The Real-World Weaponry of Star Wars – Vintage Armaments Abound in Original Trilogy

A surprising number of the weapons from the original Star Wars films were modified knock-offs of real-life military firearms. (Image source: 20th Century Fox)

A surprising number of the weapons from the original Star Wars films were modified knock-offs of real-life military firearms. (Image source: 20th Century Fox)

“George Lucas created the original Star Wars on a meagre $11 million budget — modifying antique firearms was far cheaper than designing and building space-aged looking guns from scratch.

THE WORLD IS in the grip of Star Wars mania with this week’s release of Rogue One, the latest installment of the beloved sci-fi film franchise.

But those revisiting the earlier movies in the series to prep for this weekend may note some rather familiar weaponry — many of the blasters carried by both Rebels and Imperial Stormtroopers in the original trilogy come straight out of Earth’s own World Wars. That’s because George Lucas, who created the original Star Wars on a meagre $11 million budget, was forced to improvise a lot of the props used in the film. Modifying antique firearms was far cheaper than designing and building space-aged looking guns from scratch.

Consider the following hardware from a long time ago that appeared in a galaxy not so far away.

The Mauser C-96

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

(Image source: WikiCommons)

(Image source: WikiCommons)

The German C-96 semi-automatic pistol, which saw action in a slew of early 20th Century conflicts, was also the preferred weapon of renegade space smuggler Han Solo, with some minor refinements of course.

Nicknamed the “broom handle” because of its odd cylindrical pistol grip, the 10-round C-96 was used here on Earth by everyone from the Kaiser’s trench raiders and Stalin’s commissars to Chinese nationalists and Ottoman sailors.

The Sterling SMG

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

(Image source: WikiCommons)

(Image source: WikiCommons)

The British Sterling, upon which the standard blaster carried by Darth Vader’s Stormtroopers is based, was a late World War Two design intended to replace the cheap (and semi-reliable) Sten gun.

The Sterling, which didn’t finally enter service until the early 1950s, remained in use with the British military, as well as the armed forces of Canada, Australia and India, well into the 1990s.

The Lee Enfield

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

In Episode IV, one of the scavenging Jawas of Tatooine incapacitates R2D2 with some sort of droid-stunning Taser. Look close though and you’ll see that the weapon is actually a sawed off .303 Lee-Enfield.

(Image source: WikiCommons)

(Image source: WikiCommons)

George Lucas would have had no trouble laying his hands on one of these British-made bolt-action rifles, which were first introduced in 1895. Nearly 17 million were manufactured during the weapon’s 50-year production run.

The Lewis Gun

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

While patrolling the streets of Tatooine’s Mos Eisley space port, one Imperial Storm trooper can be seen hefting a Lewis machine gun that looks like it came straight out of the trenches of World War One. Although the cylindircal top-mounted drum magazine is missing, the unmistakable air-cooling shroud on the barrel is a dead giveaway

(Image source: WikiCommons)

(Image source: WikiCommons)

Despite being the quintessential British weapon, the gun was actually invented in 1911 by a West Pointer from Pennsylvania by the name of Isaac Newton Lewis. After having his design repeatedly rejected by U.S. Army brass, Lewis took his innovative machine gun idea to the British and French militaries, which snapped up 100,000 of them.

The MG-34

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

No, your eyes weren’t playing tricks on you — those are German-made MG-34s from World War Two that a number of Stormtroopers on the Death Star are equipped with in the original Star Wars film.

(Image source: German Federal Archive))

(Image source: German Federal Archive))

The 7.92-mm light-weight rapid-fire weapon was the scourge of European and North African battlefields until Germany introduced the even more fearsome MG-42 halfway through the war. Captured MG-34s remained in service with many armies well-into the Post-War period.

The Webley Service Revolver

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

(Image source: 20th Century Fox)

(Image source: WikiCommons)

(Image source: WikiCommons)

Boba Fett, the ruthless bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, packs a rather antiquated weapon. Beneath the elongated barrel and optical sites of his snub-nosed carbine is a classic Webley service revolver.

Designed in 1887 and used for the next 75 years, the famous .455 calibre six-shooter served in every British conflict from the Boer War to Korea.

Others…

And it wasn’t just vintage weaponry that appeared in the Star Wars movies…

(Image source: 20th Century Fox and Flikr)

(Image source: 20th Century Fox and Flikr)

… but all sorts of surplus gear.

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