In the DC universe, there exists a hero known as Sister Superior with prosthetic arms that are capable of turning into any weapon she desires. Interestingly, her arms look no different from a regular girl's arms when not transformed, save for a few seams. Obviously, having the ability to form any weapon is ridiculous, but her powers do bring about the question...

Is it possible for a machine gun (a weapon Sister Superior has used in the comics) to fit inside the space of an arm prosthetic? If not, how small can it be?

For the purposes of this question, assume that the prosthetic must look human and fulfill all motions of a natural arm, including bending of the elbow, wrist, and fingers.

The machine gun does not have to be functional when in "human mode", but once it is transformed, no additional parts should be added for it to be used, save for a clip.

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    $\begingroup$ Only if she plans to never use it. Conservation of momentum means her arms would literally get blown away $\endgroup$
    – nzaman
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ "Conservation of momentum means her arms would literally get blown away". Hardly. Otherwise you couldn't shoot an Uzi one-handed (which you most certainly can). $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ I feel like there would be a problem with heat dissipation. $\endgroup$
    – Trevor
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ @nzaman "a machine gun is at least 0.50 calibre." The US Army would disagree with you, having .556 and .30 MGs in inventory. Every other army also has similar weapons. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ @nzaman that is not a valid definition of the term "machine gun". There are belt-fed automatic weapons in military service all the way down to 5.56mm (.223 cal). $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 16:42

3 Answers 3


The answer to this question depends a LOT on what you mean by 'machine gun'. It's a pretty vague term, and doesn't really mean anything precise when it comes to weapons.

If the question is: Would a fully automatic firearm fit inside a human's arm, then the answer is absolutely yes. The actual firing mechanism of most firearms isn't all that large relative to the size of the overall firearm itself.

A couple good practical examples that come to mind are the FN P90 and the Calico M960. Both are 9mm submachine guns with 40+ rounds in the magazine. Both would EASILY fit in someone's forearm with all the furniture (stock foregrip etc) removed, especially if the ammunition were being fed from a supply in the bicep. Keep in mind that these are short-range weapons that are only good against people and people-sized targets.

If by "Machine Gun" you're thinking of something like an M60 that fires a MUCH more powerful round and uses a 100round belt for ammunition, then no. That absolutely wouldn't fit in someone's arm.

  • $\begingroup$ The P90 and its ilk are SubMachine Guns (SMGs). They fire pistol ammo. Other famous SMG's you might be familiar with are the Thompson Submachine Gun (Tommy Gun) and the PPSh-41. They are designed for urban combat, sweeping from room to room and the "spray and pray" mindset. They are terrible out in the middle of an open field. True "machine guns" fire rifle ammo, by definition. Those are usually a lot more powerful and heavy. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ P90s, because they have a lateral magazine above the receiver; the rest is so you can hold it. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Robert Columbia not sure who that was directed to? I'm very familiar with the difference between an SMG and a "True Machine Gun". My answer assumes that the OP is not, and doesn't need to be in order for me to answer his question. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ I guess it doesn't affect the answer, but the P90 is primarily chambered in 5.6mm. 9mm variants may exist, but those aren't the norm. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 19:36

You gotta start with the round being used. Here is why: the round determines 2 things, the size of the mechanism, and the amount of recoil.

Lets talk terms for a second. To avoid a little bit of pedantry lets get a little more specific than 'Machine Gun'. The weapon in question for Sister Superior is going to be a Detachable Box Magazine fed Fully Automatic weapon. That means that the rounds are loaded in to a metal box with a feeding mechanism. the Firing mechanism will use either the recoil of the round being fired or the expansion of gasses from firing to remove the current round's brass, chamber the next round, and fire again as long as the trigger mechanism is activated.

Now that we have disposed of that little bit of trivia, lets talk about recoil. This is pretty much Newtons Third Law in Action. To oversimplify the math, The Mass of the slug times the velocity of the slug leaving the barrel is going to have an equal and opposite reaction. The mass of the weapon (usually many many times the mass of the slug) travels in the opposite direction and will impact over a much greater surface area (usually the butt of the rifle) repeated each time the thing fires. The felt recoil is what is left over after whatever energy is dissipated in the mechanism of the weapon. Remember you have a tiny chunk of lead going one way, and a large chunk of other metal going the other, spreading the impact over a greater surface area. This is why firing powerful rounds can bruise the heck out of your shoulder. Given that this weapon will be impacting a surface area that is pretty small (the size of the cross section of her normal arm's stump) you want to fire something that has less recoil. 9mm is a common round for many compact submachine guns like Uzis and Mac 10's. They are hard to control when firing on fully automatic, because the mass of the weapon is low. The recoil comes back along the mechanism and tries to 'lift the barrel because the wrist becomes a pivot point. So I'm thinking that Sister Superior's arm gun may not have exactly the same problem, but it's not a trivial thing.

Next you have the problem of the mechanism's size. It has to be small, otherwise Sister Superior will have to change her name to Sister Popeye. The Mechanism of a 9mm fully automatic 'might' be made small enough, Anything bigger goes right out the door due to recoil problems. The mechanism for something smaller might be better. I would think maybe a .22 Mag would be almost Ideal for many reasons.

First, .22 Mag rounds are small. You can fit a lot of them in a small magazine. Look at this weapon here. It is roughly the same size as a mid size 9mm pistol. The difference is that it holds 30 rounds in the magazine where a similar sized 9mm would hold maybe 9 rounds. 9 rounds, reload, 9 more reload would be silly. 100 round magazines for 9mm exist, but when loaded, they are pretty heavy. That's going to make it harder to maintain her point of aim. .22 Mag rounds will be much much lighter. Recoil from the .22 Mag is pretty low. It's enough to eject the brass and load the next round, but you don't need huge, heavy components to do so. The .22 Mag can also be lethal at close range. She is not looking to pick someone off at 500 meters with this thing.
I can see Her weapon being chambered in .22 Mag. She can carry a lot of Box Magazines filled with 30 rounds each, and never disturb the lines of her Habit. The mechanism would be small enough to fit in her 'forearm'. The recoil will also not pound her stump to jelly or knock her over. She'll be able to aim without problems too.


A quick search yielded this video about a fully-automatic CZ-75 machine pistol which has a barrel length of 5.77 inches and weighs 2.47 pounds. It looks like it fires 9mm rounds, which are respectable for a pistol.

I found figures online that put the average length of an adult woman's forearm at about 10 inches, so it fits lengthwise. Depending on how the cyborg's radius and ulna are positioned, you might be able to make it fit. I assume you'll get rid of the pistol grip and maybe modify the trigger to be more compact. If your cyborg were to extend the mechanism out parallel to her arm, I guess she would use the other hand to insert a magazine and pull the trigger. Not very practical, maybe, but it would still put a hole in a target.


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