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I may not have been paying as much attention as perhaps I could but I have the impression that, in fiction and reality, most civilian space habitats, whether ships or stations use a relatively thick single hull. Meanwhile spacesuits and armour use heavy armoured shells of some kind of unobtainium, either an alloy or a complex composite formed into multiple layers designed to break up and absorb micro-meteors etc...

My question is which of these is actually more effective at stopping bullets. Actually what I'm really asking is, assuming we use modern hardsuits as a bench mark, could you build a gun that was "fine tuned" to kill a person through an armoured spacesuit without endangering a light weight civilian hull no heavier than what the ISS uses?

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Depends on the criteria you need.

I'd quite confidently say that there is no projectile guaranteed to penetrate a space suit to harm the occupant that is also guaranteed not to penetrate the hull of a spacecraft if fired directly at it.

However, is the question can you be sure that the round won't go through the person and then penetrate the hull then you are on much safer ground. The use of body armour by criminals/terrorists/etc has led to development of rounds that are designed to penetrate armour but not the body (to limit the risk to hostages, bystanders, etc), such as 5.7mm FN and 4.8mm H&K rounds, which are used in pistols and submachine guns. You could be fairly confident of shooting a person on a spacecraft (whatever they were wearing) and not damaging the hull with either of those.

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Current technology isn't based on single walled hulls, quite the contrary.

Have a look to this; to stop high velocity (small) debris a first outer shell, quite far from the internal one, has duty to break the incoming meteor in smaller particles that will be handled more easily by internal layers.

This seems to be the most effective shielding, especially in a weight-constrained environment with high speed incoming projectiles.

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This problem is one of the main reasons given why space soldiers carry pulse rifles. An electrical discharge can theoretically fry a human while not posing the same risk of causing a hull breach.

However firing bullets inside of your space ship is generally not going to be a good idea. Even without causing a hull breach there are many other systems you can easily breach from the inside. Also if a projectile is kept weak enough to not pierce a space ship hull it stands to reason that your enemies would simply increase the thickness of their armor to equal or slightly exceed your hulls strength.

If you are set on using physical bullets however, the easiest solution is a shotgun style weapon that fires tiny bullets at incredible speeds. When tightly packed the concentrated force could blast through armor, but if you miss and they fly further the spread would make them less dangerous to hulls. This is not however a remotely fool proof weapon, and anyone planning on using these would likely put on an oxygen mask before firing.

The only fool proof projectiles would be "smart-bullets" that were able to identify when they were on a trajectory toward the hull and self detonate to spread out the force. However these would likely be incredibly complex,expensive, and hard to manufacture.

You may also want to consider melee weapons, as it is harder to accidentally pierce the hull with a hand held weapon.

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    $\begingroup$ Trying to fool proof something only demonstrates that there's a better class of fool than you had previously accounted for $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Sep 5 '17 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ Yes melee weapons are under serious consideration, but there is awkwardness with zero-gee and melee. $\endgroup$ – Ash Sep 24 '17 at 14:15

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