Q&A: Twenty Ton Melee & “Girl Guns”

You’ve said multiple times that weapons are never too heavy. Then why are there women’s guns that are purposely lighter? Or is that more sexism than because standard guns are too heavy? Also how about when it comes to fantasy and you get extremely heavy handhelded weapons, I’ve seen over 20000kg in one film I’ve watched and it could even change size but keep the same weight.

So, there’s two questions here. So, I’m going start with the second one.

I’m not sure what you were watching, but physics doesn’t work like that. You can’t swing a object that weighs 20 metric tons, unless you weigh more than 20 metric tons.

If you had infinite strength but the same mass you currently posses, and you tried to swing a 20 ton blade, you’d just fling yourself around the grip.

Moving an object isn’t just a function of strength, it’s also a function of leverage and mass. If you were able to get that weapon moving, somehow, it would simply drag you off on whatever path it had planned (or you’d lose your grip.) Think of a child desperately holding onto a medium sized dog’s leash, while the dog drags them across the ground, and you should have a pretty solid grasp of the problem here. It’s not that the dog is stronger than them, it’s that the dog is bigger than them. And off they go.

You could probably pick up the blade, and power lift it, but you couldn’t swing it around.

So, how does this make sense? There are a few ways this could track.

If you’re in some kind of massive exo-suit, then sure. A twenty ton sword is kinda dumb, but it’s not out of place in the mecha genre. If you’re stomping in a bipedal tank, you may already be much heavier the a 20 ton melee weapon, so sure.

If you’re watching an anime and a character’s going on about how their sword is 20 tons? That might just be poetic. It’s a reasonable metaphor for the burden of the violence a character has caused. This applies regardless of whether the story is playing the concept straight, and wants you to consider the immediate weight of violence, or the character may be poetic.

As metaphors go, massively overestimating the weight of a weapon as a larger discussion on the irrevocable nature of violence has merit. The only important critique is whether that discussion point is clearly articulated. Is Guts’s sword in Berserk supposed to be a metaphor for the burden he carries, or is it just because having a huge ass sword looks cool? I mean, “both,” is a viable answer.

One of the, frequently misunderstood, strengths of anime and manga is that there’s often, shocking, metaphorical depth to the material. It only becomes a liability when viewed without the cultural context to understand what’s being said. That cultural context doesn’t come easily, and I’d be lying if I said I understood most of the subtler points when I see them.

This is also a valid consideration in comics and animation. The artist may pick a weapon because they like the aesthetic. The size may be exaggerated because they like it, or because they want to emphasize the weapon in the character’s design. That doesn’t mean you can do it in the real world.

So, having said that, I am aware of weapons that weighed far more than 20 tons in the real world. Superguns are a kind of massive artillery. These boasted ranges in excess of 1k miles (1,600km), and the entire idea was to create an artillery piece that could fire at hilarious distances.

As an example, the 17 inch HARP gun weighed over 100 (imperial) tons. These are ludicrously large weapons. The technology has mostly fallen out of favor. In an era of cruise missiles and drone strike, having an immobile artillery piece like that isn’t as useful as it would have been.

Some smaller artillery pieces probably land closer to the 20 metric ton range. So, for big guns it’s not unheard of. Without checking, I suspect some naval guns are also in that weight range. But, obviously, these are entirely different situations from a melee weapon.

There’s another possible example with enchanted weapons that are restricted to specific wielders. The sword in the stone in Arthurian legend (which may or may not be Excalibur depending on the source) comes to mind as a potential example. The sword doesn’t weigh 20 tons, but it might require that much force to extract from the stone against its will.

Similarly the Marvel Comics (and MCU) version of Mjolnir has an enchantment that prevents most people from moving it.

In either case you’re looking at a weapon that has a fairly normal weight but resists being moved except by select wielders. Of course, once magic becomes a factor, physics becomes much less relevant.

So, there’s no real application for a 20 ton melee weapon. You couldn’t do anything with it, except sink it into the courtyard as a display piece. Heavier melee weapons will wear out their wielder faster, leaving them exhausted and vulnerable sooner. With that in mind, even blunt weapons like warhammers and maces were much lighter than fantasy tends to suggest.

So what about small pistols?

It’s marketing. There’s a real application for compact pistols. If you can take a handgun and reduce the size to make it more concealable, that can be useful in a variety of situations.

The same is true of lighter cartridges. You wouldn’t want to go smaller than 9mm (or .380) if you’re dealing with human threats, but .22s make excellent sporting pistols, and can useful for hunting small game.

The marketing comes in when companies specifically try to sell small caliber, compact pistols to women. That is, just, sexist marketing.

Your average full frame service pistol will weigh roughly 1kg. So ignoring outliers and idiocy (like the Desert Eagle), your average woman will have absolutely no difficulty carrying or using a handgun. Put in context, your clothes weigh more than a handgun.

The irony here is that subcompact pistols aren’t much lighter than full frame ones. There is a significant weight difference in the magazine, because fewer bullets, but the weight of the gun itself isn’t going to be that different.

Recoil is a situation where an inexperienced shooter can get a bad impression. The very short version is that smaller guns tend to have more severe, perceived recoil. Put even simpler, a small gun will kick harder. This may seem counterintuitive if you’re inexperienced.

Now, smaller cartridges will have less recoil. A .45 will kick harder than 9mm, a 9mm will kick harder than a .380, and a .22 will just kinda try to get your attention when you fire. However, a full frame .45 will kick less than a subcompact .45. Ironically, the size of the gun has a greater effect on perceived recoil than the cartridge in most cases.

A danger for any shooter is to start with a subcompact 9mm or .45, and think, “this is how recoil feels, it’ll be worse on a bigger gun.”

The second major issue with marketing guns toward women is advertisers (and consumers primed by those advertisements) treating the gun like a fashion accessory. It’s not. Guns are lethal weapons. You should pick one based on it’s utility first, with aesthetics as a distant consideration after that. But, presentation sells, and people do get sold on under-powered but aesthetically attractive guns.

So, if you’re a woman and you want to buy a handgun, my top picks are the same ones I’d give a man. The Walther P99, The H&K USP, or one of SIG’s duty pistols, like the P226. While it’s not my preference, the Glocks are also a legitimate choice.

But, for someone who doesn’t know their guns, it’s easy to go in and pick up a Taurus .38 because it was pink, and fit their idea of what their gun, “should,” look like.

So, yes, “girl guns,” exist because of marketing. These are lethal weapons. Please, do your research before buying one.

-Starke

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