The Morita Rifle


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“The weapons of Starship Troopers are one of the most talked about features of the movie, as they take on a character all of their own!”



In Starship Troopers, the young warriors of the Federation travel to distant planets to battle the vile Arachnid armies.  With them, they take a brutal arsenal of weaponry, consisting of missile launchers, Nuke launchers, grenades, and most significantly….the infamous Morita rifle.


The Morita rifle is the mainstay weapon of the Mobile Infantry and the Federation Fleet.


The Morita took its name from a Sony Executive at the time of production, as a mark of respect, and it became one of the most beloved and distinct weapons of the sci-fi genre.


The Morita was the result of a culmination of efforts by the art, special effects and weapons departments, according to John Richardson (head of ST special effects).


There were two basic types of Morita rifle – the more common long-barrel Morita (or “Morita rifle”), and the short-barrel Carbine (or “Morita Carbine”), mostly used by Fleet personal and Officers.  The Troopers used various other weapons, such as Nuke/Missile launchers etc, but the Morita variants were the predominant weapons of combat.


The Morita rifle (long barrel), was the standard issue assault weapon for the MI, and consisted of a long-range rapid-fire automatic gun with a secondary under slung shotgun for effective damage in close quarter fighting.  The Morita rifle was really a futuristic fibreglass casing, containing a Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle and an Ithaca 37 “Stakeout” pump action shotgun.  A few were fitted with Ruger AC556 (Military Spec.) fully automatic rifles.  The weapons for arranged in an “over and under” configuration and were held in place inside the fibreglass Morita casings by an internal and external metal “A” clamp.  These clamps ensured that the weight of the shotgun did not bend or warp the mini-14 barrel with its own weight.  The mini-14s were further fitted with 22-inch barrel extensions, so that the overall barrel would run the entire length of the weapon.  The triggers for the mini-14 were relocated and moved forward using a “Bullpup” design system, which meant that the magazine would be located at the very rear of the weapon.


In total, around 70 fully automatic Ruger AC556s were used, 50 semi-automatic Ruger mini-14s, and 25 12-guage Ithaca “Stakeout” shotguns.


The Morita Carbine (short barrel) was mainly used by Fleet personnel, Rank Officers and special personnel in the Mobile Infantry.  It was basically a cut down version of the Morita rifle and was practically the same minus the under mounted shotgun.  The fibreglass casing was modified into a short barrel carbine pattern, and it only contained the mini-14 rifle with no shotgun.  It utilised the same bullpup design feature to relocate the triggers forward.  These were much fewer in number than the Morita rifles.


There was only one other variety of the Morita rifle, and only one or two were known to have been made, and for only one specific character.  For Sugar Watkins, his Morita rifle was fitted with an oversized sniper scope.  The Morita itself was a standard live fire rifle fitted with a mini-14 and an Ithaca shotgun, but it was also fitted with a large wood/fibreglass faux sniper scope, which would come into use later in the movie.  This is the only instance of a Sniper Morita that we see.

The Morita appeared in one other “variance” during the movie.  When the new Troopers are going through the Camp Currie boot camp, they take part in a “Lazertag” futuristic training game; where they play a version of Capture the Flag in full combat gear.  They use Morita rifles that have been modified to fire laser beams that incapacitate an opponent (rather than live fire that would kill!).  To do this, non-firing fibreglass Morita rifles were fitted with a Lazertag tip, that masked the Morita barrels with a faux laser gun emitter.


These weapons were known as “Live fire” props, as they contained actual Live Firing weapons that used ‘Live’ ammunition.  For this reason, the movie required a federally licensed co-ordinator and supervisor for all firearms, mainly for safety reasons.  For this reason, the renowned Rock Galotti was brought in; whose precious projects have included the blockbusters Broken Arrow and Face Off.


In addition to the “Live Fire” prop Morita rifles, a large number of non-firing prop Morita weapons were needed, for stunts and background purposes.  For example, the movie producers did not wish to use live firing weapons during stunt scenes for safety purposes, so they would use either fibreglass Morita rifles (either empty or containing resin mini-14s), or, they would use full-size rubber cast Moritas.


A large number of fibreglass Morita rifles were produced, but rather than inserting real mini-14 firearms, the property masters used exact casts made of resin to give the appearance of real firearms.  These were used for close-to-camera shots when real firearms were deemed unnecessary or dangerous.


The same was done for the shorter Morita Carbines: a small limited batch were produced as simple fibreglass shell casings with no real firearms but rather resin replica casts to give the appearance.


For all other purposes, full size casts were used, made of solid rubber.  From afar these looked identical to the real Morita rifles, but were twice as light and were much cheaper and faster to produce.  They were carried by background extras, as well as were used for stunt scenes.  The rubber Morita rifles were excellent for use by stunt actors because they were much lighter and easier to carry, but they could take serious damage and not be broken or seriously affected, whereby a sharp blow to a fibreglass Morita would crack the shell casing easily.


The Morita rifles played a major role in the movie, especially coming to the fore during the major battles against the Arachnids armies.  Just like the characters and the actors, the Morita weapons had their own cameo appearances, like the Sniper rifle playing its own part in the merciful death of Sgt Gillespie at the hands of Rasczak, or the last stands of Zander and Carmen with their faithful Carbines.


It has been said that the Morita rifles played as major a part in Starship Troopers as the actors themselves did, and because of this role the Morita props played, they are one of the most sought after and collectable pieces from this blockbuster movie.



David Rosen





 Troopers NET




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