Whether one looks at comic books, fiction or film, firearms play a huge part in geek culture. In fact, there’s an entire web site dedicated to document who carried what.
Geek Guns takes a look at some of these weapons – focusing on their real-world performance rather than in-universe function. If there’s something you want to know more about, be sure to mention it in the comments.
This week we’re going to look at the weapon of an incidental character who ended up largely re-writing the Star Wars canon: Boba Fett’s EE-3 Blaster Carbine.
Stocked Pistols = Awesome
I don’t think there is any parallel to the way in which an incidental character totally transformed the Star Wars franchise. Boba Fett has almost no lines, doesn’t say anything noteworthy, and has only a few minutes of screen time.
But he looked so cool. Everyone knew there was an awesome back story to this mysterious bounty hunter and everyone was sure it was amazing. This curiosity eventually led to The Mandalorian, currently the only Star Wars property that isn’t going down the drain (give Disney some time, though). But I digress.
Part of that coolness flowed from his choice of weapon, which was compact but also large enough that it obviously carried immense hitting power. While it’s called a ‘carbine,’ Fett’s weapon is actually a pistol with an integral stock. Here again Star Wars used familiar things to create something exotic.
More than a century ago, stocked pistols (detachable or otherwise) were common. The stock provided extra stability which improved accuracy and extended the effective range of the sidearm, which is quite useful in open terrain. When semi-auto pistols were introduced in the 1890s, a few of them were issued with a combination holster/stock.
There’s a certain irony in Fett using a ‘stocked’ pistol because the weapon Han Solo’s Blaster is based on – the Mauser C96 – also had a stocked version. In fact, the C96 was regularly issued with a detachable stock that doubled as a holster. Firing one with the stock attached is sublime, by the way. Just be sure to tuck your thumb or you’ll get a nasty smack when the hammer cycles.
One of the last military arms to be issued with a stock was the Inglis, a Canadian-produced Browning Hi Power clone produced during World War II and used (anachronistically) by Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
So there’s a little bit of movie firearm trivia: two of the prop guns used by Harrison Ford had the capability of adding a stock. By the way, how cool would it have been for Han Solo to fit a stock to his blaster for a long-range precision shot?
That’s No Carbine, That’s a Flare Gun!
The source weapon for Boba Fett’s carbine is actually a flare gun, specifically the Webley No. 1 Mark I. If the shape looks a little familiar, that’s because it’s a derivative of the Webley revolver – the same weapon used by Indiana Jones and the Brutals of Zardoz. Funny how the same props keep turning up in different guises. The Webley is a single-shot, break action weapon chambered for 37mm projectiles. It saw use in British service during both World Wars and afterwards many of them were sold to US police agencies who have since sold them to the civilian market.
Like many movie props, Fett’s blaster evolved over time, being relatively unmodified in The Empire Strikes Back but getting a substantial upgrade in terms of extra stuff added for Return of the Jedi. The antique flare gun market isn’t exactly hopping these days, and it is likely fans who are propping up the market price for these relics.
As for range performance…well, who are we kidding? This is one of the Geek Guns where pride of ownership clearly trumps range utility. It has been a long time since I fired an M203 grenade launcher, but I don’t recall it being terribly difficult (in fact it was quite fun). Obtaining a Webley, suitable munitions and a location that will tolerate smoke bombs or flares would be a bit of a challenge, but I’m sure it can be done for those with sufficient motivation.
Of course, truly dedicated fans will also add a rocket pack.
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