Pretty much the title, but I'll explain more below.

I am currently working on creating a plethora of alien species for my universe. However, I am also unsure as to what kinds of weapons some of these species should have had throughout their history. (And I need them to have had weapons)

Some of these species have claws, tentacles, or pincers and some didn't even have hands at all, so human weapons such swords, bows, and even guns might not have been viable or even developed in their current forms.

As such, my question is: What kind of primitive and gun based weaponry would alien species develop if they had all of the same resources as humans, only non-humanoid hands and physiology?

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    $\begingroup$ My first thought was different grips, as in different handles, but there's some evidence to suggest that fine motor skills are necessary for technological advancement. $\endgroup$
    – apaul
    Apr 23 '17 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah fine motor skills are essential, you need precision to advance tech, making a knapped stone tool is as much precise manipulation skills as knowing how to do it. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Apr 23 '17 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ This is very open ended, asking about a wide variety of different alien body plans. That is too broad. You should narrow it down to one alien type and ask about weapons. I am voting to close. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Apr 23 '17 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, kingledion is right. What you're asking for is "what would things be like if they were different?" There is literally no bound on this question. You might be able to approach this backwards, however. You could pick a weapon (like a sword), and ask "What aspects of combat lead to the sword being a useful shape" and express a desire for the answers to these questions to be in a form which makes it easier for you to explore the xenobiological questions. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 23 '17 at 16:45
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    $\begingroup$ As an example, some swords, like a broadsword, are dependent on forcing their way past a guard and armor, while other swords like the scholar's sword from China and the rapier from Europe focus on finesse and finding weak points. If a particular alien species has multi-layered armor plates (or maybe even scales), the design principles of the scholar sword would permit lifting up those plates and then thrusting. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 23 '17 at 16:46

Remember that weapons are a literal Arms Race, so the evolution will trend to the better killing weapon. The question really is what are the aliens killing most regularly.

Main Concerns would of the alien's background in deciding the transformation of the firearms (assuming your exclusively want firearms):


  • Lethality Mechanism

    Change your projectile/technology to match the mechanism of lethality of your alien species.

    Eg. Slug/bullet based weapons wouldn't be very effective against fast-healing, tough or organ/blood redundant beings. Eg. You may have to rely on heat, cold, poisonous or explosive weapons.

  • Agility

    Fast agility/flight may necessitate the use of scatter weapons (shotguns) for accuracy.

  • Ergonomics

    Body Shape - How they hold the weapon or "Pull the trigger" so to speak

    Number of Hands - Human firearms are built with 2 hands in mind.


  • High Gravity environments might necessitate laser/beam/high-velocity weapons instead.

  • Underwater combat necessitates the use of heavy darts/harpoons as a projectile.

  • Natural Occurring Resources: Eg If Depleted uranium and C4 was naturally occurring. So they can develop Armor Penetrating, they'll have access to some pretty energy dense firearms

Overall you should analyse the transformation of gunpowder/firearms in history and introduce your own divergence.

A tentative firearm advancement timeline appears as follows:

  • Rocket Stick
  • Cannons
  • Musket - Matchlock/Percussion Cap
  • Smoothbore vs Rifled Barrels
  • Repeating Action
  • Semi-Auto
  • Full-Automatic
  • Special Ammunition

The formula for gunpowder has similiarly evolved a lot of the centuries.

  • Niter Saltpeter
  • Black Powder
  • Smokeless

Overall general metrics for specific details of firearms come down to trigger mechanism, ammunition cycling mechanism, rifling turn rate, bullet velocity, weapon weight/ergonomics/length, ammunition calibre, ammunition capacity, ease of manufacture and material.

If we remove the gunpowder restriction, it's all about the physics of concentrating chemical/kinetic energy into a kill weapon at range.

Perhaps the aliens can generate bio-electricity for electric based weapons (a primitive coil gun perhaps) or vents gas it can detonate in the place of gunpowder.

Perhaps this alien can create a bubble of plasma/launch projectiles from the ultra fast snap of it's claws - Cough Super Alien Peacock Mantis please.

[1]: https://i.stac


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