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Arming the Galactic Empire

By Will Dabbs, MD
Photos by Sarah Dabbs

In 1977 I was 11 years old and a movie debuted that was literally without precedent. Chatter on the playground was that the Bad Guy was a huge black guy in a space suit. I envisioned Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Neil Armstrong’s moonwalking togs. When finally the opportunity arose for me to see the movie myself, I sat on the front row in a tiny little movie house in Brookhaven, Mississippi. 121 minutes later I was a changed young man.

Star Wars introduced the planet to the world of Jedi Knights, light sabers, and the Dark Side of the Force. In the process the movie’s creator, George Lucas, arguably did more to advance the science of movie making than any other single person in history. Lucas’ creative genius gave us THX sound, Pixar, and Industrial Light and Magic as well as the video game company LucasArts. As I was at pretty much the perfect age to ride the crest of the Star Wars phenomenon, I’ve always been a fan.

Hardware

The original Star Wars movie was shot in England on a fairly modest budget and the weapons used in the movie were of European origin as a result. Han Solo’s Blaster was at its heart a Mauser Bolo Broomhandle and the heavy weapons used by the Imperial Stormtroopers were essentially unmodified MG34 machineguns. The small arms used by the archetypal white-clad galactic thugs were, according to the backstory, BlasTech E-11 Blasters.

The E-11 is a heavily modified L34 Sterling submachinegun that incorporates cooling fins on the front and an optical sight that originally came from a British tank. The guns used in the original films were blanked for theatrical use. Astute observers can spot empty casings flying from the guns during action sequences in the early movies. I built a facsimile of the original E-11 Blaster out of a registered full auto Sterling submachinegun and it remains one of the most prized pieces in my modest gun collection.

Now fast-forward 38 years and Star Wars has yet again captured the imagination of the planet. In...

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