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My heroine, a wandering loner living a nomadic lifestyle traveling across 1998's western US in an RV, is a supernatural being, known as an immortal, with a great many useful powers. However, none of these powers are particularly effective for combat. While she can easily use her abilities to retreat from any situation with her life intact, she'd have to abandon her RV and all of her belongings to the mercy of her attackers if this were to happen while she was "home", so she needs some other options to defend herself. The most extreme of these is a S&W Model 29 revolver, fully loaded with six silver .44 rounds.

Silver is quite effective against nearly all types of immortals, her type included. However, even among people who know immortals are real and regularly deal with them, silver bullets are generally only used as a last resort, or by people who are extremely well-organized, for one very big reason: superhuman sense of smell is an incredibly common supernatural ability, and to any such supernaturally-augmented nose, silver, and especially the combined scent of silver and gunpowder, is one of the strongest and most distinctive smells on the planet. If such a bullet is even exposed to open air, any "bloodhounds" a mile around will be able to follow the smell right to you. If you actually fire one, that becomes somewhere between five to ten.

Therefore, among anyone who actually owns silver bullets, they are generally kept in completely air-tight containers until they're ready to be used, because nothing less than an air-tight seal will stop the smell from reaching a superhuman nose.

My heroine can use her powers to commit plenty of minor acts of home invasion and shoplifting with ease, but beyond that her resources aren't exactly high-budget. She needs a relatively-accessible means to store her revolver, pre-loaded so that she doesn't have to worry about loading it in a crisis, behind an air-tight seal that she doesn't have to worry too much about breaking accidentally, but which can also be removed reasonably quickly when the moment comes where she has to defend herself. What would be her best option given the location of the USA and the time period of 1998?

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    $\begingroup$ I assume bloodhounds are not attracted to every house that has both silverware and gunpowder. (If so, she just needs to blend into the right neighbourhood). If not, can she consider using a muzzleloading black powder revolver and just storing the silver bullets separately to the gun, which only has the black powder? Failing that, a rip top tin or glass jar; what is convenient for lunch is convenient for dispensing with unwanted guests. It has the added bonus that it can be disguised as a tin of olives or tuna; just make sure not to open your lunch tuna by mistake at a critical time. $\endgroup$ Jun 30 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ @SeanOConnor You assume correctly, it's only when they're in very close proximity to each other that silver and gunpowder create their magically-distinctive smell. $\endgroup$ Jun 30 at 15:16
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    $\begingroup$ Question : Does just shooting normal bullets can knock down an immortal, even if it's not killing them? In this case, you can remove the "reasonably quickly" condition : "Relaxed, she takes a new smoke of her cigarette and loads her revolver while Black Jack is still squirming in pain on the floor. -Perhaps, you have a silver tongue, but I have the bullet one, she said her gun on his head." $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Jun 30 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ Frame challenge - can this immortal use an air rifle/pellet gun firing silver pellets? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jun 30 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Cyrus Drake powerful ones (not toys) are pretty good. Not on par with .44 of course, but if all you need is to pierce flesh, they are very sufficient. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jun 30 at 18:00

12 Answers 12

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Total jacketed rounds

Your character is in luck. There's an excellent an air-tight container for bullets of all sorts: the jacket!

enter image description here

Jacketed rounds were invented for a number of reasons, but one of the big ones was to insulate your barrel from your bullet material. With lead bullets, this was to reduce barrel fouling when lead got deposited on the rifling, and with steel bullets, this was to reduce wear on rifling from the harder metal. Among other things, this enabled higher velocities and lighter ammunition.

Many common jackets are made via swaging, where the material is essentially mushed via a press into a forming die. These are often open at the bottom.

enter image description here

However, there are also Total Metal Jacket (TMJ) rounds that are fully encapsulated, often via electroplating, or another method, like the one at the top of this post. One of the motivations for this is that it means the jacketed material is never exposed to propellant, so, with lead, you don't end up with vaporized lead in the air and in your barrel.

Your character has silver rounds that are fully jacketed in an airtight metal layer, likely copper. This means they are never exposed to gunpowder, and, in fact, almost never exposed to air or the outside world in any way.

