So, I was thinking. Modern combat relies a lot on intel and speed, but also luck.

Now there is a problem. You see, in most video games, even hardcore ones, like Lobotomy Corporation, there are certain safeguards that prevent unavoidable instakill.

I'd obviously lose it if Finn or McKenna died on me because of poor RNG. Thus, even against nightmares like Nothing There or WhiteNight, you can use micromanagement to avoid an execution move. But IRL, all it takes is one bullet or complications to do anyone in, yet some people can survive seemingly anything.

Whether that story about Rasputin was an exaggeration or not, I'm kinda curious, how could the human body be modified to be able to sustain gunshot wounds (up to an intermediate cartridge) pretty much anywhere and live long enough to get at least first aid?

We obviously want to maintain a human appearance and the simplest solution usually works the best, but I can stretch things if necessary.

Oh, I found this on Quora, btw: https://www.quora.com/Are-headshots-instant-kills?share=1

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    $\begingroup$ Step one: a pangolin-style armor of scales protecting most of the body, especially the skull and the chest, preferably as tough as Kevlar within the realm of biological possibility. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 14:36
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    $\begingroup$ More survivable humans will lead to ammo designed to be more lethal: Exploding rounds with shrapnel, impregnated with poisons and bacteria, etc. You adapt, the enemy adapts. There is no permanent advantage. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ @user535733 You'd still have to choose between a hollow point and an AP round, then. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ While some people die from a single gunshot, most of the time people take several rounds from a handgun before dying. $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 7:02
  • $\begingroup$ @NomadMaker handguns generally have much lower muzzle velocity and thus, momentum than long guns. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 1:56

9 Answers 9



  • Brain stores everything three times, in such a way that you can't draw a line passing through all 3 copies.
  • Redundant nerves paths that bypass the spine that work when the spine is damaged.
  • Redundant heart. I'd suggest 2 working at 50% efficiency.
  • Redundant arteries, which automatically seal when broken.
  • Larger spleen, holding a larger reserve of blood.
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Redundancy is great in all but how are you going to realistically scale all of that up and still be able to gather enough calories to power it. Early era humans would have long starved to death over trying to maintain that much redundancy. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 16:57
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    $\begingroup$ @ IT Alex For hearts, the biggest problem would be redundant vasculation, since you would need to seal off vessels and reroute around damage. If you have passive memory backups that absorb info but don't do a lot of thinking, redundant brain matter is doable and less energy-intensive (mabe with fiber-optic fast neural systems?) Mostly use multiple smaller organs that regenerate long term and isolate short term. Wireless backup data transfer allows the person to be "resurrected" in a clone body if all else fails, preserving the memory of a soldier, if not the original identity. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ Redundant systems could lie dormant most of the time. If many mammals can hibernate their whole bodies for several months at a time, why not just a few organs? You could even rotate them, having which organs are dormant switch periodically. Maybe for example one week Cerebellum A works while B and C sleep, week two B is awake while A and C sleep. Week three is C's turn. Then the cycle repeats. This way you don't need to keep any particular Cerebellum dormant longer than 2 weeks. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ @ITAlex Redundant systems could also function in parallel, but not individually as good as a single central organ. Think of lungs or kidneys, a person who loses a redundant organ is definitely at a physical disadvantage, but they can still survive off of just one if they need to. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ Energy density and resource management is easily solved today - calories and vitamins are easy to come by today. The problem seems to be with volume and reaction to damage so that it doesn't happen when not needed. $\endgroup$
    – Gensys LTD
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 14:37

Simpson genes

Homer Simpson has so much adipose tissue that small cannon balls cannot harm him. He even made a living of being shot for lols at some point.

Homer taking a canon shot to the belly for lols

By the way, this is not cartoon physics. That scene is based in real life.

Also, unlike most humans, the bulk of Homer's nervous tissue is just there as redundancy for his two functional neurons. He can take many hits to the head and still be just as functional as he was before.

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    $\begingroup$ One of the best answers I've ever seen on a StackExchange community. Some Wile E. Coyote genes might also help. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that this would work without cartoon physics. $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ @nick012000 There are no cartoon physics in my answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ Cannon stunts like that only work becasue the cannonball is traveling at extremely low velocity, if it was traveling at anything close to handgun bullet velocity it would splatter the man all over the stage. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 15:27

You're Looking for Combat Grizzlies

If you're looking to modify the human body to survive gun shots, turn your soldiers into Grizzly Bears.

