In my world, technology advanced considerably through a 'Utopia' phase of everyone working towards a common goal of survival and whatnot, eradicating the production of coal by creating successful clean energy sources, fusion, solar, wind, fuel cells etc. After the world has sustained, people turn to war once again.

Gunpowder is gone. What 'guns' could be produced on a large scale for soldiers using 'clean' products, where everything is made to be recycled, from the gun itself to the bullet shells and firing mechanism. Not looking for energy weapons, more for future machine guns, pistols etc. Pressurised air seems very inefficient, reloading the air and ammunition for example.

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    $\begingroup$ What research have you done on the subject? $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Aug 24, 2018 at 13:11
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, Henry Ray! If you have a moment, please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox useful. Here is a meta post on the culture and style of Worldbuilding.SE, just to help you understand our scope and methods, and how we do things here. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Gryphon
    Aug 24, 2018 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ Why would pressurized air be inefficient, and why would that cause issues reloading ammunition? They work great today, to say nothing of utopian future of advanced technology. Furthermore, basic googling should have given you ideas like rail guns and coil guns, so what about those are you having issues with? Please explain why the common ideas are not sufficient. $\endgroup$ Aug 24, 2018 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ "Gunpowder is gone:" yes it is. Gunpowder has not been used in military weapons since the late 19th century. Our ordinary guns already are pretty much completely recyclable, as they are made of steel. (Fun factoid: most steel is actually recycled, in this fallen world. No need for any Dystopian phase.) Cartrige shells are also reusable; people routinely reload them. I don't understand what a recyclable explosive would be -- an explosion is a rapid conversion of the explosive into gas. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 24, 2018 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding! I'd like to point out that people don't usually put politics before necessity or there would be no privately owned cars or operating fireplaces in our homes. The utopia you're describing is a luxury. War isn't. The most environmentally-friendly war is the shortest possible war, which would quickly justify all but the dirtiest of weapons. After all, a large pollution today is much simpler to clean up than a little pollution for years and years. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 24, 2018 at 18:10

2 Answers 2


Current firearms will suit your needs fine.

Gunpowder hasn't been a common propellant in over a century. Modern 'smokeless' propellants burn much more cleanly, leaving minimal byproducts, and most importantly they can be fairly easily synthesized. Even if this society has previously abolished weaponry (utopia, right?), It won't be hard to start production from scratch.

Primers might need some tweaking. The most common primers in current use are mercury fulminate, which are toxic. Now, there's so little of it in a loaded round that it's not a significant problem, but you want clean weapons, so an alternative impact-sensitive explosive or, perhaps, something more exotic like a piezoelectric igniter will do.

The cases themselves are either brass or steel, easily collected and reused. Brass cases can be run through a resizing die and reloaded (usually) around five times before becoming too weak to reuse, whereupon they are melted down and reformed. Steel casings are generally non-reloadable, but can be reprocessed.

The guns themselves are steel, aluminum, and typically either wood or polymer. Current polymers may be non-viable if petroleum is not available, but newer environmentally-friendly plastics can be used instead, and steel and aluminum are easy to reclaim.

If you take a look at the weapons produced in the Khyber Pass, you will see a culture that has already embraced a policy of maximum recycling in regards to their weaponry.

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    $\begingroup$ you could also have a look at caseless ammo which eliminates the need to collect all your spent cases for recycling. $\endgroup$
    – RancidCrab
    Aug 24, 2018 at 15:52

Rail, Gauss or other electro-magnetic weapons would suit your needs perfectly, being powered by your "successful clean energy sources" and only requiring a lump of iron as ammunition. The gun itself would be more complicated but is ultimately a one time investment. You would need very effective battery technology but that does seem likely to become viable in the near future, failing that a hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuel cell would also be very sensible. Electro-magnetic weapons also futuristic while still being very realistic. Nothing here is wasted you can (in theory) recycle everything you use.



Examples thoughout fiction can be found, and tend to be cool-looking

  • $\begingroup$ I was going to say rail gun as well. $\endgroup$
    – Tam
    Aug 24, 2018 at 20:26

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