Lawgiver (Judge Dredd)

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Justice Dept. Lawgiver MK II

The Lawgiver is a fictional weapon used by the Judges in Judge Dredd and related series that appear in the UK comic books 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, as well as the 1995 movie Judge Dredd and the 2012 film Dredd.

The Lawgiver is a handgun featuring semi- and fully automatic fire, manual and automatic focusing and targeting, plus a built in computer capable of controlling its operation. It fires a range of speciality ammunition. An in-line gunsight shows the view directly down the barrel. A Lawgiver can only be operated by its designated Judge owner, whose palm print is programmed into the gun's memory.

An earlier weapon appeared in the Origins storyline. Though little was known about the gun itself, it was capable of firing standard and armour-piercing rounds.


Should an attempt be made by an unauthorised person to use the Lawgiver, it will explode in that person's hand. Recognising that this generally practical safeguard can sometimes impede Judges in the execution of their duties, the Justice Department computers contain instructions on bypassing Lawgiver palm-recognition systems. These instructions can be accessed by senior Judges, but are generally employed only in severe emergencies. Judge Dredd demonstrates this process in the story "Goodnight Kiss" after his partner is killed by Jonni Kiss.

In the story "The Narcos Connection", criminal Nero Narcos sabotaged a new batch of upgraded lawgivers by programming them to self-destruct when used by their authorised users (once they received a radio signal, so the rogue command took effect in all weapons simultaneously). This resulted in large numbers of judges being crippled or killed at the precise moment they were attacked by Narcos's "Assassinator" robots at the beginning of the Second Robot War in 2121.

In the story "Dark Justice", Dredd is given a prototype of the Mark III, but it is proven to malfunction when battling against the Dark Judges.

Whether a Lawgiver can be fired by any Judge, or only a nominated user is inconsistently shown throughout the series. During Necropolis Judge Dredd uses a borrowed Lawgiver without repercussions, whereas Kraken loses his hand after his borrowed gun explodes. East Meg Judge Orlok uses a stolen Lawgiver to kill a weather satellite technician without difficulty,[1] and assassin Vitus Dance is able to use his psionic abilities to fire a Lawgiver, although admits that had he not known about the failsafe he "...mighta fell right into that one!"[2] In "Dead Reckoning", Dredd is shown disconnecting the grip sensors on another judge's lawgiver to allow him to use it.[3]


The gun has a maximum range of up to three miles and has six distinct settings:[4]

  • Standard execution - A standard bullet, with identical effects to normal kinetic energy projectile weapons.
  • Heat Seeker or Hot Shot - A standard bullet propelled by the unstable element, 'Argon 88 b'. Heatseeker rounds lock onto the target's heat source, enabling the Judge to target fleeing perps, accurately fire in low-light situations and so forth.
  • Ricochet - A metal bullet coated with rubber. Ricochet rounds can bounce off solid surfaces while retaining enough kinetic energy to penetrate flesh. This enables the Judge to, for example, kill a perp that is using a human shield, bouncing their shot off a back wall and hitting the target from behind.
  • Incendiary - Capable of setting its target on fire. Less widely used due to practicalities of incinerating targets in built-up city areas, although useful against unconventional adversaries such as Judge Death.
  • Armour Piercing - Armour-piercing rounds are extremely dense and contain a more powerful charge for higher muzzle velocity. Useful against cybernetic criminals and armoured opponents. When used against humans, it can travel through multiple targets.
  • High-Explosive (HI-EX) - A round containing an amount of extremely concentrated high explosive. Judges must employ caution when using this extremely dangerous round; the blast caused by the exploding bullets can just as easily harm those firing as well as the target. Generally used rarely; against crowding attackers or large/dangerous foes.

Some stories by Judge Dredd creator John Wagner have added a stun bullet, while stories by Gordon Rennie have included a stunner beam (which doesn't always work) and an "exorcist" bullet for use against supernatural enemies. These and the six modes of fire listed above are canon. The Judge Dredd audio drama Wanted: Dredd Or Alive has a Tracer bullet, which allows Judges to electronically track what they've shot. One story had a judge fire a marker shell, a round which tags its target with green paint.

In early issues, the Heatseeker is clipped over the muzzle and propelled by the standard round (GP - General Purpose). Both Grenade and HE are rounds fired.

Some publications replace the Hi-Ex with the Grenade setting. In addition, the novelisations of David Bishop replaced the Incendiary round with a Gas round, which released a cloud of Stumm gas, the Mega City equivalent of CS or tear gas. Other issues have shown the new Lawgiver to have a limited number of close-range electrical stun attacks capable of incapacitating large numbers of opponents at close range.

Other versions[edit]

In the film Judge Dredd the "Lawgiver Mark II" handgun is a voice-activated handgun with seven different kinds of ammunition.[5][6][7] Its ammunition includes standard bullets, rapid fire (all types of ammo), explosive grenade rounds, the "double-whammy" (twin rounds fired simultaneously in different directions), armour-piercing rounds and signal flares. It is somewhat visually different from the way it had been depicted in books.

