I’d like to talk about something that often gets forgotten in conversations about Star Wars, that being slugthrowers. Now, for those that don’t know slugthrowers are a lot like blasters but rather than shooting a particle beam from energized and then compressed gas, slugthrowers are more like modern day firearms that use explosive powder to launch a metal projectile. Within the Star Wars Universe, Slugthrowers were the standard used by both military and civilians, but were eventually replaced by the blaster. This change began in some places as early as the Dawn of the Jedi era and sometimes much earlier than that (as the galaxy was not entirely united during the Dawn of the Jedi era). So, you would think that they are just never used, but you would be quite wrong on that. Even though there is an arguably superior alternative, slugthrowers do find common use in the galaxy even as late as the Legacy era.
You may have noticed that I said that blasters replaced slugthrowers, but are only “arguably” better, and are wondering what I mean by that. Well, when I say arguably I mean that both have their advantages and disadvantages, and that the advantages of the blasters make them better suited for what is more commonly needed. What are those advantages? Blasters are far more accurate than Slugthrowers. The effects external forces like gravity drag and wind resistance are not nearly as severe on blaster bolts as they are on slugs. This means that blaster bolts within their range will more or less, fly straight and true while slugs will have a more varied flight path because of these forces. Also, while both require external components to operate, charge packs and gas cartridges for blasters and ammo for Slugthrowers, the weight of say X number shots worth of slugthrower ammo is significantly heavier and bulkier than the weight of that some number of shots worth of gas cartridges and power packs. Less weight and bulk means you can either carry more or carry other things that may be of use to you. When being used against organic humanoid targets both slugthrowers and blasters are actually quite comparable in how much damage they can do; slugthrowers are better at dealing with energy shields however blasters are not affected nearly as much by body armor like slugthrowers are and are much better at destroying droids or punching through durasteel and particle shields. With these advantages it is easy to see why they became the standard.
Because of these advantages slugthrowers are often stereotyped by being used by more primitive cultures and worlds that haven’t modernized, like the Tusken Raiders. However, blasters aren’t perfect. For one thing, they are a lot more expensive and in some planets hard to get your hands on as they are often outlawed on many core worlds and a lot of worlds in the corporate sector, though many get smuggled in anyway. Ironically, with blasters becoming more common, slugthrower resistant armor became less common meaning blasters made slugthrowers more effective. Blasters are also a lot more difficult to maintain, often requiring specialized training in order to disassemble, clean and repair, while slugthrowers being much simpler in design can be kept and maintained by a novice with minimal training (this is only in reference to the Star Wars universe, not our own as their knowledge of simple mechanics is common knowledge in Star Wars making the learning curve much easier). This means that slugthrowers are much more durable and capable of being able to fire in harsher conditions when called to do so than a blaster. This is further compounded by the common belief of many blaster owners that when one stops working that it is simply better to throw it out and buy a new one, while slugthrower owners believed that when their weapon stops working it is better to fix it themselves. Resulting in slugthrower users being much more familiar with their weapons than a blaster owner.
This makes them quite popular among bounty hunters, especially newcomers to the trade. The cheaper price tag, and less restrictions makes them perfect for finding targets on planets where blasters are not allowed as most weapons scanners cannot properly identify a slugthrower, additionally the lack of a need to constantly replace their blasters makes bounties more profitable, and the durability allows them to be able to depend on it no matter where their quarry hides.
Speaking of bounty hunters finding their targets probably the most well-known use of slugthrowers is in sniping. While blasters are significantly more accurate than slugthrowers, blaster bolts lose their cohesion after a certain distance. That distance depends on the barrel length and how much power and gas is used to construct the bolt. Once cohesion is lost at its maximum range the bolt dissipates becoming completely harmless. It is possible to make blasters that are able to shoot and kill targets kilometers away, but these are only seen on larger vehicles and ships as the size of these weapons are simply to immense for a single or crew of people to operate effectively. A slugthrower, although also is susceptible to losing how much damage it can do at extreme ranges, loses that punch more gradually and is still capable of delivering enough damage to kill a target at up to a few kilometers away. Even with the effects that external forces have on the accuracy of such weapons due to the fact that targeting at these ranges often requires optics, just about every sniper rifle comes equipped with a special optic that factors in these variables and aids in aiming. Another benefit of using slugthrowers for sniping is that unlike blasters the slug will not leave a giant glowing tracer beam in its flight path and can be suppressed. Making a sniper able to be stealthy in taking out a target and make finding the shooter more difficult. These reasons are why the Karpaki Fifty slugthrower was used by Ben Skywalker during the assassination of Dur Gejjen, and why Zam Wesell could be seen using a KiSteer 1284 slugthrower in Attack of the Clones.
Now there are a few more advantages that have some niche applications as well. Firstly, slugthrowers can have more specialized properties based on the ammo used. You can load it with explosive incendiary or mercy rounds. This doesn’t come up often in Star Wars but it is worth mentioning. Another one is in specific hunting, mainly big game and Jedi hunting. While blasters are able to take down someone of humanoid size quite easily in just a few shots when you talk about larger animals this becomes a problem. Mainly to increase the damage output of a blaster you again need either more gas or more power. And just like with the distance problem making a blaster than can kill large beasts in just a few shots means making it too big for a single person to carry. Slugthrowers however are capable of firing large caliber rounds that can effectively take down large animals in 1-2 shots. The trade off is that the ammo is quite heavy the slugthrowers can only really carry a few rounds, and the recoil is bad. Meaning you have few shots and few opportunities to make the kill. However the slugs are more than capable of doing the job with those few chances you get meaning this isn’t a problem for experienced hunters. Big game hunters aren’t as common as snipers and bounty hunters in the Star Wars universe but it is still worth mentioning.
The final and even rarer instance of slugthrower use is in Jedi hunting. At one point in the history of the Galactic Republic mercenaries would use rapid fire slugthrowers that could fire slugs at a rate faster than a Jedi could block them (though Jedi who had mastery of Soresu could usually still keep up). In my own research, I could not find out why this wasn’t done more often but I assume it was because most people are not aware of the limitations of a Jedi’s abilities so they never thought to try it, that the weapons are rare, or that the Jedi found a way to counter this or restrict the information of their weakness from getting out. Still for a time this was an extremely effective way of dealing with Jedi and another possible use for these “outdated weapons”
Despite their reputation for being obsolete and the weapons of more primitive cultures, slugthrowers continued to find practical uses throughout galactic history, in some cases even shaping it. To me, I always found it fascinating how even antiquated technology could be used effectively in the Star Wars Universe. I may cover some other examples of this in the future if you guys like this kind of article, but I wanted to do this one first because it is the one that interests me the most. So as always let me know what you think and if there are other uses for slugthrowers you know of that I missed. And as always until next time. To see more from Dylan, click here!