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 Airsoft guns as a base: What to look for and how to modify them for our needs.

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Shurik Bhar'vani

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  • "Scopes are for people who worry they might miss"
Blasters. We know Ďem, we love Ďem, and a Mando should never leave home without one. Or three. Every one of us has our own preferences on what we choose to carry, what we choose to make them from, and no two blasters are exactly alike. But what makes the best bases for blasters are up for debate and can fall into five categories:

1- Nerf guns: You know them, you love them. Nerf guns offer a lot of potential, mainly due to the ease of acquisition and low cost association. However, they have their own drawbacks; long gone are the days where some PVC pipe and sintra plating would be sufficient for a build, and the extent to which certain nerf guns need to be hacked apart and modified can be challenging for new cosplayers and experienced ones alike.

2- Wood & PVC: The other old golden of an option, consisting of nothing but wood planks & PVC pipe from a hardware store, paint, and your own skills to make it look like more than a pipe screwed onto a 2x4. This option offers perhaps the most opportunity for customization, as youíre building a blaster literally from the ground up; everything from the size of the barrel down to the angle of the grip and placement of the Greeblies (A catchall term for the little fiddly bits that adorn star wars blasters, such as wiring, 70s computer chips, scopes, flashiders, etc etc) is limited only by your own creativity. However, this again can be challenging, so just make sure to take it one step at a time! For examples on how best to do this, I would argue that THE gold standard for wood/pvc is The Woodchuckís builds, theyíre practically works of art.

3- Resin casts: Another classic option, this leans more towards the ďbuying from a vendorĒ slant as opposed to building it yourself, as itís an extremely economical choice if youíre planning to do multiple sets of a single design as opposed to a limited quantity youíre making for your personal cosplay.  This is a good option if you plan to go with a bog-standard blaster design such as a Wester 34/35 or a DE10 blaster pistol, but limits the amount of customization you can do after the fact and can sometimes be a little more fragile depending on whether the cast has any sort of structural reinforcement inside (usually metal rods or pipe installed before the resin is poured to increase the strength of the overall cast).

4- 3D printing: With the advent of 3D printers and the ever-lowering costs of the devices, 3D printing is quickly becoming a favorite method for everything from helmet production to the various pieces of equipment, blasters included. The advantage here is that itís a ďfire and forgetĒ system; all you have to do is find a 3D file that youíd like to print, and unless you need to print it in sections youíre pretty much set. However, the two disadvantages are the initial cost (again, theyíve gone down a lot in price but unless you want low-quality prints you should still really focus on getting a good printer) and the dreaded PRINT LINES. FOR THE LOVE OF THE MANDA SAND YOUR PRINT LINES BEFORE YOU PAINT IT UP AND CALL IT A DAY. *Ahem* Print lines are inescapable parts of 3D printing, and depending on the quality of the printer and filament used they can be anywhere from a few hours with a sanding block to literal days of sanding, Bondo (a sort of construction putty used to fill in print lines, seams, holes, and the voids in all of our hearts as we realize that weíll never truly be satisfied and finished with our kits) application, and sanding again. They can also sometimes be the most fragile option, as due to the printing process the prop is built with concentric layers and thus hundreds upon hundreds of potential fracture lines in the sculpt. This can be alleviated with Bondo, glory to Thee.

5- Airsoft guns: The subject I had ORIGINALLY planned to make this thread about before going onto a strange, rambling journey through every other possible option. Iím not sorry and Iím not going to remove anything Iíve already written because it's still a good reference tool.

The biggest strength of airsoft guns is their utter realism and ease of conversion. All of the blasters from the OT were converted surplus weapons from the 40s-60s, from the DL-44 (a C96 Mauser ďBroomhandleĒ pistol) and DH-17 // E-11 blasters (Modified from Sterling L2A2 submachine guns) all the way up to the DLT19 (Literally just an MG32 that they removed the magazine from and painted the stock black).

These require the least amount of external modifications to appear to fit into the universe, are almost always made of metal (for that sweet, sweet heft and durability), and can sometimes come pre-built as blasters (such as the S&T E-11 or AW Customís A180 and DL-44 blasters).

However, they are one of the most expensive options (the bases alone can sometimes run into hundreds of dollars) and BY FAR require the most effort to deactivate. THIS IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER: THEY MUST BE DEACTIVATED TO USE AS PROPS, EVEN IF YOU BUY ONE OF THE PREBUILT VERSIONS MENTIONED ABOVE. But, if you do it right youíll end up with a prop that has all the heft and feel of the originals, and believe me when I say nothing makes you feel more like a Mandalorian than the actual weight of a heavy blaster pistol hanging from your hip.

 So, in this thread Iíll go through how to select a base for a blaster, the steps you need to take to deactivate it (Note: As far as iím going to be concerned, nothing is deactivated until the only thing left in the gun is a spring attached to the trigger. Youíll thank me later for it and youíll see why), and the step-by-step process I go through to build a blaster.

STEP ONE: Choosing your base

The first step of any blaster build is twofold:

1- What kind of blaster do you want to build (pistol, rifle, heavy weapon, etc)
2- What kind of base are you going to need for it

For both of these answers the first step is going to be LOOK FOR INSPIRATION!!!! References can be found all over the place, from the "Essential Guides to Weapons and Technology" and FFGís "Edge of the Empire" RPG series (for books) all the way to videogames and TV and even our own forums! My personal go-to choices are Wookiepedia (because OBVIOUSLY) for blasters in general and, for reference photos from the movies, IMFDBís star wars section:

While itís not perfect and there are more than a few blasters that get missed, itís still an excellent resource both for closeup pictures of the movie props as well as references for the original firearm used to make the prop.

I also highly recommend checking out the Jadd Halls of Knowledge on the forums, specifically the Reference Image Library:

From here you can start to decide on what base model airsoft gun you need/want to use. Here is also where it starts to get tricky, as airsoft guns arenít always cheap depending on what base youíre looking to use.

-If you live near an airsoft store or use Hopup (a trading app for airsoft equipment) you can sometimes find boneyard (catchall for airsoft guns that are either broken or missing parts) stuff for pretty cheap, which saves a lot of money and time but comes at the expense of having extremely limited options for what youíre trying to build at any given time.

-The only other option is pretty much to buy them new/used, which lets you pick whatever you want to use for a base but is also more expensive. A good ballpark estimate on costs:

1- Pistols will usually run in the $50-200 range (Basic patterns up to the actual A180 / DL-44 replicas)
2- Rifles will usually run in the $80 -400 (Basic patterns up to the actual E-11 replica)

As an example, I have a broken airsoft PPsH that i want to turn into a star wars blaster:

 So, after a bit of searching, I managed to find a single reference pic (from Solo I think):

Now, I really dislike this particular conversion. Itís not anywhere near as clean as other blasters in universe, thereís some kind of cloth wrapping around the magazine housing for no discernable reason, thereís a pair of dials for some purpose on the stock and the plugs filling the heat guard look absolutely ridiculous. BUT, itís still an example of what can be done and at least means that thereís already an in-universe example of what I have in my mind. So now we move onto Step 2, Deactivation Boogaloo.

STEP 2: Deactivation Boogaloo

Deactivation is the most important part of working with an airsoft gun. To reiterate from the forum rules:

Projectile toy weapons must also have all inner workings removed or rendered inoperable.

This is a non-negotiable aspect of any blaster build. You CANNOT have any means of firing ANYTHING from the prop. It doesn't matter if you spent $6 on a broken spring pistol or $220 for a fully functioning DL-44 blaster pistol. SoÖ.how do you deactivate an airsoft gun?

Well itís very simple. And fun. And can sometimes leave you with a ton of greeblies that you can put to use on the outside of the build with a dremel and a little bit of creativity.

