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I know about the shields fighters wear on other planets, but it's said repeatedly that use of shields on Arrakis attract the worms. So if nobody wears shields there, what is the downside to guns or lasers on Arrakis?

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2 Answers 2

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They use both guns (e.g., maula pistols) and lasers (e.g., lasguns) on Arrakis. This appears in both the novel Dune by Frank Herbert, and, e.g., in the recent films by Denis Villeneuve.

The major downside to using shields on Arrakis is that they call the sandworms and drive them into a frenzy. It is less that "nobody wears shields" there—again, we see shield use in novel and all the films/TV series—but that people are judicious about when and where shields are used (e.g., the emperor used large shields in Arrakeen believing the shield wall would protect his forces from frenzied sandworms, and Paul's prescience about the storm was that it would effectively short out the shields, leaving the emperor more vulnerable to the Fremen attack).

Also shield + lasgun = very big boom.

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    My memory is hazy right now, but isn't there a scene in the book where the Harkonnens are trying to block the movement of the Fremen by randomly lasgunning the sand from ornithopters and Paul and his cadre discuss if it's worth trying to sneak out there with a shield to lay a trap for them?
    – DavidW
    Apr 24 at 16:44
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    @DavidW That rings vague bells! It also jibes with the idea that shield use on Arrakis is tactical, and very much contingent on particular circumstances.
    – Lexible
    Apr 24 at 17:01
  • @DavidW I recall the same, with one character - Duncan Idaho? - putting a large shield in the desert s a lasgun boobytrap. Apr 25 at 1:48
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    @StanleyWebb See the second quote in my answer below. :D
    – DavidW
    Apr 25 at 1:53
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The downside to lasguns is that if they are used against a shield they will create a large explosion. That said the Harkonnens used lasguns to hunt down the Atreides survivors of the initial attack:

An orange glare burst above the silhouette and a line of brilliant purple cut downward toward the glare.

Another line of purple!

And another upthrusting orange glare!

It was like an ancient naval battle, remembered shellfire, and the sight held them staring.

"Pillars of fire," Paul whispered.

A ring of red eyes lifted over the distant rock. Lines of purple laced the sky.

"Jetflares and lasguns," Jessica said.

The dust-reddened first moon of Arrakis lifted above the horizon to their left and they saw a storm trail there—a ribbon of movement over the desert.

"It must be Harkonnen 'thopters hunting us," Paul said. "The way they're cutting up the desert... it's as though they were making certain they stamped out whatever's there... the way you'd stamp out a nest of insects."

"Or a nest of Atreides," Jessica said.

And again later, although Idaho is ready this time:

Paul pointed to the violence above the distant cliff—the jetflares, the purple beams of lasguns lacing the desert.

A rare smile touched Idaho's round, placid face. "M'Lord... Sire, I've left them a little sur—"

Glaring white light filled the desert—bright as a sun, etching their shadows onto the rock floor of the ledge. In one sweeping motion, Idaho had Paul's arm in one hand, Jessica's shoulder in the other, hurling them down off the ledge into the basin. They sprawled together in the sand as the roar of an explosion thundered over them. Its shock wave tumbled chips off the rock ledge they had vacated.

Idaho sat up, brushed sand from himself.

"Not the family atomics!" Jessica said. "I thought—"

"You planted a shield back there," Paul said.

Which forces the Harkonnen to switch to conventional guns:

Something jarred the 'thopter.

"Shellburst!" Jessica gasped. "They're using some kind of projectile weapon."

She saw a sudden animal grin on Paul's face. "They seem to be avoiding their lasguns," he said.

"But we've no shields!"

"Do they know that?"

So yes, lasguns and conventional guns are widely used in the conflict.

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  • Idaho, retorting to Jessica: No need to tap into the family's strategic reserves. I... am... Atomik." Apr 25 at 13:06

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