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Some sci-fi props are cool, some are neat, and some are just plain corny. To qualify for cool, the prop has to strike a special nerve for me. The M41-A Pulse Rifle is such a prop. As seen in the 1986 movie "Aliens", this prop became an instant classic. With is fully functional hero models that fired 45 cal. blanks, and blank 12 guage shot gun rounds, to the ultra-slick O.D. green shrounds, this prop is the rare weapon that seemed it could actually do what it appeared to do in the movie! Shoot! This ain't no raygun, baby!
Made from three real world weapons, the M41-A even has a cool sounding name. The World War II vintage M1A1 Thompson makes up the bulk of the weapon, and the Remington 870 shotgun is the guts for the "grenade launcher". Carefully hidden inside a SPAS-12 heat shield cage and pump handle. The filming hero prop was made with a metal shroud, and is truly a work of art.
What follows on this page is my online diary of the construction of my M41-A. Although it is made like the filming props, all the firearms had been deactivated, and can never fire a live round again. As per BATF requirements.
After 18 months, a lot of help from Kip H. and Phil S., a bankrupt credit card, and a lot of flack from the wife, I am finally ready to start the building process. After careful examination of this project, I've decided to break this down into its basic components, build them up and and then attempt a final assembly. The construction of M41-A will be within the guidlines of the law. Period.
The parts are difficult to find. Remaining true to the original prop construction, and remaining within the guidlines of the US law, I decided to go with as many real gun parts as possible. No one offers a turn key M1A1, even the kits lack many of the needed parts. Most don't offer the SPAS 12 or M1A1 parts. This project really was a find as you go project. I started with resin replicas and upgraded them when I got the real parts. Note: The pic of the M1A1 is the resin replica. i never took a picture of the real thing.
The SPAS/Rem870 "Grenade launcher" is by far the most challenging part of the whole build. My first attempt was to use some cheap airsoft SPAS12. As it turns out, these are not very accurate, complete, or to scale. A version can be made to work, but the airsoft cage will require a lot of modifying. Locating a real SPAS12 pump handle and cage is hard work. No online sources still have any, your best bet is to post some requests on the RPF, ASAP, or the BBC and other forums, and go to local gun shows looking for parts. I was lucky found a real SPAS cage/pump handle set.The grenade launcher requires a cut down Remington 870 shotgun and a lot of custom fitting/cutting.In addition, there are several greeblies to add to make this work. To complete the grenade launcher requires destroying a functioning Rem 870, and chopping parts of the SPAS. For me, it is the hardest part to get going. I really hate messing up perfectly good parts!
I had the option to cut down a real Rem 870 or use a resin replica from Kip. Remaining true to the original mission of this prop, [to build it like the originals prop makers did,] I decided to go with the real one. The only change will be to use a dummy wooden dowel barrel, deactivate the bolt, weld a spacer block in front of the receiver, forever making the receiver of the 870 from ever beign able to add a real barrel, or chamber a round. Thats the law. This way, I still get the real parts and keep it legal. One of the best sources for real Remington 870's are local pawn shops. These are very common, and can be had for as little as $150. Ask for an "Express" these have plain stocks, and a matt finish. I also got a resin replica from Kip, and I will use it along with the extra parts I have to build a stunt version M41-A.
Next is the M1A1 modifications. A lot of M41-a builders use Tokyo Mauri airsoft M1A1's, as a foundation. I decided I wanted to stay as true to the originals as I could, which means real or replica M1A1 parts. As it turns out, the upper receiver, the part of the weapon the BATF calls a gun, is available regularly, on the internet. Sold in 80% complete form, these are not considered to be functioning receivers. Much machine work is to be done and you really don't need and modifications unless you want a working bolt. [for this the receiver requires a metal block to be welded to the front] See the link section for parts suppliers. The "grip frame assembly" the part with the trigger and all the switches, is VERY difficult to locate. SARCo. has them for $225 and includes the wooden pistol grip. These are very greasy, rusty and beat up. They will require a lot of cleaning, and painting. My suggestion is to get one before they are all gone. Long since past are the availability of WWII issue M1A1 Thompson parts kits. No vendors have them, and when one comes up on Ebay, expect to pay $600 + for it. Unless you want to build a complete M1A1 replica, you don't really need any other parts from a parts kit, except the stock mount bolt and the bolt handle. [complete bolt if you want a working one.]
Kip also sells a resin/metal M1A1 parts set that includes only the parts you need for a M41-A. These are very nice, and detailed, and include real M1A1 parts. You could even build a Replica M1A1 with his kit if you could got a stock set, and a barrel.
I got lucky and found a 80% replica metal upper and real grip frame. I will use the resin version for the stunt M1A1.
Finally the custom shells that define the shape of the M1A1. There are at least 3 online vendors selling plastic, resin, and resin/fiberglass versions. I went with the resin/fiberglass ones. Mainly for price. The smaller parts, can be made from items bought at the local hardware store. No one is making metal shrouds. The stock can be made or Dean O. sells them. He also sells the barrel vent and triangle. The famous counter can be had from Phil S. He also sells the grenade launcher front block as well as a host of other M41-A parts. Aside from the shroud, most of the remaining parts can be fabricated from metal, styrene even wood stock. I have seen pictures of "hardware" store made shroud sets. I am too lazy to make a shroud set when I can get one for $70.
Tips on Getting Started
The Pump Handle:
M1A1 to the Launcher:
Below is a guesstimate on the cost of the hero vs. the stunt. Granted The Stunt version has more hand fabricated parts, the cost is about 1/4 of the Hero.
Phil S. - A good source for the hard to find custom parts for the M41-A including vac-formed shrouds and the grenade launcher front block.
Kip H. - resin replica master! He is a good source for M1A1, Rem 870 and other parts for the M41-A.
Sarco - sells the real M1A1 Thompson parts you need. Get your wallet out!
Last update on June 3, 2007
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