Most Dangerous Guns In The World

Since the first recorded use of a gun in 1364, firearms have become vital tools in countries the world over (via PBS). Indeed, some countries' very existence has been decided by the use of firearms. 

Among these countries is the United States, whose sharpshooters fought for independence during the American Revolutionary War (via American Heroes Channel). Almost two centuries later, Chairman Mao — a very different kind of revolutionary – would write, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun" (via Problems of War and Strategy).

In the 21st century, guns are available in all shapes and sizes, from the antique Kolibri, which can fit in the palm of your hand, to the immense Barrett M107A1 .50 caliber sniper rifle, which is 4 feet, 9 inches long — an inch taller than Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.

Perhaps it's obvious which of these guns is likely to cause more damage. But what are the most dangerous guns in the world? Which guns have killed the most people, and which guns are capable of inflicting the most damage? Here are the most dangerous guns in the world.


National Interest named the Maxim 08 machine gun as one of the five deadliest weapons in World War I, a conflict that killed 9.7 million military personnel (via Centre Robert Schuman). On 1 July, 1916 — the first day of the Somme — some 20,000 British troops died, making it the deadliest day in British military history (via History).

Many of these soldiers were killed by the Maxim MG 08, the German variant of Hiram Maxim's original design, which had the equivalent firepower of a hundred soldiers with bolt-action rifles (via National Interest).

The MG 08 was so effective at the Somme because the British had overestimated their artillery power. After smashing the German position with shells for a straight week, British troops walked towards the German line at "a steady pace," following orders given by the Fourth Army, who believed the Germans to be crushed (via Britannica).

As the infantryman covered ground in their dense and wide formations, German troops emerged from their bunkers, waited for the right moment, and opened fire with their MG 08s, spraying the fields with 450 rounds a minute, killing scores of men (via Royal Armouries).

Many grim facts would emerge from that terrible day, which war poet Siegfried Sassoon described as a "sunlit picture of hell." Among them are that one man was killed every 4.4 seconds, and 37 sets of British brothers perished (via History).

Colt AR-15

The Colt AR-15 has gained notoriety because of its use in the mass shootings at Sandy Hook, Sutherland Springs and Stoneman Douglas High School, among others (via Politifact).

Some observers have noted that pistols are used far more often than rifles in lethal shootings, and that is correct (via Statista). However, the magazine size and muzzle velocity of AR-15s causes them to be particularly devastating, according to trauma surgeon Dr. Ernest Moore. Writing for NBC, Moore argues that the AR-15 was "Made for the military, to allow members of the armed forces to better dispatch multiple enemies in short order." Moore specifies that 9 mm handgun rounds travel at 1,200 feet per second and generate 400 foot pounds of kinetic energy. However, the AR-15's 5.56-mm round covers 3,251 feet per second, producing 1,300 foot-pounds.

Dr. Peter Rhee, the surgeon who saved Gabby Giffords' life, has explained the AR-15's power in more metaphorical terms, telling Rolling Stone that a handgun wound is like "a stabbing with a bullet" that "goes in like a nail," while a round from an AR-15 is "as if you shot somebody with a Coke can."

The AR-15's performance, cultural significance and customizability have caused it to be a sales phenomenon. According to Rolling Stone, in 2018, almost one in five guns sold in the United States was an AR-15.


Simply put, the Uzi is a submachine gun that kills people cheaply and effectively. An Israeli firearm, the Uzi has played a key role in defending the country since its founding in the mid-20th century (via National Interest).

Lieutenant Uziel Gal patented the weapon in 1952. Its strengths were clear and numerous: The Uzi is light and compact, can fire 600 rounds a minute, and comes with three safety mechanisms. The design was not only lethal but efficient, too, as the components were made using a stamping press, which meant the gun could be mass-produced.

Recognising the Uzi's potential in close quarters combat, the Israel Defence Forces ordered its first batch in 1954. Two years later, Israeli paratroopers used the gun to clear Egyptian troops from caves in the Sinai Peninsula.

Israel's army phased out the weapon in 2003 (via Britannica). But by that point, the Uzi submachine gun had become a global weapon. It has been used by armed forces from Germany and Japan to Brazil and Peru. It has also appeared in numerous African conflicts and is a favorite among many criminal gangs.


Designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in 1947, the Avtomat Kalashnikova model 47, better known as the AK-47, was the world's first standard issue assault rifle (via National Interest). Since then, the AK-47 has arguably become the most infamous gun in the world, with Control Arms dubbing it, "the world's favourite killing machine."

From the Soviet Union to the Taliban, seemingly every nation and armed group has used the AK-47. And American citizens like the gun too. In 2012, the New York Times reported that the Izhevsk Machine Works in Russia was selling record numbers of Saiga model AK-47s to the American market.

