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This a follow up on the previous post that asked how strong graphene armor would be and the general conclusion is that we have no idea sadly. So in this post I will ask a more relevant question.

If we have made armor with advanced, light-weight carbon and ceramic based materials that can easily stop most bullets like 9mm and 5.56mm calibers that are used in military's and cover the majority of the human body. How does this affect infantry warfare and more specifically guns?

Will guns need to get bigger and stronger to compete, or something else entirely?

And for those who will point out that modern militaries do not cover the entirety of their soldier's body in armor due to weight, heat and comfort issues: Let's just say that the same advancements that made the armor in the first place also allowed the creation of cooling load bearing systems that are simple and rugged enough to be used in the field.

EDIT: I fixed the question and want to clarify on the "entirety" part: What I meant to say was that the soldier has more armor on person than modern militaries to protect the extremities, which is allowed by the lightweight nature of the carbon materials, the cooling capacities and 'minimal; load bearing systems. Meaning that there are gaps in the armour, albeit covered in a cloth that has carbon materials like CNT.

Sorry for any confusion.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Oct 23 at 19:25

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If armour cannot be pierced, then you use weapons that don't rely on piercing.

One option that has been mentioned is thermal attack. Use fire. Napalm, phosphorous, thermite; all kinds of incendiary weapons you can think of. There's a person inside that armour, and they need to stay cool. Make the space around the armour hot enough, and the armour will have nowhere to shed heat, and the person will be forced to retreat, or cook. One advantage of this approach is that there's not all that much need to aim, unless the armoured individual is airborne. You can cover a whole area and get a good firestorm going, and it will act as an impenetrable barrier to enemy troops, and a death sentence to any already in that area. Downsides of this approach are mostly the flipside of this not needing to aim: it's a pretty widespread and indiscriminate assault; not really usable defensively because you risk incinerating whatever you're defending. It can also take time; if the armour is well insulated then it can take way too long before the enemy is out of action, giving them time to escape, or deploy weapons of their own.

There is a simpler approach, though, and for this we look to history. Specifically, the time period after good plate armour became available, but before the development of bodkin arrows and powerful crossbows. When faced with armour that cannot be pierced, you switch to blunt kinetic attack. In other words, it's hammer time.

Just because the armour stops a round from piercing, that doesn't mean the round is harmless. That kinetic energy has to go somewhere. If you fire heavy enough rounds at high enough velocities then each one is going to hit the enemy like a kick from a horse. This means using things like high-calibre rifles, and/or belt-fed automatics in high calibres, possibly even gatling-style weapons. Even if the armour holds its shape perfectly, the impacts will transfer kinetic energy to it, and from there to the person inside. A number of hits will ricochet off, but those that hit flat will be hammer blows, and the person inside the armour will bounce around in it, resulting in bruises, broken bones, and internal bleeding. The only ways to combat this is to make the armour heavier (to increase its momentum) and/or larger (to give more space for internal padding and shock absorption), both of which make the armour more cumbersome and less useful.

Other than that, you can challenge the "cannot be pierced" property of the armour somewhat. It may be largely invulnerable to regular bullets, but there are other ways to puncture armour. Technology from anti-tank rounds might find their way into smaller munitions (iirc there are currently provisions against exploding rounds in various international treaties, but the same goes for various other things that are still used, either by loopholes, legal technicalities, or just by ignoring the treaty entirely). The US military has developed rifle-sized weapons that fire miniaturised shells. These are mostly used for airburst rounds that defeat hard cover, but if bulletproof armour became commonplace then I'd expect to see these loaded with shaped-charge rounds to punch holes in the armour.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Oct 23 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ This raises a good point: a gun is not a weapon, it is a delivery device, capable of delivering whatever need-be from point A to Point B very, very quickly. If delivering 'A' does not work, maybe 'B' will. $\endgroup$ – tuskiomi Oct 28 at 6:00
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In general:

  • Strong armor/weak ranged weapons means more close (up to hand-to-hand) combat, shorter and more active battles, elite troops rules battlefield (less camo, but more colors and honor), relativly less casulties in battles (defeated prefer to run). It also means that charge is stronger than equal number and quality defence
  • Strong ranged weapons/weak armor (like it is now) means less to no close combat, long (days) "hide-and-seek" battles, with a lot of sittig in trenches and covers, more total casulties (it is useless to run from artilery or bombardmends), constant stalemates (due to defence is times stronger than attack).

