Guns of the Silver Screen, V20N2: Star Wars: Guns of a New Hope

By Kyle Shea

On Wednesday, May 25, 1977, film and science fiction history was made. A film came out about a space opera in a galaxy far away. It was the story about a young farm boy going on an adventure to save a princess from an evil empire and its terrible enforcer. It became a huge financial success and eventually had an even better sequel about the empire striking back. It was loved by critics and fans alike, to the point where even today thousands of fans dress up as the characters of the movie.

The film was called Star Wars.

It’s probable there are few people in the world that have not seen Star Wars and its characters. Characters like Chewbacca, R2-D2, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and, of course, Darth Vader, have all become household names. Every bookstore is filled with tie-in books about the characters, and every toy store carries the toy versions of the weapons.

Speaking of the weapons, the original blasters of the film were actually guns that were remodeled for the film. They were chosen for some futuristic appearance even though they were from the past- WWII German MG34 Light Machine Guns, British Lewis Machine Guns with their fat radiator jacket and pan feed, as well as the Broomhandle Mauser that was Han Solo’s pistol. The best example is the Sterling L2A3 submachine guns (or Mk 4) that are used by the Stormtroopers, as well as many of the main characters. Called the BlasTech E-11 Blaster Rifle in the film, it was the standard issue weapon for the Stormtroopers. They were seen in all three films of the original trilogy, especially Return of the Jedi, where some of the Ewoks are shown using them. Bapty Ltd of London supplied the firearms for these movies, and Tony Watts allowed us to photograph them for this issue.

The Sterling submachine gun was designed by George William Patchett, the Chief designer at the Sterling Armaments Company of Dagenham. The British Army was looking for a new submachine gun in WWII and liked the design of Patchett’s gun. Although only 120 were built for the war, they were used in a number of battles, including Operation Market Garden.

In 1956, the Mark 4 (L2A3) came into service. It was used in a number of countries, including Argentina, Singapore, and Iraq. It weighs about 6 pounds without the magazine full of ammo. The magazine is loaded from the left side and it shoots 9x19mm ammunition. The buttstock folds under the gun, making it easy to carry when not in use. The firing pin is fixed into the face of the bolt, making it impossible to remove and it is open bolt firing. The bolt itself has helical grooves cut into it to keep dirt out of the inside of the receiver.

The Sterling Mark 4 was in other films like The Wild Geese, The Spy Who Loved Me, Robocop, and You Only Live Twice, as well as many TV Shows and Video Games. However, it is most recognized by movie goers as the Blaster of choice for the dreaded Stormtoopers, though they don’t hit much with it other than set decorations. Both are part of a story loved by millions, if not billions, of fans. A story about a battle between good and evil, in a galaxy far, far away.

May the Force be with you. Always.

Serial number - Obscured. Most of the original BlasTech E-11 (Sterlings) were deactivated and sold as European style “Deacs” and were quite popular with the collectors. They seldom come up for sale. The receivers of those are not destroyed, so they cannot legally come to the United States unless imported as Post-1986 dealer samples.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V20N2 (March 2016)
and was posted online on January 22, 2016


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