As I am not well versed in science fiction or knowledge of guns, I have done some research recently into alien sci-fi guns as that is what I am currently designing and I find that many resemble human guns, even guns that have been designed to look very alien still have the human gun designs shapes, with a few exceptions.

The aspect of a gun of any kind whether it shoots bullets or energy types that give it the human look to me, is the long straight barrel, which is obviously a necessary part but I am wondering if any Sci-fi guns do not need a long straight barrel? Some energy types may not need a straight tube before the nozzle.

Which types of sci-fi guns that are possible in the future, do not need the traditional gun shape of a long straight barrel?

  • $\begingroup$ Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Jul 21 at 16:22
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ ussually scifi guns are shaped so readers/viewers will recognize them as guns. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jul 21 at 16:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Goodies Of course you mean humans today would be unable to carry a useful battery back built to today's technology. If you think the battery today needed to effectively power a hand-held laser weapon is large, you should consider what it would have been like 100 years ago... which suggests that 100 years from now humans just might carry such a battery without problems. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 21 at 17:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is an open ended question. In your sci-fi future your guns can be any shape you want. Literally any shape will be equally valid, which makes this question inappropriate for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 21 at 17:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Questions asking for lists aren't really a good fit for this site. Consider though that guided projectiles don't need a long barrel to aim or stabilize them, though there may be issues of operator safety when shooting rockets... $\endgroup$ Jul 21 at 18:24

1 Answer 1


The Possibilities Are Innumerable

The shapes a weapon (or "gun") can take are limited, but too numerous to give a big list. It depends on a lot of factors which sci-fi regularly tinkers with. Let's take a look at these limits.

Limits on Weapons

Weapon design is limited by several factors, including but not limited to:

  • biology of wielder
  • biology/structure of the target
  • energy sources (frequently chemical for most guns but potentially electrical and mechanical sources)
  • environment (modern metal guns don't work well in space or on Venus by virtue of the environment)
  • manufacturing technologies

And these can vary wildly throughout sci-fi! A 3-d printed gun looks different than a traditionally manufactured gun, and both (I bet) would look different from a gun grown from bacteria.

As an example, let's say your gun is held by a tentacled creature and produces damage against robots by directing some strong EM fields. In place of a long barrel, you may have an antenna, which can take various shapes, including a flat plate! Additionally, said tentacle creature may find a smooth ball with orthogonal rods sticking out of it more comfortable. So the creature presents a flat plate to the target while holding a spikey ball with their tentacle. This is not a traditional gun at all!

The Universe Favors Certain Designs

Sometimes, physics just favors certain designs for certain tasks. The universe has rules and some things take better advantage of them. Ultimately, a gun needs to work, so humans here and aliens there may independently create very similar guns. (A parallel to this exists in biology: convergent evolution)

For example, barrels exist in IRL guns to stabilize and direct the bullet. The walls redirect the errant forces to the exit of the barrel. Likewise, the barrel constricts expanding gasses at to push the bullet forwards. Any gun which depends on expanding gasses to accelerate a projectile will, by virtue of physics, gravitate to a barrel.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .