Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Imperial BlasTech E-11 Blaster (“Stormtrooper Blaster”)
Note: Background on the custom Bapty Stormtrooper blasters is based on information from The Prop Store of London and two collectors involved in finding and identifying the pieces at Bapty & Co. Also used as a reference resource is the website Parts of Star Wars.
Note: Images throughout the article can be clicked on for higher resolution versions
Background: The Discovery
This Stormtrooper blaster is one of approximately 20 that were discovered at Bapty & Co. and purchased by The Prop Store of London circa 2004-2005. Bapty is the UK-based armourer who produced and supplied weapons for Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
Based on research and discussions with Bapty staff (including the man who made these for the film), it was determined that the props were indeed custom made for the first Star Wars film.
The Imperial Stormtrooper blaster is one of the most recognizable props from the original Star Wars trilogy, in that they were assigned to the Imperial Stormtroopers but also used by the principal protagonists in the films – Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.
The prop is generally based on a found part – a Sterling Arms Mk4/L2A3 sub-machine gun – which were used by the British following World War II.
Below is a photo of an unaltered British Sterling sub-machine gun:
As such, the firing versions of these props were altered for production by some cosmetic dressing: the addition of six grips along the barrel (the same found “T-Track” used as grips on Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber), a vintage 1942 model M38 azimuth scope mounted on a custom-made scope rail (as well as other similar vintage military tank scopes), a Hengstler Corporation industrial counter box on the side, and two small cylinders on top of the magazine well (in some cases coiled wires were attached between these and the Hengstler counter box). Additionally, the 34-round Sterling magazine was cut down significantly.
Also of note is that those blasters seen in the film are comprised of a wide array of variations – from different “found” parts employed to some seen on screen as incomplete (either due to a lack of full sets of dressing parts and/or parts falling off during filming).
Below is an example of one of the blasters which lacks the cylinders on top of the mag well, the Hengstler counter box, and adjoining wires (Stormtrooper on LEFT):
Another example of a firing/practical version of the blaster missing the cylinders, Hengstler box, and wires:
Below is an example of two of the blasters with different style scopes attached (behind and to LEFT and RIGHT of Princess Leia):
In carefully reviewing the film, firing versions of this prop can be identified by seeing the weapons actually fire – ejecting shells with bursts and smoke emitted from the barrel:
Given the challenges in exporting real firearms from the UK, it would seem the production decided to produce a number of versions of the Stormtrooper blaster that could be classified as a “non-gun”. This alternate version of the prop is the type featured in this article. These were custom designed and fabricated for easy export and import and to reduce the production costs required of having an armourer on set when live fire weapons are present.
The custom Bapty versions of the Stormtrooper blaster found were stripped of those aforementioned accessories – the scope, scope rail, Hengstler counter box, and magazine well cylinders.
Below is a photo comparison showing one of the custom Bapty blasters as found (TOP) and another as restored (BOTTOM):
These custom Bapty versions of the Stormtrooper blaster are unique is a variety of ways. Per Bapty staff who participated in the fabrication of these props, as well as those involved in modern-day research following their “discovery” at the Bapty armoury storeroom, and with a physical examination, these custom features and alterations are as follows:
- Actual Vintage Sterling Body Tube
- Custom Fabricated Wooden Dowel (Replacing Gun Barrel)
- Custom Cast Solid Aluminum Billet (Slotted Into Rear of Gun – Extending from Rear of Sterling Tube, Past Faux Ejector Port and Receiver)
- Seam and Molding Lines in Cast Aluminum Billet
- Solid Rear Site
- No Trigger or Trigger Mechanism
- Custom Fabricated Aluminum Trigger Guard
- Custom Fabricated Aluminum Grip
- Custom Rivet Positioning
- Custom Rivet To Hold Custom Scope Rail
- Customized (Cut Down) Sterling Magazine
- Silver-Painted Faux Ejector Port (Only Some of the 20 Found, Including This Copy)
One of these custom Bapty blasters is clearly depicted in the classic reference work, Star Wars Chronicles.
Below is a scan of the “Imperial Military Models” graphic illustrated on Page 91:
Below is an annotated version produced by The Prop Store of London:
Below are some photos showing real vintage Sterling sub-machine guns (LEFT, LEFT, TOP) compared with this custom Bapty prop (RIGHT, RIGHT, BOTTOM):
The Bapty style of custom blasters also appear in many of the publicity photos produced to promote the film, depicting Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo, and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia:
These style of custom blasters are seen in the desert and spaceport scenes on Tatooine, which were filmed in Tunisia, as seen in these stills from the film:
They can also be identified in scenes on the Death Star:
Due to budgetary restraints, these custom blasters were rented by Lucasfilm and returned to Bapty & Co. once the production was completed. As such, ownership was retained by Bapty, and thus transferred to The Prop Store of London in recent years, making the pieces rare pieces of memorabilia, in that they are a few of the only original props that have no issues related to title (i.e. they are not stolen property).
In that this piece was found stripped, it has undergone a careful and easily reversible restoration to appear as it did in the original film.
This included the addition of:
- Replica “T-track” strips along the barrel, made of plastic and attached with double-sided tape
- Replica cylinders attached to the top of the magazine well with double-sided tape
- A replica Hengstler counter box affixed to one side via a discreet bracket screwed into the scope rail
- A custom-made scope rail of the correct thickness and width (based on a paint overspray “footprint” found on one of the two scopes found at Bapty), made of steel and bent to fit the front slot and custom hole in back, held down by a threaded screw for easy removal)
One element that makes this particular blaster unique is that it is one of two from those found that includes an original vintage scope obtained at Bapty. This scope was obtained from Karl Schmitt, the Bapty armourer who produced these custom blasters for the film, and is of the variation that is most commonly seen in the film. While there is good evidence this scope was used, I would characterize it as possible but not entirely conclusive. However, the second of the two scopes is marked by a paint overspray “footprint” that reveals where the scope rail was (which was used to spec out the replica scope rails used to restore the pieces).
Below are photos of the blaster as it is today:
Provenance includes a letter of authenticity from the industry professional who located and identified the set of props at Bapty & Co. and worked with staff to document the pieces – this was his personal copy chosen among the initial find of approximately 20 pieces. Also included is a Prop Store of London Certificate of Authenticity.
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