In 2006, a year shy of the rifle's 60th anniversary, Control Arms released a damning report on the AK-47, stating that "The proliferation of Kalashnikovs has resulted in such deadly weapons being used to massacre, maim, rape and abuse, torture, and fuel violent crime." The report specified that this deadly weapon has affected a diverse range of countries, from Britain and the United States to Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico, and Venezuela. It speculated that the AK-47's widespread presence would continue for decades to come, which has been proven true. In the years since, groups including ISIS sympathizers have used AK-47s to maim, kill, and promote their cause (via Tampa Bay Times).

The reasons for the AK-47's success are simple. It is cheap, numerous, and effective. It fires a high-velocity 7.62 x 39 mm round, and has minimal components that are resilient to the elements. Indeed, the AK-47 is so hardy that the lifespan is anywhere between 20 and 40 years (via The Conversation).

With a gun this old and numerous, it is impossible to fully quantify just how deadly it is.

Smith & Wesson .500

As you can probably imagine, larger-caliber guns tend to deal more damage than smaller-caliber alternatives. In fact, according to Duke University, large calibers are 4.5 times more likely to kill you.

However, the Smith & Wesson .500 isn't just a large-caliber handgun: it is the most powerful production revolver in the world (via S&W). YouTuber 1ShotTV demonstrated the difference between a 9-mm handgun and the Smith & Wesson .500 by shooting a ballistic dummy head. The 9-mm weapon inflicts a very nasty wound to the dummy's jaw, but the .500 devastates the entire cranium, leaving absolutely no room for survival.

The Smith & Wesson .500 is effectively a .308 hunting rifle in pistol form. Writing in the National Interest, Kyle Mizokami described the gun as "the epitome of pistol power," adding that it is a "sidearm for hunters chasing very large game, particularly in administering the coup de grace to dangerous, wounded game."

Taurus pistols

Taurus is a Brazilian gun maker that has enjoyed strong sales in the U.S. market, where it is seen as a budget option (via Gun Accident Journal). According to The Motley Fool, from January to September 2020, Taurus achieved record production numbers at its facility in Georgia.

However, a few years earlier, in 2017, Taurus was forced to recall one million of its pistols due to a spate of accidents. For example, in 2015, an 11-year-old boy was killed when his father's Taurus PT 609 pistol discharged without a trigger pull. A year later, a 28-year-old man tore his femoral artery when his holstered Taurus PT-145 Millennium Pro pistol fired without pulling the trigger. Tragically, his parents watched him bleed death.

Further, in 2009, a Taurus PT-140 pistol with the safety turned on fired when the owner dropped it, sending a bullet through her leg, colon, intestines, and liver. She survived, but endured months of invasive medical issues.

The class action lawsuit that led to the recall involved offers of inspection, repair, and a $30 million reimbursement, yet by January 2021, only 20,000 guns had been returned, and just $200,000 issued. That means that the United States is likely still flooded with hundreds of thousands of potentially faulty Taurus handguns that could cause further harm.

Mauser bolt action rifle

The Mauser bolt action rifle was the German infantry's standard issue rifle during World War I and World War II (via Feldgrau). It was used en masse wherever the German Wehrmacht served, including during the Nazi conquest of the Soviet Union, where Mauser rifles were used in some of the deadliest battles in human history (via National Interest).

However, it was not just the German army that used Mauser rifles. The Einsatzgruppen, a death squad tasked with executing Jews, Roma, and others, also carried the firearm. In fact, the Mauser was among the "most common tools" used by the murderous group (via Designed to Kill: The Case Against Weapons Research). The Einsatzgruppen committed some of the worst mass killings in human history, such as the mass shooting at Babi Yar in Ukraine, which killed 33,771 people on September 28 and 29, 1941 (via Britannica). 

The Einsatzgruppen's terrible use of Mauser rifles was immortalized in many grim photographs, such as this one taken in Dubossary on September 14, 1941 (via Memorial de la Shoah). Then there's the infamous Ivanhorod Einsatzgruppen photograph, which shows a German pointing his rifle at a woman and child.

Of the many German troops who carried Mauser rifles, Matthäus Hetzenauer was one of the most effective. From 1943 to 1945, Hetzenauer killed at least 345 Soviet troops with a Mauser K98k with a 6x telescopic sight as well as a Gewehr 43 (via All That's Interesting).


The AR-15 rifle fires a 5.56 mm round, which is a widespread and deadly piece of ammunition. However, most states disallow the round for use in hunting, as it cannot adequately kill big game. Also, 5.56 mm cannot get through engine blocks, which are typically made of cast iron or aluminum alloy (via National Interest & Science Direct).

