By Bob Boyd, Shooting Illustrated
The 2013 holiday season was quite joyous for sci-fi film fans when one of the most-iconic prop guns—the blaster Harrison Ford wielded as the galactic smuggler turned hero, Han Solo, in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”—went to auction a mere four days before Christmas. Fetching $200,000, the nonfiring replica undoubtedly made a heck of a stocking stuffer for one lucky earthling, who wished to remain anonymous. While I can understand wanting to own something used by a particular movie star or in a particular film, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around paying six-figures for a paperweight, particularly when it doesn’t even emit colorful bolts of matter-disintegrating light—or have the ability to fire live ammunition, like the one I built for a fraction of the price.
To produce such a cinematic semi-automatic sidearm of quality, a worthy, working specimen is needed. While some would settle for nothing less than a pristine pistol, despite being my first handgun purchase, I knew enough to search for a diamond in the rough—a pistol that may not warrant anything more than a passing glance, much less a screen test. Unfortunately, the “parts gun” I procured as my first pistol couldn’t memorize a basic function test. Sure, it was good for one round, maybe even two, but after that it malfunctioned like a droid smitten by the silica-based landscape of planet Tatooine.
A milled flat, which spans the entire underside of the bull-barrel extension is necessary to disassemble the pistol.
Armed with a detailed technical manual I found online (which was essential—especially for a handgun containing a single screw) it took several weeks of sporadic tinkering through trial and error, until I was able to determine the problem was twofold: First, what seemed to be a bargain was actually a “parts gun” comprised of components from both C96 and M1930 variants. Second, the pistol’s many mismatched parts included a worn bolt-locking block, which integrated the pistol’s fire controls with its barrel extension. The part was coming loose from the lock-mechanism frame during recoil and causing the sear not to reset despite complete extraction of the fired case, a fresh round in the chamber and the bolt being in battery with a fully loaded magazine of 7.63×25 mm Mauser ammunition. As a result, I contacted Senior Curator of the NRA National Firearms Museum, Doug Wicklund who referred me to a Broomhandle aficionado in Dallas, TX to complete the recitation.
Next, getting the aesthetics right