There are three main mechanisms for airsoft guns:

-Spring powered (usually cheap pistols, shotguns or bolt-action rifles; I wont be covering these as spring pistols make for very flimsy bases and the rifles/shotguns can be pretty easily deactivated with a screwdriver and some patience pulling apart the glued receivers)
-AEG (stands for Automatic Electric Gun, these are what 99% of airsoft bases are in the first place. These use a gearbox and battery to propel the BB)
-GBB (stands for Gas Blow-Back, most commonly found in pistols. These use a propellant contained within the magazine to propel the BB)

Iíll be focusing on the last two as theyíre actually the easiest to deactivate.

AEGS: The easiest way to deactivate an AEG is pretty much to gut the gearbox. Since you donít need it to fire anything you donít need any of the parts inside, so itís a simple process:

1- Remove the gearbox from the gun. Generally this is an easy process that just requires removing screws from the gun until the gearbox can be pulled out; if you arenít sure how to do it there are hundreds of how-to videos on Youtube for disassembling almost every model of airsoft gun on the market

2- Open the gearbox up. Be careful of the mainspring at this point because it has a wonderful habit of immediately sending everything inside the gearbox on an epic journey across the room.
 --If the gearbox is "quick change" it'll have a plug, usually removed with a hex key, at the back of the gearbox to prevent this from happening. Remove that and pull the mainspring and spring guide out before continuing with disassembly
--If you don't have a removeable plug then slowly open the gearbox from the back end; there should be a small hole where the spring guide is located (back of the gearbox at the top) that you can fit a small screwdriver into for prying the shell apart. This will also help control the spring inside and keep it from achieving low earth orbit.

3- Dump everything except the trigger onto the table

4- Screw the empty shell back together. I would also remove the hopup assembly and inner barrel from the gun before reinstalling the gearbox, as they aren't going to be needed either and take up space.

Et Voila! Now you have a nice empty shell that you can fill with electronics at a later date!

As an example, hereís the gearbox from that PPsH removed from the gun. To remove this I unscrewed the stock to get access to the receiver of the gun, and then unscrewed the gearbox from the receiver and pulled it out. I then opened the receiver up (no quick change, but luckily nothing went flying) and removed everything you see piled next to it; the wire harness is optional to remove (you can repurpose it for electronics down the line) but everything else can be tossed. The ONLY thing that should be left in the gearbox is your trigger, and even then you can remove it if you want to.

Now I have a nice empty gearbox that I can eventually fill with electronics attached to the trigger and selector bar, as well as a nice big cavity in the stock (where the battery used to be) to store additional electronics (and another battery), so Iíll toss that back in the gun and save it for a much later date.

GBB: The easiest way to deactivate GBBS is a two-step process, and generally both of these steps can be accomplished by the liberal use of a phillips/flat/hex screw and occasionally some sort of filler such as JB weld or hot glue:

1- Render the magazine useless. For the magazine youíll want to make it incapable of loading BBs and/or gas, which can usually be accomplished with the removal of the magazine spring, feed lips, and one (or more) of the pressure-bearing valves in the gas reservoir:

2-Render the firing mechanism useless. For the pistol, this can usually be accomplished by removing the loading nozzle and other parts of the slide; this will leave you with a working trigger for prop use but nothing else. In this case I removed the nozzle assembly housing and inner barrel from the slide, then screwed the housing back in (itís a load bearing part on this particular base):

A further step can be removing the actual ďfiring pinĒ contained within the trigger mechanism. This varies in difficulty depending on the model; on this WE 1911 I had to remove the entire trigger pack from the lower frame, unscrew the pack and remove the small spring and plunger inside:

On the other hand, with my A180 / Luger base I instead removed the linkage bar between the trigger and hammer (Can't be seen because the entire frame is basically frozen in place from the enlarged barrel and various adhesives), and then filled the hammer assembly with hot glue to lock it in place:

This doesnít exactly need to be taken as Gospel, but I would also argue that ďThereís no such thing as Overkill,Ē especially in regards to making absolutely, positively, 110% sure that your props arenít going to get you in trouble down the line.

But cheer up! Because once thatís out of the way, you can really start to have some fun; Swarzification (because made up words are fun!)

