While over at the Rock Island Auction website today looking for some new gun to buy, I stumbled across one that I knew the super nerds at this website would love. Unfortunately only those of us in a free country are able to potentially purchase this historic movie prop. Sorry, Phil.
“The archetype BlasTech DL-44 Heavy Blaster wielded by Han Solo against the Empire in “Star Wars: A New Hope,” as recognizable a part of the film franchise as a lightsaber or TIE fighter, has arrived from a galaxy far, far away at Rock Island Auction Company.
The 1977 film launched a cultural megaforce of movies, animated series, television series, novels, comic books, and toys. Han Solo’s blaster is a Hollywood icon carried by a hero recognized as one of the top 50 movie heroes of all time by the American Film Institute.“
Solo has a definite opinion of the blaster he wears strapped to his thigh. As he he told Skywalker, the newly-minted Padawan training with a lightsaber on board the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope:
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid!”
The Han Solo Blaster – A Mauser C96
The German-made C-96 is one of the first and most recognizable semi-automatic handguns ever made. The gun, with its 10-cartridge capacity and short recoil operated firing system, was ahead of its time. Stripper clips loaded with 7.63x25mm Mauser cartridges fed into the internal box magazine.
It is nicknamed the “Broomhandle” because of its round wooden grip. The gun spurred a number of knockoffs made in China and Spain, among other nations. More than 1.1 million German Mausers were made between 1896 and 1939.
This Mauser C96, with a serial number of 299415, was made between 1915 and 1921 so it could’ve seen action in World War I or been exported to China where there was also plenty of conflict. Wherever it spent its intervening years, the Gun That Would Be Han’s ended up in the weapons inventory of a British movie prop house, Bapty & Co., in London.
Bapty & Co
The London prop house started life as a gun store selling Bapty branded rifles and military surplus, and became a theatrical armory in 1919. In the early 1930s, the gunshop converted to purely a prop house and armory for stage and screen. The company changed hands a few times and in 1999, Tony Watts and his wife Anne bought the company.
Watts served in the British military and worked at the BBC as an in-house armorer and prop buyer before obtaining Bapty & Co. Under Watts’ ownership, the company’s armory grew to more than 19,000 firearms.
“…gunsmith Karl Schmidt (or Carl Schmidt as his name appears in multiple sources, including on IMDB.com!). Wanting an old west gunslinger feel for the captain of the Millennium Falcon, the designers selected the Mauser C96 as the basis of Han Solo’s iconic blaster. The C96 had a western vibe and was carried by Clint Eastwood in 1972’s “Joe Kidd.”
Roger Christian, original set dresser on A New Hope and designer of many of the iconic weapons in Star Wars, had this to say about the birth of this particular gun in an interview with Esquire magazine:
“I had been successful showing George my idea of adapting real guns so that they’d look used and natural. For Han Solo’s blaster gun, I wanted it like a Western gun, so I stuck old sights (apparently a Hensoldt & Wetzlar Ziel Dialyth 3x scope also dating back to World War II) on it and everything (there’s the muzzle from an plane-mounted machine gun, various antenna – or not, as the case may be – and other appendages). And I called John Barry and I said, ‘You better get George around here to see this idea,’ because we could afford to do it this way. Plus these work, you could fire them and get the recoil, on-set, and not like actors going, ‘Beep beep.”
Auction Date: August 27, 2022
You can see more of the weapon, and find out the auction details, by visiting Rock Island at their website. Maybe we should have a whip round?