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I’m big on guns for personal defense, but at the same time, I’m not a big fan of killing people. That may sound contradictory, as shooting someone to defend yourself can easily (and often does) involve death. But, we have to keep in mind that the goal of a legitimate defensive shoot isn’t to kill. The goal is to incapacitate, and hopefully cause them to stop what they’re doing (trying to kill you or someone else) before they’re done doing it.

Sadly, today’s technology doesn’t give us a lot of alternatives to shooting if it’s rapid incapacitation we need. Pepper spray and tasers are the obvious alternative, but pepper spray relies on pain compliance an emotional or drug-addicted person can fight through, and tasers aren’t good against deadly force because there’s no guarantee that both darts connect and complete the circuit. So, we’re stuck with having to stop the action through the pain of getting shot, rapid blood loss or through damage to neural tissue. Given the time constraints of a defensive encounter, we don’t usually get to choose which one we go for.

But, in the world of science fiction, we have other options. It may seem silly to compare fictional weapons (even if that’s fun), but we have to keep in mind that many things that are real today started out as fake things on the TV or movie screen. By comparing these weapons, we can figure out what things are worth pursuing and what things really don’t help us defend ourselves better.

Science Fiction Weapons That Suck

Before I get to what I think’s great, I want to start with a few weapons that I think stink, especially for defensive use. This will not be an exhaustive list of all sci-fi weapons that suck, so feel free to come up with more in the comments or on social media.

I’ll start with a sacred cow: blasters in the Star Wars universe. While the little bolts of plasma pistols and rifles in Star Wars send are highly destructive upon arrival and cause nearly instant incapacitation (assuming they don’t hit a main character), they also have the problem of being inaccurate in many cases. Plus, blaster bolts only move at about 194 feet per second (per Mythbusters), making them stoppable by, say, a Jedi.

The bigger problem with most blasters is that they don’t have a stun setting that people want to use. In all of the live action movies, the stun setting on a blaster gets used only once, and seems to spread out across a whole room before striking the target. In animation, stun rings look to be more concentrated, but still don’t get used all that much. If the stun setting isn’t good enough for even the good guys to use, it’s probably not good enough for us to depend on.

The staff weapon from the Stargate TV and movie universe suffers from a similar problem to blaster bolts: slow moving, highly destructive and not terribly accurate. Here’s a segment from Stargate SG1 where we see this explained:

But, if there’s one weapon that would probably be the most useless for personal defense, I’d have to pick the Noisy Cricket from Men in Black:

The extreme recoil, the massive damage caused (it destroys much of a bread van) and the time it takes to fire (the gun makes cricket sounds for a bit before firing) make it about the most useless defensive weapon in all of science fictiondom.

Two Excellent Defensive Weapons

I love Star Wars, but there’s one thing that Kirk, Spock, Picard, and especially Captain Burnham get right: They carry a phaser (sometimes). Unlike a gun or any of the weapons in the last section, the phaser can hurt, render unconscious, kill or disintegrate entirely. It can also be used for cutting, welding, melting and many other non-weapon needs. It moves fast, it’s reasonably accurate, and doesn’t even appear to need sights in many cases.

The newest version of the phaser, from Star Trek Discovery (set in the 32nd century) has an even cooler feature: no need for holsters. Instead, the phaser is made from programmable matter. You wear it on your wrist, hidden from view. When it’s needed you extend your hand and it materializes there, ready to fire. It also has a cool “extendo” feature where you can quickly convert a phaser pistol into a more powerful and accurate rifle with a wrist movement. So, no need for a “truck gun”.

One other great sci-fi weapon would be Stargate‘s zat’nik’tel, or “zat gun.” Like a phaser, it can be used to stun, kill or completely obliterate a person or an object.

Finally, I have to give Mystery Men‘s Blamethrower an honorable mention. It’s among one of the finest non-lethal weapons there is, assuming the targets don’t kill each other!


What about you? What sci-fi weapons do you think would be most useful? Be sure to let us know in the comments and on social media.

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    • Donut of destruction actually comes from “Spaced Invaders.” Martian movie but from the nineties. Very enjoyable movie from when they still made descent movies.

      “Prepare to die Earth scum. Prepare to die Earth scum. I’ll make sure they carve that on your tombstone.”

      • I love the scene where the Martian commander gets hit by a drunken redneck driving a pickup truck. The service station attendant had to use a snow shovel to scrape the Martian off the grill.

