Ray guns, lasers, blasters, disruptors, phasers, whatever you call them you can't get much more sci-fi than heroes armed with energy based weapons. Why then is it so hard to find 28mm sci-fi miniatures armed with this iconic gun style? It seems most of the major manufactures of science fiction miniature lines prefer to arm their figures with ballistic weapons. The bigger the better and almost always with a banana clip. Now there are some retro sci-fi lines out with classic ray guns but these lines are small and produced by companies that are sometimes hard to find and they don't cover contemporary sci-fi styling. If your model is more Han Solo than Flash Gordon your out of luck. I'm also not taking into account the pre-painted Star Wars minis by Wizards of the Coast. Not only are these setting specific but they just aren't as nice as their pewter counterparts. Hey I own several myself but I almost always choose converted metal minis over the bendy plastics. Here and there you can find an individual armed with some kind of laser but these are few and far between. Let's look at some of the bigger Sci-fi lines out at the moment:
Ah Warhammer 40,000. Where would the miniature game world be without it? Probably smaller but perhaps a bit more interesting. But wait you say. Warhammer 40k has entire armies based on energy weapons. That's true the Eldar carry laser guns and so do the Imperial Guard but if you look real close even these guns have power packs that look an awful lot like clips. They are also the company responsible for starting the bigger is better mentality for their gun designs. What most people however think when they think of 40k are space marines who are armed with big ballistic bolters. Yes their troops in their most advanced armor carry throw back weaponry. I guess that some people find it comforting that 40,000 years in the future trooper will still be loading their guns with big banana clips but I don't.
Infinity is a relatively new line of figures but sadly they fall into the same old trap. Despite a much cleaner and more futuristic look than Warhammer 40k figures most of their troopers are armed with overly large assault rifles with big banana clips. These trooper's guns even have an extra banana clip just in case the first one runs out.
AT-43 is Rackham's pre-painted plastic line is somewhat nicer looking than most other pre-paints out there. I like the look of their troops and the war walkers are very cool but again despite the high tech gadgetry the guns look carried by most of the troopers are assault rifles that look almost as large as light machine guns.
Urban War by Urban Mammoth use to be called Void by Ikore. I've always liked the clean futuristic look of the miniatures in this line and have even converted a few of them for Star Wars and other futuristic settings. However many of the guns in this line are large, clunky ballistic weapons equipped with banana clips.
The Rezolution line by Aberrant Games is another nice looking sci-fi line and there are a few really nice looking energy weapons in the line usually in the form of laser pistols in the hands of characters. However like a lot of lines the bigger the armor the bigger the guns and those guns are often big ballistic weapons with banana clips. One of these days I would like to see some power armored troopers with laser guns. Is that too much to ask?
We all know where the original BFG comes from right? The Alien series. The massive pulse rifles carried by colonial marines. Despite it's energy weapon sounding name this bad boy is clearly a ballistic weapon. Enough firepower to take out a gibbering alien creature with an extra compartment for my lunch and a thermos of coffee. If I see another sci-fi trooper with a knock off pulse rifle I think I'm gonna puke.
So do ballistic weapons belong in Sci-fi at all? Yes I think they do. I've got nothing against settings with both space ships and ballistic weapons. Certainly there have been a number of movies and TV series that have taken that route with their weaponry. I can't imagine Malcolm, Jayne, of Zoe in a shootout against Alliance feds armed with phasers but at the same time imagine if energy weapons had never been dreamed up......
Captain Kirk sure got into a lot of scraps and despite being on a “peaceful” mission he was awfully well armed. He had; phasers, phaser rifles, even those little pocket phasers that look innocently like a communicator. But what if the producers of Star Trek had decided to arm Kirk with an AK instead of a phaser? Can you imagine kirk fighting off a bunch of Klingons on some god forsaken planet turning to Spock and saying “Spock...... I've..... exhausted my........ ammo...... supply. Toss me another clip”?
The setting is Mos Eisley cantina. Han Solo has just taken on some passengers for what seems like a milk run. He'll finally be able to pay off Jabba the Hutt with the creds from this job. He's so taken aback by his good fortune that he doesn't notice the armed rodian Greedo until he sits down across from him at the table. Greedo plans to turn Han in to Jabba and collect oa sizable bounty before Han can pay Jabba off. Han however has other plans. He slips his DL-44 from it's holster while distracting Greedo with small talk. Han kills the bounty hunter with one shot to his midsection. The heavy blaster pistol leaves a cauterized wound but Han still flips the bartender a small credit coin to take care of the “mess”. Now imagine if you will that our boy Han had been armed with a Mac 10 instead of his trusty blaster. He would have had to take out another expensive loan from another ruthless gangster to cover the cleanup on that mess.
Officer Aeryn Sun carries weapons that look a bit like they might be ballistic weapons but as her traveling companion John Crichton pointed out her weapons do indeed fire “little bolts of light”. I'm sure our favorite Peacekeeper would look pretty hot with a Desert Eagle but I don't think the effect would be the same. Lasers are sexier than bullets.
Ok what if this Starbuck were armed with a SMG instead of his blaster? We've seen how ineffective regular ballistic weapons are against tosters but those old sidearms of the Colonial fleet worked rather well.
I guess it turns out you can save the galaxy with just plane old guns but some heroes just look cooler with ray guns. Energy weapons remain the stuff of science fiction whereas ballistic weapons are more realistic but this is SCIENCE FICTION we are talking about. Where else but science fiction can we realistically use energy based weapons?
Look I'm an American. I like explosions, and fast cars, hot chicks in bikinis, sleek looking assault rifles with grenade launchers. I like all those things and I don't even mind them in my science fiction but there is room for variety here and I don't see a lot of the current manufactures taking advantage of it. I want my: phasers, blasters, distruptors, and laser pistols. I want ray guns god damn it. And flying cars. We were suppose to have flying cars....... but that's for another rant.