I'm currently writing a techno-thriller as a hobby, set in the modern world.

Some scientists managed to create a mix of kevlar and carbon nano-tubes that can be bonded with regular textiles and thus make the said textiles bulletproof, a process that became so popular, the whole textile industry started to use it, thus now, every clothing item is bulletproof.

My question is how would people be able to kill each other now that the guns are out of the question? How can the Law Enforcement keep the peace on the streets when a hoodie can easily stop a 5.56 without much trouble?

I'm looking for solutions that can be implemented with the technology available currently.

To explain the lore further, the KCNT fiber (Kevlar/Carbon Nano-Tubes) has so much tensile strength that it can absorb about 3.000 Joules of energy when used as-is, without suffering degradation or losing flexibility, but only about 2.800 J when mixed with other textile fibers. Anything less than a 7.62 NATO won't do any damage to the human body (live testers suggested that a shot from an AR-15 felt like being hit by a pebble).

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – James Mar 14 '18 at 5:45
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    $\begingroup$ Looking at all the answers, holy crap so many people who just want to kill those criminals! Applaude that it's harder to kill a criminal and bystanders and just disable them! Don't use AP ammo or weapons to cut them to ribbons! $\endgroup$ – Demigan Mar 2 '19 at 8:02
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    $\begingroup$ The same way they do now, not every place has the American attitude that police have to be armed to do their job. $\endgroup$ – John Mar 2 '19 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ Japan, Canada, Norway and so many other countries manage to keep the peace without resorting to shooting people. There is only one country in the world which insists in a civillian pax armada, and it's only getting more and more out of control by the day. $\endgroup$ – Renan Mar 2 '19 at 16:15

12 Answers 12


You can use knives, spears or even harpoons because Kevlar is a material that is flexible, yet extremely strong. It stops bullets due to its extraordinary tensile strength. It does however have a low shear strength, which allows for cutting so if you don’t have ceramic and/or titanium plates in your vest then a knife, machete and or axe can cut right through it with enough force.

You can also use gas bombs like the one Batman uses in Dawn of Justice. I also see that you're writing a techno thriller, so you can create your own imaginary weapon like a gun which emits flares or heat waves that can melt through skin and the bulletproof vest. Hydropumps might be a good means to stop crime (the ones firetrucks use).

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    $\begingroup$ While I think that this is the obvious answer, it still ignores the obvious fact that bullet proof clothes won't make guns useless $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Mar 9 '18 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 I doubt your everyday gangbanger has enough accuracy with a glock 9mm to shoot a man, wearing a bulletproof beanie and a bulletproof scarf over his face, in the exposed areas. $\endgroup$ – Shifty Fingers Mar 9 '18 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ @ShiftyFingers while the fabric might stop the bullet, the body still gets most of the accompanying kinetic energy. A bulletproof scarf won't help you much if your nose is smashed into your skull... $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Mar 9 '18 at 9:19
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    $\begingroup$ @ShiftyFingers As far as I'm aware, "your everyday gangbanger" isn't really bothered about accuracy at all. He'd just unload the entire magazine in the general direction of your face and hope one of the bullets hit you between the eyes. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Mar 9 '18 at 10:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Shifty Fingers: No. Unless your clothes are hard shells and/or very thick (like armor, basically), they will flex when a bullet hits them. The cloth will be driven some distance into your skin, creating a wound, possibly breaking bones or causing internal damage. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Mar 9 '18 at 18:53

Armor-piercing bullets

In a world where everyone is wearing bulletproof clothes, bullets would be anti-bulletproof clothing. Bulletproof vests take advantage of the fact that a lead bullet deforms upon impact. Bulletproof vests are made of materials with a high tensile strength so that the energy of the bullet is spread along a big surface. A non-deformable projectile, such an arrow, is not stopped by these vests.

A full metal jacket bullet has a layer of harder metal - usually a copper alloy - around the lead, increasing its penetration power (although this wasn't its main original purpose). A pointier shape, or using even harder metals such as steel can do wonders to increase the piercing capabilities of the ammo. Nobody is going to carry a gun that does nothing, so expect your world to have bigger guns with armor-piercing bullets.

  • $\begingroup$ I see. I must admit that my ballistics knowledge is limited. But wouldn't harder bullets and less expansion lead to less stopping power? $\endgroup$ – Shifty Fingers Mar 9 '18 at 10:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Shifty Fingers - Yep, they would be less lethal, unless hitting on a vital point such as the heart or the brain, and probably less painful to the victim, unless they tumbled after going through the kevlar clothing. But the .22 is a low-lethality, low-stopping power ammo and yet it accounts for most of the gun-related homicides. You just shoot several times. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Mar 9 '18 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ Small correction, FMJ isn't armor piercing ammo, it just keeps down fouling and improves accuracy in modern rifles because lead is too prone to deformation. FMJ is just standard ammunition these days. Steel core ammo is the armor penetrating stuff. Instead of a soft, deformable lead core, it's tipped with hardened steel to defeat both soft and hard armor. It's effective to the point that most shooting ranges either don't allow you to bring your own ammo, or if they do, they test it with a magnet to ensure you're not using steel core ammo, because it would destroy the armored backstop. $\endgroup$ – UIDAlexD Mar 9 '18 at 16:34

