Many of you saw my recent article about my friend’s rough replica of Han Solo’s DL-44 blaster from the Star Wars movie franchise. If you missed it, you can find it here. The idea behind that build was to construct an AR pistol to look like a rough approximation of the movie prop, as inexpensively as possible. Today I bring you another functioning DL-44 replica gun, but the goal with this one was much different. The owner sourced a real C96 “Broomhandle” Mauser and commissioned a professional gunsmith to rebuild and modify it to be as close to a perfect movie prop replica as possible. This was not to be just a cheap, fun range toy. Today’s blaster was the obsessive mission of a Star Wars mega-fan and his gunsmith, bent on excruciating detail. Let’s discuss how they accomplished this galactic feat.
The blaster’s owner, Brandon, reached out to TFB in the wake of my last Han Solo handgun article, declaring that he and his wife have a “huge Star Wars addiction”. Since he connected with me on social media in order to share some of the photos featured in this article, I can confirm that this self-diagnosed “addiction” appears to be legit. Brandon’s social media photos include more than a few that hearken to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Halloween as a Rebel Alliance pilot, wielding lightsabers (“an elegant weapon of a more civilized age”), wearing a Millennium Falcon/X-Wing/TIE Fighter-emblazoned vest, posing with Chewbacca – it’s all there. When he decided to take the plunge into creating a screen-correct Solo blaster replica, it started Brandon and his friend Marvin, of Selma, California’s Central Valley Guns, on an eight-month journey of “blood sweat and tears” to source the correct parts, perform fabrication where it was needed and apply multiple layers of Cerakote to get everything just right.
The blaster project began life as a C96 “Broomhandle” (so termed because of the characteristic appearance of the pistol’s grip) chambered in .30 Mauser, but the gun was in rough shape. According to a Central Valley Guns social media post about this build while it was still in progress:
This was hardly a “perfectly good” C96. It was in terrible condition and as I mentioned to an earlier post, it had no rifling left in the barrel and literally none of the numbers matched. It was a pieced together Century Arms parts gun, so there was no great loss here. It wouldn’t even function when it arrived. I honestly would not have touched a C96 in good condition outside of restoring it. If there was ever a candidate to do this to, this pistol was it.
Central Valley Guns also indicated that some of the parts they obtained were originally only ever meant for a resin “dummy gun”. This caused them some technical issues that needed to be overcome in order to make this work as a fully-functioning, firing replica. They advised that they believe this piece is one of only six working movie-accurate replica DL-44s in existence, and that two of those six are owned by world-renowned professional speed and competition shooter Jerry Miculek.
Once the right “clunker” Frankenstein C96 had been found on GunBroker and the nearly-smooth barrel had been professionally relined, the real work of conversion could begin. Marvin and Brandon spent quite a bit of time poring over photos of the movie prop viewed from all possible angles, as well as examples of the few other existing clone-correct builds, such as those in Miculek’s collection. They used these sources to formulate a plan of attack regarding what parts would be needed to dress up the Broomhandle properly.
One of the most noticeable items needed was the muzzle device. Where the original pistol has a plain barrel and muzzle adorned only with a front sight, the DL-44 was fitted with a distinctive, conical flash hider-style piece. The team’s research indicated that the original had come from a German MG-81. The MG-81 was a 7.92x57mm caliber, recoil-operated, belt-fed machine gun developed by Mauser in 1938-1939, and produced from 1940 until 1945. Although it was primarily used in aircraft, infantry-purposed variants with shoulder rests and bipods also saw use by German soldiers, particularly late in WWII. It was from one of these infantry M81s that the original blaster muzzle device was taken. Due to the concerns about excessive weight inhibiting the pistol’s ability to properly cycle, Marvin opted to use a lighter aluminum copy on the DL-44.
Another area that required particular attention was the scope. Brandon had found a parts kit that helped with some of the details, but the scope it included was little more than a plain aluminum tube just for looks, and for this build that simply wouldn’t do. Some scrounging around online uncovered a period-correct Hensoldt-Wetzlar scope on eBay, and once this last piece arrived the finishing touches began coming together. The C96 spent a fair amount of time on the mill to remove the front sight and other unwanted pieces. Cooling fins for the front of the gun’s body were fabbed and added, and a bit of machine work and tig welding got the scope mount in place. Once a test fire confirmed good mechanical function, the blaster underwent disassembly and cleaning in preparation for bead blasting and Cerakote. Marvin sprayed it, baked it, and then applied the appropriate “battle worn” finish before the final bake to cure.
The finished product, as you can see from the final photo below, looks pretty spectacular. The attention to detail paid and obsessive perfectionism involved in this months-long labor of love are readily apparent. The project wasn’t cheap, as you might expect. This level of accuracy required more than $2000 between the gun and parts, and more than $2000 in labor costs, with a grand total estimate in excess of $4500. But for Star Wars fans of the caliber of Brandon and his wife, it seems that the significant time and resource investment was well worth it. They and Central Valley Guns are clearly deeply proud of this tribute piece, and I don’t blame them. Any scruffy-looking nerf-herder would be only too happy to have this trusty blaster on his hip when entering some wretched hive of scum and villainy. May The Force be with you, and I’ll see you at the range!