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While commanding the rebel forces against the Empire at the climax of Return of the Jedi, Lando responds to to the Death Star's activation by order the rebels to engage the fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers.

From the script:

LANDO (desperately) Yes! I said closer! Move as close as you can and engage those Star Destroyers at point- blank range.

In modern English, "Point-Blank range" refers to the distance at which projectile weaponry is close enough to its target that it is unnecessary to compensate for gravity. Since there is only microgravity in space and laser-based weapons would never be noticeably affected by gravity over the distances present in Star wars space battles, what does the term "point-blank range" refer to in the above excerpt?

If no pre-established explanations exist I'll accept well thought-out speculation.

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    Lando's a pretty casual guy. I think he just means "as close as you can get." For that matter, I think most people who say "point-blank range" mean "as close as you can get." – Nerrolken Mar 2 '15 at 22:34
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    maybe close enough to the target to not have to account for its relative motion? – HorusKol Mar 2 '15 at 22:39
  • Both excellent answers. – Valorum Mar 2 '15 at 22:42
  • His later remark, "We'll last longer than we will against that Death Star, and we might take a few of them with us!" made me think that part of the strategy was a sort of large-scale kamikaze run. They get close enough to the Star Destroyers so that if the Death Star destoys a rebel ship, the resulting explosion will seriously damage the Star Destroyers too. – KSmarts Mar 2 '15 at 22:52
  • I always thought it was to get as close to the enemy ships as possible so the massive weapons on the death start couldn't target them without fear of hitting their own ships. Not that the empire really cared... – DGM Mar 3 '15 at 15:14
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I think you may be taking the expression too literally. According to Freedictionary, the original meaning was indeed that you were shooting (en point) directly into the white part (le blanc) of a traditional archery target however the expression also has two other meanings;

  • So close to a target that a weapon may be aimed directly at it.

In space you would still need to lead your target to account for its motion and your own motion. Shooting directly at it would require proximity.

  • Close enough so that missing the target is unlikely or impossible:

This is self-explanatory. The aim is to get so close that you can simply reload and fire into the target.

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All weapons have range requirements. Whether it's gravity, or some other factor, that imposes an effective range, point-blank simply means get in their face and kill them with whatever you have.

If there is an in-universe explanation, it would probably have to do with laser energy diffusion at significant distances, or the speed of their targeting systems trying to find a weak point in the shields to concentrate on. If there were a range that was further than a collision, but close enough that none of those factors would matter and you could just unload, reload, and unload again, that would be point-blank in space battle terms.

  • So, basically, they were firing broadsides. – KSmarts Mar 2 '15 at 22:53
  • @KSmarts - Sure, sounds about right. – Radhil Mar 2 '15 at 23:03
  • This answer is hilarious. – Josh Schwarzzeskywalker Mar 3 '15 at 0:12
  • In-universe "point-blank" had more to do with collateral damage. If they engage close enough, perhaps a Star Destroyer would hit another Star Destroyer even if aiming at an X-Wing. Lando even says "We'll last longer then we will against that Death Star...and we might just take a few of them with us." – Michael Itzoe Mar 3 '15 at 0:14
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LANDO Yes! I said closer! Move as close as you can and engage those Star Destroyers at point-blank range.

AKBAR At that close range we won't last long against those Star Destroyers!

LANDO We'll last longer than we will against that Death Star! And we might just take a few of them with us.

Did he mean "point blank" literally? No, it's just a figure of speech for "get really close". (Though, as Richard has observed, it still has meaning in space). Lando is telling Akbar to mix up the fleets into a furball so the Death Star can't safely acquire targets.

RotJ Frigate vs SD point blank

A Star Destroyer and Rebel Frigate exchange broadsides with a Rebel Transport and second SD nearby.

RotJ Mon Cal above a SD bridge

A Mon Calamari Cruiser looms above a Star Destroyer's bridge.

RotJ view from the Falcon showing mixed up fleets

Lando looks out at the chaos he has ordered.

This also gives the Mon Calamari captains and ships an edge. Being an aquatic race, they are used to thinking three dimensionally, while Imperial captains, being mostly human, still project the idea of "up" in space. Mon Cal ships were better designed for a furball with all-round firing arcs and very strong, redundant shielding. Star Destroyers concentrate their firepower to the front and sides, less to the rear and below. Imperial shielding lacked redundancy making them vulnerable to concentrated firepower.

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