(had to mention - there are a lot of "transition states" between this two; more of this - less of that)

Particular in your case guns would become short-ranged but more powerfull. 20+ mm handguns (handcannons?) with explosive (commulative) load and with effective maximum range about 100-200 m (they had to be short to keep it weight low) would become practical.

If you think of bolters and marines from WH40K - you would be wrong. But there would be a lot of parallels. Elite heavy-armored troops with bolter-like cannons to fight each other on close range (may be with hand-to-hand weapons), and lot of "infantry" - no-armored, but heavy-armed with large "antitank" rifles to fight those troops from long range (but totaly useless at middle and close range).

War machines would remian almost the same (just less lowcaliber machinguns) - they are already capable to fight heavyarmored troops.

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    $\begingroup$ The WH40K bolters are perfectly sensible if you regularly encounter 10-foot sentient fungoids or Beings From Hell. $\endgroup$ – Borgh Oct 21 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think that there would be a resurgence in hand-to-hand combat if armor were suddenly amazing. If armor is suddenly good enough to make you immune to bullets (and their physical effects), then no hand-to-hand weapon is going to be able to harm you. People could wail on each other with swords, bats, knives all day long without suffering any damage. Hell, you probably wouldn't be able to choke someone who's wearing completely bulletproof armor. I think ranged weapons would still be used. If a strong enough bullet hits you in the throat, you can still die even if the bullet bounces off $\endgroup$ – Dragongeek Oct 22 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ I just do not understand you people! Have you ever read the question you answering? Where have you found bullet immunity? ."..can easily stop most bullets like 9mm and 5.56mm..." - that is all! This armor doesn't even stop all lowcaliber bullets. And axe (and, ironicaly, warhammer) strike has more energy and in some cases more penetrating ability than 9mm or even 7.62mm bullet. And of case knife strike to weakpoint is always the option. So yes, hand-to hand is not preferable way of fighting, but it just would be more probable. $\endgroup$ – ksbes Oct 22 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ The slow blade penetrates the shield $\endgroup$ – joeytwiddle Oct 23 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Dragongeek IF the armor were impervious to all man carried firearms, then your standard melee would be useless. But Soldiers would start carrying around blow-torchs or some thing that can cut the armor off or weld it stiff so the encased Soldier loses mobility. Ranged weapons would start including epoxies that would glue joints stiff or seal off escape hatches in the armor. The result would be an instant memorial to the poor sap still inside unless his allies could crack him back out. $\endgroup$ – wolfsshield Oct 23 at 15:20
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Napalm Grenades

In reality, you're trying to describe an 'Iron Man' style suit for your soldiers and while that may one day be possible, it's not practical - that is to say, that kind of protection would cost more than I suspect most militaries would be prepared to pay, but I digress.

What the Iron Man comics, Movies et al don't really show is that in order for him to be agile enough to be an effective combatant in the field, his suit needs lots of joints, vents, and other areas where the armour seal becomes less than perfect because he has to move his arms and legs vigourously as he fights. The seal may well still be airtight, but that would be due to rubber, silicone or some other flexible sealing gasket material that moves and shapes itself to the joints as he works.

The practical upshot of this is that if you really want to get Iron Man, and he can't fly, you don't need to get through the armour, you need to get through the weakest points, namely those flexible seals.

So; napalm grenade. Super hot sticky incendiary 'syrup' that sticks to the suit and drips into those seals. Your soldier gets it in the neck, the shoulders, the elbows, the hands, the groin (!), the knees, and the feet. You may not even kill him, but you're going to render him combat ineffective.