Until, of course, they hit something, at which point, all that nice silver gets exposed into the body of your target immortal.

enter image description here

[Rounds shown fired at different speeds from 1811 fps (far left) to 3190 fps(far right)]

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    $\begingroup$ This sounds very much like how the immortals who actually manufacture the silver bullets in the first place would make them. Possession is no longer a problem for them. The bullets won't light up your location until they're actually fired. I'm assuming the technology to do this was available in 1998? If so, she'd likely be getting/stealing her silver bullets from people who can do this. $\endgroup$ Jun 30 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ @CyrusDrake the nice thing about these is that, if you do it right, they aren’t even lighting up your location then. If your bullet is fully jacketed, the silver won’t be exposed to ‘air’ in any way: it leaves the barrel encapsulated, and the silver is only exposed within the flesh of the target. Narratively, this also creates tension around being accurate. Any bullet that misses exposed silver to air in contact with a hard surface, so your heroine is incentivized to make sure every bullet goes into a body. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Jun 30 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ And yes, if the bullet is designed for stopping power / avoiding overpenetration, it will very reliably expand and rupture the jacket on contact. There’s a bunch of ways to do it. Here is one: ammunitiontogo.com/product_info.php/pName/… $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Jun 30 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ Home electroplating is fairly easy and the theory was being taught in (UK) schools in the 90s. If she did it herself, she could simply leave the tips of the bullets out of the plating solution for most of the process so the tips end up with a very thin layer that will break as soon as it hits something. Or leave the tip unplated and cover it in wax. No doubt a regular bullet-maker could refine the process. $\endgroup$ Jul 1 at 9:10
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    $\begingroup$ @CarlKevinson true, but it’s mainly to show how the inner material is exposed as the bullet makes contact. Making the silver rounds hollow points wouldn’t be an unapproachable challenge. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Jul 1 at 20:31
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You are going about this the wrong way.

When you think of a round like the .44 Magnum in the S&W, or for that matter a rifle bullet, you get something with a more or less pointed bullet extending from the case. But this isn't the only way to design a revolver cartridge. Read up on the Nagant M1895 revolver, another hefty, vintage revolver, and look at the picture of the ammunition.

It should be possible to seal the front end of the cartridge well enough for your requirements. Sealing the back end (and having it still fire) could be a bit more tricky, but perhaps your character can find a gunsmith who is willing to experiment a little.


(Note that I edited this because mentioning the form of shotgun shells made people think I was suggesting a shotgun. I'm not. I'm talking about flat-topped revolver cartridges.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Oooh, good point about shotguns. Didn't think about that. $\endgroup$ Jun 30 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ I bring to you: .410, a shotgun shell that can be loaded in .45 Long Colt guns! $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Jun 30 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ Plastic shotshells aren't anything like gas-tight -- though they can be made so with a little effort. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 30 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon, I wanted all concerned to think of the shape of a shotgun shell, before explaining the Nagant. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    Jun 30 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ re: the Nagant's gas-seal rounds -- sealing bullet and primer was done on loaded ammunition as long ago as WWI. British .303 ammunition was made with crimped-in primers and a tar-like substance sealing the bullet in the case neck as early as about 1910. For a home loader, a good coat of nitrocellulose lacquer (nitrate airplane dope or old school nail polish) around both primer and bullet will do the job. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jul 1 at 11:04
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Airtight tupperware.

Tupperware was invented in 1946. Tupperware with airtight rubber lids is cheap (here's a set for two bucks a pop), and it's easy to find. Since you are only worried about her having to resort to real-world combat if she's at home, she can just put the gun in a Tupperware container somewhere in the house, and grab it at a moment's notice when trouble shows up.

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  • $\begingroup$ Tupperware is a registered trademark, and the trademark branded storage containers are very much NOT cheap. There are a lot of cheap containers that work like Tupperware, though, even cheaper imitations of Gladware at around half a dollar per piece with lid (in 8 packs or so). $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 30 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon Good point, I should have provided better clarification. I was using "Tupperware" as an eponym for "small plastic storage containers with snapping lids", like how people say "Kleenex" to refer to any facial tissue regardless of brand. $\endgroup$ Jun 30 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ I checked, and plastics can still leak smell. mason jars aren't porous, and then you just need a really good seal. But plastic would certainly limit smell. Not sure if bullets would explode if you canned them, but you wouldn't need to get the temps up quite so high if you aren't sterilizing the contents. Break jar for ammo in a hurry. You might seal the whole gun, but I'd say just seal the bullets. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 1 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ Good luck getting your drugs past the drug dog this way. It doesn't work. Dogs aren't even in the ballpark with her opponents. $\endgroup$ Jul 3 at 2:59
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Since we presume that your protagonist will have to cast her own silver bullets (a separate problem in itself, since silver melts at a much higher temperature than lead, is less dense, and is much harder) she'll need to be or work with an experienced ammunition maker to get loads that are accurate and work at safe pressures -- but we're talking about masking the smell of the silver.

TMJ plating is an option, but electroplating isn't something you'd do if there's a quicker, easier way, and there is.

