Over the past 20 years movie and TV props have become less and less expensive to build, and far easier to fabricate compared to props of science fiction movies from the 1950s through the 1970s, especially considering the realism modern audiences demand. Just as Hollywood studios have used modern tech to make props easier and cheaper, even toy replicas look as good as their screen-used source material. In the Star Trek Enterprise series, as an example, the studio found it cheaper in later seasons to use the licensed Art Asylum commercially available toy replicas on set. That’s right, the toy replaced the need for an original for the studio. Now, many cosplayers create their own props via home 3D printers, a new idea for making movie props when we first discussed 3D printers here at borg.com back in 2011.
The look of Star Wars props, the realism, the incorporation of real-world gadgetry in seemingly “real feeling” ways via adding on odds and ends from model kits and parts from electrician shops and auto garages (called “greeblies”) all goes back to Star Wars art designer Roger Christian, who created the look that would be replicated in every other science fiction movie created since. (Check out his autobiographical account previously reviewed here at borg.com if you missed it). Just as many other props from Star Wars were based on real-world weapons, the standard Stormtrooper blaster, the BlasTech E-11, was built from a British-made Sterling L2A3 sub-machine gun.
Disney released one particularly well-suited toy Stormtrooper blaster that has a size and look that will make cosplayers at any level proud, easily modifiable for the classic Star Wars trilogy and this month’s prequel movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which incorporates the classic troopers with only minor modifications as seen in the trailers. The toy blaster fits–and more importantly is easily removable from–any replica Stormtrooper holster, and can also be used to supplement any Imperial uniform costume. It also comes with lights and sound that can be preserved as part of a needed modication from its white toy design to the black version used onscreen. The recommended toy E-11 Stormtrooper blaster is no longer being produced but it is still available in small quantities here at Amazon.com. It is typically available from $25-30 and with a can of flat black spray paint and some silver paint for weathering, it’s an inexpensive and quick way to sport a professional looking prop for your Star Wars cosplay, especially when many builders on the Web will try to sell you custom versions for hundreds of dollars that would be indistinguishable from the modified toy to most anyone seeing you in Stormtrooper armor. The following is a brief tutorial to get you there:
First, use a set of micro screwdrivers (available at any computer or electronics store) to remove all of the screws from the toy. Be aware of your local restrictions concerning safety rules for toy weapons before removing the orange nozzle. It can be removed with a little effort with any X-Acto type tool, painted or not, and left off or replaced as you determine for your need.
Carefully remove the clear lens material revealing the light-up features on the toy through the barrel vent holes. These will not be painted to allow for the continued use of the light-up features once complete. Decide whether you want to sand down the Imperial symbol or leave it to have a raised effect in black once complete. The subtle symbol seen at a slight angle can be a cool effect.
Use painters tape to protect the electronics and wiring inside, and using any flat black spray paint you have on-hand (we used Rust-Oleum 2X Ultra Cover auto paint found at the hardware store, but cheaper brands are available) spray both external sides only, and all remaining parts: the scope, trigger, handle pads, and rear vent piece. Don’t forget to paint both sides of the rear and front sights and inside the back cylinder at the rear of the prop. You can touch up the on and off switch later.
Let dry in accordance with your paint instructions and add a second coat if necessary to ensure the blaster is fully covered.
Remove the tape and reassemble the prop with the screws, beginning with the barrel vents, incorporating the clear vent hole halves above the magazine area and the back vent, which is a bit tricky to snap back into place.
Test the on and off switch.
One way reveals the red lights.
The other reveals the blue. This is an archive image of the screen-used E-11:
And this is the final modified toy after some silver paint is applied for weathering:
You can weather as much or as little as you want (hundreds of reference photos are available on the Web) using silver paint and a thin brush, and either leave the screws with metal showing or touch up the screws in black. Arguably the Empire would want its troops with top condition weaponry, so heavy weathering is optional.
Note that the prop fits in the holster and is the right size and look for Stormtrooper cosplay armor.
And that’s it. Just remember the most important rule of cosplay is to have fun!