Is there a canon explanation (based on how Star Wars blasters work) for why the blaster bolts are so slow? Intuitively, one would expect them to be like lasers, traveling at the speed of light.

  • 15
    I'll just leave this right here.
    – Xantec
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 20:58
  • 3
    @Xantec, wow that guy must've been really bored. Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 23:34
  • Jedis would be able to slice them down even if they moved at the speed of light because the Jedi would place his / her light saber in the path as the other person squeezed the trigger.
    – Joe C
    Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 6:50

5 Answers 5


Originally, blasters were intended to be lasers. For example, in the Episode IV script the opening scene is described as so:

A tiny silver spacecraft, a Rebel Blockade Runner firing lasers from the back of the ship, races through space. It is pursed by a giant Imperial Stardestroyer. Hundreds of deadly laserbolts streak from the Imperial Stardestroyer, causing the main solar fin of the Rebel craft to disintegrate.

"Laser" is used quite extensively in all the scripts, including the more recent prequels. One would expect blaster bolts to travel at the speed of light based on this description, but they only travel ≈100mph. But did you really expect scientific accuracy from the people who thought a parsec is a unit of time?

However, Disney seems to be correcting this contradiction because the canon novel Lords of the Sith consistently refers to blaster bolts as "beams of plasma". For example, on page 13 it says:

[Vader] fired and his blasters sent twin beams of plasma into the aft shields.

According to updated canon, therefore, blasters are not lasers which would travel at the speed of light. Since a plasma beam consists of particles it makes sense that blaster bolts travel slower than the speed of light.

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    But In A New Hope They couldn't user lasers on the Death Star exhaust vent because it was ray shielded (they had to use torpedoes), but that means that blasters cannot be particles because otherwise they would have used them in the first movie and wouldn't have needed to do all of the stuff they did!!!
    – DarthRubik
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 23:37
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    @DarthRubik Ray shields have very contradictory behavior.
    – Null
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 1:39
  • @DarthRubik - recall that the trash compactor in the Death Star was magnetically sealed. Given that blaster bolts are commonly described as plasma in a magnetic sheathe, this seems like good evidence for it. Regarding the ray shielding at a ship-scale, perhaps it's simply another term for magnetically sealing something, or perhaps the Death Star's ray shielding is more exotic than the description seems, perhaps using some sort of 'ray' to disrupt the magnetic containment field of blaster-based weaponry.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 16:29
  • I believe there was a time after 'lasers' but before 'beams of plasma' where blaster bolts really were some kind ionized slug. And that's why they travel so slow. Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 16:45
  • Sadly, I see lasers mentioned in SW novels too (new ones too) where they obviously mean blaster bolts. (You hardly actually see laser beams anywhere in sci-fi. They would be boring thin light beams, even invisible in a lot of cases and they would only burn holes or slowly melt steel. Oh, and (heavy) rain would be a serious enemy of laser beams.)
    – stevie
    Commented Aug 25, 2017 at 8:37

Blaster bolts are made of plasma, not light. See here.

Blasters are a considerable improvement over the archaic laser design. Instead of a coherent beam of light, the blaster fired a compressed, focused, high-energy particle-beam that is very destructive, commonly referred to as a "bolt".

My best reference I can find is: Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary

  • 3
    Huh? How is a "particle-beam" a ball of plasma? Commented Mar 25, 2012 at 19:37
  • Good point, I'm used to balls of plasma not beams though thus the slip up.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Mar 25, 2012 at 21:26
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    @DVK Actually that would make a lot of sense: Plasma is a collection of totally ionized particles. This makes the particles much easier to manipulate with electrical and magnetic fields.
    – Canageek
    Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 15:00
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    @Canageek: And therefore easier to shield against.
    – Raphael
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 11:30
  • It is why blasters require ticanna gas in their operation. Refined and processed tibanna gas amplifies the energy of coherent light that passes through it. Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 20:53

Star Wars Wikia has been altered since the new Disney canon changes. However, to clear things up - the Tibanna gas is now the actual element that is fired:

"When the blaster was fired, a small amount of gas moved from the cartridge" -http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Blaster

"Tibanna gas produced four times its normal energy output when cohesive light passed through it." -http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Tibanna

The gas particles undergo excitement just like laser physics: "An XCiter was a component used in blasters to agitate gas molecules." -http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/XCiter

The particles are then accelerated just like normal particle weapon physics: "Once blaster gas had been energized it went through this module and was electromagnetically accelerated" -http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Actuating_module

As in the question - they don't achieve velocities near the speed of light, so although the energy in the particles may be high, they lack the destructive kinetic energy, according to what's seen on screen.

  • I'll accept this and upvote if you can cite actual canon material and not the (sometimes inaccurate) Wikia. Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 1:12
  • @DVK I found a canon quote for you that blaster bolts are beams of plasma. See my answer.
    – Null
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 17:58
  • @DVK-on-Ahch-To the Wikia follows the canon policy Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 15:30

Because, Star Wars blasters do not fire laser bolts of light.

They fire particle energy beams of gas, Tibanna gas to be precise.



The clones use a kind of plasma bolt which is even more effective against droids, but most others use particle beam weapons.

A link to the blaster article on the Star Wars wikia.

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