Time: 100 years from now and energy weapons have been perfected.

Location: gun show for lethal energy weapons for home defense

My problem is:

I have two types of energy weapons one has a removable energy cartridge/ammo that you can charge separately.

The other energy gun was designed with a non-removable cartridge/ammo for convenience (can also be charged)

  • Both are safe when handled by trained shooters.
  • Both are safe from overcharging.
  • Both designs are stable for long storage.
  • Both designs have safety switches to prevent accidental firing.
  • Both designs have the same shot count 15 shots
  • Both designs charge to full in 15 minutes
  • Both designs have trigger guards
  • Both designs are priced the same

The only difference is the removable cartridge/ammo design.

The removable cartridge design allows you to buy 2 or more cartridges, and no residual charge inside the gun once cartridge is removed (gun is not loaded once cartridge is removed).

The non-removable cartridge means you are always loaded and ready.

Which will be the biggest seller? Will more people prefer the conventional removable cartridge/ammo design or will they prefer the non-removable cartridge/ammo design?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I guess it will depend on the preferences of the user, and there is no clear answer. An easy analogy is the battery of iPhones/macbooks vs those of other phones/laptops. $\endgroup$
    – March Ho
    Dec 17, 2014 at 8:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MarchHo - Moreover, I bet that third parties would provide external cartridges for charging non-removable ammos. $\endgroup$
    – mouviciel
    Dec 17, 2014 at 8:19
  • $\begingroup$ I assume that it will have to do with usage. The average person that has a weapon at home for defense do not need a removable cartridge since usage will not extend over time before reloading. But police officers (not to mention the military...) will probably need to have replaceable cartridges in case the weapon empties. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2014 at 8:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My decision will depend a lot on how much shots they have. 10? removable. 100000? probably not removeable $\endgroup$
    – PlasmaHH
    Dec 17, 2014 at 12:30
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ For safety reasons, firearms are typically stored unloaded today. This might be less of a concern with future tech if there were other suitable safeguards, like integrated biometric locks and if the device is complex enough that accidental firing is a non-issue. It also depends on whether your future culture is highly safety conscious and/or litigious. $\endgroup$
    – Dan Bryant
    Dec 17, 2014 at 16:31

12 Answers 12


Based on the psychology of modern gun holders, the removable cartridge one would win by a landslide so long as there is not an overwhelming form-factor advantage of non-removable.

Gun owners consider their guns to be their last line of defense. If given a choice between a weapon which can be used for 15 shots and then becomes a completely useless paperweight for 15 minutes, and a weapon that can be used for 15 shots and then reloaded mid-combat combat, there literally is no comparison between the two. Gun owners would flock to the removable-cartridge energy weapon, and would simply sneer at the 15-shot paperweight. Sure, someone worried about this might carry multiple non-removable guns, but why would they pay to have 2 or 3 times as many guns ($$$) when they could just buy more batteries.

The one place where a non-removable cartridge weapon could gain popularity is if the removal of the cartridge could change the form factor of the gun. Compare this to Apple's decision to no longer support removable batteries; in exchange, they saved something like .7mm off of their phone thickness. If the gun could be made substantially more convenient to use by removing the ability to reload mid combat, it could earn a place. Perhaps the non-removable will be easier to conceal because of the form factor, or lighter weight and less threatening looking (which are currently factors gun makers consider when developing a "ladies" gun).

  • $\begingroup$ And never mind combat, even accepting the questioner's premise that the purpose is home defence and not fun, I reckon many will want to train/practice with this thing prior to betting their lives on their ability to use it. 15 shots at the range before a 15 minute recharge is little enough to be at least somewhat annoying, and users actually will hit that limit rather than just worrying they might. Realistically a home defender who needs 16 shots is probably in a zombie movie ;-) $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2014 at 0:48
  • $\begingroup$ This presumes that the number of shots on a full charge is not effectively unlimited. If you can fire continuously for an hour straight on a single charge, it becomes a very different equation. That said, for a limited-shot weapon this seems exactly right. $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Dec 22, 2014 at 20:48
  • $\begingroup$ This answer ignores the continued popularity of revolvers, including for home/personal defense, despite the slow reload time and bulk of "speedloaders" meaning that after 4-8 shots they're effectively paperweights themselves in any kind of "combat situation". $\endgroup$
    – Kromey
    Dec 22, 2014 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Kromey: I suppose you could argue that the non-magazine energy weapon is sort of like a Revolver, but nothing in the question suggests that any of the reasons one chooses a revolver (such as raw simplicity) are applicable to these energy weapons. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Dec 23, 2014 at 2:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon Nothing suggests they aren't, either, and it's a given that the removable batteries would have more moving parts -- if nothing else, electrical contacts that are e.g. susceptible to being covered in grease, decreasing if not blocking the energy flowing into the weapon. $\endgroup$
    – Kromey
    Dec 23, 2014 at 3:43

