I often read a light novel that tells a story about a person who is transferred from their high tech modern society Earth to a fantasy land. These persons often have some expertise in modern science such as computer programing, chemical engineer or maybe even they have a military experience, but most often they are just an expert gamers. And in the end, if their expertise/knowledge is explored in the story, they will implement it to make some kind of modern enterprise.

So, I'm just thinking...

Let's say, a person/a group of people from modern society 2016-up Earth are somehow transferred to a fantasy land that is still in the Bronze Age. Then that person/group somehow decided that they want to have a weapon that is close enough to the modern military on Earth, for personal use only.

"I/we need to survive, and at the same time build a military equipment that is close enough to modern military on Earth I/we need to build a sustainable factory from the scratch"

So, the question might be..

What kind of modern weaponry and equipment that is achievable with that limitation of bronze age?

What is the realistic approach for that to happen?

  • I prefer the maximum number of person that are transferred is 10, but it is okay too if the answer present a larger number.

  • Things that the person bring from the modern earth is limited to the size of a backpack.

  • local can be hired and trained to do the job.

  • $\begingroup$ Easy, just bring : - a replicator - a portable fusion reactor with 10kg of deuterium (that s enough to power a generation ship for centuries so should be enough for your weapon factory) - the appropriate blueprints. $\endgroup$ – Fred Apr 24 '20 at 6:12
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Apr 27 '20 at 2:57

14 Answers 14


The first problem is going to be that the people going back in time have no background in metal working, machining, mining and chemical processing (save for the chemist), let alone weapons design. Even if you were to transport an entire workshop back in time, your team would be unlikely to make anything more complex than a flintlock musket.

Modern weapons are complex systems, with a lot of moving parts. How to effectively build a firearm has been a progressive effort over the past several hundred years- things like what is the best to feed a weapon (double stack single feed versus double stack double feed magazines for example), what gas system is most robust etc have all been learned over generations of gunsmiths spending there professional lives developing them. Someone with only a vague knowledge of guns trying to build a modern firearm is like someone who's never seen the engine of a car trying to build one from scratch.

Even if you had people who knew how to build firearms, you have the problem of manufacture. The tools themselves required to build weapons (mills, lathes, presses) are also complex systems with many working parts. Without electricity you would need some way of powering these tools (e.g. steam power), which again is another complex system.

On top of that you need the raw materials- iron and coal is going to be needed for the steel, plus a number of other trace elements which means you are going to have to work out how to mine it, then how to set up a processing plant to produce it.

All this has to be set up using tools that can be carried in a backpack, which is going to be basically impossible.

As a commenter pointed out, cannons would be a viable alternative; send back a chemist and an engineer, and assuming they find locals with experience in casting metals, they could feasibly develop them, which would be a massive advantage over siege weapons of the time.

Edit: a case study to illustrate how difficult it is to make a modern firearm is shown here. A Vietnamese craftsman in the vietnam war tries to build a 1911 pistol in his workshop using methods that far eclipse those available to bronze age societies, or what the travellers could bring back with them. He has a working model of a 1911 to copy from, though clearly doesn't know what every part does. While the craftsman obviously is pretty skilled at what he does, the result is a crude, somewhat functioning weapon that probably has a pretty high chance of exploding if you tried to fire.

