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Lightning Gun

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"We've got lightning guns. We can do anything."
Atomic Robo and the Shadow from Beyond Time


In Real Life, for electric current to flow there must be a difference in electrical potential. There must be negative and positive termini for current to flow between. Not so in fiction. Quite often, it will be possible for some device or some person to simply fire a lightning bolt more or less straight forward toward another presumably electrically neutral object, with no sign of building up charge separation beforehand. It is rare to see lightning weapons or electricity-based Elemental Powers that have electricity behaving the way it does in Real Life.

This trope is primarily about electric weapons or attacks that appear to throw electricity around as if it's a massive object like a bullet, a shell, or an arrow, rather than a system of electrons moving in response to electric potential, and sometimes hitting multiple enemies simultaneously. Aversions are electric weapons or attacks that actually follow the rules of how electricity works.


When this is an actual gun, it can be regarded as a cooler version of the basic Ray Gun or flamethrower. No matter how outlandish the idea is, adding Nikola Tesla as (the inspiration for) the creator will immediately suspend any disbelief a reader may have.

Science shows like Mythbusters and others have explored the possibility. The general consensus is that it's possible in a couple of ways, but requires so many conditions/complications that the idea of creating a practical one is virtually zero.

Recently there have been a few examples of lightning gun technology deployed in real life, though it obviously doesn't function the same as in fiction.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach Bount Assault on Soul Society arc, episode #108. During his final battle with Ichigo, Jin Kariya reveals that his doll's control over wind allows it to generate and throw lightning at his opponents. He wears it on his arm and points it at Ichigo while shooting lightning bolts at him.
  • During a fight with Rakan in Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi temporarily transforms into lightning primarily to boost his speed. This much is Hand Waved through the magic system, but then it subverts part of the usual fault: Rakan is able to sense the momentary charge up of energy and counterattack accordingly.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED's Lightning Strike (from the MSV line) is not actually an example; despite the name, its main weapon is actually a high-powered railcannon. However, in Gundam SEED Delta Astray, the Earth Alliance obtains and modifies a Lightning Striker so its railgun can also recharge MS' batteries at a distance.
  • Averted in Darker Than Black in which the main character's electricity attack must be used through conductive material.
  • Great Mazinger's Thunder Breaknote  and Grendizer's Space Thunder; when partnered up in Super Robot Wars, they gain a combination attack called the Double Lightning Buster. In the Mazinkaiser OVA, Shin Great Mazinger has a more powerful version which SRW dubbed the Double Thunder Break.
  • Misaka Mikoto from A Certain Scientific Railgun. She is an electromaster, which is a nice way of saying "someone who can generate electricity and use it". Her powers revolve around electricity, and magnetism, and her most basic attack is blasting someone with electricity to unconsciousness. And since all espers are low-level reality warpers, she can completely ignore the laws of physics if she focuses on the electricity. In one episode, Mikoto happens to be near a power station, and she accidentally caused a city-wide blackout because her gathering of electricity accidentally caused the power station to overload.
  • As his name suggests, RaiRyu from GaoGaiGar. He also lends his power to his combinations GekiRyuJin and GenRyuJin.

    Comic Books 

  • The Matrix features guns that fire lightning bolts as common weapons in the real world.
    • Not as cool as it sounds. They are somewhat effective on the sentinels due to instantly stunning them but it takes quite a few seconds of continous fire to fry one. And sentinels are never alone.
    • They'll do a number on a person, though, but that's not what they were designed for. Humans in the real world are all supposed to be on the same side.
  • In Stardust, lightning is captured to use in this way. In the movie Tristan uses captured lightning to attack a witch. It doesn't go very straight, though, and behaves a bit more like real lightning.
  • In the 2005 film version of War of the Worlds, the Tripods use electron particle beam weaponry.
  • The Ghostbusters use a very specialized version of this trope for their Proton Packs (guns that fire very specific charged particles to weaken and trap ghosts).
  • The Running Man. Dynamo's "Electrical Launcher".
  • One of the Prawn weapons in District 9 is a Lightning Gun that appears to home in on targets and completely splatters them all over the surrounding scenery.
  • Battle in Outer Space. The Ray Guns the Earth forces use appear to shoot bolts of electricity.
  • First Men in the Moon (1964). The Selenites have a large crystal-tipped cannon that can fire lightning bolts. They use it to kill a huge caterpillar-like monster.
  • In Silent Night, Santa kills Bratty Girl with a cattle prod.

