18 December 2016

Weapons of Sci-Fi: The Phaser from Star Trek

Throughout the history of science fiction, there are several works that have impacted the entire genre reshaping it and becoming icons and symbols of all of science fiction in the years to come. Chief among these is of course Star Trek. Since the 1960's Gene Roddenberry's creation has gone on to become part of the common culture and zeitgeist of the twentieth and twenty-first century world. Originally airing in 1966 on CBS and produced by Lucille Ball's production company Desilu, the world of Star Trek designed by Matt Geoffrey has gone on to influence the design of technology in the real-world ever since. One of those pieces of future technology was the iconic phaser weapon of the Federation. This directed energy particle weapon was much more than the ray guns that had been previously seen in science fiction and is one of the only science fiction weapons that we have seen evolve over centuries of fictional time in over 50 years of real world time. The phaser is just as iconic and revolutionary as anything in Star Trek and altered the conversation in history of science fiction weapon . In this blog post we will be diving deep into the history and culture of the phaser. For me personally the phaser is always been one of my favorite science-fiction weapons and I've owned or built many of them over the years and it is such a thrill to finally be talking about the phaser completely and death because this is a blog post I've been wanting to write since the founding of Future War Stories.

Before We Begin…
Given my lifetime study of the phaser and my vast collection of Star Trek technical manuals that I possess from all manner of sources, like the un-canon FASA RPG modules and the fully canonized ST:TNG Technical Manual. This detailed FWS account of the Star Trek phaser will be pulling from these official and unofficial sources to make the blog article richer and more in-depth than just by using the "official" sources which can be lean. This can be seen in some of the names for the phasers, history, and companies that produced the phasers in question come from FASA sources. Along with these sources, I will be filling some of the holes in the “official” informational sources with some of my own thoughts and ideas. Coupled with the sources and my imagination, there will be information from around the internet that, at times, cannot be verified as much as I would like. Bottom line, read this with a grain of salt. I have decided not to include the phasma based weaponry of ST: Enterprise, like the EM-33 nor the laser pistol from "The Cage" since none of these are classified as phasers. 

What is the Phaser?
This is the standard issue directed energy particle beam weapon system for Starfleet and the Federation. The name comes from "PHASed Energy Rectification". First issued in 2151 at the same time that Starfleet launched the very first Warp 5 starship: the NX Class explorer cruiser. The phaser was a revolution in personal weaponry for Starfleet at the time with the iconic two firing settings: kill and stun. For over 200 years of Federation history, the basic three phaser types have been at the heart of Starfleet's exploration and defensive missions and are a key technology for the Federation as well as a overall symbol. The the most commonly used and seen variant of the phaser is either the sidearm or the personal defense hand weapon, respectively the Type II and Type I phaser; with the phaser rifle (Type III) be reserved for the most dire of situations.

The Starfleet Classification System
The Starfleet phaser has been the standard armament of that organization since 2151 and throughout its history of service, all of these small arms particle beam weapon falls under three general variants and classifications.

TYPE I (Hand Phaser)
After the establishment of the Federation in 2161, there was a massive shift in the power structure of the Alpha Quadrant. The new United Federation of Planets and its defensive/exploration arm, Starfleet, attempted standardization itself across the species. With the primary mission of Starfleet being exploration and defense, landing parties and Starfleet personnel needed a way to protect themselves without appearing combative or imperialistic. Thus was born the Type I conceal/personal defense phaser.  Breaking with classical hand weapon layout (the “T” shape), the Type I is a palm-able oval shaped device that appears to not be a weapon at first glance and is easily concealed in the uniform of the Starfleet personnel.
The iconic Sestra Weapons Type I/II DEW system was the first to combine the conceal personnal phaser with a more powerful system: the Type II. The Type I would be in Starfleet and Federation inventories from the 22nd century onward with variable popularity. During the Wilson Energies Limited 2360’s Type I/II complete redesign, the Type I enjoyed new popularity and usage, but dropped off sharply during the 2370’s with the outbreak of major hostilities. In 2379, Wilson Energies Limited would completely redesign the Type I to conform to the advances of the Type II, making the little phaser a more powerful personal weapon system.

TYPE II (Sidearm)
The first phaser-like weapon issued to Starfleet personnel was the Wilson Energies Limited Phase Pistol series 001. Much like all phaser that would precede it into Starfleet service, it had two firing modes: STUN and KILL. This was a revolutionary feature over the then standard issue EM-33 plasma pistol. Unlike many of the other phasers to follow, the Phase Pistol series 001 did not have any variants and was not issued in a concealed variant. When Sestra Weapons designed the original Type I and II integrated weapon system in the 2260’s, this was the first of these types of DEW system that would become standard in Starfleet ever since. One of the issues with the Type I/II integrated weapon system was that the Type I was required for the Type II to operate has the original design of the Type II was to be an booster to the power output, range, and expanded power pack. This design reminded unchanged until the 2360’s, when Starfleet underwent a massive change in design, technology, and style, leading to completely new design of Type II phaser by Wilson Energies Limited. This new idea of the Type II heavier phaser for increased offensive ability that operated completely separate than the compact Type I was well accepted by Starfleet and this would remain the cornerstone phaser type for over 20 years of eventful Federation history, including two wars. Throughout Wilson Energies Limited Type II operational life, it was altered three times to increase ergonomics, power pack, and decrease overall size. One of the most interesting Type II phasers was the 2287 “Assault” phaser created during a time of increased instability in the Alpha Quadrant and was designed for Federation ground forces and special missions. This specialized phaser sidearm was considered the true inheritor of the MACO EM-33 plasma pistol of the 2250’s.

TYPE III  (Rifle)
Out of all the phaser variants in the Federation inventory, the most rarely seen and used is the Type III phaser rifle. Reserved for direct combat operations and extremely risky landing party missions, the Type III was rarely used until the twin wars of the 2370’s. During the 2150’s, the early Starfleet security personnel would use the compact phase rifle that was specially developed for the close quarters environment of Starfleet starship interiors. This rifle would be mixed with the Phase Pistol 001 along with the MACO EM-41 plasma carbine. It would take until the 23rd century when Sestra Weapons was awarded the contract to develop their Type I/II integrated phaser system along with an Type III phaser rifle. While powerful, the Sestra Weapons designed phaser rifle was considered bulky and suffered with handling. When the bulk of Federation weaponry was redesigned in the 2270’s, the older Sestra Weapons phasers were replaced by the Atalskes Phaser Corporation new Type III and IV, there was an Atalskes designed phaser rifle that was a bit more assault rifle like than the previous generation.
During the 2360’s complete overhaul of the Starfleet phaser system, Wilson Energies Limited developed two prototypes of the Type III phaser rifle in conjunction with two subcontractors. The “Mark VII” phaser rifle was an expansion of the original Type II with oddball layout that security personnel rated poorly in field testing. The 2367 approved design that saw much action in the Klingon and Dominion Wars was stylistically and ergonomically linked to the first redesign of the Type II phaser sidearm.  During the wars, the Type III was refined with improved optics, mounted tactical light, and improved design. With more phaser rifles finding their way into the hands of Starfleet personnel, Atalskes Phaser Corporation partnered the Andorian weapons firm Shran Offensive Systems to develop the Type IIIA and Type IIIB assault phaser rifles that were specifically designed for the conditions of the 2370’s, finding their way into the frontline units and combat starships in 2373. These have proven their grim effectiveness from their heavy use in 2373 and 2379.

What Does that Phaser Fire?
At its heart, the Federation phaser is a particle directed energy beam weapon that fires the artificial rapid nadion effect particles via a plasma stream producing a pulsed protonic charge in the stabilized LiCu 521 superconducting artificially grown fushigi no umi crystal at Tokyo R&D. The power pack for the phaser is a sarium krellide cell that can be recharged via ports installed in armory holding units. This beam can be adjusted to fire a heat beam or various levels of non-lethal and lethal energy. The intensity of the beam determines the length of the power cell's life. On the heaviest lethal level that can disintegrate a enemy, only a few shots can be fired before depleting the power cell. While historical, the Federation phaser fires a continuous beam, rapid pulse technology found their way into handheld phaser units in the 2370's with the 3a and 3b assault rifles.  
The adjustment ability of the Starfleet phaser has provided for a greater flexibility for landing parties. Low heat beams can used to heat rocks for life saving heat, some field medics have sealed wounded with a finely tuned beam, and even the portable power sources being used to create force fields to provide a barrier as seen on Melnos IV on Stardate 46693.1. The real world reason for using a weapon called "the phaser" was to be more original than the typical laser ray-guns of sci-fi films of that time as science adviser Harvey Lynn told Gene Roddenberry. 

