Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Awesome = ½mv2 [1]

"An object impacting at 3 km/sec delivers kinetic energy equal to its mass in TNT."


"That means Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son-of-a-bitch in space!"


The story is set in some high-tech and/or futuristic society. There are massive computer networks, sentient robots, and ships that can zip across space with the same amount of effort it takes you to go to the store down the street. Despite all this technology, however, combat isn't all that different. Battle armor may have some gizmos on it, the guns may have higher muzzle velocities and an ammo count greater than the population of several rural communities, war vehicles may be able to do some fancy new tricks, but combat is the same at heart, bullets and shells still rule the battlefield. If there are energy weapons in the universe, they either are horribly disadvantaged with fewer shots before a replacement is needed, experimental, hard to get, or wracked with issues like overheating, and that's supposing anyone other than the attacking alien race/evil faction even has access to them. And that's if you can get them to actually be capable of hurting things.

An argument in favor of projectiles in fiction is, surprisingly, Rule of Cool—while subjecting stuff to melting or explosive evaporation is cool, broken pieces of the same stuff flying away may be even better. This does of course have its roots in the fact that Reality Is Unrealistic: serious laser weaponry would use short duration pulses with incredibly high energies that would simply rip a target apart by exploding its surface into plasma... but as everyone knows, lasers are supposed to slice things up into steaming lumps.

Sometimes kinetic weapons themselves don't appear to have advanced, either. Future weapons won't necessarily look more "advanced" or really be that different from modern ones: whether rounds are fired from a modern rifle or a space railgun, precise guides held by a solid external structure are still required to accelerate the projectile.

Compare Rock Beats Laser, Boring but Practical, and Break Out the Museum Piece.

Examples of Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better include:

Anime and Manga

  • Kinetic weapons are the big thing in Cannon God Exaxxion. While lasers are common, they cannot penetrate the Deflector Shields used in the series since they are based on Artificial Gravity tech & can thus redirect lasers using the gravitational lensing effect. Notably that's the exact opposite of how things should work: solid projectiles would be much easier to affect with gravity.
  • The Buff Clan in Space Runaway Ideon uses simple iron rods propelled to an almost-speed of light to bombard human-controlled planets. As you may imagine, not much is left of said planets afterwards.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the TSAB places heavy restrictions on the use of mass-based weaponry. It is implied that this is due to the devastation caused by interplanetary warfare with such weapons in the Backstory, as well as because while all magical weapons are set to stun by default, the same can't be done with kinetic ones. It is worth noting that the fear is not of small arms, which even a B-ranker has little to fear from, but WMD. However in the Darker and Edgier Force manga, where magic has been proving completely useless against the new antagonists, we've had gunblades, rocket lanchers, miniguns, explosives and even giant recoilless rifles introduced.
  • In Cowboy Bebop combat has switched from aircraft to starships, but most of it is still done with good old-fashioned machine guns and pistols. Energy weapons exist, but are implied to be rare and hard to get.
  • When the Earth-aliens infiltrate the protagonists' ship in Vandread, it turns out that said invaders could deflect energy weapons, but not a few .50 caliber clips. Having museum-piece guns lying about onboard sure was convenient...
  • Played straight through most of The Big O. The eponymous machine's energy weapons can sometimes get the job done, but usually its most reliable weapons are its huge arm pistons.
  • In the Gundam franchise beam weaponry is generally much stronger than kinetic (though it's for that exact reason that regular guns are still used; suits often are forced to fight in colonies and a stray beam would destroy the whole thing) but this trope comes into play to a small degree in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, with the presence of anti-beam countermeasures that render all beam weapons affected useless. The only way to combat this is old-fashioned solid ordinance.
    • In the meta-series, it is a very notable example of this trope, especially the transition from the First Gundam which aired in the late 70's having mostly beam weaponry starting in mid-to-late of the series(The First Gundam, RX-78 is one of the first Mecha (together with RX-77, which is an older model but saw combat a little later due to circumstances) equipped with a beam rifle, while only large war ships have cannons before that) The Universal Century series sequels in the 80's followed with beam weaponry motif, in late 80's (0080 and Char's Counter Attack) early 90's (0083) kinetic weapons started to increase in number, mainly bazookas, rockets, gatlings; then starting in mid 90's, this trope became quite dominant, first in 08th MS Team(Romeo and Juliet, or better, Romeo Vs Juliet) having both sides showing off tons of kinetic weaponry like wire guided missiles, large cannons, etc. Beam weaponry still remained as the main stay in TV series, but usually Macross Missile Massacre are also common.
    • Also, beam weapons are typically used on Gundams and other Mobile Suits; human-to-human combat is still conducted with projectile weapons.
    • Don't forget the 'shot-lancer' rocket spears in Mobile Suit Gundam F91 - specifically designed to provide the one-shot-one-kill power of a beam rifle while limiting collateral damage in a colony attack. They're used to devastating effect throughout the movie.
    • In Gundam Seed most anti-infantry weapons are of the projectile variety. All of the Gundams are equipped with Vulcan cannons in their heads for beating off infantry attacks, and many other mobile suits have outsized machineguns or automatic rifles that serve a similar purpose, as automatic fire is much more effective in breaking up mass infantry attacks than a single shot beam weapon. They also don't run out of power just because the mecha has. On the other hand Phase Shift tech makes Gundams immune to kinetics as long as they have power, which was an issue with early battery-powered models but became much less problematic when N-Jammer Cancellers re-enabled nuclear powerplants.
  • In Venus Wars, the militarized monocycles are armed with RailGuns.
  • Due to the fact they appear as glowing shafts of light, the ranged weapons used by the robots in Bokurano are often referred to as lasers, but are identified, via All There in the Manual, as being material weapons, specifically nanoparticles of the mechs' own armor material accelerated to near-relativistic speeds.
  • While there are Valkyries with beam armaments, the vast majority of Valkyries shown throughout Macross rely on gatling gunpods to deliver More Dakka with a higher rate of fire than beam weapons.
    • For a comparison: The VF-27 (which uses a beam gunpod) and the VF-25 (which uses a 57mm kinetic shell gunpod) appear to have identical rates of fire, based on their tracers... until one remembers that the standard mixes of tracer to live ammo are 1:5, 1:7, and 1:10.
    • Also, against large numbers of highly maneuverable opponents, Macross Missile Massacre is more reliable than dakka.

Comic Books

  • Judge Dredd:
    • Dredd's pistol, the Lawgiver, fires a variety of rounds, all which are kinetic based.
    • Averted by the Stub Gun, introduced during the Apocalypse War. This weapon is a laser capable of cutting through almost anything.

Fan Works

  • In the dwelling of crossover fanfiction writers, a common argument is found raging endlessly: Star Wars vs. Halo. The main conflict comes from the argument that even though Star Wars tech is centuries ahead of UNSC and Covenant tech, a MAC round might completely ignore any and all Star Wars shielding. While Star Wars has ray shields to deal with physical projectiles, it's arguable that they were not designed with 3,000 ton slugs moving at 120,000 kilometers a second in mind (four tenths the speed of light).