Ultimately, these kinds of incendiary weapons can even evolve to be delivered via long range mechanisms as well. Imagine (if you will) a large calibre weapon (like a 50 cal) that has shells that deliver an ignited payload of napalm that splash against the armour and stick there, to drip down into the seals. Even napalm variants of RPGs and the like. Better yet, you just refit your A-10s to drop massive payloads of napalm bombs over a field to get your armoured soldiers.

Ultimately I think that bullets will still have their place and in modern asymmetric warfare strategies, you're not really sending off soldiers against soldiers; your snipers have more of a workload and they're not targeting the kind of people who wear iron suits. So, bullets may evolve but they would also move to a more specialist role than perhaps they currently fill.

But, when you get right down to it, a soldier who is perfectly protected by modern carbon / ceramic armour has a combat capability close to that of a statue; anything that can move has weaknesses somewhere, and in the case you describe the weakness is best exploited by weapons that stick and burn as they drip over you, and that means that we might see a resurgence in things like napalm to neutralise your armoured soldiers.

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    $\begingroup$ Regarding flexible joints of the suit: Look at the current prototype space suit for Mars: They have easily rotating joints, seems to work impressively well. $\endgroup$ – Volker Siegel Oct 21 at 7:07
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with a viscus, sticky liquid; is that it won't drip through small cracks; the surface tension will keep it out. Go the other direction. Burning oil. This is very much NOT sticky or viscus, and as such will flow easily through the joints. $\endgroup$ – UKMonkey Oct 21 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ Of course - the better option might be to keep the viscous liquid; and just try and cook the person in the suit, and ignore the joints. $\endgroup$ – UKMonkey Oct 21 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldnt they make seals that have openings that go "up" in the armor, meaning that nothing leaks in through gravity? Basically all you would need is a flame-retardant piece of cloth with a zipper over the joint. Even a loose flap (say Kevlar) that is sown to the armor above the joint and uses gravity to stay over the joint would offer enough protection. Especially considering what a large caliber round would do against even an armored joint there is little reason to be using burning or hot liquids. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 22 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ @VolkerSiegel Those joints have only a single axis of motion and are not used used at the knees because they do not provide the necessarily freedom of movement to walk. The knee joints use a flexible material instead. $\endgroup$ – Avi Cherry Oct 22 at 22:30
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Different types of ammo and weapons

Bolo gun

Taser Shotgun Shells

Sonic weapons

Chemical weapons

Laser Blinding Weapons

Basically you can protect from one type of weapon or even multiple types of weapons but you can't protect from every type of weapon. If bullets fail to work, someone will make a new type of bullet at does or switch to a different type of weapon.

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As armour improved in the medieval ages, full plate armour couldn't be penetrated except through the cracks.

The 4 methods that jump to mind that were used to resolve this are:

  1. Get up close with a dagger and place it through the joints or eye slits.
  2. Get up close with a mace or other bludgeoning weapon, and use the fact that the armour can only prevent the weapon going through. All the force imparted from the weapon however still will be largely absorbed by the person inside. A good strike to the helmet will still break the persons neck.
  3. flank them; most armour will be best on the front. By attacking from the sides or behind with ranged or melee then you can bypass most of the armour.
  4. pick the terrain. Armour, by its very nature, leaves the wearer less manoeuvrable. Selecting an area that is thick with mud, the difference becomes more marked.

Obviously in many battles, a combination of all 4 were applied; with 1;3;4 being used by the generally more agile and less well armoured troops; and #2 being used more by the well armoured troops.

