Star Wars weapons: An Overview

Some of the most talented designers, story tellers and prop makers in the history of film came together to forge a truly iconic array of weapons for the Star Wars universe. Generations have been dazzled by the blasters, light sabers and even flame throwers carried by militaries of The Rebel Alliance, the Galactic Empire and others across the galaxy.

The weapons in the Star Wars universe are as diverse as the people that carry them. Some weapons, like slug throwers, feel almost as familiar to us as modern guns. Others, like light sabers and blasters, are energy weapons of pure fantasy that we can hardly imagine except with the help of special effects. 

Table of Contents

Ranged Weapons

The Star Wars universe has many ranged weapon types. They vary from the guns we are used to in the real world to dangerous energy weapons that can vaporize an armored soldier in one shot. Below we will explore the various classes of ranged Star Wars weapons.

Blasters

Easily the most common type of weapon in all of Star Wars, the blaster is seen in every corner of the galaxy. Large militaries equip most troops with them, and yet even lone smugglers trust them with their lives. A weapon type as far-reaching and widely used as the blaster comes in many forms to suit the needs of its many users.

How do blasters work?

Blasters fire a short beam of highly energetic particles and light called a blaster bolt. This bolt is created from two parts: a blaster gas, and a power pack charged with energy. When the user fires the blaster, some of the blaster gas is allowed into a special chamber where it is excited to an extreme state of energy by the power pack. Once excited, that very energetic gas is compressed and imbued with intense light. Finally, this very dangerous mix passes through a focusing crystal and leaves the blaster as a blaster bolt.

Blaster Pistols

Blaster pistols offer the power of a blaster weapon in a small package. While not technically as powerful as the larger blaster carbines and rifles, they can still kill people pretty effectively even if they are wearing armor. Blaster pistols generally have a reduced range compared to other blaster weapons, however. 

Blaster Carbines

Blaster carbines offer more punch than a pistol, without all of the weight and size of a full blaster rifle. They usually have shorter barrels and less bulky grips, so that they are more maneuverable than full sized rifles. They can often be fired faster than blaster rifles as well, though with less range and accuracy. They are also usually cheaper to make than a blaster rifle.

Blaster Rifles

Blaster rifles are bigger and more powerful than the other widely available types of blasters. They have solid range and accuracy, and reliably do more damage than any smaller blaster, but cost more to build. As a result, only a well financed military can field a large number of blaster rifles, while  a military with fewer credits will have to make due with smaller, cheaper blasters.

Blaster Cannons

Blaster cannons are large weapons, most of which are mounted on vehicles and ships due to their sheer size. However, a few of them can be carried by individuals and they bring massive firepower to the battlefield. These are the biggest, baddest blasters in the Star Wars universe. They can not only do incredible damage to people but can damage vehicles, ships and buildings.

Disruptors

Banned by both the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance, these weapons are regarded as some of the most dangerous personal weapons in the Star Wars universe. Disruptors work similarly to blasters in some ways, but are different in that they are much more extreme by design. Assassins and bounty hunters often preferred these weapons. If people are caught with disruptors, it almost always results in a death sentence.

How do disruptors work?

Disruptors, like blasters, use blaster gas as ammunition. However, disruptors use far more of it than any blaster and charge it to much higher levels of energy. This makes the disruptor shot very powerful, but very unstable. As a consequence of this dangerous method of operation, the weapon only gets a few shots before it is out of ammo. These few shots, however, will hit harder than nearly anything else in the Star Wats universe.

Disruptor Pistols

Both incredibly dangerous and deceptively compact, disruptor pistols pack more punch for their size than nearly anything else in the Star Wars universe. They are commonly used by criminal organizations and Mandalorians because of their extreme capacity to do damage paired with their easy concealment. They generally have a short range.

Disruptor Rifles

Disruptor rifles are the most terrifying weapon that a single person could carry. When they hit their target, it literally rips them apart at the molecular level, mostly vaporizing them. Many disruptor rifles are used for sniping and have scopes, because they could direct their shot in a straight line until they hit something and utterly devastate whatever they smashed into nearly instantly. There are other types of disruptor rifles that have specific effects, however. One used by Dash Rendar can hit like a small seismic charge, exploding in all directions with a unique shockwave.

