I found "A sledgehammer to crack a nut" as one example. What are some others?

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    Possible duplicate of "To kill a fly with a..."? – Kristina Lopez Nov 23 '15 at 17:17
  • So, what, the Tim Taylor "more power" treatment has already faded from our memories? Sigh. – cobaltduck Nov 23 '15 at 18:49
  • It's not idiomatic, but I'm partial to "don't use a grenade to dig a hole when a shovel will do." – VampDuc Nov 23 '15 at 18:54
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    In high school we would've called this overkill - certainly informal, but it'll do the trick. – Anonym Nov 23 '15 at 19:36


a [sledge]hammer/cannon/shotgun to kill a fly


a nuke to kill a fly

Mathematics StackExchange

a [cruise/nuclear/heat-seeking] missile to kill (or zap) a fly

Google Books

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Consider "to break a butterfly on a wheel":

Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?

A rhetorical question referring to an excessive amount of force that has been applied to achieve something minor, unimportant, or insignificant.

To "break upon a wheel" refers to a mode of torture, in which a victim has his or her bones broken while strapped to a large wheel.

(The Free Dictionary)

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If a single word is OK, try overkill:

An excess of what is necessary or appropriate for a particular end


Also, you can use a sledgehammer to swat a fly, too.

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  • I don't care about the downvote, but an explanation would be nice. Any anglophone can see the answer is correct. – A.P. Nov 23 '15 at 17:39
  • I'm not the downvoter, but it may be that this expression has become obscure and poorly understood. Until today I had always thought it was "crushing a butterfly beneath a wheel" and that it referred to some large organization destroying something beautiful and fragile. Of course, it might be a personal misunderstanding, but I can attest that the expression is not in common understood usage in modern American English, in my experience. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Nov 23 '15 at 17:49
  • @ChrisSunami Well, I'm not saying it's common, but it's super interesting, IMO, going back to Alexander Pope. Plus, that's not the extent of my answer. Ah well. Anyway, thanks for weighing in, Chris, appreciated. – A.P. Nov 23 '15 at 18:08
  • I ended up upvoting because there seem to be plenty of citations to support your usage. Plus, as you said, it's an interesting phrase with some rich history, although it still seems --to me --a bit of a mismatch with the proper meaning. – Chris Sunami supports Monica Nov 23 '15 at 18:16

Shoot a rabbit with an elephant gun (also kill a fly with an elephant gun), meaning to do something with excessive force, or to find a massively overpowered solution to a minor problem.

This was apparently referenced in a line of dialogue from a 1951 Bugs Bunny cartoon, although whether it created the idiom or just used it is unclear.

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"To bring a gun to a fistfight." With the reverse sense of "To bring a knife to a gunfight."

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