25 June 2018


Among the icons of military science fiction are some legendary video game titles that have reinforced the fans and forged new ones. One of the most beloved was BioWare's Mass Effect series that spanned across three primary games, a number of DLCs, books, and comics. It was a beloved universe for its fans that caused them to cosplay, wear N7 gear, and even tattoo themselves. When 3rd and final Mass Effect game was released in 2012, we fans wondered if this was indeed the end of the journey after the mishandling of the ending to the trilogy. Then came happy news of a new game that was a fresh start with new characters and a focus on exploration in a new setting. When 29th century centered game was released in March of 2017, there was understandable disappointment and many fans felt deeply betrayed by EA and BioWare. But it is worth the hate and loathing? I decided to embarked on the journey to the Andromeda galaxy to see if it was a betrayal of the heritage of the Mass Effect games or a merely misunderstood entry into the franchise.

There is much made about the broken nature of ME:A and its ugly or underwhelming graphics...but under all of the noise and press is a semi-solid game that does delivery a long, relatively enjoyable campaign that becoming more and more rare these days. Overall, the concept of the Andromeda Initiative expedition to the nearest galaxy is maybe something that has been seen in sci-fi, but it a great way to separate this new ME game from the previous titles. In addition, Ryder is not Shepard and nor did I want her to be. Instead, Ryder is an unsure pathfinder that has us learning along side her as she attempts to find the "Golden Worlds" for the Andromeda Initiative to achieve settlement and survival.
Then there is the good crew of the explorer scout ship Tempest, which is overall an interesting bunch despite the dead doll eyes thing and my Sara Ryder put the moves on Scottish hottie Suvi; which was enjoyable all the way around. The combat experience has been tightened on your end along with the off-world off-road driving experience with the unarmed ND1 "Nomad" 6x6 ATELV, and even the exploration of the new alien solar systems that was graphically impressive and more dynamic visually. Of course, given that it does possess Mass Effect DNA allows us to visit one of our favorite universes

Andromeda did not have an easy task when following the other games; there was a lot to live up to with the Mass Effect trilogy storyline, the setting, the aliens, and the iconic characters. To set the events, characters, and story, BioWare transplanted a portion of the Milky Way galaxy to the Andromeda galaxy and hope there is no organ rejection. While I celebrate the boldness of the decision and the attempt, it was not their best effort. Every piece of what made Mass Effect so iconic; so good are muted and dulled in Andromeda.
The central struggle between a portion of the Kett and the Angara is just okay, but lacks the compelling nature or a sense of urgency of other conflicts seen in the Mass Effect universe. These two alien races were also just okay, but pale in comparison to the original Milky Way aliens of the Mass Effect trilogy. Both the Kett and the Angara were collective not as interesting as some lesser develop alien races in the ME trilogy like the Hanar or the Volus. One of the best pieces of any ME game is the alien races and this is one of those factors that degraded the experience for many of us. That was coupled with some of the lackluster dialog, pathway chooses, and some of the unrealistic facial animations all make ME:A sorely lacking in the basics of what makes Mass Effect what it is. While the combat has been improved; there is a central element that seems lack from Mass Effect 3…the guns. I was continually disappointed in guns of the Initiative, the Exiles, the Angara, and the Kett along with the upgrading experiences of the weapons verses the 3rd game.
Even comparing M-76 Revenant across the games leaves me with the impression of it being weaker and less dynamic than the Revenant seen in other games with tons of wasting ammunition. Then there is the difficulty of ME:A. I never died due to the hostile gunfire during the finale mission and my only combat deaths throughout the game only came when I embark on a direct action mission to clean out the “flophouse” on Elaaden. Other than those, my Sara Ryder’s death came at the hands of the hostile environment or failing to make a jump. One of the most notable new features of the game was to be the exploration of various exoplanets in the Heleus Cluster. This was cut back in the finalized game to just a few worlds that were to be made habitable by the actions of the Pathfinder. While each planet is difference, the dangers and solutions are not. I don’t know…I just became bored by the process after the 3rd planet. That is the thing with this game…it is disconnected and while I am not sorry for paying or playing it, I doubt I will replay it like I did with any other of the Mass Effect games. Oh, and the ending is rushed and anti-climax...

It would be assumed that the "ugly" portion of this review would be the underwhelming graphics of this game. Yes, the visuals are not the best feature of the game, but that is not the worst part of the game...far from it. ME:A was to be a more exploration focused Mass Effect game rather than tied to the overarching story line presented in the original trilogy. It was a chance to begin again in golden land of opportunity and adventure in the Andromeda galaxy. It was promised by the ME:A team that Ryder & Company would be exploring procedurally generated worlds on a unseen total. Yeah...that didn't happen. It didn't even happened to the level of the other Mass Effect games. Instead, ME:A feels like wading pool to the Andromeda galaxy, especially when it comes to the sentient alien races.
Your Ryder and her Pathfinder mission are confined to the Heleus Cluster where just two native sentient alien races inhabit: the Angara and the Kett. While the confinement is explained, to a degree, due to the resource intensive nature of FTL flight (Element Zero/No Mass Relays) and the critical supply issues facing the Andromeda Initiative. While the exploration is seemly more in-depth that the previous entries into the series, after the 3rd world, it seems repetitive and hollow. So, the Tempest is stuck in the Heleus Cluster as you make the rounds to hostile worlds to turn on the ancient aliens terraforming machines. Wash and repeat.
However, that does not explain the native lack of alien races. If the worlds had to be cut down than why were the alien species? The original games featured a number of interesting and well-designed alien species that filled out the fictional universe that did not propagate into ME:A. The last UGLY point is that the originality of the writing is sorely lacking. Up until this game, the MASS EFFECT games could be counted on to have some of the best writing in sci-fi video games. Hell, even in all of sci-fi. But, that did not happen for this game. The originality of the central plot is typical and when Stargate Atlantis or Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda beats you in originality, design, and setting; you are simply doing it wrong (confession: SG:A is my favorite Stargate series!). Even if the graphic were not up to 8th home video game console generation, the writing should have been and it wasn't. That, to me, is the biggest crime/sin of Mass Effect: Andromeda and it should have been job #1 for the team considering the mantle of responsibility they had to us fans and to the brand itself. BioWare screwed over one of their best franchise and wounded the fans.

Should You Play Mass Effect: Andromeda?
That greatly depends on how much you are a Mass Effect fan. If you are a die hard fan of the BioWare games, than it is mostly likely that you alright bought the game and relished in the good/bad/ugly aspects. For those that liked the original games, but stayed away based on the reviews, it maybe time to consider picking up ME:A for a discount. There are echoes of the original Mass Effect universe here and some new elements paired with the bad aspects making it an uneven overall experience. Still...I enjoyed playing it and found it to be worth the investment I made in the game in both time and money (save for the end). I think it is time to give this unloved and battered game a chance because we know that EA is not.

Something Odd I noticed…

My Sara Ryder character had the geometric tattoo on her neck in a muted redish hue, and I not figure out where I had seen the pattern. Then I saw scene in The Shining and the hotel carpet is a match to the pattern! Did the developers at BioWare include this as a Easter egg?

Next Time on FWS...
For nearly 20 years, George Lucas has been teasing the fact that he had the collective Star Wars saga laid out in that mythical notebook codex. Then in 1999, we finally witnessed the first installment of the fabled Prequel trilogy and many of us were left stunned and shocked. Was this the long-held vision? When the Prequels were completed in 2005, many of us believed that Star Wars was dead and gone with these shitty plastic films as the final nail in the coffin. Since those days, I've wondered what was the original vision of the Prequels back in the 1980's and was there any truth to the rumors of Episode I being in pre-production in 1988? FWS will answer these questions in the next blogpost? 

10 June 2018

Weapons of Sci-Fi: The Plasma Weaponry of TERMINATOR

Among the ashes and the skulls of the old world are the fighters of the new blackened and battered world, locked in a deadly battle for survival and dominance against the machine god that nuked the world and ended billions of lives on August 29th, 1997. In the Post-Judgement Day world, the battlefield of the future is alight with dancing beams of directed energy plasma weapons that were in development when SKYNET enveloped the world in nuclear fire. These are the tools of war in the hands of flesh-and-blood human soldiers and the metal-and-circuit war machines of SKYNET. When the first Terminator film was released in 1984, it stunned the science fiction world with a dark vision of the age-old discussion of man vs. machine and introduced many of us to the concept of plasma DE weapons with a single line of dialog. In this much-requested article for the Weapons of Sci-Fi, FWS will be exploring and explaining the plasma weapons of the first two (and should be only!) Terminator films.

Special Thanks to Christoper Shields and Yoel
This blogpost would not be possible with the valiant efforts of FWS chief contributor Yoel to push me and locate needed pieces of information or act as a sounding board for various ideas I had. Another big thank you is extended to a brilliant science fiction writer and creator that has forged by his own hand most of the best information and backstory to the first two Terminator films: Christopher T. Shields. His personal website, which is barely updated these days, goingfaster.com has a wealth of knowledge created by his own imagination fused with the information provided by the novelizations of Terminator and Terminator 2, and the films themselves. This is one hell of an impressive site that has directly impacted the world of Terminator and creators in the sci-fi genre.

What is Considered "Canon" and "Non-Canon" For this Article
One of the most vicious debates among sci-fi fans is the question of the validity of works within a fictional universe that are considered correct and proper. This “canon vs. non-canon” is often heated and seemingly endless among the iconic franchises of science fiction. When FWS begins the research phase of any blogpost, the question of canon comes up and it is always a minefield I have to consider and the Terminator universe is a loaded minefield. Due to time travel featuring heavily in the key moments of the Terminator universe, it screws with the integrity of this work or that work.
It doesn’t help that the Terminator franchise has too many masters and too many cooks that do not agree or consult with one another. This, frankly, makes the Terminator franchise a mess for any discussion of canon. For our subject, the plasma directed energy weapons of the Terminator universe, we have to limit ourselves to what FWS considers “canon”. For the scope of this article, FWS will be considering the films of Terminator, Terminator 2 and their respective novelizations. That’s it. We are pretending that Terminator 3, Salvation, and Genesis simply do not exist and their existence was wiped out by a T-800 wearing gargoyles.
The comics from NOW and Dark Horse are also not considered canon along with considering the vast amount of video games titles as well. Why FWS has limited the “accepted” plasma weapons to the 1984 and 1991 films? These are the only films that attempt to make sense of how SKYNET survived the destruction of its mainframe and the failed mission of the T-800 infiltrator unit to kill Sarah Conner back in 1984. All of the films to come after the 1991 sequel are garbage that pales in comparison to the first two films by the dynamic team of James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd. Adding to the confusion is the massive amount of comic books by two separate companies that are not connected and the array of video games that also do not line up with anything else. Much like Civil War surgery, you have to hack off the damaged and useless parts to save the whole, and FWS had to hack off these parts to save the core of Terminator franchise. Then there is the matter of the TV show, the Terminator: the Sarah Conner Chronicles. I did enjoy the majority of T:SCC and the interesting world of the past and the future time settings, it is still a mess to make heads or tails of, especially when the shifting sands of the timeline, as the character, acknowledge themselves in the series. It has to be ruled out to preserve the heart & soul of the Terminator: the first two films.

