A blaster, also called a gun, was a ranged weapon that fired bursts of particle beam energy called blaster bolts from a replaceable power pack. The most commonly used weapon in the galaxy, blasters' intense beams consisted of compacted high-energy particles and intense light that could kill or paralyze their target, depending on the setting. Blasters ranged in size and power from compact pistols to large, heavy rifles to starship-mounted blaster cannons. Some beings used blasters from their youth: Anakin Skywalker owned a small ion blaster in his childhood, Leia Organa was given a sporting blaster when she was a teenager, and Mandalorian children were given blasters, along with extensive training, prior to becoming thirteen standard years old. Throughout the Clone Wars, a clone trooper usually held a blaster rifle if not any type of specialist.
The terms blaster and laser were often used interchangeably in everyday conversation, both denoting the same type of particle beam weapon. However, technically speaking, the laser was a much older weapon design than the blaster, and blasters' firing cycles had faster recharge rates than those of lasers, allowing them to attain a much higher rate of fire, though at a loss of range and accuracy.
A blaster could also be referred to as a "gun".
There was some dispute as to what size of weapon the term blaster denoted. For example, blasters were commonly thought of as handheld weapons only, but starship-mounted blaster cannons could fall into this category as well.
Instead of firing a coherent beam of light like the archaic laser, the blaster fired a compressed, focused, high-energy particle-beam that was very destructive, commonly referred to as a "bolt". Generating the bolt relied on two components: a gas cartridge filled with an energy-rich blaster gas (typically Tibanna) and a power pack. When the blaster was fired, a small amount of gas moved from the cartridge through the Heter valve into the gas conversion enabler chamber, commonly called the XCiter. In this chamber, the power pack energized the gas, before it passed into the actuating blaster module, where the now extremely high-energy gas was transformed into a compressed beam of intense energy particles, coupled with intense light. The particle beam was then focused through a prismatic crystal or a similar device, which generated a deadly high-energy particle beam, fired from the emitter nozzle as a bolt of glowing energy. The color of the bolt depended on the gas used and the type of focusing device, and could vary from red to blue to orange to white.
A side effect of firing blasters was the gas conversion enabler heating up as gas was energized by the power pack, which could cause blasters to overheat, sometimes to the point of destruction. Additionally, a small amount of ozone was emitted as a trace product of the bolt emerging from the emitter nozzle, lending blaster bolts a distinctive smell that Han Solo characterized as being like burnt meat.
Most personal blasters had two kinds of ammunition: a gas cartridge and a power cell. Blaster gas cartridges could typically provide for up to five hundred shots before needing replacement. Most blaster power packs could supply energy for up to one hundred shots. Certain more powerful weapons put greater demands on the gas cartridge, power pack, or both: less powerful weapons, like the Drearian Defense Conglomerate Defender sporting blaster pistol, relied largely on the power cell and used only a small quantity of gas, while very powerful weapons, such as the illegal disruptor, used much larger amounts of gas. Still other weapons, namely those dating from earlier times, employed a kind of removable power cell/cartridge which supplied enough energy (though at weaker levels) to make total expenditure seldom. Most blasters also had a stun setting, which fed power through a secondary emitter, bypassing the gas chamber to create a ring-shaped electromagnetic burst that disrupted the target's nervous system, often leaving them unconscious.
Blaster bolts themselves carried no heat. On impact, however, their displacement of matter produced kinetic energy that caused heat: the atmosphere was displaced by the bolt's passage (causing the blaster's iconic sound); materials struck by bolts tended to deform and fuse, and liquids inside organic bodies instantly changed state to steam, expanding and doing terrible damage to surrounding tissue. Consequently, bolts usually dissipated in a small, but violent, explosion of extreme heat and force upon contact with an unshielded surface, sometimes leaving blast points. Weapons such as Han Solo's DL-44 heavy blaster pistol and the E-11 blaster rifle could cause incredible destruction, and had the power to blow large chunks from stone walls and smaller holes and pockmarks out of durasteel bulkheads, as seen in Han Solo and Luke Skywalker's raid on Detention Block AA-23 in 0 BBY.
History and usage
The oldest known weapon that could be called a blaster was used by an ancient droid of an unknown model employed by the Rakatan Infinite Empire. This weapon was considered to be extremely up-to-date compared to the blasters of the year 3956 BBY.
