A Way Too Stupid Question for the Question of the Day But Fun Nevertheless: Could a Handgun Have Taken Down a Dinosaur?

When Spike TV’s Deadliest Warrior pitted zombies against vampires only the most die-hard fan knew one of the best firearms-related shows in the history of the world ever had jumped the shark. Not that I mind dumb gun questions; they’re one of the main reasons God invented cigars. Here’s one (a story) that I stumbled on earlier (fans of reality should look away now): Could a Handgun Have Taken Down a Dinosaur? I’m expecting a .50 Classic Desert Eagle for T&E any day now, so, obviously, this has been on my mind. That said, The Straight Dope must have been smoking some to think anything less than a “Goalkeeper” [above] would do-in a Rex reliably. Your thoughts? [Make the jump for some stupid stuff about shooting a T Rex from Stephen Templar’s magnum opus rexGun.]

  • Given the giant reptile’s speed, agility, and aggressiveness, you’ll get only one shot.
  • Crippling a T. rex, even if you’re skillful enough to hit its fast-moving legs, is difficult due to its thick bones. So you need to shoot to kill.
  • The critter has a massive skull clad in dense muscle protecting a relatively small brain case, making a head shot pretty tough.
  • Unfortunately, T. rex’s heart is also well protected—your bullet must penetrate three or four inches of skin and abdominal bone, then travel several feet through more dense muscle to reach the vitals.

comments

  1. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

    I have the 700 grain T-REX round from Ranger Rick in Alaska for my BONE COLLECTOR, and I’m pretty sure it would take out any dino.

  2. avatar Charles says:

    Hmm, I don’t know. Can you be a fan of the Desert Eagle and still be a fan of reality?

    1. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

      It’s a S&W 500, not an eagle. I’ve shot a few of the DE’s and they sucked.

  3. avatar Aharon says:

    The majority of dinosaurs were not the huge monsters featured in documentaries and sci-fi fantasy films. Many dinos were rather small creatures though many smaller ones were also extremely dangerous. Some moved slowly and some very fast, and many could jump far. The answer is yes though it depends.

  4. avatar ready,fire,aim says:

    that guy with the ak-sling shot could……

  5. avatar Sam Wright says:

    A .700 Nitro Express, carefully aimed at the brain through the eye, behind the ear, or at base of spine may work. Why am I using a handgun instead of my dino-be-gone repellent spray?

  6. avatar RMark says:

    In an environment where hunting/firearms are not known to the local inhabitants, even preditors would probably pause and take stock at the sound and impact of a gunshot. First time encounters could allow for several rounds to be in play.

    After the locals got used to firearms, natural education would make all but the largest or most successful at human hunting avoid firearms and those who hold them.

    That said, a big Rex would eat your lunch before you can stop it with a handgun .

    1. avatar 277Volt says:

      Very, very astute observations and I’m in complete agreement with everything said. My only addition would be given my quick research both an elephant and a T-Rex weigh about 7 tons and that possibly such a ‘primitive’ creature as a T-Rex wouldn’t give up the ghost till long after a mammal such as an elephant would. Alligators and crocs require a very specific kill shot otherwise you just piss ’em off and end up needing a stupid amount of rounds to finish the deed.

      Just to tantalize the time traveling hunter, the T-Rex has a jaw force so great that they actually have a second set of muscles to counter the primary ones just so the primaries don’t snap their jaw bone when biting down. Gotta admire an apex predator.

  7. avatar Ordine Nuovo says:

    Simple:

    A TC pistol in .30-06. Just gather up some surplus AP ammo first. Oh, and make sure to brain the bastard when its asleep…

  8. avatar Ralph says:

    I’m pretty sure a .38 could put down Barney.

  9. avatar Gossven says:

    Maybe if you had the Samaritan from Hellboy.

  10. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    The largest Sauropods would probably shrug off anything smaller than a 30mm cannon, unless you were firing HE rounds. The bigger mega-predators like Tyrannasaurus Rex could probably be taken with a well-placed .50 BMG round, but they might not go down quickly.

  11. avatar Slab Rankle says:

    I doubt that T. Rex was bullet proof. A clean shot through the neck or throat with a TC Contender with a hot .45-70 load and Punch bullets, or something similar, would sever the spinal cord and bring the critter down. Eventually it would die from blood loss. T-Rex was not larger than the largest elephant, and they have been taken with handguns.

    However, all pales before a .50 BMG rifle, and that’s what I would use for the biggest game on a dino safari. Seeing that head on the wall would give me nightmares.

  12. avatar me says:

    I would suggest that if we are talking about an apex predator massing in the tons, such as a T. Rex, or a large mythical predator such as a dragon, anything hand-held is only going to be a last gesture of defiance before being eaten.

    If you, as H. Sapiens, wish to win this contest, you’re going to have to start thinking like an evil clever monkey with opposable thumbs and a big imagination.

