The design of the traditional stormtrooper blaster is based on the real-life Sterling sub-machine gun used by the armed forces of the United Kingdom over the second half of the 20th century, with changes made by the filmmakers such as alterations to the magazine.
In the films, the design of the blaster rifle was based on the Sterling submachine gun. The design of the blaster pistol owned by the fictional character Han Solo was based on the 7.63-caliber Mauser C96, an early and successful automatic pistol that was used in World War I and World War II. Lucasfilm's prop department added a scope and an emitter nozzle to the pistol. The blaster made for the 1977 film A New Hope was lost, and a second blaster was made with resin from the cast used for the first one. The blaster was subsequently used as a prop in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Functional Sterlings firing blank cartridges were used in some scenes with the laser bolt added later in post-production. These blank cartridges are responsible for the muzzle flash seen on screen and, in some scenes, the cartridges themselves can be seen being ejected from the guns, or the actual sound of the blank cartridge is not dubbed over by a sound effect.
Ben Burtt, a sound designer who worked on the Star Wars films, came up with the sound of blaster fire during a family backpacking trip in the Pocono Mountains in 1976. Burtt hit the guy-wire of an AM radio transmitter tower with a hammer and recorded the sound with a microphone close to the impact.
In a chapter of the book Myth, Media, and Culture in Star Wars, Michael Kaminski, writing about the influence of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa on the Star Wars films, said that Kurosawa's Ran influenced the exchange of blaster fire. Like in Ran, color-coding and an "onscreen sense of direction" of blaster fire are used to depict opposing forces. In the Star Wars original trilogy, rebels employed red blaster fire and often attacked from the left, while the Empire employed green blaster fire and attacked from the right. In Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, the second film of the prequel trilogy, the color and the direction were reversed. In that film, the Republic employed green and blue blaster fire and attacked from the right, while the Separatists employed red blaster fire and attacked from the left.