The Guns of STAR WARS

Being a NRA Certified Pistol and Personal Protection Instructor, as well as a life long shooter, I am fluent in over 6 million forms of Weapon Systems. As such, I am often questioned about guns in movies - and gun movies.

I say STAR WARS is of paramount importance to film making and to the shooting community in general. Not only is it an escape from the hum drum of life taking us to other worlds we would love to go to, it proves the premise that Germany has the best gun makers in the world and in galaxies far far away. The movie just wouldn't be the same without the German guns. What would Han Solo do with Greedo if Han wasn't armed with his Mouser-Blaster?  Luke too...

Looking at Solo's Handi Blaster, you see that it is topped with a type of scope. Some have asked me "Why? - He never uses it!" Let me go out on a limb here. I have read that Solo's blaster has been less than ATF approved modifications, such as military grade energy packs and what not. His gun is capable of doing a great deal more damage. Should Han want to deliver this damage precisely, he would use the scope.  When we have seen him use his Blaster in combat, no, he didn't use the scope. He might have even been killed if he tried to use it. "What?" you say.  Let me explain.

Scopes on handguns are not fast devices to use, and in the shooting community it is debated on whether or not any sites are fast enough to use in combat, and there are to schools of thought on this. One school is the "Point Shooting" group, who believe in keeping your eyes on the target and pointing the gun naturally. A prime example of this is in the scene when Luke yells "No!" after seeing Ben get hacked. Look at his stance, feet wide apart, knees bent, arms out forming a triangle. Classic point shooting there. This is touted as been the fastest method of shooting and is also some times called the "Israeli Technique". The other side of the shooting coin is more concentrating on the front site - for accurate shot placement, you take a second and aim. Han uses neither styles in any strict sense. He uses an older point shooting method that is a throw back to the old western style of index shooting. This is actually very in character with Solo, whos primary style is "Just Blast it". Back to the scope, technically it is correct that he didn't use it in any of the depicted situations. 

And quite often you observed Stormies packing MG-42s all over the place - never mind the dressing up on the MG,  STOCK works just fine even in a galaxy far, far away.   Mostly the Stormies are packing the DL-44, which is actually a dressed up British Sterling submachine gun - one of the finest subguns ever made. The Sterling, and the resulting DL-44, has a folding stock. The stock folds up under barrel on the bottom and can snap out to full extension very quickly. Of course, we never saw a trooper shoulder his blaster. If one had, then the movie would have ended rather abruptly. Fire from a shouldered weapon is on average much much more accurate and easier and faster to shoot as well. I like the Stormies - they have a Key Stone Cop feel to them when they are all firing.  One of the worst insults I have heard on the firing ranges is "Your Shooting Like A Storm Trooper!"   I laugh at Ben's line "Only Imperial Storm Troopers are so precise."  This makes me believe a Fire Arms Instructor would make a great living there on Tatooine.  That, and Imperial Trainers need a good butt kicking. 

So, this leaves the question "Who is the best shot in Star Wars?"  I am not sure, but I think Leia. She took out a Stormie with her modified Luger,  one in the beginning of Episode 4, with a single shot right to the heart (just before she gets stunned), and two of them in episode 6, while on the forest moon of Endor. Not to mention the troopers she picks off with the DL-44 while covering Lukes butt while he's playing Tarzan after he blasted the controls to extend the bridge.
You Go Girl!

There are lots of other noteworthy items to talk about. Like the Maxim Machine gun on Hoth and the Sheridan tank turrets there too. This hardware gives SW a lot of credibility. Look at these guns, Real Guns,  then look at the latest Star Trek film.  Just what the heck is a "Phaser?"  That doesn't sound like a weapon to me. Think of this: You alone in a parking lot - a big hair thug is charging you before you can get in you car and drive away, this guy eats raw hobbits. Do you want to PHASE him? Or Blast him?

I thought so.

Even More Gun Talk:

I have had several requests for me to talk about Star Wars weapons again - but this time in more detail, and describe current equivalents. As pointed out to me, I have garnered some fans and I have a duty to keep them amused. (Hear that Lucas? - Episode One... about dang time, fella!)

I was looking at the cover art on "The Mandalorian Armor" book,  and that brought about some trains of thought,  namely the Colt Peacemaker Boba Fett has in his hands. Back in the Wild West era, a gun like this was not uncommon,  and actually shows up in a couple of westerns. It is a basic handgun with a shoulder stock attached. This lends the tactical utility as a short, easily maneuvered weapon with the stability of a rifle. In layman's terms, it means it is a very leathal combo - best of both worlds so to speak. The ATF calls such a weapon today a SBR, or Short Barreled Rifle.   Illegal, unless you get the local sheriff's autograph and pay for a $200 stamp of approval. (Laws regarding these vary state to state.)  It is very fitting that Fett carries one of these given the shady nature of the configuration.
"You put a stock on your Glock - you end up in a cell block."