    *cough* IED *cough* fougasse charge *cough*

    Getting the dinosaur to stand on it when you set it off is left as an exercise for the alert reader. Given that T. Rex had a brain that would fit in a teaspoon, and was probably in fact about as intelligent as a latter-day chicken or turkey, this should not be terribly difficult.

    1. avatar tdiinva says:

      Clearly you have never hunted a turkey.

    2. avatar Nate says:

      Yeah, you’re knowledge of dinosaur physiology is lacking. First off, tyrannosaurs were predators. There is suggestive evidence that some species of tyrannosaurs, including Tyrannosaurs Rex, hunted in packs. That implies the ability to reason to some degree. They were very successful animals and probably a lot more intelligent than most people would think.

      Also, the brain of a Tyrannosaurs Rex is quite large. The animal had complex, binocular vision better than modern birds of prey and the some of the largest olfactory bulbs and nerves ever seen in any animal.

      I’d go with a Barrett M82/M107 with Mk 211 cartridges for T-Rex hunting. This is an animal you’d want to stop and stop fast. Much more dangerous than an Elephant or Cape Buffalo. Better to be sure.

      1. avatar The Arab says:

        “a lot more intelligent than most people would think.”

        I’d go with

        a lot more intelligent than most people.
        “reference Darwin Awards”

        Does it count as a handgun if I attach a pistol grip at the end of the string on a howitzer?

  13. avatar garynyer says:

    I feel like taking my 45-70 to the natural history museum in nyc, and blasting the dinosaur exhibits while screaming “shhhhh I’m hunting rabbits” is a bad idea

  14. avatar JR says:

    What do you think they made 10mm for?

  15. avatar Phosgene says:

    There was a 1984 book about that whole subject by David Drake called Time Safari. Surprisingly, the guy who brought a .50 ended up missing everything with it (of course, he was a pansy). Something to look into—shot placement and penetration, not size is the name of that game.

    1. avatar The Arab says:

      “placement and penetration, not size is the name of that game”

      I heard this somewhere not related to guns

  16. avatar DANN says:

    a tyrannosaurus is roughly 12.8 m (42 ft) in length, up to 4 meters (13 ft) tall at the hips, and up to 6.8 metric tons (7.5 short tons) in weight.

    the problem with most of the rounds stated above, is that its like shooting a person with a 16 gauge needle. it might hurt but even if hitting the spinal cord directly wont kill you. and shooting a creature with a very small sized brain in its overly hardened and very thick skull is a bad idea and may just make it more angry. what you need is a round large enough to cause proportionate permanent cavitation combined with a high rate of fire and preferably HEIAP(High Explosive Incendiary/Armor Piercing Ammunition).

    if you’re not wanting a trophy of any kind and don’t mind that whole “chunky salsa” effect, you could just use a MK-19, or equivalent, and just load a belt of 48 HEDP(High Explosive Dual Purpose) grenades and just have fun.

    but if you’re wanting a trophy i would recommend the CheyTac Intervention(.408 CheyTac), M82a1(.50BMG), Zastava M93 Black Arrow(.50BMG or 12.7x1087mm), Vidhwansak(14.5x114m), a Gepard anti-material rifle(.50BMG, 12.7x108mm or 14.5x114mm depending on model), or other high caliber precision/anti-material rifle loaded with HEI or HEIAP rounds.

    or if you think you can shoot something bigger from the shoulder i could recommend something in the 20mm or larger category.

  17. avatar Snowdog says:

    Hellfire ….. not very man-portable, but a sure kill. Also it gives you a bit of time to haul ass away from Rex’s pissed off mate!

  18. avatar Pete says:

    1/4 kiloton tac nuke – “where close counts”.

  19. avatar Van says:

    This question is timely. I just got back from Washington D.C. which included a trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I got to stand next to the assembled bone remnants of a T-Rex and pontificate what it would take to bring that bastard down.

    Could killing a T-Rex with a hand cannon be done? Of course. But you would have to be in total control of your fear and shot placement as that walking nightmare charged you. Good luck with that.

    I think you would have a better chance choking a T-Rex with your feces stained underwear as he consumed your still quivering body than with a handgun.

  20. avatar andrew says:

    I read the original artical and the guy was specificaly asking about a bereta 93fs 9mm . I realy dont know why he bothered asking cuase thats kind of a stupid question. Now as to if any small arm would work i would have to say anything less
    than an anti materiel rifle would be piontless. the guy stating above about the man who brought a .500 not hitting anything well this is all fiction anyway your best bet is to hit the damn thing from a mile away which is what these rifles are desighned to do as you can be a lot more in control over our fear if you know it wont immediently kill you if you miss also what he said about penetration well al i can say is rofouss mk211 (high explosive armour percing incendary) fired from the m82 rifle becuase 11cm rolled steel armour is a lot of penetration but not only does it penetrate the armour it then explodes spraying incenderary mixture all over with a good bit if shrapnel concussion and flame. the bottom line is when your life is in jeoperdy you dont care about a trophy mount.

  21. avatar andrew says:

    of course for close range i would go with a m2 browning firing those same rounds at 750 rounds per minute.

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