44

It seems that it didn't actually protect them from any form of attack.

Every direct hit from a laser seemed to kill a stormtrooper outright, and a slice from a lightsaber cuts straight through.

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    WW2 helmets were mostly useless at deflecting direct hits from bullets, but they saved lives by protecting from rubble and shrapnel. – evilsoup Jul 24 '13 at 16:57
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    Not all blasters were capable of cutting straight through ST armor. Han Solo's DL-44 "found increased use at the hands of outlaws and fringers on the edge of legality, groups like smugglers and the Rebel Alliance due to its capability to penetrate stormtrooper armor. This caused the Empire to put a restriction order upon this model, restricting and technically outlawing the purchase and ownership of the gun." – The Fallen Jul 24 '13 at 17:52
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    (implying, therefore, that some blasters could not penetrate stormtrooper armor) – The Fallen Jul 24 '13 at 18:10
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    When in doubt, there's always Ewok rocks. Seriously, stone-tipped arrows and spears were effective. I think there too much multi-layering canon to give this good question a straight good answer. It honestly didn't look like any of the ST's survived a shot in the movies (admittedly, we don't know if they died or are just unconscious). And that's G-level cannon. – Jersey Jul 24 '13 at 20:38
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    See this very relevant Youtube Video for more information. – Jeff Jul 24 '13 at 20:53

10 Answers 10

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"Every direct hit from a laser seemed to kill a storm-trooper outright, "

Not necessarily true. We see troopers being hit by laser fire and falling, but we don't follow any of them to learn their actual fates.

As Wookieepedia explains in greater detail, some of the basic protections the armor affords includes:

  • The armor and body glove worn beneath were designed to disperse the energy of a blaster bolt and insulate the wearer, lessening injury
  • It could partially deflect or disperse energy from low, medium, and high-energy blaster bolts. While the trooper may be left incapacitated, they would survive long enough to receive medical treatment.
  • It deflected stun beams and provided general protection against explosions and shrapnel.
  • Glancing blaster bolts were deflected or damage-reduced
  • The armor included air filters and were fully sealed against chemical and biological attacks. Some were effective in vacuum conditions for limited times.
  • The body glove worn beneath provided protection in hot or cold climates.
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    Also the armour provided valuable camouflage in forest or desert environments – Gaius Jul 24 '13 at 18:38
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    Also, most of the time we see them being shot by pretty powerful weapons. Many times when they are putting down some tiny resistance they are not being shot at by high caliber weapons. Also, I was in the military and when deployed you had to wear helmets. Could these helmets stop bullets? nope....Could they even stop direct shrapnel? Not usually. However they could save you from minor shrapnel and SOME protection was better than none. Military thinking ftw. – Bill Garrison Dec 28 '15 at 17:04
  • In the latest movie Finn states the helmet can only filter out smoke, not poisonous gas. – Erik Jan 6 '16 at 15:54
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    @Erik Those are the Stormtrooper helmets in The First Order. Clone helmets and Imperial Stormtroopers might have had better equipment. – TylerH Jan 25 '16 at 17:19
  • @TylerH That is a good point. – Erik Jan 25 '16 at 17:21
7

In the old West End Games Star Wars RPG (which was considered low canon) Stormtrooper armor is actually fairly good. It provides something like +2 resistance against energy weapons and +2D against physical.

This means that when you rolled to soak damage from a blaster, you added 1D6 to your roll (for an average stormtrooper, that would make it 4d6). Against physical, you added 2d6 (making it 5d6 for an average stormtrooper).

This sounds impressive (4-26 points of damage soaked) until you realize that Han's blaster (a heavy blaster pistol) deals 5d6 damage, and the blaster carbines and rifles that other characters use deal 5d6 damage as well. Lightsabers start at 5d6 damage, and add damage based on your force abilities. Pretty much any energy weapon does the same (or more) dice worth of damage as a typical stormtrooper (in armor) can soak. This gives a stormtrooper about a 50/50 chance of taking damage from any shot from the weakest blaster.

