In the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series, the handguns that the military use seem to have two barrels. What are the reasons behind this?

  • One of the reasons could be identical to the reason as to why they have paper pages with cut corners. To differentiate our world and their's.
    – Petersaber
    May 8, 2017 at 17:18

5 Answers 5


In addition to the advantages that Pearsonartphoto mentions, there are a variety of aesthetic reasons. As a TV show it is really important to have visual elements that identify the world when you see them. Being instantly recognizable, in this case via the double-barreled weapons and various uniform, makes it so casual fans of the show will be more likely to stop and watch as they are flipping through channels. It also helps to make the universe of the show feel more distinct, which encourages suspension of disbelief.

When a TV show is first 'broken' the creators will put together art bibles and other resources that help tie the show's visual aspects together into a cohesive unit. Not only does this help brand the show, but it sets a standards bar that helps the visuals of a show maintain a certain visual appeal.

That appeal could be intentionally slip-shod, which is the case with a lot of the syfy original movies that are striving for a B-movie quality. Or it could be a high bar meant to keep the setting of a show realistic, such as in a lot of HBO programs. It also can define a setting where low tech flotsam and high-tech marvels come together, like in Firefly.

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    Why is this the "right answer?" Anyone that has seen the whole series would know that the second barrel is a grenade\mini-rocket launcher. Battlestar Wiki handguns. "After that it was redesigned again and, starting with the early second season, the original sidearms have been nearly completely replaced by the Fabrique Nationale Five-seveN, also dressed up with an underbarrel explosive launcher." The handguns were aesthetic for the MINI-SERIES and parts of season 1, but always used 2nd barrel for armor piercing rockets.
    – erdiede
    Dec 1, 2011 at 15:16
  • 2
    @erdiede: This is the accepted answer because of historical reasons. The site was new, the now implicit "in universe" assumption to questions wasn't yet established. So an out-of-universe this is why they do things like this answer was acceptable back then. This answer speaks to why they designed it that way. Not to an in-universe explanation for the purpose of the second barrel.
    – DampeS8N
    Dec 1, 2011 at 15:40
  • That said. Add an answer. I'll upvote it. And @tonylo can come change the accepted answer if they wish.
    – DampeS8N
    Dec 1, 2011 at 15:45
  • DampeS8N it was actually @HorusKol answer that made me ask the question. I was under the impression from seeing the show that his was the "right" in-universe answer and I'm still fuzzy as to whether common sense or in-universe answers should take precedence... I guess I'll have to go lurk meta for a while
    – erdiede
    Dec 1, 2011 at 15:56

If you watch the season 2 episode where the Galactica has been boarded by a group of Cylons, Apollo is seen to load an armour-piercing round into the lower, larger bore, barrel of his sidearm. I guess that most other weapons are also dual-load with standard rounds and armour-piercing.


Double barrel guns have a number of advantages, they have quicker firing rates, reduced maintenance, and accuracy. Presumably they have some kind of a material that reduces the weight, but the double barrel still gives advantages. For more, see this Wikipedia article.

  • 1
    How would having 2 barrels instead of 1 increase accuracy? It should decrease accuracy since you're firing from 2 different positions and there's twice as much recoil/movement. Dec 1, 2011 at 13:02
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    @Lèsemajesté: Reduced heating. And two different paths through the atmosphere. An energy bolt ionizes as it passes through the air, causing violent turbulence in its wake. A second barrel allows a slight delay before the follow-on shot from the same barrel, allowing the turbulence to dissipate somewhat.
    – Ben Voigt
    Feb 22, 2012 at 5:22
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    @BenVoigt I'm not seeing anything to indicate that the hand weapons on BSG were energy weapons - they appear to be projectile weapons, albeit with a different firing sound from modern weaponry. They also use other projectile weapons from machine guns, to the ship-mounted rail-guns. There's no energy weapons used in the BSG universe that I recall.
    – user5650
    Apr 4, 2012 at 15:40
  • @Will: Sufficiently energetic kinetic projectiles also cause ionization and eddies. Although turbulence is likely to have less effect on the following rounds, it will still have some.
    – Ben Voigt
    Apr 4, 2012 at 16:05

The upper barrel of the sidearms is for regular ammunition, and the lower barrel is for high-explosive rounds. In Vally of Darkness, the entire final battle is predicated on the use and reloading of these single shot HE rounds to defeat the cylon boarding party. High explosive rounds have been used other times in the series, but this is the only time they are covered by the plot.

  • 1
    This is the only correct answer.
    – Gaius
    Feb 19, 2015 at 8:03

Because two is better then one. ;) I should point out that many of rifles of our current armed forces have "two barrels" as well--the barrel for the "normal" ammo and one for the grenade launcher.

  • 1
    not "many", usually only about 10-20% (1-2 per squad) are so equipped :)
    – jwenting
    Dec 1, 2011 at 6:38

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