I'm trying to think of the ramifications of a hypothetical scenario:

Everyone on earth, at the age of 18, gets a single-use gun. There are no other guns in the world except for the gun you are issued. Every gun is tied to your fingerprint, so no firing anyone else's gun. The gun can only be fired once, it only can fire the bullet it came with, it cannot be reloaded, and you never get another one.

The law says you can do whatever you want with the gun and the bullet with no consequences. If you want to use your one and only bullet to kill your boss, you can. If you want to use it to kill your spouse, you can. If you want to use it to kill yourself, go right ahead. You just never get another one, ever.

I can think of a few things offhand

  • The concept of guns as a hobby goes away. Can't collect guns if they're all the same. Can't go shoot target practice because there's no ammo to be had/used
  • Mass shootings go away but if you kill someone now you're a target for everyone else. Kill your boss and his spouse could return the favor, as could your spouse to their spouse, and then your boss' kid when he turns 18 could kill your widow. Eye for an eye leaves everyone blind, etc.
  • Crime becomes weird. Armed robbery might go away since what are the odds that someone is going to threaten to use their one bullet just to grab some cash? For that matter, if killing someone with your one bullet is legal, is threatening to shoot them legal?
  • Guns would no longer be a factor in games or movies. I mean, I haven't decided if there's a historical context or if it's always been this way but no modern day buddy cop movie involves a shootout. Maybe in a sci-fi movie there's still laser pistols.

Anyway if you could wave a wand and then suddenly everyone has a gun but only one bullet (or if there was a story taking place in a world where this has been true far back as one can remember) would be be some ramifications of this notion compared to what we have now? Could society function, and would it be better or worse?

UPDATE: Hey guys, I thought this would be an interesting question, something along the lines of the if you could kill people with your mind type of question. It was an idea I had a while back and I thought this might be a way to explore it. It appears that a number of people don't agree and I may have misunderstood something about this SE or the question is insufficient in some way. Feel free to delete it.

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    $\begingroup$ Seems it more leaning towards 'Magic Gun' land to me. Also if somehow you find a way to limit gun and bullet production, then the weapon of choice will just go down the tech tree to knifes and baseball bats. $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2015 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ Armed robbery does not require the use of a firearm. Baseball bats, golf clubs, knives, swords, axes, and power drills can all meet the qualifications for consideration of armed robbery. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Jun 18, 2015 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ When did the phenomenon start? If it was sudden and recent, why does it occur and what inhibits reproduction of ammunition and arms? If it has been there all along, then either society as we know it would not exist (no-one wants to trust each other and no-one would want to achieve anything of note), or it would operate completely differently. I dont think 'reality-check' is an appropriate tag for this question $\endgroup$
    – nickson104
    Jun 19, 2015 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure why this question is getting so much hate, other than the misplaced reality-check. $\endgroup$ Jun 19, 2015 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ I down voted it because as a hypothetical question it is so disconnected from reality (no armed robbery? That never happened without guns?) that he might as well just go all the way and say whatever he wants to happen happens because it is a magical fantasy. $\endgroup$ Jun 19, 2015 at 16:13

6 Answers 6


You've made assassination legal. I would hate to be a person of prominence in such a world where it's legal to kill me and the only repercussion is someone might avenge my death. Would you really think trading a life for a life is fair? How many people would have taken shots at the president already? Though the assassins would probably miss, since they've never fired a gun before, it would still cause anarchy.

If this Gun-Santa-Claus that's issuing guns to all the children of the world couldn't be stopped, then it's likely that parents (if not the local government) would strongly encourage kids to fire their guns in the ground immediately after receiving them. After all, people who still have their bullet would not be very employable or well tolerated in polite society.

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    $\begingroup$ Story Title: "The Hunt for Gun-Santa-Claus" $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2015 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ I see nothing in his scenario precluding practice with accurate simulations of the gun. $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2015 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't seem to answer the question. It's asking about the outcome, not whether it is good or bad. As long as at least one extreme group who wants guns existed, the gun-haters' word doesn't seem to sound in such a world with lawful murders. And the peace-lovers' word doesn't seem to sound if riots are really going to happen. At worst, they either adapted to another way living (hiring more bodyguards or always publish only things decided by a committee, for examples), or are being erased. But the society will still last long enough after that. $\endgroup$
    – user23013
    Nov 15, 2015 at 22:03

This makes no sense on several levels.

  1. what's a gun? What prevents people from building others? As soon as you define exactly what counts as a "gun", someone will fine a loophole to produce something that doesn't count as one.
  2. there are many weapons in the world, and you can even kill without using weapons at all, so what's special about guns? Sure, make it a tad easier, but not much, especially if you've got a single bullet in your life (no training etc.)
  3. why on Earth it would be legal? How exactly? The moment someone says "murder by that gun is legal", someone else says "you're an idiot, now you are under arrest". If you put an odd constraint in the world, you have to be VERY convincing in explaining why it happens, and why it stays so.
  • $\begingroup$ Oh course it has a reason. It's a weird bipartisan bill. $\endgroup$ Sep 17, 2015 at 21:09

Society will definitely keep functioning and won't be incredibly different. It's not like you can't defend yourself with other devices than guns, so most public figures or world leaders won't be in that much more danger.

The majority of people would probably use their guns defensively. Keep yours on you in an obvious manner, with some sort of symbol that means "Self Defense only". The fact that you can only shoot it once would - mostly - keep it from being used trivially, and people are probably less likely to attack/assault you.

Another large group of people will sell their bullet. There will be a market with supply/demand, where people can purchase the use of other people's guns. Basically a legal assassination market.

One important note: this will often going to fall under Too Awesome To Use syndrome. The fact that you only ever get to use it once will make people reluctant to do so, because once they shoot it's gone.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree that quite a lot of people would happily use it - after all there's no point having a bullet you won't use. Every common thief/drug addict/thrill seeker now has a completely legal service to sell that's worth something and they can't go to jail for using it. Otherwise, +1 $\endgroup$
    – NPSF3000
    Jun 19, 2015 at 9:32

At a domestic level crime could still be committed using other weapons, but what about the military? Would this carry over to states as well? It would be impossible to engage in modern warfare using baseball bats and slingshots.

I imagine that this world would would have to have strict regulations on weapons more powerful then guns, grenades ect. because otherwise it would be a bit useless. Just spit-balling here, but maybe state to state warfare would be impossible changing completely the political and international landscape. The equivalent of elite military operatives would spend their career training for the one time they use their bullet. One mission, one shot.


Criminals would kidnap peoples' spouses or children and order them to kill for them. As it is legal and they have guns they would be compelled to kill for the criminals.

And crimes would sky rocket. Kill someone without using guns and the hide his head and it would be hard to take legal action against them. Because the murderer could easily claim that he killed with his bullet and hid the head.

When people get very angry they would not be hesitant to use the guns and therefor killings of spouses would probably increase. And if you killed someone without anyone noticing you did, you would not suffer from revenge at all.


Boring answer for the majority of the world.

People would realise that guns almost always end up killing yourself or a loved one, and that fatality rates for gun crime would dramatically decrease if people had only a single shot and no training, instead of an assault rifle with plenty of training. Trying to kill someone would most likely fail, and then they would try to kill you.

The police would institute 'bullet buy back programs', such as the one that was so effective in Australia after Port Arthur to get gun out of the hands of potential victims of accidental gun death. People would sell their bullets to the police, the only legitimate group to have bullets.

Alternative scenario, if you want to assume that humans are fundamentally bad? China and India ally and use their ridiculous 2 billion+ bullet count to genocide several races.


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