I'm reading through Dune right now and I'm a bit confused on the specifics of the weaponry in the book. It never seems to go into great detail and it makes some of the action scenes a bit hard to picture.

What I understand is that las guns are like plasma or lasers or something? And body shields stop projectiles, but cause massive explosions when they come into contact with las weaponry, correct?

I also have not seen any projectile weapons, do shields negate the need for these?

hoping someone can explain in better detail

  • As far as I remember, there are projectile weapons that shoot darts and/or flechette (dune.wikia.com/wiki/Projectile_weapons).
    – Max
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 21:05
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    The interaction of las-guns & shields essentially overload the power supply on the shield, hence the large explosion. You'd think a technical problem like that could be fixed, but apparently not (and in all fairness, there's more to it but that's the simplistic explanation). As for your other question, the shields supposedly deflect fast-moving projectiles by repelling/negating the kinetic energy behind the projectile. Suck all the speed out of a bullet and it's just a pellet of metal.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 21:23
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    Dune 2000 should not be treated as "the Dune universe" as it reuses some factions and characters but otherwise rather liberally departs from canon in many ways.
    – Peteris
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 22:31
  • @Peteris I think you're right. I was quite astonished when the Atredes banner was described as black and green, when in Dune 2000, Atredes are blue, Harkonnen are Red, and Ordos are Green (who have not yet made an appearance in the book, but i realize there are several books) Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 22:54
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    @TomSterkenburg I believe that House Ordos is not mentioned in any canon novels at all, not even in passing. They are listed as a house in some works by other authors, but certainly don't play any role on the actual planet of Dune in the Atreides-Harkonnen conflict.
    – Peteris
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 23:40

2 Answers 2


The las guns shoot laser beams, and when they hit a body shield, or ship shield the result is something close to the level of an atomic bomb going off. the projectile weapons are similar to guns we use today, in which shields stop the kinetic force of the bullet.

No one really uses las guns anymore to begin with, because they cost a lot of energy and are not very efficient.

Instead because of the invention of the personal shield people have gone back to fighting with short swords/daggers as its a refined ability to be able to wield your weapon slow enough to penetrate the shield's kinetic barrier. People also typically don't use las guns, because of the resulting explosion killing both users.

Las guns are a remnant of earth 20,000 years or more before Dune. 10,000 years before Dune, during the machine war, they had already stopped using las guns as they were simply too inefficient, leading to the widespread use of projectile guns again, and the creation of the personal shields.

  • Right, the Weirding Way is about melee combat versus shields and other things. Do the Fremen or Sardaukar use melee weapons when fighting? I'm near the end when >! Paul and the Fremen assault Arrakeen and there is a lot of fighting inside the Emperor's ship/tent. I think it was purposefully vague due to the sandstorm, but I had imagined there was quite a bit of melee combat and was wondering if this was true. Also I apologize for spoilers, can't seem to figure out the text syntax (FAQ page says bracket + exclamation point, but i dont see a difference) Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 20:58
  • yes, fremen us sandworm teeth daggers, the sardaukar are armed with daggers, and short swords, i believe.
    – Himarm
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 21:03
  • But is melee combat their preferred method, or aren't we told that? Thanks for the helpful information, by the way Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 21:05
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    The efficiency of lasguns is a complete non-factor. The shield-lasgun explosion was the only contributor to the rise of projectile weapons.
    – Lighthart
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 1:08
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    @Himarm, If you read Dune, you will realize this is patently false. Duncan setup a lasgun to trigger a shield explosion, to cover Jessica's and Paul's escape from the Harkonnens. If lasguns were completely out of use, this could not have occurred.
    – Lighthart
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 18:50

The projectile weapons used vary throughout the book. Daggers and swords are the preferred weapons since body shielding stops explosives and fast moving objects.

Las weapons are still widely used when they can be effective; it's just that any time shielding is used they can't be utilized. In terms of the effect the lasgun has with the shield the point of contact causes nuclear fusion (look up the effects of a hydrogen bomb if you want to understand the effects this would have on anyone surrounding the blast) of varying magnitude. This has the effect of vaporizing both users and the people around them. Being that the blast radius and power are unpredictable these blast could destroy entire armies or just the users themselves.

As to their use on Arrakis, shields are not used by anyone other than royals and off-worlders. They are not as widely used in the armies while on Arrakis since they constantly break. Dry desert climate with high winds create huge electrical fields due to static generated by sand storms that short shields out making them less effective and costly to maintain. In the open desert they attract sand worms from all over as the energy they create drives the worms mad. As a result Fremen never use them and thus the Harkonnen use them frequently when trying to subjugate the Fremen.

These issues bring about wide use of projectiles weapons of all kinds. Described as chemically propelled pellets and darts. Essentially cartridge fired bullets and shotgun shells. The Fremen have micro-manufacturing facilities so they could build what ever tool or weapon needed for a task if they had the resources.

The baron uses artillery when he attacks the Atreides and killed Paul's father. They attack with lasguns driving the duke's army into caves and then drops artillery on them sealing them in so he doesn't have to deal with them. He even describes this as ancient tech that no one even remembers because it has no practical use on normal battle ground.

When Paul goes to war with the emperor he takes this strategy to the next level and makes all sorts of ancient weapons longs since abandoned as useless. After he uses his house atomics on the shield wall the sand storm knocks out the Sardaukars and house shields. With out the shields to deal with Paul uses what essentially amounted to shoulder launched rockets and weapons we use today to take out the cockpits of the airpower and the emperor's space ship. Once any tech that could be a threat to his unshielded Fremen is gone, they can move in and use the fighting skills that are unique to Dune such as unshielded sword and knife fighting as well as the use of guns.

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