In the Star Wars universe, lightsaber combat is a selling point. It hearkens back to the cinematic classics of Akira Kurosawa by putting the duels of feudal samurai into a sci-fi setting. When we watch Jedi go toe-to-toe on-screen, it sets our imaginations ablaze. And when it comes to merchandise, there are lightsaber toys flying off the shelves, as every kid wants to get their hands on that ultimate blade.
While this weapon is all-powerful and completely practical in both fiction and our imaginations, in reality, there are a number of headaches that would come with using a high-powered energy blade in contemporary combat.
1. Lightsabers are useless against guns
Let’s get the obvious shortcoming out of the way: range. A lightsaber’s max effective range is about three feet out from the user’s hand. Blasters, on the other hand, reach much further.
We can cut the lightsaber a bit of slack since the blasters in Star Wars aren’t shooting at the speed of light, or even at a fraction of the muzzle velocity of an M4. Wired recently calculated the speed of blaster rounds at 34.9m/s (or 78mph) — similar to a Major League Baseball pitch. So, it’s feasible that our heroes can deflect the lasers at a constant rate like they do in the films, but you’d definitely tire yourself out, like a baseball batter constantly swinging at fastballs.
But we’re not fighting anyone who uses blasters, so… they’re basically only useful against other lightsabers.
2. You can’t really practice with lightsabers
Imagine how troops practice with their weapons. There’s dry training (training that doesn’t involve actually firing the rifle) and time at the range where you fire at a designated target. This becomes a little more challenging when you’re using a weapon that only has two settings: “off” and “able to slice through feet of hardened steel.”
Any practice with a lightsaber would need to be done with a fake. By practicing with a real one, you’d run the risk of chopping off your buddy’s arm.
Your only options are this ball thing or some rocks…
3. It’s worthless if you don’t have the force
Without any Jedi training, anyone who picks up a lightsaber would probably chop off their hand. Or they’ll drop it and watch it burn a hole through to the core of the planet.
And even Jedi Masters aren’t that great at fighting…
4. There’s no safety on a lightsaber
Let’s look at the basic build of a lightsaber: There’s handle that you hold onto, the extremely deadly blade, and the button that turns it on. Nowhere on the device is there any kind of safety mechanism.
If you bump into a chair and accidentally hit the button while it’s holstered, your leg gets cut off. If you’re fighting a Jedi, they could (spoiler alert) turn it on with the force and it’ll impale you. Imagine how many lightsaber battles would’ve been ended sooner if, while duelists lock sabers and stare each other down, someone just force pushes their adversary’s lightsaber.
But they’re still cool… I guess…