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    $\begingroup$ This. Standing on the shoulders of giants doesn't work well without a giant. Even if you have a complete knowledge of final steps, you probably lack lot of the steps between bronze and modern age. $\endgroup$ – Kepotx Apr 23 '20 at 6:58
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    $\begingroup$ Like asking a driver to build a car using only a backpack. $\endgroup$ – Blueriver Apr 23 '20 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ Agree with all this but wanted to add: Even if they made a crude modern gun, there's also the bullet, casing, gunpowder, and primer. Exactly what mix is in the powder to govern its burn speed, the weight of the bullet, affects the pressure in the chamber when the round goes off. This has been a long and experimental road in our own history. If their crude gun wasn't made of the same metals/strength as modern, then a modern bullet would likely blow it up (or any bullet based on modern data). The early Chinese hand-cannon would be potentially possible if they had the right metals... $\endgroup$ – Hueco Apr 23 '20 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ And a gun isn't just 'steel' There's chrome/molybdenum steel in the barrel, different grades of steel for the receiver and other parts, spring steel for the springs, etc. Example of a simple problem: If you can't precisely control the process that makes springs, each gun would behave differently. And since there is no repeatable, precision manufacturing, you'd have to make everything, down to the screws, by hand. So no spare parts, no assembly lines, and each gun would be a massive amount of labor. If it worked at all. $\endgroup$ – Dan Hanson Apr 24 '20 at 19:21

Forget about modern weaponry in the bronze age.

Any modern weapon is mass produced, in those time every weapon was at most a work of craftsmanship of a specialized artisan: you don't have the supply chain, the methods and the standards to make any mass production.

The only thing that comes to my mind which can be used is the concept of composite bow, using materials available in that period: bones, tendons, wood.

The wooden core gives the bow its shape and dimensional stability. It is often made of multiple pieces, joined with animal glue in V-splices, so the wood must accept glue well. Pieced construction allows the sharp bends that many designs require, and the use of woods with different mechanical properties for the bending and nonbending sections.

The wood of the bending part of the limb ("dustar") must endure intense shearing stress, and denser woods such as hard maples are normally used in Turkish bows. Bamboo, and wood of the mulberry family, are traditional in China. Some composite bows have nonbending tips ("siyahs"), which need to be stiff and light; they may be made of woods such as Sitka spruce.

A thin layer of horn is glued onto what will be the belly of the bow, the side facing the archer. Water buffalo horn is very suitable, as is horn of several antelopes such as gemsbok, oryx, ibex, and that of Hungarian grey cattle. Goat and sheep horn can also be used. Most forms of cow horn are not suitable, as they soon delaminate with use. The horn can store more energy than wood in compression.

The sinew, soaked in animal glue, is then laid in layers on the back of the bow; the strands of sinew are oriented along the length of the bow. The sinew is normally obtained from the lower legs and back of wild deer or domestic ungulates. Traditionally, ox tendons are considered inferior to wild-game sinews since they have a higher fat content, leading to spoilage. Sinew has greater elastic tension properties than wood, again increasing the amount of energy that can be stored in the bow stave.

Hide glue or gelatin made from fish gas bladders is used to attach layers of sinew to the back of the bow, and to attach the horn belly to the wooden core

This might require picking the right location for the men to arrive, in order to have all the materials available.

  • $\begingroup$ Iron and steel also seem worthwhile, they'll provide a revolution in materials since they are so much more available than bronze ingredients. $\endgroup$ – ikrase Apr 23 '20 at 4:57
  • $\begingroup$ @ikrase, OP has clearly stated "with the limitation of bronze age" $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Apr 23 '20 at 6:57
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    $\begingroup$ I will warn you: becoming a bowyer is a difficult task, though there are a few people in the present available to teach you. I would suggest not learning this through books. Find somebody who makes bows the old-fashioned way and learn from him before you go back in time. Somebody else can apprentice with a smith who makes swords. $\endgroup$ – NomadMaker Apr 23 '20 at 15:44

Just bring the guns with you.

As you point out, this group of people needs a limited number of guns for personal protection, rather than trying to outfit an army. There is simply no point in spending years or decades or more attempting to build a gun factory when you only need a handful of guns - instead of bringing the equipment needed to build the factory, just bring the guns themselves. If you really need a gun for protection and are trying to build one from scratch, you'll be dead long before you finish. If you don't need a gun to survive, there are better ways to improve your odds of survival like securing your food supply, or engaging in diplomacy with the locals, which would have far more immediate benefit. Either way, there's no circumstance where you're in enough danger to require a gun, but still have the time to build one from scratch. If you only need as many guns as will fit in the backpack in the first place, just bring them with you.