Lots of answers already, but as a gun owner myself (including for self/home defense) I figured I'll weigh in anyway, especially since many of the parallels being drawn between your weapons and cell phones just don't make sense -- you don't use a cell phone for self-defense, so (in the mindset of someone making the purchase) the trade-off in reliability isn't as serious a concern. (No offense to anyone making those parallels, it's just a very different mindset.)

I'm going to draw parallels between your energy weapons and today's firearms. The removable-battery version is obviously most akin to modern pistols with removable magazines. The key draw to these weapons is that in a high-stress situation (i.e. a shootout), you can quickly eject an empty magazine, slap in a loaded one, and get back in the fight; you can also execute "tactical reloads", where you take advantage of a moment's pause to eject a partially-fired magazine and load a full one (the reason being that you might not have another chance to reload). With just a little practice, an otherwise untrained civilian gun owner can reload a pistol and begin firing again in under 2-3 seconds.

The non-removable version is more akin to a revolver. While, yes, we do have things called "speedloaders" that make reloading them easier, their bulk means that most revolver owners don't ever carry them, and many don't even own any; even with a speedloader, reloading a revolver takes considerably more time. The net result is that, effectively, a revolver is a paperweight once you've fired every round in your cylinder -- just like your non-removable battery weapon.

And yet both types of weapons are popular among self-defense shooters. Pistols have the advantage that you can very quickly reload them, while revolvers have the dual advantage of fewer moving parts and being all but immune to jamming, especially from the all-too-common misfiring round. You'd have a similar thing with interchangeable batteries: Sure, you can eject a spent one and slap a new one in place, but did you notice that one of the contacts had some grease smeared over it, preventing it from making a solid connection with the weapon's electronics? Fine, it doesn't work, eject it and slap in a third battery -- only now the grease has been transferred to the contacts on the weapon itself, effectively making the whole thing useless until you can sit down and clean it!!

The one point where this analogy falls apart is form factor. Modern pistols can be made much more compact than revolvers, and do so with higher capacity. With interchangeable versus non-interchangeable batteries, the former is going to have the disadvantage on form factor (capacity is irrelevant, as you've stated both have 15-shot charges). This difference is going to be largely negligible, however, to the point that the difference in grip texture and shape are going to be far more significant factors in making a purchase than the relative size between rechargeable and non-rechargeable.

Bottom line: both types of weapons will sell, and sell well, and both will have their vehement supporters and vitriolic detractors (as well as no shortage of people who acknowledge the advantages and shortcomings of both and then pick whichever one they just happen to like better). The interchangeable-battery version may sell slightly better, but that will just make its detractors all the more vitriolic, while making supporters of the non-interchangeable version all the more vehement.


Design and Marketing is the key

Have a look at today cellphones. While from engineering point of view, you would say that the models with replaceable battery should win (once I am out of energy, I can switch to recharged battery), the latter is true and one of the most desired phone comes with non-replaceable battery.

So, who do you aim for? Who is the target customer?

Gender stereotypes: If it is woman, the weapon has to be red. If it is for a guy, it has to be big.

And if Apple sells it, people will buy it even if it can fire only 4 shots, where the competitive one from Google can fire 12 and has replaceable cartrige.

(Yes, you will need the gun to finally resolve once for all the holy war of who is better. Apple or Google?)

So, whatever design has better advertisement, it is winner

  • $\begingroup$ reddit.com/comments/d9yce/a_man_is_dating_three_women $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2014 at 11:19
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for gender stereotype and reference to Apple and google. And if Apple sells it, people will buy it even if it can fire only 4 shots, where the competitive one from Google can fire 12 and has replaceable cartrige. TRUE MAN. $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2014 at 8:10

Removable ammo:

Pros: Removable ammo, specially in an electrical system, gives the ability to maintain a more continual rate of fire. Where the only downtime one would have would be the time where the capacitors had to recharge, and the time it takes to change the Disposable Ammo Charge Pack.

Cons: Disposable ammo is bulky and you have to carry it around. Along with that, it leaves a lot of waste in empty DACP.

Non-removable ammo:

Pros: This weapon just keep firing and firing. And with a steady flow of shots, you will keep it that way.