Machine guns
As is generally known, the big guns some of the Storm Troopers carried was basically an unmodified MG-42, of World War Two.   Again, a very fitting selection on part of the film makers. That gun has an even nastier reputation than a SBR!   Back in WWII, it was nicknamed "The Reaper for the Reich."  It was very reliable, and so accurate (for a machine gun) it was spooky.  It also had a very high rate of fire - 1100 RPM, or Rounds Per Minute.   This was a very deadly arm, and also very light and handy compared to other machine guns of the time.  The US M-60 machine gun is based on the MG-42,  but we didn't make it as good as the original.  It is not uncommon for a platoon of infantry to have 2 to 4 M-60s.  In fact, these days, depending on the units load out, you will also see soldiers packing the M-249 "SAW."  

The SAW is the Squad Automatic Weapon.  This gives each squad one heavier gun for increased fire power.  The SAW is also quite capable of cutting down trees - one of the reasons the name SAW has stuck.  The difference between the '60 and the SAW is caliber.   The '60 fire the 7.62MM NATO cartridge (.308 Winchester in your dad's old hunting rifle) and the SAW fires the 5.56MM NATO round.   The SAW is also 1/3 lighter than the '60, and can fire at 1100 RPM,  which is why soldiers would often fight for the right to carry it - it rocked.   I say rocked in the past tense, because I understand the Army backed down the cyclic rate to 850 RPM. (you can't have too much fun).  

The organization is like this - in each group of soldiers, there are usually two bigger guns for support, on the squad level it is the SAW, a s we see the Stormies use the MG-42s.  On the Platoon level,  it's M-60s, and maybe even a .50 caliber Browning M-2 or Ma Deuce as it is called, depending on the unit.  The Stormies would some times roll out a bigger machine gun and mount it on a tripod,  like how we would deploy the M-2. (As shown in the assault on... ah... Echo Station - as the heroes were taking off in the Falcon.   I'm thinking that had that gun engaged the Falcon, it would have disabled Han's hotrod, and kept in anchored - just like a .50 cal would do to one of our aircraft today.   But that would have ended the movie rather rudely.)   Luckily the falcon had an automatic gun that cut down the gun crew.   Some less knowledgeable folks have criticized that bit - but it does have current equals. Some German and South African fighting vehicles and APCs have remotely articulated guns as well, as our B-52s - in the tails. (the B-52 is the last bomber to retain the traditional tail gunner)

In Episode One we see Battle and Destroyer droids - perhaps the tanks pictured are even droid controlled.  This is becoming more common today. Our world famous Tomahawk Cruise Missiles have a type of AI on board, that guides these simple suicidal "droids" across rolling terrain at low altitude to the target.   At the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, we have worked on remotely controlled M-1 Abrams tanks -  an attempt at keeping humans out of harms way - since these days, a tank on a battle field is the #1 target for the enemy to engage,  and with new technologies in shoulder-fired battlefield guided missiles, even a grunt can take out a main battle tank. We also have a pure ROBOT weapon system under development (we have it - its proven to work - we just want it to work better and cheaper, and reusable) called the FIRE ANT.    The Fire Ant is an ATV quad runner, with a huge specialized antitank mine that lets the robot engage a tank at up to 100 yards effectively. 

With the new J-STARS systems (think AWACS for the ground) target ID and tracking is handled smoother than ever before, and tied in with the robotics, threat tanks could be dispatched by a simple "SIC'M!" command and a robot will go kill it. The Fire Ant tends to get blown up with the target, and that's the problem. We can only hope the brain-trust at Aberdeen will realize a MINE could be replaced with 4 AT-4 missiles, giving the FIRE ANT 4 times the lethality. (And they get paid how much?) 

Taking this into account, battle droids are not far off either.  Honda's robot walks around and is just plain creepy the way it moves... just give it an Uzi and piss it off and you'll have a prototype battle droid in five minutes.   We already use other robots for fighting too - RPVs for targeting air strikes and recon.  No, armies of droids are not far off at all. Some would say we already have the MARINES.    (But I don't want to get into any inter-service rivalry heckling here... You Jarheads know who you are.  My brother is a Marine - I respect that.  No one is perfect)

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This is what our cavalry scouts look like - your basic scout soldier, with the new Landwarrior system, and behind him is an M-3 Bradley, cavalry fighting vehicle.

Dewbacks
Some sand troopers rode those big lizards on Tatooine.  This has too much historical basis to even touch - horses and military have been hand in hand through time.

