(BTW this is my first question, sorry if this is bad.)

So basically, in my world there is a race of octopus-like aliens who use handheld firearms, now the question is how would they design them. Now humans have effectively figured out a basic design pattern, the barrel, then the stock after the barrel and the firing mechanism under the barrel. Now my question is would this change when they are made by cephalopods.

The species:

  • Are cephalopod like with 12 tentacles
  • 6 of them are tough but less opposable and 6 more opposable
  • They do not have a skeleton.
  • They move around on 6 of their tentacles by "crawling" around (However they only require about 4.) They hold onto things with 1-3 of the other 6.
  • They are about 100-150 cm in height and 80-120 cm in width on average. The mass is about 30-55 kg on average.

About the firearms, the requirements are:

  • They have to be operated by only a single user.
  • They are single shot muskets (Barrel loaded.)
  • Have a trigger system.
  • Earthlike conditions on land are presumed.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sounds interesting, good first question. A few more bits of information would be useful: 1. What are the dimensions (size and mass) of the aliens? (A picture would be really useful too.) 2. How do the aliens move about on land? (They will need to carry as well as fire the muskets - assuming that this is on land and these muskets don't need to operate underwater.) 3. Can we assume Earth-standard gravity and atmosphere? $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2022 at 4:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 Added them in post. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – 10dude
    Apr 8, 2022 at 5:04

5 Answers 5


The first thing to note about your cephalopod friends is their lack of fingers. This means they wrap their tentacles around the firearm they are carrying. So I suggest something like a cannon barrel:

enter image description here

Basically, a gun without a grip for hands. Instead it could be elongated like a rifle:

enter image description here

For safety’s sake, the trigger shouldn’t be exposed. Instead it should be inside a cavity where only the tip of a tentacle could reach.

Other than that, with no bones to speak of the way they carry their guns will be different too. Small tentacle-held firearms are light enough to hold with only one limb. Larger calibers require the cephalopods to hold it firmly against their body (the human equivalent of holding a cannon under our armpit). It is advised not to hold the weapon directly in front of the body but on the side, due to recoil.

The instruction manual would go something like this:

  1. Wrap your tentacle around the gun.
  2. Hold it firmly. Larger guns should be held on the side.
  3. Aim for the target. (If using a scope don’t press your eye against it.)
  4. With the tip of your tentacle reach for the trigger inside the gun. (If your arm is too short feel free to use another arm.)
  5. Pull the trigger.

Well done private! You’ve fired a gun. Now get those tentacles to work and reload!

  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't heat on the barrel become an issue? Possibly an elongated handle of low thermal conductivity material with the trigger attached should help and it would not change the ergonomic design much. $\endgroup$
    – user94655
    Apr 8, 2022 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ An elongated handle would produce torques which tentacles are not well suited to counter. An insulation coating around the barrel would be more practical, if less effective. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2022 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, you don't grab the firearm by the barrel. I was thinking of a rifle or shotgun in contrast to a pistol. I'll edit that. Gotta watch the wording. $\endgroup$ Apr 8, 2022 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ This idea could be good for a gun blade/sword also, without the awkward handle in most human ones. $\endgroup$
    – user94655
    Apr 9, 2022 at 17:54

You don't need much power, air gun will do fine

Consider something like this, loaded with a small arrow, or harpoon,

enter image description here



There are no bones, or even thick skin. It does not have to break bones or penetrate a skull. Your weapon needs far less firepower than the usual handgun based on explosives.


As the others have pointed out, actually handling the guns is easy. Your problem is aim.

Octopuses handle their many, highly mobile appendages by giving each quite a lot of leeway in motor control. Each tentacle has a large ganglion - a "local brain" that handles the fine control of tentacle movement in accordance with vague instructions form the central brain. In contrast, aiming requires your visual and motor systems to flow information in a fast, highly detailed loop. Presuming your cephalopods have a single sensory centre that their eyes project to, you're stuck with most of the motor circuitry in the tentacle ganglia and most of the visual circuitry in the central brain.

What can I do?

  • Head gun If there is some usable muscle function in the head part of the animal, controlled by a central brain motor circuit that could be well integrated with the visual system, you could just not use the tentacles at all. I'm sort of assuming that they don't have a proper manipulating limb sticking out of their foreheads, so you'd probably have to manufacture (with your very independent tentacles!) some helmet-like device that you operate by waggling your squid-eyebrows, or some similar head muscle movement.
  • Tentacle eyes Flip of the option above. This is perhaps more outlandish, but could make for interesting creature building. You could have specialised vision abilities on different tentacles, or only some of them. This guy, who can potentially aim and shoot 12 independent targets at the same time, is definitely wiping the floor with plunger-head guy above.
  • Shotgun Who says I need aim anyway? Go for sheer, wanton, only vaguely directional destruction. Just make sure you tuck your other tentacles out of the way, and there are no snipers, friendlies, explosives or crucial structural supports in the area.
  • $\begingroup$ I think answer has some fascinating insight, and the semi-autonomy of tentacles would be great to drive some worldbuilding and story elements. However, I would expect that creatures able to manufacture such finely machined devices as firearms must be able to override that autonomy and take some degree of direct control over their appendages. For example, the human brain stem manages breathing automatically, but we can also take manual control at will. Perhaps for these dodecapods it is more difficult or causes strain. $\endgroup$
    – BoomChuck
    Apr 17, 2022 at 20:02

It would look like a Gastraphetes

The actual design of the firearm would mostly be familiar. The barrel and trigger mechanism would be pretty much the same, the biggest difference is the stock. A human stock is designed to brace against the shoulder, but the cephalopod has no shoulder, but they do have a broad muscled section where the head meets the tentacles that they can brace the recoil into. So instead of a vertical cradle, your stock would have a horizontal one making it look a lot like a gastraphetes.

To hold the gun, the cephalopod would use one tentacle to stabilize the stock against its "belly", one to stabilize and aim the barrel, and a third to operate the trigger. If they are dexterous enough they may even be able to wrap 1 tentacle around the stock to stabilize it and then back around into the trigger for 2-tenticle shooting instead of 3.

A second minor difference may be taller sights. Depending on how good your cephalopod's grasp is, it may need to wrap its aiming tentacle around the whole gun as opposed to how humans just grip it from the bottom. If this is the case, then taller sights may be needed so that this tentacle does not obstruct line-of-sight.

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ They may not need the second tentacle to stabilize the gun because if one tentacle is wrapped around the stock with the tip over the trigger, the coiled around tentacle could provide enough strength and stability on its own? $\endgroup$
    – user94655
    Apr 9, 2022 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ @JarredJones longarms are like levers. A very minor change in how you hold the gun from the fulcrum can cause large deviations in the ends of your gun. A big part of what makes a riffle more accurate than a handgun is being able to hold the gun mid-barrel creating a fulcrum far way from your aiming hand. This makes it so that 1mm deviation in how you hold a handgun is equivalent to a several mm deviation in how you hold a riffle. So, if we are talking muskets, then you absolutely want to use a second tentacle to brace the weapon's mid-section for better aiming regardless of how strong you are $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Apr 11, 2022 at 17:58

One little known fact about Earthian octopuses (not so sure about aliens...) is that that their suckers can revolve, rotate, and bend to grip onto something. That being said, you could create a firearm with an internal trigger that is pulled when a tiny metal circle on the outside of the gun is rotated. I'm sure some system could be fabricated to allow this.

So long as you don't make the guns too long or heavy, octopuses should be able to handle it. They are surprisingly strong creatures, as a large percent of their body is pure muscle.


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