The Three Major Evolutionary Stages of the Phaser

The Phase Pistol (2151)
If we are to examine the phase pistol from in-universe perspective this was the first phaser ever constructed and issued by Starfleet during the very beginnings of that organization's history. This would set certain traditions all of the Starfleet phaser to come, such as the two power settings kill and stun along with an continuous beam of energy and that the primary variant was a pistol. Historically, the phase pistol was a intermediate design between the EM-33 Plasma Pistol and the phaser Type I/II of the 23rd and 24th centuries and much like those, the phase pistol would use the tradition firearm's layout.
Of course, this Star Trek phase pistol was a design after the fact and was attempt to marry up history that we had never seen before to the to the rest of the Star Trek history we were keenly aware of. This because Star Trek Enterprise was a prequel that took place in the early 22nd century, at the very beginning of Starfleet. The phase pistol was a deliberate attempt by the production staff to show the father of the original series phaser pistol that started it all. It some ways, the phase pistol was the end and the beginning of the Star Trek phaser. 

The TOS Type I/II Phaser (2256)
There were two future directed energy weapons designed for the series: the Mk I laser pistol by prop master Wah Chang and the Type I/II phaser pistol from the mind of Matt Jefferies. Both of the pilots for Star Trek featured the Mk.I laser pistol, and by the time of "the Man Trap" (1x01), the old laser pistol was gone and the phaser that we all know and love was in. This is the evolutionary ground zero for the phaser and its basic design has been in the DNA of every phaser seen in either design or inspiration. It would set up the tradition of the consistent beam of either non-lethal or lethal energies, the Type I hand phaser being joined to the Type II base to become a more powerful sidearm, and the basic style/design of the phaser. This was also the original weapon that a majority of original Trekkies fell in love with and still have a massive sense of nostalgia about. It is the icon of all phaser and the first major evolutionary step that was a giant leap of all phaser to come.        

The TNG Type II Phaser (2360's)
For much of the history of Star Trek phasers, they were constructed around a traditional firearm architecture that is not that far removed from firearm pistols of today. That all changed with the development of the Type II phaser of Star Trek: The Next Generation. While the unholy "dustbuster" design was unloved and criticized by fans and the actors, it did set about the new traditions in design, technology, and style for the phasers of the 24th century. While the Type I hand weapon has been seen since the original series, it was the Type II of TNG that give us the phaser that many of us grew up with. From 1987 to 2002, the Type II was modified several times and it became the primary phaser of Starfleet, just as the original series Type II was. In some ways, the TNG Type II was a major evolutionary leap as much as the original series phaser was. 

What Does the Phaser say about the Federation/Starfleet?
Everything made by human hands from art, to pottery to statues, or even weapons all have a purpose and they inform us about the civilization that created them and the people. The entire field of archaeology is constructed around study of artifacts to inform us of the lives and the society of the people that made these objects in the distant past. In some ways, those objects and their bones are the speakers of the dead and are the only ones that can tell their stories. And the phaser is no different. Just the phaser alone can informs us a great deal about Starfleet and the Federation. For over 200 years, the phaser has been the primary small arms of Star Fleet a decade even before the founding of the Federation. Throughout all of its forms, its evolution and technological advancement, the phaser has maintained the hallmarks of being a weapon of peace and a weapon of war. The Federation is an organization devoted to cooperation, peace understanding ,and diplomacy. While Starfleet is an organization primarily about exploration and defense. From the design of their starships, the Federation flag, the uniforms of Starfleet, all of them symbolize these values and core principles that form the foundations of the Federation and the phaser is no different.
The phaser can as easily stun as kill and every phaser, from handheld concealed devices, to the pistol, to the rifle; have all had the ability to stun as well as kill. This tells us, that the phaser embodies the values of the Federation:  that even during armed conflict that does not mean you have to kill your enemy and that ability to stun can still allow for the opening of relations and diplomacy. This gives you a chance to talk and solve the problem even when guns have been drawn and this says that the Federation is not only committed to peace, but is willing to put its peoples lives in line in order to achieve that.  Of course, the evolution of the phaser means it can change with the times and certain phasers have been developed for warfare as well as peace.

The Phasers Type I and II Model by Model:

The Wilson Energies Limited Phase Pistol Series 001 from 2151
In mid-2149, Starfleet Command requested defense companies to submit DEW systems with non-lethal energies ability, while the United Earth Military and the Earth Cargo Authority did not want the new weapon systems; they felt the non-lethal system would compromise the combat effectiveness of the weapon. In addition, most of the defense companies stated the new dual energy hand-held particle weapons would be too expensive for production. The only company to come in with a design on budget and on time was the small Wilson Energies Limited company from North Carolina, North America, on Terra. Wilson Energies Limited did have on contract with Starfleet, for the much unloved Class III Close Quarters Plasma Carbine, developed for the limited space within a starship. However, Wilson Energies Limited is primarily known for its industrial mining lasers, used mostly on the Luna mining colonies. 
The Wilson-001 series Phase Pistol was much different than the H&K EM-33. The pistol was smaller, and featured a rechargeable and swappable energy cell. The weapon fires a stream of Rapid nadions, which are limited-life subatomic particles that are used in a pulse-like form disrupting cellular functions via thermal/EM damage in the “Kill” setting. The “stun” setting is used to temporary disruption of the central nervous system (CNS), to immobilize the target, and causing a “black-out” effect. 
The Wilson-001 Phase Pistol RN-energy stream allows for the shooter to direct a narrow beam of energy on a target for longer periods of time than the very short-term effects of a plasma bolt. This is helpful in cutting operations, or heating an object, or defeating personal body armor. Starfleet was impressed with the Phase Pistol 001 prototype and official adopted the sidearm in 2151. However, Starfleet was the only Terran organization to buy the Phase Pistol in large numbers; several police departments had ordered a few. Starfleet was able to afford such numbers of the pistol via a funding grant by the Vulcan High Command. It is also rumored in the Terran defense company circles, that Wilson Energies Limited was helped with assistance from Vulcan technology provided by the Vulcan High Command. 
The pride of Starfleet, the NX-01 Enterprise only carried 15 units at its launch until 2152, when the real-world effectiveness of the phase pistol was proven and the complete replacement of the EM-33 plasma pistols was fulfilled. By the time of the Xindi Crisis, Starfleet had fully turned over to the phase pistol. Throughout the Earth-Romulan War and the foundation of the Federation, the phase pistol was there in service for both war and peace. By the 23rd century, the true replacement of the phase pistol was issued, the icon: the Sestra Weapons Type I/II series phaser system.     

The Sestra Weapons Type I/II Series Phaser System from 2256-2270
The 23rd century was a period of growth for the Federation and Starfleet, and with the Constitution class Heavy Cruiser/Long-Range Explorer being constructed; there needed to be a new weapon. Sestra Weapons submitted their bid to Starfleet Quartermaster branch of an integrated weapon system that allowed a concealed hand weapon to be mated to a more powerful handle: the Type I and II system. This slim conceal mode was designed to be worn as a means of self-defense rather than offensive combat operations. But when mated, the new phaser was a powerful weapon able to vaporize an humanoid in one blast. In 2256, Sestra Weapons was given one of the largest arms contracts ever issued by Starfleet. This weapon would become the prime example of the word "phaser" and continued the design of the Federation's primary personnel weapon system for a hundred years.

The Atalskes Phaser Corporation Type III/IV Series Phaser System from the 2270's-2350's
After the legendary five year exploration mission by the NCC-1701 Enterprise ended in 2270, the crew came home to a very different Starfleet. Gone where the color-coded uniforms, familiar starship styling and the beloved Sestra Weapons Type I/II Phaser system. In its place was the Atalskes Phaser Corporation new Type III and Type IV integrated Phaser system that combined the PDW Type III and the larger, more powerful Type IV sidearm. Due to the copyright held by Sestra Weapons on the term "Type I" and "Type II", Atalskes Phaser Corporation turned to a new naming system. This smooth, wider design was more streamlined than the older Sestea design with four emitters allowing for more beam customization. The user could adjust the width of the beam and the intensity for both the smaller and larger models of the Atalakes III/IV design. This basic design would serve Starfleet and the Federation for nearly a hundred years with several other phaser designs serving alongside this icon of Starfleet weaponry. Around the 2350's with a change in uniform, starship styling, political situation, and technology; the Atalskes III/IV Phaser system was retired from Starfleet serve, but would still be sold for the export market well into the 2360's.   

The Sestra Weapons Type One-B/Two-B Series Phaser System from the 2286-?
As the whole of Starfleet and the Federation altered their decor, style, and technology around the 2270's, one of the casualties was the Sestra Weapons Type I/II integrated phaser system. Not accepting their fate, Sestra developed an upgraded version of the classic sidearm/conceal phaser system in the 2280's, called the One-B and Two-B. A popular nickname was the "retro-phaser" among the newer Starfleet generation. Older Starfleet personnel, in charge of procurement and logistics, fondly remember their salad days wielding their original Sestra phasers on strangle new worlds and allowed a limited contract to Sestra Weapons for the One-B/Two-B system. Notable Starfleet personnel like Admiral Kirk placed the new Sestra phaser into their inventory and in their hands on missions. Seen from the 2280's until the 2460's in the private/export market, the Sestra One-B/Two-B was rarer than the Atalskes Type III/IV system, but it is fondly remembered by those who used the "retro-phaser". This was also a popular export weapon on the interstellar market.