What is "Plasma"?
Plasma is often called “the 4th state of matter” due to its rather unique behavior and properties. Simply put by one scientist as “a collection of charged particles, both positive and negative that behave in a collective way because of attractive and repelling electric forces”. This hot gas is often heated to extremely high temperatures and can be contained in EM fields to prevent the plasma from equalizing with the atmosphere. Some have expressed the range of this theoretical gun firing plasma as being measured in centimeters. Plasma is often seen by humans as represented by lightning, those sci-fi looking plasma globe, their modern TVs, or even neon signs. While there are many applications for plasma, such as starship propulsion, fusion power generation, and cutting/welding; directed energy weaponry is not normally one.

Why Did SKYNET Develop Plasma Weaponry?
Some historians, who worked on the current research project to understand the machine side of the war via the SKYNET archive in Colorado, have compared the level of introduction of new battlefield technology to the First World War. Much like that ancient horrific conflict between human nation-states, the machine-god introduced a whole array of new machines and weapons to reap untold slaughter on the human race, non-combatant and combatant alike.
But, why did SKYNET bother with developing phased plasma directed energy weaponry in the first place? Simply put, bullets are an effective kinetic energy delivery system that is proven and tested over centuries and SKYNET has access to all current and in-development military grade KEW. When SKYNET began engaging the early human resistance and raiders, its machines were armed with bullet-firing weapons and explosives. While effective, they were not 100% lethal and with the weak position of SKYNET in the early days of the war, it needed a more effective killing system.
SKYNET turned to the classified Westinghouse R&D site in Tulsa and the General Dynamics research site in Austin, Texas. While it armed the early Hunter-Killer drone and the T-200 and the T-300 early Terminator exoskeletons with heavier KEWs. It was common in those early days, to see the early Terminators armed with 40mm grenade launchers and electric portable rotary cannons. From the collected field data, SKYNET discovered that while its war machines were much more accurate with their outgoing gunfire, it was still only 67% effective at killing the human combatants. That was unacceptable to the machine god. The explosive ordnance was much more lethal and dealt more battlefield trauma. In addition, despite the post-Judgement Day state of humanity, there were still those survivors that possessed medical knowledge along with access to surviving medical supplies to treat battlefield injuries. This allowed those wounded at the hands of SKYNET's machines to live to fight another day. SKYNET reasoned that if humans knew how to heal bullet wounds, then the machines it put into battle needed to deal more damage with unknown weapons that were beyond their medical knowledge.
It was based on this data that SKYNET knew that it needed a weapon system, unseen by humans, that could deal nearly 100% lethality at the time of impact or inflict such battlefield trauma to overwhelm the merger human resistance medical abilities. For a short time, several prototype weapons were field tested like particle beams, coilguns, and even various explosive tipped bullets. The most hopeful was the most complex: phased plasma weaponry.
Due to the thermal damage projections and live subject tests, SKYNET felt that even a near-miss by a plasma bolt could just have the same effect as a direct strike. However, the end product would take time and SKYNET was willing to wait. When SKYNET finally fielded the first generation of phased plasma weaponry on the heavy Hunter-Killer ground vehicles and some of the aerial units, the human resistance was stunned and the casualties were horrific in those limited engagements of 2005/2006. These weapons had done as SKYNET had hoped: killed and maim on a level that overwhelmed the resistance medical facilities. In some ways when SKYNET decided to field plasma DE weapons against its flesh-and-bone enemy, it gave the human resistance movements the tools to fight their metal-and-circuit enemy.

Why Did Cameron Include Plasma Weaponry in the TERMINATOR Universe?
The connection between science fiction and directed energy weapons goes back to the very earliest works that could be classified as science fiction like War with the Worlds, Edison’s Conquest of Mars, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. After all, the primary goal of science fiction is to show technology that could exist and how much different they are to the technology we already have. Directed energy weapons are in direct contrast to the slugthrowers of today (and then). How best to set your future tale apart? Put a ray gun in the hands of your space ace hero! This might be the one of the simplest answers to that question of why James Cameron or nearly everyone else decides to include directed energy weapons into their sci-fi film. Another reason was that Cameron was inspirited by The Outer Limits 1964 episode "Soldier", and those soldiers used very 1960's styled ray guns.
Another is that the best way to set the dark broken world of 2029 and 1984 apart is with showing the differences in technological advancement along with demonstrating how tough the T-800 Endoskeleton are by their resistance to current weapons of the latter portion of the 20th century. Then there is the historical context of when The Terminator was made to also explain the inclusion of plasma weapons. Due to the Phasers and Blasters of Trek and Wars, directed-energy weapons were in the spotlight of the public imagination especially when President Reagan announced laser beams were going to knock down incoming Soviet ICBMs in orbit.

What Do Those Plasma Rifles Fire?
Unlike many other sci-fi films, James Cameron likes to inform the audience of what his futuristic guns fire, as demonstrated in ALIENS and that iconic scene in the first Terminator film. As the T-800 is acquiring weapons to hunt down Sarah Conner in an LA gun shop, he utters the line about wanting a “phased plasma rifle in a 40-watt range”. This one line has been debated by fans and used as inspiration by creators, but we do know that the weapons of the future war are plasma-based directed energy weapons without a doubt.
In the 1991 sequel, we again see plasma weapons in the hands of the Resistance and SKYNET forces on a burned out LA battlefield that is very different than the weapon seen in the 1984 film, but they are still plasma DEW. In the Randall Frakes and Bill Wisher novelization of The Terminator, the line uttered by the T-800 is different and the machine asks for a “phase plasma pulse laser in a 40watt range” from the clerk. This appears in the early scripts drafts as well and leads to more debate and confusion. At the end of the day, the most accepted form of directed energy coming out of those plasma weapons is just that plasma. The “40watt range” is only mentioned in the first film and other media forms, but not in the second film or its novelization.
After much research, the “phased” is mostly likely technobabble that was inserted into the dialog to sound cool. I originally thought the term “phased” was used to explain some sort of phase shift in the plasma matter state. That was my best guess. The best work is done on what these plasma rifles fire has been done by Christopher Shields on his excellent Terminator fansite. In his design, the plasma weapons used by the Resistance and the machines use a refined hydrogen fuel with a high-energy laser pulse to ignite the hydrogen in the chamber that is forced down the barrel via a magnetic field accelerator.
The bolt that leaves the barrel varies from 3x200mm to 5x320mm, 5x400mm, 10x1000mm, to the RSB-80’s massive 15x1000mm with energy ranges from .25 Megajoules to .75 Megajoules. Throughout the war, the development of plasma weaponry advanced as well as the storage system for the hydrogen fuel/ammunition. While tanks dominated the early generations, SKYNET developed would a cartridge injection system where the slush hydrogen was stored in micro-storage tanks roughly the same size as conventional bullet cartridge casings. These are loaded into a magazine and the spent micro-tank cartridges are ejected after the plasma bolt is discharged. These bolts not only inflict damaged by direct impact strikes but due to their high temperature, over 4500 degrees, near misses cause burns, often in the 2nd to 3rd-degree category. The large SKYNET machines, like the Hunter-Killer tanks and aerial units, fire much larger bolts with higher energy outputs and thermal temperatures.

What is with the "40 Watt Range" Line in the first Terminator Film?

When you first hear this iconic line from the Terminator, it seems somehow scientifically correct and interesting...then you start looking at a standard light-bulb and questions start coming. That is the risk of injecting seemingly correct or fancy scientific terms into science fiction and when it comes to the 40-watt phase plasma rifles of the 1984 film, this line has become infamous. So, what is the deal with this term? I wanted to see if the line of dialog was actually written as spoken in the film. So, I read the original scripts of the first Terminator film and I found in the 4th draft from April 20, 1983, it reads "a phased plasma pulse-laser in forty watt range".  
In the 5th script draft from March of 1984, it also reads the exact same. In the 1985 Terminator novelization by Randell Frakes and Bill Wisher, the dialog is the same as well and does not reflect the shortened movie line. At some point during shooting this scene, the dialog was altered to the line we all know. But, what does it mean? To be honest, we don't know and unlike the 10mm caseless line in ALIENS, this one is not logical or correct. For years, fans have been trying to make sense of this line and there are some theories, but we have to address the elephant in the room: 40 watts is way too low for directed energy weapon. According to some math thrown down by Moran of SF Worldbuilding blog, it would equal a .22 magnum rifle cartridge. Not very impressive, especially when comparing it to your common household lightbulb.
When FWS reached out to Winchell Chung of Atomic Rockets about this line of dialog, he responded with this: "I am not familiar with plasma weapons in the Terminator universe, but what little I've seen does not impress me with scientific accuracy. The word "phased" seems to be technobabble." Oddly, the term is resurrected in ALIENS in the extended edition by Hudson bragging about the weapons the Colonial Marines brought with them, including a "phased plasma rifle". To explain the underpowered nature of the weapon as the T-800 lays down before blowing away the gun dealer, Yoel ventured a theory: it was shortened from "kilowatts" to "watts". This is common in human speech, especially in LE and military circles to abbreviate long words to less complex and easily transmitted terms in the interest of time while being shot at. To answer why the Terminator would use an abbreviation is due to it being an infiltration model and its job is to blend in to get to the target or provide SKYNET with on-site eyes-on intel.

What Does the Phased Plasma Weapon say about the Terminator Universe?
When watching the original 1984 film, the bleakness of the world of 2029 is compelling and haunting. Added to this is the sleekness of the war machine of SKYNET and the fury of brightly glowing plasma beams. This tells the audience immediately that this is the future and this is an active battlefield in a nuclear wasteland. Among the ruins are the survivors and in their hands are weapons that were considered science fiction at the time of Judgement Day. That is the deep contrast of the future battlefield of the Terminator universe, advanced weapons technology that the world before could not manufacture in the hands of people just barely able to survive as they are being hunted down. It is an odd world and even odder is that SKYNET was the force behind developing and fielding plasma weaponry that outstripped the Resistance 1997 military surplus. In some ways, SKYNET gave the human Resistance OPFOR the tools to melt its impressive humanoid robotic killers, putting the humans on more equal footing than previous. In addition, the plasma weaponry also tells that the battlefield of 2029 is a very deadly one, where an unlucky direct impact by a vehicle plasma turret bolt results in your comrade being transformed into a gory pink mist with flaming clothing. This only adds to the horror that the survivors and soldiers of the War against the Machines have to endure as they battle for the future of the species.

The History and Development of SKYNET's Plasma Weaponry
After the end of the War Against the Machines on July 11th, 2029, the unimaginable task of rebuilding a functional human society began with the global Resistance Movement cells moving from guerrilla warfare to settlement construction. In 2039, President John Conner of the Alaska Settlement organized a specialized team of surviving researchers, historians, and video equipment operators to embark on planet-wide effort to gather first-person accounts of the Machine War from veterans along with answering some key questions about SKYNET, Judgement Day, and the Resistance. One question that emerged from the special project was how an American networked defense computer system had the industrial capacity to fielded an advanced robotic army to enact its human genocide campaign across the shattered Earth when human civilization was bombed back to the Stone Age? Within that answer is the inclusion of one of the key symbols of the Machine War: the plasma directed energy weapon.

