The Pièce De Résistance of Blasters
When we last left off we identified the following problem: how and where can you find a blaster that has the accuracy and durability that can match the armor you’ve spent so many hours completing?
This article will cover the topic of accuracy...relatively speaking. Why relatively? The problem with replicating any kind of prop that originated from the 1970s is that it’s often more of an archeological dig than it is a simple matter of referencing the archives. Despite the plethora of resources and original film assets that are in the archives of the Lucasfilm Museum of Cultural Archives (what you might commonly refer to as the Lucasfilm Archives or Skywalker Ranch Archives), the only E-11 blasters in their catalog were sub-par castings from The Empire Strikes Back and the MGC Sterling from Return of the Jedi. We knew the blasters from A New Hope had been rented from a local rental house and were returned to that rental house after filming.
Unlike a lot of our earlier projects, nothing we found in the archives had true lineage to the original deactivated Sterlings that were used. We had to rely on other types of research that has long existed in the ethos of prop replication.
The key references we ultimately came upon were a set of very good photos of the blaster commonly referred to as the “Bapty” blaster, so named after the rental house from which the original deactivated prop was procured. We found both photos from the time of filming and more recent photos of these blasters that had made their way into the hands of private collectors. The Bapty blaster stands out because of its additional detailing and its slight variance to the standard E-11 blaster we all know and love, ultimately leading to our decision to base the first kit on this beloved piece.
- Different Greebles
- Casting Line and Receiver Cut
Grip: Looking at the grip, one can’t help but notice the bold departure from the well-known Sterling checked grip featured on the E-11. The grainy grip of the original blaster is not present, but replaced with a relatively smooth grip instead. Additionally, the overall shape of the grip has been simplified to a degree. The only question is "why?" We will never know for sure, but it is presumed this is the result of casting the grip and trigger group to make the Sterling non-functional. This may have been done in a hurry, maybe even on location, and resulted in less detail than the original.
Different Greebles: Like Industrial Light and Magic, who coined the term, when we refer to ‘greebles’ (not to be confused with 'nurnies' which are CGI detailing of a similar nature) we are identifying the small detail pieces purposely placed, sometimes seemingly at random, on a prop to give it a more complex and interesting appearance. Greebles are typically found parts from various unrelated kits and models, often at all sorts of scale, and repurposed to provide depth and on screen ‘realism’ to the piece. In this particular blaster, we noted that the greebles we ever so slightly different with unique additions to the magazine and the counter. Again, why?
Casting Line and Receiver Cut: To top it all off, there is an odd cut line that was present on the body of this blaster that wasn’t on others. As part of the deactivation process, the receiver tube of the Sterling was cut and a solid-cast replacement metal receiver was riveted to its tail end. There is a very obvious line down the side of the new rear receiver due to the casting process where the two halves didn't quite align. While this wasn't an intentional deviation from the standard E-11, it is an obvious identifier of the Bapty blaster.
Now at this point most people have dozed off, but to enthusiasts of the prop this discussion has spawned all kinds of theories as to why the Bapty is the way it is. One of the most prevailing ideas (none of these can be definitively validated) takes into account that we do know some of the blasters were taken to Tunisia, crossing international borders. It is speculated that because of differing deactivation prop laws, perhaps more care than usual was needed. It would at least explain the odd cut line; perhaps it was used for additional proof of deactivation. Secondly, perhaps that iconic grip had to be removed and replaced by a quickly cut and sanded down version that worked more as a plug than anything. This would help drive home the the notion that the prop held no more threat than a broom handle. Lastly—and this is a shot in the dark—maybe the additional greebles were purposely placed to demarcate this as a true variant, perhaps only something a Sandtrooper would love. We’re fans, we can dream!
There you have it! With all the mystery and history, how could we NOT choose this as our first E-11 base kit? It’s clearly unique and perhaps the most easily identified variant of the E-11 seen in A New Hope.
In the next segment, we’re going to take a look the thought process in redefining how a blaster costume accessory kit should come together, from design principle to actual execution. Don’t miss the final chapter in this three piece series!
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