Wednesday, December 1, 2010

M41A "Pulse Rifle"


Despite being described in the original script as a plasma weapon, the final result was a 10mm caseless round, with a built-in 12ga. grenade launcher.

Before the filming of "Avatar" started, I had the opportunity to talk with James Cameron about guns. Fortunately I was so drunk at the time, the fact that he and I were in my friend's guest room playing with various firearms didn't really sink in, and I managed to avoid a complete fan boy mental breakdown.
We were looking at a prototype model for a blank only sub machine gun, a special gas operated PPSh41. We talked about the custom blanks, the rate of fire, and the ability to fire the blanks at close range. Even when firing blanks, there is still a danger of injury or death from having blanks fired at you at close range.
Fortunately he had been drinking as much as I had, and the conversation wandered from Avatar logistics to him reminiscing about picking out the guns for aliens.

James Cameron on "Aliens"

I'm fairly convinced that Jim makes all of his movies so he can play with awesome toys. After Lucas had used the Sterlings, Mauser pistols and MG34s to create the blasters of "Star Wars", the days of waving a rubber blaster at a stage mark were over. Even lasers required some kind of recoil and feed mechanism so the actors could react to being in a combat situation better. Lucas's method was effective, and Cameron wanted to turn that up to 11. He said "We wanted to find the fastest heaviest guns we could get, ridiculous futuristic high-capacity magazines, with almost ludicrous rates of fire." The M1A Thompson and the MG42 fit that bill nicely, and are renowned to this day for throwing an almost wasteful amount of lead downrange in a split second.

The Model

The subject today is a resin "stunt" model. While the originals were made on a full auto Thompson frame with a heavily modified SPAS12 as the grenade launcher, thanks to the commies in office who have never enjoyed the sweet, sweet, awesome of blowing shit up, both guns are illegal in CA, and I wanted to give this as a gift. There are a half dozen makers of fine reproduction pulse rifle kits out there, from the geek jerk off "perfect" reproduction in the $2k range, the Japanese airsoft body kit in the $600 range, the resin models (spatcave, matsucorp, etc.) that range from $125-$300. and from time to time you can lay your hands on casts from the original molds of the stunt props, which are considerably lamer looking than those mentioned above.

This version came in 12+ solid parts, halves of the major body parts, stock, trigger/grip assembly, barrel, and grenade launcher front piece. I have seen the cast heads on cheap Chinese motorcycle engines that were in better shape than this.
With the help of one of "spat's" 9-volt powered digital counter, and a little Anders magic, I will turn this into an un-suck model.

The mag well will hold the guts of the counter, the shuttle for the power supply and the wires that go to the board. Once the two halves of the mag well were together, they are together for ehvar, and the head of the magazine will hold the secret trap door to change the batteries. I milled out a hole for the batteries, then made a channel for the wires, and carved a hole for the face of the counter to peek out.

A small switch was added to the area where the trigger for the grenade launcher would have been, then the whole assembly was hot glued like a mofo into the channels. This way you can pull on the leads to the battery pack pretty hard and not run the risk of disconnecting them from the switch or display solder points.

The counter works like a top, and will be masked off until the final unveiling.
According to Jim, the counter would count down from 100, the logic being that the magazine was higher than 100 rounds, but when you hit your final 100, it lights up and counts down until you change mags, or hamburger time.

Now with all of the "halves" glued together, they needed to be assembled into a cohesive whole. The resin is heavy and even epoxy would have trouble. I tapped and pinned all the pieces together using threaded 1/4" rod stock pins. the halves would be re-enforced with wood screws, and a wood screw would serve as the "swivel" for the magazine head acting as the power supply door.

The fascia plate for the grenade launcher is epoxied, then screwed into place, then I used a blade bit to tap down the grenade hole as deep as I could. I then took every part and deepened every vent and every groove on the mill. Odd angles were deepened with a 1/16" dremel ball cutter. all flash and globs from the mold and my white trash bondo job were removed with sand paper.
The pinned, cleaned, "contrasted" parts were then assembled into a whole with two part epoxy at the pins and contact points.

I tapped a piece of pipe into the grenade launcher to add a little more barrel, it's sticking out here, but was pounded in and fixed with about 1/4" protruding. The entire model was then washed with soap and water, and covered with a matte black high build primer.

The metal parts were dry brushed with a deep gun metal acrylic, bolts and screws were dry brushed with a lighter silver, and the entire thing was dabbed with dark furniture polish and cigarette ash.

The whole thing was then masked off with blue tape, fairings were painted with matte olive green spray paint, then using a 2" wide finishing brush pure silver paint was lightly and swiftly brushed over everything, this made scratches on all of the high surfaces. The pistol grips and grenade launcher pump was then re-painted with the matte high build primer, and the magic mix of Furniture polish and cigarette ash was re applied to wear points. The cigarette ash is harder to come by since I quit smoking two years ago, so please send butt free donations to my address.

Finally sprayed the whole thing with a matte sealer and un masked the digital display.

Done deal.

Higher res, un blurry final images in the after action report, coming soon.

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