- "God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the firepower to make the difference."
- ―A common prayer for the Rim planets
Carbines, pistols, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and otherwise abound in the universe. Most of these weapons are modeled after historical weapons dating from the mid/late 19th century e.g. the Winchester Model 1873 lever-action rifle, the Winchester Model 1892 lever-action rifle, the Colt Single Action Army revolver, the Webley Mark VI revolver and the Winchester Model 1897 pump-action shotgun; to more contemporary weapons e.g. the Colt M4A1 carbine, the Armalite AR-18, the Heckler & Koch G36, the RSAF L85A1, the Steyr AUG, the IMI Uzi, the Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun series, the Heckler & Koch UMP, the M1 carbine, the FAMAS, the Ruger Mini-14, the Marlin 1895 lever-action rifle, the M60 GPMG, and the Kalashnikov AKM.
These weapons mimic their ancestors in appearance, but seemingly have larger magazine capacity (though this may be general tendency of not showing reloading process in film). Gunfire is high pitched compared to modern-day weapons fire because of an unspecified chemical propellant, and most ammunition is case-less.
Notably absent are lasers or other Sci-Fi weapons that we have come to expect, as they are top military technology not to be allowed into the hands of the public. Even if powerful hand held lasers were permitted to civilians, they would not be the best of weapons to use on a spacecraft. A laser which can cut through metal could just as easily cut through the hull of the ship, triggering explosive decompression and likely killing everyone aboard. Bullets by comparison will bounce around a few times at worst. Exceptions include Rance Burgess' laser pistol and the Lassiter.
In the TV series' episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds", "Vera", Jayne's powerful customized Callahan Full-bore Auto-lock is used to disable a space station which set a trap to catch Serenity. This weapon needs air to operate, so it normally cannot function in the vacuum of space. Unfortunately, the gun must be outside the ship in order to fire without piercing Serenity's own armor. A problem which is remedied by enclosing the weapon in a pressure suit, giving Jayne a few seconds to fire after his first shot before air in the suit runs out. It is one of the few weapons aboard Serenity which is capable of piercing armor, which is a generally undesirable feature for a shipboard weapon as mentioned above.
Weapons aboard spacecraft
While military ships as a matter of course are armed, the Alliance is less forgiving on the idea of armed ships in the hands of private citizens; for this reason most ships in The Verse are unarmed. Spacecraft weapons can be classified by the type of warhead they fire and their method of delivery.
Cannons refer to externally-mounted weapons which provide energy to launch a warhead at another spaceship, whether that be from a chemical or electromagnetic source. They are rated by the size of the warhead launched, anywhere from one to two hundred pounds, though only twenty-pound or above is truly considered spacecraft-grade. Due to the limited mobility of warheads launched by cannons they are largely restricting to firing at targets at short or point-blank ranges, making them primarily defensive weapons (and allowing civilians ships to get away with mounting one), while high rate-of-fire compensates for a lack in accuracy.
Bombs are simple warheads dropped from flying ships onto a target. With minimal guidance systems they rely on gravity and aerodynamics to reach a planetary target, usually structures and other stationary targets. For this role they are cheaper and more easily carried than missiles.
Magnetic Depth Charges use an electromagnetic pulse to destroy electrical systems. They are carried on Alliance Short Range Enforcement Vessels.
These small robotic ships are launched from larger vessels with instructions on what type of ship to attack and when to attack. Proper placement of space mines is required in order to catch their intended target, as their range is deliberately kept short in order to prevent the accidental targeting of friendly ships. Space mines are also very hard to spoof or shut down remotely since, once they have been giving their programming, all contact with outside sources is shut off.
Missiles are the primary offensive weapons of spacecraft, matching a warhead with a high-thrust chemical rocket and guidance package. Warhead sizes for missiles can get as large as multi-ton battleship killers, and are classified as either short (6 miles), medium (10 miles) or long-range (16 miles). Missiles can be fitted to the external rails of a spacecraft or mounted in simple tube or box luanchers, however their military nature means any civilian craft caught with one is immediately confiscated. Missiles can be launched in command-mode, with the firing vessel actively controlling it, or in fire-and-forget mode. However targeting information for the missile is provided by the firing vessel itself, making it more vulnerable to electronic counter-measures than other weapons.
Canister warheads contain a large number of one-inch ball bearings surrounding an explosive charge. Essentially a large shotgun shell the warhead will explode once it reaches optimal range, scattering the ball bearings in an expanding cloud. Primarily for defensive use they are capable of disrupting the guidance systems of bombs and missiles as well as damaging light vehicles.
Mimicking the sensor signature of a particular spacecraft, decoy warheads try to draw fire away from its launch platform. Small decoy warheads, like flares and chaff, present a false target, while larger ones can produce more varied effects. Outside of visual targeting, a decoy depends more on psychology than engineering to effectively fool its target.
These warheads are dual-purpose shaped charges, capable of causing maximum damage with a direct hit and, if used in an atmosphere, are powerful enough to shake a target even with a near miss.
Jammer warheads put out highly disruptive signals or radioactive material designed to confuse sensors and shut down communication systems. This can range from overwhelming the sensor system with noise, producing false returns to confuse it, or even generating low-level signals to cover up the target's existence.
Kinetic warheads are simple solid blocks of metal which, traveling at 2 miles a second, impact with the equivalent of their weight in high explosives. Cannons and missiles naturally launch warheads at this velocity, while kinetic bombs require the craft to perform a high-speed attack run to achieve the necessary velocity.
Also known as electromagnetic pulse warheads, these missiles and bombs use an explosive charge to generate an intense electrical current in a coil of wire, which sends out a wave of magnetic energy to fry electronic systems within range. These warheads are equally proficient in an offensive or defensive role, frying the guidance systems of missiles.
Nuclear warheads, unlike conventional explosives, are capable of causing effective proximity damage even in space. This category also includes "dirty" bombs which scatter radiation over a wide area; these are not as effective against other spacecraft as their radiation shielding provides sufficient protection.
Spacecraft-scale energy weapons do exist though they are not as common since, due to their energy requirements, many ships are limited by how large of a weapon they can mount. A number of different weapon types are classified as energy weapons:
While laser weapons have a number of advantages - are harder to dodge, more accurate than ballistic weapons, and require no ammunition - their sheer cost makes them impractical as spacecraft weapons.
Plasma Cutters can only be used at point-blank ranges, but are able to quickly dismantle old spacecraft or board an enemy ship by cutting through the hull.
The plasma projectiles fired by Plasma Packet cannons are limited to medium-range only and deal slightly less damage than other weapons, but they are superior at penetrating armor and don't require ammunition to fire.
- http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Firefly - Internet Movie Firearms Database page on the firearms used in Firefly
- http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Serenity - Internet Movie Firearms Database page on the firearms used in Serenity