I came across the design of a nuclear pistol from a deviantart artist, shown here:

depiction of an imagined nuclear handgun

I want to know if this can actually be built.

My additions:

The “egg” needs not be uranium, which has a huge critical mass, and can use another material with less critical mass such as californium or americium. There is no care about how much are made. Assume that there is enough for one egg.

Also, the fusion battery can be replaced with a nanobattery, a quantum battery or a lithium-air battery, whichever is most portable.

The gun is also laced with Starlite to ensure that it does not melt.

The only problem I am seeing is how the radiation beam is produced in the first place, which I now seek help with.

  • $\begingroup$ The problem with nuclear power is that the journey from radioactive material to usable energy is, at least at the moment, pretty much the same as coal power - i.e. turning water into steam then making it move huge turbines. The problem with asking "how do i make a nano-handheld nuclear reactor realistic", is that it's a question hidden behind likely twenty nobel-prize worthy other questions. $\endgroup$
    – Logan
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 10:35
  • $\begingroup$ It's not clear from the image what the beam is. Is it superheated matter, or is it supposed to be actual ionising radiation i.e. gamma / neutrons? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ Starlite does exists (or the equivalent with a different name) but it is a one time use protection. Assuming the rest of the gun works, you'll have to recoat your gun after each shot !!! sounds as convenient on a battlefield than the good old muskets ... $\endgroup$
    – Hoki
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 11:44
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    $\begingroup$ Also, how can this reasonably be hard science when you haven't actually said what it is or what it does? Making a gun-shaped thing you can stick some fissile metal in and receive radiation poisoning from seems pretty straightfoward. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android Yes, but you can win a nobel prize for physics, which would doubtlessly be involved in this. My point remains: it's probably not worth worrying about the intricate physics of something like this, and trying to do so will likely lead down a rabbit-hole that humanity in its current level of knowledge is likely ill-equipped to navigate through. Just say the pistol shoots lasers/plasma and is powered by fission, and be done with it. $\endgroup$
    – Logan
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 14:06

3 Answers 3


If the beam is supposed to be ionising radiation (gamma / neutrons) you could have a critical mass of your chosen element contained in a strong and heatproof container (probably ceramic rather than starlite as it needs strength) configured like a sphere but with a channel for a control rod down the middle. With the control rod inserted the beam is off; with it removed the element goes critical and emits gamma and neutrons. However neither of these can be effectively focused, so you will need very effective shielding in all directions except down the barrel. This will require a lot of shielding and will not be portable. Also, the gun will get extremely hot as a critical lump of uranium / californium generates a lot of heat!

This kind of thing works much better on a bigger scale. You don't even need a refined element, if you take a (real) nuclear storage flask full of vitrified highly active waste and remove the lid, a beam of (order of magnitude) 1000Sv/hr will shine out of the end. This is sufficient to give a person a lethal dose in 3 seconds. A giant battle robot could have these mounted on arms or turrets and scan the battlefield for enemy soldiers and zap them.

  • $\begingroup$ Basically a miniaturized tomographer configured to kill $\endgroup$
    – Geronimo
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm, the first suggestion sounds like the old-fashioned Demon Cores. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ Which, for all their ferocity, took on the order of days to years to kill people, depending on the dosage. It's sort of a Parthian shot on your way to the afterlife, I guess. I imagine you go to war with an army fielding these and, as you march into their command tent to accept their surrender they say "You may have won the war, but 20-30 years down the line, you'll see! Your healthcare costs will be completely unmanageable!" $\endgroup$
    – Zwuwdz
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 20:23

I always try to make these types of weapons viable but this is ridiculous without more problems so much so that the bedroom of that thing does not jump through the air at the first shot that happened to explain it and the weapon would be a suicide with a trigger that said this answered your ask and I will explain how to make viable ridicule subtracts

First, the idea is old in 1950 , the M-28 or M-29 Davy Crockett Weapons System was created, which was a tactical nuclear weapon, composed of a non-recoil cannon that fired the M388 nuclear projectile and was deployed by the States United during the Cold War. It was one of the smallest nuclear weapons systems ever built, being named after the American soldier, congressman and popular hero Davy Crockett .

