Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 1247: Documented Mauser Broomhandle “DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol” Prop

Auction Date: August 27, 2022

Incredibly Historic, Iconic, and Well Documented: The Only Surviving “DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol” Originally Used by Harrison Ford Starring as Han Solo in Filming and Promotion of the 1977 Epic "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope"

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Estimated Price: $300,000 - $500,000

Incredibly Historic, Iconic, and Well Documented: The Only Surviving “DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol” Originally Used by Harrison Ford Starring as Han Solo in Filming and Promotion of the 1977 Epic "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope"

Manufacturer: Mauser
Model: 96
Type: Pistol
Gauge: 9 mm
Barrel: 3 1/4 inch round (blank only)
Finish: blue
Grip: walnut
Stock:
Item Views: 32050
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 186
Class: Curio & Relic Handgun
Description:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... or rather, London in the mid-1970s, production of prop weapons for a little known and quite under-funded science fiction fantasy movie, dreamt up by George Lucas, had just begun. Released in 1977, the movie would eventually come to be known as "Star Wars" or "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope", kicking off a franchise that would go on to garner a cult following unlike anything the film industry had ever seen. Much of Lucas' vision for Star Wars was based around the characters, gear, vehicles, and settings being believable, a concept he often called "used future". The "used future" concept he envisioned relied heavily on the equipment the characters used and the vehicles they traveled in having a "lived in" or well-used appearance, a concept that had previously been almost entirely absent from the often "over-polished" and "over-sanitized" genre of science fiction. This drive to create a more grimy sci-fi world paired with quite limited initial funding led to some interesting solutions in the prop department, especially when it came to the weapons that would be used in filming. This specific pistol is a prime example of that resourcefulness, combining components from multiple different readily available surplus weapons. One of the more important developments in creating the perfect aesthetic for Star Wars came early on in the process through work between Lucas, Roger Christian the set decorator, and John Barry the production designer, a development which would come to be known as "greebles". The term "greebles" came to represent all the small mechanical looking parts that littered the surfaces and interiors of spacecraft and models in the first film and its successors, a concept which also carried over into hand held props and costume design. Many of the "greebles" for set construction either came from the purchase of scrapped and disassembled aircraft parts, which were well within the production's meager budget, or through disassembled, mixed, and matched toy model kits when building scale models for filming. This budget minded, "one man's trash is another's treasure" sort of attitude was equally applied when designing the personal weapons to be carried by the film's main protagonists. The production teamed up with Bapty & Co., a London based prop house, to provide all of the prop weapons for the film. Due to the limited time and budget available for production it was eventually decided to use as many existing items as possible, especially things such as readily available surplus firearms which could be modified with accessories and "greebles" to become almost unrecognizable when on screen. Examples of this can be seen throughout Star Wars such as the BlasTech E-11 blasters carried by most Stormtroopers, which were modified Sterling L2A3 submachine guns. Then there was the BlasTech DLT-19 Heavy Blaster Rifle, also carried by the Emperor's finest, which is a modified MG34 machine gun. Yet another example was a modified Lewis gun, which became the BlasTech T-21, preferred by those looking to turn Rebel scum into Swiss cheese with a rapid-fire blaster. Perhaps the most iconic surplus firearms used as props in the movie however was the Mauser C96 pistol or "Broomhandle" Mauser, which would not only become the Merr-Sonn Munitions, Inc. Model 44 blaster carried by many Imperial officers, but also the iconic BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster pistol carried by the stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking, Nerf-herder himself, Han Solo. Three Mauser C96 pistols were originally modified into DL-44 blasters for the film, with only one functional scope which was switched between the three depending on the detail needed in specific shots. One of the first close glimpses of one of the blasters is in the famous "Cantina" standoff scene between Solo and the bounty hunter Greedo. The DL-44 sees further action in the shootout during the escape of Mos Eisley. This specific pistol is documented by Tony Watts, who acquired Bapty & Co. and its stock in 2000, as well as by Carl Schmidt, the lead armorer for the film, as one of the three original DL-44 heavy blasters made for Star Wars: Episode IV, and the only surviving example. After filming of "A New Hope" had concluded, the three DL-44 blasters were returned to near their original "Broomhandle" configuration for use in other films by the prop company, their future importance to both the film and Star Wars community all but unknown at the time. The story of this specific DL-44 blaster, like many such legendary movie props, is complicated, and is perhaps best told by those who oringally made it and later re-discovered it. Below is presented the partial text from the included letter from Tony Watts, the owner and managing director of Bapty & Co. from 2000-2020, in which he describes the original design and development of the pistols for "A New Hope", as well as how this specific example came to be: "When I acquired the stock of Bapty & Co. in the year 2000 I had little knowledge of this film. It was only when a film memorabilia company bought the last of our prop Sterlings and other known pieces from ‘Star Wars’ that the question of what happened to the Han Solo blaster awakened my interest. I asked Carl Schmidt, who was the lead armorer