The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

Building a live-ammo-firing Han Solo Blaster

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.

As a kid all of 5 years old when “Star Wars” first graced the silver screen in 1977—the original, best version when “Han shot first“—I knew what my father meant when he leaned over and whispered, “That’s a Broomhandle Mauser,” which kindled my fascination for the pistol with the funny-sounding name and ultimately planted the seed for this project. It ignited not only a childhood fantasy to possess a blaster like Han Solo’s (who is arguably the coolest character in the “Star Wars” franchise) but, more importantly, it provided nearly four decades to cultivate the gun-related grey matter to determine exactly how to make a truly better blaster.

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