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Gun vs Dragon


So the general state of firearms technology in my world is that flintlock style pistols and muskets are around, but not common at all. Anyways, I was wondering hypothetically whether firearms of this type would be any help against a dragon.


It depends on the dragons. How thick/resistant are their scales? Are they more vulnerable along the underbelly?

Maybe consider how much more difficult they'd be to penetrate as compared to a breastplate? Some firearms could penetrate, and thus defeat a knight.

Are the muskets rifled or smoothbore? That will affect accuracy, especially beyond close range. A rifle would be more effective than a pistol--both accuracy and ability to penetrate a dragon's hide.

Accuracy could allow a shot to the eye or open mouth, if other areas are not vulnerable to penetration bullets fired from flintlock style firearms.

In my fantasy series, more advanced firearms than what you're considering (WW II era machine guns and U.S. Civil War era muzzle-loading rifles) could penetrate a dragon's hide.


Article Team
Spontaneously and unscientifically I'd say no. Dragons are too badass and flintlocks aren't cool enough.


Hmm, I'd say a dragon's hide would be equivalent to plate armour, which I could imagine a shot penetrating. The accuracy issue is interesting. And thinking about it now, I don't think guns would be very effective at all, at least compared to a crossbow.

But what about bombs?


Article Team
The main issue I can see with flintlocks would be the time it takes to reload them. I don't picture them as rapid fire weapons, but I do picture that you'd have to shoot quite a lot at a dragon to do some damage to it.

Bombs would probably be at least a major inconvenience to a dragon, but again, it very much depends on the dragon and on the bomb.


Civil War era percussion lock muskets used a 58-69 caliber minié-ball; if you have decent marksmanship and are trained at reloading, you can manage 3 aimed shots in a minute. Likely, such a round at medium range (270 yards for the average Springfield musket) would be able to go through the engine block of a car, dragon armor likely has less resistance and isn't as thick.

If you consider that you may have someone keeping the dragon busy, you could hypothetically do a good amount of damage if you hit the more delicate parts of the dragon, even if you only manage 3 or 4 shots before he turns his attention on you. If you use a later model Enfield rifle musket, it has slightly better range and still a good .577 caliber round with more penetrating power, the reload rate was about the same, so you could do a bit more than with a Springfield.

This does not take into account specialized rounds (mercury tipped, explosive etc), nor of the size of said dragon, which in traditional literature can vary from 30 feet long to 300+. On a smaller dragon I would think you could likely kill a dragon with only a musket and have the same musket be like a pea shooter against the bigger sorts.

Cannons, howitzers or Gatling guns would probably be more effective against the larger ones, with all the lead flying through the air or the specialized ammo like "Mast Cutters" "Grapeshot" "Explosive" rounds for the cannons. (which were used as far back at the revolution against the large Man o' War's the English navy used at the time.
I can't find the source, but TV Tropes claims that Tolkien once argued that guns wouldn't work well against dragons. Overlapping sets of hardened scales would be more vulnerable to swords and other slashing weapons.


Honestly, it's whatever you want. A dragon must be magical to some extent, otherwise all those attributes we give dragons just wouldn't make sense. If your dragon is magic, then logical rules of what a flintlock shot will or will not penetrate don't have to apply.
I'm almost certain that there is a much larger chance of indirect damage and irritation from musket fire.


Musket balls are notorious for not going through their target, instead lodging in it, along with it, they pull fabric and anything else in the path into the target with them. This is one of the reasons why rifled rounds became the norm, they had much more penetration power.


Dragons aren't real obviously, but if they had a cousin, it'd be the alligator. As alligators grow, their skin becomes increasingly thick, making them an ideal predator in the wild with few competitors, especially within rivers and streams. Alligators can be brought down with a well-placed shot from a large caliber rifle, though it could take multiple shots, and a gator is likely to survive shots from a low caliber rifle like a .22

Now multiply that beast by x10, x20, x30 times in size. These smaller musket balls would, in most instances, ricochet off of the larger plates, maybe dent and or lodge themselves into the plate itself. The legs and underbelly would be less guarded; some, if any, musket balls could penetrate into the Dragon, lodging them into its muscles, under its scales, but it's most likely that none will even reach arteries or cause any fatal damage.