The first blasters developed by the greater galaxy were reverse-engineered from Rakatan technology after the collapse of the Infinite Empire. These were heavy artillery weapons that combined large energy conductors with huge power generators. These early blasters were destructive but were slow to fire, temperamental, and difficult to move. As more efficient energy sources were developed, blasters became smaller and more practical, becoming anti-infantry emplacements and then handheld weapons known as beam-tubes. These consisted of backpack power generators with a hose coming out of the side that connected to a handheld focusing tube. All of the equipment that created the blaster beam was contained in the backpack and was fired through the hose. The beam-tube was the dominant weapon of the elite infantry of Xim the Despot, the Duinarbulon Star Lancers, around 25,130 BBY and came to displace heatbeams and plasma cannons (both of which used lasers to heat plasma) because they were safer to carry and required less maintenance.
Beam-tubes were replaced by pulse-wave blasters in 7811 BBY. These weapons produced a more powerful beam and had a much greater rate of fire. The pulse-wave weapons of Waymancy Hollow dramatically overpowered the Galactic Republic during the Waymancy Storm conflict until the Republic was able to reverse-engineer the Sif-Alulan process to produce pulse-wave blasters of its own.
The next innovation in blaster technology was the triple blaster, which dated to the early Galactic Republic. It worked by using three separate weapons connected to the same targeting system, often coordinated in sets of two or four and fired simultaneously at a target. Triple blasters had become exceedingly rare by the rise of the Empire. Pulse-wave weapons were still in extensive use at the time of the Great Sith War around 4000 BBY, but lost out to the triple blaster as they were imprecise and lacked range.
Further developments in the lead up to the Mandalorian Wars led to the decline of triple blaster technology as what is traditionally thought of as the blaster was created: a self-contained unit that could produce bolts by itself with no additional equipment. Blasters were a mature technology from this point, and blasters from the Clone Wars were considered identical in operation to their successors from the Galactic Civil War twenty years later.
Blasters rapidly displaced the slugthrower as the primary infantry weapon owing to their greater ammunition capacity and power, and lighter ammunition than slugs. However, slugthrowers were still more useful than blasters in certain environments, such as exceptionally humid locales like jungles, which might destroy a blaster's delicate internal components. Slugthrowers could also be silenced more easily than blasters and did not produce a visible bolt.
An updated version of blaster technology developed during the Clone Wars were "stealth" blasters, exemplified by the DC-19 "Stealth" carbine used by the Republic's clone shadow troopers. The DC-19 had a sound-suppressor unit that allowed the user to operate the blaster in virtually complete silence, and also had an alternate stealth firing mode that used a refined mixture of tibanna gas, making the bolt invisible to the naked eye. However, the invisible tibanna mix had to be reloaded after every ten shots, and there was a required cool-down time between each shot to protect the blaster's dampeners from overheating. A further development of this was the Nightstinger sporting blaster rifle. Another development during the Galactic Civil War was the autoblaster. Designed for the B-wing starfighter, it had a higher rate of fire than other blasters, but did not become commonly available until after the Battle of Endor.
The most common personal weapon in the galaxy by the rise of the Empire, blasters were often used not only by military personnel, but by civilians as protection. They were more commonly seen in the Outer Rim worlds, though small, concealable hold-out blasters were frequently used by social elite, such as Baron Administrator Lando Calrissian. Many establishments, such as the Cantina in Mos Eisley, had restrictions against use of blasters, though these were often overlooked if the conflict remained small.
The most common manufacturer of blasters during the Galactic Civil War was BlasTech, which had contracts with both the Imperial Military and the Alliance to Restore the Republic. It also manufactured the Protector civilian fighter-grade blaster line.
Many blasters had attachments and accessories to aid in targeting, accuracy, rate of fire, and grip. Attachments included targeting lasers, electronic scopes, and larger power packs. Delta Squad's DC-17m interchangeable blasters had sniper and anti-armor attachments for adaptability in unpredictable situations. Boba Fett's EE-3 carbine rifle had a small scope which could interface with Fett's helmet for increased accuracy. Jango Fett's two WESTAR-34 blaster pistols had dallorian alloy plating, which kept the weapon from overheating. Clone troopers' DC-15A blasters could interface with their helmets.
- Blaster pistols
- Blaster carbines
- Blaster rifles
- Repeating blaster
- Blaster cannons
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