The Wilson Energies Limited and Zaranite Weapons Firm Type II "Assault" Sidearm from 2287
For much of its existence under the Federation, Starfleet has avoid the appearance of militarism and this influenced the appearance and design of the phaser. However the attempt is made for peace, you should ready for war. By the 2280's, Starfleet Admiral Nogura response to rising tensions across the quadrant, pushed for development of a hand-held combined phaser pistol that could perform both offensive and defensive actions with equal effectiveness, and featured "hot-swap" power cells, thus increasing its tactical depth. Support was not forthcoming from the traditional circles within Starfleet, and the project looked dead. That was until Admiral Cartwright and Colonel West along with Captain Kirk added their support, allowing for the new offensive phaser project to be pushed forward.
During the backroom discussions on the Assault Phaser with contractors, some connected the old EM-33 large-framed Plasma Pistol to the modern Assault Phaser concept. With this new perspective on the project, Wilson Arms Limited, jumped at the chance and partnered with the Zaranite weapon research firm answering the call of Admiral Nogura's pet phaser project. At this time, Wilson Arms Limited was on hard times and with this project, the historic arms company would be saved. Starfleet ordered a limited number of these new phasers for a trial period. In 2286, Captain Kirk and his head of security, Pavel Chekov, pushed for the new Enterprise-A to be the first Federation starship to have its armory filled with the new Wilson Assault Phaser/Zaranite "assault phaser", this forged a tread throughout the fleet, causing the Assault Phaser to be the fashionable weapon for security personnel and Away teams by the time of the events surrounding the Camp Khitomer in 2293. For the most part, these phasers were used in a limited fashion, mostly in covert actions and where not as widespread as their contemporaries.

The Wilson Energies Limited Type I Personal Defense Phaser from the 2360's
With the new century of Federation history came a change in starship design, style, uniforms, and technology. As with the Sestra Type I/Type II system, the Atalskes Phaser Corporation Type III/IV system was of date and out of fashion by the 2360's. With the newer more peaceful Starfleet coming with the increased stabilization of the quadrant with the Federation/Klingon Empire alliance, personal weapon design altered with the time. Wilson Energies Limited responded with the Type I personal defense/conceal handheld phaser unit and the larger, more powerful Type-II. Unlike the 2260's Type I and the 2270's-80's Type I, the Wilson Type I was designed not to be a limited use weapon, but a full fledged weapon system capable of various tactical situations.
This could safely tucked onto the standard uniform attached special conceal pouch or hidden in key positions around secure areas of an starship. The primary issue with the "cricket phaser", as it came to be known, was a limited power cell capability at lethal levels of discharge and falling popularity when the Type II was redesigned in 2365. This by no means that the cricket Type I phaser is not used by the Federation, it still was handy for certain situations and during Starfleet Intelligence low-profile operations.

The Wilson Energies Limited Type II Sidearm Phaser from 2360-2363
Despite the era of peace and Starfleet returning to an era of exploration and diplomatic missions, there still existed the need to be an more offensive phaser sidearm than the personal defense Type I cricket phaser. Wilson Energies Limited developed the larger Type II phaser that was considered more unwieldy than the system it replaced. Part of the reason behind the Type II was to indeed provide more offensive power to landing parties, but it also fell with the policy of the 24th century Federation to project peace and diplomacy over military power. While effective in combat situations, the Type II suffered from ergonomic issues, lousy draw-and-fire ability, and poor power pack lifespan. By 2363, Starfleet was looking for a replacement to the Type II.

The Wilson Energies Limited Type II Sidearm Phaser Redesigns from 2364-2379
After about four years of the Wilson Energies Limited new Type I and Type II phasers, issues and request cropped up. There was greater reliance on the Type II sidearm than the Type I and it was decided by Wilson engineers and advisers to put the original Type II design on a diet, improve the ergonomics and technology. This design became known as the "Cobra Head" phaser. This was the primary phaser of Starfleet and the Federation until another redesign in 2371 with the so-called "Boomerang" that allowed for another improvement in grip and aiming. This design was on the frontlines of the short-lived Klingon/Federation War and the Dominion War, proving itself in direct heated combat. It was also the design that the USS Voyager took on their long trek through the Delta Quadrant.
After the bloody war, the lessons learned combined with improved technology allowed for yet another design for the Wilson Energies Limited Type II phaser. This sleek design was nicknamed the "Dolphin" and it was involved in the Shinzon Incident of 2379. At this point, it is believed that the Type II design has reached it apex on downsizing the platform without the sidearm model being condemned to an Type I hybrid.

The Montu Stability Firm Type II Phaser of the 29th Century 
For much of the history of the Federation, war was fought in the here and now with battles being waged across planets and lightyears. However, with the invention and spread of time travel technology to the major governments, there was a new field of warfare: time itself. Battles where now a question of where and when. That required a new type of personal weapon that could withstand the stresses of time travel and be powerful enough to counter any hostile situations found in that time period . Montu Stability Firm of Alexandria developed their interruption of the classic Type II phaser sidearm, nicknamed "the arrowhead" phaser. Constructed with power cell longevity, power, durability, and  superior ergonomics, the Montu Stability Arrowhead phaser was a fixture of the Temporal Cold War. While timeline pollution was a major consideration by the signers of the Temporal Accords, one of the Arrowhead phasers fell in 20th century Terran hands, but was corrected by the USS Voyager.

The Type III Phaser Rifle Model-by-Model

The Sestra Weapons Type III Phaser Rifle from the 2260's
When the Sestra Weapons Company received the juicy Starfleet contract for their new Type 1 and Type II integrated particle beam weapon system, the Federation also pushed the company for a new Type III phaser rifle based on the same technology and design. Unfortunately, what Starfleet received was not what anyone had in mind.  This was because Sestra  was overwhelmed and underfunded due to the massive R&D cost associated with the development of the new Type I & Type II. Everything that the company had they poured into the R&D work for the original phaser and securing the Federation contact. By the time of the Type III contact, there was almost nothing left in funding to put into a phaser rifle and it was not as easy as it might seemed. Instead the company turned their primary and original: that was mining lasers. 
Taking this technology, Sestra constructed basically a powerful portable particle beam portable system and this became adopted phaser rifle of the 2260’s. Unfortunately again, the design was too cumbersome, too powerful for special security units and hazardous landing parties missions.  It was used sporadically throughout its deployment lifespan. Also preventing its wide scale acceptance was the complaints about overheating, poor ergonomics, and poor reliability in the field. All played into this phaser rifle being merciful put out of its misery.

The Wilson Energies Limited Type III Phaser Rifle from the 2360's-2370's

The Federation Type III phaser rifle was a rare sight throughout the 23rd century, and it was more of a directed energy assault rifle than most of the other official issue Type III weapons up until that point. This more offensive design was due to the unstable nature of the Alpha Quadrant during the 23rd century. However, during the much more peaceful 2360's and the complete redesign of all standard issue Federation phasers, Starfleet tapped Wilson Energies Limited to extend their widely praised redesigned Type II phaser design into a proper Type III phaser rifle with all manner of technological advancements.
 In 2367, Starfleet approved the new design and weapon design some complaints of its inherent complexity. Armed with 16 power settings, various hardware and software targeting systems, gyro-balanced, and fitted with a rapid recharger; the Type III soon became the workhorse of the Federation-Klingon War and the Dominion War. During those two critical conflicts, Wilson updated the Type III with improved optics, a sling, and a powerful illumination system.  This was only fully replaced with the 3a and 3b phaser assault rifles.

The Sestra Weapons Type III Compression Phaser Rifle from 2270's
There are just those times when some experiments do not work out and the project is a failure. That is the case with the Sestra Weapons Type III Compression Phaser Rifle of the mid-2370's. Being developed alongside the new Intrepid class advanced explorer, the Compression rifles were attempt to develop a new type of phaser rifle. Sestra was attempting to develop a new, more powerful phaser rifle that functioned in more environments than the Wilson Type III rifle. To distinguish their phaser rifle over the current issue Type III, Sestra attempted to rechristen it: “the Type IV”. Given the failure of the original Type III phaser rifle from the 2260’s, Starfleet issued the Compression rifle on a limited field-test basis along with its completer, the Atalskes 3a/3b assault rifle.
By the late 2370’s, the Sestra Weapon Compression phaser rifle was deemed a failure by Starfleet and the prototypes were returned and the files purged from the replication databases. This was not the case with the Compression rifles onboard the Voyager and Equinox starships that were both swept away to the Delta Quadrant by the “Caretaker”. Both of these lost starships heavily used the Compression rifle and made modifications most noticably with the addition of an addition illumination source, sling, and fine-tuning the emitter assembly. The Compression rifle served alongside the assault phaser rifle 3b, which was also in the testing phase when Voyager launched, but the Equinox was only issued the Compression rifle. The failure of the Compression rifle to win the Stafleet contract over the Atalskes/Shran  3a/3b assault rifles bankrupted the Sestra Weapons Company with Atalskes Phaser Corporation buying the rights to some of their classic phaser designs.