Cons: In a stressed firefight, where stuff gets intense, and you shoot faster than you can draw energy from the air around you, you will have time where you wait for the shot to get recharged. This can be dangerous.


Edit- The bigger seller would be the non-removable, i forgot to read the fine print "for home defense" sorry.

The biggest seller: The DACP weapon, the reason for that is the DAC-Pack would be applied to weapons like assault weapons and shatter weapons (energy shotguns). Where as the Non-removable ammo pack would be applied to weapons like Precise Sniping Weapons, sidearms and stun/shockwave weapons.

I don't think you can rule out one of them as bad, it would be like asking if tank-tracks or wheels would be the better seller. Both have their purpose and applications. And none of them are bad for what they do.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I sense a potential confusion: "draw energy from the air around you" vs "a non-removable cartridge/ammo for convenience (can also be charged)". The original question did not have self-recharging power packs, just built-in ones that can be charged from some external power source (wall outlet). $\endgroup$
    – zovits
    Dec 17, 2014 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ Sidearms can also have a use for more than 15 shots, though (which is why police officers, who have 15 rounds in their typical handgun, pretty much universally carry extra magazines). And if it takes 15 minutes to charge, it will not charge during a typical firefight. $\endgroup$
    – cpast
    Dec 17, 2014 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ @zovits it isn't specified, i took the liberty. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2014 at 18:53

The first question that comes to my mind:

How is the energy stored? The US-Navy just equiped some battleships with laser guns and their biggest disadvantage is the charging time. You need to store the necessary energy, if you can't produce it fast enough. There are a lot benefits over projectilweapons, but also disadvantages, keep that in mind.

It's very unlikely to carry a mini-nuclear-reactor in your handgun, so you must store it.

Which requirements must the storage suit?

  1. Fast energy release. You can't be lethal if you give a view watt per second. This is really the biggest problem today, how will your future guys solve that?

  2. Small, the smaller the better until, lets say the sice of a cigarrbox per 20-30 shots, at least.

Fast energy release:

A storage that we know today which can release energy very fast are capacitors. These have problems which make them unsuitable for our purpose, like an energy drain over time and small capacity.

Batteries cannot release energy fast enough.

Fuel cells could be a solution due they could set high amounts of energy in very short time but are technically very complex, depending on the fuel. Due we are in SCI-Fi here, our todays problems can be solved in your setting and the complexity might not be a problem anymore.

Biggest Problem of today with fuel cells are heat and low efficiency, but that has been the same with OTTO-engines 100yrs ago, so what...


You want your weapon to be handable by small woman hands. For home-defense very small pistols are not uncommon and you must try to fit that requirement. It's not necessary to provide 50rounds if an average person cannot hold the weapon, 5-10rds are good.

One container or cartridge?

Both have their advantages. As it has been said, for military purpose, where a lot of shots are fired in a short time it is essential for the safety of the gunners that there is no delay between triggering and the shot. But in home-defense you don't have to spray a lot of ammo, a few rounds is good to strike back an attacking person. So far booth, container and cartridge fit the requirement.

Advantage of container: You can just fill them with the needed chemical, its basically a fuel-container and thus easy to use.

You have only one source of errors here, not like cartridge. Every cartridge could be damaged and block your weapon, even if the next one is fine. This is both, an advantage and a disadvantage, if you have a jam with your cartridge just release the magazine, unload the blocking gardridge and reload. To fix a broken tank might not be that easy. Advantages of cartridge: The handling of cartridges is easy but a little work, if you have ever loaded some magazines, you know what I mean.

Error sources are plenty, like I wrote at the Advantage of containers. But what makes cartridges really good is the fact that you can load various cartridges! It's not unusual in military purpose to load some tracer bullets at night or AP-cartridge if some enemies might wear bodyarmour. You cannot know what comes and thus different cartridges are a high benefit!

Especially with energy weapons. We are talking about home defense and you don't want to kill someone but might tranquilize the attacker. If you have 10rds in your magazine, you can load 5rds tranquilizer, 2rds lethal if the tranquilizers don't work for any reason and if in the worst case the attacker wears body armour 3 further shots of armour piercing ammo. Or whatever you want.

For me, cartridge is the winner!

  • $\begingroup$ Fast energy release: Have you looked at capacitors with super conductive abilities? Size: Google "Nano Battery" - those small buggers have super fast charge/discharge rate + they can store insane amount of power. - 100 years from now ? We might have something like it. $\endgroup$ Dec 17, 2014 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ Good answer and thank you for correcting the typos. +1 $\endgroup$
    – Lilienthal
    Dec 22, 2014 at 20:59

For home safety? I would guess the built in one. The Cravats would be that it can hold a charge for long periods of time without losing power. It also would need to have about 3 x the number of shots that would be thought 'needed' to do the protection. And how long does it take to recharge. If the vast majority of home owners have a gun that can shoot 5 times before needing 8 hours to recharge, you are back to the old westerns, 'That was 6 shots pardner, you're out!'