  • In Ball Lightning, the Thunderball Machineguns fire electrified...structures but is considered firing lightning.
  • The Scepter of the Ancients in Skulduggery Pleasant fired lightning. Then again, it was black, magic lightning...
  • In Victor Appleton's Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle, Tom Swift creates a weapon that fires a concentrated charge of electricity like a bullet. The charge could pass through any material: it took effect at a pre-set range from the rifle.
    • True Story: The modern day Taser gets its name from an acronym of this example (Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle). Apparently the inventor was a fan.
  • The Wunderland Treatymaker from Man-Kzin Wars is a Kill Sat-scale, double-barreled version of a Disintegrator Ray. It wouldn't fit this trope, except that Known Space Disintegrator Rays work by making all the atoms in the target temporarily positive ions. There is also a variant that makes all the atoms in the target negative ions. The Treatymaker had one barrel of each type. Correspondingly, when it was fired, a thirty mile long bar of lightning flowed between the two points where the beams touched the planetary surface.
  • The Great Race of Yith from H. P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Out of Time are described using lightning guns. How exactly they work is not described, but apparently they look kind of like old-fashioned cameras.
  • In the Dale Brown books from Warrior Class on, Tin Man Powered Armor suits mount electrodes that can fire electric blasts over a distance. No attempt is made to explain how it works. Possibly the softest element in the series.
  • In the novel The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, Lightning Guns make an appearance under the incredibly cool name of "Soul Stealers."
  • Brian Gragg aka "Loki Stormbringer" from the Daemon books uses the Laser-Induced Plasma Channel weapon (aka "electrolaser" or LIP-C) to kill folk.
  • Dust of Dreams, book nine of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, has the K'Chain Nah'Ruk who wield weapons whose descriptions put them very close to tesla coils. They generate enough electricity to enable them to shoot lightning at their enemies.
  • Lin Carter's Thongor of Lemuria novel Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus. Thongor's fleet of floaters (air boats) is armed with a weapon that fires lightning bolts, the energy for which is stored in sithurl crystals.
  • Averted in The Wheel of Time - magic users are capable of creating lightning, but it really does work by moving electrons to build up a large negative charge in one area and then releasing it. As a result, Mat is still vulnerable to Rahvin's lightning at the end of book 5 despite his Anti-Magic medallion. The backstory mentions "shocklances" that were once in common use and were implied to work with this principle (probably combined with Boom Stick).
  • The Clanker Tesla Cannons from Behemoth, a cluster of Tesla coils tipped with long spines, which makes it look like a radio array (the illustration, however, looks like a square-barreled cannon). It's designed to shoot down airships by simulating a lightning strike and set their hydrogen alight.
    • The sequel's eponymous Goliath is a supercharged version, designed to sync up with Earth's electromagnetic field, and is powerful enough to set the air on fire. At least, that's what Tesla was convinced it would do.
  • In the Paradox Trilogy, charge throwers are lightning guns designed to be non-lethal anti-armor weapons. They shoot bolts of electricity which pass straight through Deflector Shields and short out Powered Armor.
  • Damsels of Distress: Jen has electric powers and uses them to charge her electrobolter, a gauss gun that fires small metallic particles that channel electricity in between them, making it look like the gun shoots lightning.
  • In the Magic Ex Libris series, the Hero Isaac has one of these starting with the second book. It has six settings, from "stun" to "make a dinosaur extra-crispy". Or, you know, a Dragon make of mining equipment...
  • In Heart of Steel, Alistair uses one of these to incapacitate Cyborg!Jim. He calls it the Jovian Stormcaller.

