a hot, high pressure, cohesive stream of fire? I would prefer this dragon’s fire to not be liquid or gel based, however I am open to all answers.

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  • $\begingroup$ I remember the most ancient and powerfull dragon in the Dark Sun, D&D scenario was one living in a desert, it concealed itself under dunes and can swallow larger portions of sand to breath melted glass. Maybe your dragon swallow sniper rifle bullets =) $\endgroup$ – jean Mar 2 '18 at 13:43
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    $\begingroup$ 25 yards isn't that far. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 2 '18 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ The tags #reality-check and #biology are about as diametrically opposed to #magic as is possible. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 2 '18 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn are they though? Reality-check asks for realism given a context and he wants that here. Similarly he wants an answer on a dragon's biology. If he gave some constraint the magic involved I could see magic fitting on this question. However, this question is lacking that, so I agree that it doesn't really need the magic tag. $\endgroup$ – Jake Mar 2 '18 at 20:49
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn "Impossible" is not a constraint of #reality-check. Reality check means "realistic in a given context". Impossible is for #science-based and #hard-science The context is "dragons exist" and "dragon does the thing". It's really broad (I would say too broad which is why I flagged as such and because reality check requires yes because or no because type answers). $\endgroup$ – Jake Mar 2 '18 at 21:13
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Thermite is hot. Like CRAZY hot. In afghanistan I once dropped a thermite grenade on top of a captured vehicle's engine block. (Think a road flare the size of a coke can but WAAAAAY hotter). That thing chewed its way clear through a cast iron engine block and began busily charring its way into the ground underneath. The radiant heat alone ignited the tires of the truck as it was boring into the sand.

Maybe instead of a "beam" I think you could have your marksmen dragon kinda cough a slug of thermite that is ignited shortly after it exits the dragons body by the dragon's normal fire. Maybe your marksmen dragons are a behaviorally unique sub-species of regular dragons that live in a region with a lot of iron oxide and maybe some sort of naturally occurring aluminum deposits. They eat the iron oxide and aluminum and store it in a crop kinda like a bird where its formed into wads of thermite that is kept inert via a coating of mucus that isolates it from oxygen. When the dragon wants to snipe somebody in the face with a tennis ball sized slug of white hot ravening death it coughs up one of these thermite wads and spits them as hard as it can with a small burst of regular dragon flame to ignite the thermite slug in flight.

Naturally occurring pure aluminum isn't found on earth because it normally combines with other elements to form various oxides and other compounds, but then again, dragons don't exist either so it wouldn't really need much detailed explanation in such a setting. Locals simply observe the dragons eating iron-rust and some unworkable mystical metallic stuff known as "dragons ore" or something. This mystical compound is only found in the far reaches of the wilderness where the dreaded marksman dragons live, and they guard the substance fiercely. Woe betide anyone foolish enough to try to obtain the substance.

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    $\begingroup$ Thermite is also crazy hard to ignite. Hidden inside your thermite grenade is probably a three-stage fuse, where a non-flammable trigger ignites something highly flammable that burns at "sensible" temperatures, which in turn ignites powdered magnesium, which is hot enough to ignite the thermite. $\endgroup$ – Mark Mar 2 '18 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ True, but we're already assuming a giant firebreathing flying lizard exists, so it not too much of a stretch to just assume its fire is hot enough to ignite thermite. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Mar 2 '18 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ As a point of interest, thermite can actually be made from many different compounds like copper oxide or manganese oxide with magnesium or boron. You can even make thermite with frozen CO2 (dry ice) and magnesium, resulting in diamonds as waste. Each type of thermite are all exothermic and self oxidizing, but they are not equal in heat produced. $\endgroup$ – BlackThorn Mar 2 '18 at 23:41
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Plasma Breath

If you're looking for something quick, hot, and with pinpoint accuracy, look no further than good old plasma my friend. Instead of using weak dragon lungs to propel breath weapon, the illustrious Marksmen Dragon uses naturally evolved magnets (birds have magnets so why not dragons right?) to propel the burning plasma at the weaker dragons.