  • $\begingroup$ And then you die when the guns run out of ammo... $\endgroup$ – Imperial Justinian Apr 24 '20 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ @ImperialJustinian At least you didn't die immediately while trying to build a weapon. If you needed to use up all your ammo just to survive, you certainly wouldn't have even made it that long had you not brought the gun in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie Apr 24 '20 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ bring flintlocks, you can make more ammo for those with just some decent chemistry knowledge. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 24 '20 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ This. If you anticipate needing more ammunition than you can carry, then a high power air rifle and hand pump might allow you to produce your own most easily. Think Girandoni-style with round balls. $\endgroup$ – Hassassin Apr 25 '20 at 8:48

This is pretty much the plot of my novel War of the God Queen which literally does have ten women abducted through time to the bronze age where they play a key role in a war against the alien invaders responsible for abducting them :)

With no knowledge of gunpowder or metallurgy, they do at least update as far as pikes and halberds. However, other factors - in particular organisation, politics and the exercise of soft power in organising aliances turn out to be far more important than tactical weaponry .enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Kudos on the book and +1 for the sensible, out of the box answer. You're in the bronze age -- you make do with what you've got! Also good for exploring tactics as a modern weapon, and one for which a "factory" could easily be set up in any past age! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 25 '20 at 12:26

It depends on the weapon - and the factory

'Weapon factory' could include anything from tanks and guns rolling off an assembly line to hundreds of people hand-packing primitive pipe bombs or grenades. The latter is possible, the former absolutely not.

A modern factory requires precursors that were nowhere to be found in the bronze age. The key to modern manufacturing is precision and repeatability. For example, a station might stamp out a part for a gun, over and over again. The next station might assemble those parts onto a frame made elsewhere. For that to work on a precision product, Those parts have to be built to exact tolerances, all the time. This is a difficult challenge, even today.

For example, how would you power this factory? The earliest ones used water wheels that would drive belts which would in turn drive various machines like lathes and drills. This was not a precise system, with lots of variation in belt speed, etc. This in turn made it really hard to make consistent, repeatable processes. And of course before you even tried it you'd have to know how to build belt-fed lathes and such, and you'd have to make the parts to build those first.

To be able to make interchangeable parts, the basis of modern manufacturing, you absolutely need that precision.

For this and many other reasons, we didn't have precision manufacturing until the 1800's. Before then, parts from different sources had to be hand-fitted by craftsmen, and anything that needed such precision had to be done by hand. Without precise control of temperature and drilling speed, some parts would be heat-worked more than others, alloys wouldn't be consistent, etc.

So forget making modern manufactured steel goods in the bronze age. You would be better off making simple weapons that leverage knowledge we have today, but which can be made from bronze age materials.

For example, you could defeat castle walls by hoisting a rogallo-wing glider with a balloon (or launching from a higher point), then gliding over the fortification and dropping barrels of burning pitch on the houses or dropping bombs which could be made from lots of materials. In the right circumstances you might even be able to glide over enemy soldiers and attack them with some kind of droppable anti-personnel flechettes or something. You could probably make primitive land mines. But even the ability to use balloons for reconnaissance would give you a big advantage.

Just knowing how to make iron and steel could give you a huge advantage, even just in trading it to raise armies.

But forget making modern guns and such. It can't happen.


Pretty much the only realistic approach for a person from the modern age to build any kind of modern factory in the bronze age is for that person to engage in a long-term process of uplifting the society from bronze age technology to modern era technology. Modern era factories rely on extensive supply chains, which are provided by other modern era suppliers.