The modern equivalent of #2 would be to use a very high calibre weapon. A cannon ball, if it hit you, has enough momentum that even if it doesn't go through your armour, you're dead.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe have AI guided projectiles that seek out the joints or slits. $\endgroup$ – Mike Wise Oct 22 at 4:32
  • $\begingroup$ There's no real reason to believe that graphine armor would leave the wearer less maneuverable... is there? $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Oct 23 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ @cowlinator of course there is. If you want a quick demonstration; locate a very muddy patch, and crawl through it in just clothes. Now take them off and do the same job naked. You will find that every time you put on something that can absorb moisture, moving around with it in mud becomes harder. The padding that comes with graphine armour will be no different. More water absorption, the worse the manoeuvrability. While materials can be coated with hydrophobic chemicals, I have no idea if this would be effective with something of such high surface area. $\endgroup$ – UKMonkey Oct 23 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ Point taken, but I think the comparison being made by the OP is the difference between impenetrable armor (graphine) vs. current penetrable armor (kevlar etc.). Wouldn't those have the same amount of water absorption? $\endgroup$ – cowlinator Oct 23 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ @cowlinator so you're suggesting that 2 armours, with different materials and different padding and different padding thickness, should absorb the same amount of water? $\endgroup$ – UKMonkey Oct 24 at 6:55
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Modern weapons are more energetic than chemical bonds are. Graphine is no exception.

A Newtonian Penetrator (if the energy levels are low enough that "solid" still matters) or a Fluid Penetrator (if not) model is how deep a given weapon penetrates armor, and it really doesn't care about chemical bonds. It cares about density and thickness.

Modern anti-tank weapons fire high-density narrow jets to penetrate the target's high-density angled (to increase depth) plates.

It is far easier to make a really long, narrow penetrating weapon than it is to cover every inch of something with a thick layer of dense armor. So armor has lost.

Since WW1, static fortifications have lost. Having ridiculously thick armor (in the form of Earthworks, trenches, etc) still gets overrun by mass artillery or other "bunker busting" technology.

Basically, in order to stop a 1 inch long bullet, you need more than 1 inch of the same density material in the bullet all over your body. And if you can carry that much armor due to "power armor", you could just carry a heavier gun that fires longer bullets.

Worse, anti-tank missiles mean you can fire a weapon whose "bullet" is longer than the weapon itself.

Non-chemistry based defences could pull off defence beating offence again: Bullets shooting bullets out of the air, force fields that aren't chemistry based, and other relatively implausible technologies.

As a plausible variant of "bullets shooting bullets", warfare where you have swarms of various scale drones. The goal is to spot your foe, at which point sufficient ordinance is used to destroy them. Offence becomes a matter of gaining LOS with your drones; defence is getting LOS on their drones before they get LOS on your target. Everyone is using high-accuracy payloads that disable targets trivially, with smaller amounts of high-penetration payloads to nullify "just send a tank" options.

But this looks nothing at all like soldiers walking around in super high-tech plate armor.

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  • $\begingroup$ I love the idea of a Fluid Perpetrator so much that I'm not going to go in and fix your typos. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Oct 21 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime Perpetual Fluid Perpetator Perpetuated by Spell Checking $\endgroup$ – Yakk Oct 21 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Peripheral fossil perambulator pickled by spill chunking, you say? $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Oct 21 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ A little expansion on those "jets" anti-tank weapons use now. They're explosively formed penetrators. The missile's warhead is a hollow cone, with the flat end of the cone towards the target, the inside of which is covered in copper. The blast from the warhead instantly melts the copper, folds it into a bullet-like shape, and punches it through the armor at about 2000m/s. That's almost 7 times faster than sound. Needless to say, you don't want to be in a tank with droplets of molten copper flying around inside at mach 7. Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Explosively_formed_penetrator $\endgroup$ – Ryan_L Oct 23 at 4:19
  • $\begingroup$ What about fin stabilized armour piercing discarding sabot rounds? $\endgroup$ – Seraphim Oct 23 at 5:14
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Retrain for headshots

Nowadays, marksmen are trained to aim for center-of-mass, but your advanced armor would apparently make that strategy no longer viable. So you'd have to train your soldiers to aim for the head. It's a smaller target (which is why we don't train people to aim for it today), but it's also the hardest part to protect, since people need to be able to see, and materials which are both bulletproof and transparent are much harder to produce. (Even bulletproof glass would still be vulnerable to headshots, because even if the bullet doesn't penetrate, it does impart significant force to the head, which can still kill just by neck injury, and at the very least it would cause visibility issues for the victim.