Enter the AR-500, a heavily modified AR-15 that manufacturer Big Horn Armory claims can down "any dangerous game animal on Earth" and disable "any vehicle." National Interest says that it "might just be the most powerful rifle on the planet."

Whereas the AR-15 is an all-rounder with wide appeal, the AR-500 is very much a niche weapon. It fires the hefty Smith & Wesson .500 rounds that can be packed into 9-round magazines, which could inflict serious damage on targets. The stats make for alarming reading. The aforementioned Smith & Wesson .500 revolver can generate 3,050 foot-pounds of energy, while the AR-500 delivers up to 3,230 with semi-automatic rates of fire (via American Rifleman).

M134 Minigun

At 6,000 rounds per minute, the M134 Minigun has the highest rate of fire of any machine gun in service (via We Are The Mighty). Developed by General Electric in the 1940s and '50s, this dizzyingly powerful gun is used on several military aircraft, such as the UH-1N, H-3, and H-60 helicopters (via Military).

It first saw major action during the Vietnam War, where it was affixed to the famous "Huey" helicopters, the AH-1 Cobra, and other aircrafts. During that conflict, the gun proved to be an invaluable tool in many close air support missions.

The M134 minigun remains an important weapon in the U.S. military arsenal and those of the nation's allies, for it is very effective at suppressing enemy combatants with its relentless fire rate (via Military Factory). Rated Red shows just how outrageous the M134's firepower remains some 50 years after its standardization in the U.S military. 

Metal Storm

The M134 Minigun is a devastating firearm, but Metal Storm is apocalyptic. The prototype weapon can fire 16,000 rounds per second, which is a staggering 1,000,000 rounds per minute (via We Are The Mighty). 

This almost science fiction weapon was the product of Metal Storm Limited, a now defunct company that was based in Queensland, Australia (via Bloomberg).The company released a video demonstrating the various rates of fire at which Metal Storm can fire, starting with 600 rounds per minute, roughly 150 more than the MG08 of World War I. The troops of Flanders Field could have recognised that sound, but they would have been confused by the sound of 180 rounds being fired at 1,000,000 rounds per minute. Metal Storm releases bullets like an enormous shotgun blast, their quantity is imperceptible to the human eye. What is very much perceptible, however, is the impact on their target, which is completely blown away.

As epic as Metal Storm may be, it has never been procured by a nation's military. The U.S. Navy expressed interested in 2007, but the deal didn't come to fruition (via Business Insider). This has been attributed to vague contractual issues, but there is also the immense cost of the weapon, which can fire 24,000 9 mm rounds at five times the speed of sound.

M2 Browning .50 caliber

According to The National Interest, the M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun is considered one of the deadliest weapons ever made. The M2 boasts some formidable statistics, including 850 rounds per minute, a max range of 6,800 meters, and a muzzle velocity of 2,900 foot pounds (via Military).

This lethal combination of rapidity, range and power has caused the M2 Browning to remain relevant in the U.S. military for over nine decades, featuring in conflicts such as World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Carlos Hathcock was the Vietnam War's deadliest sniper, yet his longest kill did not involve a rifle. Rather, he used an M2 Browning with a telescopic sight, hitting his target from 2,460 yards, which was a record until 2002, when it was broken by Canadian sniper Arron Perry. Hathcock would use the customized M2 Browning on many occasions, causing dozens of his 93 confirmed kills with the weapon (via Military).


Of all the major firepower on this list, it is the everyday handgun that poses the greatest gun-related threat to most civilians. In the United States, handguns are responsible for most shooting deaths (via CNN).

In 2020, rifles and shotguns were used in 455 and 203 murders, respectively. Handguns, meanwhile, were used in 8,029 murders (via Statista). Unidentified firearms were used to murder a further 4,863 Americans.

However, stating pistol homicides is only part of the problem, as 60% of gun deaths are suicides. A 2020 study found that when an individual bought their first handgun, they became almost four times more likely to die by suicide (via WebMD). This aligned with a report from the 1980s, which found that handguns were used in 69% of suicides in Sacramento County, California (via AJPH).

Handguns are also rife in the criminal world. Since 2013, Chicago police have collected over 7,000 illegal street guns per year, and approximately 90% of these were handguns (via AP). These guns fuel Chicago's surge in gun homicides, which saw a 56% increase in 2020 alone (via ABC7).

Accidental firearm deaths involving children are another pressing concern. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of children discharging fatal rounds in the home surged by 31%. By August 31, 2021, 104 children had been killed in these tragic incidents (via NPR). One such case occurred in Florida on August 13, 2021. Shamaya Lynn, 21, died when her toddler found a loaded handgun and shot Lynn while she was on a Zoom call (via NBC). Months before that, in February 2021, another young mother was killed when her children found a semiautomatic handgun in her purse, which also injured her youngest child (via NBC).