Reloaders have been powder coating lead bullets for some years. This is standard powder coating, as used instead of paint on metal items like bed frames, car accessories, etc. The bullets are cast, weighed and culled if needed, and optionally sized to fit the barrel, then tumbled in a container of powder, after which they're heated on a tray (toaster oven temperatures, not hot enough to melt lead, never mind silver).

Once completed, the process can be repeated for insurance, to be extra sure the coating is gas tight (since your protagonist will likely be "nose blind" temporarily from handling and melting the silver), and normal handling that wouldn't damage factory ammunition won't damage the powder coating.

Much less in the way of special equipment and chemicals needed than electroplating and (at least with lead bullets) the coating doesn't change the pressure curve of the loaded rounds -- but it does prevent barrel leading just as a jacket would.

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  • $\begingroup$ I didn’t know powder coating was a thing! This is a great answer. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Jun 30 at 16:09
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    $\begingroup$ This is basically a DIY version of Nyclad ammunition -- for indoor ranges, to limit lead in the air -- that came out in the 1980s, BTW... $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 30 at 16:30
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Dilution is the solution to pollution.

As she travels the country in her Immortal Winnebago, a little water hydrolyzer works in the back. When she has generated enough hydrogen she fills a balloon which carries away a packet of mixed silver dust and gunpowder. These drift over the country until they finally spill their contents.

Suspicious silver sniffers smell it everywhere. They become numb. They no longer care. Your character totes her silver bullets with impunity.

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    $\begingroup$ And every immortal hunter also does that. They set timed charges with a mix of silver and gunpowder to go off in a wide area around the target zone. They do that days before the hit job. Some wackos use homemade mosquito coils laced with the two substances and set them to burn. The blood hounds are utterly useless in the modern age. Immortals are inured to the smell of gunpowder and silver. Also, most pawn shops often have both. $\endgroup$
    – Mindwin
    Jul 1 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk - I remember that saying from college back in the mid-eighties. One of the professors in chemical engineering who knew better was always saying it. I want to ask how it's working out for them with all the various pollutants and their myriad effects these days. Even anti-anxiety meds are affecting predator-prey relationships in a bad way downstream of sewage treatment plants. $\endgroup$ Jul 7 at 17:58
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Frame Challenge

Injectables via tranquilizer gun plus darts could just as easily do the trick. Dart guns are relatively silent since they use compressed gasses and thus don't leave a gunpowder smell. The content of the dart can be a silver powder suspension or, even nastier, a silver nitrate solution. The latter is extremely soluble and will rapidly spread throughout the system in the blood stream.

Tranquilizer guns have been around for quite a while and are available in pistol and rifle forms. Your protagonist will just need to get some special loads made up for the darts.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a... frustratingly good answer. This whole business was how I was planning to keep silver-using guns interesting. $\endgroup$ Jul 1 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ i believe they used something like this in Underworld. $\endgroup$
    – ths
    Jul 1 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ If you mix the silver with mercury, it will basically smell like dental silver amalgam. That's so innocuous that no one would even blink. Maybe that's why plastic dental fill was invented - it's a conspiracy to make dart guns smellable). $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 1 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ @CyrusDrake - oh! You should have said. This can be disallowed by the immortals wearing body armor in most settings. Or, the range at which silver can be smelled in isolation is very close to the range limit for these kinds of guns. Then maybe people figure out how to shield the emanations for the darts to some variable degree ... That makes it more cat and mouse. $\endgroup$ Jul 1 at 17:37
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Sous Vide

enter image description here

Put gun and ammo in a ziploc bag and suck out the air. No air gets in or out. No smell gets in or out.

Use a sous-vide machine like the above. Cooking sous-vide the food is laminated and immersed in 70ish degree water. Instead of steak use a gun.

Bonus points you can still fire a laminated gun in a pinch, without removing most of the plastic. Though it might explode the rest of the plastic off and injure your hand depending on the type of gun.

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    $\begingroup$ What did a sous-vide machine in 1998 cost? $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Jun 30 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Trish Adapt. Improvise. Overcome. You can use a ziploc, suck out the air using your mouth. And then melt it closed using a radiator. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jun 30 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ Similar products have been used commercial much longer They would have been much more expensive, but not unaffordable to someone working a decent salary job if they cared enough to buy one. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jul 1 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ you don't need a sous vide machine (which is the thing that makes water hot), you just need a vaccuum sealer. $\endgroup$
    – ths
    Jul 1 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Criggie Just laminate the gun. Don't eat the gun. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jul 3 at 10:14
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You want to load sealed cartridges? Then you might want to load shotgun shells. Especially neat are guns that can load .45 Long Colt - because that has the same diameter as .410 shotgun shells. Paper shotgun shells can easily be sealed against smell by wax dipping and even a plastic shell can be made smell-proof with a little wax and grease. .410 is also available in metal casings. Instead of a normal wadding in front, hot wax can be used to seal those long cases, resulting in perfectly air-sealed shells. The wax then just gets blown out as part of the load

