The Incom X-65p Laser Pistol is a preeminent example of a 'plastic laser'. The weapon is large, blocky, boxy, and the body of the weapon is made from off-white and tan plastic, molding from three pieces screwed together around a ultra-basic emitter assembly and a power cell. The weapon is cheap, the damage potential is limited, and the reliability rating is low.
Why then is the X-65p an incredibly popular weapon? Because for the cost of a single Sunbeam 99 series a buyer can pick up a crate of X-65ps. This is the underlying attractiveness of all 'plastic lasers'. They are incredibly cheap to make, almost no metal, just plastic, some glass, and a battery of some sort. The hallmark of a plastic laser is cheap construction, excessive plastic use, a lack of overall quality, and poor accuracy.
The drawbacks of plastic lasers are pretty straight forward. They deal near the bottom of weapon damage ranges. Against thermoablative and military grade armors, they are almost completely worthless. Robots and power armor can shrug off these weapons unless it is an absolute hellstorm of laser fire. The weapons are also inaccurate, functionally doubling range penalties. Beyond medium range, these guns are hopeless. On a critical failure, the weapon misfires and destroys itself, melting the emitter or the lens, or the battery cell rupturing.
But dang, they are cheap, and easy to get.
The history of Plastic Lasers is simple, there is a long history of cheap, poorly made weapons flooding the market. This dynamic feeds the armament demands for gangs, organized crime, budget buster security firms, and low budget weapons enthusiasts. Most plastic lasers come from three different sources: 3rd world manufacturers, illegal manufacturers, and home printers.
3rd World Manufacturers are feeding the militaries and militias of the Wastelands and terrorist organizations. These producers will make everything from plastic laser pistols to plastic laser rifles, and even oversized support lasers. These are typically the size and shape of shoulder fired missiles, and deal considerably less damage. This is less of an issue when these weapons are being fired at unarmored, or lightly armored foes.
Illegal manufacturers typically feed organized crime and gang demands for unregistered and unlicensed firearms. This is rarely more than pistols and SMG sized intermediate firearms. Police agencies tend to be well versed in the different illegal manufacturers, and often work for extended amounts of time to hunt down and shut these hidden or mobile industries. Where 3rd world suppliers have factories, illegal manufacturers might have their entire operation housed in a trailer, recreational vehicle, or similar.
Home printers involve jailbreaking a domestic polyforge, allowing for a person to use a household printer to produce all the parts to make one of these weapons.
The cyber security firms and intelligences that exist could erase the open source files on the CogNet and dramatically ruin the illegal laser weapons industry. The reason this hasn't been done is that the weapons are not a serious threat to the status quo, or those in power. Their threat level is seen as beneficial, because it allows a heavier hand from government agencies. If the criminal element wasn't able to passably arm itself, it would render law enforcement budgets excessive and obscene.
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