Armored Scouts

Today we have what are called Cavalry Scouts. These guys are very special folks - and I was lucky enough to work with some of these guys.  Nut Cases each one, God Bless'm.   These guys actually go out LOOKING FOR THE BADGUYS - which means when they start getting shot up, they've found them!  They use stealth, speed, smarts, and a lucky rabbit's foot to do the job.  They pack a goodly amount of fire power, but the job is to report the enemy location - if they dont get waxed first. They use M-3 Bradleys, Armored HumVees, motorcycles, Kiowa Helicopters, dune buggies and sometimes whatever they can, to get in and out and find the OPFOR (Opposing Forces).  

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The Empire's Cavalry

The Empire uses three items.  First are the Probe Droids, who sneak in and make visual contact. Then they have the Speeder Bike Scouts, who can get in and out fast - when not being harassed by Jedi in the woods.  Then for the heavies:  the AT-ST scout walkers who run in and find the hot spots and locate the heavier concentrations of enemy forces - looking for weaknesses, and causing general havoc.  One duty of the scouts today and possibly in the Empire, if necessary, is to delay an attack - engage them out front to slow them down, and give the defenders time to prepare.    An ugly mission.   I bet the Empire's Scouts and Cavalry would feel the same way.

The issue of the nonstandard holsters, as noted in the SW Index section of this site,  reminds me of the units I served with.   We were given a lot of license in the way we wore our equipment, and in what extras we wanted to carry (knives, garrotes, grenades, etc.)   Whatever we felt we needed was okay.   The Unit had in the past allowed privately-owned handguns - just as long as we didn't ask for the Army to pay for the ammo.   (That was squashed when we were sent to a certain base and were "just cause" for the other guys to say "HEY... we want that too!"   So the brain-trust said, like a parent with kids fighting over a toy,  "Okay, now NO ONE gets them!" )    Our '60 gunners had sidearms - .45's. we didn't want the newer 9MM. The Storm Troopers who had some extra gear, or holsters, may have had other or special individual duties - we don't know. But there is military precedent for this.

The Trooper's armour is also not unheard of.    Look at how a police tactical, or "SWAT" team, is outfitted - Kevlar helmet, Bolle' goggles, Safariland's Cover Six tactical body armour, black military BDUs, Hatch Gloves, black combat boots. (Often HI-TECH MAGNUM, or ROCKIES, made tactical boots)  This outfit serves three purposes.  One, practical protection - it is designed to offer the most protection possible. Two, to set the wearer/team apart from the normal troops, police, whoever. It  lets everyone know they are not there for doughnuts, or to play around. Three, when the door gets kicked in, and the place is filled with big black clad guys,  it has a dehumanizing effect.   I have seen 300 pound grown men wet themselves.   It puts a shock and panic into the suspects - or enemy.   It works.   It's a mental effect for the wearer, as well. They become super-human:   less fear, less hesitation, more courage, more aggressiveness...almost like a drug.   Packing big black guns doesn't hurt either.

I can't really comment on the fighting styles or methods shown in the Holy Trilogy.  There were so little tactics used. Only one pair of Troopers used tactics in the movies - in ANH, when the troopers opened the door to find C-3PO and R2D2 in the closet - notice how they stepped to the sides as the door opened? That's a tactical move, in case the guys in the closet opened up with gunfire. This is probably the same pair that tried to capture Leia on Endor. Another tactic used was to keep her pinned while the maneuver element moves in.   Strategy there!    But then they get killed.    *Sigh*   Oh well. The Empire will get it right at some point, right?

If you have any questions... like what about wrist blasters? Or where do you get off?  Whatever - I'll be happy to 'splain it to you.

Even More Gun Talk --  Including Episode One:

There has been discussion about the pros and cons of Jar Jar Binks... Let me get this off my chest - Jar Jar Binks kept my 2-year-old twins in the seats, and allowed my wife and I to watch the movie in peace. If you donít have young kids - then I am sure you are having a harder time with the Gungan... Who at the first time I saw him during a midnight showing, came across to me as a Goofy/Rastafarian/Gonzo type. The next day, after 2 hours of sleep, with all 4 boys there, Jar Jar clicked. Kade, my five year old was glued - no problems there. Gavin, at 6 weeks was disapproving of THX quality sound dialed up to "Eleven" and promptly fell asleep. Aidan and Kylan - my 2-year-old twin demolition team, was a concern. They couldnít quite get into the movie... And then they saw Jar Jar... Who made them giggle with delight every time he was on screen. I think THAT is the reason for Jar Jar.... Thank you, George Lucas!

