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I'm about halfway through watching Stargate SG-1 and I noticed several occasions where SG-1 fought Jaffa forces near the stargate. While they often had to leave in a hurry, there were many situations where they would have had the time to take some of the defeated Jaffa's weapons with them back through the gate.

From what I've seen so far, the SGC only has a handful of zats and Teal'c's staff weapon, but it seems to me like they could easily have brought back dozens of staff weapons and zats by now, which would certainly have been useful for research or simply as an addition to the arsenal.

Is there any in-universe reason why they did not salvage more weapons when they had the chance, or is there something wrong with my assumptions?

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up vote 38 down vote accepted

As described by O'Neill in The Warrior,

[the staff weapon] is a weapon of terror, designed to intimidate the enemy. [The P90] is a weapon of war, designed to kill the enemy.

Here's a YouTube capture of the scene, though it cuts out the end of O'Neill's quote above

In almost any situation, the P90 is a better weapon.

SG-1 is not typically tasked with retrieval - they are a recon and special ops unit. The SGC does, as you and abcooper point out, have a ready supply of Zats. It's highly likely that the SGC employs teams (perhaps not even SG teams, just groups of specialists protected by SG teams) to sweep sites of battles (when secured) to retrieve alien weaponry.

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That was actually my favourite part of "The Warrior", when they do a "Mythbusters-esque" test of the two weapons and prove that the P90 is both far more accurate and significantly more effective. – deworde Dec 20 '11 at 12:57
"Wait...set it swinging...little more...little more...that's it." – Jeff Dec 20 '11 at 14:08
@Dima et al - Take it to chat, please - comments aren't really the place for an extended discussion. – Jeff Dec 20 '11 at 21:15
And now we have YouTube embedding! Awesome! – Jeff Jan 23 '13 at 19:22

I'm not sure that there's ever a given explanation, but maybe it's fair to say that SG-1 rarely has the opportunity to do so safely? If they're in the middle of a fire fight, staying in one place for a full second to grab a weapon off the ground could get them killed. And even if they've killed the immediate attackers, they don't want the next group of jaffa to come across them while they've got an extra staff weapon in each hand, making it difficult for them to fire back.

Or possibly they DO bring weapons back, and we just don't really see it. The SGC never seems to have a dearth of zat-guns when they need them. But the power source - liquid naquadah, right? - isn't something they have a huge supply of, so maybe it's not a worthwhile use of resources to keep their personnel armed with them. The staff weapons, meanwhile, are not really a convenient shape for someone less enormous than Teal'c to actually take into a firefight. And while one blast from them does a lot of damage, they are somewhat slow firing in comparison to the earth-based guns SG-1 carries.

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Why they don't do this in combat situation should be obvious, but it becomes obvious over the run of the series that retrieval of staff weapons, zats, and even ribbon devices is a high priority.

Without re-watching a whole bunch of the show I can't cite exact episodes for this, but if memory serves at least one entire armory room dedicated to the storage of staff weapons and zats is shown on screen.

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Since we see cases of zat'nikatels in the armory on SGA, it is reasonable to assume that some other SG Team does spend time retrieving Goa'uld/Jaffa weaponry.

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