    Live Action TV 
  • Warehouse 13 has a gun that shoots an electrical pulse.
  • The Initiative in season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer used these to fight demons.
  • The Mythbusters, while testing the myth of using water to increase a taser's range, created one of these by firing a large squirt gun from inside a Tesla coil.
    • Another show set out to recreate sci-fi themes tried to create a lightning gun. While they were able to create a rudimentary one using ionized gas, it was large, clunky, short ranged, and could only be used in a specially conditioned room.
  • Stargate SG-1 has Zats, snake-shaped handguns that fire stun lightning.
  • The Green Hornet episode "Invasion from Outer Space". The "alien" Vama can throw lightning at opponents using a battery-filled belt.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu.
    • The Yithians (Great Race) often have lightning guns. In the Fragments of Fear adventure "Valley of the Four Shrines" one of the Yithians has one.
    • The Stars Are Right! supplement, adventure "Music of the Spheres". The Mi-Go have an electric rifle that throws a bolt of electricity.
    • Terror from the Stars supplement. The Mi-Go have a "electric gun" that fires a bluish bolt of sparks that does damage, causes muscle spasms and can cause death.
  • The Dark Conspiracy supplement Darktek has the "E.T. Stun Gun". It fires a laser to ionize the air, then discharges an electric current that followed the ionization path, much like the real-world electrolaser.
  • BattleTech has the Particle Projection Cannon (PPC) which ionizes a path to fire what is effectively a lightning blast against battlemechs. It, and all its derivatives, are considered the heavy tier of the energy weapons category of armaments. Tech 2 and 3 rules introduce many flavors of PPC such as the snub-nosed PPC which has a very large short range but a steep fall-off in medium and long range reach, make it effectively a Sawed-Off Shotgun.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, blue dragons have electric breath weapons and shocker lizards shock their prey.
    • Also weapon enhancements that deal electricity or lightning damage can be applied to ranged weapons that then deal the damage via the ammunition.
    • Likewise Wands of Lightning, which can cast Lightning Bolt spells.
    • Javelin of Lightning, a classic item that on hit creates a lightning bolt blasting everything behind it.
    • In the Planescape adventure Doors to the Unknown, the units of the world of Logicus behind the Third Door have lightning guns.
    • Cygnar in the Iron Kingdoms has them too.
    • White Dwarf magazine #28 adventure "Counterstrike". The Ralkans are based on the Martians in H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. They have 80 foot high tripod fighting machines with lightning guns that can fire a lightning bolt up to 1/2 mile away.
    • The main game has electrolasers. However these are merely stunguns that don't need a wire. Electrolasers are actually in development, see Real Life.
    • Wild Cards. One of Modular Man's Shoulder Cannons can be a lightning gun.
  • The Battlelords of the 23rd Century supplement Lock N' Load: Weapons and Tactics has weapons called "Thunderbolt Generators" that fire bolts of lightning.
  • The Champions supplement Gadgets! has an Electric Gun that fires lightning bolts.
  • Steve Jackson Games' Toon. The "Mektoon" section of the Tooniversal Tour Guide has a Lightning Cannon as a possible mecha weapon. It's a cannon that fires a Lightning Bolt. It doesn't just damage an enemy Mek but can fry its computer and controls as well.
  • In Scion, the Level 6 Sky Boon Levin Fury lets a character fire lightning bolts as projectiles. In the canon fiction, there is even a scene with a signature character doing just that.
  • Rolemaster campaign setting Shadow World. The underground insectoid creatures known as Krylites have devices that can throw lightning.
  • Members of Task Force VALKYRIE in Hunter: The Vigil can get their hands on the MJOLNIR Cannon, a man-portable electrolaser; a more powerful vehicle-mounted version also exists. It's mentioned that these weapons have a tendency to attract real lightning bolts during thunderstorms.
  • A standard weapon produced by Nockers in Changeling: The Dreaming. Inserting a metal rod into a ball of pure technology, then poking the ball of technology with a stick causes lightning to shoot out of the rod. A small stick can thus be attached to a trigger of something that looks like a gun, with the metal rod in the barrel.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • Warhammer 40,000
      • Necron tesla cannons and Staffs of Light function as these. Justified, mainly in that the Necrons are so technologically advanced compared to other civilizations, even after millions of years of hibernation!
      • The forces of the Adeptus Mechanicus make use of rare and powerful arc weaponry in battle. Powered by ancient batteries, some of which predate the founding of the Imperium, these arcane weapons fire bolts of electrical energy that are able to fry an organic target's brain or destroy a vehicle's controlling circuitry in an instant.
      • The Xenarch death-arc is one of the more exotic alien weapons available to characters in Inquisitor. Produced by a mysterious race from the Northern Rim of the galaxy, the death arc utilizes highly advanced charge cells and capacitors to fire multiple bursts of electrical energy, each of which hits as hard as a long rifle lasgun.
      • The Zzap gun is one of the orks' most powerful weapons, some of which are even used on spaceships.
    • Warhammer has the somewhat unstable Skaven Warp Lightning Cannon, which fires magical lightning bolts of massively variable potency. Additionally there is the warp-lightning spell that Skaven warlocks can use, and a number of lightning-based attack spells in the Lore of the Heavens, which can be used to call down bolts of lightning from on high.
  • Castle Falkenstein. The Steam Age supplement introduces the Lightning Hurler (more formally, the Focussed Electrical Discharge Cannon). It fires a lightning bolt as far as the horizon that can burn its target to ashes. It's even capable of destroying the walls of a fortress.
  • The Lightning Gun in Bleak World deals shock damage.
  • In Warmachine, the Cygnar army uses a lot of electrical weaponry (both melee and ranged) to the point that it's practically their hat. Most of their lightning-based ranged attacks are short- or medium-ranged, and they also have some electrical spells such as Chain Lightning. A few units from other armies can also use electrical ranged attacks, such as the Retribution of Scyrah's Electromancers.
  • Space 1889. The Moon Men have weapons that can throw lightning. The Lightning Cannon and the Electric Rifle are two possible inventions in the main book.
  • The undead aren't so fearsome when you have access to Galvanic weapons like the Van Haller Lightning Gun and its big brother, the Van Haller Death Ray (which lives up to its name) in Unhallowed Metropolis. In the supplement, Unhallowed Necropolis there's even a Lightning Gun that is powered by souls.