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/43/DavyCrockettBomb.jpg/200px-DavyCrockettBomb.jpg( This happens when you mix engineering and cocaine)

I will leave the link https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davy_Crockett_(nuclear_device)

The important thing is two things

1 this thing is very close to the minimum effective size and the power of a fission weapon , that is, it cannot make it smaller because of the issue of critical mass

2 if you shoot that thing it is very likely that it will fall so close to you to give you a deadly dose of radiation

Having said that I would use for your weapon a sphere of curium ( Cm ) to which bombard with neutrons created in a Farnsworth fuser miniature food which is downloading a bank of capacitors supplied by a battery of graphene

This weapon does not work well if I do not explain this if I would shoot a stream of ionizing radiation charged particles neutrons and heat but the radiation will kill you and that thing will probably explode in your hand

There is no situation on earth in which this gossip is useful

Now to explain why and how this principle will serve as something

A spaceship the size of a battleship needs a way to short-circuit the systems of an enemy ship and cause damage to its hull

The “viable” form of this weapon is the feel of a 914 mm caliber barrel with a length of 3 meters. The detonation chamber has walls of 2 mere thicknesses in three layers.

1st layer of ceramic crucible 9 centimeters thick

2nd layer of graphene and nano-laminated titanium (a layer of an atom of graphene thickness is placed and a sheet as thin as possible of titanium on that pattern is repeated until the layer is finished) 1 mm

3rd layer of tungsten carbide (this layer reflects the neutrons and radiation) occupies the rest of the space

The rest of the canyon has walls of 15 to 20 centimeters cast in tungsten carbide

To shoot, a sphere of plutonium-241 is placed in a subscribed mass, the size of the sphere is similar to a tennis ball, the sphere is surrounded by a sphere of explosive plastic C-4 or higher in power, when compressing the plutonium it will reach the critical mass (due to the increase in density when compressed)


This will cause a nuclear explosion that in the vacuum of space will not create shock waves but a beam of radiation when used inside this cannon. This is the only way to make that weapon “viable” (suppose you find out how to take all that weight into clear space) I apologize for the google translation I speak Spanish

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    $\begingroup$ Eliminating the "cannon" and encasing the nuclear device with a U238 radiation case with a hole provides the same effect. The intense beam of X-ray radiation can heat a working fluid and drive weapons effects like creating a plasma stream or accelerating pellets to 100 km/sec. Of course the device vapourizes when fired, but the weapons effects take place in that critical microsecond before the device is destroyed. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 5:19
  • $\begingroup$ It would work but a gun with one shot is a bad idea and in addition to the disintegration of the connector you will lose some energy and a part of the radecion will affect you being counterproductive $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 19:06

There is no viable fission device which would work in the fashion described. The closest thing I could discover is a fission fragment reactor which shoots energetic fission fragments from the opening in the reactor, providing either a rocket or an energy source for an MHD generator.

enter image description here

Fission Fragment reactor

If you decided to neglect the shielding, this might be somewhat portable (like an artillery piece is portable), you would still need to make provision for some sort of very efficient cooling system, either large radiators or pumping a coolant around the reactor chamber and venting it in an open cycle arrangement. The output is a beam of energetic fission fragments moving at about 1% of the speed of light...

The other method of creating a nuclear "gun" is to find a way to do aneutronic fusion. The reaction of 3He + 3He ends up as an energetic beam of Alpha particles (Helium nuclei) moving at a considerable fraction of c. Of course even Dense Focus Fusion, IEC or MTF fusion devices, while smaller than the aircraft carrier sized ITER reactor prototype, are still about the size of small cars to medium trucks, depending on the configuration, and like the Fission Fragment reactor, would also be intensely radioactive in operation (although through the emission of X rays and the release of neutrons in side reactions).

So there are ways to create a "nuclear" weapon that shoots a beam of high energy particles, but there does not seem to be a way to make this "pistol" sized.


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