Now, to the hardware. I had discussed Battle Droids earlier, so I wont rehash it - but let me say a few things here about them. As characters, they did a good job of being interesting lightsaber fodder. The dialogs they had were amusing. They appeared to be as sturdy as a piŮata. But remember - they were being hacked to death by two lightsaber-wielding Jedi. And of course, as with the Storm Troopers - had they been able to shoot very well, the movie would be over. They struck me as being cheap and disposable foot soldiers.

The weapons the Battle Droids carried looked at first to be based upon the British Sterling SMG, as was the E-11 Blaster Carbine the Stormies carried in "A New Hope". Upon closer inspection, I learned this was not the case. These droid guns are built from scratch, based on no real firearm. That was disappointing, but no big deal, because they still looked realistic and pretty cool too. At this time, there are no details published about these guns.

The Queen had an interesting little pistol - looking like a small oil can - it too is based on no real weapon. Later in the movie she pulls out a couple hide-out snub-nosed blasters and captures the Trade Federation leaders... That was a cool move. We couldn't see those units very well - but they looked to be small, accurate, and over powered... and just what the Queen would have... No bulky, ugly military grade arms there... Expensive, high quality hardware.

The Royal Guards packed the only "real gun" that I was able to note in the film. Guns they may be - but not firearms. They looked to be based on the CO2 powered pellet firing Olympic Free Pistol made by either Hammerli or Pardini. But at this time I am not sure... There are many "Free Pistols" out there made by several different companies that go from .117 caliber pellets to .22 rimfire. When I find out just what it really is - I will let you all know. These guns are very heavily modified, and dressed up with brushed-chrome riflescopes. They looked very sharp - and again, just what they would have - rather elegant, and very expensive - to include a grappling hook launcher, and winch. If Batman had a gun - this would be it. This is also the only blaster in the whole enchilada shown to fire rapidly. Watch how fast it shoots when Mister "I-donít-trust-Jedi-Masters" Panaka blows out a certain huge window... Wow, a rapid-fire blaster. Who would have thought? And thinking of the base gun itís built on - huge scope, so it should be highly accurate - and rapid fire... This is probably the most effective personal weapon in the Star Wars universe.

Speaking of rapid fire - we thought TIE FIGHTERS had it good with their rapid-fire cannons - they can't touch the Naboo Star Fighter's guns. Faster firing rate means more hits on your target in a dogfight. Regardless, I am still disappointed in the Naboo starcraft... they are much too sleek and sporty looking to be serious fighters. They look more like racing boats to me. They only have 2 cannons, along with the required Photon Torpedo launcher. Give me an X-wing any day. The Naboo fighter may have better aerodynamics and maybe even better speed, but it only has half the firepower.

There was no strategies shown by either the Gungan or Droid armies, just colonial era British style line up and shoot tactics. I am not pleased with that - even if the battle was total eye candy. No flanking maneuvers, no real thought to it. The Gungans, who took the field first, didn't seek high ground as they should have. They gave the droids the high ground, and an advantage. Sun Tzu would not have approved. But then again, Jar Jar was the General there, wasn't he?

The droid army had some tanks. These are new to Star Wars, and I was glad to see them. With a crew of three, they should have been more effective than shown, but Lucas didn't want all the kids crying with Jar Jar getting blown up. How did Jar Jar stop that one tank with a single Gungan Ion Ball (whatever the heck those blue balls were)? Well, the Droid that he hit was the commander - based on military standards, that was the commander's hatch it came out of. This being a droid tank - the commander was probably wired to the rest of the crew. So when he was taken out, the crew was too.

We also saw a speeder/jeep blow up one of those droid tanks. I heard the fellow in front of me say, "Aw - come on! You can't kill a tank with a Jeep!" I leaned over and said, "You never saw Rat Patrol?" To which he replied "Ah - that's right..." As that old World War II series "Rat Patrol" proved - you CAN kill tanks with jeeps. (Don't try this on your own battlefield... it only works on film.)

The last thing I want to say at this time is this...

Tuskin Raiders - those loveable Sand People... Those boys can SHOOT!   I mean, if that ainít shootiní, than grits ainít groceries!  Ben said in ANH "These Blast points... too accurate for Sand People, only Imperial Storm Troopers are so precise."  Yeah RIGHT! Those Tuskins were shooting at POD RACERS... targets moving at like, 400 miles per hour. Donít think race car - think low flying jet fighter. And they were shooting from long range too... at least 200 yards from what it looked like. That is a major shooting accomplishment. Not just a lucky shot either - they popped Anakin's Pod 2 or 3 times and took out another Pod all together. TUSKIN RAIDERS now hold the honor of Best Shots in the Star Wars Universe.

That's all I have right now folks. Give me the chance to watch this film a couple hundred more times, like I have the others... and I will have more details for you. Until then, May the Force Be With You.

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