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After multiple viewings of Alien over the years, I just noticed this line. What sort of weapons and why did they have them? Does having them imply prior contact with alien species?

I note that they did not even consider using those weapons against the xenomorph which suggests that they were projectile weapons that might breach the hull.

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    "Does having them imply prior contact with alien species?" Weapons are useful for shooting all sorts of hostile things a crew might encounter in deep space, not just aliens.
    – Schwern
    Commented Jun 12 at 23:32
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    @Schwern: What besides aliens would they expect to find on the moon or whatever they landed on?
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 12 at 23:34
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    Same as now, other humans who might not be happy to be found.
    – Schwern
    Commented Jun 13 at 3:21
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    During the briefing in Aliens, Hudson asks Gorman "Is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bug hunt?" This seems to suggest that at least by the time of the sequel, there'd been some other contact with other species. (Or somebody's cockroach problem got badly out of hand.)
    – G_B
    Commented Jun 13 at 4:19
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    @G_B "bug hunt" does... not neccesarily mean there were actual bugs. Denigrating the other side as less than human, as vermin, has a long tradition - so "bug hunt" might still mean humans, maybe scavengers that skitter away to dark spaces like bugs rather than offer a "standup fight". I'm not familiar enough with alien lore to say whether that is the case, just wanted to point out another possible interpretation.
    – Syndic
    Commented Jun 14 at 5:36

2 Answers 2

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Pistols you can see in a few of the scenes when the space suited crew members were exploring the derelict, and one scene on the Nostromo.

From https://futurewarstories.blogspot.com/2013/06/fws-armory-alien-nostromo-eva-laser.html :

When the Nostromo sets down on LV426 on company orders, Captain Dallas orders the weapons to be broken out of storage for the EVA to the source of the signal. During the walk, we can can see some sort of large framed futuristic pistol on the hips of our space trucker astronauts. No mention is made of what these pistols are or what they fire. At no point in the film, do the characters address these weapons by name or pull them out during the warrior-drone's attack on the crew. In the original release, these bulky futuristic-looking pistols were only seen if one really looked on the hips of the landing party, and in one scene laying on the massive table in the common room.

enter image description here

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    And of course we know from banter in Aliens that there has been contact with other species.
    – Shawn
    Commented Jun 12 at 2:48
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    That can with the pull-tab looks suspiciously like a can of an "energy drink".
    – Wastrel
    Commented Jun 12 at 14:55
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    @Wastrel it is a can of Aspen Beer manufactured by Weylan Yutani ( reddit.com/r/LV426/comments/pac1t8/… )
    – Yorik
    Commented Jun 12 at 16:11
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    @shawn I do not think we can draw conclusions about the universe of Alien from Aliens -- perhaps in Alien itself we have enough info to conclude that the writers of Alien itself thought that some extraterrestrial life had been found. No one says, for example, We are the first to encounter an ET species. Or even the first ET spacecraft.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 12 at 18:02
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    @Wastrel: The current association of tall, narrow cans with energy drinks only started (I think?) with the introduction of Red Bull in the late 90’s, and the subsequent wave of energy drinks. Their predecessors in the 80s—90s were typically either in plastic bottles (eg Lucozade) or squat Coke-style cans (eg Jolt); most other soft drinks similarly used bottles or short cans. So in 1987, I think the visual impression of this can would mainly have been as a beer, not a soft drink and certainly not an energy drink.
    – PLL
    Commented Jun 13 at 12:42
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These are identified in the Alien RPG as "EVA pistols" and in the official novelisation as "laser pistols".

Dallas, Kane and Lambert made their way down a narrow corridor. They now wore boots, jackets and gloves in addition to their insulated work pants. They carried laser pistols, miniature versions of the welder currently being used by Parker and Brett.

Alien: Official Novelisation

and

enter image description here

Alien RPG: Core Rulebook

These are evidently single shot laser weapons, primarily intended for self-defence and not very accurate, as you'd expect from a gun that's going to be used by the equivalent of space truckers.

The RXF-M5 was essentially a miniaturized, weaponized version of commercial laser welders that were in use in the early 2100s.

The official novelisation explains why they don't use them, for fear of causing the alien to bleed. The RPG also mentions that they're "armour piercing" which would also be an impediment to using them on a spaceship where explosive decompression would be a risk

‘How would we get it into the net?’ Dallas asked quietly. Brett considered. ‘Have to use something that wouldn’t make it bleed, of course. Knives and sharp probes of any kind are out. Same goes for pistols. I could make up a batch of long metal tubes with batteries in them. We’ve plenty of both somewhere back in stores. Only take a few hours.’

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