How hot can you get? As long as the Marksman Dragon can get the energy, your dragon could breathe (is shoot more appropriate?) plasma at temperatures hotter than the sun.

Even fulfills the cohesive beam requirement, here's a simple google image search for plasma jet

If you watch the second video, the scientists can only shoot plasma around 2 feet. To the Marksman Dragon, range is definitely a status symbol. Your dragons might have drastically smaller ranges while young thus making the Marksman Dragon a much more parental dragon over the conventional dragon that doesn't typically need to shoot far. Or maybe the gift of "LongShot", as the Marksman Dragons call it, is a genetic trait that is sexually selected for.

Video Example https://youtu.be/dvrQciFL0ig

More in Depth Video of some science behind http://www.military.com/video/off-duty/tech/new-progress-on-plasma-weapons/2324951333001

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    $\begingroup$ Plasma doesn't do well at all in the atmosphere, but who really cares about the reality of fire-breathing, flying dragons. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 2 '18 at 19:37
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Looking at flametanks, archerfish and Brachininae a liquid seems like the best option. It is rather precise, can cover high distances, can produce hot flames. If you want an explosion at your target like an explosive round would do just shoot two different liquids that ignite when mixed together either instantly or when hitting a hard surface.

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The Breath Shoots Bullets

The common misconception with dragons is that they breath fire, I read somewhere (forget the source sorry) is that it’s not the case, well not what you think anyway. Dragons eat a lot of plant/animals matter to digest in their stomachs. they even eat minerals found in rocks (that's why they live in caves) to produce a napalm like substance then when attacked or attacking they move the substance to the back of their throat (looks like they take a breath) then fire it out of a gland under the tongue with two flint clickers next to the gland it ignites the substance, just like your lighter you get your breathing fire. so with that in mind have your dragon have another organ under the tongue that placers a tooth like projectile inside the gland and have the flint igniters behind the gland it builds up pressure then fires the projectile at very high speed and force not your beam canon that you’re talking about but still very effective. If you want you can add magnesium into the mix to get your heat. So your Dragon really is the Marksman Dragon.

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    $\begingroup$ Dragons are imaginary, and stories that use them design them to fit narrative requirements. Other than the large(?), flying(?), fire-breathing(?) reptile(?) part, each story universe designs their dragons' specifics to suit themselves, not to maintain consistency. Middle-Earth and Planetos dragons, for examples, are nothing alike, other than being large, flying, fire-breathing reptiles. $\endgroup$ – nzaman Mar 2 '18 at 6:53
  • $\begingroup$ I know that they are but i just was giving a biological reason for how they breath fire just because they are imaginary does not mean you can’t give sound reason as to how they would function $\endgroup$ – Creed Arcon Mar 2 '18 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ That was not the problem. It's the first part of your answer, where you seem to be referencing something, I read somewhere (forget the source sorry) is that it’s not the case, well not what you think anyway. Whatever you're referencing may hold for that universe, not necessarily the OP's $\endgroup$ – nzaman Mar 2 '18 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ true, just that he was asking for how a dragon can do this and i answered with the most biologically sound reason i could come up with (not saying anyone's dragon designs are flawed) still i enjoyed the chat $\endgroup$ – Creed Arcon Mar 2 '18 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe you are thinking about Dragon's breath bullets, an incendiary type of shotgun ammo. Also google for images to see how amazing it looks. $\endgroup$ – Renan Mar 2 '18 at 11:47
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The dragon has evolved incredible pressure-vessel technology within its body. Part of its fire-organ can be used to generate its fuel by secreting fat/kerogen, then compressing it until it chemically recombines into combustible hydrocarbons. I think it should do this compression over some period of time, under extreme enough conditions that most of the fire secretion is made up of a very thick slurry of bunker-oil tar fractions mixed with solid coal precipitate & very little lighter diesel fractions.