The Atalskes Phaser Corporation/Shran Offensive Systems Type 3a and 3b Assault Rifle Phaser
The 2270’s would be a time of great conflict, strife, and stress within the Alpha Quadrant.  Forecasting the coming storm clouds, Starfleet began designing a new type of offensive warship class the likes that had never been seen since the Defiant project. That was the Sovereign class and many critics of the class called it a “Federation battlecruiser”. Regardless, this new advanced starship class helped develop new offensive technologies for the coming war. The same pulse phaser technology featured on the Defiant that made it such a formidable combat starship class was also incorporated into the new Sovereign class as well as the new joint phaser assault rifle project by Atalskes and Shran weapon companies.
At the heart of the starship and handheld pulse phaser weapon systems was the artificially grown crystals that came from the Starfleet Tokyo R&D labs allowing for the rapid phaser pulse, making the 3a and 3b assault phaser rifles so deady. With the Dominion War erupting, the combat oriented design Atalskes/Shran assault phaser rifle was approved and issued throughout the frontlines. Along with the 3a and 3b, there also an EVA combat variant constructed as well. These new Type III combat rifles proved themselves in combat against the Borg, Hirogen, Species 8472, and the Dominion. During the service of the Type 3b, there was improved modifications to the targeting equipment and features around 2379.

What is the Difference between the 3a and the 3b Phaser Assault Rifles?
There seems to be some confusion about the identity of the 3a and the 3b assault phaser rifles seen in DS9, Voyager, and the TNG films.  It does not help matters that the 3a and 3b were both used in Star Trek: First Contact for the first time. For the most part, the 3a and the 3b have a number of similarities and are the basic same design and were used interchangeable on-screen until Nemesis in 2002. The real difference lays in the barrel assembly and the optical cluster on the top rail. The 3a is the lesser seen variant with the heavier barrel that is more square and more metal. The optical cluster on the 3a is a little sleeker and the lit square in the middle of the optical cluster is more yellow than the greenish hue of the 3b that later became more yellow in Insurrection. The 3b is the most common and seen in the television series and the TNG films until Nemesis. The 3b has the more rounded barrel assembly with more black plastic on the barrel and features a bit more bulky optical cluster with a greenish square that would later be more yellow. On both 3a and 3b, there was a flashlight that both occupied the same optical cluster location. It is unknown if there was any type of targeting sight equipment built into the prop.
For the last TNG film, Nemesis, there seems to be upgraded variant to the 3b (the 3ba1?) that features a more cleared up, futuristic, slimmer, customized optical assembly on the top rail. This cluster seems to have custom made by the prop department and features a space for a tactical light and a reflex-type red dot sight that is seen on-screen emitting a reddish glow illuminated an crosshair mount just up and back from the light assembly. It is believed by phaser.net that the reflex is an Bushnell HOLOsight model 50 on the hero prop since the close would have been quite expensive, on the order of several hundred dollars per rifle. This improved 3b was only seen in the Nemesis film.

What About the Kelvin Timeline Phasers?
In 2009, director J.J Abrams rebooted the Trek movie franchise with the highly successful Star Trek featuring a modern fresh spin on the TOS crew, ship, and situation. Like much of the Nu-Trek films, there was activity attempt to marry the original series design and setting with the new vision of the 23rd century. This expended to the phaser, which was a fusion of the TWOK phaser, the retro phaser, the classic phaser, and some new ideas. Unlike the phasers I’ve presented above with heavily fictionalized histories, I cannot with the Kelvin timeline phasers. I simply do not know enough about the new alternate universe, nor have I seen all three because I simply do not like the J.J. Abrams vision of nu-Trek. The props are covered in some detail below.

The Funky FASA Mark VII "Sten" Phaser Rifle
During the 1980’s the Chicago based RPG company, FASA, held the license for Star Trek and they developed many games, miniatures, manuals, and supplements based on all eras of Trek. I was heavily involved with the FASA Trek non-canon universe and this world seeps into FWS from time-to-time. During TNG’s first season, FASA would release the “Officers Manual” set in the 24th century. Among the pages was the very oddball Wilson Energies Limited Mark VII phaser rifle. It has been nicknamed “the Sten phaser” after the World War II British SMG due to its side handle. It was designed and nicknamed by David R. Deitrick for FASA in 1987 and he wrote about designing this “unique” non-canon phaser rifle. Due to issues with aiming a flashlight like weapon, he used the side handle to steady the aim of the security officer or marine in sort of modern vertical grip seen on Colt M4 assault carbines. The further aiming issues where to be solved by a suite of targeting sensors, extended barrel, and tiny oval screen aiming/targeting display. He fully stated that he had fun with the design and I was always  intrigued with the Mark VII phaser rifle.

How the Hell Do You Aim a Phaser?!
Since the age of six, I have been shooting rifles and pistols and coming from that experience as a lifetime shooter has made me judge the phaser a little bit more harshly then probably other science fiction fans. When you look at the phasers from a real firearms perspective you begin to see a major issue with them: aiming the damned thing. More specifically, the Type I and Type II variety. Every Type III phaser rifles seem to be fitted with aiming equipment that often takes inspiration from real-world firearm scopes and sights. On the hand and sidearm phaser there no obvious way to aim the weapon. No electronic sights, no optics, not even the simple iron sights. There are people that have claimed that there are tiny sights mounted on the phasers if you exam close enough on the original series Type I, but there are none on the TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise Type II phaser pistols.
While phasers do not exist in the real-world, I did attempt to replicate the experience using two lasers we keep at the hospital. The first is a small laser point that I used to replicate the conditions of a Type I hand phaser. I selected a spot on the wall about 9 yards out and fired a laser beam in the wall…and I missed badly. Once that first beam was delivered, I adjusted, and fired again. This time I was much closer, but it still lacked the accurate that a combat small arm needs to possess. At the range, I was able to take a rented Sig Sauer .45 ACP and put the first single round directly into the bulls eye without knowing the handgun. Then I took the laser scanner we keep at the medication station, and picked a spot on the wall and unleashed a beam of red light. While I did miss, it was closer than the laser pointer test initial accuracy.  I was able to improve greatly on the second try with the handgrip laser scanner. Missing grossly in a combat situation with a handgun could be your last. If you cannot land your first shot, you may not get a second. This presents a huge problem for the users of the phaser:  how the hell do they get off a successful first shot? Maybe this is origin of the high percentage of red shirts casualties on away missions because they cannot aim the phaser successfully in combat.
This poor aiming that seems built into the basic design of the TNG phaser is even a problem for the production crew on the television shows in the real world. On a regular basis the actors holding the phaser would grossly misjudge where to aim their pretend phaser beams, resulting in most phaser emitters being aimed into the ceiling. This has allowed for some pretty hilarious fixes in post-production special effect where the corrected phaser beams being fired at a 90 degree to 45 degree angle out of the emitter, directly contrary to where they are actually aiming at. This became such a huge problem for the post crew, that this is the real world genesis why the Type II underwent many redesigns until actors where able to hold the damn gun level!
This basic error in firearm's construction and design shows the form over function mentality in phaser styling. Adding weight to the argument against the use of flashlight-like laser weaponry, it seems that Worlds of Wonder, the maker of "Lazer Tag" tested a prototype using a flashlight like (phaser like?) IR lazer tag hand weapon and it was too difficult to aim, so they switched over to a more conventional pistol layout as seen in the Starlyte.

Is the Phase Pistol from Enterprise Actually an "Real" Phaser?!
There is some confusion, given the length of time Star Trek has been on and the amount of works that are canon, about when "the phaser is the phaser"? Until the phase pistol of Star Trek Enterprise, it was assumed that the classic phaser of TOS was the first official Federation phaser. This was reinforced by the laser pistols of "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" TOS pilots Then there is the quote from Lt. Worf in the episode "A Matter of Time" where he states that phasers were around in the 23rd century. Some in the Trek community have taken this to mean that the phase pistol of the 2150's is not a phaser and therefore does not believe in the lineage. I tend to disagree and I believe it was intended by the production crew of Star Trek Enterprise to be the precursor to all phasers.

This is the Star Trek Discovery Phaser?!
In May of 2017, CBS All Access will be premiering a new series called Discovery that will take place in the 2250's, 100 years after Captain Archer and the NX-01, but 10 years before Captain Kirk takes the big chair on the NCC-1701, when the Enterprise was under the command of Pike or April. While I am not looking forward to this new series, I am curious about the weapon the Discovery will carry. Will it be the Mark I laser pistol from "the Cage"? Or will it be some sort of phaser we've never seen before? I guess we will have to wait to find out.  

