The majority of modern sci-fi is obsessed with the concept that in the future, the predominant weapon will be some form a of a Ray Gun
(that somehow travels much slower than the speed of light). If kinetic weapons, or some other weapon exists, the laser weapon is generally considered superior. Even if not set in the far future, laser weapons will be invented or introduced by aliens, scientists, or some other Phlebotinum
in many kids shows because they are Family-Friendly Firearms
, even though in universe they are more generally deadly than kinetic weapons. The most common variety is Frickin' Laser Beams
Type A: Ray Guns
are everywhere. They may not be the only type of weapon, and kinetic weapons might even still exist, but they are hardly used.
Type B: Ray Guns
may not be ubiquitous, but they trump every other kind of weapon. Perhaps only the rich can afford them, or only the government has the technology. Whatever the case, all other weapon types are considered inferior.
Contrast Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better
- In Star Wars, virtually all projectile weapons are some sort of Ray Gun. Lightsabers are also a main focus of the universe. Ancillary materials such as the visual dictionaries explain that this is partly because commonplace body armor works beautifully against kinetic penetrators like bullets (turns out stormtrooper armor isn't completely useless after all).
- When the T-800 does some weapon shopping in the first Terminator film, he has to settle for a Uzi nine millimeter instead of the "phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range" he would have wanted. In the future where he comes from even all the humans seem to use only energy weapons.
- In Dune the predominant ranged weapons are lasguns. But due to personal deflector shields that generate fusion reaction when hit with lasers most soldiers use swords.
- The aliens in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy generally have ray guns of some type.
- Battlestar Galactica: Played straight in the original, where both Colonials and Cylons used lasers. Averted in the remake, where nukes and traditional firearms that utilize bullets are used instead.
- Averted in Firefly with characters using traditional firearms, and ship-to-ship combat often involving grappling and boarding. A few laser weapons exist (see Awesome but Impractical) but are a pain to maintain.
- Played with in the Stargate Verse. Most advanced offworld cultures use energy weapons of some form or another, in contrast to the firearms preferred by the SGC. While the latter are usually superior as weapons of war, the Tau'ri did develop a fondness for the versatility of the Goa'uld zat'nik'tel, a weapon that reliably stuns on the first shot and kills on the second. By later episodes it largely replaced the Beretta M9 as their sidearm of choice.
- In Star Trek, both handheld weapons that shoot a beam, and large phasers that fire from the ships are used.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- The Imperial Guard is primarily armed with lasguns. The reasoning being that they are very low maintenance seeing as they have no moving parts and the power packs can be recharged practically anywhere. It should be noted that the Imperial Guard's lasguns are pretty much the weakest weapon in the setting (hence their fanon slogan of "Defending the galaxy with T-shirts and flashlights"). Lascannons on the other hand, are extremely effective anti-vehicle weapons.
- The Tau Empire also arms their basic infantry with energy weapons, but unlike the Imperial Guard they have arguably the deadliest infantry weapons in the setting. The weakest tau guns fire droplets of superheated plasma that are very accurate at long range and capable of taking out light armored vehicles.
- Laser weapons in Traveller do greater damage and have more ammunition than slugthrowers, but are considerably more expensive and bulkier. The power packs are usually backpack or at least belt-mounted.
- Eclipse Phase has "laser pulsers", which have a "stun" mode that acts like a flashbang on the target.