The “Western” is a popular culture genre that has intrigued international audiences ever since the appearance of dime novels and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in the 19th century. The first western film, “The Great Train Robbery” dates to 1903 and the genre has changed greatly in the 120 years since. Initially Westerns followed a traditional melodrama format, with classic lines between good and evil. In the post-World War II period, they took a turn for the more complex, with adult western, featuring complicated anti-heroes as well as increasing levels of violence. As American interest in the Old West began to wane, however, a new frontier emerged.

A lot of similarities are often drawn between science fiction and the Old West. In fact, some tv shows and films take the connection quite literally. For example, the cult classic television show Firefly and its post cancellation film, Serenity followed all the tropes of the western. This included firearms, one of which was a Winchester Model 1892 “Mare’s Leg” – a nod to western actor Steve McQueen.  It’s fascinating to see this marriage between the past and future, especially when it comes to the conceptualization of weapons technology that appears in a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars: A New Hope was released in 1977, launching a multimillion-dollar franchise. Keeping up with the tradition of space westerns (or in this case often classified as a space opera), Star Wars features practically an innumerable list of historic firearms. Although instead of Colts and Winchesters, these guns were a bit more modern, experimenting with 19th century semi-automatics and a plethora of WWII machine guns.

One of the most iconic pistols from the series is Han Solo’s BlasTech DL-44 Blaster. This particular gun was built around the Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistol. It was designed in 1895 and produced by Mauser between 1896 and 1937. It featured an integral ten-round magazine, although variations ranged up to twenty-rounds. Solo’s C96 was affixed with a heavy barrel, scope, and muzzle cone from an M3 “Grease Gun.”

BlasTech DL-44 Blaster

This trend of odd semi-automatics did not end with Solo. In fact, it has gotten even more obscure. In the current television series, The Mandalorian, the main character, Mando, carries the IB-94 blaster pistol. This firearm is based on the incredibly rare Bergmann No. 1/1894 semi-automatic pistol. The initial design of the Bergmann pistol dates to 1892. However, that first design was pretty much a prototype. The Bergmann had a five-round clip that was loaded into its magazine.

Bergmann No. 1/1894 semi-automatic pistol
(Photo Credit: Forgotten Arms)

Outside of these two early semi-automatics, Star Wars over the years has embraced the look and feel of many mid-20th century military arms with the incorporation of blasters based on guns such as the Sterling L2A3 submachine gun, the STG 44 assault rifle, the Lewis light machine gun, and the MG34 general purpose machine gun.

Sterling L2A3 submachine gun
STG 44 assault rifle
Lewis light machine gun

While these firearms seem distant from the guns of the Old West, they may not be quite as far off as you think. The Colts and Winchesters associated with the West were invented mere decades before these early semi-automatics and many were made at the exact same time. Traditional westerns also began using these technologies, with the Colt Model 1911 and even the Mauser C96, which is featured in the video game, Red Dead: Redemption. In the end, it seems that no matter what era, history plays a role in the future, even when it feels like light years away.

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