on the film, what the true history was. As often the case the reality is something more complicated and sometimes much simpler than ever imagined, confounded with a near fifty-year memory gap. In liaison with the production company’s Art Department it was decided to use a Mauser C96 pistol with a vintage German Hensoldt scope, the scope having been used previously on a Frank Sinatra film amongst others, and an added MG81 flash hider on a cut down barrel for the Han Solo pistol. The Production wanted real blank firing guns for the action scenes to help with synchronisation of special effects and to aid actors in their reactions. As is standard practice on a film set, more than one firearm is required for filming. Between Second Unit and stunt double needs, publicity requirements and spares in case of malfunction with blank-firing conversions during filming, extra guns are always necessary and present. Initially two pistols were prepared and as filming progressed a third was created as production requirements increased. There was only ever one genuine scope and mount which was transferred to which ever pistol was in closeup. Dummy scopes and mounts were used when required. All three C96 pistols were taken from Bapty & Co. stock and, being hand crafted, had minor differences and marks, the details of which are now lost in time. Now what became of all this after filming. Due to restrictive firearms laws in the UK, the guns were stripped back to their original condition with added lugs cut off, barrel extensions (blank firing only) or moderators added and refinished for use in future films. The importance of ‘Star Wars’ or these items used in the film not being recognised at the time. Fast forward to 2010, and after constant badgering from myself, Carl Schmidt proudly came to me with the original Hensoldt-Wetzlar ‘Ziel Dialyt 3x’ scope he had found in one of the multitude of Bapty & Co. oddments boxes. Then in 2018 he made my year by discovering the remains of the original scope mount in the bottom of one of his parts chests. Sadly it was only the upper two-thirds of the mount as the base had been cut off sometime in the intervening years. Now my attention was spent in looking at our remaining stock of C96 Mauser pistols. Many had been lost in a government hand-in scheme in 1997 but we still possessed five much worn and abused complete C96 pistols. Four had their original length barrels but one, serial number 299415, had a re-lengthened barrel and faint witness marks on the side which had been linnished and re-coloured. This was undoubtably one of the three original guns used on the 1977 ‘Star Wars’ set and the only one to survive. Now for my own personal satisfaction I asked Carl, although retired, if he was prepared to return to Bapty and rebuild what he had helped create all those years earlier and he agreed but with the proviso that he would only re-assemble the parts we had in the spirit of how they were originally put together. A flash hider was taken from our MG81 spares box, given their rarity feasibly the same one as used in 1977, and he got to work. The base of the scope mount in 1977 was possibly a complicated slide on dovetail but it was decided not to try and replicate that as the exact detail has been forgotten and just create speculation amongst ‘Stars Wars’ enthusiasts. Also the gizmos and small pieces glued on by the Art Department to make the C96 look suitably futuristic have not been replaced, even though replica parts are available, for the sake of purity. Whilst not being in the exact form seen by millions in the film, the end result contains 80% of the last remaining pieces of this iconic prop." The pistol itself shows many of the original markings of the Mauser C96 pistol which it is based upon, including the the partial two-line Waffenfabrik Mauser address visible on either side of the rear scope base lug, a "crown/gothic letter" proof on the right of the chamber, and the partial serial number, "9415", over "crown/crown/U" proof on the left of the chamber. The full serial number "299415" is marked twice on the rear, and "212" can be seen very faintly on the rear of the hammer. It retains the original rear tangent sight graduated from 50-1000. It has been fitted with a sleeve over the original barrel to create a more substantial profile and has been setup to fire 9mm blanks with a threaded lug, numbered "415" to the gun, for attachment of the MG81 flash hider which is held in place by a set screw on the bottom. The lower scope base is marked "ZF 2602ii" on the interior and has a serrated set screw retaining the upper portion of the the base/rings. The scope is marked "HENSOLDT WETZLAR/ZIEL DIALYT 3x" on the right of the tube and "976l" on the right of the adjustment dial base. The adjustment dial is graduated 1-10 on top. The left side of the scope tube is marked "GW.No.2602ii", with the "ii" obscured by the front scope ring. The serrated grips are both stamped "280" internally. As stated in the letter from Tony Watts, the pistol lacks many of the small "greeble" details that were attached later for filming, and have likely been lost to time. Also includes a BATFE letter stating, "Based on the provided information, it appears the submitted pistol was modified for use as a prop in the 1977 film 'Star Wars' by Harrison Ford's character Han Solo. The submitted Mauser C96 pistol derives a substantial part of its monetary value from its connection to the 'Star Wars' film" and approved it for importation by a licensed importer." Includes a Han Solo photograph signed by Harrison Ford. There has been as much endless speculation regarding the configuration, whereabouts, and condition of the original three DL-44 heavy blasters used in the promotion and filming of "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" as there has been about whether "Han shot first" (he did), with this being the only surviving example this is an opportunity you don't want to miss! Provenance: Bapty & Co. London

Rating Definition:

Arguably the most iconic movie firearm of all time, it remains in fine overall condition and is converted to a non firing for blanks only. Do not miss this opportunity to own the only surviving example of the DL-44 Heavy Blaster used by Han Solo in "Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope", because we all know... Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.



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