Can A Gun Fire In Space?

Whilst fires are unable to burn in space due to the lack of oxygen, most guns are able to shoot.

This is because modern-day ammunition consists of an oxidizing chemical that can trigger explosive gunpowder and, thus, fire a bullet. 

Can A Gun Fire In Space

However, the key difference between firing a gun in space and a gun on earth is the length and shaping of the smoke trail.

Peter Schultz, a renowned astronomer from Brown University, has stipulated that the smoke trail would be like “an expanding sphere of smoke”. 

The potential to fire a gun in space allows for the following scenarios to occur:

Shooting At Stars 

Newton’s third law of motion states that the force of firing the bullet will culminate in an equivalent and opposing force on the gun.

Therefore, if you decided to shoot at the cosmos, you would move backwards in the other direction.

Thus, if the bullet discharges from the barrel at 1,000 m per second, you will move backwards at a few cm per second as you are far larger than the bullet itself.

Once it has been shot, the bullet will continue onwards, forever. This is due to the vast nature of the ever-expanding universe, which is moving faster than the bullet can catch up with.

To be specific, the universe is expanding at 73 km per second which is equivalent to 3 million light-years, which means that any form of matter that is approximately 50,000 light-years away would move at the same pace that the bullet is traveling and would therefore remain out of reach. 

Typically, the bullet will only catch up to any atoms that are under 40,000 light years away from the gun’s chamber.

Shooting From The Hip

Guns have been carried into space. However, they haven’t made it to the edge of the galaxy yet! For many years, Russian astronauts have had a gun included as part of their survival pack.

According to space historian, Jams Oberg, the gun carried by Russian cosmonauts also included a machete!

These astronauts have stated that these weapons are carried in case they land in an unwelcoming region when landing back on earth. However, in theory, these guns could be discharged prior to landing. 

So what would occur if a cosmonaut decided to open fire at a planet like Jupiter? Physicist, Robert Flack, has stated that Jupiter’s gravitational field will capture a bullet before it follows a curvaceous path down onto the surface of the planet.

As this occurs, its pace will heighten and ammo will be accelerated to a whopping 60 km per second by the time that it has made it through the gravitational field of Jupiter. 

Can A Gun Fire In Space (1)

Shot In The Back

Schultz has stated that it is entirely possible to shoot yourself in the back in space. This is because, whilst orbiting a planet, the bullet can circle back towards you.

This is because any object that orbits a planet is in a free-falling state and, thus, it is entirely possible to shoot yourself in the back if the bullet has been discharged at the right altitude.

You would also need to consider how much you’ll be thrown backwards and, inherently, how the altitude will change when firing. 

This scenario isn’t entirely absurd. Schultz has stated that scientists have considered testing this in space in order to ascertain what occurs during high-speed impact.

It has been stated that this process will be far easier if shooting your bullet from the top of a mountain on the moon at approximately 1600 meters per second.

This may or may not work, as you would need to take into account the inconsistencies in the moon’s shape and any irregularities that may alter the altitude. 


To conclude, a gun can be fired in space. This is because modernized ammunition contains an oxidizing chemical that would allow for a bullet to be fired in a vacuum.

However, a bullet fired in space would typically not have the same impact as a bullet that is fired on Earth due to the expanding nature of the universe itself. In order to catch up with any space matter, this matter would need to be traveling at under 40,000 light-years.

It is also possible to shoot yourself in the back in space, but only if you fire the bullet at a specific altitude and remain at that altitude until the bullet comes back round.

Therefore, it is not typically practically possible to shoot oneself in the back in space.

It is also important to note that Newton’s third law of motion stipulates that your body would move backwards as the bullet is propelled out of the barrel, which makes it even more difficult to maintain an accurate altitude during the firing process.

Firing a bullet at a planet like Jupiter will drastically increase the speed of the bullet as it enters the gravitational zone, however, this many not be the same for all planets. 

Despite the fact that it is entirely possible to fire a gun in space, it is interesting that many Hollywood movies have not explored the prospect of a shoot out in space.

Whilst many movies will showcase ‘space-weapons’ that are turbocharged and intergalactic, there hasn’t been much exploration of traditional weapons being used in space.

Perhaps this is because many are unaware that it is possible to fire a weapon in space, or that many Russian astronauts have carried weapons to space for a number of years.

Either way, it is a subject that would be interesting to explore due to the limitless possibilities that derive from being able to fire a gun in space. 

Matthew Osborn

Matt is an entrepreneur who has created and successfully exited multiple companies and brands. Now, he dedicates his time to Legionary, where he produces content on guns, family, and freedom.

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