The (Not-So) Long and The (Very) Short of Star Wars Weapons Ranges

[Editor's note: in this page (and yes, that's the actual title of the page), RSA tries to prove that SW weapon range is roughly 200 metres. Seriously. He bases this on the TIE fighters attacking the Millenium Falcon in ANH, and acts as if this was the longest-ranged exchange of fire ever seen in Star Wars. Sounds silly? It gets worse ... by the time he's done, it will be obvious that he does not understand the concept of the zoom lens]

This is arguably the worst of Anderson's technical pages. It is self-evident that in this page Mr. Anderson is struggling to work through calculations without even realizing what the terms in the calculations are asking for. The calculation for determining the distance to an object that is being photographed is quite simple. Anderson correctly posts it on this page as:

"ObjectDistance / ObjectLength = ImageDistancetoLens / ImageLengthonFilm

The premise for this calculation is quite simple. Since cameras focus on objects at different depths by adjusting the distance between the lens and the film, it is easy to determine how far away something in focus is by using the distance between the lens and the film. Anyone with an old camera can confirm this for themselves by twisting the dial on the focus towards a more distant setting, and watching the lens move itself further from the rest of the camera- thus extending the distance between the film and the lens. When a camera is set on "infinity" (designed to focus on something that is beyond the camera's normal depth of field), the distance between the lens and the film is at its smallest, which is the number referred to by the number of millimeters on a lens or a camera (35mm film, 200mm lens, etc.). Any decent website on cameras should be have this information. When an object is closer than the "infinity" setting (within the camera's depth of field), the lens is moved further away from the film to focus on it. Mr. Anderson ignorantly uses the 35mm film setting to scale his picture of an object in Star Wars: A New Hope, ignoring the fact that it is the people in the foreground of the image that are actually in focus. In other words, he assumes that the camera is set to infinity when in fact it is not, in order to lower the distance between the Millenium Falcon and the TIE Fighter that Mr. Anderson began by trying to determine the distance between. Anderson obviously bungled the calculation to come up with a completely and totally meaningless number that has nothing to do with the TIE fighter in question:

"here's what I'm going to do. I'll take the largest object the Millenium Falcon would probably ever shoot at, and plug that number in. In other words, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the fighter wasn't out of literal, linear range, but was instead out of the reliable targeting capability of the Falcon, because it was a small target at that distance. The effect of putting in a larger craft, such as a Star Destroyer sitting broadsides, while keeping the same relative object size will be to increase the linear range, while keeping the targeting capability idea a constant."

That's still not really an accurate figure. Anderson assumes that the Falcon only needs to hit a box the size of the TIE's panels, while making this calculation. In reality, the Falcon is attempting to hit the TIE in the cockpit section (the ball). The cross-section of the ball is vastly smaller than a box drawn around the panels. This is a self-contradiction. Note that he claims in TPM that the shots destroying droids off of the Queen's transport were actually misses, as there is no canonical evidence that they were firing to remove the droids specifically. The droids would have been within a box drawn to encompass the engines and the top of the transport, clearly demonstrating that Anderson would take the majority of shots that hit the TIE fighter's box that Anderson provides the Falcon with as misses, since the circle formed by the "ball" cockpit takes up a great deal less than one half of the area of the box.

"I have decided that the above figure is just too small. I mean, really. Sure, that's what the math came up with, and I don't see anything faulty in my logic, but puh-leeze! Even as a pro-Trek debater, I'm not willing to suggest that 200 meters is the maximum. That's not even close to a fair fight."

And all Anderson had to do to generate this was butcher the simple mathematics involved.

[Editor's note: I like the way RSA tries to appear as if he's being reasonable by saying that his math and logic are flawless, but he'll graciously allow us to have >200 metre ranges anyway. What kind of person would be taken in by this? Let's look at a graphical representation of what he's done:


If that doesn't make it obvious what he's done wrong, nothing will. He takes 35mm film stock (meaning that the film is 35mm wide) and assumes that the "35mm" designation means that the camera's focal length is fixed at 35mm. Has he never heard of a zoom lens? Small wonder his figures turn out to be meaningless:

OD/6m = 35mm/1.03mm
OD/6m = 34
OD = 6m x 34
OD = 204m

Holy crap. I'm writing this as I'm doing the calcs, and I'm shocked . . . I had no idea the distance was so small. Canonically, the Millennium Falcon's weapons range is no more than about 200 meters.

Amazing, isn't it? One must wonder whether he's insane or stupid, because either hypothesis seems quite reasonable at this juncture. He has taken a flat two-dimensional image and scaled distances of objects by simply misinterpreting the definition of 35mm film! Is there anything you can do but simply shake your head in dismay? Naturally, he has to finish this section of his page with yet another nonsensical claim:

We have never seen her fire at ranges further than this, so there's nothing in the canon to overrule it.

Nothing in the canon to overrule it? How about the fact that hand weapons shoot many times farther than this in the Battles of Hoth and Geonosis in TESB and AOTC? He loves to accuse people of "falsehoods", but I think you can judge for yourself who is guilty of falsehoods here.

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