With the right google searches, you can find (mildly traumatic) video of a bear getting shot in the face, point blank, with a shotgun, and basically shrugging it off.

Bears, man. [takes a drag on the cigarette, stares into the distance.]

So what do bears have going for them?

  • Thick skulls
  • Blubber
  • Strong

That's basically it. Thick skulls protect the most vital organ - the brain. Blubber protects pretty much everything. And then you have to be strong to carry around all that weight.

To survive a large impulse, like a gun shot, you need to spread the impact out over both space and time. Blubber's... blubberiness enables it to do that well. The bullet spends all its energy moving the fat around, and so it doesn't penetrate to hit anything that actually matters.

So breed or genetically engineer your soldiers to be huge, with a uniform layer of fat around the whole body, and giant muscles to carry it all.

  • $\begingroup$ It is actually the skin, not the fat that protects Grizzlies (or more accurately, not JUST the fat). The toughness, thickness and how loose it is on the rest of the body give it strong protective capabilities. And as Mythbusters showed, even a "slow" .45 pistol penetrated a full 40cm of cowfat with ease. Similarly it penetrated about 35cm of cow muscle no problem, so the fat might help with the shockwave absorbtion but not the actual bulletstopping. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 13:53

From what I understand, most soldiers in war don't die because of guns. Explosives such as landmines or bombs kill the majority. The reason seems to be that the shockwave of an explosion more or less bypasses the Body Armor. So really, if you want fewer casualties, having an effective way to guard against mines is the way to go.

In terms of being shot, composite body armor does the trick pretty well. But here, we have a different problem. The round doesn't have to pierce the armor. All of the energy still unloads on your body and can break your bones, leading to massive internal damage. So yeah, you could probably create some sort of composite body armor that stops a .50 cal, but the person would die anyway from the bullet's kinetic energy. You would have to somehow redirect that energy.

Something that could do the trick is using body armor that converts kinetic energy into heat. This way, your organs wouldn't get destroyed by the kinetic energy. If the body armor is heat resistant as well, you could have effective protection against high cal guns. But, I have no idea how one would go about building something like that. It wouldn't be cheap.

Using implants as armor is a pretty dumb idea too, mainly because the bullet will be stuck in your body (which is bad).

You could try your hands on genetic modification as well. If you can create some form of rapid healing ability, most wounds wouldn't be too hard to deal with.

Until now, I only talked about Passive Protection, meaning armor that will get hit. Active Protection is not out of the question. Tanks, for example, use Active Protection by launching small explosives at an incoming round, deflecting it in the process. Something like this could also work for Body Armor.

Another type would be a gun that is mounted on your back that's used to fire at incoming rounds.

So what would be the best solution?

Energy-converting body armor is my guess. But, as with all converting, some of the energy will remain as kinetic energy. So, big cal guns will still hurt. Not to mention that the enemy could launch the bullets faster to the point where the armor just melts. You could / should combine that with some sort of active protection though. The gun on the back seems cool enough for that.

Needless to say, such armor would be quite expensive, so I'd imagine only Special Forces could use it.

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    $\begingroup$ The total amount of energy in the bullet is not that great. Considering that every force has equal opposing force and all that, the impact of bullet distributed evenly over the whole body will probably not have big effect. The problem is creating a body armour that can disperse the energy effectively $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ When you talk about body armor as a factor, would that be relatively recent conflicts? Those were mostly counterinsurgencies, no less vicious but different from army-on-army warfare. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ No need to reinvent armor. Existing styles of body armor uses shear thickening liquids or ceramic plates to spread out the impact enough to prevent bruising and broken bones. So, the impact area of being shot is at least as large as the impact area where the shooter braces the stock of his gun against his shoulder. Thus you may see the shooter break his shoulder scaling up firepower before you have to worry about getting harmed by the weapon's blunt force trauma. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ The issue of most soldiers being killed not by small arms fire but by shrapnel and other effects is not caused by modern body armor, it was the same also in WW1 and WW2. $\endgroup$
    – Peteris
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Peteris, yeah thats right. But it is a problem pretty much no practical armor can deal with. $\endgroup$
    – Erik Hall
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 21:46

First, in a very simplified version, a human will die from a gunshot because something irreplaceable got damaged and now can't do its job.