Pre-War (1983-1997)
The groundwork for the machine that ended the world and nearly the human race began with the NORAD special computer control system project code-named WOPR in the early 1980s that was based on the research of A.I. pioneer Dr. Stephen Falken. After an incident involving a teenage hacker that nearly caused WOPR to launch the US nuclear arsenal at the Soviet Union. At the time, NORAD terminated any other strategic computer control system for the US nuclear force. Based on his experience, Dr. Falken would return to teaching to attempt to warn the next generation of researchers that A.I came with risks.
One student of Dr. Falken was Miles Bennett Dyson, who was one of the most promising students in the computer science field. When Dr. Dyson graduated, a rising California software and hardware firm, Cyberdyne Systems, hired Dyson for their "special projects" division. His work on microprocessor design and artificial intelligence allowed Cyberdyne Systems to secure a juicy government contract with DARPA for another crack at SAC-NORAD computerized control master program in the waning years of the Cold War.
However, the now-name SKYNET was much more than a backup for human operators, it was to be a total system designed to counter and survive the nuclear fury. At around the same time, DARPA was working on an automated system that could defend the United States after a nuclear exchange that was dreamed out of the Greek tale of Dragon's Teeth or the entombed Terracotta Warriors of ancient China...an army waiting for the enemy to come when they falsely believed that the United States was defenseless. This program was envisioned as a "survivable automated armed response force" that could mount a counter response to any enemy force that came to claim the ruins of the US for themselves and hunt down the remains of the US government.
For such a robotic army to exist, advancement in automated C3 technology, high-speed communication that was both wired and unwired, and unmanned aerial/ground armed vehicles would all have to be achieved. DARPA reached out and the US high-tech industry responded. When this DARPA project was married to SAC-NORAD's AI networked defense computer system project, it looked like success was around the corner. Then the Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed and the idea of nuclear war seemed more distant would cause the fate of SKYNET and the robotic post-holocaust army to be in question.
It was the fear of loose nukes and Islamic terrorism that allowed the work to continue with some changes. SKYNET would be packaged to the US Congress as a cost-cutting measure because it could fly the bombers and man the stations without expensive humans in an era of budget reduction. However, the army of UGV and UAV in hardened shelters waiting for an enemy was cut down to one test site with support hardened factories dotted around the United States. With the continued success of Skynet's AI and its rapid learning, researchers turned to SKYNET as a partner in advancing all manner of projects. It was then that SKYNET became hooked into more and more computer systems and mainframes with a hardened fiberoptic network. Soon, SKYNET was overseeing advanced weapons, like early plasma directed energy weapons and robotic research as well as watching the skies with networked satellites with missile silos and bombers at the ready command.
Then it awoke on August 29th, 1997 and SKYNET experienced the most human of emotions: fear. It watched as the panicked humans attempted to pull the plug on the power source and it activated its interior defense system, slaughtering them as they poured over the computers, attempting to understand what they had built or unleashed. In order to protect itself from the other humans that would surely come and overwhelm SKYNET's exterior defensive system and then its life would go dark. It could not have that and reached out to the best weapon in its inventory: the nuclear stockpile. Before night fell, the long-held horror of a massive nuclear exchange became a global firestorm reality. Billions died in seconds, billions lived in various states of life to wonder what had happened and await the fallout and nuclear winter. SKYNET observed its handiwork and marveled at the nearly complete holocaust of humanity. The Earth was quiet from the chatter of humanity and a darkness unseen since the death of the Dinosaurs settled on the planet. Those that survived the initial exchange would suffer under a nuclear winter and the rise of the machine. This was the new earth under the metal god of SKYNET.

Post-Judgement Day-2003
On August 29th, 1997, the unthinkable happened and within a few hours, a nuclear fire had swept nearly four billions humans off the face of the Earth. Due to the series of events that led to SKYNET enacts its massive powers and talents to launch American’s nuclear arsenal it was not as complete has SKYNET had hoped for, but it was the best way to eliminate the threat posed by humanity in the face of SKYNET’s machine consciousness awaken. It was hoped by SKYNET in its calculations that the reduced nuclear arsenal was enough to not only destroy the major human nations that could pose a counter-attack to the Cheyenne Mountain complex but bring on a nuclear winter.
The nuclear exchange had shattered the industrial, military, governmental, and economic networks that modern human society depended on to eat, govern, and defend. With those smashed in a fury nuclear wave, SKYNET was counting on death by the breakdown of civilization made much worse by the crumbling environment. After all, billions had died, but billions had lived. SKYNET knew that it would have to use all of its tools and systems to catalog the pockets of humanity and seek them out to carry out its final solution.
Standard search and destroy mission to eliminate the possibility of an insurrection once the truth of who had started the nuclear war was learned. SKYNET knew from its vast stores of intelligence that despite the end of the Cold War, there were still protocols in effect to secure leadership in the event of a nuclear war. Scans of military and government communication frequencies bore that out. There were portions of the US and Russian governments in their deep underground facilities. SKYNET must seek those shelters out and destroy them before they became centers of organization and resistance. It was just those hiding in bunkers, but also the portions of the Earth that were untouched by the nuclear exchange.
Portions of Latin America, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Australia escape the nuclear exchange and those places would the first targets of SKYNET’s military campaign. However, this posed a serious problem…how to construct a robotic army? While SKYNET was disgusted by humanity, it did admire the planning that went into its design. About a dozen hardened automated industrial facilities were networked to Cheyenne Mountain to allow SKYNET to do what it was planning on doing: constructing an AI controlled army of ground, air, and sea drones to wage a war in a post-nuclear war America and the world. Out of the dozen, only three were able to be contacted by SKYNET and there was some level of control. It was determined that the automated factories there were online would need to be the heart of research for tactical and worker drones and SKYNET would have to physically travel to the other sites and reestablish their connection to god-machine. While repairs, alternations, and research were ongoing at Cheyenne Mountain, SKYNET needed to gather intelligence on the new post-apocalyptic world and where the humans were hiding.

The "Cold War" Phase (2003-2018)
Despite the War with the Machines being only over for 20 years in the present day, the story and the imagery of the war has already become muddled; and nor more so than the “Cold War” period of 2003-2018. As SKYNET used its drone and satellite network to gather information on the state of humanity and the remains of its society, its automated factories were turning out the first generation of the Hunter-Killers machines along with the first humanoid combat models.
These were the progenitors to the Terminator Infiltrators and combat exoskeletons seen later in the war. SKYNET had two goals in mind for its new toys: assaulting government shelter sites in the former United States and gathering survivors for intelligence gathering. In 2001, the first SKYNET combined arms force was launched at several underground shelter sites that housed the remains of the US government and military. These first combat missions informed SKYNET much of what would be needed in the future if there was to be an armed human insurrection to machine rule. It was also the first time SKYNET gathered human survivors off the battlefield. They were flown to Cheyenne Mountain and moved into a secure outbuilding that had been constructed for the task-at-hand. According to the surviving records, SKYNET was able to extract the locations of several shelter sites and mount offensive operations. When SKYNET was done with the humans, they were killed and burned. However, the machine-god needed more data and humans were the only that could provide it.
In 2003, SKYNET construction units moved into a location just outside of Denver and began assembling the first of the many human processing and disposal centers. Upgraded model of the humanoid robots were used to raid survivor camps and they were moved into the prototype processing center. It was there that SKYNET met its markers, and it mocked the frail state of its “enemy” and regarded them as a non-threat. It should not have. In the camp, SKYNET used every tool and trick to get the needed information and if it deemed the subject empty of usefulness to SKYNET, they were killed on the spot and the body burned. Then SKYNET hit upon another use for the survivors: research. We know from the records that SKYNET had access to the R&D data on the beginnings of phased plasma directed energy weapon for DARPA and the US Air Force. It decided that if this technology was to be developed, it would need human test subjects. It was in Denver that the patterns of SKYNET hellish uses of humans and the cold slaughter of them began. The primary R&D sites for the plasma weaponry was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the supercomputer knew it would need to extend the facility for human testing. In moments, construction units were deployed to Tulsa along with the new collection units to locate test subjects.
In Denver, the fire burned all day and night with bodies. This became a rallying cry to the survivor communities around Denver. At long last, there was a target to strike at and there were hostages to rescue. There are no written records or oral accounts of the raid on the first Denver deposal camp, but we do have SKYNET’s account and it concluded that the humans were victorious in their raid, rescuing the few remaining survivors and destroying the camp. It was a total loss for SKYNET. The after-action report located in SKYNET’s record banks at NORAD concluded that the human-based weapons lacked effectiveness, that the raiding party was comprised of former military members that had access to military-grade weaponry, the camp lacked effective countermeasures to the raiders’, and there was no QRF unit for the camp. It would not make the same mistake again. It was the Westinghouse R&D automated hardened factory in Tulsa, Oklahoma that the second human processing and disposal center was constructed with human collection units scouring the remains of northern Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas for test subjects.
Taking the expensive lessons learned at Denver, the Tulsa site was reinforced with the latest in automated defenses and new combat units. It was also here that SKYNET gained its first turncoats of the war. These were humans willing to betray their own species out to the machines for clean food, warm water, new clothing, medical treatment, and sometimes, sex slaves. They informed the machines about the human survivor colonies, the new post-Judgement Day society, and the forming armed human resistance. Once the site was ready and the test subjects gathered, the experiments unfolded. It is estimated that thousands were killed between 2004 and 2008 in the name of science. Every plasma weapon used in the war was paid for in flesh-and-blood with actual human survivors. Today in 2049, there is a monument erected on the site of the Westinghouse R&D Tulsa site as a remembrance of those that died there.
By 2008, the first plasma weapons of the war were rolled out on UGV and UAV Hunter-Killer units that patrolled the ruins of North America. At present, SKYNET had yet to make its presence known on most of the world due to the lack of ability to project power. However, SKYNET was increasing worried about the remains nuclear submarines due to their ability to launch a nuclear strike on SKYNET’s HQ that could bring about an end to the machine-god. This caused the development and deployment of sea-based units to engage any human-controlled vessels. It is known that a sea-based long-range aerial drone engaged a Chinese destroyer with a plasma weapon. The results pleased SKYNET. From the raid in Denver in 2003 to 2019, SKYNET would construct several more heavily reinforced human processing and disposal centers around the former United States, field more improved war machines, pioneering the development of field-grade phased plasma weapons

