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Star Wars Original Stormtrooper Blaster

Written by Stephen Lane
 
This article was originally written as an in-depth look at a piece Prop Store had for sale. Unfortunately we have none of these in stock at this time.
     
     
  This blaster is one of several that was found a few years ago at Bapty & Co – the motion picture armorer who provided the majority of the weapons for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

Their use in the production of ANH was initially established through conversations with staff who were present and involved with the fabrication of these and other weapons during production. It quickly became clear that these Blasters were custom made specifically for Star Wars.

As Lucasfilm had a very small budget for the first film most of the prop weapons (including these) were rented and therefore returned to the armourers once filming was completed. Ownership of the blasters was never transferred to Lucasfilm.
These blasters were based on a standard Sterling sub-machine gun and had many non-standard custom alterations for the production of ANH. They were fabricated to allow the production to take Storm Trooper blasters out to the shooting locations, avoiding the difficulties of exporting and re-importing live firing weapons and to reduce production costs as an armourer needs to be on set (and be paid his daily rate!) whenever a live firing gun is present. The custom components are characterised by having;

  • No Trigger
  • Non standard trigger guard
  • Wooden dowel in place of gun barrel
  • Custom made grip
  • Seam and moulding lines in the cast aluminium billet
  • Specific rivet positioning
  • Solid rear sight
  • A rivet that held the top rail in place (just in front of the rear site)
     

 
These features are highlighted on two of the photos below.
The front section of the blaster is an actual Sterling body tube. The barrel in the centre was replaced with a simple wooden dowel painted black.  The rear section of the Sterling was cut away and a solid aluminium cast billet was slotted into the rear of the gun. The billet extends from the rear of the Sterling tube past the ejector port and receiver, rendering the piece a non-gun.  The original maker had these billets made specifically for these props. The grip and trigger guard are not standard and were custom made from aluminium.
Each of these features can be seen in the clear reference photos that are in the Star Wars Chronicles book on pages 89 and 91 (scans of those images are below, along with a number of reference stills from the film showing these style blasters in action).
The blasters can be clearly seen in the Death Star sequences, trash compactor scene, the Spaceport scene and all of the desert scenes filmed in Tunisia.

When we discovered the weapons sadly all of the original components from each of the blasters had been long since stripped and removed. What was great to see was that markings from the original rivet that held the top rail in place just in front of the rear site were still visible.

This blaster has been faithfully restored with replica dressing parts to complete the look of the Stormtrooper blaster. The parts are extremely accurate to the originals.



The restoration parts comprise:
The M38 scope, the scope rail, the barrel ribs, the cylinders and the Hengstler counter box. A key aim of the restoration is to bring the Blaster back to screen used look, whilst ensuring that the process is as non-intrusive to the original piece as possible.

The M38 scope replica is a real functional azimuth tank scope that obtained from Karl Schmidt, the Bapty armorer who built the guns for the film, and could have possibly been one of the originals used in Star Wars.
The scope rail is the correct thickness and width and is made of steel as were the originals (not aluminium), accurately bent to shape and fitted to the blaster body.  Originally, the rail was riveted at the rear end to the body in front of the rear sight. The original broken off rivet will be removed and fitted with a threaded insert into the blaster body to secure the rail by means of a button head screw.  It looks very much like a rivet but allows the blaster to be stripped down back to it’s basic form without damage, simply by undoing the screw with an allen key.  A rivet would be permanent.


The barrel ribs are completely accurate to those used on the blaster in ANH.  They are made from plastic as were the originals.  They are secured by double-sided tape so as not to damage the original nature of the piece.

The cylinders positioned on the top of the magazine slot have been constructed using a number of excellent reference photos and match perfectly. The cylinders are secured using double-sided tape.

The Hengstler box is a vintage Hengstler counter of the same type seen in the film. The original Hengstler boxes were glued onto the side of the body of the blaster (and fell off during the course of production). To ensure that the restoration process is non-intrusive and minimises wear on the screen used piece, the replica Hengstler will be attached via a discreet bracket that is screwed onto the scope rail.
The aforementioned research has shown that this model of blaster carried all of the above components during shooting.  Inevitably, some will have had pieces knocked off and broken during the course of filming.



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