Slugthrowers

Slugthrowers, of all the weapons in Star Wars, are weapons we can relate to. They are like modern real-world firearms. This, in the Star Wars universe, is widely viewed as a disadvantage. Where blaster bolts would fly straight and just turn to vapor at the end of their range, slugs fired from a slug thrower are dropping the whole time they are in the air. A shooter must be more skilled to compensate for this. However, there are some advantages to this type of weapon. They are simpler to build and maintain, and they are more reliable in harsh conditions than the more sensitive blaster weapons they can often go up against.

How Slugthrowers Work

Slugthrowers work mostly like modern firearms do. They use a chemical explosive to push a slug down a metal barrel at extremely high speeds. Slugs can be made of metals, ceramics, or even very hard plastics. They can have single shot designs where the weapon must be cycled manually every time they are fired, or they can have large detachable magazines that hold many slugs at once. Once fired, a slug slows down the entire time it is in flight and also falls towards the ground.

Slugthrowers have a few disadvantages:

  • They can’t penetrate some armors that blaster bolts can
  • They are harder to aim because the slug falls in flight
  • Slugthrower ammo is harder to make and more expensive

But they also have several unexpected advantages:

  • They are superior in harsh environments because they are much easier to maintain than blasters
  • They can potentially have much greater range, with kills reported at over a mile in the hands of skilled snipers
  • They can’t be completely deflected by lightsabers, and will shower the lightsaber user with molten slug splatter
  • They are cheaper to fix and maintain than blasters
  • They can use special ammo types like explosive ammo that does considerable damage

Cultural Ranged Weapons

Beyond the many ranged weapons in the Star Wars universe at large, there are some specific ranged weapons that are unique to a single culture. They tend to be both exotic and iconic, an extension of that culture’s story.

The Wookiees: Bowcasters

The bowcaster is a ranged weapon unique to Wookiees. These weapons look like a crossbow, and fire a metal bolt-like projectile that is wrapped in energy, giving them an explosive impact that Wookiees often need in order to defend themselves against the vicious predators of Kashyyyk. They work well at short ranges but begin to lose effectiveness after about 30 meters. They hit significantly harder than blasters and tend to be more accurate, and they can shoot ammunition that is not charged, granting them the versatility to shoot bolts with poison or explosive tips.

The Tusken Raiders: The Tusken Cycler

The Tusken Cycler is a slugthrower type weapon used by the Tusken Raiders on Tatooine. The slugs fired by this weapon are wrapped in energy, lending to the glow of its slugs when fired. The gun normally has a long barrel and a conventional rifle stock, but is often modified by the Tusken Raiders to include upgrades to make the gun more powerful, or to add optics to make them better for sniping.

Melee Weapons

Melee weapons in Star Wars vary as widely as they do in real life, and more. There are primitive weapons like simple knives, spears, axes, and there are also some very high tech weapons we could only dream of like lightsabers and vibroweapons.

Lightsabers

Easily the most iconic weapon in all of Star Wars, the lightsaber is the weapon of choice for both the Jedi and the Sith. Some of the greatest fight scenes in all of sci fi are between two wielders of the lightsaber. These weapons that resemble a sword feature a blade of pure plasma, powered by an exotic kyber crystal. The handle, where that crystal is seated, is generally made by the lightsaber user and is made of metal. The handle shields the user from the tremendous heat and power of the plasma so that they can direct it like a sword both offensively and defensively.

How do lightsabers work?

Lightsabers are powered by a kyber crystal integrated into a power cell. A blade emitter shroud is necessary in combination with an emitter matrix to create the blade. The only other strictly necessary component is a switch to turn the blade on and off. Some have a function where they can be set to a reduced power setting, so that the blade can be used for training without killing anyone.

Cultural Melee Weapons

These melee weapons, often primitive, are distinctly used by specific cultures in the Star Wars universe. We recognize many without thinking about it because they are an extension of the aesthetic of that culture, like the gaderffii used by the Tusken Raiders.

The Wookiees: Ryyk Blades

The Wookiees used a special form of curved hunting blade called the Rykk Blade. As each blade is made by hand they vary significantly, but generally have a few things in common. The blade itself is broad and curved, and the handle is wrapped with leather. They are often very heavy, but Wookiees can handle them with speed and agility. Wookiees have a very personal relationship with these weapons as they do with their bowcasters, and they consider it offensive for a non-Wookiee to use them without having been explicitly granted the right to do so.

The Tusken Raiders: Gaderffii

The gaderffii is a basic melee weapon with something pointy or sharp on one end in an L shape, and some kind of bashing head on the other. They vary quite a bit because they are made from junk scavenged in the deserts of Tatooine. They are long, like staves, and typically used with two hands.