Under the Plastic: The Story and History of the Phaser Props
One of the holy grails for Trek fans and collectors is a screen used phaser, and in this section we will explore the vast array of phaser props and some background information on them. The original series phaser was designed by Walter “Matt” Jefferies with three levels of prop phasers being made by Desilu prop shop and legendary prop-master Wah Ming Chang. The hero level prop is the finest, used for close up shots with all of the features and lights working to give the illusion of these being the 23rd century technology. These are made from the best material and naturally, these are the most expensive. It is believed by Trek historians and collectors that only two to three hero prop Type I/II phasers were made for the original series.
One of the Desilu hero phasers was unacceptable and Wah Ming Chang was paid $520 to rework the phaser, given some indication on the cost of these original prop weapons. It is believed over the course of the three seasons of the show, at least one was test modified to emit a light to make it easier for the Special Effects department to animate the phaser beams in post-production, but it proved to be more trouble than it was worth. Next on the level of props is the “mid-level” which is not as well-crafted as the expensive hero props or features the buttons, lights, and nobs…but they can be used for closer-in shots. Lastly, there is cheaply made vaccformed plastic “stunt” or “dummy” props designed to be in the background and used in physical action sequences. No cares if these are damaged or destroyed.
One commonality among all three levels of the prop phasers from TOS was the color. All of these phasers were painted a bluish-grey hue with black after the original black-and-white color scheme was rejected. It is known that Wah Ming Chang repainted the prop phasers to their standard colors we know today.  Only a few of each of these levels has survived and are some of the most sought after props in the whole of Trek collecting. Why so few? Props of a cancelled sci-fi series were not valued at the time and so where just trashed...the horror…the horror. In addition, given the cost, only a few were needed. The phaser rifle seen in the second pilot, “Where No One Has Gone Before”, was a one off prop and was rejected by Roddenberry for being too militaristic, making only a single appearance in the original series, but was used in promotional photos with William Shatner. The funky phaser rifle has been recently seen in the Star Trek Continues fan-made series that is quite good, as well as also featuring an upgraded Type I/II phaser system that has some nice upgrades.
The original series was cancelled in 1969, but its popularity only grew with nationwide syndication and the animated series, coupled with the first Trek convention in 1972 leading to the possibility of an Trek resurrection. Throughout the 1970’s, there were several serious attempts to bring Trek back to either the small screen or the silver screen in different forms ranging from a mini-series, television movie, full-fledged film, or even another TV series on the proposed Paramount Network (that dream would come to reality with UPN and Voyager). There would be two serious attempts to bring Trek back from the dead: Planet of the Titans and Phase: II. Planet of the Titans was the serious 1975-1976 film attempt with a script penned by Roddenberry. Interior conflicts and a loser of a script doomed Planet of the Titans to be put down by the studio.
During the year of Star Wars release, 1977, Paramount wanted their own Star Wars hit and they turned to Trek to fulfill that wish. Originally, that would be in the form of Star Trek: Phase II television show at the helm of the new Paramount network. Phase II would be set around the newly refitted NCC-1701 embarking on another five-year mission with most of the original crew returning and some new alien additions (Xon and llia). From what we know, Phase II would be a blending of the original series and the motion picture.  The first episode of Phase II would have been “In Thy Image”, the same core story as the 1979 film.
How does this relate to the second phaser prop?  There are two different phaser designs that have been rumored to belong to the failed Phase II 1970’s TV series: an updated classic series Type I/II phaser or the sleek, flat-headed, grey sidearm phaser seen in TMP/TWOK, the so-called “TWOK phaser”.  During the research phase for this section, I’ve come across several sources claiming to be the Phase II phaser. Given the fusion of the old with the new, as Phase II was envisioned to be, it is possible that three different designs were both considered for the production. According to one source, the classic phaser prop was updated and about 10 to 12 of these were constructed for the abandoned series around 1977.
Then there exists a mysterious prototype design for a modern looking Type I/II phaser system that is believed to be from the late 1970's or early 1980's. Little is known of this phaser prop design and according to the seller's description, this abandoned prototype was mocked up between TMP and TWOK, testing it out as a possible replacement for the phaser seen in TMP. Of course, there is other possibility that this previously unknown phaser design was for the Phase: II TV show. Overall, this mysterious phaser prop appears were similar in some style elements to the 2009 Star Trek  Kelvin Timeline universe Starfleet phaser with the exception of an integrated Type I hand phaser. Little is known about this possible replacement design to the TWOK phaser and it is believed that the only prop was sold in summer of 2016.
In the 1979 film, the completely updated Starfleet organization featured the TWOK new phaser design combined with a new security uniform, which were both very briefly seen in the first Trek film. A filmed, but abandoned scene would have shown a spacesuit wearing Spock coming to Kirk’s rescue insde V'gr, firing the new phaser design. That means that only time the new TWOK phaser was fired on screen was in scene in the underground genesis project base in ST II: TWOK. How some of us knew about this phaser prior to The Wrath of Khan was the Marvel 1979-1981 comic series and the TMP phaser watergun (I had a secondhand one as a kid!).
During the film appearances of new TWOK phaser design, it is seen in only one configuration: the Type II sidearm. However, there are production drawings from TMP or even Phase: II of a Type I, Type II, and even an Type III configuration of the TWOK phaser design that would have modified the Type II into an Type III via a stock attachment, similar to the Klingon disruptor rifle from ST III: TSFS. It is believed to the limited screen time for the new phaser that only one hero prop was made and was seen in the hands of Kirk and Captain Terrell during the movie. This single hero prop featured a series of lights, finer construction, and an expert paintjob. Several stunt and mid-range versions were built has well. It is believed two of the midrange props were sold for about $3000 by a British firm. The TWOK phaser was seen from time-to-time in the TNG series, like in the episode "Yesterday’s Enterprise". These were likely recasted resin models since there were no close-ups needed of the ancient Type II phaser. With the massive praise and success of ST II: TWOK, a sequel was ordered and thus was born Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (ST III: TSFS) and another new phaser for Starfleet. In three films, there was no less than two new phasers designs(!) used with no explanation given.
This new design was nicknamed “the retro-phaser” due to physical appearance to the classic dual phaser unit of the original series with updated style.  According to some sources, the ILM staff constructed the new phaser design out of solid resin with some working lights with the retro themed design coming from model marker Bill George and artist Phil Norwood.  It is unknown how many ST: III retro-phasers were constructed for the 3rd film and but some of the props survived, according to Richard Coyle, in terrible condition to the point those new props had to be cast. The only use those damaged prop phasers served was to be in-the-holster prop on the hips of the security guards in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
The page turned for the story of the movie phaser props in Star Trek V: the Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country with the “assault phaser”. On the request of director William Shatner, the phaser received a more macho design that was to be more of a firearm than a laser pointer. He was quoted as saying that the previous phasers had been “squirt guns” and he wanted an 1911 Colt .45. We would first witness the assault phaser being carried by the rescue squad and loading their new more military phase type with power packs in a very firearms manner. This was a first in phaser history to have a Federation weapon specifically constructed for offensive operations. In some ways, the concept of the assault phaser is similar to the H&K Mark 23 .45 SOCOM offensive handgun project. Designed by a team of three talented artists: Greg Jein, Ed Merecki, and Richard Coyle. Hidden in the body of the assault phaser Type II sidearm was a Type I hand phaser not seen in either film, but included in the toys and replicas. This is the only good thing that came out of that shitty film.  
During the sixth and final film with the original crew, the assault phase had a key role in the plot and was used more than any movie phaser prior to the J.J. Abrams Nu-Trek films. There is no in-universe explanation for how the assault phaser is incorporated into the starship armories and if it is “ground trooper” configuration, much like the Earth Military MACO EM-33 plasma pistol. This is often listed as one of the most beloved phasers in Trek history by fans for it offensive nature and how good it feels in the hand. Sadly, the assault phase represents a turning point in phaser history with the original crew retiring along with the 23rd century style phasers, making way for the 24th century phaser designs to take over. It would not be until the 2009 J.J. Abrams' Star Trek film that we would see the phaser return to its original design roots. 
The long held dream of Gene Roddenberry, Paramount, and the legions of fans was realized in 1987 when the premier of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Set about 100 years in the future from the days of Kirk and Spock, the Federation is now at peace with the Klingons and other species. This was final the chance for Roddenberry to mold TNG in his image of a peaceful, fair society that worked together in exploration with diplomacy as the primary mission of the NCC-1701-D. Combine that with some of the original series style leads us to the new design philosophy for the phasers in 24th century Starfleet. 
From pre-production sketches made by Rick Sternbach, we can glimpse into a possible road the new phasers would have gone down if approved. It seems that originally the idea was to design a Type I/II integrated design keeping in the classic phaser system style from TOS. None of these designs made past this initial stage, but we can see the overall style of the new phasers as well as unconventional thinking on how the operator would grip the weapon. We know that Roddenberry disliked the "gun-like" phasers of the original series and films and he wanted the new phasers to be more futuristic and less militaristic. What changed the overall design of the new phaser was being held like an remote control than than a Glock.  This automatically made the new phaser design presented differently on-screen than a typical gun-like future weapon and played up the point that these were directed energy weapon, not firearms. Possibly due to this, the production crew decided to abandon the integrated design and instead create an independent Type I hand phaser and heavier Type II phaser. At the outset of the first 2 season of TNG, there was no Type III phaser rifle. 
The small Type I hand phaser was nicknamed “the cricket” and it was a concealable phaser that could be tucked into a holster/pouch mated to the hip of the skintight season one uniform. It has also been suggested that there are Type I phasers hidden on the bridge in case of emergency. I’ve actually seen an Type I cricket up close and held it, and it was nothing to write home about. It was something that could have been homebrew'ed and it is believed that there is only one hero prop of the first season cricket.  From the hero prop that was sold on a collector website, the Type I was constructed resin and acrylic and came in at 3.5 inches by 1.5 inches with an LED system for the emitter assembly. After the first two seasons, the Type I became basically retired due to the difficultly of the audience seeing the tiny design in the hands of the actors. The last appearance of the Type I TNG phaser was in Voyager season five episode four “In the Flesh”. Both the Type I and Type II were designed by Rick Stembach , with the units being constructed by prop master Tom Homsher. 
The phaser that would change and evolve more than any other in the history of Trek would be the 24th century Type II. In the first two seasons of TNG (and in one flashback episode), the heavier phaser that Starfleet would relay in tougher situations was the nicknamed "dustbuster" phaser. In its original design, the Type II dustbuster was a rather rounded organic design monster with a large emitter assembly and had a significant more presence than the Type I when worn in the hip holster. The design was unpopular with fans and the crew, due to issues with aiming the damn thing. In post-production, it was very apparent that the SFX team had to compensate for the actor's lack of phaser aiming skills. Only four hero dustbusters were made for the first two seasons before the design was retired for the 3rd season, along with the Type I. The TNG dustbuster phaser is often called by fans "the most hated phaser in Star Trek" and they could be right. There were no Playmate or Galoob dustbuster phaser toys produced and even in the prop and replica community, there are fewer produced of the dustbuster than any other TNG phaser.
By season 3 of TNG, the only phaser used the majority of the time was the "cobrahead phaser", the redesign of the Type II into a more user-friendly weapon with more present on-screen and improved ergonomics. For the rest of the TNG series as well as the beginning of DS9 and Voyager, the cobrahead phaser would be the standard issue phaser and one of the longest running phaser designs in Trek history. Speaking to the popularity of the cobrahead phaser is the number of toys and replicas.