The long and short of it? Stormtrooper armor isn't that effective, it's just the best there is (in common usage).

Much like modern body armor isn't able to stop typical assault rifle AP rounds at typical distances, stormtrooper armor isn't designed to make the wearer invulnerable. It just serves to absorb some of the damage and give you a better chance at surviving.

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    I'm going to have to disagree with 'the best there is' comment; Mandalorian armor is known for protecting against weaker blaster fire, and is somewhat effective agains lightsabers, as it was created during the Mandalorian Wars. – Jersey Jul 24 '13 at 20:34
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    @Jersey - Hence 'in common usage'. I'm well aware that there are better armors. That said, unless you knock off Boba Fett, you aren't going to find Mandalorian Armor in the Empire's time. – Jeff Jul 24 '13 at 20:51
  • @ Jeff Doesn't make much sense. Do you have any idea how much money the American Government spends 'upgrading' our armor? We're generally thought to have the best. Dont' you think the Empire would do the same. "Hey! The Mandalorians have great armor! Let's be like China, steal the copyrights and produce a knockoff!" This is THE EMPIRE, not some third-world backwater planet overlord with overreaching aspirations. – Jersey Jul 25 '13 at 14:09
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    @Jersey: If no one is making new Mandalorian armor, the most likely explanation is that no one knows how to make new Mandalorian armor. Perhaps it requires a rare resource, which cannot be found in sufficient quantities for mass production. Perhaps it requires a technique which they can't reproduce. Or perhaps the Empire, which DOES have the best armor in common usage, simply declares it 'good enough' and has decided the increased survivability (it would be a slight increase) isn't worth the significant increase in cost. With billions of troopers, 'upgrades' are expensive. – Jeff Jul 25 '13 at 15:30
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    Historically armor protection always have been outmatched by weapon performance. – Bardo Jul 26 '13 at 11:04
4

Mandalorian Armor used Mandalorian Iron, which used a special refinement technique that was lost to the galaxy at large with their defeat at the end of the Mandalorian War (Boba Fett's armor was likely worth a bantha's weight in gold).

Also, the empire, as several above posters pointed out, equipped storm-troopers by the billions. There were roughly 1.7 MILLION worlds under imperial control, the total garrisoned strength of the storm troopers would have bankrupted the empire to equip in high-end mercenary armor. That being said, they did have elite corps like the imperial guard and shadow troopers that were supposed to have better armor. As for storm-troopers, even us issue isn't truly top-of-the line, it's common knowledge that low-bids are a HUGE consideration in who the senate picks to get the contracts to supply the military. And that is in the US, where human rights and lobbyists work to promote the value of a soldier's life.

Now, take the empire, whose battle strategy in space combat was "throw swarms of the cheapest, fastest, unshielded guns with cockpits against the enemies and they'll go down eventually". The life of their soldiers was obviously not a top resource priority. Storm trooper armor would be the least expensive way the empire could find to field as many troops as possible in as many different environments as possible. The empire spent money on WMD and terror; death stars, clones of the emperor, star destroyers, at-ats, super star destroyers. They did not spend money on individual frontline troops.

3

I always assumed that the Trooper armor was part of an all-purpose enviromenal battle suit. If you think of it in terms with our own bulletproof vests that police wear, or the Improved Ballistic Armor (IBA) that coalition forces wear, then it is there to improve the chances of a wearer's protection. The original flak jackets were made for shrapnel, and had insertable metal plates that stopped pistol rounds, while we now have plates that can stop military-grade rounds.

Yeah. Nothing's foolproof.

If you also think of what the Star Wars weapons are capable of (blasters are essentially particle accelerators, while lightsabers are high-frequency tight-beam energy swords), what could one use to protect against as such? Practical armor probably isn't practical; too bulky, too heavy, etc. Remember that we've had bullets for a lot longer than we've had a means to personally protect ourselves from them. You would think that a protable deflector shield would be rather standard issue, as the Gungans had them in the Battle of Naboo.

