In a galaxy long long ago….the characters used 20th century weapons. Okay, So we won’t be writing Star Wars intro scrolls anytime soon, but did you know that many of the blasters of the Star Wars universe are based on designs from our galaxy? Since Rogue One recently released we thought it would be a good chance to look at some of these “clumsy and random” weapons and their origins. Don’t worry no spoilers.
The first move in the franchise, A New Hope, opened in 1977, but it didn’t just use the latest and greatest guns to build props. The film relied on mostly surplus firearms from the World Wars. It might seem like a strange choice, but at the time many of these guns were available and rather cheap. Arms development during and after World War Two led many armies to adopt new weapons, rendering previously standard arms obsolete. These now obsolete guns were often sold commercially for a fraction of what they originally cost. For instance, a British Enfield rifle was cut down and had a grenade launcher stuck on the end to make a Jawa blaster, and poster for the film featured an unaltered German Mauser K98k.
But it takes more than a few rifles-turned-blaster to arm a rebellion. The franchise armed the Rebel Alliance with blasters built on Stg-44s. In The Empire Strikes Back Rebel troopers carried several of the modified assault rifles. For the Empire, producers modified the slightly more modern Sterling submachine guns to create the Stormtroopers’ E-11 blaster. Armies, even intergalactic ones, need heavy weapons. To create heavy blasters, the films turned to MG34s, MG15s, and Lewis Guns. They modified these machine guns with some paint and a few minor attachments which turned them into the heavy weapons of the galaxy.
But most famous of all were the main characters’ side arms. Han Solo, ready to shoot first, carried the DL44 at his side. Underneath it was a Mauser C96 pistol. As the name suggests the Mauser pistol dates to the 1890s, and was one of the first successful semi-automatic pistols. They nailed the long long ago part on that one.
In the latest installment, Rogue One, the prop department returned to early German semi-autos for inspiration, and modified a replica of a Luger P-08 into a sleek blaster for Jyn Erso. Imperial Director Krennic carries a blaster based off an MP40. In addition to new designs, Rogue One kept original trilogy designs around, which makes sense considering its place on the Star Wars timeline.
While these choices may seem arbitrary, they also speak to the history of surplus arms. When a prop department needed a gun, it was often surplus arms that served the purpose. Some of the most iconic guns of the Galactic Civil War were also icons of two World Wars. With the inclusion of more recent firearms, the films have made use of almost a century of small arms development.