As an alternative, you could train to aim for other weak points in the armor, mostly centered around the joints. Joints strong enough to stop bullets are going to seriously hinder freedom of movement, so you may have to sacrifice protection in some areas in favor of agility, leaving some vulnerable areas if you know what to aim for.

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In the highly scientific documentary "John Wick 3" we can observe that armor which doesn't allow for penetration, doesn't magically negate the impact a bullet has. A bullet has a tremendous amount of force behind it and can break bones even when stopped. While smaller bullets are often focused on penetrating, larger bullets from 9mm and above have the same force as a hammer. If push comes to shove the switch would just be made to explosive weapons since those posses the largest amount of kinetic force, or 50 cal's would suddenly become as popular as in Call of Duty.

Even if armor magically had the ability to stop kinetic force, this would mean that close quarters weapons would be rendered useless as well since those are all based on kinetic force too. Anything that works from a small distance can currently be done from a large distance.

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Assuming all else is more or less equal, that the research really has surpassed weapons fire so these suits are given to everybody instead of the "only select people get this for some reason" and we dont have sudden radiation guns and the Geneva conventions are still in effect. I am also assuming a combination of spidersilks and metamaterials like high CNT substances draped over a framework to add more stopping distance and spread the force over a larger area. This also has the benefit of not really having weak joints as the spidersilks can be draped over them like cloth without impeding movement. the most logical changes are:

  • larger caliber weapons, often semi-auto to conserve accuracy. This for the extra kinetic energy to break the bones beneath the armor. This also means less ammo, more recoil and more time between shots.

  • as consequence of the above point, soldiers are more likely to survive. Adrenalin during such events often mean that broken ribs, arms and legs can be dealt with reasonably well for a limited time, allowing soldiers to escape or harm their attackers right back.

  • as another consequence of the first point, large caliber crew-served weapons would be used more often for automatic firepower.

  • less reliance on grenades and shrapnel ordnance. Most artillery and grenades are lethal because of the shrapnel that pierces organs rather than their concussive force (unless it detonates right next to you). Artillery inaccuracy means that it becomes a lot more expensive to try and artillery infantry to death. As a supressive weapon it would still work though.

  • more reliance on psychology to win. The British apparently tested things like firing one artillery shot/salvo per minute instead of a constant barrage, and soldiers being shot at would have the opportunity to flee inbetween. This meant that area's could be taken without killing many people as they would just have left. This would also extent to fighting techniques like using noisemakers in combat and just looking fierce.

  • humans dont really want to kill one another, this causes the "look busy" actions that soldiers will adopt by shooting in the air above the enemy, packing and repacking their gear (during fights), looking after wounded friendlies even if it is just a scrape etc. With armor this tough it could be that fights become a lot more accurate as the chance of actually killing someone is much lower.

I actually think that specialty ammunition like chemical bullets, bolo's etc wouldnt be used much due to geneva conventions, higher cost and higher chance of weapons failure. Also consider that war isnt about killing your opponent but about making your opponent stop fighting. Anti personell mines are designed to maim the target rather than kill to put pressure on the logistical chain of the enemy. And here you have warfare where shooting your enemy means they have more people to drag off the battlefield alive and care for? Not only will many soldiers gladly take the chance to drag a friendly out of harms way and be out of the fighting themselves it will be much safer for most people involved including civilians as stray bullets will be less of a problem!

