I recently noticed something. Every time the armory is opened and the officers come streaming in to get their lethals, the shotguns are always the first to go. If you join late into a round as an officer and come in to see the armory is open, you might find energy guns or laser guns left, but the only thing remaining of the ballistics are the rubber shots scattered all over the floor. I'm pretty sure this is due to a simple reasons a lot of sec and probably antag regulars will likely agree with.
Energy weapons kind of suck when it comes to lethal force.
Sure, tasers and disablers are nice since the game's entire combat system focuses around stuns, but as soon as you are up against something that is very resistant or even immune to them, you'll need a lethal option.
Let's go with an example. You have a laser gun, and a traitor released their lesser hellhound on you. You land every shot your energy gun is willing to give you, 12 shots all dealing 20 damage (Assuming I'm reading everything on the github correctly). That is 240 damage, but a lesser hellhound has 250 hp. Sure, one more whack with your gun will do it in, but if it gets in even one attack it might break a bone, or in the case of a hellhound depending on your internals setup knock you out and easily turn the fight around. And all of this is assuming you hit literally every shot.
A shotgun on the other hand can deal enough damage without needing to reload, and even if you miss, you can, you know, reload.
I've decided to list what I think are the advantages of both energy lethals and ballistics:
Only requires energy to recharge, which is effectively infinite.
More locations to get ammo (chargers), which are scattered around the entire station, as opposed to just lathes.
Burn damage is slightly harder to heal without preparation compared to brute damage.
Chargers bundled up in a location can make an area sustainably defendable in a siege type situation, such as a fight against a blob. This takes time to set up however.
Can be cheaply mass ordered from cargo, mostly useful against blobs.
Doesn't leave lasting damage such as IB or bone breaks when lethaling someone you don't want to stay dead.
Can be printed on station.
Passes through windows (Lasers at least).
Deal lasting damage that is very hard to deal with without help and preparation (Bone breaks, IB), extremely useful when fighting a KOS enemy.
Can carry as much backup ammo as you can carry.
Can be reloaded very quickly, compared to waiting in front of a charger for half a minute.
Significantly higher damage output.
Variety of ammo (Technological shotgun shells, Different Auto Rifle ammo)
Best way of dealing with enemies that can block/reflect energy projectiles (How often do you see people screaming "For fucks sake, cargo ordered lasers against nukies!" "Shitsec just tried tasing a desword." etc.?). Also became a more important factor since blobs got reflective tiles.
While you don't see this happen, you could technically set up more autolathes to have ammo available in more locations, while chargers cannot be built.
While energy weapons have a couple of things going for them, a lot of their pros are situational, and they are severely outclassed when it comes to the primary use of lethals: Causing damage.
Looking in the #changes_wanted channel on the discord, the headmins and maintainers are not a fan of ballistics in crew/security hands. Which makes sense, given this is supposed to be a sci-fi with energy weapons, and the fact that ballistics are more the Syndicate's thing. I therefore have some suggestions as to how one could make energy weapons more viable and popular, rather than have everyone run around with ballistics.
Suggestions as to how energy lethals could be made more effective
Have energy gun batteries be upgradeable: Simple one, if energy guns could have their batteries upgraded and therefore ammo capacity increased, people using them could actually sustain fire long enough to deal with a threat without having to carry several guns on themselves, and without the need to run to the nearest recharger after every fight.
Have energy gun batteries be rechargeable in the field: If there was a portable charger which could be used to recharge an energy gun in the field, it would allow people to stay in a fight without having to run to a charger, while still forcing periods where they can't fire.
Have lasers cause bleeding: Lasers don't necessarily cauterize IRL, and it would make sense to design a lethal laser weapon to not cauterize the wounds it causes. In game, this would be dangerous to species that have blood or a blood analogue if they didn't prepare medicine in advance, forcing them to seek help. At the same time, this doesn't cause serious lasting damage, lost blood is easily fixed with the correct medicine on hand.
Have chargers be constructable: This would just be a nice addition in general, especially in rounds where the chargers end up destroyed.
Problems with buffing energy lethals
Even with the addition of reflective blobs, the default reaction to blobs is to order a dozen laser gun crates. Blobs would have to be rebalanced around buffed energy lethals.
Science antags already get access to a ton of really dangerous stuff, and buffing energy guns which they can print will make them even more dangerous.
Drask. Oh poor, poor Drask.
Security vs. Antag balancing in general, as security are the ones that start out with energy weapons.
Now I'm sure I didn't think of everything, and there are more things that need to be taken into consideration. Feel free to give your own opinion and further suggestions. Telling me to just git gud is also an option.