In the original Star Wars trilogy, Han Solo trusted a blaster at his side over the “hokey religion” of the Force or the “ancient weapons” of lightsabers. As all the Han Solo fanboys who emerged from the franchise can attest, a lot of audience members did too. Sturdy, reliable, and in no way powered by magic, the reason why movie audiences believe in the science fiction guns of Star Wars is because they are far more grounded in reality than one might expect. Call it a convenient anachronism, or clever psychological production design, but the convincing realism of the blasters in Rogue One is — for better or worse — connected to our acceptance that these look like, and are almost always based on, recognizable firearms found right here on planet Earth.
To understand the blasters of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and their likely real-world correlations, Inverse reached out to gunsmith and prop expert Taylor Anderson. As a novelist and historian, Anderson has created prop weapons for films like The Alamo, The Patriot, and others. “Many real-world weapons have reached a pinnacle of ergonomics and it is reasonable to assume that they might also do so ‘Far, Far Away’,” he told Inverse. Anderson regards the anachronism of blasters in Star Wars as something of a mixed bag in the realism department, but thinks in the end, basing these sci-fi ray guns on real-world weapons is at least partially responsible for the gritty believability of the invented world as a whole.
“At least most of the Star Wars weapons actually LOOK like weapons …” Anderson explained, “… instead of blow dryers, hot glue guns, or TV remotes.” Unlike bespoke sci-fi weapons — like the goofy and usually non-lethal phasers of Star Trek — the guns of Star Wars, and its latest iteration, Rogue One look like they come from a real war. But as Taylor Anderson explains, these guns don’t all come come from the same war, instead, there are a few different eras involved. Here’s a breakdown of which blaster connects to which real-world firearm.
Jyn’s New Blaster
Slick and dangerous, Jyn Erso’s blaster pistol is a little less clunky than the one Han Solo gave to Rey in The Force Awakens. But, it also might be the oldest weapon in the movie, at least in terms of its real-world inspiration. “Jyn’s new blaster is clearly a P-08 Luger,” Anderson said.
And the P-08 is old: a German gun dating back to the First World War, which was used by members of the Imperial German Army in service of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Cassian Andor’s Blaster Pistol
In most scenes it looks Cassian Andor is rocking a blaster pistol vaguely reminiscent of one we might see Han Solo wield. But, the actual origin of this blaster looks like its just the cut-out middle of a very dangerous semi-automatic from Earth.
“Cassian’s weapon is definitely based on an AR-15 action” Anderson said. An AR-15 action is of course a very heavy-duty (and controversial) semi-automatic weapon. It is produced by Colt Firearms in the United States and has been since 1958.
Baze’s Heavy Blaster Rifle
Baze Malbus might have the biggest blaster of anyone in the Rogue One crew, and the size of his weapon might reflect some of its real-life inspiration.
“I think Baze’s weapon might be a very heavily modified Saiga,” Anderson said. “A kind of 12 gauge [shotgun] based on the AK-47 action.”
Death Trooper Long-Range Blaster
The menacing Death Troopers, seemingly a part of Orson Krennic’s personal detachment of guards has been the source of a ton of speculation and some controversy. In addition to being taller than regular stormtroopers, they seem to be packing a different long-range weapon.
According to Anderson: “The long range blaster looks like it has many parts from an MG-42.” An MG-42 is a 1942 machine gun, created by Mauser, and favored by the Nazis. If one is still unsure as to who the stormtroopers or Death Troopers might be modeled on, their blasters are a good indication.
Classic Stormtrooper E-11 (Imperial) Blaster Rifle
Back in 1977, this was probably the standard when someone thought of a Star Wars “blaster.” Han, Luke, and Leia stole a ton of these weapons from Stormtroopers when they escaped the Death Star in A New Hope. As is generally known, and confirmed by Taylor Anderson, the rifle itself was based on a Sterling submachine gun. If the crisp English accents of those in service of the Empire needed a match, the Sterling machine gun makes sense: It’s British in origin. And just like the new Death Trooper blasters, it has it roots in being created during WWII. Expect to see average stormtrooper touting these weapons prevalently in Rogue One.