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  • $\begingroup$ Very good points! The Geneva convention does get in the way of some options (most notably explosive ammunition), but I would be interesting if military’s around the world start side stepping or ignore the convention due to this “super armour”. Also, high caliber bullets could be caseless to increase capacity since material science would be advanced enough I believe. $\endgroup$ – Seraphim Oct 21 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ The geneva convention is against weapons that cause undue suffering. How much damage would an explosive bullet do against this armor? You would likely need a miniature shaped charge HEAT round to pull this off. Otherwise you need to fill the bullets with chemicals, base's and acids to burn through the armor. But would this be cost effective? How long does the ammo keep with such chemicals inside? What would mishandling mean if say a transport drove too fast over a rough road or a misfire happens in a gun? Does it add enough to be worth it compared to breaking bones and bloodvessles? $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 21 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ Those are points that I haven’t thought of which do make a lot of sense. Although the idea of having my ribs ripping apart my lungs every time I breath is not a pleasant why to go. That also brings up a good question though. How big must the caliber be? I’m thinking around 8 to maybe 12.7mm. Though couldn’t you just make the projectile a dart perhaps? Like what is seen in ranks. Though you would have to aim for weak points. $\endgroup$ – Seraphim Oct 21 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ I meant tank, not rank. $\endgroup$ – Seraphim Oct 22 at 3:04
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    $\begingroup$ I think that the larger caliber would be based on kinetic energy and follow a similar path as tank penetrators would go through. With the way that infantry armor cant be spaced easily without impeding the wearer I think that HESH type rounds would win out over penetrators. A HESH round that causes a shockwave through the supple materials almost directly into your body would rip the bloodvessles and bruise/break bones underneath. Also ribs are one of the fastest regenerating bones in the body (for obvious reasons) that dont guarantee collapsed lungs. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Oct 22 at 8:55
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Thus you begin the race for effective Energy Weapons.

In the mean time, you want to defeat the common rounds of the day If the Armor tech is good against 5.56 rifle and 9mm handgun it may be good enough for the most common rounds of right now. Here is the problem, there are plenty of more powerful rounds out there.

Consider it as a race of armor vs. energy. A 5.56 Nato round is a lightweight bullet that moves very fast. The Relevant equation is ke = 1/2 mass times velocity squared This is also partially augmented by the size of the impact area. Theres lots of nuance there, but lets start with the simple physics. Lets get down to some basic stats. A 5.56 round has a 62 grain (unit of weight) slug that moves at over 3000 feet per second. I don't know all the conversions but if we just call them units it will illustrate the point. 5.56 round gives you (.5 x 62) x 3000^2 which is 279,000,000 units. A 9mm has a heavier slug, but it moves more slowly. 115 grain at 1300 feet per second so 97,175,000 units. Now lets look at the bullet that won WW2. The M1 shot a 174 grain at 2675 fps. That is 615,383,750 units. Well over twice the energy of a 5.56. Escalate it up to something like a .338 Lapua and you get something like 1,134,000,000 units. a .50 BMG gives you 2,907,000,000 units. So you get to decide how well your armor will hold against larger and faster rounds. If your armor is good to stop up to the good ol M1, it will be defeated by the .338 and the .50 will make a mess of your guy. All of the ones I mentioned are rounds and rifles you can buy today. All can be handled by a person, though the last is usually recommended to be shot using a bi-pod.

So what you are going to see is an escalation, fairly quickly, between how good can your armor be and opposing forces deploying larger and larger rounds in the field. You can expect an increase in sniper activity as well. Those larger rounds are easily good to hit targets well over 1000 meters away. Snipers will get a little closer and go for joints and weak spots. Melee weapons will also make a brief comeback. Probably in the world of the Mace and the war hammer.

Another thing you will see very quickly is a variety of armor piercing rounds. It is much easier to change the bullet rather than changing the gun. Regular full metal jackets will likely be replaced by steel core type rounds. Not perfect, but you maintain muzzle energy without deformation on impact and a good shot puts all of that energy on a small, very hard point. In addition, Graphene burns at a fairly low temperature. That means that Phosphorous rounds will likely become much more common. Phosphorous is already widely used as 'Tracers' to help direct automatic weapons fire, often at a rate of 1 out of five rounds being a tracer. Change that to 1 in 2 and then begin making tracer bullets available for all small arms. Tracer impacts the armor and begins burning. next round hits very nearby and the bonds that hold the graphene together start failing. Very bad for the squishy bits underneath.

