6

A blaster bolt is described as plasma encapsulated in a self-contained magnetic field that explodes on contact.

While that sounds cool it doesn’t really explain what the lethal payload is when being hit by a blaster.

As described, I would expect the plasma exploding and causing severe burns to the target, probably penetrating the skin, burning through body parts and, basically, making a big hole in the person receiving the hit. The “plasma” and the exploding part acting in a similar way as current bullets but in a more powerful way.

However that is not consistent with what is seen on the movies. On the movies all hits with a blaster seem to cause minor superficial burns. On storm troopers we see a slight dark burn mark on the armor with no evident piercing of the armor itself. On hits to civilian without armor we see the clothes burn slightly but again no significant piercing of the skin. If anything it looks like some superficial burning of the skin as opposed to lightsabers where we actually see people being cut and impaled.

However, most of the time someone is hit they just die. Now, what would be the cause of that? Is it kinetic energy that shocks the whole body? Maybe a shockwave that shatters internal systems?

In summary, how exactly does a blaster bolt kill?

Canon answers are preferred although reasonable explanations are also fine.

3

Through a variety of mechanisms

Blasters pierce, burn, and cauterize. They also have a decent amount of kinetic force.

From Aftermath:

A bright light. The bark of a blaster.

He cries out in pain as a laser bolt burns a hole through his shoulder. His hand reflexively opens—the microphone clatters away. He paws at his hip for his own blaster, but another shot and the weapon that hung there is quickly spun to slag and knocked off his belt.

Star Wars: Aftermath

Despite continuing the tradition of poetically (and inaccurately) referring to blasters as “laser bolts” even after that aspect had been dropped, this makes it clear that blasters can indeed burn through people.

Even more explicitly:

Cobb Vance’s hand is up in a flash—there’s the shriek from his own blaster, and it punches a cauterized hole clean through Adwin’s shoulder on his right side. His hand goes limp, lifeless. The helmet clatters out of his other hand. He backs against the shelf, terror-struck.

Star Wars: Aftermath

Lest we imagine that this is merely the description of one novel:

“Tai-Lin.” She rolled him onto his back in order to assess the wound. “Tai-Lin, can you hear me?”

But of course he couldn’t. He had been hit directly in the chest, at close range, by a blaster set to kill. The deep wound where his heart used to be had been cauterized, leaving a blackened crater behind. Arliz Hadrassian had avenged her Amaxine warriors.

Star Wars: Bloodline

This also indicates that at closer range, blaster shots can cause rather explosive damage. Indeed, they seem to have enough kinetic force to blast a droid’s face off:

Norra’s on the ground—her back against the metal, her blaster up and firing at a droid diving toward her. Her shot tears the thing’s faceless mask off, exposing a sizzling circuit board. It collapses against her, limbs flailing uselessly against the metal—she rolls it off her and fires two more shots into its open skull. It stops moving.

Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt

As the new canon novels indicate, blasters are not clean weapons, nor anything like purely concussive. They are often not bloody, for much the same reasons as lightsabers (their intense heat), but nor will they leave only minor burns.

Stormtrooper armor can offer significant protection from blasters, as indicated in this question. Thus, the damage done to anyone wearing armor will likely be less significant than that done to an unarmored individual.

As to why the blaster wounds seem less gruesome against unarmored foes (in many cases) than these descriptions would suggest, there are several possibilies. Shots from far away are probably less lethal, in accordance with the increased lethality of nearby shots. Many wounds are cauterized, and so may not appear serious.

The moment the doors closed, Isval drew the blaster she kept in the holster in the small of her back and fired into the back of Grolt’s head. He collapsed without a sound. The shot from the small blaster left his head intact, and the entry wound, cauterized by the blaster bolt, didn’t even bleed.

Lords of the Sith

And yes, a packet of plasma fired at high speed may cause some serious concussive damage even if it does not burn through someone.

  • 1
    Honestly, at this point I’m just saying that “laser” is a metaphor for “slices through things, like a laser.” – Adamant Sep 15 '16 at 8:06
  • 2
    strange metaphor, considering that we never see a slicing-capable laser in-universe. Would be like saying “slices through things, like a torch light”. I’d rather guess that blaster bolts kill by causing a heart-attack, due to the sheer surprise that someone actually hit someone with a blaster. – Holger Sep 15 '16 at 11:47
  • "We never see a slicing-capable laser in-universe"? I don't know about you, but the Star Wars movies I watched had lightsabers in them. – DisturbedNeo Sep 15 '16 at 12:49
  • 2
    A lightsaber isn't a laser either, @disturbedNeo – Paul Sep 15 '16 at 13:34
  • @Holger Ehm, wasn't the Death Star weapon a laser? – Mr Lister Sep 15 '16 at 16:46

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