In one of the John Carter Barsoom books there is mention made of long range rifles used by one of the Green Martian clans

Update: Thanks to comments from Klaus AE Morgensen I've now got the actual quote, it's from 'A Princess of Mars'

"The weight of these rifles is comparatively little, and with the small caliber, explosive, radium projectiles which they use, and the great length of the barrel, they are deadly in the extreme and at ranges which would be unthinkable on Earth. The theoretic effective radius of this rifle is three hundred miles, but the best they can do in actual service when equipped with their wireless finders and sighters is but a trifle over two hundred miles.

My question is:- Has there ever been an instance in one of the battle scenes in the books where such a weapon was actually used?

  • 2
    Might help if you listed the five titles you've already checked.
    – user14111
    Oct 27, 2020 at 5:34
  • I believe that the statement about Green Martians' ability with rifles is from A Princess of Mars. I distinctly remember it mentioned, and it isn't in the only other Barsoom book I have read (Thuvia, Maid of Mars). I don't remember coming across any mention of this ability being used in any of the two books. Oct 27, 2020 at 8:29

1 Answer 1


There are remarkably few mentions of the rifles being used, and as far as I know none that feature the extreme range. In A Princess of Mars John Carter is attacked by Tharl warriors sent to capture Dejah Thoris:

There was but one slight chance and that we must take quickly. Raising my strange Martian rifle to my shoulder I sighted and touched the button which controlled the trigger; there was a sharp explosion as the missile reached its goal, and the charging chieftain pitched backward from his flying mount.

In Thuvia Maid of Mars Thar Ban abducts Thuvia then is pursued by a group who also wanted to abduct Thuvia and were ticked off that Thar Ban got in first:

Now from behind her came the shouts of her red abductors. They were racing madly after him who dared to steal what they already had stolen. As Thar Ban reached the side of his mount he snatched his long radium rifle from its boot, and, wheeling, poured three shots into the oncoming red men. Such is the uncanny marksmanship of these Martian savages that three red warriors dropped in their tracks as three projectiles exploded in their vitals.

Later in the book Jav relates to Cathoris how Lothar was attacked by Torquasians, and rifles are mentioned but it isn't clear if they are the same rifle:

"But after the Torquasians had retreated beyond bowshot, they turned upon us with their terrible rifles, and by constant popping at us made life miserable within our walls."

And later Cathoris' flyer is attacked with rifle fire. Again it isn't explicit that these are the Martian long rifles:

Then Thuria came low above the other craft. The Kaolians were forming under their officers in readiness to board, and then a sudden fierce fusillade from the rifles of the green warriors vomited their hail of death and destruction into the side of the brave flier.

In the seventh book, A Fighting Man Of Mars, a new type of rifle is invented that shoots a disintegrating ray rather than an explosive shell.

I suspect that Burroughs was indulging in his usual purple prose when initially describing the rifles, and not introducing any important plot device. How would you aim a rifle at a target 200 miles away? Especially when the horizon on Mars is only a couple of miles away.

  • 1
    "when equipped with their wireless finders and sighters" -- this sounds like a 1920 description of radar, written by someone who doesn't understand the resolution limits of wavelength.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Oct 27, 2020 at 11:18
  • 1
    The longest sniper shots on record right now took 10 seconds from rifle to target. It's hard to see, unless you were shooting at a perfectly immobile target, a flight time any longer being practical. On Mars, at around 200 miles, that would equate to a muzzle velocity of around 10,000 m/s. Escape velocity on Mars is about 5,030 m/s. One begins to see the problem. Oct 27, 2020 at 15:37
  • Fair enough, it seems like ERB raised this interesting weapons premise but didn't follow through with it being used. I'll accept the answer given
    – Danny Mc G
    Oct 27, 2020 at 22:51

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