In the mean time, mad scientists are going to cook up all kinds of nastiness. Gasses, acids, Thermobaric weapons. All of this will get deployed until the eventual rise of something like a portable laser or other energy weapon that defeats the ballistic armor just like the bodkin arrow made it easier to kill an armored man from a distance.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, when I was saying stuff like 9mm and 5.56mm, what I meant was a generalization of what current military’s use. To put it bluntly, stack enough graphene on each other and you can (theoretically) stop any thing. The problem then becomes if the body can take the trauma. And in the case of caliber like 338. and 12.7, the results would...messy, without proper padding like liquid armour. Though anything can be defeated. Given enough dakka has been applied. $\endgroup$ – Seraphim Oct 22 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ Very true, just felt I needed to clarify when I said “9mm to 5.56mm”. $\endgroup$ – Seraphim Oct 22 at 23:30
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    $\begingroup$ You don't mention the 7.62mm (NATO) round. A lot of countries used that one for main battle rifle and there are a lot of machine guns still around in that caliber. Way more punch then a 5.56 still very mobile... Also: see G3 rifle. $\endgroup$ – Flummox - don't be evil SE Oct 23 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI, my bad, it's the same: The .30-06 Springfield cartridge (pronounced "thirty-aught-six"), 7.62×63mm in metric notation -> en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.30-06_Springfield $\endgroup$ – Flummox - don't be evil SE Oct 23 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ Hmm, maybe I should have mentioned 7.62 mm. But, considering how hard graphene can get, it should be able to stop 7.62 mm and other similar cartridges. Though depending on the shock absorbent, it could still be lethal. $\endgroup$ – Seraphim Oct 23 at 15:23
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Cook'em with radiation.

If the armor emits any kind of signal (EM, sound, visual) in response to a phased array sweeping over them in multiple dimensions (space + pulse frequency + radiation frequency) most any optimizing software will suffice to drill into that weak spot.

It will be very hard, if not impossible, to design a suit that can adapt to complex patterns of high-intensity EM radiation; that problem is analogous to designing invisibility cloaks. Then you replace your miniguns with phased arrays, or create short range weapons (perhaps something like a "radiation whip" could work, a flexible implement covered in radiation emitters) for the same purpose.

To take it one step further, generate the radiation with high-intensity lasers that ignite the air - the resulting plasma will emit radiation and can be arbitrarily sculpted into a 2,5D surface towards the target. Right now there's some Chinese technology that does this to create images/3D holograms in the air.

This can also be used to create ionized channels of air through which you can pump electricity directly into the target, similar to how lightning tends to strike multiple times in the same area because it leaves an ionized trail of air.


For a more "grounded" approach, design bullets which cause nuclear fission on impact. Even if radiation poisoning isn't effective enough, it should be possible to design the bullets in such a way that they fuse with the target armor, deforming it beyond repair or capacity for movement and attack.

Yet another approach would be high-altitude bombing with high-strength pointed projectiles. No armor can withstand a pole with the mass of a car moving at terminal velocity to the head, and if it can they'll be pushed through the earth's surface.

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This is just a small partial answer, but in medieval times, a full plate was pretty much impenetrable. The thing is: only knights and nobleman could afford full plates, so most of the people in the battlefield would still be vulnerable to any weapon.

If full body armor capable of protecting against personal projectile weapons are ever developed, be assured that only a handful of very special soldiers would use it, as the cost of having a soldier killer would be likely smaller than the cost of armoring everyone. Those soldiers would be treated like tanks, and would be handled with either heavier mounted weapons, explosives or specially designed weapons, but by no means would make the good old assault rifle obsolete.

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I really like @anaximander's answer since he both answer how the warframe would change and how would guns compete (throwing napalm grenade isn't a « gun » in my opinion) i would like to complete his answer by looking at how science-fi is looking at it. In Starcraft, for example, the "bullets" from marines are higly innefective against even the lowly armored zergling. It is stated that a marine needed to shoot a salve of three needles (those rounds are fired by electromagnetic forces so there's more freedom in the rounds' shape) in the same spot of a zergling in order to kill it : the two first round only damage the zergling armor while the third penetrate and does the kill. (according to the book) This is why only a few marines can take a dozen zergling by themselves while the recruits are near useless (according to the game's cinematic where a scared marine use his whole charger on a hydralisk at close range in full auto mode and does nothing - probably cause he never hit the same spot thrice)

Here we can see a case where the armor clearly outmatch the gun - in practical term you would like a gun where one round is enough to pierce, here it's not the case. In order to compensate, the marines uses thinner (needles) rounds in order to penetrate more easily and use rapid burst of 3 rounds.