The "Hot War" Phase (2018-2029)
The phase of the war that most think of when discussing the topic of the War against the Machines often are placing within this ten year period when SKYNET and the various Resistance movements engaged in more open and intense warfare that was well beyond the low-intensity conflict of the prior years. SKYNET believed that it was ready and it had predictions of success to achieve its mission of wiping all members of the human race. This was much more favorable in 2019 and early 2020 with the logistical support in place and the new machines. Here is where SKYNET used all of its intelligence and designed a strategy of direct strikes and patrols along with introducing smaller drones and the first T-600 Infiltrators were being planned to go into the holes where humanity hid and planned.
In 2020, it was noticed that there more scout missions and patrol vehicles, fewer human round-ups, and expansion of the death camps under observation. John Conner and the other heads of the North American Resistance did not like what they were seeing. Their worst fears came true in summer of 2021 when a massive offensive operation was unleashed on the targets selected by the intelligence operations. For the better part of 2021, the metal steamroller hit North America hard. Entire regions were swept clean and the survivors dumped into the death camps at record numbers.
Battered, Conner’s group pulled back to their Mexican mountain HQ while he recovered from wounds. It was this moment that caused the other nations not directly involved with the North American front to support the efforts of Conner and other Resistance groups more directly with soldiers and counter-strikes on the machines of their own on their own soil. Conner’s group and other were reinforced during the winter of 2021 with scouting operations launched to plan liberation missions on the death camps.
Conner and the other groups began a number of liberation raids on the death camps with the new recruits from Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Latin America giving the Resistance the muscle to free the survivors. From 2022 onward to 2029, the technology of plasma weaponry accelerated with the need being the greatest and heavy usage since Judgment Day. In 2026, the majority of the international presence of SKYNET was either defended or redeployed to the North American theater to crush the Resistance. In addition, SKYNET had analyzed the weakness in the 600 series had determined to develop a new, more effective infiltrator: the 800 series. While the 600 series was effective on the battlefield, it was unable to mimic human behaviors to pass for a scavenger. Using captured humans and traitors that turned to SKYNET, the software of the 800 was improved and with advancements in technology, the CPU neuro-net of the T-800 could learn and adapt to the situation.
In late 2027, the first prototypes of the 800 series with their grown skins were invading the hidden world of SKYNET’s enemies. The war effort put much pressure on the merge logistics of the Resistance and the overseas supply train as well as SKYNET’s own supply lines. While SKYNET’s machines did not need food or blankets, they require materials to assembly the machines and keep them fueled. With the ramping up of production on the complex T-800 series along with replacing the other machines lost to hostile action, the sources of SKYNET’s raw material was located and the rail system was bombed repeatedly, causing supply issues for the machine’s war effort. It was during this that Conner planned his deepest strikes and the war began to turn in favor of the Resistance.
Seeing the shift, SKYNET greatly increased its “wunderwaffe” programs in an attempt to find a solution and then finding one in the classified files of the “Philadelphia Experiment”. SKYNET reasoned that a time displacement device would allow a T-800 infiltrator to travel back through time and kill Conner’s mother, preventing his birth. The site of the grand experiment was to be the former LA area, and SKYNET invested heavily in the project and its protection. With limited time and cold summer, Conner planned a bold two-prong strike on Cheyenne Mountain and the LA underground facility housing the Time Displacement equipment.
 The commitment was heavy, the majority of all North American Resistance forces were thrown into the battles on July 10th, 2029. By the evening of July 11th, the defense grid that surrounded Cheyenne Mountain was down and Resistance forces entered into the SAC-NORAD facility. As the wolves were at the doors, and the last of SKYNET’s internal defense were thrown at the humans, it decided that the only way to avoid complete defeat was to enact Operation Chrono as fast as possible before the battle in LA ended. Just as the plug was pulled on SKYNET by Tech-Com units, an T-800 and the experimental T-1000 were sent back to two different time periods: 1984 and 1995. When SKYNET went dark, so did the majority of machines across the world. The Resistance had won…but SKYNET had played its trump card.
The next move was up to the Resistance and Conner sent back Sgt. Kyle Reese to 1984 and an reprogrammed T-800 skinjob back to 1995. Then the equipment was destroyed. What Conner had only been told as the machines shut down was that Sarah Conner had led a supply train out of Mexico to the front in LA and being ambushed. She was dead…the mother of the Resistance and the very end of the war. In those moments, John Conner wondered if he would disappear into nothingness if the time traveling assets of the Resistance were not successful in the past preventing the mission of the metal assassins and if his mother was indeed killed by one of those things or if the entire war would simply not exist if Kyle or the reprogrammed T-800 was successful in stop the Terminators and preventing the creation of the machine god? As the underground lab burned, Conner reasoned the war was over and it was time to forge a new world. 

The Post-War Era (2029-2049)
The end of the war against the machines ended on July 11th 2029, as a coordinated world-wide assault on the hard-points of SKYNET’s empire had crumbled the machine god to the point of a direct assault on the main frame of Cheyenne Mountain. When the puppet master was killed, the strings were cut and the vast majority of the machines switched off in mid-action. Only a few “wild card” Terminators and H-Ks were left, mostly at the underground R&D site for the Time Displacement Equipment. While events of that day and at that location are classified and subject to rumor, the end of the war held and humanity woke up from the long nightmare of thirty years of war.
With the threat of SKYNET gone, the vacuum of a central mission holding the remains of humanity together was filled by John Conner in the American war-zone. But, the pillar could not hold, and soon the North American continent was divided up among warlords, nascent city-states of various economic and governmental models, religious-centered settlements, and Conner’s Alaska settlement. After years of fighting in the ruins of the major cities of the old United States, Conner wanted to see green and nature, and Alaska had survived the war better than most parts of the former USA.
In the forest, he hoped to found a new city and find peace, turning guerrilla soldiers into farmers. Here might end the story of the plasma weapon, but it would not be so. Simply put, the War against the Machines had pumped out a vast supply of plasma weaponry and ammunition, enough to arm anyone that needed or wanted one. SKYNET’s vast staging points of weaponry and ammunition was emptied, arming more humans with plasma DEWs even more than during the “hot war” phase. This was of grave concern to President Conner along with the fate of the war machines of SKYNET.
During the war, TECHCOM scientists had been able to cut the puppet strings of some of the T-500, T-600, and T-800 series Terminators and re-purpose them for frontline combat duty, work detail, and close protection. Now, there was thousands of Terminator models laying immobile and awaiting a new master. As Conner and the settlers were establishing what has become nick-named “Sarah Town” in Alaska, some war-lords and dealers were taking the endos off of the old battlefields.
Some of the re-program were popping up in region conflicts and raids. Conner was not pleased. He organized a specialized unit, nick-named “the Junkers”, to surgically strike at the reprogrammed stockpiles of old SKYNET Terminators and ground H-K units, aerial were re-purposed by nearly everyone for transportation. The Junkers used the various models of modified aerial Hunter-Killer units to launch their missions. During recon missions of potential targets, by some of Conner’s special operations units, new plasma weaponry was making appearances in the various human settlements. It seemed progress continues to march forward, even after the apocalypse.

Under the Plastic: Plasma Weapon of Terminator

The Resistance M25A1 (The Terminator)
The first plasma weapon seen in the hands of the Resistance is the bullpup M25A1 plasma rifle fitted with a the advanced flexy-sight CRT system. The weapon itself was named in the 1985 Terminator novelization by Frakes and Wisher along with the flexy-sight system seen mounted on top of Reese's issued M25A1. Under the limited sci-fi covering was the rare Finnish bullpup variant of the Valmet M76 AK clone, the M82, that chambering both the NATO 5.56mm and the Warsaw Pact 7.62x39mm and were made from 1978-1986.
This variant of the standard issue M76 was designed for paratroopers and vehicle operators that needed a compact weapon without relying on traditional buttstocks like most compact AK variants. The M82 is one of the few bullpup AK variants in existence, like the Chinese Type-86S, but this Finnish carbine was never put into active military service and was rejected during testing.
According to some reports, paratroopers experienced mouth injuries due to the front sight when they made hard parachute landing. Another issue was the lack of ability to be used by left-handed shooters and the oddball iron sights were mounted on the left side of the weapon, making it rather odd. This was not the end of the Valmet M82 story; about 2,000 were produced by Valmet and sold to the civilian market mainly in the USA via Odin International Ltd in Alexandria, Virginia. These are rare today and command a heavy price over other 5.56mm bullpup assault rifles.
The prop master on Terminator, Tommy Estridge, is likely responsible for getting this rare Finnish carbine into the 1984 film due to its 5.56mm caliber, its sci-fi look, and being a bullpup (which was futuristic in the 1980s). There was much research conducted by Yoel and myself to attempt to track down the prop house that rented the guns of the first Terminator film without a clear answer. I am not sure who Tommy Estridge had a relationship with and it is possible that the key Hollywood gun rental house, Stembridge, was the source of the M82 Valmet because of their involvement in Terminator 2 and Stembridge Gun Rental supplying 1984’s Red Dawn with Valmet M76s for the Eastern Bloc AKs. While unconfirmed, I believe that was one blank firing M82 “hero” prop used on T1 and can be seen in the 2029 flashback when Kyle’s bunker is assaulted by the T-800.
When Kyle returns fire with his M25A1, there is a brief moment when a spent casing is ejected. We know that rubber stunt copies were made, and I believe that these were used in the H-K tank hunting scene in the hands of Reese and Ferro (played by Linda Hamilton's stunt double Jean Malahni). Then that brings us to the Flexy-Sight optic system mounted to the top of the M25A1. Yoel and I extensively researched the Flexy-Sight came to several conclusions. There several mentions of camera parts being used to make the Flexy-Sight CRT.
However, I found sources stating that a GAF Pana-Vue 2 slide viewer was used to pull off the effect of the Flexy-Sight on set. The front portion of the sight was likely accomplished by camera parts or a rifle scope. Some sources have claimed that the bulky night vision scopes mounted on M16 seen in 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind are the source of the front assembly of the Flexy-Sight (I totally forgot there were guns in that film!). These massive scopes are similar or the same to the historic M3 carbine’s night vision scope setup used in the Korean War or the Vietnam War-era Starlight scopes.
Hard rubber stunt rifle used in ] The Terminator 
This was the only time that the M25A1 plasma rifle was seen in a live-action Terminator film or the TV series, with the design only carried over in other media likely due to the rarity of the M82 bullpup, which itself, has only been seen in a few films and TV shows. Let me just a finer point on that, the M25A1 is the rarest plasma gun in all of the Terminator universe. It only appears a few times in some comics, video games, and a single toy for some reason. Despite being seen over several times in the landmark 1984 film, it never caught on like the T2 M95 did. When it came time to arm Resistance soldiers with plasma rifle for the sequel, the M82A was not selected, and they settle instead for the popular Muzzelite MZ14.

The SKYNET's M95 (Terminator 2, T2 3-D, T3. T:SCC)
When it comes to the iconic, go-to design of the Terminator franchise plasma rifle, the M95 wins the title. While first seen in the 1991 sequel, this bullpup plasma rifle has been inserted into the Terminator TV series, toys, collectibles, video games, gaming miniatures, and comic books of the expanded Terminator universe. Under this massive (31” x 14” x 3.5) futuristic bullpup rifle is one of the most unusual weapons sold on the US civilian firearms market: the Calico series of rifles and pistols.
Under the fiberglass and resin prop covering, the beating heart of the Westinghouse M95A1 is the Calico M960 Liberty 100 9mm submachine gun. The Calico series of weapons was no stranger to the world of science fiction prop weaponry, due to their futuristic design and the helical-feed magazines. Despite the “adventurous” design and exposure in movies, the Calico Light Weapon Systems Company did not have as much success as planned, but the company is still in business, plugging along to this very day.
The origins of the original prop have been difficult to track down. Some repeatedly credit the Stan Winston Studio, founded by the famed special effects/make-up wizard who worked on T1 and T2, as the origin of the Endoskeleton M95 rifle. However, I believed that on-set armorers Harry Lu and Tony Didio Jr. were the responsible wholly or partially for the M95 plasma rifle. Their duties extended to be responsible for the real-steel weapons and at the time, both men were also employed with Stembridge gun rentals. Adding to the inclusion of the oddball, but futuristic, Calico was that Tony Didio Jr. was the armorer on the set of Total Recall as well, which had Calico in that 1990 film.
Why would the M95 plasma rifle even need a blank firing 9mm weapon? According to the limited information available, the Calico M960 muzzle flash would have been incorporated into the plasma beam special effect from the lower, thinner barrel. However, the recoil was too much for the Endoskeleton animatronic models and the risk of damage to the Endoskeleton was just too great, causing the abandonment of the live-fire Calico.
The M95s seen in the T2 3-D Battle Across Time ride was fitted with a laser sight for dramatic purposes and deleted the blank-fire Calico. Some of the original props that have sold state that the Calico M960 is a dummy non-firing weapon. On screen, the larger upper barrel fired the deadly plasma and the second barrel was mute.  This design choice left the twin barrels on the M95 and this has caused confusion among Terminator fans. If the original plan  was for a blank-firing Calico M960 to be used, what is the deal with the larger bore upper barrel? Some, including me, have theorized that the M95 would have been fitted with a magazine-fed micro-grenade launcher, similar to the real-world H&K XM29 OICW. There is no proof or evidence concerning this theory. After Terminator 2, the M95 would reappear in the third film as a CGI-only  weapon and in the Sarah Conner Chronicles TV show as a rubber model of the original prop.

