I have this idea of a mining colony on an isolated planet. It's a dome like structure in a middle of an desert surrounded by a force field and some physical walls. The complex is lead by an overseer who's project the whole thing is. He lives in a tower in the middle of the dome literally over seeing his few hundred subject working in the mines and living their everyday lives.

Now, the problem is that the planet around the colony is quite hostile to human live and holds many dangerous creatures (the main reason this planet has been so isolated for so long). The overseer only has a couple of guys as his bodyguards who are not exactly an army and sometimes a critter or two may get past the dome's automatic defenses: so the settlers need to able to defend themselves.

Majority of settlers are working in the mines and factories that harvest and refine the rare minerals found beneath the planets soil. They are all volunteers who are paid very fairly so they have no real reason to hold ill will towards their master. But he is still worried about the possibility of an uprising.

Therefore he has been thinking about some kind of system that would allow him giving the settlers guns, but making sure that the weapons would not be used against the overseer. Or against the other settlers, for that matter.

The following things should be considered:

  • The most effective weapons would be small, plasma based ray guns
  • The settlers must only have an access to the guns during enemy attacks
  • The weapons must be immediately accessible when the alarm rings
  • After the attack the weapons must be inactivated/relinquished immediately
  • There should be multiple spots for the settler to get the guns
  • The system must be automated

Would some kind of weapon dispenser be a solution and if so, how to get all the weapons back? Just letting the settlers keep and study some inactivated guns surely would lead to them figuring out how to make them function again.

And still, there is the matter of what if the settlers decide to start a coup during an attack when they have all the weapons they can get? Would there be any solution for that.

Help the overseer out, he's a nice guy.

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    $\begingroup$ The average tool box contains a plethora of weaponry, any anyone capable of building a space colony can make firearms form scratch without having to examine one, zip guns are a time honored tradition. All your overseer has done is make himself a target by openly showing he both does not trust the colonists and he is willing to risk their saftey because of it. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Oct 19, 2019 at 20:01

5 Answers 5



The overseer is a nice guy. He pays his workers well. He does not need to be their overlord. In fact he does not want that at all - he is really good at the economics aspect and has reasonable mining skills, but he is not a leader of men.

The overseer stays in charge of shipping and finance - he is a manager. Your people elect their own leadership. There may be some among them who have gifts for leadership. Possibly the leadership will have better ideas about use of force. Also possibly, by recruiting the mass mind, the elected leadership (who are also workers) will have ideas about how to make the whole endeavor safer and more profitable. The workers benefit from better safety. Let them benefit from more profitability too.

If there is a revolution, it will not be against your guy. He is not the leader. Your guy keeps the lights on and the cargo ships coming and everyone wants that. They can revolt against their elected leaders, or throw them out or whatever.

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    $\begingroup$ Its worth remembering that people with easy access to guns are more likely to shoot themselves and each other. There are reasons to limit access to guns beyond safekeeping one's own power. $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2019 at 20:18

First things first:

sometimes a critter or two may get past the dome's automatic defenses

Build a decent wall around your site. You live in the future, you've got space travel so cheap that it makes economic sense to mine planets and export the minerals, you've got power storage devices that are dense enough to allow for handheld energy weapons, etc etc.

Just fly over the wall when you need to get out. You can always add drawbridges for emergencies. If you're worried about things that can climb the wall, face it with something very hard and slick, like glass. You've got load of energy easily available, it'll be easy to melt in-situ.

Just letting the settlers keep and study some inactivated guns surely would lead to them figuring out how to make them function again.

Again, you live in the future. Even the power sources for your rayguns could probably be turned into grenades without much difficulty. This is a mining facility... there are presumably lasers and explosives already available. Technologies for chemical synthesis and 3d printing will march on. If you've got some bad apples who want to make deadly weapons, rest assured that they will.

Would some kind of weapon dispenser be a solution

Nope. Just let everyone have guns. You can stop them using the weapons at will by a number of means, but the two most obvious are

  1. Limit access to consumables. Various militia organisations, such as Switzerland's armed forces*, allow their members to possess automatic weapons but no ammunition. When they're called up, they go to an ammunition dispenser. In the future you'll be able to count bullets out and count muzzle reports so you know how many rounds were actually used. Your rayguns might have non-rechargeable specialist power cells, or special expendable cooling units, or parts only safe to use for so many shots before they need replacing.
  2. Implement some sort of Permissive Action Link. The weapon activation code may be broadcast, or communicated to you, or you might have to go to an activation station and scan your weapon (and the station will see who you are and what you're activating). The activation will last for some sensible length of time. PAL technology is sophisticated, and shoudl be impractical to hack or disassemble or bypass given equipment available to a bunch of miners.

And still, there is the matter of what if the settlers decide to start a coup during an attack when they have all the weapons they can get? Would there be any solution for that.

Presumably the solution there will involve the rebels being eaten by the critters, won't it? Sounds like a dangerous and stupid thing to attempt. Also, keep the good stuff to yourself. You mentioned forcefields? Make sure you have access to ones that can keep out the weapons that the miners are equipped with. They don't need such things (the critters aren't shooting back, after all) so there's no need to share them.

Really, in such a dangerous environment, you're gonna have to trust your peeps, because you can't prevent every possible bad situation and your paranoia is going to make people unhappy even if it wasn't putting them at risk, which it might be in this situation.

  • Notably, preventing your citizens from using military weapons on a whim is a good way to stop them shooting themselves, which has been a substantial problem before these sorts of measures were introduced. There's also the reasonable risk that they'll shoot other people too, and its a lot easier to go on a killing spree with a decent fully automatic rifle than it is with a zipgun...

Don't arm the masses, arm robots. That way you'll never have to worry about peasants revolting (as long as they don't have hackers).

You may have problems with Skynet, but that's something else.


A simple and cool solution is:

• Give the workers only primitive (physical) weapons.

So, the workers have free access to (awesome, really high-tech) crossbows - but they are just crossbows. They shoot a pointy bolt at very high speed.

It's just possible to defeat the native vicious animals using these badass crossbows, and makes for good action.


The overseer has actual robotic energy weapons.

These "defense lasers" can easily shoot out of the air a barrage of mere crossbow bolts.

Consider how current aircraft carriers have (incredibly sophisticated) robotic guns which can take out any incoming small threats, which other layers of defense have missed; similarly on a large scale the US has missile defense systems.

So your overseer has "crossbow defense" robotic energy weapon stations, which can very easily neutralize incoming crossbow bolts.

In this way the evil (or just ambiguous) overseer could simply stand there addressing the workers - even if every one of them has a loaded crossbow in hand - with no concern, as long as the defense-lasers around his podium are powered-up.

  • The overseer is helpful and should not cause harm.

Think the overseer is not a king, but a representative of the planet to higher authority.

Through the overseer, the planet to talk, request support from higher authority.

The overseer should not interfere with internal affairs, unless it harm higher authority (profit, politics, ...).

  • The overseer is replaceable.

Kill the overseer does not change anything as new one will come to take his post. However, it may worsen the relationship with higher authority.

  • The overseer is just an employee, he work for higher autority, not a king.

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