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Watching The Force Awakens, it seems like blaster technology has noticeably improved. Many blasters seem to create small explosions capable of affecting multiple targets at a time.

Am I wrong, or did blaster technology canonically improve between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens?

Blaster explosion #1

Blaster explosion #2

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    It's probably just a side effect of modern filmmaking trends - the need to have bigger explosions, louder booms, faster chases, more dubstep etc. – RedCaio Feb 21 '16 at 2:31
  • I can't find an official source for this, but I don't think hand-blasters were able to chew through Starfighter-class armor in a few shots during the time of the original trilogy. Considering how quickly they are able to disable an X-wing at the beginning of the film, I think it's safe to assume they've gotten more powerful. – user45623 Feb 24 '16 at 23:37
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    @user45623 they always fired even inthe original trilogy at space freighters with hand held weapons so I dare say they are able to hurt the ships given time and the correct location to hit. And the storm troopers went lucky there with taht xwing........although they just fired at the exposed engine mechanics anwyway.....so how should they NOT damage that? – Thomas Feb 27 '16 at 20:14
  • @Thomas Firing at the Falcon as it's leaving the hangar doesn't necessarily mean hand blasters can penetrate armor. They might be firing just because there's a target and they have ammo. They might think from looking at the Falcon that it doesn't even have armor. As for the X-wing, I don't think any Starfighter is going to have "exposed engine mechanics". Sure, they back of the body looks more intricate, but it's surely still armored. – user45623 Feb 28 '16 at 21:56
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Watching The Force Awakens, it seems like blaster technology has noticeably improved. Many blasters seem to create small explosions capable of affecting multiple targets at a time.

Not really. The only blaster that is really more powerful is Chewbacca's crossbow shaped one.....that one holds a very very very very strong punch even so strong that a specific Solo is surprised by it!

That aside the only thing that is new is that even shoulder wounds (right in the beginning a storm trooper suffered one) are lethal within seconds (although there is a counter example.....but Force users are different anyways). That thing I would count as artistic freedom there though.

So all in all: Nope blasters are as strong as always and Chewie really should be hired to upgrade those of the resistance to Wookiee levels!

  • Other blasters are also shown to cause small explosions. – Rogue Jedi Aug 11 '16 at 22:46
  • @RogueJedi yes but chewies bowcaster blasts are generating bigger ones. And even more so whe nyou look at the combat scenes you see normal blasters only wounding an killing on direct hits while chewies in the fight for maz hideout ..... was more like a grenade launcher shot. And chewies is the only one (aside from vehicle blasts) where one sees multiple targets hit at once. Aside from that the non bowcaster blasters all generate the same sized explosion as in the original series (extrmely small light effecdts and sounds of small explosions). As references here eps 4 (tatooine/ds) eps 5 (hoth) – Thomas Aug 12 '16 at 7:48
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As far as I know, there is no published study in canon on the state of military technology or its advancement in the preceding 30 years (or any time period for that matter).

However, by drawing parallels from real world history, we can observe general trends in technological advancement as possible explanations to your observation:

  • Groundbreaking technological breakthroughs: Game-changers, usually leading to a paradigm shift and frequently requiring (esp in modern times) the development and proliferation of enabling technologies to an advanced degree. Eg: domestication of the horse, invention of steel, gunpowder, steam engine, electricity, jet engine etc. The least common to occur.
  • Miniaturisation: A constantly ongoing trend. Literally tech getting smaller. The blaster tech you observe may already exist in larger firearms during the Imperial period, but only proliferated into personal arms now.
  • Economies of scale: More of an economic trend that goes hand in hand with miniaturisation. Over time, the same technology gradually proliferates and gains wider adoption, becoming cheaper, leading to more proliferation etc. It's possible such blaster tech were limited in the Imperial period only to commandos or the Imperial Guard, for example.

Not a perfect answer imo, but reasonable.

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    This is a difficult problem in science fiction. If their technology increases at a rate anything like what we're seeing in the real-world today, and you extrapolate backwards, it doesn't make any sense that they've even had space flight for more than a few centuries. For example, we're told in Legends sources that the P2 astromech droid that preceded the R2 unit was something like 7 feet tall, over twice the height of an R2 unit. For such a huge breakthrough in miniaturization to have occurred so recently, we can only assume droids have only been around since slightly before the clone wars. – user45623 Feb 24 '16 at 23:27
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    Another example: Zahn established that breakthroughs in automation allowed the crew complement of a Dreadnaught to be decreased from 16,000 to 2,000 just before the Clone Wars started. So, in a civilization that has had spaceflight for at least 1,000 years, the required crew for a large vessel decreased by 87% just half a century ago? How many crew did a large vessel require 200 years ago? – user45623 Feb 24 '16 at 23:31
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    @user45623 There's a theory I've read of long ago. The exponentially growing rate of technological progress we witness today won't last forever. As we approach the limits imposed by reality, the law of diminishing returns suggests that it will become increasingly more difficult to achieve major new breakthroughs. Technological advancement in highly advanced civilisations, such as those in science fiction, would slow to an asymptotic crawl. – thegreatjedi Feb 25 '16 at 3:51
  • @user45623 Rare would be the kind of non-economic advancements I've mentioned in my answer. The "new tech" advertised by companies of the future are, in actuality, existing technology that are more suited to the changing times than the other existing tech it is replacing. At best, old technology are rediscovered. As an example in Legends, cortosis technology existed for millenia. It replaced firearms in an age when Jedi and Sith are common. When that age concluded, firearms made a comeback as cortosis melee armaments become perceived as obsolete and archaic. It's all recycling. – thegreatjedi Feb 25 '16 at 3:56
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There seems to be no cannon answer, but it has been 30 years so im sure there have been advancments in the technology. Probably just the natural advencement of weapon tech.

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