The fire secretion is forced through a narrow aperture under staggeringly high pressures (probably comparable to an industrial water-jet cutter). Since the secretion has a consistency like pitch, the massive force necessary to drive it as a high speed liquid stream will heat it well above its auto ignition temperature, & it will come out as a deadly piercing beam of fire. The pressure will also ensure that it atomizes into the air effectively, so temperatures should be about as high as a charcoal & forced air metal forging furnace, & grains of burning carbon increase its ablative effect on materials the dragon wants to incinerate!

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If you really want it to use a gas instead of a liquid or gel there are two ideas that come to mind:

The first is a vortex cannon. Basically like blowing a smoke ring, only at a much higher velocity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuH-hWrjZmw has some cool demonstration shots. The kind of accuracy you're wanting would be a bit of a stretch, but possibly doable for a creature that was really good at judging the air currents on the path to the target. It would, of course, have to blow a lot of fire rings at a rapid rate to melt steel, but that's also potentially possible. Much easier with a liquid though as that would transfer the heat much better. Steel has to get really hot to melt.

The other possibility is a bit more speculative. I remember reading about ten years ago about some research on beams of ultrasound, specifically that sufficiently powerful beams of high-frequency sound in air decay in a pattern which causes the circumfrence of the beam's distortions of the air to create a low pressure area in the interior of the beam that keeps it much more coherent than would otherwise be expected for a directional sound impulse moving through the air. The researchers were hoping to be able to use the phenomenon to allow for "surround sound" systems using only one set of speakers and encapsulating the rear sound in an ultrasonic conduit that would be disrupted upon hitting the back wall making the sound seem to come from behind the audience.

This is quite speculative for a breath weapon because I don't know if the low pressure zone created would be sufficient to contain a propagating gas, but if it could be made so then it could be used to deliver your dragon's breath weapon with the kind of accuracy you are describing, and the ultrasound itself would add a not-insignificant amount of energy to the mix as well. I suspect, sadly, that producing a sustained beam of ultrasound at the required power levels would be beyond most biological or, indeed, mechanical systems currently in existence. But if you don't mind a little bit of magic or hand-wavium it would be workable for a story. And if your world includes magic along with the dragons it would allow some innovative uses of any "silence" type spells.

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This is common misconception about the marksman dragon, which in fact does not exhale flames and instead launches a chemically unstable pellet derived from their foods (think similar to an owl's digestion) that due to it's unstable nature reacts in a hugely exothermic reaction when exposed to oxygen. This pellet sticks to surfaces as it quickly reaches over 2000 degrees Celcius, plenty hot enough to cause the surface to combust.
The misconception is so common due to the fact that once the dragon begins launching these pellets it's digestive tract is unblocked (again think similar to an owl) and it begins feasting on everything nearby, leaving only those at a distance, who would see the dark silhouette of the dragon hovering in the midst of the spreading flames, to report the dragon.

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You may want to check out the How to Train Your Dragon canon, as the Night Fury seems extremely similar to what you are looking for.

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  • $\begingroup$ I love the How to Train Your Dragon movies, the night fury and deadly nadder definitely had an influence on this idea. $\endgroup$ – Nick Mar 2 '18 at 18:24
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Gun dragon Your dragon takes a rock between his teeth, heats it up with his flame and then using a explosion inside his mouth spits the stone over greater distances, than normally possible. This means that he has oxygen as part of his dragon breath fuel, so that it can explode in a somewhat sealed space.

Beetle dragon This dragon is a "black sheep". He can not breathe fire, but he can spit hot acid like this thing. Other dragons hate him, because his attacks completely ignore their fire resistance, they were building for milleania.

Worm dragon This dragon didn't like the others much, but he became a friend with a strange worm from a desert. This sand worm taught him to how to make lightning come out of his face. Now they eat horses in Mongolia together.

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