STEP 3: Swarzification and other pretend words that make me feel important.

Step 3 is the fun part, where you take your deactivated airsoft base and turn it into whatever your mind can come up with. Unfortunately I donít have any real steps here, because from here itís all up to you. I do, however, have some sage advice that Iíve learned over the years:

SAGE ADVICE NUMBER ONE!!! Dremels are going to be your best friends for modification. Just donít overdo it :wink: I highly advise spending the money for some good cutting wheels, because the ones that come in starter packs // tool packs are hot garbage.

Sage advice number one, much like the cake, is a lie; JB Weld is going to be your best friend for modification, and you are going to be grateful for it every single time you try to cut corners with superglue and are karmically punished for it. Get the quickset stuff that cures in 5-6min, and be sure to carefully wipe off any excess that spills out before it cures or itís going to be an absolute hassle to try and sand off later. I advise using a box cutter blade to scrape off the overflow, just donít wait for it to completely dry and try not to nick yourself.

SAGE ADVICE NUMBER THREE!!! Picatinny rail is a great means of attaching things like scopes, but less is very much more. You should try to make sure you only have what you need, if there's any excess it should be removed (cut down, ground off, or simply unscrewed from the frame as the situation warrants). If you're unsure where to go with it, then don't be afraid to ask for help and advice.

SAGE ADVICE NUMBER FOUR!!! Have fun with it! :laugh:

While step by steps vary for each gun, I can at least provide a few examples of conversions with the help of some Vode from the forums and FB.

1- Custom BlasTech A180s, converted and built by Shurik Bhar'vani. While both bases are WE airsoft lugers with 6Ē barrels, they have very different construction post-part swapping (for that twotone effect).

Blaster A (top) was built with concentric rings of aluminum tubing, using JB Weld and electrical tape to friction-fit each layer over the original barrel until you get to the final sleeve. Greeblies were then liberally applied along with a small heatshield to make my own version of the original A180.

Blaster B (bottom) was a much more straightforward process. Its barrel was built up with a single pvc pipe JB welded over the original barrel, and then sanded down to a point where i could (Read: HAD TO USE A) hammer to beat a galvanized steel pipe with the threads cut off (dremels and pipe cutters are your friends!) into position. Significantly less greeblies were added to maintain a much smoother profile for easier holstering in a shoulder holster. Blaster B is significantly more durable than Blaster A. Blaster B is also almost a pound heavier and very poorly balanced.

2- Thor95 used an S&T Sterling SMG to build a ROTJ accurate DH-17 pistol. To do this, he chopped the barrel shroud, and added an aluminum muzzle device that he machined. He then removed the rear sight and replaced it with a machined steel rail that runs the length of the top, and then added the rest of the detail with 3D printed parts he designed. After that he sprayed the gun down with Duracoat black and then dry brush weathered with Citadel brand Leadbelcher.

3- Nick B. built his blaster from an airsoft 1911 using nothing but a flashlight and parts from an old toy lightsaber; and honestly itís one of the nicest conversions iíve ever seen:

4- Zohar Nef built his rifle from an HFC airsoft reproduction of the C96 Mauser in rifle configuration. After stripping all of the internals out save for the trigger, hammer and magazine release, Zohar mounted an old Daisy BB scope  to the top of the rifle, then proceeded to shroud the barrel with an aluminum tube, install an version of the DL-44 muzzle brake, and use greeblies from an old hard drive to accent out the receiver and magazine:

And that's it! Hopefully this helps you with your own builds moving forward. At some point in the pipeline I will also be releasing a reference guide for various builds to provide inspiration for your own constructions, to supplement the official references. Thanks for reading!

« Last Edit: May 12, 2020, 01:08 PM by Shurik Bhar'vani » Logged
"Naughty list...  <ZAP> Naughty list...  <ZAP> Naughty list...  <ZAP> Nice list?  Must be a typo. <ZAP> <ZAP><ZAP> " -Bazii Malric on Santa Shurik, circa 201(3?)

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