In "First Contact" Picard kills a couple of Borg drones in the Holodeck with a holographic Tommy gun. It would appear that while the Borg are able to adapt to become impervious to energy weapons, they are vulnerable to bullets. This looks like a gaping logical hole: why couldn't Star Fleet replicate "primitive" assault rifles to fight the Borg, if they knew that phasers were useless against them? Has this ever been addressed?
There is inconsistent logic here. I would think the reason is precisely the one most people agree it is not - the shields will be adapted to block physical bullets. All the force fields in use in most places (including Federation ships - think of the brig) will be able to prevent physical things passing through. It isn't hard to imagine the Borg could simply adapt their shields against slower, larger bullets in addition to (or instead of) energy-based weaponry.
In-universe, I would think that the use of chemical explosives and kinetic energy weapons would be SEVERELY discouraged on any starship, given the chances of a hull breach, and the security forces we typically see would be mostly useless with such weaponry. They have been trained on energy weapons without recoil, with no significant magazine capacity, no need to reload, etc. It would be like taking a group of riflemen and giving them crossbows.
From a writing standpoint, there's just no way for the Borg to be a threat once the Federation begins using firearms instead of energy weapons. Kinetic energy isn't like the magic energy weapons they use - you can't just 'shield' against it (or else punches, swords, etc wouldn't work) and the relative simplicity of even modern firearms to mass-produce (given the established technology of the replicators) would quickly render Borg useless as face-to-face villians.
And CGI battles cost money.
In short: The Federation doesn't have the training to use them well, and would end up killing many of their own (if they even considered the possibility) by using them incorrectly, and if they ever did gain widespread use, the series would lose a major antagonist.
This has not been addressed, no.
Kill one Borg with a certain weapon and they will adapt. It's a bit surprising that they had never encountered any culture with projectile weapons, but since they now have, they would technically have adapted.
Of course, "First Contact" took place in the past and this knowledge never got back to the collective. So I guess the Federation is still good for one single Borg kill with bullets...
They don't seem to adapt to bat'leths very well...
First, maintaining kinetic shielding all the time would be expensive, from an energy perspective. Faced with a culture that has thus far used only energy weapons against them, it makes more sense for the Borg to choose defenses appropriate for the enemy they face. I have to think, though, that if projectile weapons started to become the primary mode of combat against the Borg in any one engagement, they would adapt to block bullets (holographic or otherwise) as well.
The primary objection I've seen here to this line of logic is this:
They don't seem to adapt to bat'leths very well...
But remember that the Borg's primary objective is not to kill, but to grow, to adapt. To "Add your technological and biological distinctiveness to [their] own". As such, their primary means of offense is to assimilate - and all examples of assimilation that I've seen from the Borg are from close range - hand to hand. Also note that all kinetic force shielding we've seen in the Star Trek universe is bidirectional - nothing in, nothing out. A drone, then, in close enough range to engage in hand to hand combat for the purposes of assimilation, would be forced to disengage any kinetic shielding to press his attack - thus rendering him vulnerable to punches, bat'leths, etc.
In short, the Borg would adapt to kinetic weapons with kinetic shielding in a prolonged engagement with a culture that made use of them, but would have to disengage this shielding at close range to assimilate any combatants.
It's a different universe, but there are parallels to the replicators in Stargate SG-1 - they were also initially vulnerable to 'primitive' weapons (i.e. Earth technology) but immune to more sophisticated technology (Asgard, Goa'uld). However, they quickly adapt to the weapons, and so only a limited (given how quickly they can reproduce, basically unimportant) number can be destroyed in this way.
If this was addressed in Star Trek it seems likely that something similar would apply.
There are two more things to consider that haven't been covered yet. One is that, in the holodeck a bullet fired from a holographic gun is neither solid nor does it have the signature of an energy weapon. Only when the projectile is about to interact with a real object (in this case the Borg drone) and the safeties are off will the holodeck replicate a real bullet with the required energy. So from one standpoint we can view any being in the holodeck as having hundreds or thousands of kinetic energy weapons aimed at them at all time in the form of holo-diode coupled replicators. It would likely be difficult to adapt to such a system, and also thus the big need for safeties to restrict such replication to prevent accidents.
The other thing to consider is that an energy shield can deflect a bullet, even a holographic one. Worf devised such a device using his communicator in A Fist Full of Datas. This may have been easier since Worf was more familiar with the technology, or due to the circumstances of the malfunction at the time, but it does suggest that eventually the Borg would have been able to adapt.
Going from the other answers about needing a portable power source, I think the answer is a little simpler:
Phasers and energy weapons are energy!