    Video Games 
  • This is a Standard FPS Gun. As the entry says, it typically functions as an automatic weapon.
    • In Unreal Tournament 2003, it's an oddly justified sniper rifle. In-game description states that when the trigger is pressed, the weapon emits a proton beam, "painting" the target with a positive charge. Milliseconds later, it emits a huge electric discharge that seeks said charge difference, hitting whatever the gun was pointed at with scary accuracy. In truth, it was put into the game so that no one can camp somewhere and snipe anything that moves without being seen. The sequel compensated for this by reintroducing a proper sniper rifle with old-style non-smokeless gunpowder.
      • The Ballistic Weapons mod however introduced a proper lightning gun, the HVC Mk9. This gun has a continuous homing electrical attack as primary fire (it can lift and swing around players and smaller vehicles; that and the gun's shape is a possible shoutout to Half-Life 2's Gravity Gun) and a chargeup red attack which has short range but massive splash damage as secondary fire. Both quickly overheats the gun but can be rectified via the manually operated heatsink.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night features a sub-weapon called the Aguena, a gun-like device that throws out a small projectile which causes powerful electricity to arc across from the weapon to an enemy, unlike most of the time when lightning is created via spell.
  • The Yithian Energy Weapon in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth appears to be electrical-based, though its "bolts" don't branch out or zig-zag like other examples of this trope. It has an inexhaustible power supply, and was built for the specific purpose of killing The Flying Polyps. It also has a charge-up function, which will jam the mechanism if not discharged in time.
  • Found in Quake, in the first, third and fourth games. It fires a sustained blast of lightning for pretty good damage. It's not the most powerful gun out there but it's a lot of fun.
  • In Marathon, you get the fusion pistol, which is highly effective against robots and flies. Why flies, just don't ask.
  • The Arc Charger in Resistance: Fall of Man fires a bolt of electricity that clings to living tissue. Related to Lightning Can Do Anything.
  • Xenophobe had a Lightning Rifle as an available weapon.
  • The Thundershock gun from Metal Slug 7.
  • The Scientist/Priest in The Chaos Engine uses one of these.
  • Soviet Tesla Coil weapons from Command & Conquer: Red Alert and its sequels.
  • The Wunderwaffe DG-2 in Call of Duty: Zombies. It hits an enemy with a bolt of lightning, then reflects off the enemy and hits any other enemies near by with the same one hit kill power, with up to ten enemies being killed with one shot. Its impossible properties are lampshaded, but justified as being powered by Element 115.
  • The Emaciator in Turok: Rage Wars.
  • The Powder Toy has CRAY, which can fire up to 8 rays of, among other things, lightning. It also causes enough lag to drop the game from 50 fps to 2.
  • Painkiller features the famous ElectroDriver, a gun that shoots lightning and shuriken. It also has a tertiary fire mode that shoots shurikens which themselves shoot lightning.
    Yahtzee: All you really need to know is that there is a gun that shoots shurikens and lightning. I wish I could make something like that up. It shoots shurikens and lightning! It could only possibly more awesome if it had tits and was on fire!
  • GoldenEye (1997) for N64 has the Awesome, but Impractical taser weapon, which is only accessible through cheating. It resembles a typical stun gun (handheld box with two electrified prods on top), but can hit enemies at any distance. Despite the awesome/hilarious "Taser Boy" design and infinite ammuntion, it has the same effect as a bullet without leaving holes and about half the firing rate of the laser gun (which also has infinite ammo.)
  • The hero of In FAMOUS, Cole, is a living version of this, able to fire off electrical bolts of varying power and precision.
  • The R-Gray 2's and Wave Rider 02's secondary attack in Ray Storm and RayCrisis.
  • Jet Force Gemini has the Shocker, a late-game weapon that isn't all that powerful and has really short range. So why even bother? Because slowly electrocuting giant bugs is hilarious!
    • Additionally, one area late in the game has a room with quite a lot of Elite Mooks frozen in blocks of ice. If you use any regular gun to fight off the other enemies you're likely to break the ice and have them all on you at once, but the Shocker won't give you that problem.
  • Dungeon Crawl actually tries to do electricity with a little more realism; airborne monsters resist electric attacks because the electricity can't go to ground (although, the player doesn't then get shocked when hitting them, which would actually be kind of hilarious)
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla has the Arc Welder. Indispensable for hijacking tanks without scratching them.
  • Fitted to the Piranha, the main Die Spinne fighter, in Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge.
  • Not quite a gun, but Tyrian featured a Lightning Cannon as an available weapon for one's ship.
  • Jak and Daxter series:
    • Jak II: Renegade has Peacemaker, which shots an electric orb that also hits nearby targets with electric arcs. It returns in third game. Krimzon Guards are also equipped with guns which one function works as this, but only at short range.
    • Jak 3: Wastelander features the Arc Wielder, an upgrade to his machine gun, which does this. It's great for crowds, and really good against machines.
    • There's another one as a plane-equipped weapon in Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier. It arcs between targets, making cheating at target-shooting plane minigames a doddle.
  • The game Operation: Inner Space has a battery weapon that fires batteries that in turn fires lightning. But it does (try to) comply with electric charge rules. It's still devastating.
  • The Earthsiege games had the Electron Flux Weapon (ELF) which the manual called "Lightning bolt on a leash". In the game it acted as a lightning bolt-looking continuous beam weapon.
  • The Tesla Gun in Wolfenstein produces an electrical discharge that arcs out at any targets that come within range. If nothing or no one is nearby, though, it just kinda throws sparks.
    • The Spark Shot subweapon in Front Mission Gun Hazard works in a similar manner: it only fires at available targets and stays on them until they die or it runs out of ammo. It's also convenient in that even if you keep the fire button held, it only consumes ammo when it has enemies to lock on to.
  • The various lightning wave cannons in R-Type generally home in on targets if there are any available, although they do fire outward as a constant beam even if there aren't any. Bonus points for the fact that not a single lightning bolt looks alike, regardless of how they arc into enemies.
  • Massive storms of weaponized lightning are the signature attack of the Kamui fighters in Kamui. However, the ships must build up a charge before releasing it, it can only hit targets beneath the fighter, and it flies out in random directions if no enemies are around (if there are, it instead homes in on them from said random directions).
