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Earlier questions about the effectiveness of Kylo Ren's lightsaber's design, in my opinion, is moot because they are all based on the assumption that those two side-blades are primarily intended to be crossguards - they are all speculator.

We now have facts about them, however. These two side-blades are in fact the venting of excess energy directed away from the fractured kyber crystal within to keep the lightsaber from blowing up. While still dangerous enough to hurt on physical contact, something intended to vent out as much waste energy as possible to prevent a meltdown still works very differently from something intended to output energy to form a mini "laser sword".

So, even though they aren't crossguards, can Kylo Ren still utilize these waste energy - which is ultimately still the same energy used in lightsaber blades - in combat? How effective would they be in blocking and inflicting damage?

The focus is on the vented energy's raw damage and defensive potential, not the feasibility of incorporating it into saber combat styles.

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    Seven. It is seven effective. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Jan 25 '16 at 1:43
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    Also, we see him using the crossguards to wound Finn's shoulder. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Jan 25 '16 at 1:44
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    He did cut him down later, but first, they had their lightsabers locked together and he slowly pushed his crossguard towards Finn until it bored a hole in his shoulder. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Jan 25 '16 at 1:59
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    As far as acting as a crossguard goes, I don't see how it could be very effective - the metal (?) parts stick out too far, IMO. – Harry Johnston Jan 25 '16 at 2:24
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    @WadCheber Oh, now I remember that bit. Well, admittedly it's the same energy that is in the blade, but I was just wondering how dangerous the energy being thrown out as exhaust is compared to the same energy being intentionally channeled to be a blade. – thegreatjedi Jan 25 '16 at 3:08
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Based on what we see in the film and the film's Visual Dictionary, the crossguard energy isn't being formed into miniature lightsaber blades, it's simply waste energy being vented directly from inside of the handle into the outside world.

As such, although it can clearly be used as a weapon (Ren uses it to burn Finn's shoulder), I think we can be reasonably sure that it wouldn't easily cut through harder materials, nor would it block another saber strike since there's no containment field.

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That being said, this is all speculation since we see neither of those things occurring.

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