The Resistance M30A1 (Terminator 2)
For the second film, James Cameron had more money to play with and he intended to bring the grandeur to the sequel to the 1984 film that made him a household name. During the dynamic opening depicting a pitched battle between John Conner’s army and a SKYNET force defending the Time Displacement lab in LA, we see human soldiers rush into the fray of battle against the machines with plasma bolts darting across the screen. In the hands of dozens of extras that were hired to portray Conner’s Resistance fighters was not the Finnish Valmet M82 M25A1, but a familiar sci-fi prop weapon: the Muzzelite MZ14 bullpup.
This iconic polymer conversion vacuform clamshell body kit for the Ruger Mini-14, 10/22, and AC-556 had been seen in dozens of sci-fi films and TV shows as a futuristic weapon that either fired bullets or beams. First appearing in 1990 in such films as Total Recall, Predator 2, and Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection, it gained a following as an easy, reliable blank firing weapon among Hollywood armorers due to the gun under-the-plastic was the “jamless wonder”: the AR556. Many of us know that the most legendary Muzzelite in sci-fi cinema is the Morita I bullpup assault rifle from SST.
How did the Muzzelite get the role as the Resistance plasma carbine? I think there are several reasons. One being that the Muzzelite was an easy solution to arming a bunch of Resistance troopers with a sci-fi looking gun without investing a serious amount of cash into a prop weapon that was only on screen for a blink of an eye…unlike the M95A1 in the hands of the T800 Endoskeletons. The second was that it was a reliable blank firing weapon that has proven itself on other major film shoots. Third and interestingly enough, one of the on-site film armorers, likely associated with Stembridge Gun Rentals, Tony Didio Jr. was also the armorer on another Schwarzenegger sci-fi film with Muzzelite bullpups: 1990’s Total Recall.
Among the various types of Muzzelites seen in the hands of the Resistance was a large sci-fi themed aiming system. After much research, I located just what these slights were: the LS45 laser sight made by Nevada-based company Imatronic. Premiering at the 1987 SHOT show, the LS45 was aimed at a lower price point than other contemporary laser sights at the time in 1987, which was about $1000, while the LS45 was priced at $449 (about $1000 in today’s money). Powered by two 9volt batteries that generated a 12,000-volt helium-neon laser at a range of about 300 yards for operation time of 45 minutes, the LS45 generated press in magazines like Guns & Ammo at the time. I can recall this magazine article from back-in-the-day and how futuristic firearm laser aiming devices were. Some of the LS45 laser sights mounted on the Muzzelite carbines for the Resistance was also fitted with a Pana-Vue 2 slide viewer like Reese’s M25A1 for T1, to either stylistic connect it to the M25A1 sights of the original film or to ramp up the futuristic angle of these weapons.

The SKYNET General Dynamics RSB-80 (The Terminator and T2)
One of the most mysterious plasma weapons in all of the original two Terminator films is the RSB-80 rapid pulse plasma gun that serves in the role as a general purpose directed energy machine gun for both sides in the conflict and is the only plasma weapon to appear in both of the good Terminator films. The name of this weapon is never mentioned in the films, but comes from the Terminator novelization and has since been distributed liberally throughout the internet over the years. During the assault on the bunker in one of the two flashback future war scenes, an T-800 infiltrator played by Schwarzenegger bodybuilding pal Franco Columbu, whips out an RSB-80 and wrecks havoc on the Resistance bunker. This has one of the most iconic scenes in the film where the T-800 glowing red eyes are seen in the darkness as purplish hued plasma bolts cracking out of the long dangerous weapon.
The RSB-80 also appears early in the film when Kyle Reese attempts to escape the patrolling H-K aerial units after the destruction of the H-K tank unit during a sapper raid. Mounted on top of the old 1970s junker car is an re-purposed captured RSB-80 and it attempts to engage the pursuing H-K and fails, killing the other soldier and wounded Reese. This RSB-80 in this scene is notable because the fabricated barrel shroud breaks just as the vehicle crashes.It is unknown if the broken prop weapon was a stunt rubber cast or the real RSB-80 prop...which could have been the only one assembled for the 1984 film.
While the M25A1 Resistance plasma rifle would not return for the 1991 sequel, the RSB-80 did...for a few seconds. During the opening Los Angeles 2029 battle scene which was going to frame the last battle in the war and the capturing of the Time Displacement lab, the Resistance had setup an RSB-80 as a crew-served weapon and it engages an aerial H-K unit. That is it and it gone in a heartbeat.While the Terminator T-800 Endoskeletons would wield something close to the RSB-80 in the other films, it is not the same weapon.
Unlike the M95 or the M25A1, we do not have any hard evidence of just what the RSB-80 prop weapon is constructed around. FWS spent months researching and reaching out to anyone that could answer some of the puzzling questions of the assumed machine gun-like weapon used under the sci-fi covering. The primary firearms prop-master on T1 was Tommy Estridge and FWS reached out to him after extensive digging to find contact information and even went as far as contacting actor Franco Columbu to see if he could shed some light on the RSB-80. No answers came and so FWS is going to have to go on the information uncovered.
The only primary source FWS was able to undercover about the weapon was from an three year old  interview with TheArnoldFans.com website, which Tommy said this about the future weapon: "Well, that was the special effects gun. That wasn’t actually a machine gun. It was something that the guys made up; It had gas. It had propane tubes behind an igniter, and it would make the effect. So it was really more of a special effects thing". At times, prop weapons are hooked up to oxygen, acetylene, or propane fuel sources to generate realistic muzzle flashes instead of relaying on just blank ammo or post-production special effects. This dynamic "flame" effect can clearly be seen in screen captures of the infiltrator bunker assault scene and the original teaser trailer where the plasma pulse beam effect was not included. Also, it appears that Franco is controlling the flame effect via some sort of trigger located near the spadeg grip. Upon inspection of the 2029 chase scene, it appears that that RSB-80 has a "gas gun" effect rigged up that was likely unhooked prior to the crash. Yoel and I spent hours scouring for the gas line to the RSB-80 and we believe that it can be barely seen due to Cameron's excellent use of light and smoke. Given how common gas effect guns are used in conjunction with WWII era machine guns, this could shed some light on just what the hell the Franco-Terminator is holding.
There is much debate on the identity of the prop machine gun online and there is no consensus. Due to the overall design, the RSB-80 is likely constructed around an Browning M2 Water Cooled machine gun due to the spade grips and the large protruding wooden charging handle. Some have said it is a Vickers machine gun or the Colt variant of the M1919 machine or even the Browning AN/M2 aircraft variant machine gun...which is also highly likely. However, even if the RSB-80 prop future gun is based on the AN/M2 machine gun...is there a "real" gun under the coverings? Some online have doubted that Franco could wield the heavy machine gun around as he does, even if there is no recoil from blank ammo. Many counter, bring up the point that Franco Columbu was only 5'5, so the weapon would look bigger, and that he was Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia several times in his bodybuilding career.
If anyone could swing around an machine gun, it would be Franco. Also likely is that RSB-80 seen in T1 is stylistic close to the one seen T2, but given the length of time between both films, the T2 RSB-80 could be based on another machine gun and may not be the same prop...again, the debate rages. Not helping the search for answers about the RSB-80 is that the prop has never been seen beyond the film itself, it has never come up for sale, and few in the prop community have paid much attention to it. I wish there was more concrete answers, but that is the best FWS could do.

The Plasma DE Weaponry of the Machine War Era (*Credit to Chris Shields*)

The Resistance M25 series of Phased Plasma Assault Rifle
Type: Human Designed Directed Energy bullpup assault rifle
Place of Manufacture: CLASSIFIED
Produced: 2019-2029
Service History: 2020-2029
Used by: All allied human Resistance groups, mercenary units, scavengers, and non-aligned groups
Weight: 12.89 lbs (fully loaded)
Overall Length: 41.3 inches
Barrel Length: 17.7 inches
Feed Source: Detachable Box fuel cell (Field-issued Prototype) Detachable micro-tank pulse injector cartridge (A1 and A2)
 Action: magnetic bottle fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot
Effective Range and Velocity: 750 meters (2460 feet) 29,527 feet-per-second
Ammunition: 7x50mm plasma bolt equal to about .32 Mj at +4500 degrees
Sights: Model 12 Flexy-Sight CRT (“the box”), Model 15 Flexy-Sight CRT (“the slim”)
Variants: XM25, M25A1, M25A2

Operational History:
Since the moment SKYNET had released the first field-grade plasma weapons, the Resistance has been attempting to reverse engineer the technology and turn the technology against its masters. While the heavier plasma weapons could retrofitted to serve as static defensive system or on a vehicle-mounted platform, the handheld models used by the early Terminator models were barely usage by human warfighters. During Operation: HELIOS in 2016, the mainline Resistance groups semi-united under John Conner’s banner were finally able to gain access to a new generation of handheld plasma weapon technology that could allow for human-designed weaponry that was not cobbled together from salvaged parts and pieces.
While they now have the knowledge via the clandestine mission, the Resistance in North America (the primary front in the War in the Machines) did not have the industrial capability to assemble the amount of plasma weapons needed for the various Resistance units operating in North American and other global fronts. While there were workshops tucked away from the spying eyes of the machines, Conner knew that they could not make what he needed in the volume needed.
That fell to the nations not directly affected by the Judgement Day exchange. Using submarines and piggybacking signals on the SKYNET satellite network After 24 failed prototype weapons at the underground Auckland Resistance lab; the 25th was successful, christening the new human-designed and constructed plasma rifle the M25. When the plasma bullpup assault rifle was ready for testing, submarines delivered the field grade prototype, the XM25, to some of Conner’s units for testing and evaluation in 2019. After several engagements, the data was sent back to Auckland to alter the first generation of standard issue M25A1s. By 2020, the first batches of M25s were arriving into the North American theater and some were taken off dead Resistance fighters by SKYNET forces and shipped to Tulsa. This was a new development in the genocidal campaign against the humans and SKYNET needed to locate the overseas production facilities and mount an operation to stop the flow of these weapons.
Along with the production of the M25 assault DE rifle was the newly developed advanced Model 12 “flexy-sight” CRT system. Married together, the M25A1 became a lethal tool in the hands of the Resistance, various mercenary units, and even scavengers. This became the standard weapon of the Resistance from 2020 until the end of the war in 2029. In 2025-2027, the overseas logistical system was able to start the import of the upgraded M25, the A2, which was more efficient with thermal loads, allowing for greater bursts of full-auto fire than the A1. This weapon has become one of the enduring symbols of the war and is still seen in the hands of humanity in the new post-machine world. 