So... it's very simple. Make things replaceable and add or change some stuff to make sure this critical jobs of important parts can be fulfilled while the main organ is damaged.

For example, micro heartlike pumps controlled with a spinal neural focus point to replace heart for dire situations.

Give lungs their own muscles. Normal humans lungs are in an air-tight area controlled with a muscle under this cage. Let lungs have their own muscle tissue around them that will create the necessary vacuum.

Secondary neural connection to replace spines temporarily. Regenerating neuron cells, high level root cell concentration in blood. And, an organ to store blood to use in emergencies.

What does these stuff means? Well, secondary neural connection thing allows you to walk with a spinal injury because your neurons have a secondary connection that is capable of fulfilling the spine's task. Neural regeneration is crucial because you can now regenerate paralyzed parts. Storing more blood is just a safety measure for immense blood loss. You want someone to walk a few more miles. Not an immortal. Control over the hormones like adrenaline.

Second method, high defence. Strong and flexible muscles, strong bone structures, maybe some kind of iron compound to help your boned grow metal. Changing or rearranging the skeleton structure to protect vital parts, A strong skin with perhaps stronger materials to have some kind of an armorlike skin. There was this sea snail that literally creates an armour around its soft tissue. Check for the snail with iron skin.

Third method, too distinct. Make your human's body structure way too distributed. Meaning, even if the bullet pierced some vital part, the wound is comparably too small so the organ can keep functioning. For example, a needle sized wound to your hand. Sure, it will hurt. But it won't stop your hand from functioning. Making bigger and possibly compressable organs with high regenerative capabilities can help you survive a gunshot because, bullet is now comparably too small to cause any lethal damage. For example, a bigger heart that is not an organ, but a system now. So, many small pumps that work synchronized? A big brain that stores many things a few more times and maybe spread to neck?

These are some ideas I could think of for now.

  • $\begingroup$ I would say that first we would have to solve blood loss. Therefore we need a way for a wound to close quickly. $\endgroup$
    – Sulthan
    Commented Aug 15, 2020 at 16:04

Make them switch back from warm-blood to cold-blood

To keep constant body temperature, mammals spend a lot of energy, and require a higher rate of food and oxygen intake. So we are very vulnerable to loss of blood flow or air intake (pierced lung) that may result from a gunshot wound. Cardiac arrest may cause irreversible brain damage or death in minutes, due to hypoxia, if help doesn't come quickly. If humans switched back to cold-blood, our metabolism would be much slower, and we would be able to wait longer for help while wounded. As a bonus, thermal imaging would be useless, easing camouflage and helping to avoid the bullet in first place. That doesn't mean there would be no downsides. People would be sluggish at night and in the morning, just like reptiles and amphibians are. See the Wikipedia articles on Therapeutic hypothermia and Deep hypothermic circulatory arrest.

  • $\begingroup$ If adaptation by migration is allowed, living in a planet with a higher surface pressure would help too. The atmosphere acts as free "air armor", slowing projectiles at longer ranges. Projectiles would lose energy much faster in a planet with several times Earth atmospheric pressure, making firearms less effective and many gunshots more survivable. $\endgroup$
    – ksousa
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 0:40

Stop the bullets from penetrating the skin

First engineer things so you skin is made of multiple layers of Kevlar, to stop smaller rounds.

Next, you engineer the fat under your skin to act like a Non-Newtonian fluid (the stuff that's a liquid until you hit it and it turns into solid). Which will help dissipate the energy from a gunshot and help to stop the bullet from penetrating too deeply into the body if it penetrates the Kevlar skin.

  • Textwalls incoming
  • Loose skin
  • Thick skin
  • Added shock-absorbtion
  • Better biological materials added to the skin
  • Limited redundancies through decentralization of organs

A bullet will damage you in two ways. The first is by creating holes, the second by the shockwaves it produces. These shockwaves happen when it's passing through your body in the form of hydrostatic shock and if the bullet is stopped by armor or similar on the outside it'll still create a shockwave propagating through the body. These shockwaves can still rupture organs, bloodvessles and even break bone if it hits it correctly. Any solution will need to solve these problems.