  • Avatar: The weapons used by the humans in Avatar are just futuristic looking versions of ours, they still sling ammo exactly like present day Earth. However, in some sources it is said that weapons on Earth are far more advanced than weapons used on Pandora, but the latter are far easier and cheaper to produce, especially when you are more than a few lightyears away from Earth. They are still kinetic though, just electromagnetic-based rather than using chemical propulsion (another reason they are limited to Earth's much weaker magnetic field).
  • The Matrix: The most advanced weapon in the real world is a handheld lightning gun, but almost all of the other weapons the rebels wield are either firearms or rocket-propelled munitions, much like those used within the titular simulation.
  • Terminator: Salvation, although to be fair, it is set years before the other future scenes seen in the other movies, so perhaps handheld energy weapons haven't been invented yet. The giant robot though seems to have a energy weapon of some sort.
  • Aliens. The Colonial Marines are armed with caseless assault weapons, which have the distinctly energy-weapon sounding moniker 'pulse rifles', though this refers to the electrical triggering system (as opposed to mechanical pin-and-primer in normal guns) for its caseless ammunition (a technique used by modern experimental weapons such as the H&K G11).
  • In Star Trek: First Contact, Picard lures a couple of Borg drones into the Holodeck, and shoots them with a tommy gun (though whether or not a Holodeck tommy gun with the safeties off is a real gun or merely a forcefield simulation of one is up for debate because the evidence is inconsistent and points both ways), while Worf managed to slice the arm off of one drone during the space scene. This has led to fan speculation that Borg shields suck against kinetic attacks, which is semi-verified in noncanonical novels. Fan speculation on the other side point out that Picard and Worf did not kill more than a handful of drones, which is the usual amount that it takes before the Borg start adapting. Furthermore, one drone shrugged off being smacked with a phaser rifle butt early on in the movie, while Data's rampage in engineering got him shunted behind a forcefield fairly quickly, suggesting they are not completely clueless when facing kinetic-based weapons.
  • Minority Report: The weapons used are pretty much just like weapons today. The most advanced weapon is a concussion gun of sorts, that's only used in the car factory sequence.
  • The I, Robot movie includes conventional firearms, albeit more futuristic versions of them.
  • Both Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick feature projectile weapons that, while more beefy looking, still use the good old gunpowder and slug ammo. The Necromongers from the second film, however, have concussion guns as standard infantry armament, although they still prefer to fight up-close-and-personal with blades and axes. It is also not shown how these guns match up against firearms.
  • The alien invaders in Battle: Los Angeles use seven barreled arm cannons rather than the usual death rays.
  • In both Star Wars and the Star Wars Expanded Universe blasters rule the day, but some groups use firearms, which are called slugthrowers, since they can be silenced, their rounds cannot be seen like blaster bolts (the former traveling significantly faster), can be made to be explosive/incendiary etc, can not be deflected with a lightsaber, and are cheaper. Blasters are typically used because they are more powerful (RPGs consistently make them 1.5 times as powerful), have significantly higher capacity, and have stun settings.
    • I present you the Protector Revolver. Yes, Revolvers Are Just Better in the Star Wars verse, as it is very easy for this revolver in particular to pierce modern armor. Why would it be able to pierce armor? Well, it's often been said of the blaster that it increased the use of the slugthrower by making heavy body armor useless, thus dissuading people from making themselves bulletproof. Slugthrowers in general are also apparently more rugged and reliable, cause according to the wiki's page quote for slugthrowers:

Phloremirlla Tenk: 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."



  • Heinlein's Starship Troopers mostly averts it: kinetic weapons are widely used for training, but rarely for the actual combat. The movie plays it straight, though.
  • In The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (also by Heinlein) the Lunar rebels "throw rocks" (ie: 100 tonne boulders, jacketed in steel and fired out of magnetic catapult) down Earth's gravity well. It proves very effective. Cheap too.
  • Beyond This Horizon: the hero uses an "old fashioned" .45 pistol when every other man in his society uses some form of laser or similar pistol because he likes it and the noise is extremely disorientating to his enemies, who expect a silent gun.
  • In Tomorrow War shields work only against beam weapons, so while lasers are used to shoot missiles and fighters, main weapons are missiles and high-caliber (e.g. 610 or 800 mm) guns with guided shells. At least as far as wars between human are concerned—others use weirder weapons, up to gravity-based.
  • Pretty much anything David Weber writes, such as the Honorverse or the Empire of Man (March Upcountry, etc.) series, gives futuristic forces some form of high tech mass accelerator weapon. They don't actually share any technology with gunpowder firearms, but they still have the same "fast pointy thing goes in the soft squishy thing" principle. And if they have 1000 round magazines or can tear apart a tank, all the better.
    • Also, the protagonist will inevitably wind up using an old-fashioned gunpowder weapon for some reason or another, just for Rule of Cool.
    • Semi-automatic pistols are traditionally used for duels in the Honorverse's Royal Manticore Navy due to the fact that they are less lethal than the aforementioned pulsers.
    • Honor herself practices frequently with a (reproduction) Colt M1911A1 .45 automatic, simply because she enjoys the challenge of hitting a target with a weapon that doesn't do half the work with advanced sensors, etc. In one case this "saved the day", when she was able to sneak her .45 into a hostage situation because it had no electronics or energy cell that would trigger inboard sensors keyed to look for weapons that had both- like pulsers.
    • In the Honorverse, while most ship-to-ship missiles come armed with some kind of warhead or electronic warfare suite, anti-missile missiles work by simply smashing their wedges into those of the attacking missiles at ludicrously high fractions of c.
      • The Solarian League's Eridani Edict also expressly forbid kinetic strikes on populated planets because the destruction caused by the sheer velocity of the missile is so much greater than any payload it could carry.
      • It should be noted that the Eridani Edict only forbids kinetic strikes and orbital bombardment so long as you don't control all the orbitals of a planet. If you have taken over space around a world, and they refuse to surrender, you can bomb them with impunity.
    • Also Averted Trope, in the Honorverse, in regards to final point-defense systems, where laser point defense clusters are vastly superior to autocannon in engaging any incoming missiles the counter-missile missiles fail to intercept. That said, ship-grade energy weapons are fairly useless when used outside of plot-related battles. The makers of the table-top adaptation specifically tripled canon energy ranges in order for lasers and grazers to even matter in ship-to-ship combat.
  • Also from Weber there's the "Rakurai" orbital bombardment platforms from Safehold which was used by Langhorne to wipe out the people who disagreed with his philosophy for running a colony, Dropping large rocks from orbit is pretty effective for wiping out a town. And a good part of an island.
  • H. Beam Piper's assorted science fiction novels, including Little Fuzzy and Uller Uprising, have faster-than-light travel and antigravity, but modern-style guns are still universally used (they also have huge mainframe-style computers programmed by plugboard, but that's Science Marches On). His justification for this was that Earth had fought a nuclear war in the early 21st Century, that had destroyed most of the Northern Hemisphere. While civilization was being rebuilt in the Southern Hemisphere, such technologies as hyper-space drive were developed, but weapons technology didn't change much, because what they had was more than adequate for the job at hand. This is why the Nemesis and the Enterprise (no, not that Enterprise) in Space Viking shot it out, in low planetary orbit, with autocannon and guided missiles. Interestingly enough, in spite of hyper-space drives and contragravity normal-space propulsion, both "field drive"- type systems, Piper never assumed the existence of defensive "deflector shields" or "force fields"; the space warships in his stories relied on heavy hull armor to keep enemy fire out. In Uller Uprising the weapons used by all concerned were automatic pistols, automatic rifles, machine guns, etc, the main difference with present-day warfighting technology being that self-propelled artillery was on contragravity vehicles, tanks had contragrav in addition to tracks, and contragravity airjeeps, air lorries, lighters, etc., substituted for tactical aircraft like fighter-bombers, helicopter gunships, and so on (the plot of Uller Uprising, by the way, was based on the Sepoy Rebellion in India).
  • Starworld by Harry Harrison has the rebel admiral explain to the protagonist why energy weapons don't work in the vast distances of space. Although missiles are being used by both sides, the rebels use linear accelerators firing unguided cannon balls to gain the decisive edge, then finish them off with a Flechette Storm of rocket-propelled bullets.
  • In the Deathstalker series, projectile (kinetic) weapons are actually banned throughout The Empire due to their ease of use and production making revolts easier to arm. They were replaced by swords and blasters - the latter of which are powered by Green Rocks. The blasters take two minutes to recharge, and force shields will stop most projectile weapons... though that drains the fields' power fast. Ultimately, this trope is even lampshaded during a siege.
  • One character in the Larry Niven-Jerry Pournelle alien invasion novel Footfall describes the alien invaders' primary weapons as "crowbars dropped from orbit". For that matter, the personal weapons used by the aliens are just scaled up versions of ordinary machine guns.
  • In Legends of Dune, both the Thinking Machines and the League of Nobles (and later the Butlerian Jihad) almost exclusively use kinetic weapons, bombs, and missiles for aerial, space, and ground combats. While it is revealed that lasguns were popular during the days of the Old Empire, they didn't have the destructive capability of kinetic weapons. Plasma bombs are mentioned to be used occasionally by the cymeks, but those cases are rare.
    • Thousands of years later, both types of weapons were phased out due to the invention and widespread use of Holtzman shields, which could stop any physical object moving above a certain speed and created a nuclear explosion when hit with a laser beam. However shields have a tendency to attract worms, so the Fremen use spring-loaded dart guns in addition to their more famous knives.
    • At one point, the Harkonnens used artillery against survivors of the attack on the Atreides complex who had holed up in caves, without being able to bring the large household shield generators. The attack is noted as extremely demoralizing specifically because in modern combat, the role fulfilled by artillery is obsolete; no artillery does any good against shields.
  • From the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novels:
    • In Fallen Heroes, the invading Bekkir have body armor that renders them immune to phasers, so O'Brian rigs them into grenades. Dax discovers that their armor isn't Immune to Bullets, so she replicates a machine gun. A Klingon machine gun.
    • In one novel Worf is with a detachment of Klingons trying to breach a heavily shielded base. They can't get through with their normal weapons, so Worf replicates a catapult and smashes the outer walls to pieces.
  • Both subverted and played straight in Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark series. In the first novel, an entire human fleet armed with kinetic, plasma, and missile weapons is annihilated (literally) by an alien starship armed with anti-matter cannons and equipped with Deflector Shields. In the third novel, human mercenaries working for a different alien race are given patrol ships armed with kinetic weapons that are somehow able to ignore shields on enemy ships. These are shown to be extremely effective.
  • From David Drake's works:
    • In the stand-alone novel Redliners, the human Strike Force commandos use electromagnetic pellet rifles as their primary personal weapon, while the aliens use laser beams. This is because the pellet guns are massively damaging at the close range Strike Force mission usually take place at.
    • In his RCN novels, warships use kinetic missiles as their primary weapon, with plasma being a secondary weapon. Plasma disperses far too quickly to be used at normal combat ranges, while the missiles become much more powerful the further away the target is (because they carry no warhead, their damage is based purely on speed, and further targets give more time for acceleration). Personal weapons in the RCN vary but most of the ones shown are magnetic pellet guns.
  • John Ringo's Posleen War Series has the ACS using grav-guns, which fire depleted uranium pellets. The first Posleen they hit explodes. They go through several more.
  • From Peter F. Hamilton's works:
    • In the Nights Dawn trilogy, energy weapons of all kinds are not only available, but widespread. They're even available as nanonic implants under the skin. However, against the Possessed, electronics of all forms are horribly glitched at best, and completely shut down at worst. This means that the most effective weapon against them is a good old-fashioned chemical projectile weapon - a.k.a. a gun.
    • In the same trilogy, despite the plethora of energy weapons on display, the standard 'kill' weapon is a 'combat wasp'; which is essentially a missile that relies almost strictly on its kinetic force to do damage. Also planet-busting weapons are all old-fashioned bombs, ground strikes from orbit with energy weapons being rarely seen.
    • In the Commonwealth Saga, a favored weapon in starship combat is the Douvoir missile. Essentially, the idea is that it's possible to control the speed at which the endpoints of a wormhole are moving. It is therefore possible to leave a wormhole at whatever relative speed (compared to whatever else is nearby) you want, without expending time and energy to accelerate to that speed. Douvoir missiles are simple projectiles that are shot out of a wormhole at a significant percentage of light speed, and as such do an enormous amount of damage.
  • Dick Seaton in E. E. "Doc" Smith's Skylark Series series has invented interstellar travel, a repulsor field of sorts and a mechanism for the generation of unlimited energy, but until he meets Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, his Skylark of Space is dependent upon .50 calibre machine guns for its armament (albeit with ludicrously potent ammunition). Played straight in that when the ship is attacked by an alien beast he can't use the super-bullets in his handgun for fear of wrecking it, and the situation is saved by the last remaining crewmember loading and firing solids. Hand-to-hand fights on the ground continue to be sorted out by projectile small arms right to the end of the series; even when Seaton's grasp of beam weapon technology has evolved to almost godlike levels of capability (and at the same time as the author was writing stun guns and hand blasters into the Family d'Alembert universe).
  • From Lensmen:
    • The Lensmen universe is acrawl with energy weapons, but minimally or non-portable heavy machine guns ("high calibre machine rifles") are still useful weapons against soldiers in personal armour.
    • Conway Costigan uses a combination energy rifle (implied to be more powerful than the standard-issue blaster) and grenade launcher against the unnamed saboteur in Triplanetary. When even the energy rifle takes too long against the saboteur's personal shield, Costigan loses his patience, fires the grenade and blows his opponent into a fine mist. At this stage, the Triplanetary Patrol is still using a mixture of shell-firing guns and energy beams on some of its ships (specifically the armed liner Hyperion).
    • Kim Kinnison has an unfortunate encounter with one of these and barely gets away with his life. The next time he goes where angels fear to tread he wears a suit of armour so heavy it has to be power-driven, and he first takes pains to demonstrate its immunity to ammo 20% over what he encountered previously. Later in the canon, he actually uses the kinetic energy of a bullet stream to tilt his opponent's armor off balance and expose him, which he couldn't have done with an energy weapon.
  • Arthur C. Clarke:
    • In Earthlight, the lunar observatory's secret weapon fires a bolt of white-hot molten iron at its attackers. Damage is done not from heat, but simply from the force of the impact.
    • It's implied in The Songs of Distant Earth, another of his novels, that firearms remained in use even up to the planet's destruction thousands of years in the future.
  • In Tanya Huff's Valor's Choice, the main protagonist is asked by a pacifist member of The Federation (humans were recruited to do the fighting) why they use stretchers that need to be carried, rather than the local equivalent of anti-gravity. She responds that both they and "The Others" routinely attempt to disable all electronic devices used by their opponents, and they use hand-carried stretchers for the wounded for the same reason they use "primitive projectile weapons" that have to "be physically smashed to stop working".
  • The plot of the Tom Clancy novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin centers around the US and USSR developing strategic laser weapons and trying to steal the plans of their counterpart's systems from each other, but after that book, laser weapons are forgotten about. Eventually in The Bear and the Dragon, the lead researcher of the US team reappears and mentions that they never succeeded in making a laser large enough to be useful. All militaries in the series use conventional weaponry when fighting each other.
  • The Killing Star shows how destructive the liberal application of kinetic energy can be when a barrage of solid matter accelerated to near light speed is used to destroy all advanced life on Earth. They are appropriately called relativistic bombs.
  • In Animorphs guns aren't necessarily "better," but when Visser Three mocks humans for their "primative projectile weapons" Visser One points out that a single bullet can still kill a Hork-Bajir quite effectively.