So in order to kill through an impossibly resilient armor, you could : - change your ammunitions like the archers changed the tip of their arrows in medieval times - focus on the same point of the armor if the round does any damage to it - use different ways like concussion to kill, but padding would make it less effective

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Use high powered rifles and explosives.

If normal bullets don't do the trick, we've got plenty of weapons with more stopping power. Modern high powered rifles like the Barrett M82 would be the standard, if they can penetrate upgraded body armor. If that's not enough, we'll use even bigger rifles, like the Anzio 20mm rifle. If that's not enough, we'll switch to grenade launchers like the Barrett XM109.

Long range stopping power is simply too big of an advantage to give up, even if armor becomes superior to modern guns. We'll either increase caliber substantially, or else move to explosive penetrators, similar to what we use on tanks.

That being said, these sorts of guns would substantially change the way we conduct warfare. Large rifles like the ones I mentioned generally weigh in somewhere in the 30-50 lb range, and are fired from a bipod or tripod. Ammunition is far heavier, and the rifles fire substantially slower than select fire assault weapons or dedicated machine guns. Infantry equipped with solely heavy rifles would be far less mobile than current modern infantry, and less equipped to deal with short-range firefights. Tactics would rely on infantry deploying rifles in relatively fixed positions, with an eye towards longer sight lines than what are reasonable with fully automatic weapons. Stealth-based combat, similar to modern engagements between snipers, would become the norm.

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    $\begingroup$ If we had such light weight alloys for such superior armor, then surely we'd have the powered light-weight exoskeletons necessary to carry such high powered weaponry, and the weaponry would also be made of the lighter alloys. $\endgroup$ – wolfsshield Oct 23 at 15:32
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Superglue

Just spray the joints with fast drying glue (maybe a mix of glue and sand) and the armor will now be a trap

Soon in every american high-school

Banana skin

Because it will Always work enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes...the ultimate weapon has been conceived! $\endgroup$ – Seraphim Oct 23 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ Yup, screen hadn't refreshed when I posted mine...Melee combat evolved: glue sticks, ranged combat: lobbing epoxy foam $\endgroup$ – wolfsshield Oct 23 at 15:30
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Think outside the box. Or rather think about when your targets are going to be outside their boxes. Massed units charging at each other is going out of style given that army units are close to invulnerable, so special forces are coming into their own. You can't sleep in you armour after all.

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One of the best robots on Robot Wars was called Wheelie Big Cheese. It was a wedge shaped robot (rather like a cheese wedge). It drove into the enemy robot and flipped explosively, sending the other robot flying and often into a pit or upside down.

It was one of the most powerful robots in the end, and I believe it won the series.

There are plenty of videos of it on YouTube.

Depending on your definition of gun, if the mechanism for flipping were driven by gunpowder, perhaps you could work.

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From one of my comments, though I like several of these answers.

If we develop such a material to make advanced body armor that somehow negated the kinetic effect of the rounds fired upon it, then we will have surely developed sufficiently fast acting epoxies to glue the armor stiff, shut, or to the ground.

Immobile Soldiers incapable of firing weapons are just a piece of the landscape.

Call your glue gun "Gorgon's Gaze" or some such. Once employed sufficiently, Soldiers may view this new body armor as a death warrant.

Shoot, even now there are Soldiers who think the current body armor and the associated tactics are a death trap.

Example: The ceramic plate on your chest doesn't help you unless it is between you and the bullet, so square your shoulders and face the enemy full on...kinda defeats the idea of low profile means hard to hit.

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protected by Monty Wild Oct 23 at 12:18

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