Someone already mentioned Grizzly bears, but failed to mention their biggest advantage: Their skin rather than their fat. The skin of Grizzly bears is first and foremost thick by virtue of several layers. It starts with several layered tough hairs with below that several thick layers of skin combined with fat. This skin is also extremely loose, this allows it to survive the biteforce and claw-force of other Grizzly bears as the skin twists and moves along with the forces applies on it.

A Grizzly bear is rather large, but we can apply it's advantages on smaller things as well. The Honeybadger famously has the ability to survive bites from Lions and even a strike from the sharp sharp Machete's do not always penetrate their skin. The Honeybadger uses the same tricks as the Grizzly bear: A tough rubbery like loose skin that is thicker than most animals. The skin of a Honeybadger is thicker than most creatures 50 times larger than it. This means that you can retain the human look and don't need to go giant bear-sized creature, although you do have to realize that your human will either need to look a bit oversized or need to be smaller internally.

The use of nature's biological materials can add to the strength of the body. For example by placing a few spidersilk Ampullate into each cm2 of the skin you can generate spidersilk strands that are pulled through the skin and reinforce it. The strongest spidersilks can be a magnitude more tough than kevlar, giving you plenty of toughness to withstand bullets if it's distributed through the kin properly. While we think of cells in the body as static, the body is more than capable of letting cells move and migrate, giving you a mechanism to let cells "pull" strands of silk around them and towards nearby cells, allowing you to create a fine mesh of spidersilk through the thick skin. Another advantage is that spidersilk can absorb a lot of force into it as it is stretched.

A limited redundancy is much better than a complete redundancy. Using two hearts for example is an often stated advantage in science-fiction and fantasy, but brings tons of problems. If one heart is damaged you instantly lose a lot of your bloodsupply that will be stuck inside and near the heart (assuming it doesn't bleed out). You also have to have systems in place to stop blood from flowing to the damaged heart, which is virtually impossible with the Aorta (and vena cava superior+inferior), redirect it to the still functioning heart, have the second heart be far enough away that it doesn't get damaged as well and since you can't use the Aorta of the first heart you need a second Aorta somewhere else. On top of that both hearts need to be able to pump the full amount of blood around the body in case one of the hearts is damaged. You practically need to double up the size of the entire human just to fit the second heart+aorta. To add a complete redundancy of all organs in the body is absolutely ludicrous! Where are you going to place another brain volume with an exact copy of the connections of the "main" brain? How do you deal with the brain-damaged "main" brain still sending orders down to the body? How do you deal with needing a double nervous system, which even for just the central nervous system means doubling up on brain and spinal volume?

A limited redundancy by decentralizing things is much more useful. While some things are hard to decentralize, like the liver, you can still cut the liver into different segments and spread them close around the intestines. The lungs can be compartimentalized, so that if one part of the lung get's punctured the entire lung doesn't collapse or drown in blood but only that segment etc. For important parts in the body you can have extra nerves which combine later on. This is already a taxing idea on the body volume, as for example the nerves in the leg can already be a centimeter thick.


Make 'em big!

How fat do you need to be to make yourself bulletproof?

The short answer is morbidly obese. Science shows that a 9mm bullet shot from a hand gun can cut through 60cm of fat before it stops. The downside is, of course, you are more likely to die from obesity-related diseases than ever catch a bullet.

There have been real life examples of body fat saving lives in a gun attack, however.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I recently watched the Mythbusters episode where they did exactly this. Despite using the thickest fat ever recorded ona human all guns could still pass through far enough to at minimum hit vital organs. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 10:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan - Do you have a link? Sounds interesting. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ I found this one, couldn't quickly find a youtube video: mythresults.com/coffin-punch. Although they used 16 inches (40cm). Watching the bit right now: A .45 handgun at "just" 900 feet a second. I couldn't remember if the bullet made it through, but the video shows it made it through without much slowing down. Edit: They immediately went for muscle next, also made it through with the same pistol. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Mar 21, 2021 at 10:56

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