Live-Action TV

  • The new Battlestar Galactica series: The show uses real-life guns in the show, or at least slightly dressed up ones. Even the starships slug it out like WWII battleships with heavy cannons and walls of small-caliber AA fire, along with nuclear warheads.
  • Space Rangers: Takes place in 2104, however rifles and other projectile weapons are used in combat.
  • Firefly is set some 500 years into the future. Projectile weapons are mainly used, since they are cheaper and more reliable than energy weapons, and are far easier for low-tech colonies to make. Hand-held energy weapons do show up at a few points:
    • The target of the heist in "Trash" is a valuable antique prototype laser. When the time comes, though, Inara doesn't want to gamble that the antique still works, instead pulling out her own piece.
    • In "Heart of Gold", a rich cowboy got himself an illegally-modified laser pistol, which caused some severe harm, but becomes useless once the battery runs out. The cowboy throws it away as he flees rather than attempt Pistol-Whipping (though Mal's larger military pistol has it outclassed for that purpose).
    • In "Ariel," as Jayne and the Tams flee the Hands of Blue, Jayne fails to blast open a locked door by shooting it with a high-tech sonic stun rifle. A moment later, Mal and Zoe shoot out the lock from the other side with good old kinetic slugthrowers. Though that might be playing with the trope, because a weapon designed not to cause lasting damage doesn't cause lasting damage.
    • The sound effects used for the gunshots have caused some to believe that the guns are energy weapons, despite the cartridges being shown in multiple scenes.
  • Stargate SG-1: Even though the humans of Earth have access to tons of alien technology, modern-day weapons are still used. Justified Trope since it has been shown that firearms were often more effective than their energy counterparts, particularly when used against the Replicators.

Col. O'Neill: *Hefts a Staff weapon* This is a weapon of terror. It's made to intimidate the enemy. *Returns Staff to owner and hefts a P90* This is a weapon of war. It's made to kill your enemy.

