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This is a follow up to this question I asked a few days about methods to penetrate advanced body armor. That post primarily focused on possible methods of penetration, but this post will primarily focus on methods that don't involve penetration.

Going off the last post, there are various types of advanced body armors in this setting. They range in what they utilize and how exactly they stop bullets, but the main gist is most of them can stop a typical rifle round like 7.62 NATO but strain under higher power rifle rounds like .338 lapua, .408 cheytac, and .417 barret. They're similar to modern body armor in the sense that it's arranged in plates, but provides mostly full protection to the front of the body. On the rear of the body, there's limited protection, but for the most part it's open to attack.

So my main question is, in a scenario like this where body armor has outpaced typical armor piercing munitions, what options are there for guns and weapons to advance? In my head, I've thought of a few possibilities, most going from advanced recoil systems to far out ideas such as electrolasers.

There are few outlines for what I'm asking, besides the following:

  1. It must be reasonable to produce. Something with a high power cost like a handheld laser is fine, but something like antimatter bullets is not.
  2. Must be a "gun". By this, I essentially just mean that it must be ranged, so something like a laser or electrolaser, while not a typical gun, would still count. This also means no saying "combat would resort to a ton of close range knife fights."
  3. The idea has to be reasonably scientifically based. Making some stretches is fine, but can't be using all sorts of fictional materials.
  4. Lastly, the idea has to be practical. Something like, say, a grenade launcher, might not work, mostly due to the high weight, low accuracy, and low amount of ammo able to be carried.

I look forward to seeing your responses! I'm also open to other input that focuses mostly around the tactics of things as opposed to weapons. Thanks all!

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    $\begingroup$ Where are you going to find a "scenario like this where body armor has outpaced typical armor piercing munitions". That is not definitely not the case on Earth. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ If downvoters could explain their reasoning, it would probably help the querent to improve the question. $\endgroup$
    – JANXOL
    Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 6:02
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    $\begingroup$ @JANXOL Exactly. I'd like to improve my questions and be a better contributor on this site, but it's difficult without feedback. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 6:04
  • $\begingroup$ @PcMan If Frank Herbert could get away with clairvoyance-inducing hallucinogens, cube law-defying sandworms, and shields which cause attacking energy guns to explode in blasts of thermonuclear glory, the OP can get away with armor that's better than munitions. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 2:28
  • $\begingroup$ @PcMan It's also worth noting that his scenario has occurred in real life before; take a look at late-Medieval knights. Sure, some of the heavier crossbows could do a number on them at close range, but that was the medieval equivalent of an anti-material rifle (something which the OP has explicitly stated hovers around the upper limits of his armor's protective capabilities.) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 2:32

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How about tangler or glue rounds? These are a staple of science fiction stories.

Using some form of sticky glue, perhaps it could super-glue some of the plates and joints together. I would envision this being shot from a large-bore gun of some kind, perhaps a 25mm gun. The advantage to this is that the round doesn't have to travel as quickly as a normal rifle round, so this could even be an air (co2) powered gun.

Typically a tangler round round surrounds the target, somehow. I'm not sure how that would be created with today's technology.

In fiction, these are generally considered less-lethal rounds, and are used where a "stunner" would be used if the setting allowed for it.

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The situation you have described would be temporary at best. There has never been a point in history where upon being confronted by a new form of armor protection some means of penetrating that armor was not discovered soon afterwards.

That aside the solution to the issue would be to simply make high velocity bullets/projectiles from the same material used to make the armor.

As described above the armor comes in the form of 'plates'. That in turn implies that whatever the material is, it can be forged, molded, annealed, compressed, glued etc into solid physical shapes. If so there's nothing to stop someone adapting the relevant technique to produce projectiles of the same material in any desired caliber.

Please note also that stopping penetration of a round is only one part of the problem. The wearer also has to deal with the kinetic energy imparted by a bullet. Even today while current high level body armor will stop military grade rifle caliber rounds the wearer will still suffer injuries including severe bruising, broken ribs and possibly internal bleeding etc.

For that matter it doesn't protect the wearer from the concussive forces of a nearby explosion e.g a grenade. It might well stop the shrapnel but assuming the explosion is close enough it will still incapacitate the victim in the sort term, often having long term effects.