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    The problem is that in reality, once armor ceased to be a protection soldiers quit wearing it. Stormtroopers don't seem to get that message. – Oldcat Aug 28 '14 at 0:13
  • STs do seem to follow orders far more unquestioningly than the typical American soldier does though. Not sure whether this is an intelligence thing or a genetic manipulation of obedience thing. – Jim2B Oct 27 '15 at 3:27
1

Here is evidence that the armor offers some protection. In line with phantom's answer, the energy blast gets dispersed although the trooper may be knocked out for a while.

In the canon Clone Wars cartoon series (S2 E10, "The Deserter"), Rex gets shot just below the neck but survives. You can see the black mark on his suit. Given that the sniper rifle used on him is more powerful than a normal blaster, I'd imagine that the armor is probably reasonably effective.

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  • clone trooper armor does not necessarily equate to stormtrooper armor :) – NKCampbell Apr 19 '17 at 22:37
1

The new canon novel "Battlefront: Twilight Company" shows that stormtrooper armor is not necessarily as vulnerable as may be perceived by the films / tv series as several protagonists mention / think of the armor as strong and forbidding (too many instances to cite)

Recording capability

Additionally, the armor has recording capabilities that can be used to reprimand (or possibly reward) soldiers:

"When her armor's memory was downloaded, she'd probably be caught, her indiscretion flagged and automatically appended to her record"

Environmental controls

"You know that stormtrooper armor has environmental controls? Internal cooling options?"

1

Well I think the stormtrooper armour saved LucasFilm a lot of money. They could use the same actors to play different stormtroopers in each scene, and the viewer wouldn't know any better, unless you paid attention to their height and gait.

  • Welcome to the site! This is a decent out-of-universe answer (thought it could use some sources). You might want to consider adding an in-universe answer too. :) – RedCaio Dec 13 '15 at 3:30
  • scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/55895/… - Peter Diamond played many (many) different troopers throughout the three original films. – Valorum Nov 15 '17 at 19:22
1

In addition to (most of) the above answers, one must remember that the Empire needed to maintain uniformity among its ranks. The Stormtrooper armor, as well as the armors of their more specialized units, served both as protection and as a symbol of unit and rank structure.

Additionally again, it made certain that Imperial units were identified by the populace, and the black-and-white style of the armor became a symbol itself. It almost acted as it's own propaganda for the Empire.

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    "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" "What?? Oh, the uniform..." It's a uniform as much at it is armor. – Nate White Aug 13 '18 at 16:07
0

They wear armor because it looks cool, just like how the Polish Zouaves of Death wore red fezes with their black uniforms.

The great thing about making Science Fiction movies is that if they catch on, people will devote hours of their lives to justifying incongruities that were clearly meant to be overlooked for the sake of story-telling in a visual medium.

  • This is a reasonable answer. It was for visual effect, believe it or not movies do do that. And yes, fans then backfill with details to accommodate the device. – Joe C Oct 27 '15 at 3:55
  • A decent out-of-universe answer. You might consider adding an in-universe component to it. +1 for your username! – RedCaio Dec 13 '15 at 3:31
  • It probably looks cool In-Universe too. – Oldcat Jan 8 '16 at 0:10
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ST armor is like today's armor. Gives a chance at survival. It's not meant to deflect rounds like they are nothing. It's meant to allow you to survive, not necessarily be totally unharmed. A 7.62 striking you in the chest will stop you dead, and knock you over. Ceramic strike faces will provide one hit protection. The ST armor works the same way. You don't die, good enough. You would have injuries, but SW medicine allows for quick healing.

  • This doesn't add much to the existing answers. – Bellatrix Sep 28 '17 at 1:28

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