Weapons have existed in some form since man picked up a rock intent of hitting another. Since that day, weapons have only grown increasingly refined Even during the so called peaceful Age of Unity, mans inclination toward violence persevered, and so did his tools of violence continue with him. These weapons have changed, but they remain familiar.
Chemical Propellant Weapons
Chemical propellant weapons are still in use, mostly in the form of small arms, having been supplanted by in most other areas by new weapon technologies. Most fire arms fall under two different categories, mechanical operated firearms, and electronic pin firearms.
Electronic-pin firearms, or EP guns, fire caseless rounds by electronic ignition; it has no moving parts with the exception of the round itself, thus making it immune to jams and other mechanical problems that typically plague mechanical firearms. Lacking moving components, there is virtually no delay between trigger pull and ignition or vibration of the firearm by the moving components, thus making EP weapons inherently more accurate than mechanical weapons. Also, since it works on electronic firing mechanism, most decent EP weapons have a built in digital-registry to prevent unregistered persons from using the weapon. For these reasons, EP guns tend to be the most common weapons produced by arms manufacturers, and usually the only type chemical propellant weapons well funded security/police/mercenary/military forces will field. Though it does have a battery life, most are so long that it's practically negligible. EP weapons and their munitions tend to be much more expensive than mechanical firearms, especially on the frontier worlds.
However, on the expansive frontier, mechanical weapons still rule the roost. This is because the primary source of firearms is the not expensive imports off-world inner colonies, but locally produced weapons from hundreds of different constructors. Due to the comparative simplicity of mechanical firearms, their ruggedness, and the availability of designs, mechanical weapons are nearly everywhere on the frontier. Though less accurate than EP weapons, their steel mechanical components tend to be tougher and more durable than the electronics in EP weapons, a key trait for anything being used on the harsh frontier.
Mass drivers are weapons that propel matter at lethal velocities via linear motion. Practical mass-drivers have existed since the Unification Conquests, and have continued to be increasingly used and refined ever since. Mass drivers offer power and range that traditional weapons platforms cannot compare to. However, their size and complexity limit them to heavy weapons use. All mass drivers fielded consume two different resources when firing, the rounds themselves, and a power source. There are two basic kinds of mass drivers: Rail-Guns, and Coilguns.
A railgun is a mass-driver that propels a projectile forward by alternating polarity between to contact rails. Originating a ground and naval artillery pieces during the Unification Conquests, it was capable of accurately driving munitions hundreds of miles, but the powerful blast of combusting oxygen required a large degree of maintenance of the barrel, including changing out the rails after each shot. Significant improvements have been made since, improving railgun-artillery's survivability, but they still remain quick to whether in atmospheric environments. However, in space, the heat generated from atmospheric friction is non-existent, and so they become much more practical, filling the role of a ships main-gun. Heat is still generated however, and complicated heat displacements are necessary to vent them, as heat in a vaccum cannot be dissipated through contact with air.
A coilgun is a mass drivers that accelerate a ferromagnetic projectile by means of an electromagnetic field. The second type mass driver to be effectively weaponized, it allowed for mass drivers to be applied to roles previously to small for railguns to fulfill. Since the projectile does not actually contact the weapons 'barrel'. wear from firing is significantly less than a rail-gun. Coil guns are also capable of comparable ballistic performance as a railgun of similar size. Though their mechanics are more complex, it's for these reasons, Coilguns are used over railguns whenever possible. As a result, almost all direct ground combat mass drivers are Coilguns. However, Coilguns suffer from a size ceiling with its rounds, after which the electromagnetic field needed to be generated becomes too great and over-saturates the round, preventing it from being fired. As a result, all mass drivers the size of a large artillery piece or greater, are railguns. When used in space-engagements, they are typically used for projecting a large volume of relatively weak rounds preventing effective interception or evasion. This does not necessitate many coilguns, as they are capable of firing an astounding tens of thousands of rounds in in under a minute. However, such a high rate of fire is impossible in atmosphere, as the heat generated would melt the weapon, and the operator as well. Automatic coilguns designed for in atmosphere use fire at rate significantly slower than even most automatic chemical propellant weapons, though this compensated by their significant power.
Armor has existed since man realized that getting hit with rocks, hurts. Armor has since evolved over these thousands of years, even becoming capable of challenging the power of modern firearms. With there being such a wide variety of weapons, there is similarly, a wide variety of available protection from it.
Inert Armor is essentially armor that has no moving parts or powered components, and does little more than provide a layer between you and potential harm. This has been the only form of armor available through all of human history until relativity recently.
Polymer Weave Armor
The most basic form still used today are polymer fiber-vests, whose armor of a a bullet resistant artificial fiber mesh wrapped into an armored garment, typically a vest. These polymers are many times stronger than steal. Though this type of armor is capable of defeating most ball and JCP (Jacketed Cavity Point) handgun rounds, they are of little effectiveness against rifle rounds, penetrator handgun rounds, and even thrusts from a blade, which are capable of bypassing the threads. Also, since it does not dissipate the force of the impact well, the impact energy of larger rounds can still be felt. Still, it's lightest, cheapest, armor available, and better than nothing. Popular among the less wealthy Freelancers and frontiersmen, due to it's low cost and concealibility
Plate Carrier Armor
The next step up in protection is the same fiber-mesh with ceramic inserts. The ceramics are ultra-hard compounds slipped under the layer of polymer weave. With the addition of ceramic plates in the vest, they are capable of defeating significantly more powerful rounds, up to and including many armor-piercing battle-rifle munitions. However, they are significantly bulkier, and cannot be worn under clothing, additionally, and the inserts typically cannot be reused once impacted. However, they are still relatively cheap, and are most often used by bandits and small militia groups.
Entering into more modern designs, we come to Nano-fiber armor. Consisting of densely packed layers of hallow synthetic tubes (commonly called, though incorrectly so, fibers) little more than a thousandth of a centimeter wide. Together, they form an extremely dense weave capable of comparable or even better performance than plate-carrier vests. Since the individual tubes are so densely packed, they cannot be bypassed by bullets or blades, and they are capable of mitigating the energy of impact across the entire body of the armor piece. These are among the most valued pieces of armor available, due to their impressive strength and relatively light weight and small size. Mostly used by police, fairly well funded militias, security personnel, and frontiersmen with a decent quantity of cash, as they're not too cheap.
Any kind of armor that consumes energy to properly function. Though early examples of power-armor date back to the Unification Conquests, further development was halted for well over a century, as the age of Unity had little need for such cumbersome war-fighting attire. Things have changed in the last several decades however, and it has become quite popular, mostly among military groups. Though they are harder to maintenance, many times more expensive, and run on finite power sources, they are the best in whatever they do.
Reactive layer armor is composed of three different parts, the first and innermost layer contains a reactive gel and nano-fiber filling. The reactive gel hardens when it receives an electrical signal triggered by impact of the the second layer, making it capable of resisting bullet impact trauma, while the nano-fibers mitigate the trauma the user receives. The second layer a moldable plastic composite, that serves mostly just to signal for the gel layers to harden. The outermost layer is a nano-tube mesh formed around the other two, it's usually not very thick, but helps to dampen the energy of the round, and prevent it from puncturing the second and third layer. It's energy demands are relatively low, and it only consumes power when shot, which is (hopefully) not a common occurrence. Most models are about the size of a plate carrier vest or bulkier, making them impossible to conceal, and difficult to maneuver in without a degree of training.They are also extremely pricey. As a result, most all users are state funded, such as police or large militia groups, though many big mercenary companies also use them with regularity.