  • Ratchet & Clank
    • The Tesla Claw in the original Ratchet & Clank, as well as the Spitting Hydra in the third game (although this does take time to fire, that seems to be more about attaining a target lock than building up a charge). Other guns, such as the third game's Rift Ripper and N90 Hurricane (both fully upgraded versions of more basic weapons) develop the ability to send out arcs of lightning from whoever they hit.
    • Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando has the Plasma Coil, the shot of which arcs to nearby targets from whatever it hits, and its upgraded form, the Plasma Storm, which sends a plasma orb that shocks everything as it travels until it dissipates. Moreover it is possible for some guns to buy for Platinum Bolts the Shock Mode for some weapons which adds an effect similar to Plasma Coil (albeit much weaker) to them.
  • The Electron Mace from Syndicate Wars, described as a "Lightning Whip" and one of the coolest directed energy weapons in a squad based RTS. It's really just the Church's Pulse Laser equivalent that shoots blue bzzt-bzzt rays instead of red pew-pew beams.The reboot will bring it back, but firing purple bolts instead.
  • Star Wars: Battlefront features the ARC Caster, which charges and fires a bolt of lightning towards an enemy. It also has the capacity to arc to 4 additional targets.
  • The Arc Projector in Mass Effect 2 uses electricity to take down enemies, and is particularly good against shields and synthetics. A good example of Shown Their Work, as the gun works by ionizing targets with a non-visible laser to create a potential difference.
    • With the release of the Rebellion DLC for multiplayer, the Reegar Carbine is now available in Mass Effect 3. It works on much the same principle as the Arc Projector. Even though it is classified as a shotgun, it is more like a flamethrower, but with an electric current instead of flames.
  • The Metroid Prime Trilogy has a number of electricity-based weapons. Metroid Prime features the Wave Beam, which fires three waves of electricity, has a limited homing capacity and whose charge shot stuns enemies for a short time. Its missile combo, the Wavebuster, fires a constant stream of electricity which automatically homes in on a target, regardless of whether you are locked on to it, at the cost of around 5 missiles per second of use. The beam is also used to activate various power conduits during the game. Metroid Prime: Hunters has Kanden's affinity weapon, the Volt Driver, which fires short bursts of electricity. Its charge shot fires a slow-moving ball of lightning, which, when used by Kanden, has homing capabilities and disrupts the target's visor. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption features the Grapple Voltage, which can be used to leech energy from various targets to recover your health, or can be used to activate various terminals or to overload enemies at the detriment to your health.
  • Claire Redfield gets to use the spark shot in Resident Evil 2.
    • If nothing else, though, there was some thought put into the Spark Shot. Careful examination reveals that it's basically a heavily modified stun gun, and it does have pitiful range and aiming ability.
  • In Resident Evil 6 Piers Nivans grows organic one in place of his arm when it's torn off and he injects himself with The Virus. It works wonders on final boss, can be charged up for stronger attack and uses his health (which, thankfully, regenerates) in place of ammo.
  • Two guns in BioShock have electrical alternate ammunition: the Shotgun, which fires electrified slugs, and the Chemical Thrower, which fires a steady stream of "electric gel". Presumably the latter works somewhat like a flamethrower, with a taser for a pilot light and the "electric gel" being some superconductive fluid.
  • The Tesla Cannon in the Blood series has always behaved like a machine gun. In both games, the primary firing mode shoots self-contained orbs of electricity on full auto, while pushing the secondary fire button drains the capacitors and blasts the target with a far more powerful and costly jolt, generating a blue shockwave at the point of impact. In the second game, Blood II: The Chosen, said shockwave continues to expand for a few seconds before dissipating, and anything that gets caught in it gets zapped by a lightning bolt coming from the pont of impact.
  • Syphon Filter averts this with its Air Taser (or simply "Taser" in the first game). You need to launch a wire that connects to the enemy before you can shock him. Oh boy you can shock the enemy, usually until he's on fire. Also counts as a "silent" weapon (ignoring the enemy's cries as he is roasted to death). However, the Air Taser suffers from several flaws, some critically: you need to zap an enemy for some time before he dies, you can only zap one at a time, and of course, it doesn't work on enemies using Flak Jackets (unless you're aiming to the head or limb, something hard to do without the lockon on a heated gunfight).
  • Killzone 2 gave us the Helghast VC5 Electricity Gun. It's the most powerful weapon in the campaign, so much so that you only ever get to use it in one mission. But what a mission, where you casually electrocute scores of Helghast soldiers and drones, all while listening to the poor sods make the most amusing noises as they fry.
  • In Fallout 2, the YK42B Pulse Rifle is one of the most powerful guns in the game. It does electrical damage but it doesn't have a visible lightning bolt or even a muzzle flash (unlike it's little brother, the YK 32 Pulse Pistol which fires a purple energy bolt). Fallout 3's Tesla Cannon however... is a brutally strong blue-white beam and has some splash damage as well.
    • Fallout: New Vegas' Lonesome Road DLC introduced the Arc Welder, a huge industrial tool-turned-weapon capable of shooting a constant, high-voltage stream of lightning. In Old World Blue DLC, there is also the LAER (Laser Assisted Electrical Rifle), implying that it's a electrolaser weapon which use lasers to create a conductive plasma conduit in the air and then discharge electricity.
    • Fallout 4's Automatron DLC added the Tesla Rifle, a short range weapon that can arc damage between targets.
  • In Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force, one of the weapons is the Arc Welder, a device which emits a large stream of electricity as long as the trigger is held down (and its "ammo" lasts).
  • Grand Theft Auto 2 had an Electrogun that shocked people down to their bones.
  • Alien Swarm has a Tesla Cannon; originally designed for repairs, it was quickly weaponised and deployed. A version also featured in a custom campaign for the Unreal Tournament mod. Unlike most Lightning Guns, however, it does not do a whole lot of damage by itself, making it a poor primary weapon. The real draw is how it slows down targets and "jumps" between them.
  • Escape Velocity Nova's Auroran Triphammer, a super-heavy weapon that first fires a thin stream of conducive material at a target (because vacuum is notoriously non-conducive) and then channels obscene amounts of electricity down it. Slow to fire and slower to reload, but it packed huge firepower.
  • Dungeon Siege I had these drop from Goblins, the settings Steampunk inventors. Short ranged, though effective, but not as powerful as the gatling guns.