    • So much so that, in later seasons, even Teal'c largely abandons his own Staff weapon in favor of a standard-issue P90.
    • In one episode, Thor specifically uses bullets as an example of the human race's outside-the-box thinking. To paraphrase, the idea of "small metal projectiles propelled by thousands of chemical explosions" never even occurred to the Asgard.
    • Partially averted in the series finale and in Stargate Atlantis from the third season finale where all Earth ships get upgraded with Asgard plasma beam cannons which go right through any shield and can take out the otherwise invulnerable Ori ships. And they got a recharge rate of about five seconds, but can't track fighters, so railguns still come in handy. The nukes are kept, too.
    • Played straight by the Ancients, though. After going through energy weapons in all sizes, powered by all kinds of things (another dimension, for example...) they still arrived at remotely controlled drones that simply fly really fast and penetrate their targets, turning them into Swiss cheese. The reason railguns seemed weak in Stargate Atlantis was probably that the targets they were used against were freaking humongous. Those hives did pack some bulk, after all.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Starfleet developed a projectile weapon known as the TR-116, in the event that personnel were in environments where phasers would not work. The rifle had some interesting uses; Chu'lak modified it with a mini-transporter, allowing it to beam its bullet to other rooms only a few centimeters from its target, and a high precision visual sensor, allowing for lethal targeting up to the maximum range of the micro-transporter (plus the effective range of the rifle). The rifle never entered service due to the invention of newer technologies. In some of the Deep Space novels, however, the rifle is said to be quite useful, especially against the Borg. It is also implied that another reason Starfleet doesn't use the weapon is because it is too good, since one can modify it to transport bullets, allowing potential assassins to do their work with little effort. Whether or not it has a semi or full auto function isn't mentioned... but all things considered, it can be assumed.
  • Played straight in Babylon 5, but in an unusual way: Everyone on the station uses energy weapons because they're less destructive than kinetic weapons—the energy weapons will fry a living person but won't put a hole in the bulkhead and depressurize the station or otherwise affect atmospheric integrity.[2] They can, however, bounce back and forth and do massive amounts to machinery, not to mention people besides the target.
    • While most weapons in Babylon 5 are energy weapons, in early seasons the planet Narn is devastated by use of simple "mass drivers"—another word for asteroids dropped onto the surface. However, they are banned precisely for that reason.
    • Also, Garibaldi has inherited his gran's S&W .38 Special, and states that kinetic hand weapons are still used, but only in planet bound places, because a shot from a slug could rupture the hull.
  • In Andromeda, most large ships only use energy weapons for point defense; most combat uses relativistic missiles or, at extreme close range, anti-proton cannons. As for hand-held weapons, people typically carry gauss pistols with smart bullets or force lances that can fire mini drones or plasma bursts depending on the situation.


  • Memorably mentioned in Larry Elmore's Snarf Quest comic that used to run in DRAGON Magazine back in the 80's, when a group of space-travellers from a medieval fantasy world, posing as a rock band (it makes sense in context, trust me) angered a group of space miners, resulting in a high-speed chase with both parties exchanging gunfire; while the miners weren't too worried about the heroes' lasers, when Snarf pulled out his .357 Magnum (that he once killed a dragon with), they started to panic because "lasers'll burn ya, but them slug-throwers will rip yer head off!" The matter became moot, anyway, after the team wizard hit the miners with a Lightning Bolt spell, but still...

Tabletop Games

  • Traveller: Energy weapons do more damage than kinetic weapons and have a far greater ammo capacity, but while a laser pistol does as much damage as a slug thrower rifle it also weighs the same and costs as much as a rocket launcher (2,000 cr., for comparison a revolver costs 150 cr. and most rifles cost 1,000 cr. or less).
  • Played with in Warhammer 40,000.
    • Bolt weapons, that is low-caliber artillery with armour-piercing high explosive rocket-assisted shells (there are also variants from toxic to frag to anti-daemon, of course). The standard issue bolter of the Space Marines is not only iconic, but a superior weapon, both in the background and tabletop. The fact they fire 0.75 caliber (and heavy bolter is 1.0") rounds goes a long way to explain it. Bolts are expensive, but if you can get them legally at all, you probably won't pay from your own pocket and/or don't care much about prices in general outside the contexts of bulk trade and large-scale construction. Then there are Avenger bolt cannon, rotary cannon of higher caliber than heavy bolter (made for Avenger Strike Fighter obviously intended to resemble A-10 "Thunderbolt" with Avenger gun) and Vulcan Mega-bolter — dual and longer cousin of Avenger (for almost twice the range and rate of fire), mounted on superheavy vehicles and point defense turrets of spaceships.
    • Energy weapons exist, and in fact Frickin' Laser Beams are explicitly both easy to mass-produce and more reliable than kinetic weaponry, but many people still swear by solid-projectile weapons, because a) it's easier to get full-auto fire from an SP weapon than a lasgun, b) It's somewhat easier to get decent armor penetration - many lasguns can be fired in overload mode to much the same effect, but this makes them less reliable and quickly drains power packs, and c) the roar of an autogun is just so much more impressive than the zzip of a lasgun. Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay goes into detail and doesn't contradict original 40k on this. To be fair, an Imperial pulse lasgun is a very good weapon by our standards, equivalent of assault rifle in performance, with some perks on top. It's just most humans' bad luck of being born into the 40k universe, where their fantastic futuretech guns and body armor have about the effectiveness of a flashlight and wet cardboard against everyone else. Hellguns (heavy-duty laser weapons with backpack power packs) are great, but they are rare, expensive and require more maintenance. And as sniper weapons go, even a hunting rifle is as accurate as a long las (at the same price) and it lacks a scattering shiny beam that hopelessly gives away the shooter's position, and a proper sniper rifle is more expensive, but also more accurate. Plasma weapons are expensive and dangerous due to overheating/containment issues, and melta (fusion weapons) is great at frying armored vehicles, but short-ranged and even more expensive, and in both cases ammunition costs much more and is available less widely than rounds for common firearms.
    • Tau railguns lead to copious amounts of both Beam Spam (PEW PEW) and gore (one shot from a Tau Hammerhead leads to one liquefied tank crew).
    • The Nova Cannon, the main weapon of Imperial battleships. It's magnetically fired at just under the speed of light for some... interesting effects. It fires shells with a diameter of fifty metres. The weapon can create an explosion that blows up a squadron of kilometre-long ships, thousands of kilometres apart, in a single blast. And if it's not nasty enough, there are Vortex warheads. For the same reason, their use is limited to long range, however, and they are not very accurate - so a ship packing one of these often achieves more with a laser broadside; so torpedoes are still competitive, and more versatile.
    • The Eldar seem to survive using shuriken weapons, which accelerate a hailstorm of very small sharp things at immense speeds towards their target. In-game, shuriken weapons are the equal of or better than bolt weapons (be they pistol, rifle, or a massive hulking heavy weapon too big to be carried by a single normal human) in every respect except for range. For those who aren't familiar with WH40K, these are basically Shuriken Needlers (or picture a militarized Salad Shooter) that shred a block of polymer for ammunition and the resulting shurikens are monomolecular. The Eldar's main ship-to-ship weapons are also largely made up of shuriken cannons - scaled up to eleven, of course.
    • As a general rule of thumb, 40k uses Linear Kinetic, Quadratic Energy weapons - on a small scale, kinetic weapons (especially those of the Space Marines) tend to be a lot stronger and more versatile than energy weapons (with a few exceptions). As the weapon size gets larger, kinetic rounds tend to be strictly anti-personnel (such as the frankly ridiculous Punisher Cannon), whereas the real anti-tank weapons are Lascannon, Volcano Cannon, Laser Tank Destroyer, Fusion Gun, Plasma Cannon, and so on. There are two notable exceptions to this rule in the human armies with the Leman Russ's main gun and the Vanquisher gun which are the best antitank weapons for their size the Imperial Guard has. Other races invert this, on the other hand - the Tau have the best basic infantry weapon in the Pulse Rifle, while their heavy anti-armour weapons are railguns. The railgun's size-equivalent energy weapon is the ion cannon, which is very effective against infantry but markedly less so against vehicles.
    • Spinoff game Necromunda, by virtue of its slum-style setting, makes armour and energy weapons hard-to-get elite gear. Ordinary slug-throwers and shotguns are the predominant weapons in the game.
  • In BattleTech chemically propelled cannons and lasers coexist, both having advantages and disadvantages. There are still discussions which is better in-game. The Gauss Rifle was added later. It uses common metal slugs, propelled by magnetic fields and it fricking rocks, though its size weight limit the usefulness somewhat. And, even in the far future, the lowly but battle-tested machinegun is still fitted to mechs tasked with clearing infantry. Even centuries later, there's been nothing developed that does the job as well as bullets and gunpowder.
    • Ballistic Weapons do have one clear advantage over Energy, in that they generate a lot less heat. This means 'Mechs can keep firing for longer without risking damage or shutdown, and vehicles don't have to mount additional equipment to deal with overheating components.
  • In Shadowrun, laser weapons exist, and can penetrate armor better than their kinetic brethren, but several factors keep them from being used that much. They're expensive as hell, their ammo is expensive as hell, they're very hard to find, let alone get your hands on, and they can be quite unreliable in a pitched firefight. For those reasons, most runners tend to stick with cheaper, more reliable weapons.
  • In GURPS kinetic weapons generally do far more raw damage than energy weapons. Early lasers are also very dangerous to use as the chemical fumes slowly kill the wielder.
    • In fact this trope is enshrined within the GURPS rules. The developers calculate weapon damage based on the square root of energy for kinetic weapons and the cube root of energy for beam weapons.
  • In the discontinued Babylon 5 Wars tabletop game, kinetic weapons ignored armor and did standard damage, which means that you could deal the attack's full damage to the component you hit. Its main downside was that if you hit a less-than-vital component (like one forward gun out of thirty), then the damage would not transfer to the hull like the other weapon types.
  • The classic Car Wars did have lasers, but as a rather expensive weapon. Most combat was with bullets, shells, and rockets. One Splatbook calls out lasers as being not used in the military except for things like range finding and detecting.
  • In Eclipse Phase most energy weapons are designed to be "less-than-lethal", so with the exception of the plasma rifle they tend to do less damage and are less effective at penetrating armor than kinetics (especially railguns).
    • Considering that killing people isn't actually that useful since everyone just wakes up in a new body, debilitating and capturing them is often much much more useful in preventing them doing something. Robots and the like are pretty good at dealing with energy weapons while physically breaking them up works better to hurt them.