This new Type II would be made into various levels. According to various sources, the hero prop was molded resin with ribbed rubber grips, and lights. Another variant of the hero including one that allowed the actors to access the interior works of the phaser to "MacGyver" their way out of the crisis of the week. Some sources claim that one hero prop was fitted with an laser point for unknown reasons. There is conflict about if rubber stunt versions of the cobrahead phaser were full props or ones molded into their holsters for the background security actors. This design of the Type II would lead to the creation of the first official Type III phaser rifle since the one Kirk used in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" in 1966!
First seen in "The Mind's Eye" in the 3rd Season and using the overall cobrahead phaser design style. It would be only be seen in TNG in two more episodes in the series, but would be extensive used in the troubling times that DS9 was set in. The original design of the Type III cobrahead rifle featured an flip-up rear electronic sight, which is pretty cool of the Starfleet weapon, then switched to an improved design with an tactical light assembly and a sling. This was a rare injection of real world military weapon design into a phaser. Overall, the Type III was a lightweight prop according to the way that the actors interact with it and how they handled it. Just a few years after the Type III started to be seen in DS9 on a regular basis, a new, much sexier Type III phaser rifle was designed and shadowed the older design completely. Sadly, Playmate Toys had plans to bring out an cobrahead phaser rifle, but it was cancelled in the prototype phase.
There are two more Type III phasers: the Voyager stupid "compression" phaser rifle and the phaser assault rifles: the 3a and 3b. I am not a fan of the compression phaser rifle since first laying eyes on it in the pilot for Voyager: "The Caretaker". This prop was designed by Rick Sternbach and for some unknown reason, the Voyager carries the unholy creations rather than the standard Type III cobrahead phaser rifle of DS9 and TNG. During the run of the UPN show, several other Starfleet vessels carried them, like the Equinox, but were wisely ignored by DS9 and the films. There is confusion about the rifle in official sources, especially when during Voyager's run, the assault phaser rifle 3b was also seen along side the compression rifle. There is no explanation given of why both were carried. Then that bring us to thephaser assault rifles: the 3a and 3b. First seen in the revolutionary First Contact with the new uniforms, new more offensive Enterprise-E, and the phaser assault rifle. This weapon was designed by John Eaves and became a fan favorite. One of the biggest differences between the TNG movie 3a and 3b assault rifle props is the barrel assembly style. In 2002's Nemesis, the hero props for the Type 3b assault rifles were fitted with an Bushnell HOLOsight model 50 with an illuminated red glowing crosshair. It is believed that there was only one or two hero prop phaser rifles with the real-steel sight.
Then that brings us to the last modification of the Type II seen on the small screen: the boomerang phaser. Despite the improvement in ergonomics from the dustbuster to cobrahead designs, there was still a number of errors in aiming that were terrible apparent and quite comical in still shots. To show this, the Type II was improved with an curved grip rather like a banana and they also slimmed down the head of the weapon as well making for a nice looking weapon. This sidearm phaser, along with the Type 3a/3b and new uniforms would premiere in 1996's Star Trek First Contact...the only good TNG film. This was used extensively in DS9 and Voyager along with Star Trek: Insurrection.
In the last TNG feature film, Nemesis, there was one last modification to the Type II phaser: the "dolphin" phaser of 2379. This was taking the boomerang phaser design elements and slimming and sleeking it down to an angled phaser pistol that is getting close to Type I cricket territory! Interestingly enough, there was exploration of adding an new cricket Type I phaser, but it was rejected for being too small to be seen on-screen. Some believe that the dolphin phaser of Nemesis was actually taken from the 25th century Type II phaser designed for Voyager's series finale "Endgame".
After review the episode and some background information, it seems that that design from "Endgame" was never seen on-screen and only found in a deleted scene. Some it could be smaller than the dolphin phaser seen in Nemesis. One interesting variant of the dolphin phaser seen on-screen in Nemesis was requested by director Stuart Baird to prop master Jerry Moss. He wanted the operation and guts of the phaser shown on screen, so a hero prop was rigged up to show a red power cell being exposed during the film. The dolphin phaser represents the last of the original timeline phasers to be seen and developed for the Trek cinema empire. For the two Trek phasers, we would be travelling to the past and an alternate timeline.
In 2001, UPN launched another big budget Trek television show that instead of going forward, it went back to the very first Starfleet Enterprise starship: the NX-01 under Captain Archer. This show would display the origins and foundations of common Trek technologies and traditional...that included the phaser. In the first episode, "Broken Bow", the new Starfleet pistol is reveal: the Phase Pistol. At a cost of $2,500 for the hero prop, it is unknown how many were made for the series, but there were rubber stunt props and some of the background actors that kept their phase pistols holstered used the Art Asylum phase pistol toys, which 20% smaller than the screen prop.
One of the hero props was able to be opened and a battery-sized pack installed. This was incorporated into the 2002 Art Asylum's toy and that toy was so good in fact, that even actor Scott Bakula said it was detailed than the actual prop! Given that, there were times that the toy was used on-screen than a prop, as the case was in "United" when a phase pistol was set to detonate. The prop was designed by Craig Binkley and Jim Martin with the prop possibly being made out of CNC'ed aluminum. This weapon was used throughout the series with no real changes. The vacu-formed plastic holster were attached to the actors uniforms via a magnetic disc or a clasp, as seen in some of the props that have sold. One screen-used Art Asylum phase phaser toy was sold along with its holster at auction in 2007 for around $1225. One issue with the production crew using the toy phase pistol was it is hard to keep track of which ones were actually used on-screen and which are fakes being passed as screen-used. Just shows you how good some of these toys are!
In 2009, the entire Trek universe would be rebooted thanks to J.J. Abrams new films going back to the 23rd century and the original Enterprise in an alternative timeline. Given the aim to reinvent the past, the Type II phaser sidearm was redesigned for both the USS Kelvin and USS Enterprise time periods. The Kelvin phaser was more akin to the TOS phaser with steel and gold coloring and possibly a Type I phaser attached to the top. One of the oddball things about the prop was the giant gold socket on the rear of the weapon....recharging port? This phaser was only seen on-screen very briefly and it is likely there is only one and I could only guess what the prop is constructed out of. Some people have said that the Kelvin phaser looks like a prototype.
The star phaser of the film was the Type II sidearm with twin future-cool color-coded emitters that allowed for easy switching between "kill" and "stun" along with a Buck Rogers sort of look to it with the shiny metal casing. The hero prop was fitted with a servo-powered motor to allow the hero prop to switch from the two fire modes in a cinematic/dramatic fashion.
There is little information on the alternate history 2009 phaser or even who built it considering the size of the prop department...but during the 2013 release of Into Darkness, the wizards at QMx sold a excellent replica of the screen-used prop around the time of the film;'s release. Here is where we get some solid information as well as some more confusion. According to the description of the replica it is "solid polystone core enrobed in metal plating with several finishes -- brushed aluminum, gunmetal, and chrome -- to create an exact match of the hero phasers used onscreen". This is not the confusing part, that comes when QMx seems to claim that they made the phaser props for the 2013 film! I did not know that despite QMx being a prop marker, that they made Hollywood film props.
In the most recent Star Trek film, Beyond, there is new props with everything being upgraded, including new phaser by prop-master Andy Siegel that he called this "2.0" design more grounded with less silver and more black, with improved ergonomics. The beam emitters are still color-coded for the two firing models but now with a flatter emitter more remanence of the TWOK phaser. In the stills of Beyond, we see another phaser used by Spock that features a side-by-side design with one barrel dealing less-than-lethal and the other firing lethal bolts of energy. This does not feature the switching effect of the other Type II designs. For the second film in the alternate timeline, we were introduced to no less than TWO Type III phaser rifles, one Starfleet and one from Section 31 that was rapid fire. The Section 31 Starfleet rapid fire rifle prop and the standard Starfleet pulse phaser rifle were both designed by John Eaves. The Section 31 rifle was seen only featured in the combat scene on the Klingon homeworld. This basically ends to story of the phaser props, but it is not the end of Star Trek. There are fan series being made, a new CBS television show Discovery, and an 4th Kelvin timeline Trek film incoming.

