The Mandalorian set photo

Disney doesn’t launch its streaming service until 2019, but the content that will populate it is beginning to go into production. Right now, Lucasfilm is putting together their first live-action Star Wars television show. Ever.

Such a historic occasion is, of course, shrouded in secrecy. Fans know the show will be entitled The Mandalorian, that it’s set the gap years between the fall of the Empire and the rise of the First Order, and that is has an amazing line-up of talent to direct. Disney also released a photograph of said nameless and gender-neutral Mandalorian, as seen at the top of this article.

But there’s something else in this image that we need to talk about: the title character’s distinctive-looking weapon.

Of course, everyone has seemingly picked the gristle off this image. My buddy Jason over at Making Star Wars even pointed out the sniper rifle slung over the Mandalorian’s back was a callout to much-derided Star Wars Christmas Special. At the time, the weapon was called the Amban phase-pulse blaster, but it the design was later used again in the video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. That this is the same kind of weapon was seemingly confirmed by The Mandalorian executive producer Jon Favreau, who posted a better look at the blaster on Instagram.

But then my eldest child walked by while I was comparing the two and casually said, “Why does that Cycler rifle have weird prongs on it?” To which my immediate reply was “What?”

Let me back up. My son is 17 years old and for some reason, instead of his Spanish homework or spelling, he has chosen to memorize Star Wars weaponry. Why yes, I am terribly proud. So that’s how the two of us ended up spending over half an hour squinting at low-res images of Tusken Raiders and comparing them to the Mandalorian photos. You see, the Cycler rifle is well-beloved by the native inhabitants of Tatooine. You can see them take pot shots at Anakin with the gun in The Phantom Menace.

But would a person from Mandalore even have a weapon from a technological backwater? Uh, the evidence clearly points to yes. I mean, look:

The handle is butted into the sniper’s shoulder, but look at the rifle from another angle:

This angle clearly shows the similarities to the Mandalorian’s version. When compared to the photo shared by Favreau, even more likenesses jump out. Most obviously, both are sniper rifles and not mid-range blasters like the Amban is. Even the barrels are similar in shape, with the same thickness in the middle before tapering off. Both appear to have ye olde timey mechanical parts up near the trigger.

That is where things get interesting. You see, the Cycler rifle isn’t like other blasters. It’s a real gun. The Cycler is an old-fashioned projectile weapon. Literally a Space Gun™, none of those fancy lasers here. Considering a slug from one of these rifles can destroy a podracer, that’s no small amount of kick.

The only real difference is the Mandalorian’s version has the two prongs from the Amban blaster attached to the end of the barrel. To what purpose? Sure, it could just be an aesthetic choice, an Easter Egg for those who recall the distinct shape of Boba Fett’s blaster from the Christmas Special. But even then, it would need to serve a purpose.

Maybe it’s a stabilizer. My son suggested maybe it had been converted from a projectile weapon to a blaster, chosen for the sheer impact power of the original version. I like to think it’s electrified, coating the bullet in electricity before hitting its target. It could be anything really.

But it’s definitely a Cycler rifle. So just where did our mysterious Mandalorian get such a thing? If a love of genre fiction has taught me anything, it’s that a protagonist’s possession carry their history. But we’ll have to wait until next year to get this particular tale.  

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