EDT: Also the price points could be a big difference. If they are very close in price to get the replaceable one and not much more to get an extra battery pack That would make that one more popular. (You can shoot 15? I got 30!)

  • $\begingroup$ Both designs attain full charge in 15 minutes. Both designs have 15 shot capacity $\endgroup$
    – tls
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ @tls Sorry, missed that. That supports the built in one. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ no problem :) just added the edit. I'm trying to get some insight on preferences gun customers would have when it comes to weapon magazine/cartridge design (for home defense) $\endgroup$
    – tls
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks forgot about the price, same price but the extra cartridge for the removable cartridge model is extra :) $\endgroup$
    – tls
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ @tls in that case I'd buy the one with the changeable cartridge. I might not buy a spare right away, but I would then have the opportunity to do so at small cost. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Dec 17, 2014 at 16:07

Many kinds of firearm are designed so that the only rapid operation is replacement of one present ammunition-feeding device with another; the firearm itself will often keep one round available internally while the ammunition-feeding device is switched, but there's no way convenient way to transfer enough rounds from a magazine to "top off" a gun. Some fixed-tube-magazine firearms, however (especially shotguns) make it easy to add individual rounds even while a firearm is in ready-to-fire condition [though one would want to get one's hand clear of the loading area before firing], and some other fixed-magazine firearms make it easy to top off a firearm using stripper clips of various sorts.

I would suggest that the relative preference for fixed-vs-removable energy storage would depend upon how readily energy may be moved between storage media. If recharging an energy storage device would take many minutes, having it be removable for rapid field substitution would be better than having a weapon be inoperable during the time required to recharge it. If, however, recharging would only take two seconds, then an internal device which could be charged as needed from an external supply device might be better.

Another possibility to consider with energy weapons would be the possibility of conveying power via cable between a possibly-shared large energy-storage medium and hand-held weapons which may or may not be able to hold a usable quantity of energy when the cable is detached.

Finally, regardless of whether one uses fixed, swappable, or cable-connected energy sources, it may also be worthwhile to consider the "rules" for transferring energy between devices. For example, given a small device with a charge of 4/10, and a larger device with a charge of 85/100, it may be possible to quickly transfer energy so that the devices would be charged to 8/10 and 80/100, respectively [since the energy would in a sense be running "downhill"], but it might be much slower and less efficient to try to transfer energy "uphill". The effect would be that once the large unit was down to 50% charge, reloads would be required twice as often, a "fact" which could help make increase the level of danger and excitement.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the idea of topping off not needing full cartridge replacement. $\endgroup$
    – cpast
    Dec 18, 2014 at 3:06

Having declared that there is absolutely no difference between the weapons other than the ability to remove the power pack, you've made it quite simple. There's no reason to buy the non-removable version. If someone doesn't care about having a removable power pack, they will be equally happy with either weapon as they can just leave the power pack in the weapon at all times and would gain no benefit from the non-removable weapon.

Gun enthusiasts can get pretty worked up about the most trivial of differences between weapons, but even they would have a hard time here. Have it shave a gram or two off the mass, reduce charging time by 15 seconds, or something like that and they'd have something to work with.

So, any sane manufacturer would either only make the removable version, or re-design the non-removable version to take advantage of not having to be removable to improve the weapon.


How much energy is being delivered and how is it being powered? If were talking about modern energy weapons the power cost would be unbelievably high, so high that energy weapons wouldn't exist! Thus I must assume that we have 'somehow' adapted our technology to be more efficient. If we assume an efficiency such that energy weapons are practical at all were talking about the sort of efficiency such that a single weapon can hold a rather substantial charge.

At this point were talking about a system where one would not be swapping cartridges in the middle of a gun fight, but recharging after a battle. There wouldn't be a significant need for carrying many cartridges or any advantage for carrying multiple, the risk of running out of ammo in a single battle should be non-existent. Frankly the only justification to switching to energy weapons over projectile is for the limitless 'bullets' it could store.

