How fast are bullets fired from stone locks

What non-metallic materials would make weapons and bullets possible?

(See also: War Without Metal)

Metals (including base metals such as tin and iron) are a rare commodity around me. Because of this, people need to make weapons such as firearms (weapons) with other resources.

To reach today's level of technology, people discovered how to create and manipulate buckminsterfullerene (also known as buckyballs) to make electronics such as computers.

Guns are still made by firing a bullet with an explosion (like today), so brittle materials like wood won't work.

You must assume:

  • Guns still use bullets, which means the bullets must have a secure casing as well.
  • Humans are as advanced as they are today, so you can use any material that is not uncommon.
  • The "no metal" rule applies to base metals such as tin, iron, copper, etc., which means that they are all considered rare.
  • Man is the only species and the earth is the only planet.

In a nutshell, What could weapons and bullets be made of if metal could not be used?

Cort Ammon

And a related question: How are they advanced as far as we do without the fundamental materials that have shaped the course of industrial society? The answer to this question will give very strong suggestions as to how they would accelerate a projectile quickly, since they must have discovered something comparatively useful in order to advance their progress. Without steel they have to be in a different area essential be more advanced than us. Maybe bioengineering? I bet there are biomaterials that can withstand the pressure

Old cat

The low density of materials other than metal and the brittleness make penetration of an alternative ball a problem.

Obie 2.0

It can be done, but it is difficult. See this reference. This is a non-metallic fluorocarbon resin ball. During the test, it appeared to blast a hole four inches in diameter and four inches deep in a target designed to simulate a human. I think this is at least proof of concept that non-metallic spheres are both possible and usable. It is believed that research in this area would have been a little more mainstream if ordinary bullets hadn't already been perfect for their most common uses.

In the case of weapons, plastic weapons are already feasible and tested. You can even build one at home, although there is no way I would recommend it.

In short, yes, with modern technology, humanity could probably make a non-metallic weapon with non-metallic bullets.


This. Of course we wave our hands how we can get to advanced, modern technology. But since they have computers with buckyballs, that goes without saying. And probably a matter of course that until recently they had no weapons. Although the plastic gun was leaning on the metal ball housing.


In a world without metal, you'd see the rise of crossbow devices, doing almost the same damage without using explosives. If you insist on having guns with explosives but not metal, and it's a sufficiently advanced society, they may be using some type of composite plastic like carbon fiber. The world of 3D printing has shown us that you can make firearms without metal, they just don't last that long. Given enough time, stronger composites would be created that could meet the requirements of firearms.


Hello Zach, welcome to Worldbuilding! I want to point out that most modern 3D printed guns use some metal parts and metal cartridges. Not using metal would be an additional challenge.


I imagine they would use a cartridge-less system or also construct them from some kind of composite material. Maybe cartridges made of some kind of fullerene material, since they are already used in the universe for computers.


The metal cartridges help contain the charge and dissipate heat. Would other materials be useful?

Carl Kevinson

Metal cartridges do not offer any significant heat dissipation benefit. If anything, they facilitate the flow of heat from the combustion gases to the chamber wall. They can be made of plastic, but this creates difficulties in extracting and reusing the housings.

pjc50 discusses this question. The answer seems to be "not right now, but people are working on it".

A world without metal, but with the latest technology would have put a lot of work into ceramics and glass. All the efforts that our current civilization has put into metallurgy. You would likely start with a stone cannon and work on reducing its size.

A more fundamental question: what is the planet made of? Note that both human and plant biology depend on trace metals and most rocks are high in silicates. If you can make a silicon carbide crystal with the correct cylindrical shape, you can use it for the base of the weapon barrel and make the rest of ceramic composite.


I just don't think you'd get guns as we are currently thinking about them. Explosive propellant is too closely related to metallurgy.

What I think you would get instead is crossbow style and rocket launcher style. Fireworks are an ancient weapon of war that is way ahead of weapons. Fireworks launched from the tube seems a more logical direction.

And maybe the rifle, guidance, etc., may develop earlier in the process, simply because of the nature of the projectile. Bullets have to be pretty easy because of the concussion. Missiles can be much more complicated (and may have to be, as initial speed changes their use significantly).


Gyrojets! Plus one for that.

Dan Smolinske

You mention the use of buckyballs for computers. The same technology could work for weapons made with other carbon allotropes.


Graphene could be used to provide high tensile strength that contains the explosive force with very low weight. This could be supplemented with other non-metallic materials to provide rigid strength.

Spheres could use diamond or lonsdaleite to provide a strong, penetrating material. Housing would be open graphene balloons.