Why not absorb part of it to generate the force field in the first place? That would explain why projectiles, bat'leths, and punches still work, and the drones wouldn't need a huge power source to keep using the force fields as they get fired at.
Perhaps the reason the Borg do not bother with kinetic shielding is more to do with medical technology. If your medical technology is so advanced that most non-catastrophic trauma can be repaired (for example, recall that Picard survives a knife through the heart!), projectile weapons become much less of a threat. Whilst it is possible to disable a drone with a projectile weapon, it would be quite easy to beam them back to the Cube for repair and regeneration, obviating the need for kinetic shielding. Of course in First Contact the Cube is gone, and this could explain the vulnerability of the Borg to the holographic tommygun.
Conversely, future energy weapons set to "kill" would presumably be designed to defeat the medical technology of the day by dealing some irreparable tissue damage, beyond ordinary trauma; this is usually depicted as vapourisation! This would necessitate the adaptive shielding technology to protect drones from energy weapons.
It may not be easy to implement a shield to protect from hand-to-hand weapons. Assuming that a viable kinetic shield technology exists, it is likely to be power-intensive, so given the limited energy storage capacity of individual drones, they will only want to activate it in the face of a genuine threat. When a small rigid object is approaching you at faster than the speed of sound it is almost certainly a threat, hence a shield could be configured to automatically activate in response to bullets. A much larger and relatively slower moving rigid object (such as a bat'leth) may be difficult to distinguish from the environment, however.
By the time of the episode on which a holodeck Moriarty becomes sentient, the series established that physical constructs on the holodeck are made of "holo-matter" (whatever that is). In the movie, "First Contact," we see the Borg's first encounter with bullets made of holo-matter.
So, even if the Borg had tuned their force fields to deflect objects made of ordinary matter, they might still have had to adapt to holo-matter projectiles.
I don't see how everyone draws this conclusion from 2 Borg getting dropped on a holodeck. Energy weapons have been known to kill 2 or 3 drones before they adapt and this is sometimes with significant durations between kills.
I just looked at the First Contact scene, and after Picard shot up some drink glasses on the table, the 1st drone starts getting hit; Then, 6 seconds later, the 1st drone has already fallen, and the 2nd drone is already taking hits.
Since it's commonly shown that you can kill 2 drones in quick succession but the 3rd or 4th will have adapted, I wouldn't start suggesting bullets is a surefire work-around. Aside from it being a dress-up scene for Picard showing off the holodeck to the new-comer, it was also a means of acquiring weapons that the Borg had not YET adapted to.
They don't use projectile weapons because projectile weapons run out of ammunition.
Logically, shields can defend against projectiles; otherwise, the navigational deflector couldn't exist. Therefore, we must conclude that the Borg don't bother to defend against projectiles.
Because the replicator capacity of a Galaxy-class starship cannot produce enough ammunition to significantly reduce the Borg's numbers.
Resistance isn't futile because the Borg are invincible. It's futile because there are too darn many of them.
I believe the TR-116 (the sniper rifle from DS9) was originally designed for fighting Borg.
I am going to add to this, the Borg don't think like us, so the energy weapon shielding is probably there because:
- Energy based weapons are widespread.
- They don't need constant recharging/reloading.
Because of point 2, it makes sense to eventually be able to adapt to it so drones can assimilate their target. The shield is not there to protect the drone, just to ensure assimilation.
So many people here seem to be thinking that the Borg have these shields to protect its drones, but when you go into this thinking that the only concern of the Borg Collective is assimilation, and that drones are irrelevant, it becomes clearer why kinetic weapons are not a concern.
- Drones can be bought back from death 72 hours after their death.
- Tactical drones are outfitted to assimilate targets they are not outfitted for their protection.
Kinetic weapons jam, they need to be reloaded, and individuals have a finite amount of capacity. So eventually they will run out of ammo and then be forced to fight hand to hand, and eventually they will be overrun by sheer numbers.
I would imagine the Borg consider kinetic weapons to be a matter of fielding the numbers, assimilating once they wear their enemies' resources down (I believe Q alludes to this when the Enterprise first encounters the Borg).
Once that has been done, they can choose to revive and repair drones or recycle them for parts, because by this point those drones have already given over any information that the Collective might want.
The Borg do not care about losing drones in the manner to which we care about losing people. They can replenish and repair, and coupled with kinetic weapons being what they are, I would imagine this is a good in universe reason for the lack of kinetic shields.
I would say they HAVE adapted to projectile weapons - just not in the manner we'd expect.
