Come On, ‘Star Wars,’ That’s Just an AK-47

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A new trailer for the latest Star Wars series, Andor, shows a glimpse into a new, unique world — except for the shot of a character armed, inexplicably, with a Soviet-style AK-47. Andor will premiere Sept. 21 on Disney+. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

A new trailer for Disney’s latest Star Wars series, Andor, looks pretty great.

A prequel to Rogue One, the show will tell the origin story of Cassian Andor, who eventually helps steal the plans for the Death Star, leading to the Rebels blowing it up.

The trailer features spies, shootouts, lasers, green forest planets, and easy-to-hate fat imperial generals in festive fascism-gray uniforms.

Looks fun! After one widely panned Star Wars series and another that was mostly yawned at — Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett — this trailer suggests a show that has both a story to tell and the imagination to create its own unique world.

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That’s, uh, quite the Super Exotic Star Rifle ya got there. Screenshot via Andor trailer on YouTube.

That’s, uh, quite the Super Exotic Star Rifle ya got there. Screenshot via Andor trailer on YouTube.

Except for the guns.

About five seconds into the trailer, we see a forest camp — the home of a rebel family, perhaps? — where a man is holding a weapon.

This weapon is not a blaster. It is not a lightsaber. It is not even an ionization rifle, wielded by Jawas to disable a lost R2-D2 early in the original Star Wars.

It’s just an AK-47.

Just as plain as day, it’s a Russian-designed, Earth-issued, as-seen-in-Red-Dawn-and-a-thousand-other-movies AK-47 combat rifle.

I mean, they’re not even trying here.

There are no laser-style optics, no Jetsons-like inflated muzzle, no vague blinking lights. Instead, the rifle has the distinctive — and extremely Earth-centric — top-mounted gas-return assembly, iron sights, folded stock, safety selector switch, and curved magazine of an AK-47 and its many, many variants.

I mean ... it’s just a plain old AK. In space.

To be extremely precise, the gun is some variant of a Kalashnikov rifle, the ubiquitous Soviet rifle that debuted 75 years ago and has been mostly unchanged since (the original rifle is named for the year it entered service, 1947). The Kalashnikov has been manufactured, copied, altered, and modified more than any other firearm in history has, and its variants include the AK-74, AK-103, and several others. AKs have been manufactured in more than 20 countries, and even in Florida.

It’s not clear which of the many AK variants have found their way into the Star Wars universe. The front gas port might point toward an AK-74, though the safety selector on the lower receiver looks like a stamped version of the original AK-47 (milled receivers, made by purpose-built machines to original specs, are more valuable in collectors’ circles than those that are churned out as stamped pieces).

Whatever it is, it’s more likely from Izhevsk in central Russia than from space.

In defense of the man and his AK, Star Wars weapons are almost all based on real military weapons, often from World War II. The A280 Blaster Rifle used by resistance soldiers in both the defense of Hoth and the raid on Endor were built on real-life military lower receivers — first the World War II-era German StG 44, and later, 1980s-era M16s.

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Image from Wookiepedia.

The A280 Blaster Rifle, used by Rebellion troops on Hoth and Endor. The prop was built on the lower receiver of an M-16A1. Image from Wookiepedia.

Does this mean Andor might not be good? Not at all! Arguably, the further Star Wars properties stray from Earth-based weapons systems, the worse they get.

Are rebel X-Wings dogfighting with TIE fighters during a distinctly WWII-style bombing mission? Probably a good Star Wars movie.

Are spiderlike droids spinning up in a ball and then rolling around like lost bike wheels? Look out! You’re probably watching a bad Star Wars movie.

Perhaps the “just give the guy an AK” ethos behind this on-screen choice is intentional. Though designed by the Soviets, AK-47s have been the choice of militias, rebels, and freedom fighters for at least three generations. Cheap and easy to come by, the AK family is famously indestructible and reliable. Conflicts around the world have produced stories of AKs firing after being submerged in water, buried in sand, or even lost in a Sarlacc pit.

No, wait, that was Boba Fett’s EE-3 carbine. Great weapon, the EE-3.

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Matt White is a senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a Pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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