Smith & Wesson 500 Beats AK-47 — IN OUTER SPACE! Just Thought I’d Leave This Here

What business does Business Insider have pitting an AK-47 against a Smith & Wesson .50 cal in outer space? That would be like TTAG comparing the effects of Adam Smith and Karl Marx in outer space. That said, it’s good — if not surprising — to know that .50 S&W generates more kick than Mr. Kalashnikov’s fabled long gun. The .50 producing a not-entirely-impressive 1.36mph in rearward travel. Enough to cover a football field in 30 minutes! Sounds like the Texans football team to me. Sounds like “guns are dangerous” to BI. No surprise there, either.


  1. avatar The Duke says:

    Wow so many inaccuracies.

    First you would likely hear a bery muffled bang because sound is carried by a fluid medium. The expanding gas from the bullet would create the expanding medium necessary to carry the “sound waves.” Also because of the extreme pressure difference much of the muzzle flash would come directly at your face

    Secondly the bullet hitting you in the back is not possible. You are not stationary in space you’re moving in orbit. A bullet fired in any direct will change velocity and thus the orbital parameters (apogee and perigee) causing it to take much longer or shorter time to complete one orbit than the astronaut would. Such that you and the bullet would not be reaching the same point in space after one orbit

    Also it’s unlikely you could grab a gun from earth and fire it in the vacuum of space. The temperature extremes would cause the barrel to expand or contract so much that he bullet likely wouldn’t fit through anymore. And the vacuum would cause any grease to vaporize or solidify freezing the firing pin and other movingly parts. Guns simply weren’t design for that environment

    Anyways I’ll hop off my soapbox, in case you’re wondering I am a rocket scientist

    1. avatar WI Joe says:

      Are you telling me that video games and Hollywood are lying to me about physics?? /s

      1. avatar The Duke says:

        I know I was equally shocked and amazed!

    2. avatar bill says:

      the bullet and cartridge would contract just as much as the chamber and barrel. also a lack of grease isn’t a problem to fire a revolver or AK-47. the firing pin channel in the bolt of the AK has plenty of room so nothing is going to stop that short of debris getting clogged in there. the firing pin of any revolver is short and won’t jam. both will fire in the vacuum and extreme cold of outer space.

      however the chamber and barrel might shatter.

      1. avatar The Duke says:

        The firing pin and all works assuming the thermal expansion has not caused the tolerances to get out of wack and the thermal expansion doesn’t cause the metal parts to fuse inside the frame

        The springs, hammer and other such moving parts will also be subject to the same fusing and tolerance issues. Space is a strange place

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “The firing pin and all works assuming the thermal expansion has not caused the tolerances to get out of wack…”

          This is where that famous Russian skill of loose clearances in weapons design for reliability pays off.

          “Space is a strange place”

          100 percent in agreement… 🙂

        2. avatar Scoutino says:

          Space is the only place. Statistically.

    3. avatar Geoff PR says:

      ” And the vacuum would cause any grease to vaporize or solidify freezing the firing pin and other movingly parts. Guns simply weren’t design for that environment ”

      Agree on the first and disagree on the second.

      In the the 70’s, the Russians modified a 23 mm anti-aircraft cannon and mounted it on one of their space stations.

      And fired it.

      Since the Russians have extensive experience in orbit, I assume they applied those skills in regards with choosing a lubricant or grease in a hard vacuum environment.

      (I’m no rocket scientist, but I am an aerospace geek…) 🙂

  2. avatar Docduracoat says:

    That is if the gun would fire in outer space
    Although gun powder has its own oxidizer and does not need air to function, the intense cold of outer space may prevent the springs and hammer from functioning properly
    Normal gun lubricants might freeze into a solid and prevent the hammer from flying forward with the trigger pull
    Even if the gun fired the first shot, in space there is no way to remove heat except by radiation
    The Gun would overheat very quickly overheat in just one or two shots
    If The extreme cold even allowed it to function in the first place
    In Space infantry combat a crossbow would much more effective
    Although a 40 W plasma laser would be nice!

    1. avatar matty 9 says:

      Not sure if over-heating from firing is nearly as big a deal as you make it out to be. There is no greater heat-sink than space. Of course it would have to radiate the heat, convection wouldn’t help at all. IF the gun was in direct sunlight, it’d be pretty warm, maybe even cook off, a very bad thing. If in the shadow of Earth or the moon or even a spacecraft, then I think the frozen gun oil is the biggest fear. Man I’m a nerd, maybe even wrong. Nothing worse than being a wrong nerd.

    2. avatar Hank says:

      Wait, if it overheats because it can’t give off heat, then how does it freeze? I’m not any kind of Astro physicist. That just seems odd to me.

      1. avatar The Duke says:

        It does radiate heat through infrared radiation. It freezes because when it’s not in direct sunlight the “ambient temperature” is around -400 degrees so it gets cold quickly

        The greases “freeze” because of the extreme low pressures, its odd because it’s both freezing and boiling at the same time

        1. avatar NJ2AZ says:

          my very hackjob back of envelope calculations suggest a gun (or rather, a stainless steel block roughly in the shape of a gun) at 70 deg F would take about 4 hours to radiate away all its thermal energy in an absolute zero environment…

          so i guess if you took it out and fired it without dawdling, thermal issues wouldn’t be a problem?

