Captain Mal's Pistol - 3D Printed and Painted Prop




Introduction: Captain Mal's Pistol - 3D Printed and Painted Prop

About: I am a Mechanical Engineer who loves to design and build things. I'm always working on new and fun projects.

If you want to take a movie prop, (specifically anything resembling a weapon) to a convention as part of a costume, you will be at the mercy of the prop approval team.

My previously store bought pistol prop was rejected because it was "too heavy". Because of that I decided to make a lightweight easy to assemble replica of Mal's Pistol from Firefly/Serenity.

This is a static piece, no moving parts.

This instructable will help you make your own Mal's Pistol that will look great and you will love that you put it together yourself.

For this instructable, here's what you will need:

- STL files (Included in Step 2)

- 3D Printer or access to a 3D printing service such as 3D Hubs or Shapeways

- Exacto Knife

- Crazy Glue

- Sandpaper

- Contour Putty

- Brown and black spray paint

- Cardboard

- Pewter and either Grecian Gold or Autumn Gold Rub 'n Buff

- Disposable Latex Gloves

- Q-Tips and toothpicks

- Paintbrushes

- Black or brown and tan acryllic paints

Step 1: Designing the Pistol for Easy Assembly/Printing

After pouring over many references, I created 2 models. One for the TV version prop, and one for the Movie version prop, they have small subtle differences.

Take a look at the exploded view of the parts to see how the parts were designed with different lips, pegs and holes and such to lock into each other, this was designed to be easily assembled, and mostly, easily printed. The front receiver portion is the main exception.

Here are the files I generated from the models for the Firefly Version (TV) and Serenity Version (Movie). I have also included a file for a safety cap that I designed to lock onto the end of the barrel that can be used instead of painting or taping the tip as per my local convention rules.

Have the files printed using your 3D printer or use a printing service such as 3D Hubs or Shapeways. I personally had them printed through 3D Hubs. Make sure to print 2 x Screws. (Only use either Screws.stl or Screws - Revised.stl so both match. Screws - Revised.stl has a knurled effect)

Step 2: Cleanup and Assembly of the Printed Parts.

After printing all the pieces, they should look something like the first photo.

Be sure to be careful when removing support material so you don't remove any pegs or other parts.

- Remove support material carefully using needle nose pliers, and an exacto knife.

- Sand the outer faces of the parts using 100-20 grit sandpaper to smooth it down.

Time for Assembly:

Use crazyglue to glue pieces together during assembly, clamp when possible and let sit for 1 min between steps.

I will be using the STL file names to identify the parts being joined.

1. Glue the Forward Sight to the Barrel

2. Glue the Grip - Trigger Framework to the Grip - Trigger Framework 2 (This will now be referred to as the Grip Assembly)

3. Glue the Rear Receiver to the Grip Assembly with Upper Grip 1 in place (but not glued) for orientation reference.

4. Glue Upper Grip 1 to the Grip Assembly.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 using Rear Receiver - 2 and Upper Grip 2.

6. Glue Side Panel Rear Receiver 1 and Side Panel Rear Receiver 2 to the Grip Assembly.

7. Glue Side Panel Forward Sight 1 and Side Panel Forward Sight 2 to Front Receiver (This will now be referred to as the Front Assembly)

8. Glue Top Slide to the Front Assembly

9. Glue Ammo Clip to the Front Assembly

10. Test fit the Front Assembly with the Grip Assembly as shown in the photo, then glue them together. (This will now be referred to as the Assembly)

11. Glue the Hammer Guard to the Assembly.

12. Glue 2 x Screws to the Assembly

13. Glue the Barrel into the Assembly

14. Glue the Grip Switch onto the left side of the Upper Grip piece, if pointing the pistol away from you.

If you are making the Firefly Pistol, the assembly ends here. And you can skip to Step 4, if you are assembling the Serenity Pistol, continue to Step 3.

Step 3: Additional Assembly for Serenity Pistol

If you are assembling a Serenity Pistol there is an additional piece to add.

- Glue Side Panel Serenity to the right side of the pistol with the pistol face away, as shown in the photo. (Clamp well)

Now you have an assembled yourself a nice prop pistol. (Excluding grips)

Step 4: Filling, Painting and Buffing


- Use some Testor's Contour Putty, fill in any gaps between mated parts. Smooth out the putty and let dry. Then lightly sand the surface.


- Paint the Pistol using a matte black spray paint designed for plastics.

- Paint the grips using a brown spray paint designed for plastics.

Let dry, and you now have a base for your pistol on to rub and buff.

Rub 'n Buff:

- Wear disposable latex gloves.

- Tape off the parts of the pistol you don't want to be steel coloured.

- Apply some Pewter Rub 'n Buff to the grip center using your finger or a q-tip, spread the waxy paste around to cover evenly. Repeat until the area is covered.

- Apply some Autumn Harvest (or Grecian) Gold Rub 'n Buff to all the other areas of the pistol, be careful not to overlap with the steel color.

- Apply some Pewter Rub 'n Buff to the faux screw in the grip handle using a q-tip or toothpick.

- Buff the sufaces with a clean rag to polish the metallic finishes.

- Glue the grips handle pieces to the Pistol to complete the assembly.

Step 5: Aging and Finishing the Prop

Time for some aging!

Based on which pistol you have built, the aging process only differs by one paint color.

"Base" will refer to:

Acrylic Black - for Firefly Build

Acrylic Brown - for Serenity Build

1. Slightly water down some Base paint in a pallette. (Talking a drop of water in a fair amount of paint)

2. Brush the Base paint onto the shiny parts of the pistol (Not the grip) in small areas at a time.

3. Patt down the area with a paper towel.

4. Repeat steps 2-3 till the shiny parts of the pistol are covered.

5. Using a wet paper towel, dab some water on the pistol, then use a dry towel to smear it till dry. We are making aging lines by revealing the shiny elements below the Base paint.

6. Repeat step 5 until the pistol looks aged to your liking.

7. Water down some Tan Acrylic paint (1/2 or less paint, 1/2 or more water)

8. Brush the watered down mix onto a handle grip, let dry. Repeat.

9 Repeat step 8 for the other grip.

Congratulations, you have finished your pistol prop and it should look great, thanks again for reading my instructable I hope it helped you.

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    2 Discussions


    4 years ago

    Nice, I voted.

    It makes me wish I had a 3D printer.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thank you, but I don't have a 3D printer. I used 3D hubs, you can always throw the files into their quoting program and get an idea of how much it would cost to have printed. :)