Video Games

  • EVE Online. Depending on the current patches and balance changes, kinetic weapons may or may not be better than lasers.
    • Caldari favor kinetic missiles, which have very low overall damage and suffer against fast-moving targets but never miss if they're in range, and kinetic railguns, which have a very long optimal range but very low damage.
    • Gallente favor kinetic blasters that are essentially particle shotguns. They have extremely high damage but require you to be practically sitting on your target to damage them.
    • Minmatar have artillery, which has a long range and high damage but a massive reload time, and autocannons, with a short range and fairly high damage. These are the typical gun-type kinetic weapons, and as such have accuracy problems (represented by their short optimal but high falloff) but are capable of dealing varied types of damage and have a lot of versatility.
    • Amarr use beam and pulse lasers, which are general-purpose weapons with no particular advantage or disadvantage in combat statistics, having solid damage and medium range. Their main upside is their lack of ammunition use and their ability to quick-change ammunition, but the downside is their high capacitor usage.
  • In PlanetSide, New Conglomerate and Terran Republic weapons follow this. The Conglomerate uses a lot of railguns and shotguns, whereas the Terrans just rely on regular guns shooting a ton of bullets everywhere.
  • Borderlands is one of the best examples. Sooner or later, you will find an Eridian weapon, which shoots energy. But it soon becomes obvious the Eridian weapons are Awesome but Impractical-and some would argue on the word "awesome." While shooting highly damaging bursts of energy, said energy blasts are slow and often blinding and take a while to reload, and the only thing they work well against is - no, wait, they still suck against Eridian constructs. Last but not least, by the time you get them you'll have a fair amount of levels in the proficiency of the basic weapons while you'd have to undergo Level Grinding with the Eridian weapons to make them go up to the same level.
  • Halo is set around 500 years in the future, with all the AI, Faster-than-light spaceships, Spartan Lasers, artificial gravity systems and powered armor suits, that come with The Future; however, the human UNSC military is still fighting with weapons and vehicles not that much dissimilar to those of today: bigass tanks, buggies, warplanes, missiles, etc. Most Covenant weapons like the Plasma Pistol/Rifle are energy-based, but the Brute weapons in Halo 3 tend to be projectile based, mainly because the Brutes enjoy being... brutish. It is also mentioned, at least on this page that Brutes like human shotguns, for similar reasons. This stands in contrast to the attitude of the Elites, who hold human projectile weapons in contempt.
    • Also, UNSC weapons deal out more damage to unshielded opponents, although Covenant weapons bring down shields faster. A player who takes advantage of this fact with UNSC/Covenant combos can bring down enemies with ease.
    • As of Halo 3, the UNSC have started using laser weaponry (the Spartan Laser); it is a lot more powerful than normal weaponry but it takes a long time to charge and uses up its battery quickly, making it more of an Anti-tank weapon than anything else.
    • There is also the starship/orbital platform mounted MAC (Magnetic Accelerator Cannon) guns. To the layman, a coilgun. Similar effect to a railgun, but different operating principle and design. Still, the most powerful of them could easily gut shielded Covenant cruiser stem to stern.
    • Although there may be an aversion to this trope, in that Covenant ship-to-ship weapons prove painfully effective in utterly annihilating human vessels, boiling away their reinforced titanium hulls in seconds. The Fall of Reach describes a gigantic laser-plasma beam thingamajigger that is proven capable of slicing through human ships in one stroke.
    • There's some aversion, though not entirely. Besides the Forerunner Halos, the Super MAC, which is an entire satellite that's just one massive coilgun, is the most destructive weapon in the entire known galaxy. Upon impact with a fully shielded Covenant ship the Covenant ship promptly either explodes or - more likely - has a humongous hole punched through it, as the hyperspeed shell maintains enough forward momentum to punch through a second ship, and possibly even keep going after that. That's what happens when you shoot a 3000-ton slug of ferric tungsten and depleted uranium at 150,000 kilometers per second (.5c).
      • Actually, the Super MAC is not the most destructive weapon besides the Halo Array. According to calculations made on Halo Fanon, the Super MAC, if fired directly at a planet's surface, would cause cataclysmic damage, as the vibration alone would kill pretty much every living thing on said planet, but the UNSC's NOVA bomb is capable of shattering planets. Additionally, the NOVA bomb will vitrify the soil of nearby moons similar to Covenant glassing. This makes it far more powerful than the Super MAC.
  • Civilization: You can go into the far future in the base game yearwise, but weapons technology (and technology in general, save for the space-related tech and the ambiguous "Future Tech") will never go past modern era.
    • In Call to Power 2, the sequel of Civilization: Call to Power weapon technology development continues past the first half of the 21st century.
      • Similarly, the Beyond the Sword expansion featured a near-future scenario, with the option of adding some of this technology into the later end of a normal game.
  • Descent arguably falls into this; the vast majority of primary weapons ARE energy-based, but most secondary weapons are rockets, and Descent IIs Gauss Cannon is regarded as a Game Breaker for good reason, mostly damage and fire rate-partially because the kinetic primary weapons here are Hit Scan and the "lasers" are not. (Except the Omega Cannon, but its range is very short.) Same goes for Descent 3s Mass Driver, which functions much like a Quake railgun in Hit Scan, damage, and fire rate, with that last point balancing it out compared to the Gauss Cannon, now Nerfed into the weaker Vauss Cannon.
    • To top it all off, the most feared Demonic Spiders in the series are Class 1 Drillers, which are equipped with Vulcan Cannons just like yours. That means they're the only enemy with Hit Scan weapons. Oh Crap.
    • Also, Descent 3 has breakable glass. Only kinetic weapons can break glass. This is required to progress in certain levels. See where we're going with this?
  • Phantasy Star Online features the Yasminkov series of weapons, the only non-Photon weapons in the game. The Yasminkov 9000k is one of the most popular weapons for the ranged class, due to being a Mechgun (which usually barely have ranger greater than melee weapons) with the range of a Rifle (the longest range of any weapon in the game). In addition, all of these hit instantly, while the Photon weapons have a slight delay.
  • Quake especially Quake Wars, seeing that the Armadillo resembles a Humvee, and Titan resembles a real life M1 Abrams Battle tank, aside from the fact that it has a chain gun on top. The helicopters are little more futuristic though, along with the computer displays inside the Armadillo, the Trojan, and the MCP.
  • Battlefield 2142 aside from the floating Titans, the other air vehicles, hover tanks, speeders (for the PAC at least) the Goliath, the anti-ground vehicle and anti-aircraft emplacements, and gadgets you could unlock, the guns still slung lead. Hell, the side arm for the EU was a revolver which had a speedloader cylinder. The developers stated in interviews that a gun firing bullets "felt more real to them" than just "pew pew you're dead."
  • Sins of a Solar Empire features the TEC faction, the games obligatory "normals". The Advent (Psionic Humans) and the Vasari (Evil Aliens) use a variety of plasma, phase, and laser weaponry, but the main gun of many TEC ships is the autocannon. More Dakka ensues.
  • In Deus Ex the only energy weapons in the game are the Awesome but Impractical Plasma Rifle (all the fire rate of a cannon, poor accuracy unless you are a master in heavy weapons, slows you down and most of the time, it's power is off set by the fact that only a handful of enemies have the health to survive most attacks) and the PS20 (like a plasma rifle with instant fire, perfect accuracy... but you can only use it once and in the unmoded game, hold only one at a time). A quick Sniper Rifle/pistol shot to the head disposes of most enemies quickly and silently plus their ammo is nowhere near as rare.
  • Deus Ex: Invisible War still followed this trope, although it took the Universal Ammunition route. This was hand waved by saying that the ammo was formed from nanites that formed the type of ammo that was needed for the gun. The weapon itself contains the dedicated micro factory needed to configure the programmable matter.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Energy weapons exist, but they are obtained too late in the game to be commonly used, and their ammo is so limited, it is advisable to only use them for certain situations. For one thing, the Laser Rifle can be used to finish the last boss fight in seconds. Despite their power, they take up a lot of inventory space, compared to kinetics.
  • Red Faction is set in 2158 and on Mars, but weapons are pretty much the same, not including the fusion launcher.
  • Perfect Dark has flying cars, sentient computers, and flying sentient computers, but most of the weapons are just shinier versions of ours.
  • In Lost Planet, energy weapons draw energy from the same reserves your environmental suit uses to keep you from burning to a cinder or freezing solid. In the sequel, you can use abilities that reduces costs from the energy weapons.
  • Killzone: The weapons used are very little different from modern day weapons. Concept art detailing the history of the Killzone world has a present-day looking Humvee and a soldier is holding a M16 rifle. The former photo is set in the 22nd century, and the latter the 23rd.