There are shortcuts you can take, and corners you can cut, so it's not necessary for everything to be 100% up to modern standards, but you will need to get all of the supporting infrastructure at least into the modern-era ballpark. Knowing the final destination and being able to avoid dead-ends along the way will allow the uplift process to go faster than the five or so millennia that it's taken in real-world history, but you can't just say "hey guys, go here, dig up some rusty rocks, put them in a fire until they glow, then pound them into this shape" and expect to even get a modern-quality nail, much less functional weapons.


Equipment needed. A large backpack for each member is of course ideal. The more space the better. A solid startup needs a lot of equipment. You need to bootstrap your economy up quickly, which means every pound counts.

  1. A rugged laptop loaded with key information, and a portable solar panel. You need to plan things out. You'll ideally want someone with basic computer literacy to use this.

  2. A big gun and lots of ammo to control natives. A backup pistol, or several. This is so you can find local resources. You're gonna need a lot of help. Probably a sniper rifle, so you can avoid mass rushes. Everyone should carry one and be trained. They can be trained to run your forges, make pottery, mine stones and metals, and scout for you. Larger guns aren't reliable at killing, enemies can attack you from stealth, use cavalry, and the kill ratio for infantry in vietnam was 50,000 bullets per kill. You need to ration your bullets, which means careful shots.

  3. A portable mass spec machine. This will allow you to test metal samples for contaminants. You'll need someone trained in this. There are better tools, but this should give you a basic idea.

  4. A portable machining kit containing all the tools you need to make more tools. Woodworking skills and kit essential. Everyone should be trained in this.

  5. A portable forge, to make metal items, along with an arc welder to weld parts together.

  6. A portable chemistry kit, to manufacture black powder. You'll need to source supplies locally.

  7. A drone, to check dangerous areas without risk of danger, also charged off your solar battery.

  8. Various medicines and bandages things to ensure survival in early dangerous times. Everyone should be trained in first aid, because a small injury can snowball into a serious infection if not treated.

  9. An induction smelter for iron. This may be harder. I don't know if there are small ones. You may need to break it down, and make it on site. You'll need a lot of batteries and porta solar panels for this- the batteries for this may be 250 kilos weight total, along with many large solar panels.

  10. Lots of spare parts.

  11. Misc goods. Binoculars, lighters, radios, condoms, lotion, food, clothes, torch, batteries, knives, scissors, planting seeds, aluminum blankets, tarps, Leatherman Wave.

  12. Bartering goods and misc goods. Drugs, cigarettes,

What you'd do is go strongarm or diplomance your way into control of a local powerhouse. Using the people there, you collect local samples of useful minerals nearby, and test them with your mass spec, along with mining local tree. If you find a suitable resource nearby you bring it in, purify it, and start making metal parts or gunpowder. You can slowly build up your manufacturing capacity, training locals to do key jobs. Hopefully as much of your key core group can survive at a time, because you can scout well and take out enemies at extreme range.

Your drone can give you key spying capacity, and a long ranged rifle can deter armies. The initial goods will wear out with time, but by then hopefully you've made local versions. Computer stuff will run out eventually forever, since a computer lab is beyond what you can do, but you can make a basic smithery and machine worktable.

Diseases will be a concern, but if you stay well fed and follow quarantine procedures, you should be ok. Infections normally hit the weak.

