In the Star Wars movie franchise, Harrison Ford’s iconic portrayal of space-borne smuggler Han Solo is inextricably linked to his trusty blaster pistol. Throughout the interstellar saga, our roguish patron saint of shooting first wielded a modified BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster, which he used to dispatch dozens of Imperial Stormtroopers and the occasional humanoid alien, among others. This fictional blaster was itself a modified real firearm, based on the venerable Mauser C96 – affectionately known as the “Broomhandle” Mauser. The German manufacturer produced more than a million of these guns between 1896 and 1937, and long before Ford fired laser beams out of his on the silver screen, C96s were reportedly carried by the likes of Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia.
Now thanks to the Broomhandle’s popularity (caused in no small part by Star Wars), they have become pricey, usually fetching thousands of dollars. However, if you’d like your own passable replica of Solo’s DL-44 and don’t want to shell out big bucks for it, I have good news! Home AR builders can assemble their own versions that come reasonably close to the Mauser’s looks, for far less money, and in a much more accessible caliber like .22LR. A friend of mine recently did just that, and he has been gracious enough to share his parts list and process with us.
Having been inspired by a similar replica blaster, my friend began with the following preface:
This is a functional pistol, but it’s a ‘range toy’. It shoots reliably and accurately (and gets a lot of attention at the range). BUT it’s both heavy and nose-heavy, and the scope is offset on the ‘wrong’ side for a right-handed shooter. I do have some red tracer ammo that would look like ‘blaster bolts’, but the Rona showed up before I could get video of it. (Yes, this is all perfectly legal, and as an instructor, I ensure that none of my firearms are accessible to the wrong people. It was also a lot of fun and quite educational.)
There are at least four versions of Han Solo’s legendary blaster in the Star Wars films, from the all-black version most commonly seen, to the one he shoots Greedo with (which uses different parts because the laws in California prevented them from using the usual one). I chose the one Han used in ‘Empire Strikes Back’, when he shoots at Darth Vader, because – at least for me – that scene defined Han. It’s why this one has the metal-colored flash hider/muzzle device.
He reports that he already had quite a few of the parts just laying around unused, with the remaining items able to be sourced fairly easily and cheaply. His list is as follows:
The blaster started to come to life with a standard Anderson lower receiver, a Sons of Liberty GunWorks build kit, a LaRue Tactical MBT-2S trigger, and a Magpul K2+ grip. The .22LR Pistol Receiver Endcap is from Model 1 Sales. In addition to the fact that the builder had it just laying around, the receiver endplate with a sling attachment loop was chosen to approximate the Mauser’s hammer. RightToBear provided the 9mm/.22 Slick Side upper receiver, to which was affixed the CMMG 4.5″ barrel and bolt group. The Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 10-round short magazine is allowed to the interface by virtue of a Better-Mag S&W .22 Rimfire Mag Adapter from Redi-Mag. This is an aluminum fitting that slides into the mag well, which positions the rimfire mag correctly and permits functionality of the mag release and bolt catch. An inexpensive older model Tasco 1.5×20 scope was found on eBay, as were the scope rings – which are actually cheap offset flashlight mounts – and my friend points out that he would “never use them in a serious firearm”.
The flash hider gets interesting and required some modification. It began as a purpose-built muzzle device for Broomhandle Mausers, made by ForceRelics on Etsy, specifically for use in turning a C96 into a Solo blaster replica. Although he doesn’t suggest anyone else do this, just for safety’s sake, my friend widened the opening with a drill press before having it bead-blasted and soaking it in bleach for several hours, in order to darken and age it. After this, he used a high-temp epoxy to mount a knurled thread protector inside it, which combined with a lock screw to securely mount the modified flash hider onto the barrel. Once this was complete, he sanded the completed blaster with increasingly fine emery cloth to weather and age it, completing the look. My friend notes, “Important lesson: Do this BEFORE assembly, or you’ll have to disassemble and clean all of the sanding residue out of your new blaster.”
Continuing with some additional words of caution and lessons learned, my friend explained what he would’ve done differently with the knowledge and experience he has now. “The muzzle device would be bead-blasted AND drilled out for the thread protector at the machine shop. The drill press I used wasn’t exactly stable, and the piece shifted. The hole wasn’t flat and wasn’t even. This meant that the thread protector didn’t sit centered, and I had to retouch the inside of the muzzle device with a round file so the bullets wouldn’t hit it.” He again mentioned weathering the disassembled pieces so as to keep aluminum filings out of nooks and crannies. He went on to say, “I’d consider a different barrel nut. There are a few that have that sci-fi look, but I’m ok with this one.”
If you want to assemble your own blaster and have a more accurate Broomhandle-style AR grip, you can actually have one 3D printed. Another friend who does 3D printing advised that approximately $25 would likely cover the cost of the model, printing material, and shipping. The blaster’s owner estimates that his complete DL-44 cost him under $700 all-in, although that is only a rough number since some of the parts were simply accumulated over the years and not specifically acquired/tracked for this particular project. You could likely squeeze that number down even further on your own build, for example: using a standard LPK with a mil-spec trigger instead of the LaRue one my friend happened to have.
Do you agree with Solo that “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.“? If you do and you decide to put together your own DL-44 replica, please share it with us in the comments! You might also want to head over to Kosher Surplus for some .22 tracers so your range day fun can look more like Star Wars blaster beams. Or if you’re feeling especially ambitious, maybe you could find a way to affix bow limbs to a handguard and make a working replica of Chewbacca’s Bowcaster. May The Force be with you, and I’ll see you at the range!