The Phaser and Sci-Fi
When it comes to the place of the Star Trek phaser in the overall history of science fiction weaponry, most rank it up there with Decker's M2019 sidearm, Han Solo's DL-44 blaster, and the Lightsaber; however, it is more important than that. Until the emergence of the phaser in the original series (1966-1969), sci-fi weaponry was most confined to the realm of ray guns in the hands of Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon. While some details were written about these more conventional layout future directed energy weapons, they were far from revolutionary, but they were the first step. One intermediate between Buck Rogers' XZ-38 Disintegrator and the Federation phaser was the laser pistol from the classic Forbidden Planet film. All of these classic ray gun designs were echoed into the original phaser design and Mk. I laser pistol of the 2260's by Matt Jefferies, but it was also a design that formed a bridge between the past and the future. The phaser from the original series quickly became an icon among fans and creators and its two energy settings became an industry standard. Shortly after the original series ended, the juggernaut that was Star Wars arrived, rocketing the popularity of the laser sword and the blaster...the more" civil" phaser was pushed to the background until the Next Generation series in 1987. Here the new phaser design altered that classical layout, giving creators a new page in sci-fi weapons design that was not mimicking the typical layout of an modern firearm pistol.
Helping the case of the new phaser design of the 24th century was the massive roll-out of toys associated with the new television series. Boosting its popularity to a new generation. Another way that the Star Trek phaser has been revolutionary in the world of sci-fi weaponry is that it is the only sci-fi weapon we've seen evolve over the course of centuries of fictional time within the Trek universe and over the course of 50 years in real time. There is no sci-fi weapons that has been seen in this many forms/variations over the course of seven centuries. Star Trek historians and zealot fans can easily identify the era of the Trek simply by the phaser being used and this unique among the major sci-fi franchise, especially in primary mainstream media.

The Phaser and the Trekkie
The technology and the fashion of the 23rd and 24th centuries have become holy relics to the fans of Trek: the Trekkie. This movement to dress as their favorite characters from the time of the original series onward sparked and founded a great number of traditions in the wider cosplay/con community that is thriving today. One of the key pieces for cosplayers of Star Trek and fans is the phaser. For the life of Star Trek, fans have invested millions into all levels of props, model kits, and toys of the beloved phaser in all of its forms. (Unlike many other Trekkies, I do not own a phaser nor a Starfleet uniform...my wife will not allow it!) Fans often associated the phaser with the Trek work that introduced to the vision of Gene Roddenberry or their favorite Trek work and they have deep connection to that peculiarly phaser. For example, original fans of Trek have a massive and deep connection to the classic phaser of TOS, while some were indoctrinated during the TNG era, and those phaser designs are a piece of their own history. I am not immune to this Trekkie phenomenon. I grew with the original cast films, like Star Trek II: TWOK and that sleek grey modern Type II phaser carried by several members of the film. Given that TWOK was my first serious introduction to Trek along with the original DC Comic Star Trek line was consistent favorite of mine, that type II phaser was my phaser that I mostly closely identify with along with the Star Trek III: TSFS "retro phaser".
When it comes to Star Trek auctions, often screen used phaser props attract much attention and money. Replicas constructed with the prop models or by the prop-markers themselves are often highly prized. This connection to the phaser is as deep as fans of Star Wars that collect, build, and lust after lightsabers. Naturally, this connect is worth money, and there is an entire industry in delivering replica phasers, toy phaser, and phaser-shaped merchandise into the hands of fans. Phaser-like tie-in toys have been a critical part of any Trek merchandise going back to the 1960’s. There have been phaser water guns (I had one!), phaser lazer tag games, phaser remote controls, a ton of phaser toys by Galoob, Playmate, Art Asylum, and Diamond Select. Even today, toy and replica phasers are produced with the role play, cosplay, and figure accessory market. Given the enduring legacy of the phaser, Trek, and the Trekkie, there will no end to the production and marketing of these future weapons to fans and collectors.

"Phaser-like" Weapons from Sci-Fi

The High Guard Force-Lance from Andromeda
So, what happens when the lightsaber from Star Wars and the phaser from TNG get drunk and have a night of forbidden passion that leads to an love child? The Force Lance from Andromeda! The standard weapon of the Commonwealth high guard was a rather unique weapon system that dueled as a melee and directed/kinetic hand weapon. When used as a traditional weapon, the force lance is very similar to a Next Generation phaser with all the issues on aiming, and since both of the shows were created by Gene Roddenberry. Bearing that in mind, creates some hint at an connection that perhaps inspiration for the force Lance was taken from The Next Generation hand phasers

The Ion Nebulizer from Galaxy Quest
There simply could not exist a blogpost about the phaser without discussing the ion nebulizer from the awesome Galaxy Quest. Constructed by Thermians the due to the appearance of this phaser-like directed energy pistol on the television wielded by the crew of the NSEA Protector. This weapon fires a orange/yellow bolts fed by some sort of blueish liquid that is the substance that powers the weapon in some unknown fashion. Over 800 of these hand weapons were kept onboard the Protector. Given that Galaxy Quest is the pardony of Star Trek, there had to be a phaser-like weapon that mimicked the original phaser design. The ion nebulizer is similar in design to the TOS Type I/II phaser and the TSFS retro phaser and is popular among sci-fi fans and prop markers. This is likely the most visible attempt at a phaser-like weapon in a sci-fi film.

The Alpha Moon Base Stun Laser Gun from Space: 1999
In the Garry /Sylvia Anderson super funky 1970’s British moonbase television show that ran for two seasons from 1975-1977, there was a rather unique DE hand weapon used by the Alpha moonbase personnel: the Stun/Kill Gun. This upside-down horseshoe-shaped weapon had a rather simple, but cool, energy level select switch on the top of the weapon.  This weapon always hit me to be “phaser-like” via the stun-and-kill firing modes,and could have a loose connection to the classic phaser for TOS. Quite recently, news came out from England that an original prop was stolen by an then 11 year old boy during an display of original Space: 1999 props. According to the prop “owner”, his stun gun is made out of wood not metal as some have believed. With a reboot on the horizon, called Space: 2099, it is uncertain whether the original weapon design will remain.

The "Skrill" Hand Weapon from Earth: The Final Conflict
In another Gene Roddenberry TV show that aired after his death there's a rather unique genetically engineered organic weapon system used by members of the Taelons alien race and their human security allies. This Skrill is similar to the Type I hand phaser weapons in that you have to use your arm to aim it and given that, once again, the Skrill comes from a series from the imagination of Gene Roddenberry and there might be some connection in this unique organic weapon system to the phaser of Trek. We will cover the Skrill in more detail for an organic technology based weapons blogpost in the near future.

The PAX Council Dart Hand Weapon from Planet Earth (1974)
Gene Roddenberry tried several times to get his concept of Dylan Hunt, man-out-of-time, onto the airwaves. There were three attempts to bring the concept home to television with Andromeda being the finally form of the concept. Working for the PAX Council, Hunt is armed with an less-than-lethal unusual hand weapon that is stylistically similar to a phaser complete with different types of less-than-lethal dart ammunition. This 1974 made-for-TV film also had personal communicators worn on the tunics of the PAX field team members...much like the comm-badges. The idea of a future weapon firing hypodermic needles/darts has been a long-held of Roddenberry's. There is line from "The Cage" that states the Mk.I laser pistols fired an "hypo-pellet".

