Humanity has a knack for storytelling.  Even before the invention of the written word, oral traditions, often passed down from parent to child, told stories about historical events of the past, or shaped narratives around important lessons to impart.  With the advent of written language, these stories had the opportunity to grow in complexity and detail, and eventually, in scope.  As our understanding of the world around us grew to encompass the vast expanses of mysterious potential above our heads, so too did our story telling, as parable evolved into fiction, and fiction gave birth to science fiction.

Today, science fiction is such a commonly accepted form of storytelling that we all have a fundamental understanding of how our society perceives our own future: and almost universally, that future involves conflict.  Whether you’re watching a low-budget YouTube series or a $200 million summer blockbuster, if it takes place forward in time, we’ve all come to expect either a dystopian wasteland, spaceships traversing the galaxy, or both.

And in nearly every situation, our protagonists had better be armed.

The need for conflict, and the character’s ability to manage it through violence, isn’t necessarily a reflection of how we believe our species will advance, but may be a reflection of who we see ourselves now.  A story requires conflict in order to keep your attention, and while there may be loads of people in the Star Wars universe that lead long, dull lives toiling away in the celestial dust bowl that seems to be most of the planets in their galaxy, our narrative scope follows the Skywalker family – because that’s where the interesting stuff happens.

The inclusion of violence through conflict is not, in itself, a commentary on humanity (other than to say we like watching it), but the weapons our heroes use often can be.  Prop designers spent countless hours toiling over the weapons we see in the hands of movie protagonists and villains, often producing countless replicas of the same weapon with varying degree of function and detail, in order to ensure the props themselves tell a story.  Weathering and color patterns on the materials are meant to give you a sense of realism and time spent – as a grizzled space pirate likely wouldn’t spend much time polishing his pistol, but a prestigious starship captain might.

It’s because of this attention to oft-overlooked detail that many of the weapons employed by iconic heroes deserve a second look, and perhaps a bit of analysis into what those weapons say about the worlds they come from, and how that can be seen as a commentary on the one we live in today.

Image courtesy of Star Wars Wiki

Han Solo’s BlasTech DL-44 Heavy Blaster

The signature handgun of everyone’s favorite smuggler was actually based off of a Mauser C96 pistol that the prop department just slapped some shiny doodads on, along with things like the Hensoldt Wetzlar Ziel Dialyt Scope plucked from a German K98 sniper rifle.  In Star Wars cannon, the pistol packs a powerful punch, and Solo’s decision to remove the barrel-sights to allow him a faster draw is considered an “illegal modification” by the Empire.