Your team should be heavily cross trained. Some will be specialists of course, to identify good metal deposits and such, as some may be injured or die.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to suggest adding a medic of sorts, and making sure everybody is very well trained in first aid at least. And make very, very sure their teeth are in really good shape. $\endgroup$ – Burki Apr 23 '20 at 10:59
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    $\begingroup$ I added this to the post. $\endgroup$ – Nepene Nep Apr 23 '20 at 11:04
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    $\begingroup$ OP requirement: Things that the person bring from the modern earth is limited to the size of a backpack. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Apr 23 '20 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ Your portable machining kit will barely fit in a truck much less a backpack , a mass spectrometer for metallurgy is not backpack portable and needs a butt load of power. A chemistry kit is't going to help you make black powder in quantity, and you are going to need a huge solar panel and a bank of batteries to power some of these things. You would be lucky to fill all of this is a single shipping container much less 10 backpacks. Also your arc welder will be useless fairly quickly since you can't get rods for it. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 24 '20 at 4:22
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    $\begingroup$ You'll be bringing a lot of batteries and solar panels. It takes about 37 kWh of energy to smelt a kilo of pig iron. You can't do it directly with solar power, so you need batteries. A 37 kWh battery is about half the size of the battery used in a Tesla model S. So that's about 250 kg of batteries. To charge them in a 10 hour day, You would need 3.7 kW of solar cells, or 18 standard 3' x 6' solar panels. With all that, you could smelt 1lb of pig iron per day. If we don't add in system losses, $\endgroup$ – Dan Hanson Apr 24 '20 at 19:14

Build a university/engineering school

As many answer have pointed out, building a gun from scratch in the bronze age will be very difficult. Thus to solve this you should not try to build a gun, but build a society that can create a gun.

So in your backpack bring knowledge, USB sticks with encyclopedia and all textbooks you can get your hands on from primary to university grade. This should not take up a lot of space. Bring 4 laptops with the devices to charge the laptop, solar panels and converters. Bring enough to have some spare. Bring some actual guns for protection from the locals if necessary and to impress them. Last and most important bring detailed start up plans and tools. Since it is the bronze age, I would suggest bringing steel axes and saws, hand drills and if still room left maybe steel screws for easy construction. Also fill the rest of the bag with gold/silver/diamond or whatever currency the locals use. I am assuming a rather large bag pack, but you can reduce all number to one (2 for the electronics) if it does not fit.

Once you arrive in the past you need a place to settle and build your university, convince the locals that your knowledge is worthwhile and get as many pupils you can support. If you can choose the place you land make sure your near coal, ion and oil deposits. A place with some kind of states already in place might be best, see: Bronze Age States, but you might also opt for advanced framing cultures. The hittites empire might be a good place to locate (modern Turkey, Anatolia), near lake Van seems to have all the necessary resources, I just don't know how far underground. Resources: metals, oil and coal.

Once you arrive roughly follow the next steps:

  1. Sell you knowledge for food/influence. Best knowledge to sell is probably improving tools (mainly agricultural) and health treatments. Distilling alcohol might also be a viable option or construction work.
  2. Build/Buy a house/school and build a printing press. Start printing the correct books for the school. So learning how to read, simple arithmetic and than basic engineering principals. All in a very directly applicable manner.
  3. Start gathering and teaching pupils and spread your influence. Do this by helping the local community and state community and let your pupils do projects.
  4. Start building a foundry inside your school and start making bronze tools. Don't overlook the fact that you probably can improve their bronze making a lot. Being very valuable, also you can teach/use local bronze smiths to speed up you foundry.
  5. If no iron is available make a project of building one, you need to have the exact location of easily accessible iron available. Remember that you only need small amount, so no need to look for the very big mines of nowadays.
  6. Progress from bronze to making iron tools
  7. Later progress to weapons and a weapons factory.
  8. If oil is available one might make plastic in a very early state. Making some kinds of plastic is not that hard and has very good material properties for tooling compared to the wood that they would normally use.

This plan will take quite some time and in the mean while you need to make sure that both the local and state community are cooperative and appreciative of you. Building a society by cooperation is probably easier that force, but make sure you have enough force to withstand outside pressure. Have better weapons and tactics should allow you to withstand a lot of pressure if necessary.

To speed up the whole process supplying the state with better weapons and tactics than the enemy can boost the whole procedure of creating a weapons factory. In that way you could start with a primitive weapons factory and gradually upgrade to a modern one.


You'll likely never come close to modern firearms as we know them.

