Modern (or near future, 10-20 years) setting. Mostly regular humans. Regular firearms.

The scene goes like this: the Big Bad Villain of the story fought the Big Good Hero in hand-to-hand combat and won. He got his trusty gun, he stands above the defeated hero, he aims his gun at him... But he cannot pull the trigger. Because deus ex machina happens and a friendly character, that was imprisoned by the Villain and freed by the Hero on his way to final battle, comes to the rescue. This character, being a psychic capable of mind-controlling (like I said, mostly regular humans), overpowers weakened Villain and forces him to stop. Then, to repay the Villain for his "hospitality", the psychic forces the Villian to raise the gun and shoot off his own arm.

So here is the question (or rather two questions).

1) Is it even possible (with modern firearms) to shoot off person's limb with a single magazine/load of any one-handed non-automatic firearm? Preferably one without extended magazine.

2) What kind of calibre/ammunition type would be required for this?

Edit: What about explosive rounds? Are there any produced for handguns? Would they be better for this task?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ You need to define a calibre, I can think of weapons that will reportedly remove large parts of a human being when they miss by a narrow margin so how big is the gun and then we can probably estimate how many rounds you need to take a limb off. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Sep 10, 2018 at 10:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Ash First I'd like to know if it's even possible period. Even if it is a monster revolver using .50 (which would probably break everything in users arm anyway) or sawed-off shotgun using 12 gauge. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2018 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ Either one of those should do the job admirably, so would a solid slug from the sawn-off and a lot of smaller weapons with multiple rounds, you could use blanks from a .22 if the gun was barrel-to-flesh and get there eventually. Hell forget the gun, you could use a compressor at that range and do enough damage, eventually, to tear someones arm off. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Sep 10, 2018 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash Well, yes, 'eventually' an arm can be severed with pretty much everything. What I need is something reasonable that can 'cut' a limb in one load or magazine, because 17 shots from Glock won't be pleasant, but I doubt they will do the job. And I don't want my psychic to force the mind-controlled Villain with dozen of self-inflicted bullet wounds to reload his gun with one arm. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2018 at 11:04
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but this query is off-topic for so many reasons! No worldbuilding involved; it's a real-world scenario; it's basically a plot or story question. Hence, am voting to close. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Sep 10, 2018 at 12:17

2 Answers 2


Assuming you mean "off" as in falls on the floor right now and you want it done in one or possibly two shots your best bets are:

  • a sawn-off shotgun firing, it probably doesn't matter at pointblank range, I'd say 12 gauge, buck and ball, or solid slug, those will get the job done.

  • any .50 cal handgun that fires actual .50 BMG rounds, purportedly those rounds will take a limb in a near miss.

A lot of lighter weapons will get the job done over the course of several well aimed shots, and some really light rounds could cause later loss of the limb from trauma with a single well aimed shot assuming the villain is in no state to seek immediate medical care. I would suggest that the villain staying conscious would be an issue for multiple shots so I'd go with something that will get the job done no questions asked.

  • $\begingroup$ Are there actual .50 BMG handguns? There are things like .50 AE but I've never heard of pistols using .50 BMG. $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Sep 10, 2018 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Hawker65 According to Wikipedia, Desert Eagle can use those. No idea if it's even possible to use them one-handed though. $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2018 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Mr Scapegrace Could you give me a link? The only .50 cal I see is .50 AE, which is way shorter than .50 BMG $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Sep 10, 2018 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Hawker65 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMI_Desert_Eagle $\endgroup$ Sep 10, 2018 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Hawker65 There's also these two en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_Action_Thunder, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WTS_.50. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Sep 10, 2018 at 11:30

I would say that 12 gauge would definitely remove all the meat , I'm not sure about severing the limb. If you target a joint, you probably have a better chance of severing a limb.

However, there are not any real one handed 12 gauge weapon. But what about sawn off shotguns? If you want to break your wrist and have the weapon fly off your hand, that is a safe bet but keep in mind that one shot might not be enough to sever a limb.

If you really don't care about that recoil factor, you could also use sawn off rifles (mare's leg style or a semi-auto). Since rifle rounds are much more powerful than pistol rounds, this could get the job done but over-penetration might be an issue (the round is so fast that it simply pierces and does not do major damage). However, since rounds from sawn off riffle tend to tumble a lot (because of the almost non-existent barrel length), this might compensate for this issue.

Otherwise, I would suggest high calibre handguns like a S&W Model 500 or a Desert Eagle. I'm pretty sure these would shatter a bone but you will need multiple shots to tear off the remaining flesh.

These are amongst the most powerful handguns so the recoil will be very strong here as well, so the previous remark about one handed shotguns remains valid here. You could go for less "overkill" handguns which use .44 Magnum for example.

I did not mention lower calibre pistols because I'm not sure of their ability to reliably break bone but I guess that, given the large magazine capacity of modern "low calibre" handguns (15 shots for the M9 or 20 for the FN 5.7), you would have enough bullets to reliably sever an arm if you are accurate enough.

EDIT : When I'm talking about 12 gauge, the preferred ammunition would be buckshot. Never underestimate the power of buckshot.


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