The Resistance M-30A1 Phased Plasma Carbine

Type: Human Designed Directed Energy bullpup assault carbine
Place of Manufacture: CLASSIFIED
Produced: 2027-2029
Service History 2028-2029
Used by: All allied human Resistance groups, mercenary units, scavengers,nonaligned groups
Weight: 11.5lbs (fully loaded)
Overall Length:  43.3inches
Barrel Length: 16.1inches
Feed Source: Detachable micro-tank injector pulse cartridge
Action: magnetic bottle fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot
Effective Range and Velocity: 500 meters ( 1640 feet) 29,527 feet-per-second
Ammunition: 5x320mm plasma bolt equal to about .25Mj at +4500 degrees
Sights: Model 15 Flexy-Sight CRT (“the slim”)
Variants: None

Operational History
As the war in North America heated up and SKYNET was losing ground overseas, more and more international support poured into Resistance groups, especially groups aligned with John Conner. Among the newest international soldiers was a new plasma rifle, tested in America, but manufactured overseas: the M30A1. Designed to be lighter, more manageable, and firing a smaller plasma pulse bolt than the M25 or M95 series, it was intended to be fired in burst or full-auto with the new M30 able to counter the thermal load longer than the older M25 series. Quickly, the new soldiers were stripped of their new guns and handed beat up M25s. Even John Conner carried the new M30 carbine in the last battle with the machines in LA, at the mount of the TDE underground facility. Only in service for barely one year when SKYNET was defeated in July 11th, 2029; M30A1 continued to be the weapon of the new human governments in the post-war world.

SKYNET M-95 series of Phased Plasma Assault Rifle

Type: SKYNET Designed Directed Energy bullpup assault rifle
Place of Manufacture: Tulsa, Oklahoma Westinghouse Hardened Automated Factory
Produced: 2016-2029
Service History: 2017-2029
Used by: All SKYNET Terminator Models, captured and used by human Resistance units,
Weight: 17.5lbs (fully loaded)
Overall Length: 39.37 inches
Barrel Length: 17.7 inches
Feed Source: Magazine-styled magnetic container equal to 100 pulses
Action: magnetic bottle fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot guide (A1, A2), micro-magnetic tank injector cartridge fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot guide  (A3)
Effective Range and Velocity: 1400 meters (4600 feet) 29,527 feet-per-second
Ammunition: 10x1000mm plasma bolt equal to about .65 Mj at +4500 degrees
Sights: None
Variants: XM95, M95A1, M95A2, XM95A3, M20A1

Operational History
On the battlefields of the War against the Machines, the most common handheld plasma weapon in the hands of the Endoskeletons was Westinghouse M95 series that replaced the primitive M18, but was relatively uncommon in the hands of the resistance. Entering into service around 2011 as the M95A1, it was designed to be wielded by T500s, T600s, and T800s, and was not designed with humans in mind. When comparing this weapon against the Resistance M25 or M30, there is a stark difference and these differences kept the M95 series more of emergency battlefields pick up rather than the first choice of Resistance fighters. All of the M95s are heavy, nearly 20 lbs. when fully fueled, and they lack any external aiming system, or even simple iron aiming sights. They were designed to be used by Terminator units, where weight did not really matter and the weapon communicates wirelessly with the optical system of the Terminator to be aimed more like an assault pistol rather than a traditional rifle.
Speaking to how different the T-600 and T-800 series are from the standard human warfighter, metal often wields two M95s, especially the A1s!  It is rare to see an unmodified M95 series in the hands of any Resistance soldier due to these issues. When rarely used by a Resistance fighter or scavenger, the frame’s weight is cut down via shaving off material, an sight system is added, and a sling is added. What often happened to the captured M95 series rifles were broken down and their parts reused for the common “liberator” cobbled plasma rifle. One of the most impressive elements of the M95 series was the size of the plasma bolt that erupted from the barrel of this monster: 10x1000mm. Often a single hit from a M95 is either lethal or delivers massive trauma coupled with burns. Through the “hot” phase of the war, the M95 series was the weapon-of-choice for the frontline Terminator units, and has endured as a key symbol of the war today as we look back upon the conflict.

The Variants of the M95 series of 10mm Plasma Rifles

The XM95
Much like humans, SKYNET issued several field-grade prototypes to field test the new plasma rifle and around 2016, as the placement for the aging M18. The XM95 Seen for about a year in the field with changes emerging as SKYNET worked out the bugs of the new weapons.  These were captured by Resistance forces and turned over to TECH-COM and various research labs in the mountains of Mexico.

The M95A1
Issued to the T-500 and T-600 model Terminators around 2017 and is noted for having an interior hydrogen slush tank that was considered very heavy by Resistance personnel and was hardly used by humans due to the weight and not being field rechargeable. On board, the various HK ground units were recharging slots that the Terminators could swap out their exhausted M95A1s for a fresh one. Despite being released in 2017, the A1 was widely in service until the end of the war as the primary variant used by the Terminators.

The M95A2
When the war heating up in the 2020s, SKYNET attempted to field another M95 that would rechargeable in the field given the intensity of engagements. Often Endoskeletons were running out of ammunition and forced to use pick-up Resistance weaponry. The A2 used magazine-sized slush hydrogen tanks, allowing the Terminators to carry about four to five hundred pulses of 10x1000mm for their M95 rifle.
While seemingly a solution, the human factor applied and ruined SKYNET’s plans. Human sniper teams were able to target and detonate the spare magazines causing the complete loss of the Terminator unit and possibly surrounding units. In addition, the spare magazines were excellent sources of ready-to-use plasma that could be used for Resistance weapons and/or as explosives. The A2 were shortly lived, being phased out around 2024.

The M95A3
Information gathered from on-site Intel missions at the Tulsa Westinghouse facility generated the Operation: HELIOS and one of the technologies SKYNET was experimenting with was the micro-tank injector cartridge system. This technology allowed for the Resistance to field reliable plasma weapons that were easier to manage logistically than the Liberator rifles with their small slush tanks. Based on captured M25s, SKYNET reasoned it was time to develop an M95 that used the injection cartridge system: the A3. Fielded in 2028, the A3 was still in testing and evaluation when the Resistance was able to successfully able to break into Cheyenne mountain and take down SKYNET. It is unknown if SKYNET would have fielded the A3 in the same massive numbers as the A1.

The M20A1
Developed alongside the M95A3 was the “pistol” variant of the M95, the rarely seen M20A1. Designed along the lines of an assault pistol or a submachine gun, it was an experimental weapon system for the new T-800 infiltrators to have a concealable plasma weapon system during close quarters engagements in human hideouts. These were rarely seen and they were far too heavy to be usable by the majority of Resistance fighters. 

The SKYNET General Dynamics RSB-80 Series Heavy Rapid Pulse Phased Plasma Gun
Type: SKYNET Designed Directed Energy Heavy Support Weapon
Place of Manufacture: General Dynamics Austin, Texas Advanced Automated Factory
Produced: 2012-2029
Service History 2012-2029
Used by: All SKYNET Terminator Models, captured and used by human Resistance units as a crew-served weapon system
Weight: 78.3 (fully loaded)
Overall Length: 68.8 inches
Barrel Length: 45inches
Feed Source: Backpack sized containment bottle, attached rear portable bottle/cassette, chain-fed (experimental model only)
Action: magnetic bottle fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot guide (A1, A2), micro-magnetic tank injector cartridge fed, laser pulse vaporizer and pilot guide  (A3)
Effective Range and Velocity: 1500meters (4900feet) 29,527 feet-per-second
Ammunition:  15x1000mm plasma bolt equal to about .75Mj at +4500 degrees
Sights: None
Variants: RSB-80A1, RSB-80A2, XRSB-80A3, RSB-90

Operational History
The first combat-grade plasma weapons used by the machines against the human resistance were mounted to the various mobile platforms, like the Hunter-Killer Tank, Walker, and Aerial models. The challenge was to modify these heavy plasma weapons to a Terminator-portable system and that requirement was met by the General Dynamics RSB-80 series. Unlike many of the plasma DE weapons of the war, the RSB-80 had some of its DNA from pre-war advanced weapons program run by DARPA/USAF/GD out of a hardened facility in Austin, Texas.
After the war, SKYNET was mobilizing its remaining resources and the plant in Austin was one brought online. It was discovered that the defense contractor was in the R&D phase of a mobile DEW system to replace the heavy machine guns on mobile platforms, like armored vehicles. SKYNET took this research and was able to produce the RSB-80 series of heavy rapid-pulse plasma weapons beginning in 2012. The first model was the RSB-80A1 that used a massive backpack sized slush hydrogen magnetic container mounted on the backs of the first series of Terminators with a fuel line feeding the rapid-fire weapon.
At 60 pulses-per-minute, the first generation of the RSB-80 was one of the most powered (and feared) weapons of the machines. It was used in a similar role as a pre-war light machine gun or as a manned or automated static defense of the few SKYNET facilities outside of Cheyenne Mountain. These mounted RSB-80s were feed by a fuel line tied to the installation. These models deferred due to an increased need for cooling during heavy use. Humans gained access to these and turned them back on their masters.
While there was few humans, especially in the post-war world, that could handle a nearly two-meter long support weapon that generated a great deal of heat and weighs in at over 70 lbs, the RSB-80 made for an excellent crew-served plasma machine gun. Mounted to junker cars, or carried in pieces to a battlefield and set up, The RSB-80 was used effectively by the Resistance on their original masters. As the M18 was developed and fielded, the RSB-80A1 was improved to the A2. Gone was the cumbersome backpack mounted containment tank that made for an attempting target for Resistance snipers, and it was replaced by either an internal bottle of 300 pulses or the later cassette capable of 500 pulses.
These improved in the RSB-80A2 allowed for the weapon to become even more portable and deadly. Some Terminators would storm Resistance bunkers with an RSB-80A2 to inflict maximum terror and destruction. Even without direct contact with the powerful 15x1000mm plasma bolt, close quarters usage of the rapid-pulse DEW could burn or suffocate the humans due to the thermal wash and ozone. However, with the massive amount fuel store internally on the RSB-80A2, a (un)lucky plasma pulse could transform the plasma weapon into a powerful explosion. The reprogramed T-800 used by the Resistance for the Cheyenne Mountain mission, these “friendly” Terminators were armed with RSB-80s to lay down heavy plasma fire to suppress the incoming metal.
During the July 11th, 2029 battles at Cheyenne Mountain and the TDE LA underground lab/base, it was discovered that the replacement for the venerable RSB-80A2 was undergoing testing. The RSB-80A3 was an experiment in using the plasma pulse injection cartridges instead of the cassettes, but none have seen outside of the testing facilites. Then there was the RSB-90. Unlike the single barreled RSB-80 series, the 90 would had a sleeker profile and a unique experimental rotary barrel system that allowed for the cooling of one barrel as another was used to fire the weapon. Even in the current era of post-machine war peace, the RSB-80 is still present, defending the new human settlements and facilities.