However if you take a lot (depending on the size of the backpack) of books, covering metal working, steel production, alloying, steam power, tool production etc, with you, you might (and this is a big MIGHT) be able to produce something like a Dreyse needle rifle.

Although it will probably take several years, since you will have to set up mines, foundries, workshops and chemical plants (for gunpowder and such).


There are two main obstacles. The first is materials. You need to get iron and steel. This requires mining and smelting neither of which is easy.

Next you have tooling. You need to transform the iron and steel into files, drills, and eventually lathes and milling machines. This has to be done in steps. its hard to make machines tool unless you already have machine tools.

A knowledge of making gunpowder and some metal working expertise would let you make bronze cannons. any type of useful rife, musket, or handgun really requires steel.

As an alternative, a know of bow making and arrow heads might be more useful. Wood working tools are easier to make. A decent recurve laminated bow would require a knowledge of making glues, but would outclass most weapons of the day as would a crossbow.


If you literally mean that the person travels back to the Bronze Age, the first thing you'll need is Bronze. Where (which physical location) did the character end up in?

Bronze is an alloy composed of copper and tin. Copper wasn't so hard to come by, but tin is a relatively rare element, with deposits in only a few locations (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_sources_and_trade_in_ancient_times - in Europe, mostly in Britain, Iberia and Crete). It therefore was a valuable trading commodity, and the sources of tin were well guarded and a cause for conflict. Getting a hold on a lot of it would be problematic. While you're looking to equip a military, unfortunately you might need a military first in order to get the raw materials to build metal weapons.

Others have mentioned iron as a possible material to use. Iron has a much hire temperature required to work with, so unless your time travelers come with specific knowledge about how to make and maintain fires at such a high temperature, finding Iron wouldn't do you much good because no one would have the ability to work it into anything useful.

  • $\begingroup$ Building a primitive Blast Furnace is a fairly straightforward low-tech method of producing iron and steel. You just need a lot of bricks and some kind of Bellows. A sketch on a napkin would be enough for most industrious people to figure out how to build one. Any extra knowledge of more modern designs would be advantageous, but not strictly necessary. $\endgroup$ – Ruadhan Apr 24 '20 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ A primitive blast furnace could produce pig iron. To make a steel sword, the bloom had to pounded and folded again and again by craftsmen to remove the excess carbon. Modern high strength steels wouldn't have been possible. $\endgroup$ – Dan Hanson Apr 24 '20 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ to be clear you don't need to pound and fold a bloom if you build a decent smelter in the first place, they are not hard to build but that require real knowledge on the part of the time travelers. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 24 '20 at 19:46

I think there may be a lot of over-thinking and bias towards combustion-oriented gas-propelled pellet weapons. There is also a bias to assume that the time travelers are dumped in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, naked with but a paper towel to clothe and dry themselves.

As to the latter, the question implies that in the Bronze age, Bronze Age materials and technologies will be available. Money might be a problem, but the question does imply tech and materials and says nothing about the means of acquisition. Metalworking can be learned from the existing population if the time-travelers must create their weapon themselves.

It is quite possible to create gas-propelled weapons with a fairly crude bronze tube, that somebody could construct. This tube, and the few other necessary bits may cost a pretty penny, but somebody could certainly make one.

Then, one simply needs some leather seals, and a crude air pump. With a bit of time, an effective air gun could be fashioned. In our own time, even the flintlock muskets and pistols sneered at here were quite capable of inflicting severe damage. Air guns can easily deliver substantially massive pellets with enough velocity to shatter a human femur or skull. The ammo is simply bronze or the more affordable pure-copper "musket" balls. A softer pellet would give less wear to the expensive barrel.

The question does state establishing a "factory". That is a bit vague. Does a workshop count? A "factory" does not need to be any significant degree more advanced than the weapon or item it creates.