  1. Why didn’t you include the “Point of View Gun” from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? 🙂

    • Or the Kill-O-Zap guns from the books. “Make it look evil. If that means putting spiky black bits all over it then do so. Make it clear this gun has a right end and a wrong end, and for anyone at wrong end things are going very badly for them.”

      Note this was from my somewhat hazy memory.

  2. I nominate “a simple blaster” from Forbidden Planet. Well except for Monsters from the ID. Stun or disintegrate from 1956. 😀

  3. The “stunners” in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga were pretty sweet for non-lethal use which were almost guaranteed to be non-lethal unless the target was standing over or next to a drop that would kill them if they fell into it. They also had “nerve disruptors” that were nearly always lethal and even when they weren’t the victim often wished it had been. They also had needler guns and needler grenade launchers which were pretty destructive as well. Then again they had really good combat armor suits that were effective against all of these as well.

    Great series although it was a bit on the woke side even though it was written 10-25+ years ago.

  4. A few come to mind:
    -Zorg ZF-1 from The Fifth Element.
    -The Lawgiver Mk.II from Dredd
    -M41A Pulse Rifle from Aliens

  5. Any of Professor Farnsworth’s Doomsday Devices.

    Or a Romulan Disruptor. The Zat would be #3 for me. #4 would be that Goa’uld grenade.

    But, in the scifi realm, why only “weapons”?

    Why not defensives like the suit from Crysis or the personal shield from SG:Atlantis?

    Or why not the lazy solution? I’ll take Rodney McKay and he’ll sort it out…

      • Mal’s Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B was a piece of work. The only thing visible of the Taurus 85 is the trigger and trigger guard. I own one and it actually a sweet little snubby .38

      • That is one of the more interesting designs from scifi.

        The ability to fire multiple types of ammo is a pretty cool idea. Unusual in its forward thinking for the edges of a space-faring civilization.

        In some regards, I feel like the ultimate tool that has weaponizable capacity for offense/defense is Rick’s portal gun from Rick and Morty but that thing also kinda feels like a deus ex machina in a lot of regards.

      • I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned Vera from the Firefly universe . . . .

        “It’s a Callahan full-bore auto-lock. Customized trigger, double cartridge thorough gauge. . . . . It’s the best gun made by man. It has extreme sentimental value.”

  6. Or the weapons in Van Vogt’s “The Weapon Shops of Isher” (1951), who’s motto is: “The right to buy weapons is the right to be free”.

  7. I got two phasers in the junk drawer and neither one does what they’re supposed to. Too late to get my money back.

  8. I got modded again. When I tried to comment on my own modding I got told that replys to a modded comment were not allowed.

    Shooting News Weekly looks better every day.

  9. I forgot, is this site “The Truth About Sci-Fi” or “The Truth About Whatever Sensiba Decides to Talk About?”

  10. the Space:1999 lasers/stunners/electro guns/whatever. (They couldn’t seem to settle on a name, as I recall.)

  11. Ash’s boom stick from Army of Darkness. never needs reloaded, unless for style.

  12. So we are talking science fiction right?, Biden Intelligence, it destroys countries without killing anything but the economy.

  13. Personally, I’d love to have a Varon-T disruptor. You know, because they are….VISCOUS.

  14. Obviously; I would prefer a Star Trek phaser because it has disintegrate setting. This simplifies utilizing the shoot, shovel and shut up strategy because the vaporization of the carcass makes it is unnecessary to shovel.

    Of course very few Science Fiction authors understand the concept of diffraction limitations. Unless your beam weapons operate at very high frequency and hence short wavelength, the beam is going to spread significantly. This has been a major issue for developing laser weapons in the real world. The solution has been to combine a laser with a large diameter optical system.

    Interestingly; one approach that is being experimented with are PHased Array lasERs. These are analogous to phased array radars but operate in the Infrared, Visible or Ultraviolet spectrum. Aside from focusing and adapting to atmospheric interference, Phased Array Lasers can shift their point of aim almost instantly.

    Another favorite Science Fiction weapon of mine is the Honorverse pulsar. It is essentially a gun that shoots projectiles at extreme velocities utilizing gravitational fields rather than magnetic fields much less expanding gases to accelerate the projectiles. Given the limitations imposed by aerodynamic drag, slender, small caliber, darts are favored over spherical projectiles.