The Liberator Hand-Weapon from Blake's 7
During the mid-1980’s, I watched a number of British science fiction television shows on my local Oklahoma Public station (OETA) but no one else wanted to watch, so I was condemned to watch Doctor Who, Red Dwarf, and Blake’s 7 all on the little kitchen TV with headphones. At the time, I really enjoyed Blake's 7, especially the first two seasons and I always thought the show was rather inventive. In the technologically superior warship, the Liberator, there were a number of weapons at their disposal including a very unique hand weapon that was attached to a battery pack via a cord, much like the photon laser tag system from the 80's.
This weapon system a rather unique at the time, in its presentation and it was far removed from the typical laser blasters of modern science fiction. How was this 1970’s sci-fi weapon related to the phaser? I actually think the Blake's 7 hand weapon is related to the next innovation of phaser.  I believe, despite no hard evidence that the production crew of The Next Generation took their inspiration from the Blake's 7 hand weapon and designed the type II Dustbuster phaser that we saw the first two seasons. So, in some ways, this could be the inspiration for TNG  phaser design. Sadly, Blake's 7 did not keep up the unique Liberator handguns in the further seasons and I'm pretty sure that these unique weapons were has much a bitch to aim as the TNG phaser designs

The Hand-Laser from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
In the 1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th century television show, there were several traditional laser blasters that seem to descend  from Star Wars used throughout the run of the show, but then there was something rather unique shown as well. Members of Buck Rogers’ team would use a very small personal defense/concealed laser hand weapon  that featured an power slide that selected the power output of the weapon:  from all the way from stunt to kill with all points in between. This weapon reminds me of the Type 1 hand phaser seen in TOS and TNG . Could the Buck Rogers hand laser be inspiration by the TOS Type I? I am entirely sure of a connection, but it highly likely.

The Earth Alliance PPG version 1.0 and 2.0 from Babylon 5
There are some that leveled charges against Babylon 5 with being a cheaper DS9 and there even some that believe that Paramount got the idea for DS9 from B5 being shopped around Hollywood. When it comes to the connection between the B5 handgun, the PPG, and the phaser; there is a connection...just not with the B5 handgun you think or know.  In the original pilot for B5, "The Gathering", there is a very different future weapon seen in the hand of station security forces, which was replaced by the more traditional snub-nosed PPG that was used throughout the show and even  updated for Crusade. The original Gathering  gun was more sleek design that shared some design element with the  TWOK phaser and the TNG dustbuster. This original weapon prop had a foldable handle making it more concealable for the security and it seems from the hostage scene at the very beginning of "The Gathering", that the PPG did not activate until the handle was flipped out, similar to when the PPG is raised up.
There were two of these original pilot prop weapons and were sold into private hands after the show was picked up and the more familiar snub-nosed PPG was developed. The PPG that we all know and love from the show were modeled after the old-school law enforcement .38 snub nosed revolvers favored for personal protection and backup weapons. According to some sources, there were three hero props of the PPG were made out of machined aluminum parts with real firearm grips for a .38 revolver being used, specifically, the Pachmayr grip #03252. I do not believe that there is much of an connection between the PPG and the phaser. Maybe the use of a compact weapon on B5 was influenced by the Type I cricket phaser? I was originally going to discuss the phaser-PPG connection in the original draft of this article until it was wiped out. Thanks to FWS reader David Haft for reminding me to include the PPG!

Next Time on FWS...
I wish I could say with any confidence of the subject that will be presented next time on FWS...but I cannot. My life is so up in the air at the moment with possibly moving from Dallas to Austin, the possible Rogue One movie review, the nuclear weapon/ nuclear war part one blogpost, and Yoel's incoming "rocket gun" armory article.  I will be working hard on completing the first part of the nuclear weapons/war blog article. So...I guess the order of the day is watch this space. 


  1. Excellent read! This is one of my all time favorite sci-fi topics as well!

  2. Keep up the good work! Whenever I see a post I might not be interested in, it just need a quick glance at the first paragraph so I can instantly find the enjoyment/curiosity for reading the whole thing.

    I saw Rogue One on theaters recently and I'll wait for your article so I can comment about it.

  3. Solid article! Although not a Trekkie myself, still very enjoyable
    Interesting that Starfleet how's mandate is "to find new life and new Civilizations" still know from advance what aliens might regards as "combative or imperialistic" when confronting with strangers armed with strange devices…
    Speaking of which that might explain the lack of sights of any kind, Starfleet want its officers appeared peaceful and non-threating at the expanse of their longevity… well non accurate side arms are indeed non-threating.
    On the particle not, it better for any toy company worry of lawsuit every time some dumb kid point their toy ray-gun at a police officer to make their toys appeared as unrealistic as handguns as possible, thus the dustbuster layout.
    I think it's cool you examine the reality of aiming and firing a phaser from first hand! (No pun intend) I don't think I heard before someone testing the principles of phaser handling as you did, on workplace time and money no less!


  4. Aiming a Type 2 phaser in the TNG and DS9 era at times seemed totally not done especially early on. With phasers being seemingly pointed at the ceiling rather then targets. This makes me suspect that the Dustbuster was in fact used as a Wond at one end of which was a miniature version of the same Phaser Strip seen on the hull of Ships like the Enterprise D. this combined with aiming software like Aimlock or Trackingpoint's distant descendants.

  5. Skrill? Gene Roddenbery? Hello...anyone seen the 1970's episode of Wonder Woman with the Skrill Blasters? https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-my-qZfZygh8/Vz0QZo5mxAI/AAAAAAAAoCg/dzrrDvvwZboNeUYAhWPYs-f7v4U1_T-5QCLcB/s1600/5-18-2016%2B6-20-00%2BPM.jpg

    "and the slime didn't even change the names" -- Flynn, from Tron.

  6. http://www.wonderland-site.com/html/series/wonder/season2/ww77-10-12.htm

  7. Why didn't you show the PPG from Babylon 5?

  8. The PPG! Damn it! When Blogger wiped out the original draft of this article, I had to reconstruct the article, and I totally forgot about the B5 PPG! I will add it here and give you credit. Thanks for notice this!

  9. Wow, this was a lot of work! Bra...vo.

    For all the phaser technology, the weapons seem kind of "dumb." By this time, I'd expect "smart" weapons that cannot be fired by anyone other than the owner. Even if that would limit tactical flexibility, you could make ones that could only be fired by the same species (PCR on a chip in the handle or something).

    As for nit picking....perhaps you could go into the "overloading" of a phaser to produce a "forced chamber explosion" that played a plot device in (at least) The Cage.

    In the "phaser like" category...whatever Soran was trying to shoot at CPT Picard in Generations. It had some weird mechanical phase that added at least a second between pointing (aiming) and the energy pulse firing. No wonder Picard and Kirk were never hit!

  10. I think my co-workers thought I was insane Yoel when I was digging around for the laser pointers and scanners. When they asked me, I responded with "For Science!" I think they are used to me being me.

  11. An interesting article, as always. Especially on the history both fictional (and equal parts speculative) and behind-the-scenes. I do recall my family owning the remote version of the Cobra, but was lost to time and I don't think we ever paired it to a TV.

    I must admit, it was quite the surprise that the Cricket-Pistol combination ever existed in the original series. Before now, I was only familiar with the Phase II preproduction designs via Atomic Rockets and I was under the assumption that both the classic phaser pistol and phaser cricket were separate items. Then again, I never really saw any of the original series episodes in a single setting.

    To be honest, it does give me additional ideas for my setting. That is, a DEW sidearm with two discharge settings and having a cricket-like module cradled into a pistol add-on for better range, accuracy, and rounds. And I have no idea why, but I find the idea of a break-action personal DEW sidearm to be most appealing. Though considering the technological limitations I imposed upon my human factions, it'll probably be better suited to one of my antagonist alien empires.

    Speaking of redesigns, I never really noticed the redesign of the phasers in Beyond. Then again, I wasn't actually trying to analyze the props used in the film. And while we're being honest here, I wasn't exactly a fan of the J.J. Abrams Reboot version of the phaser. It just felt stupid to have the barrel/emitter not only be color coded for convenience (an actual firearm does not need such a disadvantage), but also spin around as a "setting". Granted, the 2.0 does look a bit beefier and sturdy in comparison but the issues still exist.

  12. In your discussion of energy sidearms with phaser-like abilities you left out the shock pistols and rifles in the 1980s version of V. They had variable energy setting ranging from a the equivalent of stun plus at least two increasing levels levels of damage, one of which was typically shown to be fatal (and somewhat messy).

    There is a more direct Trek connection in a roudabout way: TNG's prop department got hold of a few "shock pistols" (or got one and took a mold of it) and used it to create SMG-type weapon by cutting it in half and installing extensions. It appeared as a Romulan "disruptor rifle" in several TNG eps as well as at least 4 other eps as "alien weapon of the week".

    Also we have now gotten a look at the phasers from Star Trek: Discovery. They are an interesting bash of the hand lasers from "The Cage" and the TOS Type 2.