  • $\begingroup$ a burst style airgun is also a one shot only device, you have to disassemble it to put a new seal in. it is also going to be fairly low power unless you have modern milling equipment to make a smooth bore. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 24 '20 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ @John, the question is vague and a bit flawed, IMO. First, there is no definition of "modern". Is a cannon, of any sort, considered "modern"? Secondly, are we asking about a weapon, or a factory? One does not need a factory to build enough weapons to arm a small band of time-travelers. Third, there is no definition of the required weapons' power. Are we talking about cruise missiles here, or personal protection? If the latter, how dead do you need to make someone? People have died from wounds inflicted by BB guns. I would recommend something heavier, but air guns are used for big game. $\endgroup$ – Rex Apr 25 '20 at 12:52
  • $\begingroup$ @John, to go a bit further and address your concern, a long bench can be created from mere hardwood by carpentry, and a boring machine constructed nearly entirely from wood. Only the drill's tip needs to be hard. The barrel does not need to be bronze, but crude tubes could be cast and polished with a boring machine made purely from wood and a stone drill point. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_gun $\endgroup$ – Rex Apr 25 '20 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ making a consistently lethal airgun would be sothing similiar ot a hunting airgun, which is more than just drilling a tube it has to be a straight smooth bore and a tank and barrel capable of withstanding significant pressure, which means metal. People have died from getting hit by a slingshot, that does not make it an effective weapon. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 25 '20 at 13:38

Realistically, the most modern firearm that could be produced given bronze age technology is a slamfire shotgun. These are basically just two lengths of pipe, one free to slide into the other. The bigger pipe has a nail in one end. You put your shotgun shell in the smaller pipe, and slam it hard down the bigger pipe, so the nail strikes the primer on the shell.

Bronze age metallurgy probably couldn't make pipe strong enough to handle modern gunpowder, but that's OK. Black powder is lower pressure and easier to make anyway.

Shotgun shells consist of a hull, a brass plate holding the primer, gunpowder, and shot. Modern hulls are usually plastic, but older hulls were often paper. The ancient Egyptians could've made them from papyrus. The brass plates are discs the same diameter as the shell, with a cut-out in the center to hold the primer. I think that considering bronze age cultures were able to make coins, they could probably make these as well. The hardest part is going to be the primer. The primer itself is just a thin brass cup, but inside it is mercury fulminate or lead styphnate, which when struck by the firing pin, detonates and ignites the gunpowder. These are hard to make successfully, and harder to make safely. Maybe since your character can have support from 9 other modern people he could manage if those people are skilled chemists, but if it's just him and pre-modern locals it's not happening.

The big reason I chose a slamfire shotgun is that it has minimal moving parts. Modern guns are machined to micron tolerances. If they're just a few microns out of spec, they will jam constantly. Pre-modern machining is just nowhere near capable of making parts precise enough to function in a semi-automatic gun.


I think that your question has to some extent been answered by Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island, in which five men, with almost no supplies besides their own knowledge, manage to construct many modern marvels with only a little help.

For instance, they distill glycerine from dugong fat with "soda", and make sulphuric acid from minerals they find. They then added this to saltpetre to get nitric acid, with the final result of nitroglycerine.

Although they never actually make guns, the book details how these could have been made. As one character says, "You find iron for the barrels, steel for the locks, saltpetre, charcoal and sulphur for the powder, mercury and nitric acid for the fulminate, and last of all, lead for the balls, and Mr. Smith will make us guns of the best quality."

As it happens, they eventually find or produce all these things, and the only reason for not making the guns is that they are provided by a mysterious benefactor.

  • $\begingroup$ Can you edit this post to elaborate on this answer? We have a policy where answers need to be able to stand on their own without needing to use external sources. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Apr 24 '20 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ Also keep in mind the people in that story never manage to build guns. they salvaged them. $\endgroup$ – John Apr 24 '20 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ I hope these specifics will be sufficient. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Stein Apr 25 '20 at 0:51
  • $\begingroup$ A definite improvement over the original. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Apr 25 '20 at 12:32

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