The plasma defender is a powerful energy-based pistol which fires superheated bolts of green plasma. It is able to punch through most critters and low-level armor with ease, when compared to the more commonly found and cheaper laser pistol.
In comparison to the standard laser pistol, the plasma defender deals more than 3 times the damage per shot and over twice as much damage-per-second (DPS). This is offset by the fact that it consumes energy cells at twice the rate, has reduced durability, and has a slightly increased spread. Additionally, it causes a large green burst of plasma upon firing which in addition to partially obscuring the view, travels at a slower rate, resulting in the need to lead the target.
In comparison to the plasma pistol, the plasma defender does an additional 5 damage per shot, has a reduced critical chance, and is less durable. However, the plasma defender is a more accurate weapon, uses fewer Action Points in V.A.T.S. and has a higher rate of fire in real-time, delivering almost twice as much DPS. Unlike the plasma pistol, the plasma defender is not considered a holdout weapon.
Plasma Defenders are not randomly sold by any merchants, including the Van Graffs and the Gun Runners. This is due to their absence from a number of leveled item lists, while being present on several other lists which are not used. The only exception is a single Plasma Defender which can be found on the display table in front of Gloria Van Graff.