The "PPG" hand weapons used by Babylon 5 security seem to result in an inconveniently high body count.

On several occasions defensive use of a PPG results in the death of an assailant, closing off an important line of inquiry and arguably an unnecessary loss of life.

Assuming Garibaldi prefers captives to corpses and has trained his department as well as he claims we must ask if the tool is at fault.

Is there a specific reason in-canon why civil security forces are provided a weapon with such a low survivability?

Examples updated as i find them:

S2-Ep14 "There All The Honor Lies" 02:30 - Sheridan is set-up and defends himself against a Minbari with a standard PPG. Although the weapon is left for him as part of the setup it appears to be a standard PPG, familiar to Sheridan and killing the Minbari leaves him in considerable jeopardy

S3-Ep12 "Sic Transit Vir" 22:25 - Despite having the upper hand Zack Allan one-shots a Narn armed with a knife leaving the Narn's motive a mystery.

Perhaps Unit 5 of the B5 Security Manual could shed some light if anyone has a copy?

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    A PPG is already less lethal than, say, bullets because it won't shoot holes in the wall and vent into outer space. But I'm guessing that you're asking why use a PPG as opposed to something non-lethal like a taser? Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 22:20
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    Yes, The concept of the PPG being an energy weapon offers the possibility of attenuation and even the sound and visual effect used suggest it should produce a painful disabling surface burn rather than instant death. And everyone always aims for Center Mass even when at very close range. B5 can seem quite inconsistent at times - is this just sloppy writing or could Earthdome really not develop a more practical sidearm? Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 22:28
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    To be clear, Garibaldi and his officers are not civil authorities. They're part of the Earth Alliance military. Garibaldi holds the rank of Chief Warrent Officer. Being military as opposed to civilian may not have in bearing on your question though.
    – Alarion
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 0:09
  • @Alarion Thanks for the disambiguation. Perhaps soldiers acting as police might be at the closer to the root of this issue but it still leaves questions in my mind about the 'good-guys' apparent preference for corpses over prisoners. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 0:47
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    Which specific episodes did you have objections to? I've been looking through the Lurker's Guide, which has some of the producer's own replies to fan comments; he may address this very issue if I can find the right episode.
    – Cadence
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 1:52

2 Answers 2


Phased Plasma Gun is a type of weapon that fires a bolt of energized, super-heated helium sheathed in an electromagnetic field and propelled by an opposed magnetic field. On impact, the plasma bolt dissipates and discharges its thermal and kinetic energy[1].

So projectiles from a plasma weapons are not going to make hull breaches and are only harmful to a biological entities.

Standard Settings of Auricon PPG[2]:

Low – twelve shots
Standard – seven shots 
High – four shots

With a lower-level PPG the shot will normally burn and cauterize a wound, leaving the target down but alive[1].

They are issued for same reason that police have guns on Earth.

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    That's a handy Link. Thanks. So it seems that the weapon output can be attenuated but nobody wants to take the risk. Commented Apr 2, 2019 at 22:43
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    There's still the question why, if the well-being of the captive would be a priority, they don't use a taser or something similar. It still wouldn't penetrate the hull and probably be less harmful and have more stopping power than a gun that inflicts localized 3rd degree burns even on the lowest setting.
    – Kakturus
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 9:44
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    @Kakturus it can easily be because they don't know what alien race they will be using the gun upon.....with what we have seen most races have different pain and wound tolerances from each other (a vorlon....takes A LOT of ppg shots to take down, while a minbari seemingly only 1). I could easily see THAT as a reason why they don't reduce the output.....as they dont know what they are facing next and if a reduced output more than tickles it.
    – Thomas
    Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 18:44
  • Definitely a factor and yet both Minbari and Narn are implied to be physically more robust than Humans and even Rangers. The example Narn is also wearing heavy looking garments. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 21:35

Although you say that Babylon 5's security team are a "civil" security force, remember that while the space station is in "neutral territory" between the 5 empires it was a joint project between the members of the Interstellar Alliance. In-universe, the station was granted a "military and operations budget" from the Alliance during the years it was attached to them, so although independent, its security was considered to be "military" rather than "civil".

Having said that, if you consider the station to be completely independent of the Alliance due to its peace-keeping mission and entirely non-militaristic, there are real-world comparisons to be drawn to the United Nations Peacekeeping army. Troops serving in UN peacekeeping operations carry light weapons and are allowed to use minimum force in self-defence, or if armed persons try to stop them from carrying out their authorized tasks. "Light weapons" covers pretty much any hand-held gun, so all the lethal ones. Plus that's just what troops can carry - the UN also have tanks in their arsenal! So if a real-world peace-keeping army carry lethal weapons it isn't really a surprise that the security force for the "last, best hope for peace" carry them too.

Meanwhile, back in-universe... I'm not sure that the alternative of non-lethal weapons would even work against the massive variety of life-forms that come aboard the station. A stun device - the equivalent of a real-life taser - capable of stunning one species could be potentially lethal or even ineffective against another. It makes sense then that they carry lethal weapons but follow a code of ethics on how and when to use them.

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    Some valid points here, thanks. It's fairly clear that B5's equipment is military standard and obviously, with that in mind they will require a potentially lethal weapon. Specifically, what i'm interested in here is why the 'good guys' kill when they dont have to - and in the two examples above - don't want to. If i built a pistol that killed when peacekeepers intended to disable i would expect my Earthforce supply contract to end abruptly. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 17:40
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    Additionally, it's also implied that both races in my examples above (Narn & Minbari) are physically more robust than humans yet they are both instantly killed by single shots. Commented Apr 3, 2019 at 18:35

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