MetalHead wrote:So, keeping it in as simple layman's terms here's what I'm trying to find out.
1 - Would projectile/ballistic weapons as we know them even function in a vaccum?
Sort of. Something like a revolver would be your best bet but even then the alternating heat and cold soak of space would do awful things to lubricants and clearances in a precisely machined weapon. You'd likely get off a shot or two if the weapon was kept insulated in a safe place and only exposed to space for a few moments before being used but beyond those first few shots I wouldn't count on the weapon functioning.
Now, a heavily modified weapon could be made to work in a space but it would have to be precisely designed.
2 - Assuming the answer to the first question is "yes", in a vaccum, would projectile weapons (guns/cannons/etc) prove slightly more effective upon impacting their targets, as there is no air resistance to slow the shots down over large distances?
You wouldn't really notice much of a difference in terms of terminal effects until you start getting into extreme ranges. For instance a pistol shot at 50m in space or on earth is pretty much the same in terms of damage. A rifle shot at 300 yards in space vs. on earth pretty much the same thing. Theoretically you could fire at targets kilometers away with a pistol in space and hit with as much damage as you would at 25m but good luck aiming a pistol with that kind of accuracy.
3 - Can things explode in a..uh, shall we say, cinematic sense in space? As in huge balls of fire? Or would it literally be an unseen wave of force?
Unless you're shooting directly at a giant tank full of liquid oxygen, no. Even then the fireball would be a very short lived sort of thing. And you wouldn't really have a wave of force. What you see in a terrestrial explosion is actually a shock wave of compressed air. Well, no air in space and the gases released in a space explosion would dissipate very quickly. The main danger from an explosion in space is shrapnel.
4 - If the answer to the above is "yes", would more damage be caused through the actual heat/flames or simply the overpressure wave?
No real overpressure wave and no flames and minimal radiant heat. The only danger source is shrapnel.