The real damage would be caused from untreated wounds, infection, irritation, loss in movement, and anything else that could follow; so like I said, indirect damage.


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
I would have trouble reading about a flintlock penetrating a dragon hide. It would pull me out of the story because I would find it so hard to believe. They just don't have that kind of power.


If you have flintlocks, you have cannons. If you have ball ammo and you have cannons, you can build a shotgun with an eight-inch-diameter barrel firing a cone of shot the size of walnuts.

You may not kill a dragon with multiple hits of grapeshot, but there is nothing, man or beast, anywhere that won't leave you alone after you shoot it in the face a couple of times. I can't imagine dragons are an exception.


You would need quite a large caliber to do any significant damage to a dragon. A massed volley might be able get a few penetrations if they hit it in the right spot.

I think a volley of cannon fire, if they can manage to hit the damn thing, would be quite effective, and very, very messy.

I wonder if a giant could handle the recoil of a cannon...
It would definitely depend on size, and the particulars of magic and scales.

A couple weeks ago I added some musings about that to our Dragonslaying thread, with the Quetzalcoatlus as a model for a lion-sized 500-pound "village dragon" that wouldn't need much magic to function. This is the kind of thing that a hunter or warrior wouldn't need to be legendary to beat, but he'd have to be smart, lucky, and very brave. And he'd still end up a legend in that county (or else a cautionary tale :rolleyes:).

But the more a dragon (or any other monster, like those trolls attacking Gondor) wanted to come out of the wilds and rampage, the more it would have to be toughened against arrows-- which other threads tell us punch right through things like deer. Then again, even one of those minor dragons would be gargoyle-tough on top of all its other powers if it had alligator-thick hide, and the same hide on something bigger... (In fact, Smaug didn't have gator-scales or the "tenfold shields" protection he bragged about, he was probably less armored and more just big; the book says every arrow the lake-men shot hurt him just a little. His problem was how that one completely bare patch was right over his heart.) For an example of how size matters, consider how a whale takes a lot of harpooning to bring in, and that's without having to stop shooting to duck dragonfire.

So the bigger (and more magically-powered) you make your dragon, the larger the force it can take on-- and the more it'd have to at least sometimes, since it'll eat more, or be tied to more magical places, or otherwise make bigger ripples in the world. But the more you thicken its armor, the more it can beat them easily, until the hero comes up with something better.

--Yes, that's a lot about arrows and other period weapons, and not so much about guns. But I think the power difference between guns and arrows isn't nearly as great as between dragons and dragons. A story just needs to pin down what kind of action it wants, and which ways its dragon needs to be just how tough, and its guns too.

As for the idea that guns aren't cool enough to kill a dragon, that depends on the impression they make in the story. If flintlocks are common, it might be time for a really nasty dragon to put the humans in their place again. But a world that's just discovering gunpowder could make a great story with how people replaced their old terrors with their own power.


Closed Account
So the general state of firearms technology in my world is that flintlock style pistols and muskets are around, but not common at all. Anyways, I was wondering hypothetically whether firearms of this type would be any help against a dragon.

In my fantasy world, no. In your fantasy world, tis up to you. Make the call writer, make the call.


I think the way I'll go is that people planning on killing a dragon will fight it using a variety of techniques, but for range they'll use bows or crossbows. However, once the beats is grounded and there's less chance of missing, people may resort to guns as an alternative to melee. But even then, since guns are so rare and valuable, most people forced into fighting a dragon will use melee weapons for close combat.


Guns might be better than arrows at grounding a dragon? We've been talking about whether a flintlock could penetrate a hide, but if your dragons have wings... well, those are pretty vulnerable to bullets, I'd think. Probably more effective at putting holes in the wing than a regular bow and arrow. If your world has some sort of pellet shot, that could decimate a wing if it's flying low enough to hit it. (Would probably have a bit of collateral damage, though...)

Of course, if it's got small enough wings, then you're back at the aiming problem. I tend towards dragons with wingspans in the triple digits, though, so I'm working off of that.