One of the most interesting mysteries of Westworld is how the gunfights are possible. Simply put, guests are capable of using the guns to shoot the hosts, whereas when the hosts shoot the guests, there is nothing but a much more subdued impact to make the experience more exciting for the guests. This might not be particularly important for the plot of the series, but it is nonetheless an interesting issue that a fair number of Westworld fans have speculated about.
What Are Some Potential Explanations for Westworld Gunfights?
The first thought that often comes up is that the guests have real guns whereas the hosts have fake guns. However, this is not an adequate explanation because we have seen hosts and guests swap guns, meaning that if this was the case, there should have been examples of either guests being shot by real guns or hosts not being shot by fake guns. Another potential explanation is that the hosts are not as sturdy as the guests, meaning that the bullets that can either kill or wound them are capable of causing no more than the sensation of a light impact on the guests. However, considering what else has been shown of the sturdiness of the hosts, this seems improbable to say the least.
Following up on this, some people have speculated that the hosts have what amounts to squibs implanted in them. As a result, whenever a guest shoots a gun at them, the actual damage is caused by the squibs going off rather than the force of the bullet. Unfortunately, this particular line of speculation is a dead end as well because there are scenes in which guests shoot through terrain to hit hosts. Theoretically, it is possible that the entire environment has squibs implanted in them, but that would be an unbelievable amount of effort for not nearly enough benefit to justify it.
Instead, it seems likelier that the guns are somehow capable of distinguishing between hosts and guests. This way, when a gun is being fired at a host, it can fire at a lethal speed, whereas when a gun is being fired at a guest, it fires at a much slower and thus much more survivable speed. With that said, the terms and conditions mention proprietary safeguards in the bullets rather than the guns, meaning that whatever tech is responsible for regulating their speed is actually installed in the bullets rather than the guns. Something that makes it even more impressive without rendering it wholly impossible in the process.
With that said, a more interesting question might be why the company behind Westworld has proprietary technology of this kind. Generally speaking, arms manufacturers tend not to go into the same line of business as amusement park operators, though to be fair, robot manufacturers tend not to go into the same line of business as amusement park operators either. Still, it is fun to speculate about the sort of corporate monstrosities that can ensue from unchecked vertical integration, which would not be particularly out of place in science fiction of the less optimistic kind.