The Borg are numerous, and their single-ship fleet (the Cubes are massive in scale) are large and resilient to damage. Picard may have managed to hold off the Borg for a short time by summoning a Tommy Gun, but the entire ship was still in danger, and so was he after he ran out of bullets, because of the sheer number and overwhelming size of the Borg forces.
In short - by sheer number and size, the Borg have adapted to projectile weaponry by making loss from it meaningless and wasteful for their enemies to invest in - the cost of making enough guns and bullets to fight the Borg in this way would be unreasonable.
In Generations, the Duras sisters are only able to penetrate the E-D shields after obtaining the shield frequencies thru Geordis visor. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that photon torpedoes (solid weapons possessing significant KE) can be blocked by energy shields. I think this is borne out in scenes from other Trek footage as well.
Deflectors are not shields so to speak. Deflectors generally implies navigational deflectors which are designed to deflect space debris from the flight path of the ship. If borg had deflectors I think they would be useless against projectile weapons. I seriously doubt that at near point blank range personal deflectors could alter the flight path of a bullet travelling 1000 ft/s. There is no evidence this could be so.
Force fields as stated earlier stop matter in both directions but I dont recall forcefields like this being used anywhere other than in large installations. The implication here is that they require too much energy to be portable. So the borg are not equipped imo with either deflectors or forcefields and therefore they are indeed energy shields similar to those (in principle) to those mounted on starships.
So since energy shields can stop KE impacts why didnt the borg shields stop the holobullets? Some good theories about the nature of the holobullets and indeed maybe the borg had simply not yet adapted. Or maybe the writers are just inconsistent.
In regards to the latter consider that any starship shield that is subject to multiple energy impacts weaken over time and eventually fail. So why do phaser rifles canaonically able to vaporize solid rock not eventually weaken and overwhelm borg personal shielding? It seems unlikely that the borg drones can carry enough energy modules to resist multiple simultaneous phaser hits over time yet we never see multiple starfleet personnel aim all weapons at one borg. Curious. Possible the borg shielding absorbs the energy to power the shield but there is no stated evidence to that fact. And drones are not seen to carry capacitors to absorb that energy and regardless enough concentrated fire should overwhelm them as well. Perhaps the borg receive wireless energy thru subspace?
But back to KE. I think the borg would adapt to KE based weapons since we know energy shields can block KE impacts. But the borg personal shielding may not be able to stop all KE impacts. Does anyone think that starship shields would protect against an impact from a large asteroid with a relative impact of say 50000km/hr? I think not. The sheer momentum of mass would rapidly overwhelm the shields. So borg personal shields may similarly be overwhelmed by KE projectiles with sufficient momentum.
If starfleet was smart they would engage borg drones with phaser fire then with KE rounds and finally a good plasma grenade. Borg personal shielding would not be powerful enough or be able to adapt quick enough to constantly changing forms of energy impacts.
So in short yes borg shields would have adapted to KE weapons and starfleet personal battle tactics are terrible bordering on horrific incompetence. Perhaps starfleet should issue bat'leths.........
We only see the Tommy gun used once by Picard in First Contact movie. The thing is, it is also explicitly stated in the movie that you can get away with a few shots against drones before they adapt.
So, there's no real reason why the Borg wouldn't be able to adapt to projectiles or Bath'leths... we just don't see them do this because I would imagine such weapons aren't standard issue on Federation ships, plus, they require of a person to be in relatively close proximity to their opponent. Borg drones are quite powerful strength-wise and they usually overwhelm their opponents with numbers.
Voyager was long gone in the Delta Quadrant by then, and despite this, we saw that projectile based weapons have 0 effect against regular forcefields. Worf was able to fashion a personal force-field using his commbadge (the field was unstable, likely due to him adapting a commbadge for something completely different), but as it was shown, the bullet harmlessly exploded/bounced off the forcefield.
I don't think that these weapons would pose any harm to materials that Starfleet and the Federation use in the future... nevermind the Borg.
Actually, I find it a bit incomprehensible that the Borg armor that covers a drone would be incapable of stopping bullets on its own without force-fields... or swords, or bath'leths.
We do have flexible and thin armor capable of stopping numerous ranged weapons... so unless you hit the borg in a soft spot (where their actual exposed skin is), I don't think one could realistically expect to kill them easily or sever their limbs for that matter.
Besides, even if you get away with it on one or several drones, like with anything else, they will adapt.
Also, it is a lot easier to modify energy weapons to continue harming the Borg than fashioning ranged weapons on the fly you hadn't tried yet.