  • Mass Effect is basically This Trope: The Game. The weapons are highly advanced, but are said to function using a mass driver as opposed to firing energy. They are not Magnetic Weapons, however - instead, the titular mass effect creates artificial gravity, speeding up small pieces of metal, about the size of sand, up to speeds that make it as lethal as a bullet. This for magazines to hold thousands of rounds, thus negating the need to reload over the course of a single mission. The weapons have virtually unlimited power sources as well. Unfortunately, they overheat rapidly unless special weapon modifications are used. And in Mass Effect 2 they don't even cool down on their own - you have to reload heat sinks, which end up being completely analogous to ammo. The starships are explicitly stated to be built around railguns, as large as their frames can support.
    • The Phasic and Proton Rounds ammunition mods can convert whatever weapon you slot them in into a partially energy-based weapon which combines mass and charged particles, according to the fluff. Even then, though, the trope is upheld; neither of these mods are all that useful, dealing out LESS overall damage in return for some of that damage being dealt to the target's health through their shields. Specialist solid rounds often do better just through sheer damage output.
    • Many non-standard weapons superficially resembling Beam Spam are still considered mass accelerators:
      • The Collector Assault Rifle uses "metallic enamel" as a physical projectile, and the geth weaponry is exactly the same as other guns, except with a phasic envelope.
      • Mass Effect 2 explains that the weapons Sovereign uses that look like energy weapons actually aren't either—they instead operate somewhat like coilguns, only firing a stream of molten metal at the target instead of a solid slug so that not only does the target suffer the impact of the jet, but the jet itself burns through the target like a torch. It took less than a year after the end of Mass Effect 1 for the normal races to build a prototype of the same type of weapon, and you can upgrade the Normandy with one (two cannons, actually, which fire together to look like one big weapon). And boy, oh boy is it effective! The one time they're actually used, the Normandy SR2 proceeds to utterly vaporize a much heavier and (ostensibly) more advanced warship with a mere two shots. Suddenly, your Frigate hits like a Dreadnought!
    • Mass Effect 2 also features an exposé on kinetic weapons by an ornery drill sergeant bringing a couple of cadets up to speed on coil guns. 20 kg of solid metal flung at 1.3% of the speed of light impacts with a force of 38kt, and due to the lack of friction in space, should one happen to miss their target, it's certain to ruin someone's day somewhere, sometime. Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son-of-a-bitch in space!
    • However, it is mentioned that if a practical and compact infantry-scale energy weapon that is unaffected by atmospheric beam dissipation was ever developed, combat will go through a huge paradigm shift because all current shielding technology is designed to repel kinetic weaponry, hence the term "kinetic barrier".
      • The Collectors apparently have done exactly that with their Collector Particle Beam heavy weapon. This is ignored in game for balance purposes - the Collector Particle Beam still has to eat through shields before hitting any ceramic armor or fleshy stuff. Partially justified in that it's shooting particles as opposed to electromagnetic energy, and your kinetic barriers can still protect you from any high energy particles that have mass, such as plasma and even deadly radiation from a dying sun.
      • Shipboard laser weapons do exist, and are no less powerful than kinetic weapons (plus they ignore kinetic barriers): their main disadvantage is their range. Light refraction causes lasers to attenuate rapidly, while (as explained above) kinetic weapons can keep going for damn near forever. This means that GARDIAN lasers are very effective against fighters, and in short range "knife fights" between larger ships, but have effective ranges hundreds of kilometers shorter than larger kinetic weapons.
  • The Fallout series gives the player access to energy weapons, but kinetics are the weapon of choice. And there's a wide choice, from hand-thrown spears to the electromagnetic minigun (Fallout Tactics).
    • In the second game the Salvatore gang in New Reno is widely known and feared for its exclusivity of use of the energy weaponry supplied by the Enclave. People in the game even said that a one thug with a simple laser pistol wiped out an entire squad armed with regular weapons. But it's quite an opposite in the game—early energy weapons do barely any damage, and they do almost nothing to metal armor-wearing opponents. This is evident, for example, if you start a gunfight in the Salvatores' bar—The supposedly strong thugs with laser pistols do no damage to you, while a bartender with ye olde double-barreled shotgun does 20 times more damage than them.
      • Fallout 3 (without expansion packs at least) plays this trope much more straight than the previous games. Small arms are better than laser weapons, and even the late-game plasma weapons aren't a big improvement, have much more common ammo, and have a huge selection of weapons from short ranged devastators like combat shotguns to long ranged sniper rifles. The unique alien raygun is good, but so are many unique small arms like the Lincoln's repeater.
      • However, as the game progresses this trope is averted. Plasma weapons become more available as does their ammunition. If the PC acquires A3-21's Plasma Rifle this weapon is easily a match for the damage and effectiveness of any conventional firearm. Also if expansion packs come into play the Metal Blaster Laser Rifle is a match for the most powerful shotguns while the Gauss Rifle is a devastatingly potent energy weapon that can challenge the best sniper rifles for damage potential. The alien Destabilizer, MPLX Novasurge Plasma Pistol, and Tri-Beam Laser Rifle are also very powerful energy weapons.
      • The Alien Blaster is available in Fallout 1 and 2 as well. Its ammunition is reasonably common in Fallout 2, and it is one of the better weapons in the game, being as fast as the Gauss pistol, with a much larger clip and a higher maximum damage (but a larger damage variance). It does adhere to the trope in that it is fairly inaccurate.
    • Fallout: New Vegas meanwhile somewhat averts it. All energy weapons take away some Damage Threshold which is very good for Made of Iron things like Deathclaws, but guns and ammo are rare and they eat up ammo fast.
  • In UFO: Afterlight, Earth technology based projectile weapons have better stats than laser-based weapons and electricity-based weapons. And all other ranged weapon types become unwieldy heavy weapons in human hands. Your main opponents also use primarily projectile weapons, but tend towards Abnormal Ammo.
    • Although, like every other game in the afterblank series, the best weapon depends on the enemy. Projectile weapons are either decent or great against most enemies, which is why they are universally favored, but lasers are exceptional against robots and enemies susceptible to fire, and plasma weapons are devastating to most enemies with shields (which are not designed to defend against plasma). More specialized weapons have more specific applications. In all three games, for example, warp weapons are murderous against armored foes and almost completely useless against unarmored foes (since there's not enough mass to warp).
  • Master of Orion
    • In the first game, while energy-based weapons don't have particular weaknesses, in their tech class, particle/ammo-based weapons halve the effectiveness of shields. A side effect of this is that projectile weapons take longer to become ineffective due to the onward march of technology.
    • In Master of Orion II both types have their advantages: artillery have fixed damage and always can get Auto Fire and Armor Piercing (which also gives early Critical Hits) modifications while beam weapons have damage decreasing with range, but also special properties like extra destructive effects or Shield Piercing. Still, when attacking orbital stations and/or planetary batteries with lots of beams, heavy slugging from maximum range usually works best (you still need point defences, but those also can be light rapid-firing mass drivers, until missiles become really tough).
  • In Front Mission the only instance of energy weapons are from orbital lasers and in 4 where laser weapons were developed at last. Most of the time however, Wanzers relied on smoothbore guns, grenade launchers, antitank rifles and autocannons. The Siege Rifle is essentially a giant railgun for Wanzer use.
    • There was also the secret experimental beam weapons in Front Mission 3. One of which was on an enemy mech, the other could be gotten through a secret code used on the in-game internet. It did tremendous damage, but the fact is you wouldn't be very skilled with it due to how late in the game you got it and it was difficult to fire due to it's high AP cost. Pretty though.
  • Homeworld plays this straight in the first game, where directed-energy weapons are expensive, bulky and slow-firing compared to coilguns and particularly useless against fighters or corvettes. It slips a bit in semi-sequel Cataclysm, insofar as a gun that fires 'magnetic bottles' full of superheated gas counts as a directed-energy weapon, but returns in full force in Homeworld 2.
    • It's more accurate to say that energy weapons are useless against small ships. Those ion beams and plasma launchers of bombers, are very effective against frigates and capital ships.
      • However, in Cataclysm, Somtaaw engineers manage to develop an energy weapon system that specializes in destroying fighters and other small craft. Unfortunately, Somtaaw either doesn't share this technology or the Hiigarans promptly forget it since it isn't present in Homeworld 2.
