It seems like this comes up a lot: despite the bad guys having murderous intent, there is at least a tacit agreement not to use projectile weapons or anything else that would make a hole in the ship's hull and cause disastrous decompression.

I assume there have also been stories in which even the good guys out of desperation threaten to cause decompression, sort of the Mutually Assured Destruction that seems to be part of the real-life "defense" plans for some countries.

  • I suspect that this question is futile; the 1930s were the age of the ray gun and other exotic weapons, and many of them, used in space, would not have damaged the hull. For example, Hamilton's "pain ray" (1928), a "poisoned needle-gun" (Cloukey, 1931), Ashton Clark Smith's "zero-ray" (1931), Weinbaum's "glass pistol" (1934), Cumming's "Banning gun" (1938) and so on. There are stun rays, paralysis beams, Heinlein had a ray that caused epileptic convulsions... Then there are death beams, rays and others that ignore structures and just kill people...
    – DavidW
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 3:54
  • And on the other side of the question, up into the 1940s most space ships are built like battleships, and small arms aren't going to affect them. Even when lighter ships appear, most are dealt with realistically enough that a small meteor puncture is a patchable, survivable event. It makes no sense for a spaceship to rapidly decompress from a bullet-sized hole.
    – DavidW
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 3:58
  • @DavidW: But some stories do have fear that using a weapon will penetrate the hull. Obviously, where weapons don't penetrate the hull, there would not be this plot element. A ray gun, in real life a laser certainly melts through metal. Poison darts would be a great weapon for space that would allow both sides to happily kill each other. The soviets equipped their cosmonauts with shotguns (for wolves, not space wolves but real ones) which at least in the Lunar Lander would be unusualable (against space wolves). I think we also gave our guys weapons even though we say we did not. Maybe not.
    – releseabe
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 4:08
  • Our guys landed in water, making the use of guns less effective, especially against wolves. Commented May 31, 2023 at 5:14
  • 1
    @releseabe: More details at gizmodo.com/… and probably other places, but it seems the justification was entirely terrestrial survival, although knives are often good multipurpose tools, and I'm of the belief that it's better to have and not need than need and not have.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 12:38


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