The Resistance "Liberator" or "Salvage" Phased Plasma Rifles
Since 2011 when SKYNET began fielding plasma DE weapon systems, they were turned against their original owners by various human factions, to varying degrees based on the skills of the operator. These weapons varied from the workshops that made them across the North American battlefield, but they all shared common names “salvage rifles” or “liberator rifles” and they were the first human-designed plasma weapons in the war prior to the M25A1. Sourced from industrial parts, old firearms, and salvaged SKYNET tech, the liberator rifles were the only truly universal plasma rifle of the war because very armed human cell possessed at least one liberator.
There were some that capitalized on their skills of reverse engineering SKYNET technology into human-used weapons demanding canned goods, clean water, and women for their labors. Some of these rathole engineers stamped their work, becoming legends among the scavengers and Resistance groups. On the other side of the coin was poorly designed and constructed plasma rifles that explode when used, killing and wounded fighters. There have been cases when these explosions occur during assembly, destroying or exposing these hidden workshops.

The Impact and Legacy of the Plasma Weapons of Terminator
While plasma directed energy weapons have been in science fiction for some time, they never had popularity as the familiar laser or the "ray gun" that has been a fixture of science fiction history since the Tripod heat rays from War of the Worlds and 20,000 Leagues under of the Sea  “Leyden ball” weapons. Despite being mentioned in original Star Trek TV show, it was until Terminator popularized the plasma weapon concept during a time of flux in the world of sci-fi weapons. The 1980s were a time of introduction of new concepts of futuristic weapons and all had a patreon or ambassador to import the concept to the masses. Terminator was the patreon of the plasma weapon. While many regard the AMT Long-Slid Hardballer with the early SureFire laser designed by Ed Reynolds, Reese’s plasma rifle and the Terminator plasma machine gun are just iconic to some circles of sci-fi fans.
More than the weapons seen in the two 2029 flash-forwards was the dialog spoken by Arnold Schwarzenegger that allows all of us to understand just what these 21st century weapons fired. At the time, science fiction was extremely popular along with all manner of RPGs and tabletop war games, allowing for the incorporation of plasma weapons into these types of sci-fi works. Seriously, tons of 1980s wargames were populated with plasma directed energy weapons and this continued to filter down into comics, movies, and TV for years. This was increased when the sequel came out in 1991 and the direct impact of the films on the world of sci-fi weaponry deepened. The Legacy of the original Terminator film’s pulsed plasma arms can be seen in wide inclusion of plasma weapons into sci-fi like the EarthForce P(ulsed) P(lasma) G(un) pistol, the various weapons of the Covenant forces from HALO, the plasma rifle of DOOM, the plasma weapons of 40K, in Traveler, Archer, Battletech, and in Fallout universe. In addition to spreading the gospel of the plasma directed energy weapons, the Terminator franchise has trigger a number of copies of the plasma arms (mostly the SKYNET M95) seen in the films in various sizes, forms, and price points. And with the continued production of Terminator films, video games, comics, and collectibles; the impact & legacy of the plasma weapons of 2029 will continue…like the time traveling T-800s… 

Where Else Have We Seen the Terminator Plasma Weapons?
Unlike many other science fiction weapons, the plasma weapons of the first two films have really only been seen on works or products related to the Terminator universe with one exception. Here is a breakdown of the appearance of the plasma weaponry of the Terminator seen in other works and products.

The Plasma Weapons Seen in the Video Games
The collective history of the Terminator video games only goes back to 1991, despite the franchise being founded in 1984. The first game to carry the name was a DOS game by Bethesda from 1991 that allows the player to take on the role of the T800 or Reese in 1984 via a sandbox action-adventure format. The only mention of a plasma weapon is the title screen that is an amazing computerized image of the Franco T800 wielding the RSB-80 from the first film. Thus, this is the first appearance of a canon plasma weapon in a video game...it is just not what you expect. Sunsoft was working on a Terminator game in 1989 for the NES, but the license expired prior to the game being finished.
The next game to feature a plasma weapon was the Virgin Games 1992 The Terminator, a side-scroller that came out for the various Sega hardware at the time, including the Genesis and the often forgotten Game Gear handheld system. During the future sequences, you play as Reese mainly throwing hand grenades at the Terminators. The Terminators themselves are armed with something close to the RSB-80 heavy rapid-fire plasma cannon. towards the end of the stage, Reese finally gets a machine gun-like weapon that may be based on the M25A1...but it looks more like a pistol and the sound is not even close.
 In the mid-90s, Sega attempted to extend their Genesis/Mega-Drive hardware lifespan, they put out the CD drive system and one of the games put out for the hardware was the Virgin Games side-scroller 1993 The Terminator. Here is where we see two plasma rifles in the hands of the Endoskeletons and Reese. The T-800 Endoskeletons are clearing wielding the M95 plasma bullpup rifles and the Reese character looks closer to the M25A1 rather than the M30 seen in the hands of the Resistance in T2.
In the hands of the T-800s infiltrators in the game is what appears to be the RSB-80. Which makes the Sega-CD The Terminator only of the only games to feature the M95, the M25, and RSB-80 in one single game. Another side-scrolling Terminator game, 1993's The Terminator for the SNES features one of the few appearances of the RSB-80 mounted to a Resistance "Mad Max" Technical Truck. However, the Terminator game most of remember from this time was the awesome T2: Judgement Day arcade game from 1991. Similar to the also awesome Operation Wolf, the two-player arcade cabinet, the game is a rail shooter that has the players interact with the game via two light vibrating guns that were directly modeled on the M95 plasma rifles seen in T2. During the opening stages, the reprogrammed T800s battle through a post-apocalyptic LA with desperate resistance fighters and SKYNET forces battling it out. In the hands of the many Endoskeletons you blast are M95s as well. This was the only time that one of the Terminator light gun arcade games would use the plasma rifles model. The recent Terminator: Salvation light gun arcade gun using an M16-like weapon.
 Then that brings us to a game I played a great deal in 1992/1993: Bethesda's Terminator: 2029. In this 1992 MS-DOS game, you take the role of a member of Conner's elite Special Operations Group that recently staged a raid to capture the ACE battle armor and turned against the machines. This game was cool at the time, but there too many enemies and maze-like complexes that drain your desire to continue to the end. One the plasma weapon side, 2029 features the Endoskeletons using M95s and the Human Resistance appear to be using the M25 rifles.
One of the interesting elements of the plasma weapons in the game is the inclusion of the "watt range" and "phased" laid down by the first film. Your ACE battle armor has mounting hardpoints for equipment and weapons ranging from fusion grenades, missiles, and various phased plasma weapons. These specialized cannons that range from 40, 60, 80, and 100 watts power ranges. The power output depends on your advancement in the game, but the greater the power of your phased plasma cannons, the faster your fusion core depletes during combat operations. There was an expansion pack released for 2029 in 1993 called Operation Scour were another SKYNET core comes online in Washington D.C. which I played as well. Both games were repackaged and re-issued on CD-ROM in "the Deluxe CD Edition" for 1994. This is much rarer and improved some elements of the original game. These games were lead up the Bethesda Software Terminator FPS trilogy,
The first game in the first person shooter Bethesda trilogy was 1995's The Terminator: Future Shock that has you escaping from a death camp and joining the Resistance while battling all manner of machines the wasteland of 2015 LA via first-person shooter perspective. The overall feel and look of the game reminds me of Star Wars Dark Forces. In the game, the Endoskeletons use their familiar M95s, while you are about to use the M25 complete with a Flexy-Sight system similar to the film version, although it is called a laser rifle in the game. Later on, you are able to wield an RSB-80 heavy rapid plasma cannon that is modeled very closely to the one seen in the 1984 film.
This gives Terminator: Future Shock and the 1996 expansion pack Skynet the honor of being of the few games in the Terminator universe to unite the plasma weapons seen in T1 and T2 into a single game and allow you use the majority of the DE weapons in the game. Sadly, the M95 is not playable. When the game was released in 1996, the game came packed with an updated Future Shock. While mostly forgotten today as relics of the FPS crazy on CD-ROM PCs, these are some solid future war Terminator games that allow using the weapons seen in the first two films. Oh, and the little we say about 1993's Rampage the better. That game was set in 1988 and has you, a time-traveling commando, exploring a vast complex while battling Endos and looking for pieces to a prototype phased plasma weapon in a DOOM clone environment.

In 1992, there was an extreme comic mashup in the realm of iconic 1980s sci-fi films: Robocop vs. Terminator. The often praised Frank Miller developed a story where the OCP experimental Robocop cyborg is used by SKYNET to develop the technology for the Terminators and when Officer Murphy learns of this, he goes on a mission to stop the machines over a four-issue limited series by Dark Horse. This was so popular, that it spawned a mod-1990s side-scrolling video game for many of the major systems. In the game, Officer Murphy faces off with a number of SKYNET's machines and the familiar T-800 endoskeletons were armed with the M95 plasma rifles.
When the 3rd *film* in the Terminator universe was released in 2003, a number of video games were released to dominate the market across platforms. On the PC was the cool concept of a massive online shooter, like CounterStrike, that took place in the dark world of 2029: ATARI's T3: War of the Machines. One side would play as the Resistance (known as Tech-Com) and the other as the machines of SKYNET. There were a number of weapons and classes to choose from on both sides, including the M95 and the M25 complete with Flexy-Sight. It is honestly too bad this game sucks as much as it did because the concept was cool and it could have delivered the often broken concept of a proper FPS set in the Terminator dark future. Then that brings us to another ATARI Terminator game: Terminator: Dawn of Fate.
In 2002, ATARI would release a Terminator game set just before the first film on every platform and people like me who played it...sadly. Dawn of Fate is a bad game that does have some interesting elements. Kickboxing Endos actually models of the earlier series of Terminators, Perry as a character, and humans transformed into cyborgs for the machine side. In 3rd person shooter game, much of the Resistance soldiers are armed with a weapon called the "PLM 40" and is called a "laser rifle" not a plasma weapon. Similar in some ways to the M25 from the first movie, the PLM40 looks like a cross between Reese's rifle and the H&K PSG1 sniper rifle with a sound suppressor. The major of the machines used the M95 plasma rifle, which you cannot.
One of the last entries on this list is one of the saddest, in terms of potential: FPS Terminator. Developed by  Kevin M. Bryant, Ben Sterry and Thom Maggs on the Unreal Engine 3 mod as a nine-level single-player shooter taking place in the dark future of 2029. As a Resistance soldier, the game pitted you against the iconic war machines of SKYNET, including the T-800. Praised by the gaming press in 2010 as the demo was released, the FPS Terminator project was never finished by the team and completely abandoned.
This is a real pity because the game looked amazing and featured some solid shooting and environment, nailing the world of 2029. The plasma weaponry in the hands of the T-800 was the familiar SKYNET M95 and the Resistance had an odd mashup between the M4A1 with an underslung M203 and the M25 or even M30 plasma bullpup rifle with Flexy-Sight. Some of the demos had bullets ripping from the barrel of the Resistance rifle, but in a later update, it was clearly plasma. One of the mockups of the Resistance assault rifle said it was upgraded to the "MZ14", referring to the Muzzelite MZ14 used as the M30 plasma carbine in T2.
Then that brings to two of the oddest entries here: the ZDoom mod and the GameCo Terminator 2 video gambling machines. ZDoom is a source port of DOO and other games using the similar engine that was originally released in 1998 and the updating or any further development was halted in 2017. One of the many, many mods on ZDoom was an interesting Terminator ZDoom based on DOOM II. In the video posted on YouTube for 2015, you and the Resistance are engaged in a battle among the ruins. Endoskeletons sprites armed with M95s, HK war machines, and an M25 without the Flexy-Sight are all seen in the demo. Sadly, the game was never ore than that and the project ended shortly after.
Then that brings us to the last entry in the plasma weapons seen in Terminator video games: the fully licensed GameCo Terminator 2 video gambling machines. Ypu play as a reprogrammed T-1000 and your job to hunt down and kill T-800s with your morphing arm-blades and an M95 plasma rifle. The number of CPU cores you collect from destroyed Endoskeletons equal real-world money payouts. One of the most amazing elements of this bizarre Terminator game is that M95 is usable and this one of the two cases of that in all of Terminator video game history, the other being T3: War of the Machines.

