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I've been looking into the inner workings of blaster weapons primarily using Wookieepedia. While most of it I understand, I still can't figure out how many rounds a gun would fire before needing the ammunition component replaced/reloaded. Is there any solid answer?

I'm someone who likes to design and draw his own weapons and such, but likes to keep to how the technology of an era is in mind. While Star Wars weapons don't really have magazines (and you don't really see them reloading during battle), other people's work still has magazines and treat ammunition consumption as though it's pretty much the same as our modern era.

I guess that I just find it hard to believe, with the technology of the Star Wars Universe, that characters would need to carry lots of ammunition (hence why clones/storm troopers/battle droids don't visually seem to carry very much).

Example: DC-15A

"The weapon's tibanna gas cartridge carried enough gas for up to 500 shots, depending on the power settings of the weapon, while the charge pack lasted about 50 shots"

Source: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/DC-15A_blaster_rifle

I've read in several places that this can be seen in two different ways. 1. Which ever ran out first, had to be replaced before the weapon could fire again. 2. The weapon contained two different sources of ammunition (so I guess you could switch between the two)

  • As a point of comparison, in the real world a standard rifle/carbine loadout for an infantryman is 7 * 30 = 210 rounds (in the US Army, anyway). In dismounted, unarmored contexts (offensive missions like raid and ambush in forested terrain, for example) it is common to carry a double combat load: 420 rounds. A single gas cartridge is already significantly more than a double combat load. As a further point of comparison, machine gun belts tend to come in 50 or 100 round lengths (the disintegrating type can be snapped together end-to-end, though, unlike the super annoying PKM belts). – zxq9 Sep 5 '15 at 12:51
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The primary substance of this question is answered in the Star Wars wiki article about blasters: (quotes edited for brevity)

...the blaster fired a compressed, focused, high-energy particle-beam that was very destructive, commonly referred to as a "bolt." Generating the bolt relied on two components: a gas cartridge filled with an energy-rich blaster gas (typically Tibanna) and a power pack. When the blaster was fired, a small amount of gas moved from the cartridge... into the gas conversion enabler chamber... In this chamber, the power pack energized the gas, before... the now extremely high-energy gas was transformed into a compressed beam of intense energy particles, coupled with intense light. The particle beam was then focused... which generated a deadly high-energy particle beam, fired from the emitter nozzle as a bolt of glowing energy.

The article on the DC-15A specifies that the particle beam takes the form of plasma:

Its power-charge magazines ionized the gas into charged plasma within its ignition chamber. These bolts would then be accelerated out of the rifle electromagnetically. The octagonal-like barrel would compress the plasma into a thin bolt.

And the significance of Tibanna is explained in the article about Tibanna gas:

Tibanna gas produced four times its normal energy output when cohesive light passed through it. Thus, when spin-sealed (compacted at the atomic level), tibanna was used as a conducting agent in blasters and other energy weapons, producing greater energy yields and thus greater amounts of damage.

So Tibanna gas is not essential to fire a blaster, but it's greatly beneficial. And regardless of power output, blasters require SOME type of gas - it's what makes up the particles in the bolt. Without some gas remaining in the cartridge, there wouldn't be anything in the chamber to energize and focus into a high-energy bolt. Without any energy remaining in the charge pack, the blaster wouldn't be able to energize the gas particles enough to form a bolt.

More detail from the Tibanna article:

Most personal weapons could not tolerate this power boost, but ship-mounted blasters benefited greatly from the use of tibanna gas. Exceptions to this rule were the DC series rifles of BlasTech Industries, which used tibanna gas to produce powerful ionized bolts that were damaging to both organics and droids - something that was crucial to winning the Clone Wars.

So, it may be reasonable to assume that the DC-15A rifle would function properly without any remaining Tibanna gas - but you'd have to replace it with a more mundane gas. Since other weapons of its type, outside of the DC series, use different types of gas, it may be possible to reload a DC rifle with non-Tibanna gas, but a gas cartridge designed for a different rifle might not fit. If you could reload a DC series rifle with another gas, the bolts it fires would be much less powerful. So if you run out of gas in your DC series rifle, you might as well toss it aside and switch to a smaller, lighter rifle that fires the lower-power bolts without Tibanna enhancement.

You also may be able to fire your blaster without any gas, but only set to "stun": (from the blaster article)

Most blasters also had a stun setting, which fed power through a secondary emitter, bypassing the gas chamber to create a ring-shaped electromagnetic burst that disrupted the target's nervous system, often leaving them unconscious.

This wouldn't use any gas normally, so it wouldn't be affected by an empty gas cartridge.

In short: Gas is the ammunition which makes up the particle bolt, and the charge pack is what puts the bolt into a high-energy state. Tibanna gas is an enhancing agent - when it's used as the particle ammunition, it increases the rifle's power. Any blaster can theoretically work without it, but it would need to be replaced with a different gas, and if it's a high-power weapon you won't necessarily get the results you want when you fire it.

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    Tibanna gas was what was being mined at Cloud City, so you can see how large, and how important, such operations can be. – Thunderforge Aug 5 '15 at 17:32
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For a simple tl;dr version of Recognizer's answer: star wars blasters require both. Think of it like old muskets, you need to put gun powder down the barrel to propel the bullet; with blasters you need to use the energy pack to propel the gas used by the weapon. So if there's no battery the gun (presumably) just spews volatile gas, or won't even activate. and with no gas the bolts either don't have any lethality to them or don't even form in the first place.

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Here is how Star Wars Blasters actually work in technical detail : http://www.moseisleyspaceport.org/did-you-know-star-wars-blasters-are-gas-powered/

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    Link-only answers are considered very low quality. If the link dies, the answer becomes worthless. Perhaps you could extract the most relevant parts of the article and explain how a blaster works... – Valorum Apr 17 '16 at 18:15
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    Yes, please include the relevant parts of this article in your answer. You should also mention that you're the one who wrote the article (assuming you're the same Matt Zed). – Rand al'Thor Apr 17 '16 at 18:41

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