What Joan's does for ships, Ivan Borger does for weapons systems. The following excerpt from Borger's All The Sector's Weapons Systems is presented as a crash course for those new to the fighting front.
Dumb-Fire Missile - The Dumb-Fire missile is a point-and-shoot weapon - just aim it at a target and hope the target can't get out of the way. WIth no homing capability, the Dumb-Fire is most effective in the hands of a pilot who can anticipate the target's reactions. When possible, it should be reserved for use in close quarters or against slow-moving targets.
Heat-Seeking Missile - The engines of a modern space fighter or capital ship generate a lot of heat, a fact the heat-seeking missile uses to great advantage. All a pilot has to do is park himself on an enemy's tail, wait for the heat-seeker to lock, and then fire. (NOTE: If the target shakes a heat seeker, the missile locks onto the nearest heat source, perhaps even the ship that originally fired it!)
Image Recognition Missile - To fire an image recognition missile, the pilot must keep the target in view for several seconds, after which the missile memorizes the ship type in the pilot's sights. Once the image recognition missile locks it doesn't let go - it tracks the targeted ship like a very lethal bloodhound...
Friend or Foe Missile - The friend or foe missile locks onto the nearest enemy ship. Capable of identifying the distinctive signal broadcast by all Terran ships, the friend or foe makes a beeline for the nearest ship that isn't broadcasting. (NOTE: This weapon will target friendly ships whose communications systems are damaged. Even the firing ship is not safe!)
Laser Cannon - Lasers don't do a lot of damage. Still, nearly all pilots have at least one story in which the long range of the laser allowed them to get first strike on a foe. Despite their low damage potential, lasers are reliable, versatile, and effective - they have probably accounted for more enemy kills than any other weapon.
Neutron Guns - Neutron guns do heavy damage, but only at close range. No other projectile weapon provides an equivalent level of destructive capability. The down side is that neutron guns heat up rapidly and eat up power at an alarming rate. Also, the neutron gun's lack of range has led many fool-hardy or underskilled pilots into close-quarter combat for which they were ill-prepared. Some of those pilots never made it home.
Mass Driver Cannon - The basic fighter weapon - medium range, medium damage, nothing special. The mass driver cannon is reliable and accurate. Heat build-up and power drain are minimal. Though lasers and neutron guns are more effective in certain situations, no pilot ever went wrong activating a mass driver.
Porcupine Mines - These deadly devices have limited homing capability and built-in proximity sensors - detonation doesn't require contact. If there's a Kilrathi on your tail, just open your rear doors and drop a Porcupine in his path. He'll be off your tail in no time. Or he'll be dead... If you ever see one of these irregular spheres tumbling your way, punch the throttle and steer clear.
Flak Guns - Fighters provide the bulk of a capital ship's defense, but the largest ships in the Therran and Kilrathi fleets lay down heavy flak barrages which can bring down and ship in space.
Turreted Lasers - Terran and Kilrathi destroyers, cruisers, dreadnaughts, carriers, and bases are equipped with heavy, turreted lasers linked to advanced targeting systems. Only the most maneuverable ships have any chance of surviving concentrated fire from these formiddable weapons.