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In the first episode of the show Westworld, Ed Harris (a "guest" / human) is being shot at by James Marsden (a "host" / robot). It is as though Ed Harris has a force field around him; the bullets all miss or are blocked.

In the third episode of the series, guest Jimmi Simpson is shot by a host in town. The "bullet" knocks Jimmi Simpson down, and leaves a mark on his chest.

Is this an inconsistency in the scripts, or has the Westworld park changed the way guns work, or do guests get to determine how they'll be affected by being shot by hosts?

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    Pilot vs normal episode changes? – cde Oct 17 '16 at 16:31
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    To quote showrunner Jonathan Nolan: "It’s not the guns, it’s the bullets. In the original film, the guns won’t operate guest on guest, but we felt like the guests would want to have a more visceral experience here. So when they’re shot [...] there’s a bit of an impact, a bit of a sting. So it’s not entirely consequence-free for the guests.” - I'm guessing Ed Harris' character feels the "sting", but just doesn't care (he's been playing for 30 years), or he wears some protection. – Oliver_C Oct 17 '16 at 19:39
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    @Oliver_C I think you should add that as an answer. – sanpaco Oct 18 '16 at 2:12
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My interpretation is Ed Harris stated several times that he has been visiting the park for 30 years. He had been through almost all of the storylines, and is pretty much used to being hit several times. In contrast Jimmi Simpson is visiting for the first time.

Think of it as being hit by a paintball gun. The first few times you will get surprised by the pain, but when you get used to it, it becomes a minor discomfort that you can ignore.

From the official statement on this, in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes the showrunner Jonathan Nolan said: "it's the bullets that are special, not the guns."

With the same guns, the guests can blow the hosts away, but then the hosts still come back the next day.

“It’s not the guns,” Nolan said. “It’s the bullets. We thought a lot about this. In the original film, the guns won’t operate guest on guest, but we felt like the guests would want to have a more visceral experience here. So when they’re shot it has sort of the impact. They’re called simunitions. The U.S. military trains with rounds like the ones we’re talking about. But there’s a bit of an impact, a bit of a sting. So it’s not entirely consequence-free for the guests.”

11 RULES OF WESTWORLD — HBO’S KILLER ROBOT SERIES

The HBO Official "Westworld" website offers the following info.

2. (c): All weapons and equipment used within Delos parks are the exclusive property of Delos. Inc. Gun ammunition contains proprietary safeguards related to bullet velocity, and tampering with gun safety features or ammunition automatically transfers liability to you and absolves Delos, Inc. of any injury or death that may occur as a result.

I got the quotes from a similar question on SciFi stackexhange

  • I'd like to see the episode again, to see how Ed Harris actually reacts, because in my memory it's as though there's a force field covering Ed Harris' back, and the bullets bounce off of it. But maybe they're just hitting his back and disappearing. – BrettFromLA Oct 27 '16 at 21:42
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    From what I remember the bullets hit his vest and we see a "smoke effect". – RMalke Oct 27 '16 at 21:45
  • @BrettFromLA - You can rewatch the scene on HBO's Youtube channel – Oliver_C Oct 28 '16 at 23:08
  • If it is about bullets, then a shot fired by guest's gun can kill a guest? Even if shooter is host? – Faizan Rabbani Dec 26 '16 at 8:48
  • @FaizanRabbani read the quote again. It's not the guns. – Luciano Feb 13 '17 at 17:26
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After watching all 10 episodes, there appears to be either several weapon "safety" categories in Westworld, or there are some small inconsistencies. I've spoiler blocked some stuff, mostly relating to s1ep10, so if you haven't seen the whole first season you will have to read around it.

Most westworld guns shoot a low velocity non-lethal bullet at humans but either a high velocity lethal bullet at hosts or the host has implanted squibs to give a blood splatter effect followed by a software "I'm dead" effect to the same low velocity round. RMalke's answer has showrunner quotes which suggest the former. So the gun has an ability to identify friend from foe (IFF, though in this case maybe it is IHH, Identify host from human :) that tells it how fast to shoot a bullet. This has to be independent of the user, since a gun can be wielded by a host or a human, and aimed at a host or a human.

The security team carries modern design pistols with red barrels. These presumably shoot regular bullets lethal to humans and hosts alike. Ep 10 emphasizes this with the P90 submachine guns that the hosts use against humans to astounding effect. It is possible that these hosts were already able to override the weapon safety but then why would there be red barreled firearms at all? I can only conclude that the red tip indicates a normal functioning firearm, one without any type of IFF.

BUT Delores has a "western" revolver at the end of ep 10 that she uses to

shoot Ford in the back of the head, as well as several guests at the gala, all of whom are presumably human. She also shot Arnold with the same pistol decades earlier. You might conclude that this particular pistol has no IFF safety but Old William is also shot by a host wielded weapon at the gala, probably an IFF equipped human safe weapon, not some red tipped gun taken from a security guard (though we don't actually know).

So either the host can override how the western weapons work or somehow even the human safe guns were remotely re-programmed in order to be able to shoot humans (which seems to be very irresponsible on behalf of the Westworld team). I don't recall an actual human on human shooting in Westworld to prove that a human can't shoot another human with a westworld gun, maybe

young William against Logan?

but it seems unlikely that this is possible.

So apparently either the host can override a firearm's internal IFF safety or there is a slight show inconsistency about how the IFF works since a human would be able to hurt another human if there is no host to control what the gun does. A host shooting a human to no effect isn't just about aiming to miss or that they have special weapons that are different from what humans use since there is plenty of host on host lethal violence as well.

So I think that the guns IFF is mostly a handwaved concept that is subject to a hosts intent. It is certainly

Old William's desire to have hosts be able to hurt humans, probably Ford's desire as well,

so it is no surprise that it happens, but the actual mechanics of how the IFF is disabled (central computer hacking or local host override) isn't clear and may not be strictly internally consistent.

  • This inconsistency becomes more glaring in Season two, where suddenly almost all weapons are fully functional against all creatures – guest or host. The failure to assert any mechanism by which "IHH" is virtually failsafe in Season 1, but just disappears without any change in the prop weapons in Season 2, is a bewildering oversight! – feetwet May 8 '18 at 2:08

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