  • Darkest of Days future weapons are just BFGs. Interestingly, the sniper rifles from historical wars are more accurate than the future gun, which is affected by wind and gravity, but historical rifles aren't.
  • In EndWar the JSF (America)'s WMD is a Kinetic Strike from the Freedom Star space station. Basically a large metal rod fired from space. The trailer shows 3 rods being fired at Paris to defeat the Russian forces overwhelming an American battle group.
  • The Half-Life series simultaneously plays this trope straight and averts it while providing justifications for both. Energy weapons are repeatedly shown to be horrifically powerful (the Tau Cannon and Gluon Gun in Half-Life, the former capable of destroying tanks and helicopters, and Combine Dark Energy weaponry in Half-Life 2 and its Episodes) and also the epitome of Awesome but Impractical, requiring enormous amounts of radioactive fuel to function. As a result, while every faction (the player included) uses kinetic weapons almost exclusively, energy weapons are still used in situations that require a Bigger Stick and/or when the requisite fuel is readily available.
    • The Gravity Gun manages to count as both—on one hand, it's plainly an energy weapon (a zero point energy-powered weapon in fact); on the other hand, its "ammo" is decidedly material. It also averts the drawback energy weapons had in the first game by requiring no external power whatsoever, due to an extradimensional crystal.
  • The Alt Eisen of Super Robot Wars Compact 2. In a setting where most Humongous Mecha are powered by Applied Phlebotinum, tinkered by Cosmic Horrors, shoot Frickin' Laser Beams and Sphere of Destructions and other unworldly powers, this Real Robot uses solely solid-based weapons. Unfortunately, it's an Awesome but Impractical unit, due to its specifications and difficulty in handling in-story. However, it functions on Rule of Cool, due to its pilot having been Born Lucky and in his hands, is able to take it to a point where it rivals Super Robots in damage capabilities.
  • Kinetic weapons makes up a substantial minority of the weapon options found in Sword of the Stars, where they are favored by the Hivers, Zuul and Tarka. Kinetic weapons deal more damage and generally have longer ranges than energy weapons (though less so than missiles and torpedoes) and cause their targets to veer of course from the force of the impact. The game's premier anti-planet weapon, Siege Drivers, are also kinetic. Kinetic weapons are, however, wildly inaccurate without targeting tech and deflectable by armor technology, fire more slowly than energy weapons, and up until Argos Naval Yard lacked the late-level exotic weapon variants that you could get up the energy weapons tree.
    • The latest expansion, however, did introduce the Rail Cannons, two or three of which are mounted on Impactor cruisers and six (or seven... or ten for Liir) on Impactor dreadnoughts. Their decent enough reload rate makes them deadly against most ships. The only way to avoid being destroyed by these is to use deflectors (type of shield that blocks all kinetic weapons) or shield projectors.
      • Even with the shields, the target ship still gets pushed by the impact. This can either cause the ship to collide with another object (such as a planet) or be pushed in such a way that the shield no longer protects it (deflectors only protect from frontal assaults).
    • The sequel adds another nuance to shipbuilding and gameplay - power requirements. Ship's systems and weapons must now share a power source, which means Beam Spam may no longer be an option for some designs. This means that kinetic weapons, which require significantly less power, are once again an attractive option, although the new damage spread system shows that lasers offer better penetration than mass drivers.
  • In City of Heroes, you have access to a ridiculous number of ranged damage sets. Most of these are elemental or energy based, but three (Archery, Assault Rifle, and Dual Pistols) rely solely on kinetic weaponry. While firing a bow and Arrow isn't as cool as Playing with Fire, the Weapon Sets certainly aren't starving for damage. They also have a unique advantage in the fact that their "Nuke" powers don't leave their users exhausted after use.
  • In Galactic Civilizations Kinetic weapons (Mass Drivers) were one of the 3 choices you had for weapon tech paths, along with missiles and energy weapons. Which one was better depends on what form of defenses your enemies are using- shields defend against energy weapons, point defence protects ships from missiles and plain old armour plating stops mass drivers.
    • Mass drivers do have the advantage of being the cheapest weapons though, but the second bulkiest (after missiles).
  • In X series. Mass Driver would allow you to destroy hulls of enemy ships, bypassing shields (and non-capital ships usually have weak hull, relying almost completely on shields). They use almost no energy (Mass Drivers? I'll take eight!), their projectiles travel at very decent speed. To finish it off, let's remember that any hull damage inflicted on a ship may result in loss of equipent, including weapons, and cargo. And ship suffer speed penalties. Only downer—you need ammo. Lots of it.
  • In Vega Strike Magnetic Weapons are the most power-efficient weapons, have decent rate of fire and do some shield-bypassing damage, so they are good choice, though mostly in close combat. Same for rockets, and they don't even use ship's energy. Lasers usually pierce shields better, don't need ammo, and hit at a greater range—but eat lots of power and as heavy weapons can be installed only on heavy fighters and larger combat-oriented ships. This also what makes the player hate Luddites: their low-caliber mass drivers aren't very deadly, but almost guaranteed to make you pay for armor repair.
  • Contra for the NES invokes this on accident. The Laser Gun powerup is almost useless because firing a second shot will instantly erase the first shot from the screen. Thus, firing rapidly will reduce your gun to little more than a laseriffic chainsaw.
  • StarCraft contains a general balance between energy weapons and kinetics (although energy weapons make up a disproportionately larger portion of the very high end attacks). The Protoss rely pretty much entirely on energy weapons (including energy melee weapons), but they are pretty balanced against the bullet and missile wielding Terrans and the claw and acid-spit-or-something wielding Zerg.
  • In Star Trek Online this is a major component to early space combat. Use your energy weapons to knock down shields then use kinetic weapons (photon torpedos) to deliver the deathblows. Phasers will do around 100 damage to the hull of an enemy ship, a torpedo can easily go over 2000 damage. The exception is Cruiser players who specialize in Beam Spam due to torpedoes having a limited firing arc and Cruisers having a low turn speed.
    • Latter updates added a limited run shotgun. Like any level cap weapon it greatly outpaces the many low level energy weapons, but it also doesn't need to be modulated to use against Borg.
  • In OGame, a browser game where you basically control a space empire, there is a Gauss Cannon. It apparently fires high-density metal bullets that weigh several tons in a railgun fashion, creating so much concussion that the ground nearby shakes and a huge sonic boom is created. And it is stronger than any other planet-mounted cannon sans the Plasma Turret, beating lasers.
    • In addition, the only ships that are described as having kinetic weapons are Bombers (plasma bombs) and Destroyers (has gauss cannons and plasma turrets). Death Stars however just use a graviton beam.
  • In Infinite Space, missiles, quantum torpedoes and the rail cannon, linear cannon and mass drivers of Escondido all bypass the deflector module, which blocks lasers and plasma.
  • Spectre, though set in an explicitly virtual environment, uses projectile weapons on all characters (including the player) that shoot.
  • Nitemare 3D. The pistol is the only weapon in the game that can hit a target instantaneously instead of waiting for a slow projectile to cross the room. In fact, what exactly is the advantage of the first two weapons, again?
  • In The Conduit, although the Drudge and Trust weapons are extremely powerful, they tend to suffer from Crippling Overspecialization, as well as limited ammo supplies or other features often rendering them Awesome but Impractical. Very often, you'll find yourself using plain old normal-tech human weapons, simply because they're much more versatile and more practical in most situations.
    • The sequel has some upgrade blurbs which make reference to this trope. However, it's obvious that they're told from a completely biased perspective and Played for Laughs.
  • Subverted in Star Ruler. At the start you only have kinetics, and early game energy weapons are power hogs that don't do much damage in return. As you research further, however, energy weapons become steadily more efficient, travelling at lightspeed means that they're near impossible to dodge, and you have Bottomless Magazines with them but not with kinetics, so a parity is eventually achieved.
  • Played with in the X Universe series. Though the overwhelming majority of the weapons as of X3: Albion Prelude are energy weapons, kinetic weapons are still popular among players despite the logistical problems of stocking ammo (major aversion of Easy Logistics here). Aside from the fact that the fighter-scale Mass Driver goes straight through shields, the chief advantage is that a good stock of ammo lets your ship stay at full rate-of-fire for longer since you're not using ship power for the weapons.
    • Oh, and the heavy capital-scale kinetic weapon, the Gauss cannon, can be fitted to the flank turrets of the Teladi Shrike, a frigate, which lets it take on targets several times its size with relative ease.

