- "Slugthrowers. I hate 'em. But they're easy to maintain. Day or two in the jungle and your blaster'll never fire again. A good slug rifle, keep 'em wiped and oiled, they last forever. The guerrillas have pretty good luck with them, even though they take a lot of practice—slugs are ballistic, y'know? You have to plot the trajectory in your head. Shee, gimme a blaster anytime."
- ―Phloremirlla Tenk
Slugthrowers were weapons that used an explosive chemical to launch a solid projectile (a "slug") at high velocity. Blasters were fashioned in style and function after these more primitive weapons. Slugthrowers were found in various forms, from smaller slugthrower pistols to larger slugthrower rifles.
A typical slugthrower pistol had an effective range of around 60 meters, while on a slugthrower rifle this was extended to 300 meters. Sniper rifles had been known to pick off enemies from over a mile in the hands of skilled snipers and marksmen. Their firing rates varied immensely; some were single shot weapons without external detachable magazines, while others fired thousands of slugs a minute. Slugthrowers were also known to have different types of action, ranging from pump, lever, revolver, bolt, and many others. The type of firing mechanism used to fire the slug played a direct role in the weapon's rate of fire, and many times dictated how primitive or advanced the weapon was. Slugs also varied; some were made of metal, some ceramic or even hardened plastics. Ammunition for slugthrowers was often rarer than blaster gas, however, and thus more expensive. Varying calibers sometimes compounded this problem.
Slugthrowers were considered by many to be a primitive, inferior technology when compared to blasters, and were often used by the poor and those without access to better weapons, such as the populations of backwater planets including Tatooine and Kalee. However, they were also used commonly by criminals, snipers, and assassins. Slugthrowers were often looked down upon due to their use of projectile ammunition which were ballistic resulting in the shooter needing to plot the trajectory of his or her shot and required a reasonable amount of practice. While a blaster bolt would dissipate after it had reached past its maximum effective range, it would not drop and thus was considered superior in terms of accuracy. A slug, however, would follow a ballistic trajectory, falling at an accelerating rate (determined by local gravity effects), and could strike the ground before reaching its maximum range. However, they remained popular for the unique advantages they offered. For example, during the days of the Galactic Republic, mercenaries fearing an intervention by Jedi Knights used rapid-fire slugthrowers that were impossible to completely deflect with a lightsaber, unlike blaster bolts. They were also popular among forces looking to take advantage of the explosive nature for intimidation or to ensure destruction. Whatever they lacked in functionality, they regained in stealth. A slugthrower could be silenced, while a blaster usually could not. Also, blaster rounds were almost always visible. Although this could be seen as an advantage, non-tracer rounds used by slugthrowers added an extra element of confusion and surprise, not allowing the target to see where the shots were coming from. Furthermore, slugthrowers were generally cheaper and more easily repaired than blasters. In addition, the projectile itself could have unique properties. Explosive, incendiary and mercy slugs each had different effects. Explosive ammo dealt additional kinetic damage to a target. Incendiary ammunition could cause burns that were as dangerous as the projectile, or set items on fire. Mercy bullets made of rubber or semi-rigid plastic gave a way to set a slugthrower on 'stun'. Of course, this meant carrying extra ammo or magazines—and special rounds were costlier and rarer than conventional slugs. Bounty hunters that carried slugthrowers tended to make extensive use of special ammo in their work. Some mixed rounds in the same magazine, starting with mercy slugs and working their way up to more lethal types in case the less deadly projectiles failed to stop their opponents.
According to Phloremirlla Tenk, slugthrowers also seemed to be a more rugged and reliable weapon than a blaster, stating that they "last forever", whereas blasters "never fire again" after "a day or two in the jungle".
As blaster usage increased, the popularity of personal armor declined—while extremely effective against most slugs, even modern armor could not stop a direct blaster hit, and as a result the wearing of bulky or cumbersome protective gear seemed to offer little benefit, while still obstructing movement. Thus, the blaster arguably increased the usefulness of the slugthrower.
Tatooine's Tusken Raiders used the Tusken Cycler as a long range weapon when they were not close enough to use gaderffii. Most Slugthrower projectiles could penetrate a Trooper's helmet lens or vulnerable neck area, so when stormtroopers arrived on Tatooine, Tuskens often used them as target practice.
Several Rebel detachments carried slugthrowers, including Rebel SpecForce units, who preferred them because of the ability to silence them. Many used special explosive ammunition that was especially effective against stormtrooper armor. The Dressellians carried them at the Battle of Endor.
Slugthrowers were one of the more common weapons in the remote planet Lamaredd, because blasters and replacements for them were hard to find. There was an annual Landing Shootout in the capital town of Bartyn's Landing where contestants shot their slugthrowers to static targets for fame and awards, with the first award being a pearl-incrusted slugthrower handcrafted by artisan and crack shot Mix Liddell.
Behind the scenes
Slugthrowers are, of course, firearms.
The term "slugthrower" is also used in other works of science fiction (such as Farscape) as a (usually somewhat pejorative) term for guns; the term is often, but not always, applied specifically to "primitive" gas-driven guns (using either compressed gas or chemical explosives) rather than electromagnetically-driven or other such "advanced" projectile weapons.