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  • $\begingroup$ This answer would be better on the querent's earlier question which directly asks about means of penetrating the hypothetical body armor. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 0:45
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    $\begingroup$ Ceramic can be a plate, and theoretically could be formed into a bullet, but that doesn't make it a good penetrator $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 11, 2021 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ A pure ceramic bullet? Probably not. A composite round of some kind? Perhaps. A lot would depend I think on how the ceramic was used in the round. As a core, as a hardened tip, as one of several layers of other hi-tech material? $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 0:38
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With the plate(s) only covering the front of the torso, it seems to me that there is ample room for hitting your target. Legs, Arms and Face still seem available, and while some of those hits might not kill, most will certainly take the hittee out of the fight. These hits could be achieved with any caliber and completely conventional weapons, by simply abandoning the adage of 'aim for center mass' - or shoot them in the back....

Circumventing the armor might involve shooting a very heavy bullet, that will pass the target, and then explode to shoot them in the back (either by exploding omnidirectionally, or with some finesse and electronics only projecting solid shrapnel in the direction of the tagets back).

Lots of blow-up dolls that are triggered remotely, inducing the target to turn towards the perceived threat, then shoot them in the back.

mini-Claymores installed at chest height, that will shoot them in the back.

Smoke the Geneva convention, then shoot the target anywhere with a bullet that releases HF, white phosphorous, or any other nastiness.

Be a hyena, and entice the target to try and get you. Let instead the weight of the armor and the climatic conditions get them.

If cop shows are any guide, when hit by a bullet that does not penetrate, the target will proceed to take the vest off to marvel at the crushed bullet. Shoot the target again.

Grenade-launcher-dummies (much cheaper than real grenade launchers) - Shoot a dummy in front of the target. It will look like a dud, so after a short freeze, the target will turn and run. Shoot them in the back.

Shoot a heavy tungsten arrow near-vertically into the air. Then begin to pepper the target with small arms fire. They will take cover by going prone. The arrow will hit them in the back.

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1: Use atypical armor piercing munitions.

While full metal jacket and depleted-uranium rounds are good and all that, they're obviously insufficient in your scenario. Forget about a bigger boat or a bigger gun; we need better penetrators.

With that in mind, there's three good options:

  1. HVAP, also known as APCR. A cutaway diagram of an HVAP round

One of the earliest attempts at improving penetration capabilities, HVAP rounds are composed of a small, hard (usually tungsten) penetrator wrapped in a light, soft metal casing. The casing strips away on impact, allowing the penetrator to get through the armor.

PROS: The light casing allows HVAP round to achieve higher muzzle velocities (HVAP stands for High Velocity Armor Piercing). As a result, penetration is significantly better than regular AP ammo.

CONS: The high drag-to-weight ratio makes them quickly lose velocity, so they're really only good at close ranges. Additionally, they don't normalize well (normal speak: they ricochet off of even slight angles).


  1. Discarding Sabot

An APFSDS round immediately after firing

Learning from the problems of HVAP rounds, the big brains at various military laboratories went on to develop discarding-sabot rounds. As the name implies, the rounds are a long, thin, often fin-stabilized tungsten penetrator surrounded by an extremely light casing. The casing strips away after exiting the barrel, allowing the round to fly straight and true to its target.

PROS: Much better ballistics than HVAP, an even greater decrease in weight, rather better penetration, and normalization characteristics roughly on par with regular AP munitions.

CONS: They're rather... finicky at short ranges, since the sabot might not have time to strip away.


  1. HEAT Diagram of a HEAT round.

Why try to get a slug through armor when you can just blast a stream of superheated gases through it? HEAT (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) rounds channel an explosion into the point of impact, punching a hole in the armor. They are immensely effective if you can get a direct hit... but that's the issue.

PROS: Great penetration, and normalization is irrelevant for any reasonable angle.

CONS: Spaced armor makes them useless, they can't punch through obstacles on the way to their target, and they would need to be extremely high caliber to have the necessary amount of explosive mass.


2: Penetration is overrated.

The problem with traditional penetration-based munitions is that you can always pack on more armor. However, there's more than one way to crack these particular eggs.

  1. HESH (High-Explosive Squash-Head) A diagram of a German HESH round

HESH rounds spread a large amount of plastic explosive over a small area. This then detonates, knocking bits off the interior surface of the armor in a phenomenon called "spalling."

PROS: Armor thickness is (more or less) irrelevant.

CONS: Like HEAT rounds, you need a large caliber for these to work. Also, it's possible to make armor spalling-resistant, although I'm not sure how that could be done with body armor.

  1. Incendiary Rounds

The effects of a rifle-fired incendiary round

Sure, they're technically a war crime. Nevertheless, incendiary munitions would probably work very well in this case. Why penetrate the armor when you can literally cook the guy inside it?

PROS: No need to actually penetrate. Additionally, some incendiary agents (e.g. thermite) can melt the armor around where they impact, possibly causing malfunctions.

CONS: It's possible to develop countermeasures (e.g. really good AC units), and the target will take a while to go down.

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