Sunday, July 10, 2011

Building the M-3 Predator Heavy Pistol from Mass Effect 2: Part One

A while back I was contacted by a fellow costume geek who was working on a suit of armor from the popular video game Mass Effect 2.  She had her whole rig figured out, but was coming up short in the pistol department.  It seems that she couldn't find anyone who makes a good-looking replica of the exact pistol she was after, the M-3 Predator.  Here's a couple of reference pictures:

Since these were the best references I could find online, I asked her to email me some screenshots from the game showing the pistol from a variety of other angles.  Several megabytes later, I had enough material to work with.  I printed out some thirty pages of pictures (two to a page) and set to work.

The main body was cut from a piece of 3/4" thick MDF, then I laminated a layer of 1/8" pvc sheet to either side for a bit more thickness.  The curved body portions of either side were more pieces of MDF cut to the proper outline and then shaped with a body rasp.  After about two hours of tinkering, it looked like so:
Predator M-3 Build Beginning

Since the pistol has a pair of little blue lights on either side, I had to come up with a way to add some LEDs and a battery pack inside.  To that end, I made the panel removable on the left side of the body:

As you can see, I also added some strips of styrene to the rear sight to give it a bit more thickness.  Then I cut out some grooves in the upper and lower barrels, drilled them out from the ends, and fitted them with some plastic rod scraps I had on the bench:

At this point, the build was starting to take shape and I was pretty happy with it:

To make the grip a bit more hand-friendly (and game accurate) I built it up with a bit of Bondo auto body filler.  Since I was getting anxious about what it would look like, I shot it with a quick coat of grey primer:
Predator Right Side

Then I drilled out the fastener holes and carved in the seam lines and did a bit of sanding.  Then I sprayed it with black primer to fill a bit more of the bare MDF and get rid of some of the graininess.  Then I did a bit more sanding:
M-3 Predator Heavy PistolIMG_4966

To smooth it out a bit more, I gave it another coat of grey primer:
M-3 Predator Heavy PistolIMG_5035

The next thing I did was add the raised portions of the grip by building up a bit more Bondo and then sculpting it to shape.  I also added some ribs to the handguard area, carved in a bit more detail at the bottom of the grip, and the recessed area on either side of the handguard.  The last minor detail I needed to take care of was the forward sight. 

Once all this was done, I masked off all of the parts that needed to be smooth and sprayed the parts that needed to be rough with a liberal coating of non-skid truck bed liner:
M-3 Pistol Textured

I was thrilled with the resultant texture.  Unfortunately, this is when I noticed that I'd made the ribs on the handguard backwards.  After studying the reference images at length I decided that the areas I'd recessed needed to be raised instead.  I fixed them by adding some pieces of half-round styrene stock.  They're the white parts:
Predator Pistol Closed

The removable panel on the left side fit snugly enough for mere friction to hold it in place.  Not too shabby:
Predator Pistol Opened

Now if you're looking at the pictures above and scrolling back up to the original references, I'm sure you've noticed that many of the markings are the wrong color.  I know they are.  I figured at this stage I would probably end up making a mold and casting some copies.  The lettering and stripes were vinyl decals cut by my friend Matt Herman who has a side business making custom vinyl decals.  They're basically just there to act as painting guides in the cast copies.  This means Matt was able to just cut them out in whatever color vinyl he had laying around.

At this point, the pistol was complete and I was thrilled with it:
Predator Pistol Pose

At this point, you're looking at a somewhat heavy and somewhat fragile amalgamation of wood, plastic, paint, and vinyl stickers that would probably shatter into dozens of pieces if it were dropped on the floor.  This will not do.  If you're thinking I should've made it out of something else, you're right.  So I will.

Stay tuned for part two: moldmaking...

...I plan to write it up as a tutorial so you can mold duplicates of your own props.