Thus the question is one of convenience, or more accurately logistics. Whatever type large military organization would use is what everyone will use, and militarizes are concerned about logistics. A military would likely choose rechargeable cartridges because it's easier to handle resupply. You can hand a soldier a cartridge and take his back to the place where it recharges quickly and easily, you can pile up lots of 'spent' cartridges to carry, and since the cartridges are not weapons they don't need the same level of guarding and security that toting around a lot of partially spent weapons to the recharge station would require (note, they would still be potentially lethal if they carry that much charge, and thus need caution, just not as much as a full weapons). In addition you only need two cartridges per soldier (one he is using currently, one that is being charged) instead of two weapons per soldier; and building the full weapons is likely more expensive then the cartridge. IN addition if a cartridge is lost or stolen it's less of a security risk then a lost weapons.

From a large military logistics perspective it's much easier to keep your army going with rechargeable cartridges to weapons, thus they will win.

However, I have to point out that energy weapons are actually pretty impractical. Projectile weapons will likely rule unless we get armor to protect against them or such advances in technology that the very idea of having a military armed with guns is ludicrous (even now tanks and air plans decide any large scale battle, guns and infantry is pretty rare). Now if you imply that energy weapons were developed which allow infantry to be a threat to tanks that would change everything, but would be a huge cultural and military twist.

  • $\begingroup$ If we assume the existence of super levels of power storage we could make tanks obsolete. If a handgun can blow through any reasonable (ie, tanks that are able to move) level of armoring then tanks just make big targets. It's back to getting rid of heavy knights and going to dispersed infantry. $\endgroup$
    – Zan Lynx
    Jan 15, 2015 at 1:43

I don't think the rechargeable version would have ever hit the market, because of a few crippling draw backs. Other have mentioned them, but let's pull together the really knock-down cons

Shooting is a rural activity Yes there are gun ranges, but the vast majority of shots fired are fired more than a few feet away from an outlet. No body takes just 15 rounds out to the lake to shoot some cans, let a lone a hunting trip. Not to mention the psychology of rural self-reliance I wanting to feel like you could "make it" off the grid.

Learning to shoot 1 clip at a time would be slow and boring. Practice shooting would look like shooting for 1-2 minuets and then waiting 15 minuets. A a little wasted time because new shooters aren't fast and you're talking about a clip every 20 minutes. That's just a hard way to learn.

Reloading is really important in combat. Actually hitting a target in combat is hard. Laying down cover is really effective. Having more shots to work with is just a strong advantage.

A psychology of preparedness Most cops, who's job it is to go looking for trouble, never fire a shot their whole career. The odds that a civilian will actually need a gun for defense is vanishingly small. Owning and caring a gun is mostly about wanting to feel prepared and capable for anything, however unlikely. Given me and the gun owners I know, the 15 shot paper-weight just doesn't give that same feeling of knowing that if push comes to shove, you can bring a lot of force to bare.

As for the pros, there explicitly aren't any the form factor argument is valid, but you said the reloading is the only difference. Someone mentioned the reliability of the revolver as a nice parallel. This doesn't really hold. Energy weapons don't really have moving part. There is nothing to jam. The amazing reliability of energy weapons is one of their few strong selling points.

All that said, if you wanted to try and bring some "balance" to the two systems you could make clips insanely expensive. Which is plausible, creaming enough energy for 15 lethal bursts into a man portable, let alone magazine sized package is really hard, and justifies the cost. You just can't take the price too too high though. There has to be a reason people switched from slug throwers to energy weapons.


It is planned that the phone will be replaced before the battery wears out, and the rigid case for the battery is a significant bulk.

A gun will not be tossed and upgraded in a few years, right? There may be some engineering issues with making the battery safe to handle on its own: other than flatness, what could make that a compelling reason?

Perhaps the way the primary power cell is connected to the capacitor: special superconductors, embedded in special insulation, no "connector" any more than the real chip inside the IC package can come out. The wiring is delecate and permanent.

Integrating the primary storage cell (copious but slow to delive) with the "charge cache" capacitor may allow deep integration as part of the cathode, for example, and that is the expensive part and you don't care to exchange that too.

I wonder though what an energy weapon would do. It's more of a sci-fi trope than realistic "hard" SF. Maybe it could be a railgun that fires a slug using electricity rather than chemical combustion. That would let you tune the power on a per-shot basis.

  • $\begingroup$ No need to upgrade the gun. It's mostly about gun cartridge design preference, removable vs. built-in. $\endgroup$
    – tls
    Dec 17, 2014 at 15:20

To me it seems that fixed-cartridge would be by practical means same as removable-cartridge with single cartridge that user never removes. That mean that it has advantages and no disadvantage. (Advantages are for example shooting more then 15 shots; especial for training or sport-shooting would be "15 shots and 15 min wait" crippling)


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