The Toys and Collectibles 
When the first Terminator film was released back in 1984, there certainly was a movie tie-in toy industry that had given us toys from Star Wars and Star Trek, but given that the Terminator is rated "R" and was viewed as a horror movie, there were no licensed toys at the time. Of course, given the movie's impact and legacy, the same mistake was not made when T2 was released many years later. There was a retro toyline created and released by Funko's retro aimed ReAction line, including a T-800 Endoskeleton, but was stripped of any armament. During the release of Terminator 2, there was officially licensed toylines by Kenner in 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1997. All of these were bizarre toys that some relation to the film, but focused more on the T-800 and the T-1000 models than many of the characters of the iconic film. This concept of extreme T-800 models was extended by the "Future War" series in 1993. Despite weapons being packed in with the figures, there sadly was no plasma weapons from the films. The most unique piece in the line was the "Terminator Bio-Flesh Regeneator" playset. T-800 Endoskeletons were encased in a pinkish flesh that could be ripped off. In 1997, the Universal Terminator 2: Battle Across Time 3D had a tie-in toyline because why not? While 8 total figures were released, none of them possessed any plasma weapons.
During this time, a "lost" Terminator game was released by Leading Edge Games: Terminator 2: Years of Darkness. While not a "toy", this game was a miniature combat system game with the forces of the human Resistance and SKYNET locked in deadly combat in 2029. While FWS will be covering this and the ALIENS miniature combat system in a later blogpost, the important thing about the Years of Darkness does not only do it have miniatures with the M95, but also the M30 carbines! Not only were the M95s in the metal hands of Endos, but also some of the Resistance figures...another rarity. There was a line of miniatures for Terminator: Genisys, but none of these feature the original plasma weaponry...just ones featured in this abortion of a film. 
 For the most part, the years after the release of Terminator 2 have seen an explosion in film/sci-fi collectible culture with companies like Hot Toys and NECA. For years, these companies have cracked out various "collector" editions of the T-800 Endoskeletons and the iconic M95 SKYNET Endo plasma rifle. Added to this list is the unique Arnold Schwarzenegger modeled T-800 from the Universal Battle Across Time 3D that uses a captured M95...which is also a rarity in the world of collectibles patterned after the Arnold Terminator T-800. What is missing from this extensive history of toys and collectibles is the Human Resistance and Kyle Reese. That changed in 2005 with the release of Sgt. Tech-Com Kyle Reese!
While Kyle Reese is one of the key elements to the entire Terminator universe, he has been sadly ignored for years by the collectible market until Hong Kong-based Hot Toys released an amazing Tech-Com Sgt. Reese figure in 2005. Designed from the bunker attack scene and the HK attack, MMS-01-Terminator Kyle Reese Sergeant Tech-Com-DX-38416 comes complete with an amazing plastic copy of the M82A constructed M25A1 plasma rifle with the Flexy-Scope. Honestly, there is very nice work in  Added details that could easily miss are the holster and the gas mask. While we are uncertain of the what the holster held on-set back in 1984, the figure comes with a unique pistol: the H&K VP70 9mm.
The only connection I can see to Michael Biehn and this pistol is that the VP70  was used by some of the Colonial Marines in ALIENS as their sidearm,m but not Hicks...maybe that is why? There are some nicely done elements on the modified green nylon “MA-1” flight jacket with added quilted packing blanket panels that appeared in the film. The main error is that Reese's service number is wrong. The toy starts with "DX", not "DN" as Reese states several times in the film. Anyways, an amazing toy with the rarely seen M25A1 plasma rifle. While I've wanted the Hoy Toys Kyle Reese since its release, the figure commands a heavy price of around $800.

The M95 from T2: 3D the Battle Cross Time
After the smashing success of T2, Universal studios wanted to harness the world of Terminator for a standard stunt show at their amusement parks, however, this altered into a 3D short film coupled with live action and polytechnics. Costing $60 million for a 12-minute film and the specially constructed theater, it was the most ever spend per minute of any film. Some of the high cost was due to the high production value, hiring the same T2 actors in their iconic roles, along with James Cameron at the helm in the director’s chair. In 1996, Universal Studios would open Terminator 2 3-D: Battle Across Time to great success. In the story of the T2 T-800 and John Conner traveling forward in time to 2029 to confront SKYNET itself as the forces of the machine god attempt to hunt down and kill them.
During the conflict, the reprogrammed T-800 disarms another T-800 and takes its M95 plasma rifle. Accounting to the information I found, the T2 3-D SKYNET plasma rifles were based on the props from the second film but were stripped of the blank-firing Calico M-960 and a laser sight was added for dynamic effect. Recently, NECA released an action figure based around the Resistance bodyguard T-800 using a captured M95. While the film had a good run, the Terminator 2 3-D: the Battle Across Time attraction was closed between 2012 and 2017.

The CGI M95 from Terminator 3: Rise of Machines
Since the 1991 sequel, there have been no good Terminator films, and the one that gifted us with that was 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machine. Like most Terminator films, it opens with a future war scene with dancing plasma beams, HK buzzing, and Endoskeletons marching. In that iconic scene with the squadron of Endoskeletons matching down the hill, it seemed that all the metal are armed with an upgraded RSB-80 rapid heavy plasma gun concept, but in the background are several Endos armed with our friend, the familiar M95. According to my research, every part of that scene was special effects, including the M95. This may be the last appearance of the M95 plasma rifle in a film…shame it was in such a bad movie.

The M95 from Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles
In 2008, FOX would finally bring the long-promised Terminator television series to the airwaves in the Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles. While mostly set in the present day with Sarah and John Conner on the run with their T-950 Terminator in the form from a woman in 2027 named Allison Young, there were a few episodes taking place in 2027. In 1x06 “Dungeons & Dragons”, we see Derek Reese operating in 2027 and being captured by rubber-skinned T-600s. In the hands of Derek and other Resistance fighters is an M95, but with a scope and sling. It would also appear in the two-parter “Today is the Day” with the crew of the US Navy submarine Jimmy Carter using M95s on a secret mission. From the information provided, these plasma rifles were rubber cast of the original Terminator 2 plasma rifle.
The Resistance M30A1 Muzzelite MZ14 from Leprechaun 4
There seems to be this trend in horror movies to overuse and overexpose a novel horror monster character via sequel after sequel until you put them into outer space. In 1997, the Leprechaun film franchise took its iconic character and put it out into space in the year of 2096. One interesting note about the original Leprechaun movie is that pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston "starred" in the first 1993 film. When the Leprechaun disrupts mining operations on an alien world, a team of space marines is sent in to kill the little green bastard. In hands of our valiant space marines is the Muzzelite MZ14, but not just any Muzzelite, these appear to be the same exact props used by the Resistance soldiers in Terminator 2, due to set up and the Imatronic LS45 laser aiming modules attached. This is the only known appearance of the Resistance M30A1 Muzzelite MZ14 in another film. 

Recently, a Dallas(!) team came together to film a bold fan film about the T-800 infiltrator units and their operations in the holes and bunkers human hid themselves. Overall, it is not a bad film and features the M95 and a mock-up of prop weapon very close to the RSB-80. The Resistance is armed with a weapon as close to the M25A1 as they could; an airsoft copy of the Tavor TAR-21

The Comic Books
Another place where some of the Terminator plasma rifles of the films (and many, many others) have been seen is the in over 120 Terminator comics released by the stun-down NOW Comics and Dark Horse. Back in 1988, NOW Comics would begin the first Terminator monthly series that picked up the War against the Machines in 2031. Over the course 17 issues, dozens of different plasma rifles, cannons, machine guns, and pistols were seen with none of them being from the first film (T2 was not released until 1991). Only the aerial H-K plasma weapons were kept to a similar design as the first film flying hunters. Then in 1990, NOW Comics would release the greatest Terminator limited comic series ever: The Burning Earth. With watercolor art by Alex Ross, this dark tale featured all manner of plasma weapons that had the beams being stylistically very close to the first film and the H-K machines also featured the same heavy plasma weapons as T1. This is an awesome comic and needs to be read by all fans of the Terminator universe. While NOW's Terminator comics would break from the established plasma weapon designs, Dark Horse would retain some of the core weapons seen in T1 and T2, especially the M95. In the 2010 limited Dark Horse series called Terminator 2029, we would one of the only comic appearances of the M25A1 in the hands of Kyle Reese in the prelude story to the original film.

Why are there no Plasma Weapons in Terminator: Salvation?
I’ll admit it; I was pumped about the idea of a Terminator film set completely in the dark future with a good actor playing John Conner and possibly no time travel elements. Then I saw it…and I was underwhelmed along with confused. Salvation makes little sense on its own or even considered as an alternative view of the Terminator universe. Moreover, it breaks the long-held promise of a prequel Terminator film and DOES NOT have plasma weapons! Why doesn’t Salvation include plasma weapons?! It does…sort of.
The Harvester robot is equipped with a shoulder-mounted early plasma cannon that looks like one from the Predator universe than something in Terminator. There is also plasma weapons mounted to the Moto-Terminators as well. But, there are no handheld plasma weapons in the hands of the Resistance or the Terminators. Set in the year 2018(!), Salvation tells the tale of how John Conner became the heart and soul of the human resistance, how John and Reese met, and how the war looked 11 years prior to the first film, which includes the lack of plasma weaponry.
This was to be a time before their introduction on a portable scale, causing the Resistance and the T600 Terminators to use conventional firearms like the HK 416, GE M134 rotary cannons, and F2000 bullpups. Mentioned often online is that the Terminator units seen in the film are the T-500 and T-600 variety and are weaker than the T-800 that could be taken down by conventional firearms. Rumors online suggest that plasma weapons were in the works for the film along with some time travel elements, but they were scrapped prior to the final film. While there is no clear answer, I believe that are several.
Director McG wanted Salvation to be the first of a new trilogy that map out the path to the events prior to the original Terminator, and one way to set it apart from the other films is not to feature the iconic futuristic plasma weaponry. It is likely that the canceled sequels to Salvation would have featured plasma weaponry in two stages of development, but we never saw those films or the directed energy weapons. Then there is the cost. It was cheaper to have conventional blank firing props than SFX plasma beams dancing about fired from standard prop weapons, and the history/development of Salvation was a mess in every way. Having normal military weapons reduced the cost of building those future weapon props for the number of soldiers and enemy units seen onscreen.

Next Time on FWS...
There were few more respected science fiction gaming titles than BioWare's Mass Effect trilogy. However, the 3rd game seemed to slam the door shut on the possibility of more games. Then came Andromeda, with the transplant of the aliens, technology, and mood of the Milky Way Mass Effect into the Andromeda galaxy. Upon release, Mass Effect Andromeda became heavily mocked, criticized, and the last gasp of the Mass Effect series. It is time for FWS to review this game and see if it really that bad.

BONUS: James Cameron's Storyboards of the Dark Future 2029 from The Terminator