To answer the question in the title rather than other questions in the body, the same way as we always have - applying Peel's principles of conscential policing

  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
  2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
  3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
  4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
  5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
  6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
  7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
  8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary, of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
  9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

These in part grew out of a desired that, for the preservation of individual liberty, a militarised police force controlled by the government was undesirable. Alternatives, such as allowing an arms race between the a militarised police force and an arms bearing population to maintain balance, have been shown to fail to produce a safe environment for the general populace.


Continue the arms race

You made a better armor? Fine, we'll make a better bullet. This goes all the way back to flint spears. The arms race has not ended. So today's impenetrable armor is tomorrow's weight slowing you down while we destroy you.

As a child, I used to play various versions of games where we'd shoot at each other with toy guns. Inevitably, one of us would declare that we had a pistol-proof suit. Then the other would say that their gun was armor piercing. Then the armor would improve. Then the gun would become a laser...

A technology that's 100% effective against a low-caliber pistol is far less effective against a high-power rifle. Or if it's resistant to rifle rounds, it probably isn't going to be enough to stop that high-end 50-caliber rifle. Or if it is, what about specialty armor-piercing rounds?

Stop trying to pierce the armor

If the arms race plateaus where the armor is effective enough against projectiles, move your goal post. Maybe you no longer need to pierce the armor. Just hit it with enough force to knock them down. That buys you time to get in and trap them. Or get close enough for a stun gun or gas attack.

Or maybe you find a chemical attack that weakens the armor. Or reduces the armor's ability to flex, thereby incapacitating the wearer.

Shift tactics completely

Go for area affect weaponry like gas grenades. Net guns can entangle an opponent and don't care about armor. Loud sounds and/or bright, pulsing lights have been used as non-lethal attacks. Electric guns work, too.

If projectiles don't work at all, then shift to these weaponry types. They would improve in quality and power once they became a primary tool instead of a secondary, as they are now.


Some sort of glue or starch that bonds with the cloth and makes it stiff.

The point of law enforcement is to arrest, i.e., stop-- not kill. A liquid gum or starch, sprayed en masse in crowd situations or in pellets, fired from shotguns or tear gas guns, that burst on contact and release enough liquid to soak at least two people completely, should more than suffice. They can be cut out of their clothes later, inside the cell.
To kill, aim for the face. If they're wearing face masks, the gum will cover the gaps in the cloth, making it impossible to breathe. Without face masks, the momentum of the pellet should be enough.

  • $\begingroup$ Could be dangerous if the liquid is aim to the face (suffocation). But I like the idea, makes me think of the gun in Prey $\endgroup$ – Ckankonmange Mar 9 '18 at 10:28

While there are many posts here about how to make better weapons, I'll join Pete Kirkham in answering the question in the title: how do police work without guns.

I come from a sizeable town in New Zealand, and when I was growing up, police officers were not allowed to carry guns. (And tazers weren't around yet either). And even now police still do not frequently carry firearms. In fact, I can't think of a single time I've seen a police officer in NZ with a weapon. This does not stop them from doing there job, because:

A police officer is not a hero who shoots the bad guys.

What does a police officer do? They direct traffic, they certify photos for driving licenses and passports, they make sure people are obeying the speed limit. None of that requires weapons of any sort. When encountering a police officer in New Zealand, it's just like meeting any other sort of person. Sure, he's in uniform - but if you need directions to the nearest gas station, or want have a question about the road rules, just ask a police officer. Sure, in NZ there is a special "Armed Offenders Squad" to deal with the cases where you need a highly trained military force to deal with a situation, but a police officer is just a guy who can help you out if you need it.

When I went to Europe for the first time, and saw police officers carrying pistols, they broke that impression of the police immediately. Wearing a gun immediately separates the police from the civilians. They're no longer friendlies who can offer advice and help you out, they now become part of an enforcement agency who can use force to ensure citizens to do what the government says.

If your police is overly armed, there is very little difference between a police force and an occupying army. Neither results in a safe-feeling society.

The police do have methods for dealing with unruly people without firearms. From batons and riot shields to high-power-water-guns, police have trained in non-violent ways to keep the peace. The first step is talking to the people involved - most people in society are honest when directly confronted. Pulling out a weapon to kill someone is a sign that all other methods have failed.

I will also add that your situation works both ways. If normal clothing stops a bullet, then your "bad guys" will also struggle to kill anyone.