        2. avatar Geoff PR says:

          ” …a stainless steel block roughly in the shape of a gun) at 70 deg F would take about 4 hours to radiate away all its thermal energy in an absolute zero environment…”

          In low-earth orbit (LEO), an orbit is about 90 minuets, half sunlight, half darkness. It seems to me the metal would have a range of temps in that continuous ‘BBQ mode” as project Apollo called rotating the spacecraft for thermoregulation during the moon missions…

        3. avatar Aaron says:

          Well, boiling isn’t odd, considering things boil when the vapor pressure equals the atmospheric pressure. So if there is no atmosphere, it will boil instantly. I guess what you are referring to is the layman’s idea that boiling requires heat, which is why it sounds odd, when boiling is more about pressure than temperature. I’m not a physicist, but I did take Pchem 1 and 2 for my chem degree.

    3. avatar Scoutino says:

      Gun springs would freeze and stop working, but crossbow will not? What is a bow if not a big spring?

  3. avatar matty 9 says:

    But the big question is: Where can I get a S&W .50 caliber built on what looks like a 1911 fram??

    1. avatar Hank says:

      Someone did recently make a .50 1911. I think ttag did the article on it. I think it’s in .50 AE though.

    2. avatar P-Dog says:

      I think you mean Sig P226 frame =)

  4. avatar No one of consequence says:

    That would be like TTAG comparing the effects of Adam Smith and Karl Marx in outer space.


    “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs, comrade Smith…”

    (sighs) “What do you want this time, Karl?”

    “I could really use some propellant…”

    “$400 per kilo of hydrazine.”

    “But what about from each acc…”

    “No, you can’t have my stuff. I had to work for it, so do you for yours.”

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:


  5. avatar Dwi23 says:

    Like metals can cold-weld in the vacuum of space, meaning many internals would fuse together making the gun inoperable.

  6. avatar tmm says:

    Unless precisely aligned with your center of mass, you wouldn’t simply be pushed back in the opposite direction. You’d spin. And while I suppose the trajectory of the bullet could come back to bite you, the chances that it would are…astronomical.

    1. avatar Big Bill says:

      Damn, beat me to it.

    2. avatar jsallison says:


  7. avatar William says:

    I don’t know why everyone’s complaining that guns wouldn’t work in space, the Soviets put a 23mm on one of their stations in the 70s. Worked fine.

    1. avatar The Duke says:

      After extensive modifications to make it operable. And I thought that test didn’t not go entirely well for the station, I believe they suffered some structureal damage

      It can work but only with a lot of mods

    2. avatar jsallison says:

      While Firefly did get the silence right, I noticed that at no time did Wash complain about having to compensate for the offset thrust. And you just know he would’ve complained.

  8. avatar jwm says:

    Swords and spears for space?

  9. avatar Lib lurker says:

    Google says 1.36 mph is .61 meters per second or 0.66 yards per second, wouldn’t that be crossing a football field in under 3 minutes rather than 30?

    1. avatar deepdive68 says:

      You are correct. Using round numbers to make it very quick and easy top of the head, a mile is 1,760 yards. If we just use 1500 yards, then 1.36 mph or ~ 1 1/3 mph is over 2000 yards/hour (1500+500). A 100 yard football field is 1/20 of that. And 1/20 of an hour is 3 minutes. So top of the head, no calculator you would travel the length of a football field in under 3 minutes. If you do the math, 100 yards of travel at that speed is actually 2.5 minutes.

      1. avatar deepdive68 says:

        Grrr edited my post but it didn’t show up … The video actually says 0.136 mph NOT 1.36 mph as in the summary so their 30 minutes is close enough for their point.

  10. avatar John E> says:

    a good blaster at my side or a lightsaber please

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      A lightsaber? Come on. Hokey religions and ancient weapons are not match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

  11. avatar Big Bill says:

    I was really expecting someone to say, “It won’t fire! There’s no air, so the powder can’t burn.”
    I don’t know if I’m impressed, or waiting for some to contradict me.

  12. avatar pg2 says:

    “The .50 producing a not-entirely-impressive 1.36mph in rearward travel. Enough to cover a football field in 30 minutes! Sounds like the Texans football team to me.”-Great stuff.

  13. avatar TweetyRex says:

    Sorry, but space isn’t cold…. or hot. Space is vacuum, which is neither hot or cold. If the gun is in sunlight, it will gain heat faster than it can radiate away, and it will get hot. Just like a black gun left in the sun at the range. If you leave it in the shade, say in a crater on the moon, it will eventually cool down to something above absolute zero. If you wear it in a holster, the heat your body will be radiating away will keep the gun much warmer. If your out on a long patrol (Space Marines), firing a few rounds will heat up the bore, which will conduct through the the rest of the gun MUCH faster than it can radiate away. Prep the weapon the same way you would for work in the Arctic (no grease, low temp light oil or powdered graphite lubricant) and it will be fine.

  14. avatar TweetyRex says:

    On the idea you could shoot yourself in the back when firing a gun in space. The writer doesn’t know orbital mechanics from auto mechanics. if you fire in the direction you’re orbiting, the bullet will have gained energy and end up in a higher orbit. If you fire against the direction of your orbit, the bullet will loose energy and end up in a lower orbit. If orbitals were easy, they wouldn’t need mechanics.

  15. avatar Frank says:

    But we all know that a Glock would perform perfectly in space.

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