While 2006 brought the Taurus Judge in .45 LC that also can load .410, and 1999/2001 brought the Magnum Research BFR, in 1998 the options for such revolvers are... very limited. However, there are some other types of pistols in this caliber available, you might be interested in:

MIL Thunder 5

Made from 1992 to 1998, this revolver is exactly what you want. It's also not considered a shotgun at all but only one variant is allowed in California - one that can't load .410. However, it is heavy

Thompson/Center Contender in .45

The Contender is a break action chambered target pistol. the .45 barrel can load .410, but there's also a dedicated smoothbore .410 barrel available. The Contender exists since 1967, but as a sporting target pistol is rather bulky.

Bond Arms Derringer

Bond Arms derringers offer .45 Long Colt since 1995. These break-open derringers also load .410 shotgun shells without hesitation, allowing them to have fully sealed ammunition for two shots. It also has the benefit of a very small form factor. And this has additional benefits: you can actually hide them, unlike other options!

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In space, outgassing of materials can lead to problems. We often coat objects like circuit boards with a Parylene conformal coat. Vacuum deposition gets the coating into every nook and cranny: the main challenge is keeping it off of electrical contacts (not a problem in your scenario). Parylene is a tough, slick material, with extremely low permeability to gasses. It can be applied as very thin films. This seems perfect for your problem.

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You can narrow the problem to only the smell of silver

Modern bullets are airtight already; so, you can remove gunpowder from the equation simply by cleaning them well after getting them from the factory. So how does a bloodhound smell bullets? They are trained to smell the metals that the bullets are made out of (brass and lead), and they can also be trained to smell the residue inside of a gun's barrel. A gun that has never been fired is not an easy thing for a bloodhound to differentiate from other mechanical steel objects like bicycle chains or car engines, but once it's been fired it keeps that smell of gunpowder and lead for a really long time which dogs can smell.

In a city, the smells of steel and petroleum lubricants are so common that our brains are designed to filter these smells out as things that are always there. You don't really notice you are smelling them unless you either wander up somewhere with an unusually high amount of lube or leave the area in which case you might become aware that you are no longer smelling it. This is to keep your brain from being distracted by "normal" smells.

So, long story short. This means that as long as your heroine carries a gun that has never been fired, the only uncommon smell she has to account for is the silver, and this is where humans become her best friends. Some humans ware silver all the time. Necklaces, rings, bracelets.. especially being a woman, other immortals would learn not to question this smell alone on a person. While they may hunt the smell of a gun after its fired a silver bullet, where ever they only smell a woman with silver on her person, they are more likely to just avoid her since it is probably not a silver weapon.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you've ever handled guns a lot, you'll know one of the most distinctive smells is the lubricant - even humans can smell a gun then. But a never-used gun could probably be bought or made free of oil, as well. The oil prevents wear, but who cares when the gun has never been used? $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 1 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus While it may have a relatively strong smell, a gun's lube would be virtually indistinguishable from the smell of the lubes used on cars and bicycles. The brain is designed to filter out smells that we smell all the time, so at least in a city, an immortal would be unable to smell (or rather register that they are smelling) the lubricant unless it is in concentrations much greater than normal use. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jul 1 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ Best way to smell-proof silver from a vampire has nothing to do with guns, +1. How to get it to not smell like cordite, you don't. How to get it to not smell like the wax it's shipped in, also no. Needs to have never been discharged, nor packaged for shipping. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Jul 1 at 22:30
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Coat the gun in epoxy. It's a totally airtight seal around the entire gun. Once you fire it, the seal is broken, but if you have had to fire a silver bullet that's probably the least of your worries.

You can carry the gun around as normal while it's like this and after a firefight, it just needs to be thoroughly cleaned, stripped of the now residue covered epoxy, and dipped again.

I'm not sure if doing this would actually cause a gun to become non functional but you can probably hand wave that part away.

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A gun shaped sandwich bag

The gun is loaded but inside a plastic bag similar to the ones used to keep sandwiches fresh. If it's shaped like the gun, she needn't even take it out, just pull the trigger and the bullet will rip right through it!

OK TBH I don't know too much about guns, and how much air is needed to ignite the gunpowder, so this mightn't work 100%, but I'm thinking she could easily open the zip-lock at the top right before she pulls the trigger...

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