Web Comics

  • Schlock Mercenary
    • This strip has an explanation for why, in addition to energy weapons like Schlock's plasma cannons, ammo based pistols are so common.
    • It was also shown later that other weapons powerful enough to be actually useful tend to also be powerful enough to present danger to everyone around including the wielder (like those plasma cannons).
    • It also addresses the damage potential of "cee-sabot" weapons, large kinetic weapons traveling at relativistic speeds. RKVs (Relativistic Kill Vehicles) also turn up later in the story. As warships go, powerful solid-slug cannons seems to be mainly reserved for bombardment of objects that cannot dodge. The threat of hypervelocity projectiles is also the primary reason why battleplates were built - it takes formidable gravitics and fuel reserves to stop these.
  • In Quantum Vibe, the dominant personal weapon is the "zinger", a powerful directed energy weapon compact enough to be concealed in a ring worn on the finger (called a "zringer"). However, they suffer from the existence of "zinger supressors", machines that render all zingers in the area inoperable. For this reason, Nicole started carrying an old fashioned semi-automatic as a backup.

Web Original

  • Void Dogs uses the abbreviation KEG for firearms, short for Kinetic Energy Gun.
  • The five star nations in The Pentagon War, particularly Sol, rely heavily on kinetic weapons, primarily electromagnetically-launched slugs and high-speed ramming missiles.
  • No few factions in Fenspace suspect that the Subgenius "craft" called The Stark Fist of Removal is little more than a fancy dinosaur-killer weapon -- kinetic kill on the grandest possible scale.

Real Life

  • Unlike Sci Fi and fantasy genres where all manner of exotic weapons are commonplace like lasers, phasers, blasters, lightning guns, plasma cannons, etc, in real life all of them are unnecessary due to one simple unalterable fact: The laws of physics tell us that anything, absolutely anything in the universe can be destroyed if you simply hit it hard enough.
  • The most basic, ubiquitous kinetic weapon currently in use? Plain old firearms. A bullet fired from a handgun or rifle does damage to its target not by exploding, but simply by going really really fast. Every army on the planet uses them; arguably, there are more small arms and small-arms-ammunition deployed by the world's militaries than all other types of weapons combined.
  • The Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilizing Discarding-Sabot (APFSDS) round, the standard anti-armor ammunition of the M1 Abrams tank and most other modern main battle tanks, is referred to by The Other Wiki as a Kinetic Energy Penetrator. It uses no explosives, and is merely a long arrow-shaped super-dense dart made of a tungsten or depleted uranium alloy which travels between 1,400 and 1,900 m/s (around Mach 4 to 5). It is specifically designed to penetrate the armor of the target vehicle and disable it, or hit the fuel or ammunition storage to set off secondary explosions, instead of dealing wide-spread damage after hitting the target like a HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) round. It therefore requires a very high degree of accuracy, more so than other tank shells, and is considered a highly specialized round, along with APDS rounds. HEAT rounds are still the preferred round of choice for killing anything lighter than a tank.
    • APFSDS rounds will go all the way through an APC or lightly armored vehicle, sometimes without doing any real damage. (An APC is mostly big empty box) They will, however, cause any deer that wander onto a firing range to go pffftt.
  • There's a legitimate interest in creating Rods From God telephone pole-sized flechettes composed of ultradense material (probably tungsten) dropped from orbit. There is the issue with numerous treaties are in place to prevent the weaponization of space, including orbital weapon platforms. However the treaties only ban weapons of mass destruction and the rods from god are not defined as such under the treaty or international law. However if the system were ever to become a reality there is a chance an update to the treaties would ban its deployment.
  • The picture above is a round from the US Navy's prototype railgun, a weapon that uses electromagnetic fields instead of exploding gases, to propel projectiles to incredible speeds. It fired a shell at 10.64 MJ with a muzzle velocity of 2,520 m/s (over Mach 7), a good bit faster than even the above-mentioned state-of-the-art APFSDS tank rounds. The flare behind the projectile is not propellant—it is air that has been turned to plasma by the sheer amount of friction heat the slug creates. The expected performance for future railguns entering military service is a muzzle velocity over 5,800 m/s (Mach 17), accuracy enough to hit a 5 meter target over 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) away, and a fire rate of 10 shots per minute. Its damage per shot is expected to be roughly equivalent to a Tomahawk Cruise Missile, but each shot would be cheaper, not needing an engine, warhead or guidance system, and be much harder to intercept. The primary problem the Navy is facing is that the amount of energy rapidly wears out the "barrel" of the gun, with immense electromagnetic forces - the 'recoil' of the railgun - trying to push the rails apart, and friction and resistance generating a huge amount of heat. Also, while nuclear-powered warships shouldn't have much trouble generating the energy for the railgun, smaller vehicles like tanks would need to spend a lot of effort charging them up. So, for the immediate term railguns are Awesome but Impractical.
    • Navy fired BAE systems prototype railgun in late Febuary 2012. Unlike previous models, this railgun is the first model that looks like something that might get mounted on a ship. [1]
  • The only weapons deployed on spacecraft to date were 23mm rapid-fire cannons mounted on the Soviet Almaz space stations (the military versions of their Salyuts).
  • Laser-guided concrete bombs are an example of purely kinetic weapons being just better than kinetic weapons that go BOOM. Need a target in an urban area destroyed while minimizing the collateral damage using shrapnel-and-blast-force-inducing high explosives? Just drop a slab of good old-fashioned concrete right on top of your pesky target. Who needs fancy high-explosive mixtures when you have the simple blunt force of a solid chunk of concrete dropped from the sky?
    • On top of the advantages for avoiding collateral damage, concrete is both cheaper and far safer to handle than high explosives are, making this a wonderful alliance of Rock and Laser.
  • Modern missile interceptors like the Kinetic Energy Interceptor and THAAD rely on physically striking their targets to destroy them, rather than exploding. The reasoning is that proximity fuse detonations can't reliably knock out a missile, and the explosion risks scattering debris (like the warhead payload) over a wider area, and that's something you REALLY want to avoid when dealing with nuclear weapons.
  • This is how dual-stage anti-tank weapons such as the NATO Javelin work. Although they appear to destroy their targets through high-explosives this is not actually the case. They are composed of two warheads. The first warhead defeats the target's explosive reactive armour. The second warhead is a shaped charge that propels a kinetic energy penetrator through the hull and out the other side. Aside from the catastrophic impact damage, the pressure wave created effectively turns the crew to pulp.
  1. For emphasis, that plume of flame behind the slug is not an explosive propellant - it's plasma being formed from the air being ripped apart in its wake. Also, the lensing in front of the slug isn't an effect; that's the air warping in front of it.
  2. Whatever the hull might withstand, the doors separating the sections for species that breathe different atmospheres aren't built of the same stuff.