By Kyle Shea
A young smuggler with a heart of gold sits at a table in the toughest bar in town. His best friend and business partner has brought an old man and a teenaged farm boy over to talk about a ride. The smuggler gives a price—a high one. The boy is cocky, boasting that he can handle the smuggler’s vessel better than the smuggler can. But the old man is wiser and makes a better deal, one the smuggler likes. They agree to a deal just as the authorities arrive to check on a disturbance. The old man and the farmer leave, and the smuggler tells his friend to ready the vessel while he goes and talks to a gangster to whom he owes money.
Before the smuggler can leave the bar, a bounty hunter arrives with blaster drawn and pointed at him. The two sit down, with the bounty hunter’s blaster pointed at the smuggler at all times. The smuggler tries to explain that he will have the money for the bounty hunter’s boss soon, but it is all a diversion. The smuggler is actually pulling out his blaster under the table. The confident bounty hunter comments that he has been waiting for this day for a long time. The smuggler agrees, just as he shoots and kills the green alien bounty hunter. The smuggler gets up, apologizes to the owner of the establishment for the mess and walks out of the bar.
That movie scene is the first time the world saw one of the greatest rogues in movie history: Han Solo, captain and owner of the Millennium Falcon and best friend to the Wookie, Chewbacca. The character, played by Harrison Ford, is a movie and science fiction icon. He is loved by fans and critics all over the world and has been an inspiration to many characters in fiction as well. Han appeared in all three of the original “Star Wars” movies, the first of the new sequel movies and even had his own movie, though it did not do well in theaters (and Harrison Ford was not playing Han).
In all three older films, Han Solo carries a “BlasTech DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol.” It is one of the most iconic weapons in science fiction. It is actually a Mauser C96 semiautomatic pistol, one of the first semiautomatics made in the late 1800s–early 1900s. Mounted on the pistol is a Hensoldt & Wetzlar Dialyt 3x Scope on a mount that Bapty weapon master Karl Schmidt made for a previous film, “The Naked Runner,” starring Frank Sinatra in 1967. The original work had an extended barrel, a fake suppressor and a buttstock for Sinatra to use as a sniper. The Han Solo version has a custom-made flash hider on the front of the barrel, also by Karl Schmidt, to make it look more like a “space gun.” On the top of the upper receiver near the scope are the numbers 9415, and under one of the nobs on the scope are the numbers 9761. On the other side of the scope is the serial number 2602. The plates on the pistol grip are made of wood, and the serial number of the gun is on the back, right under the hammer. The upper and lower numbers match: 299415, which makes this a WWI-made pistol. This was a live handgun, blank fire adapted.
There were actually three or four pistols made for the movies, the usual spares in case something went wrong. One of these was used by Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, in the sequel to “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back.” It is believed that gun is in the hands of Planet Hollywood, but it is not the Han Solo gun. There were three or four metal non-firing versions made for use in the movies as well, used in U.S. scenes. After the movies, the guns were taken apart at Bapty, and three had their barrels cut down. After the Dunblane shootings in Scotland, three of the receivers were handed over to the government to be destroyed, at £250 each. Bapty “Waffenmeister” Karl Schmidt had kept the original Han Solo scope, mount and other parts in his workshop area. Over a 20-year period, the remaining parts were collected by Tony Watts (owner of Bapty & Co.), and the last remaining gun was eventually put back together. It is entirely original, and the parts have been identified as the main gun for Han Solo. It is the only remaining real firing “Movie Hero” gun for the Han Solo character. The movie prop flash hider had to be lightly sandblasted and refinished. (U.S. production units made a number of the flash hiders, and Stembridge Gun Rentals had several.)
The Mauser C96 was first produced in 1896. Over a million were made, and a large number of variants were produced. The ammunition depended on the variant, from 7.63 Mauser to 9x19mm Parabellum. It usually carried 10 rounds in a built-in magazine, which were loaded from a stripper clip. But there were variants that allow you to have removable magazines. It is a light gun to carry and has a reliable range of over 300 feet.
While China was the only country to issue the Mauser C96 for their armed forces and police, this gun was extremely popular with both government officials and civilians. The list of people who used it includes Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia. Sadly, the gun was among others used in the killing of the Russian Imperial family and the assassination of Spanish Prime Minister Eduardo Dato. The C96 was used in both World War I and World War II, the Chinese Civil War, the Russian Civil War, the Spanish Civil War and the Easter Uprising in Ireland.
“Star Wars” is certainly one of the greatest movies ever made. Its sequels, “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” are equally loved. So many lines are memorable, and even characters in the background received their own action figures. Both the heroes and villains are remembered with great fondness. It has been admired and even mocked with love. The franchise has made a fortune selling action figures, video games, toy weapons, costumes and other merchandise. More related movies and television shows have also been made, with mixed reactions. Whatever the future holds for the franchise, the original “Star Wars” movie and Han Solo himself will always have a place in the hearts of billions.
Special thanks to Bapty & Co. in London, for allowing us the rare opportunity to photograph this amazing gun.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N9 (Nov 2019)|