Particle Beam Weapons play a huge role in the Knight Run universe. Almost every single EX-Type Zero and many of the High Rank Beasts use particle beam attacks, almost all ships are capable of using them and the Doll A-10 uses a variety of particle beam cannons throughout her fights.
In real life, it is preferable to use a neutral-particle beam composed of Hydrogen atoms. This is because charged particles, such as protons and electrons, have numerous issues with long distance propagation. Neutral atoms would not be susceptible to bending by the earth's magnetic field as would a charged-particle beam. Neither would the beam tend to spread due to the mutually repulsive force between particles of like-charge in the beam. (In the atmosphere, a charged-particle beam will neutralize itself by colliding with air molecules, effectively creating enough ions of the opposite charge to neutralize the beam.)
The mechanism by which a particle beam destroys a target is a depositing of beam energy into the material of the target, which might be any material object. As the particles of the beam collide with the atoms, protons, and electrons of the material composing the target, the energy of the particles in the beam is passed on to the atoms of the target much like a cue ball breaks apart a racked group of billiard balls. The result is that the target is heated rapidly to very high temperatures--which is exactly the effect that one observes in an explosion. Thus, a particle beam of sufficient energy can destroy a target by exploding it (although that is not the only means of destruction).
The subatomic particles that constitute a beam have great penetrating power. Thus, interaction with the target is not restricted to surface effects, as it is with a laser. When impinging upon a target, a laser creates a blow-off of target material that tends to enshroud the target and shield it from the laser beam. Such beam/target interaction problems would not exist for the particle beam with its penetrating nature. Particle beams would be quite effective in damaging internal components or might even explode a target by transferring a massive amount of energy into it (the catastrophic kill mechanism). Furthermore, there would be no realistic means of defending a target against the beam; target hardening through shielding or materials selection would be impractical or ineffective.
In addition to the direct kill mechanism of the beam, ancillary kill mechanisms would be available. Within the atmosphere, a secondary cone of radiation symmetrical about the beam, would be created by the beam particles as they collide with the atoms of the air. This cone would be comprised of practically every type of ionizing radiation known (i.e., x-rays, neutrons, alpha and beta particles, and so on). A tertiary effect from the beam would be the generation of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) by the electric current pulse of the beam. This EMP would be very disruptive to any electronic components of a target. Thus, even if the main beam missed, the radiation cone and accompanying EMP could kill a target.