  • In the web game Raze, one of the ten weapons is a PIERCING LIGHTNING GUN. Say good-bye to your sanity after getting this.
  • Both Jurassic Park games for SNES use a variety of lightning gun. In the first, an overhead (usually) shooter, it's your most basic weapon with unlimited ammo and requires charging for maximum effectiveness. In the second, a platform shooter, it's the weakest non-lethal weapon, again with unlimited ammo, and sees quite a bit of use since you're only allowed to use lethal force on raptors, the t-rex, and humans.
  • The default weapon in Destroy All Humans! fires electricity straight ahead and zaps whatever's in your way (and goes through people, meaning you can hit two or three at the same time). Upgrades can produce a Chain Lightning effect, very useful against crowds. In one game, Crypto also gets a gun that shoots ball lightning.
  • MechWarrior 4 brings back the Particle Projector Cannon class of weapons, a mainstay of the games since the beginning. Where early games had it as an energy beam or a Plasma Cannon, the PPC in 4 comes out as a screeching electrical blast that burns big black patches in enemy 'Mechs and leaves electricity crackling along their frames. Taking a hit from one also results in an electrical overload in your HUD.
    • The trailer for the abandoned MechWarrior 5 promised some very lightning-like PPC shots in its trailer, during the fight scene where a Warhammer tangles with an Atlas, with several bright, jagged bolts resembling blue-white lightning being prominently demonstrated in the course of the trailer.
  • This basically describes the entire premise of the free indie-game Thunder Gun. Your character shoots Chain Lightning at the endless horde of robots (and mutant cyborgs). Every shot from your gun is potentially a Herd-Hitting Attack if you charged the gun long enough. The only exception is when the rain comes and you are forced to put away the big gun in place of a pistol.
  • Nex in Nexuiz is a scoped lightning gun.
  • The Riot from Einhänder.
  • The Plasma Laser in Raiden series. Although it might not look like one at first, it is obvious enough to still count as one Lightning Gun from the way it creates patterns similar to lightning while locking on multiple targets.
  • The Electrolaser from Ace Combat: Joint Assault.
  • Batman gets one in Batman: Arkham City which can be used to stun mooks and activate machinery.
  • Just Cause 3 has a variant of a lightning gun with the Eden Spark. Instead of shooting lightning from the gun itself, the gun acts as a marker for an orbital lightning strike that you can move around as you wish.
  • The Nemesis in Cave Story is a gun that shoots powerful bolts of lightning, unless it's leveled up to level 3, in which case it shoots rubber duckies.
  • Borderlands has standard weapons that shoot a bullet that also deal shock damage like the S&S Orion, but some of the Eridian weapons like the Thunderstorm shoot lightning exclusively.
  • Fog/Max from Tales of Legendia turns his gun into one with his Rage Laser attack.
  • While there are no guns in the Zelda series, in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword's final boss fight the Skyward Strike electrifies your sword, allowing you to attack the boss with a beam of electricity.
  • While it's described as a "cattle prod", the Hammer in Parasite Eve 2 is an attachment for the M4A1 that fires a lightning-like archs of electricity. Its primary purpose is to stun enemies and knock them down, though it can kill enemies with low HP.
  • The Tesla in Guns of Icarus.
  • Emitter weapons in Sword of the Stars. They can arc to hit a second enemy ship (making them very useful against armadas). They also make fantastic point defense weapons.
  • Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project features an unlockable Lightning Gun as the most powerful weapon in the game. It actually seems to draw lightning down from the sky, and hitting it once will instantly reduce any enemy on screen into bloody chunks.
  • Total Annihilation, but it's a rather rare weapon, only used by two units (the Zeus and Panther).
    • Used by Creonite construction units in Total Annihilation: Kingdoms, described as a 'taser'. Lightning is also used by the other sides as a weapon, but there it's magical in origin.
  • "Shock" magic tends to work like this in The Elder Scrolls. In Morrowind, it takes on the "ball of electricity" appearance instead.
  • The Plasma Gun weapons of Mega Man Star Force work this way, as does the Thunder Zerker form's paralysing charged shot.
  • The Ion Disruptor from the X-Universe. The Flavor Text justifies it by having it first fire a stream of ions at the target, then firing the main blast. What's left unexplained is how it can jump from its initial target to any other nearby object. This includes shrapnel from the otherwise near-useless Cluster Flak Array point-defense gun; ionized flak is a decent loadout, though heavily prone to friendly fire.
  • Netstorm has Thunder Cannons, which fire discrete "chunks" of lightning, and Vander Towers which zap any airborne units that get too close.
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron features a weapon called EDK Techvolt.
  • The Shock elemental damage type in BLOODCRUSHER II stuns enemies, unless they're standing in water.
  • Admiral Thompson from Dubloon fights using a gun that shoots lightning, in a setting that is mostly similar to The Golden Age of Piracy.
  • In Toaplan's Shoot Em Ups Truxton and Batsugun, the weapon selections include a lightning laser cannon.
  • Arcanum lets you upgrade your Shocking Staff into ball-lightning shooting Tesla Rod. Which can then be mashed together with a sniper rifle to produce even more powerful Tesla Gun. For those who favor magic, there's Force school, which allows you to shoot classical lightning bolts and ball lightnings that can desintegrate pretty much anything in the game.
  • After completing a colossal amount of research while playing as Eden in Outpost 2, you eventually unlock the Thor's Hammer turret, a slow-firing, artificial lightning cannon available on both static defensive structures and the almighty, twin-linked Tiger vehicle chassis.
  • Titanfall has the Arc Cannon, a chargable Titan weapon that can hit multiple enemies simultaneously, but has limited range. The Capacitor mod trades the ability to fire mid-charge for a more powerful full-charge shock.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Republic Troopers (especially the Vanguard sub-class) can use several lightning attacks from their all-purpose guns.
  • Star Wars: Galaxies had the Lightning Cannon and Light Lightning Cannon for Commandoes and Bounty Hunters respectively.
  • In Star Wars Droidworks, while the player can't build droids with guns, the enemy assassin droids seem to be armed with these, judging by a buzzing sound and white flash on the HUD whenever they attack your droid.
