Sometimes referred to as assault rifles, the Type-IIIa and its successor the Type-IIIb utilise plasma acceleration to provide a powerful bolt of energy similar to that fired by pulse phaser cannons on the Defiant-class starship.
In the late 2370's the Type-IIIc was introduced as a further upgrade of the Type-III, with improved holographic targeting.
The beam can be configured to transport Borg nanoprobes.
Introduced for Star Trek: First Contact - mercifully; I couldnt bear the thought of Picard and co. carrying those plasticky-looking Compression rifles to fight the Borg!
There were originally two versions, which are almost identical. The designations Type-IIIa and 'Type-IIIb' are ones I chose to differentiate between them, and was initially based on the fact that one version, with its slim, rounded, almost phallic barrel has been seen more often since: on Voyager; carried by Nog in DS9's "Empok Nor;" and in Star Trek: Insurrection. However! It's been many, many years since then, and over time the popular opinion has the original Type-3b to be the FIRST model, making the Type-3a now the 3b. I have redesigned this page to accomodate this. It's a point of view I've held for a while, and have admitted publicly when challenged (ironically, I did originally consider making the square-barrel the A and the curvy-barrel the B, because 'A' is an angular letter and 'B' is curvy!); but the increasing number of abusive emails (yes, really) has forced me to get around to making this change.
The other version has a blunt triangular barrel. Why theyd design two so similar is uncertain - in fact, continuity errors in Star Trek: First Contact suggest no-one has noticed the differences. It hasn't been seen since, apart from an appearance in an Okudagram in Voyager's "Bliss" (I know I didn't imagine it, but I've been unable to obtain a screencap); and, I originally thought, also re-dressed as a non-Federation weapon sold by arms dealer Hagath in DS9's "Business as Usual." (but DVD caps have since proved me wrong); Perhaps most telling is the fact, unnoticed by me for a long time, that at no point in First Contact is this model seen to fire! All FX shots involving weapons fire are done with the curvy-barrel. . .
It would appear that what happened is, the first sequence to be filmed was the sneaking-to-Engineering scene, using the angular-barrelled props (plus a few other scenes with them in - the Captain Ahab scene, for one; plus they're visible in racks in the background in the Armoury scene). These were then replaced with the curvy-barrels for all later scenes. Stranger still, in the approach to engineering the rifles all have smooth featureless upper barrels, yet elsewhere they have a ribbed cutaway section. Why? I've never received a satisfactory/official answer. In the images below, I've arranged them in exact chronological order to show how and when the change-over(s) happen.
Quite recently, however, Kevin Ericon got in touch with a fantastic discovery about the fate of the angular-barrelled rifles. He suggests they were converted to curvy-barrels by having the angular barrel removed. Which makes sense. More importantly, he's found a re-use of the angular barrel, re-dressed as a Ferengi rifle prop in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Acquisition." And indeed there it is, flipped upside down, with a couple of TNG Rifle handles added (in an almost Sten-gun configuration) and painted rust-red!
In Star Trek: Nemesis, the IIIa prop design has been overhauled with some redressing of the weapon, and a new light/sight array. This comprises a powerful Maglite-style torch with a Bushnell HOLOsight (the model 50 range, since replaced with the model 51), a real-world hunting sight that provides holographic crosshairs. Since even a working basic model has a price tag of US$100+ in 2002, it would appear that upgrades to rifle props (unnoticed by the majority of the cinemagoing public) would cost several hundred dollars each!
These rifles fired silvery-gold pulses in First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis, and gold beams and pulses in Voyager.
Nemesis also revealed the on-ship storage arrangements for such rifles, at least on a Sovereign-class vessel: rotating panels that spin round to reveal two rifles per panel. More interestingly, one crewman on removing a rifle first pulls open a small slot aft of the sight, showing a red light beneath - was this meant to 'cock' the rifle, or check for the presence of a power cell? After letting the panel snap back home, he then pressed the left-hand button (as on a Type-II phaser) which caused the green LED to light up, showing a full charge. . .
I've often wondered if these are actually disruptors. They obviously operate in a very different manner to the traditional phaser, although this could be explained by classifying them as the 'regenerative phasers' mentioned in DS9's "Field of Fire." As I understand it, disruptors work on different principles - might this be why, in First Contact, after warning against using phasers in Engineering and inadvertently hitting the Warp Core with particle beam fire, Picard then tells them to aim for the coolant tanks - right next to the Core?!
The props were designed by John Eaves. Patrick Stewart's "hero" version even had a working retractable nylon strap - apparently the only one to be made thus, all others had simpler adjustable straps. Prop images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.