  • $\begingroup$ The thing is, the city in which the main plot is happening has a higher-than-average crime rate and gun-related violence is not uncommon, so it's quite common for the police to open fire on criminals. While I agree that opening fire should be last resort, peaceful solution are considered but prone to not work in my fictional city $\endgroup$ – Shifty Fingers Mar 14 '18 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ I understand where you come from with the idea that armed police is immediately something different, but where I come from that armanent is a true last resort. Most police will never pull it out when on-duty (and like to keep it that way), but in those cases where the first one's on scene arent going to be doing much but be target practice it is extremely useful to have access to a weapon. Not sure how true this for the American side but the european side really does train to disarm rather than kill: goo.gl/images/PT8uyz $\endgroup$ – Demigan Mar 2 '19 at 16:57

There are multiple ways this could work.

First, you must understand that there is a different between ballistic vests and stab vests. Ballistic vests, or bulletproof vests, as they are popularly called, do not bother with stopping the projectile. Their only duty is to redirect and distribute the energy so that you only get a bruise instead of a coffin and a hearse.

Conversely, stab vests are designed to catch and hold the knife or any other weapon and prevent it from penetrating.

Now, both of these can be made in Kevlar, but using vastly different structuring, which I will not go into here.

tl;dr any sort of cutting weapon (both stabs and slashes will work), stun guns and batons, water cannons, tear gas. The methods of suppression are numerous.


There are several ways you could do it. while most people are thinking basic weapons there's something way more dangerous, nerve agents, when inhaled some of these can stop your heart and your lungs. Mustard gas would be a cheap way to kill someone.


Simple physics states that force = mass X velocity

Bullet proof clothing stop the bullet from penetrating but the force has to go somewhere.

If you want non lethal, you have bean bag rounds. They don't penetrate but the force is going to mess up what they hit.

For lethal, you have solid rounds which might not penetrate but will smash up the target regardless.


Kevlar is routinely used for stab/cut protection.* The other answer saying it stops bullets but not knives was wrong. The bullet is actually the harder test.

Some other ideas for police force:

  1. Higher powered bullets. Typical BPV only stops pistol rounds, not rifle. So just amp up the muzzle velocity of the guns.

  2. Shooting exposed areas (face especially).

  3. Poisonous or disabling gases or skin contact patches.

  4. Physical submission (choke holds).

  5. Tasers to the skin. Or even lethal electronic charges.

  6. Forbidding the wearing of defensive textiles.

  7. Concussive explosions.

  8. Blackjacks, batons, other clubs.

  9. Damage to joints, eyes, or testicles.

  10. Telepathic control.

  11. Wizardry.

  12. Appeals to God(s).

The last 3 are not possible in real world. But this is Worldbuilding! 1-9 are reasonable in a non fantasy world other than the single assumption of flexible defensive clothing. (Note that even current vests are heavy and stiff...not a comfy t shirt, so this is a big assumption that all clothes will be so super strong while still having nice textile properties. Also bullet proof textiles usually require a weave, won't work with a knit--too stretchy and bullets get through, but woven t shirt, not comfy. But we will assume you can do all clothes as predicate of question.)

*Source--worked at the DD Kevlar business unit for several years. But just Google Kevlar and cut stab protection. You'll see.

  • $\begingroup$ Instead of asking to Google for it, why not putting the proper quote with the reference in the answer? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Mar 2 '19 at 8:27

Bullets wouldn't stop being harmful.

Even with 3000 joules of potential energy it can absorb, the textile will simply move along with the bullet. Even if the bullet doesn't penetrate the skin through the textile it'll still cause bruises and possibly break bone. This is similar to being hit with a Rubber bullet: Even if it doesn't break your skin it's going to hurt. This would be wonderful for the police: If everyone is wearing bulletproof clothing they have less risk of accidental killings and have more reason to be shooting multiple bullets downrange. A good target would be the legs (actually that's a good target regardless and many police departments in Europe practice on this). It's likely the least protective clothing is worn on the legs and a shot can easily stop the target compared to shots to the torso.

The only addition to the arsenal would be a focus on blunt-force oriented bullets rather than piercing and melee weapons with rubber heads to disable potential criminals without killing them.


By the way kevlar and carbon nanotubes have really high tensile strengths which is why they work well against bullets so the fibers would be super hard to cut through, and they are semi fire resistant. Also getting shot would still transfer momentum to the body knocking you over and causing blunt trauma like concussions and broken ribs. So the police could stun/incapacitate targets, but if they wanted to kill here are some options:

some type of portable coilgun (handwave a power source or find a novel solution) that would fire .22 caliber rounds at mach2.

an air rifle that spews out a rocket propelled projectile that would allow you to fire .50 cal rounds with low recoil from a DMR with similar mechanism to gyrojets. These weapons would be really quiet, and will be fin stabilized. Gyrojets do have some fundamental problems like expensive ammo. Hopefully the rounds would use some future propellant to bring them up to mach speeds. The biggest problem though was the tendency to not reach full speed until it is 60m downrange, but luckily the airgun base starter allows for it to achieve that velocity quicker.


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