Each individual round fired is tagged with the DNA code of the Judge to whom the weapon belongs, thus making identification of the shooter possible with the recovery of the slugs from a victim.[8]

Selection Options:

  • Full-Rapid Fire - automatic firing
  • Armor Piercing - penetrating armor, doors, destroying enemy weapons
  • Signal Flare - Fires miniature flare for external illumination
  • Grenade - Demolition of soft targets (doors, vehicles, etc.)
  • Double Whammy - Additional barrel; fires two round simultaneously at two separate targets.

Instead of exploding when an individual other than a judge picks up the weapon, this version emits a very powerful, incapacitating (and often deadly) shock until the weapon is dropped.

In their movie review, The Santa Fe New Mexican described the Lawgiver as "the only interesting touch" in a movie that was otherwise "the worst kind of science fiction."[9]

In the 2012 movie Dredd, a revised version of the Lawgiver II takes on the appearance more akin with its comic book counterpart. A small LED display screen on the side of the gun gives the user information as to the amount and type of ammunition available as well as determine distance to target. The gun demonstrated a variety types of ammunition, which again were voice activated.

  • RAPID (Rapid fire)-Automatic firing mode. Not an actual ammo type but the mode in which the gun fires.
  • FMJ (Full Metal Jacket)-Standard round
  • AP (Armour Piercing)
  • INC (Incendiary)-Operates like a flare, bursts in mid-air and ignites what it comes into contact with.
  • HI-EX (High Explosive)-A grenade or demolition round capable of blowing a hole through concrete
  • Hotshot-A superheated round, retaining high temperatures for a short time after impact.
  • Stun-Incapacitates target but does not kill.

As in the comic, the gun is tagged to the DNA of its wielder. If an individual other than a judge attempts to fire the gun, it self-destructs. In the film, Judge Anderson tricks a suspect into attempting to shoot her with her own Lawgiver; the failsafe detonates the gun and takes his hand off at the wrist, leading to his death from shock.

In a special feature of the Dredd DVD, it is revealed that the Lawgiver used in the film uses three separate magazines housing separate kinds of ammunition simultaneously, as opposed to the comics where all kinds of ammunition are fired from one universal magazine[clarification needed]. This culminates to a moment in the film where Dredd's Lawgiver runs out of all forms of ammunition except for High Explosive rounds.

In the video game Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death, the name is changed to Lawgiver MK III.

Inspiration for real-world weaponry[edit]

The Lawgiver, because of its security features, has been used as an example of the ultimate smart gun that could prevent accidental shootings and guns ending up in the wrong hands.[8]

In 2000, Australian firearms manufacturer Metal Storm was inspired by Judge Dredd's Lawgiver to create the Variable Lethality Law Enforcement electronic pistol.[10] Like the Lawgiver, the gun is designed to be used only by its designated owner, ensuring that it cannot be fired if lost or stolen.[11] The designated shooter can be identified by palm or fingerprint, numerical code, swipe card or voice recognition.[12] The gun is capable of firing multiple projectiles which can include traditional bullets as well as pesticides, fertilisers, fireworks, fire-retardants and other rapid-delivery packages.[12] The gun also features an electronic voice that tells the shooter which firing mode the gun is in.[11]


  1. ^ Prog 243
  2. ^ Prog 958
  3. ^ Prog 1006
  4. ^ O'Brien, Daniel. "SF:UK: how British science fiction changed the world," Reynolds & Hearn, 2000
  5. ^ MacInnis, Craig. "'Sly takes no prisoners: Judge Dredd's rough justice not much of a stretch for old Rambo Sylvester Stallone," June 23, 1995, The Toronto Star, Pg. D1
  6. ^ Arnold, Gary. "'Dreadful 'Dredd',"June 30, 1995, The Washington Times, Pg. C17
  7. ^ Green, Tom. "'Movie stars run hot, cold this summer',"September 1, 1995, USA TODAY, Pg. 4D
  8. ^ a b Chikwendu, Talibah L. "When lawgivers hit the market, I'll bite," April 7, 2000, Baltimore Afro-American, Vol. 108; No. 33; Pg. 4
  9. ^ Bowman, Jon. "'JUDGE DREDD': MIND-NUMBING JUVENILIA," July 07, 1995, The Santa Fe New Mexican, Pg. 53
  10. ^ Vizard, Frank and Phil Scott. "21st century soldier: the weaponry, gear, and technology of the military in the new century," Oct 9, 2002, Popular Science, Page 107
  11. ^ a b Baynes, Jim and Rebecca Thurlow. "Smart gun runs rings around the bad guys," April 11, 2000, The Australian, Pg. C3
  12. ^ a b Huxley, John. "War on Terrorism: Weapon system with a difference," September 26, 2001, Sydney Morning Herald, Pg. 3

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