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Can Guns Shoot Underwater: Handguns, Shotguns & More

Andrew Maurer | Updated December 22, 2023 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
Cover photo of Can Guns Shoot Underwater showing a rifle fired underwater

If you’ve ever wondered, “Can guns shoot underwater?” don’t worry, I’ve asked that too. Movies offer glimpses of it in action, and sometimes a bullet goes far while other times it stops immediately.

So which is correct?

Key Takeaways

  • Most modern guns can be fired underwater but with reduced functionality and effectiveness.
  • The presence of water impacts the bullet’s speed, trajectory, and overall force.
  • Specialized underwater firearms used by military forces can accurately function in aquatic environments.

Can Guns Shoot Underwater?

Hand holding a rifle underwater

While some firearms are specifically designed to function effectively underwater, the performance of most guns is greatly impacted by the presence of water.

When a gun is fired underwater, the density of the water impacts the bullet’s speed and trajectory. Generally, bullets travel much slower underwater because of water resistance, affecting their overall force and accuracy. 

Despite this, most modern guns can still be fired underwater (as long as water doesn’t get into the bullet casing). The necessary components for the explosion that propels the bullet are all contained within the cartridge. 

However, guns are still less functional and effective in these conditions.

Handgun submerged in the water

In fact, a Norwegian physicist conducted an experiment underwater to debunk some gun myths and show that the result is not as we may expect. The bullet met immediate resistance and slowed rapidly once it exited the barrel filled with water, eventually falling onto the pool’s floor.

While it’s clear that many guns can shoot underwater, it’s essential to recognize that the outcome depends on many factors, including the type of firearm and the specific conditions in which it’s being used. 

In particular, specialized firearms designed for underwater use, such as those used by military forces like Navy SEALs, can accurately and effectively function in aquatic environments.

So, what about a rifle’s, handgun’s, and shotgun’s ability to shoot underwater?

Rifles

AK-47 rifle held by both hands

Certain rifles, such as 7.62×39 AK-47 rifles, have been known to function underwater, albeit with reduced performance. The gunpowder in rifle cartridges still contains an oxidizer that allows the ignition to happen.

However, shooting a rifle underwater is not without its challenges. The water’s drag on bullets significantly slows them down, reducing their range and impact.

Additionally, firing a rifle underwater can be difficult due to erratic movement caused by water resistance.

Handguns

A handgun fired underwater

Underwater performance of handguns, like semi-automatic pistols and revolvers, varies greatly depending on the make and model. Some firearms are designed specifically for underwater use and have features to help them function better. 

For example, some have larger firing pins to ignite the primer more effectively. However, most handguns are not designed with underwater shooting in mind, and their functionality can be drastically reduced or compromised when submerged in water. 

Like rifles, bullets fired from handguns will experience a significant drop in range and speed due to water drag.

All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife.

Daniel Boone

Shotguns

Now, can you shoot a shotgun underwater?

Well, shotguns are not typically suitable for underwater use. The widespread nature of shot pellets makes them even more susceptible to the water’s drag than bullets, slowing down and dispersing the pellets much faster than above the surface. 

As a result, a shotgun’s effectiveness is much reduced when fired underwater. More importantly, note that firing any gun underwater, including shotguns, can carry potential dangers, especially if the firearm is not designed for such use.

So, while it’s technically possible for some guns to shoot underwater, multiple factors such as water drag, gun design, and cartridge composition can significantly influence their performance, often rendering them ineffective or unpredictable.

Can You Fire a Gun in Space?

Hand holding a gun and a black background

In space, there is no atmosphere, so many people might think it’s impossible to fire a gun. However, modern ammunition contains its own oxidizer, a chemical that triggers the explosion of gunpowder, making it possible to shoot a gun in space.

So, a gun can indeed shoot in the vacuum of space, but the reaction would be slightly different than on land. 

Due to the lack of air resistance and gravity, the bullet would travel in a straight line indefinitely unless it encounters an object or is influenced by a gravitational force. Similarly, the gun’s recoil would propel the shooter in the opposite direction, albeit at a relatively slow speed.

Handgun held by both hands and a blurry background

So, while it may seem counterintuitive, guns can be fired in space. The unique properties of space lead to some interesting outcomes, but as long as the ammunition contains an oxidizer, the firing process can take place.

How Do Navy SEALs Carry Guns Underwater?

Navy SEALs are some of the world’s most highly trained military personnel, and part of their training includes learning how to carry and use guns underwater.

Though it might sound straightforward, there’s more to it than just gripping the weapon. The drag from the water complicates things.

A warrior is not a person who carries a gun. The biggest war you ever go through is right between your own ears. It’s in your mind. We’re all going through a war in our mind, and we have to callus our minds to fight that war and to win that war.

David Goggins

With water pressure and resistance at play, conventional bullets often fall short. They’re either slowed considerably or broken apart in such conditions.

A bullet traveling in the water when the gun is fired

To tackle this issue, new bullets have been developed that form a bubble of air around them, allowing them to travel with fewer restrictions underwater.

One solution is using specialized underwater firearms, such as spear guns. These guns are developed explicitly for underwater use and have better reliability in aquatic environments, making them a popular choice among Navy SEALs

Spear gun in the ocean

Additionally, some weapons have been adapted from their standard design to work efficiently underwater, like the Mk. 1 Underwater Defense Gun.

When carrying a gun underwater, SEALs need to be mindful of the potential damage water can cause to their firearms. Advanced watch-like devices have been designed to alert them when the water pressure around their weapons becomes too high, potentially causing problems for the gun. 

Using these devices and specially designed gear helps SEALs ensure their guns remain functional while operating in aquatic environments.

Gun fired underwater

For more reading take a look at our guide on how you adjust front AK-47 sites.

FAQs

Is it possible to shoot in water?

Yes, it is possible to shoot a gun in water, but its functionality and effectiveness are significantly reduced. Almost all modern firearms can fire underwater, as everything needed to cause the explosion to propel the bullet out, including an oxidizer, is present in the cartridge. However, the bullet will travel more slowly and with less force underwater than in the air.

What guns can be used underwater?

Guns that can be used underwater are any with ammunition containing an oxidizer, which most modern guns have. However, it’ll only work in a very limited capacity and may be unsafe. So, only specialized firearms designed for underwater use will work well.


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