    Of course another favorite weapon of mine from the Honorverse is the neural whip. As the name implies, it is a torture device. You can no doubt surmise that aside from the shower scene, my favorite scene in the movie STARSHIP TROOPERS is the newsreel of the humans applying a high voltage anal probe to one of the aliens.

  15. “The Armat M41A Pulse Rifle is a pulse-action assault rifle chambered for 10×24mm Caseless ammunition.[1] It was notably employed by the United States Colonial Marine Corps and the United States Army as their primary infantry weapon during the late 22nd century.[1] Through its use with the USCM, it saw regular use in various engagements with the Xenomorph and Yautja species.”

    • Under all the plastic bits was a M1A1 Thompson and a SPAS PA-3 shotgun for the grenade launcher.


    Comparing the rates of “hot” burglaries in the US against those in the United Kingdom teaches us the value of firearms for self defense.

  17. Woman Acts Like Gorilla After Being Pistol Whipped By Armed Robbers To Defend Herself.

  18. I like sci-fi, but it requires a degree of suspension of reality.
    Like, there is no sound in space. Joss Whedon noted that, and that is why in Firefly, in external space shots, he played music with no sound of Serenity’s engine in space.
    But then their is the artificial gravity thing no one addresses. I think The Expanse was the closest that I can think of with the one ship that spun.
    Then again, seems no one really aims anyways. They are all crack shots, hitting nearly everything they point and shoot at even if it is 20 yards away or even further with their blaster or phaser.
    I heard Star Trek Discovery was woke Star Trek, so I am not watching that one.
    But I am enjoying Star Trek Strange New Worlds. The singing one was worth it just for the Klingons doing rap.

    • Unless of course they are imperial storm troopers. Those guys can’t even hit the Death Star from the inside.

    • The author of the original books definitely put more thought into explanations of tech in The Expanse than did other authors/creators.

      Most ships in The Expanse don’t spin, only the Mormon ship does that. Space stations and astroid stations s
      also spin/have “gravity” because they’re built in a manner somewhat reminiscent of a dyson sphere, which is Tycho Corp’s main business, “spinning up asteroids”.
      Other than thr Mormon expedition ship, ships mostly, have decks perpendicular to what we expect from sea-going ships, which is the clever bit from the original author.

      This is why “gravity engages” when the engines are pushing the ship and why mag boots are needed when the ships are not underway or during a “flip and burn” approach.

      Which, in the lore, is also why disabled UNN ships can’t usually deal with wounded very well (and also why outlaws/OPA tend to abandon or space the wounded). If they can’t get underway there’s no “gravity” and therefore wounds don’t heal correctly. The Martians do better with this because they have superior med-tech in that unit that goes around someone’s arm. Something they were kinda forced to invent because of Martian gravity.

      Dude actually thought out some details.

      Remember, don’t touch the blue shit in the engine room.

  19. A variable sword or the double barrel, Slaver disintegror from Larry Niven’s RINGWORLD. The former is a very thin wire stiffened by a stasis field. It will slice through almost anything. The latter was originally designed by the Thrintum to suppress the charge of electrons to disintegrate matter. The Pierson’s Puppeteers improved on the design by operating it in parallel with a comparable device that suppresses the charge of Protons. As a result, an extremely intense current is induced between the two areas of charge suppression. A very large scale version of this weapon was utilized to attack the Kzinti base on the nearly airless planet of warhead. The weapon excavated a canyon about a hundred miles wide and a thousand miles long. The serving Kzinti dubbed this “the gash on warhead.”. All of the air on the planet settled into the canyon, making a habitable niche with breathable air, for humans.

    • Elmer – but can you afford the upkeep on it? And where could you park it? My HOA won’t even let me park a camper or a boat/trailer on my parking slab ;-(

  20. I too, do not want to kill, but in this day of instant law suits a self defense action can and has turned into a prison sentence for the one that was defending their self and family.
    People have gone to jail for using pepper spray and stunning devices due to the attacker and their friends clamming they were just saying ‘Hi’.
    I was told by a cop many years ago, longer then many here have been alive, that unlike a popular TV show of the time, dead men tell no tales. So I will continue to use a LEATHAL weapon for defense.
    That said, I would vote for the ST phasor as it also has a broad band ability to stun groups of people as opposed to just one person at a time.

  21. The Russkies just launched a space weapon so there’s that. The future’s gonna be great they told us. Robots and flying cars they said. Ronnie Raygun had the right (SDI) idea.

  22. Farscape had the Quatla blade which was s sword that could turn into a blaster rifle.

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