I am worldbuilding my own Sci-fi story and I wanted some sort of weaponry that wasn't just a regular gun that would shoot a projectile. So I had the thought about a radiation gun that well, shoots a concentrated beam of radiation. I imagined that you would shoot it and the enemy who would at first be fine but after ten seconds or so would start coughing up blood. I imagined that it was mostly silent and so many won't even know if they've been shot or not until they start coughing up blood and fainting.

Is this vision realistic? How might such a gun mechanically function and what sort of radiation would it shoot for this affect?

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    $\begingroup$ Related and probable duplicate: Can a NASER be used as a weapon? - the first answer is very thorough and covers every type of radiation. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't sound like world building to me...but note that electromagnetic radiation is just like light and microwaves. The reason they are handled differently is because of available materials. Materials are based on atoms and x-rays and gamma-rays wavelengths approach similar size so you have limitations. So lasers and lenses are trickier with gamma rays and x-rays. 10 seconds to cough up blood would burn your insides first. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 20:16
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    $\begingroup$ The question needs to be more specific about what it means by "radiation". A common flashlight shoots a beam of radiation, but I suspect that's not what it is asking for. A laser pointer does it too, with an even more concentrated beam, and if powerful enough it can be a formidable weapon. But it will burn and cut through the enemy, not produce the symptoms described in the question. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ VTC as duplicate, but adding my voice to the "radiation is very unspecific" crowd, as well as the 10 second rule being far too fast for radiation poisoning at a level which wouldn't also immediately burn the target if one is referring to neutron or gamma radiation. $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 20:22
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    $\begingroup$ I was the final VTC and I'd like to explain why. While the duplicate question is one way to implement such a weapon, it's only just one way. My problem is that you've asked a very broad, very ambiguous, very opinion-based question that's basically asking us to invent your idea for you. We don't do that (see Advice concerning questions asking HOW to implement a technological procedure or device). Especially if you're asking for "realistic." No one in their right mind would answer such a question - they'd run to the patent office. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 21:56

1 Answer 1


Yes: Havana syndrome.


"Havana syndrome" is a group of acute and then chronic symptoms reported by US intelligence and military personnel working abroad; the first reports were from Havana and thus the moniker. They are thought to be have been hit by a radiofrequency weapon: radar or microwaves. These folks may or may not feel something weird.

The original 21 events in Cuba were characterized as starting with strange grating noises coming from a specific direction. Some people experienced pressure, vibration, or a sensation comparable to driving a car with the window partly rolled down.

Then they get sick and some stay sick. They might have nosebleeds. The working hypothesis is that Havana syndrome is the result of being hit by a electromagnetic radiation pulse, which might be from a handheld object like the gun requested in the OP.

On February 1, 2022, a declassified US intelligence report (IC Experts Panel on Anomalous Health Incidents) called pulsed electromagnetic energy and ultrasound plausible causes and said that concealable devices exist that could produce the observed symptoms.[60]

Microwaves In 2018, Douglas H. Smith, the lead author of a University of Pennsylvania study of 21 affected diplomats in Havana published in JAMA , said in an interview that microwaves were "considered a main suspect" underlying the phenomenon.[4] A 2018 study ... concluded that the facts were consistent with pulsed radiofrequency[2]/microwave radiation (RF/MW) exposure. Golomb wrote that (1) the nature of the noises the diplomats reported was consistent with sounds caused by pulsed RF/MW via the Frey effect; (2) the signs and symptoms the diplomats reported matched symptoms from RF/MW exposure (problems with sleep, cognition, vision, balance, speech; headaches; sensations of pressure or vibration; nosebleeds; brain injury and brain swelling);

For your fiction you could make people hit by the weapon cough up blood or bleed from the nose, lurch around, vomit, seize or whatever works. I suspect that some people might be more susceptible than others. Some might be able to charge an attacker through the beam and take the weapon and see if the attacker likes how it feels.


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