  • Phantasy Star Online has the Maser Beam.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics has the Blaster (the Blast Gun in the PS1 translation). It fired a random thunder-elemental spell when cast (either the first tier, second tier, or third tier), and was regularly affected by the rules of spellcasting in that higher Faith for both sides means more damage, though it functions independently of attack stats like regular guns.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon's second expansion, Perseus Mandate, introduces the LP4 Lightning Arc Weapon. Unlike the typical trope, it works as an extremely powerful battle rifle, with low shot capacity, slow rate of fire, and unerring accuracy – the lightning can even arc slightly to hit the target if it dodges out of the way like the Nightcrawler Elites, the enemies you're most likely to use the gun on, are fond of doing. And since the muzzle arcs with electricity, it's also an example of Muzzle Flashlight that doesn't have to be fired to work.
  • In Battle Zone 1998, the Furies use a heavy, rapid-fire Hitscan lightning gun dubbed the "Bolt Buddy" by NSDF pilots. Come Battlezone II, the Scions use a long-range burst-fire lightning gun in their gun towers and on upgraded tanks as a nod to their relation to the Furies. Scion tanks can morph the lightning gun into a continuous, highly deadly but short-ranged electricity arc.
  • In Evolve the assault character Markov uses a modified arc welding tool creatively called the Lightning Gun. Its short range is compensated for by its ability to automatically lock onto targets and arc between enemies. His modification uses a similar weapon, renamed the Tesla Gun. The Tesla Gun lacks the arcing feature and does less damage initially, but does more damage the longer it fires uninterrupted until it surpasses the original.
  • Nuclear Throne has lightning guns as a subset of energy weapons. True to form, they fire lightning bolts that usually arc toward the nearest enemy. The weapons range from the basic Lightning Pistol, to the automatic Lightning SMG and the Lightning Shotgun, to the area-clearing Lightning Cannon, which shoots a ball of lightning that shoots lightning bolts, and explodes into more lightning bolts after impacting a wall or enemy.
  • Worldof Warcraft: Shamans can do this in the Warcraft universe, both flinging lighting from their hands (in ball and chain lightning variety), and totems that explode with electricity. Being a fantasy setting though, it's a case of A Wizard Did It.
  • Destiny has an entire subset of weapons infused with Arc energy in general, but there are a few standouts:
    • The Thunderlord, a Year 1 exotic machine gun with sparks coursing up and down its length, creates electric explosions and increases in fire rate the longer the trigger's held.
    • The Zhalo Supercell, an exotic auto rifle introduced in Year 2, is essentially a bright blue-green AK-47 with the ability to electrocute small groups of enemies with Chain Lightning, as well as an additional perk that gives it regenerating ammo every time the player scores a double kill. It is exactly as awesome as one would expect.
  • Vikavolt, a Bug and Electric Pokémon that was introduced in Pokémon Sun and Moon is stag beetle that looks and acts like a living lightning gun. It has reminded people of Vic Viper.
  • In From the Depths, the Particle Cannon fires particles at a significant portion of light speed that can perform a One-Hit Polykill. The weapon can be configured to be a highly accurate sniping Charged Attack weapon that produces a distinctive supersonic thunder clap when fired, to a continuous electric-like arc of particles flung out at random trajectories. With the game's (relatively) realistic combat, the latter is pretty useless and mostly used for gimmick ships.
  • Winston's Tesla Cannon in Overwatch throws out short range electricity that search out for something to connect the arc. It's fairly short ranged due to how realistic it acts, but it can hit multiple enemies at once and only requires you to aim in the general direction of the enemy.
  • Bit Monster's Gunner Z has the Arc Cannon as one of the Tier 3 (strongest tier) weapons. It fires a powerful bolt of electricity that can chain onto other targets until its maximum targets hit is reached, you can spend money to increase all the stats of the Arc Cannon including how many targets can the electricity bolt hit.
  • Doomslayer's Thunderbuss Cannon in Doom mod GMOTA is a weird mix of a sawed-off shotgun and this trope. This weapon unleashs many bullets of lightning from its barrel.
  • The Alone in the Dark series has the game New Nightmare. Among the weapons you can find, there's the Lightning Gun which is a crystal-powered, 19th century energy weapon that shoots a powerful Chain Lightning and best of all it's ammo keeps respawning.
  • Warframe has the Amprex, a powerful beam weapon that, in addition to dealing electric damage per second, has an innate chaining effect to spread to plenty of foes, alongside a very nice critical hit chance. A popular build uses a mod that has a chance to add bleeding procs per critical hit landed.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In TaleSpin's Five-Episode Pilot, it's noted that the Air Pirates have been recently raiding cargo planes for bizarre things like fishbowls and other assorted items while leaving behind valuables; one of these is the red crystal that Baloo's plotline revolves around, a seemingly worthless stone that turns out to actually be a tiny electrical generator. Eventually, one of Sher Khan's scientists puts together all the clues and realizes that Don Karnage is using the stolen supplies to build a Lightning Gun, but it's too late to stop the Iron Vulture from attacking Cape Suzette with it.
  • In The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, Kovacs uses a Steam Punk variation to shoot the creature when it attacks Jasper. Electricity guns are apparently commonplace. There are even advertisements for them on the website.
  • Unagi of Sushi Pack frequently throws electricity at his opponents, and in one episode he was able to target random objects (he'd gained the ability to turn them into living things).
  • In Gargoyles, a lighting gun eventually becomes the weapon of choice of Macbeth and his underlings. After the Gargoyle Griff manages to steal one, it becomes his weapon of choice as well.
  • Filmation 1960's cartoons
    • The Adventures of Batman series episodes
      • "Partners in Peril". The Penguin's umbrella shoots out a lightning bolt to fry a police communications console.
      • "My Crime Is Your Crime". The Penguin uses a trick rack of pool cues that fire a bolt of electricity, knocking out the Dynamic Duo.
    • Superboy series episodes
      • "Superboy's Strangest Foe". Two aliens use lightning pistols to destroy a railroad trestle.
  • Master firebenders in Avatar: The Last Airbender, such as Iroh, Azula, and Firelord Ozai don't use actual guns, but fire off lightning bolts in a very similar fashion. Zuko, Aang, and Iroh can also catch lightning and redirect it. The "physics" behind it - separating negative and positive ki - is very reminiscent of polarizing the air or targets as several above weapons do.
  • Cartoon Network Groovies episode "Jabberjaw". At one point the villain slithers toward the heroes firing a weapon that shoots bolts of electricity.
  • Grune from ThunderCats (2011) has a mace that doubles as one of these.
  • The New Adventures of Jonny Quest: In "Warlord of the Sky," villain Dragna's Mooks carry rifles that fire bolts of electricity. This is in addition to them being able to electrocute people by touch.

