Disruptors follow the same basic principle as the Federation Phaser in that they cause the target to transition violently out of this continuum. But the Disruptor uses slow nadions rather than rapid nadions in generating the energy beam. This gives the disruptor a considerably lower energy conversion efficiency than the Starfleet phaser. This is partially offset by a moderate reduction in the size of the hardware required for the weapon itself - the space freed up by this allows a higher power weapon to be installed in the same space. The Federation phaser is therefore considered to be more sophisticated and generally more effective than the disruptor, which relies on brute power to overcome its efficiency failings. Like phasers, disruptor weapons can fire sustained beams or pulses depending on the exact configuration of the hardware.
This process is also used in handheld weapons. Klingon disruptors are carried on the hip and fire short and rapid bursts of energy. Romulan disruptors, also carried on the hip, fire a continuous burst of focused energy much like a phaser.