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Related: Why would a slug thrower be more effective against a lightsaber/Jedi than a blaster?

Assuming that a lightsaber is a magnetically-contained tube of plasma (although theories are abound as to how this is achieved) and the typical bullet is made of either lead or copper-jacketed lead, how would said bullet interact with a lightsaber?

I've heard two possible theories on the outcome:

  • The bullet is heated to such temperatures that it turns to gas (i.e. vaporization). Would the temperature of the plasma be high enough that the short period of time that the bullet spends within the lightsaber blade be enough to melt then vaporize the metal? Considering the amount of time that Qui-Gon Jinn spends trying to pierce the bridge door in The Phantom Menace (and the fact that it appears that molten metal drips from the door), I am assuming this is unlikely.
  • The plasma in the lightsaber blade is at a high enough temperature that the bullet melts and turns to liquid lead, but not so hot that the lead vaporizes. The Jedi (or Sith) proceeds to get liquid metal thrown in their face, accompanied by third-degree burns.

Evidence from the Phantom Menace can be discredited by the fact that the bridge doors were most likely composed of durasteel rather than lead or copper. Durasteel "is capable of withstanding blistering heat, frigid cold, and monumental physical stress."

Note: I have read little to none of the Expanded Universe, so I apologize if the question is successfully answered in one of the EU media.

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Of course, there's going to be a canonical answer. However, I'd be really interested if anyone can address this with real physics. i.e.: Is the lightsaber actually hot enough to melt/sublimate/vaporize bullets within the short time it would otherwise take for the bullet to pass through? –  Iszi Jan 14 '13 at 16:10
I don't think they're "magnetically contained plasma". Whatever state of matter/energy comprises the blade of a lightsaber, it's quite obviously exotic and unknown to our own current physics (or quite possible incompatible, no one's completely sure the laws of physics are universal). Given what we've seen in the movies, they'd quickly melt lead or steel bullets, and deflect whatever remains. Obviously this could still hurt someone, so the Jedi would require skill to deflect them where they would cause no injury to themselves or bystanders. –  John O Jan 14 '13 at 16:21
Know who I think just might be able and willing to answer this from a real-life physics standpoint? Randall. –  Iszi Jan 14 '13 at 16:24
FWIW, breathing in lead vapour cannot be healthy for a Jedi, so even if they manage to hit all bullets they remain a hazard (molten or vaporised). –  bitmask Jan 14 '13 at 16:42
@Iszi: Forwarded to what-if.xkcd.com :-) –  Martin Schröder Jan 16 '13 at 17:57
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2 Answers

According to video game canon, the bullet disintegrates.

In Jedi Power Battles for PS1 there is a level on Tatooine where you fight Tusken Raiders. Their guns shoot bullets and when you block them they just disintegrate. (src)

However, I saw mentions that in "Shatterpoint" book, Mace Windu sliced the slugthrower slugs in half with a Lightsaber but didn't vaporize them. I will need to find the quote later to support that.

Also, from Wookiepedia (unsourced, so not necessarily canon):

during the days of the Galactic Republic, mercenaries fearing an intervention by Jedi Knights used rapid-fire slugthrowers that were impossible to completely deflect, unlike blaster bolts.

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Hmm, there is a post-Ep6 EU book (don't remember which) that addresses slugthrowers from the point of view of a Jedi in a bar. I seem to remember that the difficulty was that the slugs were less predictable than blaster bolts (?). I'll try to remember the book. –  Reid Feb 19 at 18:28
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It all depends on exactly how hot the lightsaber is. I've been doing some research for a possible bullet-melting energy shield, and have come to the conclusion that it takes about 5500 degrees Fahrenheit to completely vaporize a bullet (about the heat of a regular cutting torch.) This means that, as we've seen with Qui-Gon, the thing can vaporize straight through dura-steel, which is strong enough to resist lasers that MELT THROUGH PEOPLE. This doesn't give us enough information, though. What DOES, is the fact that it can't cut through Beskar, Mandalorian iron. Quoting Exar Kun, "The only thing that can resist a lightsaber is…Mandalorian iron!" So, it must not have enough heat, right? Wrong. If it's truly the only thing that a lightsaber cannot cut through, this means that it can cut through materials such as the superdense materials making up a neutron star. To put this in perspective, A cubic meter of neutron star would be completely fine in the face of a nuclear bomb, even at ground zero, due to the incredible gravitational binding energy holding it together. So, if a lightsaber can cut through that, they can sure as hell melt a bullet, even in the 0.00006 seconds it would be inside the lightsaber. I also now wanna know what the hell mandalorian iron is made out of.

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There's a large amount of uncited assertions here, as well as "original research" that you haven't backed up. –  Richard Feb 19 at 19:45
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