    Real Life 
  • Not quite the same thing, but the electrolaser comes close. And made into a weapon care of the U.S. Army. The electrolaser design has the potential to scale right up. Making an ionised beam of air a significant length just by blasting away with a laser is possible, but currently impractical due to power requirements. On the other hand, the world of nonlinear optics brings up the phenomenon of 'light filamentation', a high intensity pulse of light that generates a long, thin trail of plasma. Possible applications suggested by the discoverers include triggering lightning discharges.
  • And then there's this guy.
  • An electron beam that could be considered close to a lightning gun — which would make every functioning vacuum tube in existence a little lightning factory. It can generate a lightning on shutdown, if the transferred charge cracks back through a path of conveniently ionized air. Relativistic electron beams self focus in air. This means that if combined with an electrolaser type system to aim them, you could make a long range and highly accurate lightning weapon that would also produce a hazardous amount of beta radiation (so you wouldn't want to hold one if you weren't very well armoured).
  • Close contact tasers will arc electricity across the electrodes, so it's kind of like a lightning gun. A ridiculously short range lightning gun.
    • Long range tasers were designed as a defictionalization of this trope. The inventor read the story "Tom Swift and his Electric Rifle" as a kid and thought that it would make a great stun weapon. The end result was less flashy but affordable with current technology
  • Supercritical steam systems are desigined to work at pressures and tempuratures which very few others can do.


Video Example(s):



Crypto's weapon of choice is the Zap-O-Matic, a gun that shoots lightning.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / LightningGun

Media sources:

Main / LightningGun