Look, I realize Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just days away at this point and you’re all into the idea of owning your own lightsaber, but you really should save your money for something more important.
Ah, who am I kidding? Of course you need a lightsaber—we all do—but with so many options out there it’s hard to tell the difference between the kids’ toys and the kind of movie prop replica that an adult would be proud to own.
The Plastic Poker of Death
These plastic sabers have been around for decades and their design hasn’t changed much since they were first introduced: A series of tapered plastic cylinders stretches into the general shape of the iconic Star Wars
weapon with the flick of your wrist and collapses back down again if you slap the end hard enough. It’s the most bare-bones representation of a lightsaber you can find and the only reason Hasbro can get away with charging $10 for each one is because it’s an officially licensed product. Avoid if at all possible.
Color Change Lightsaber
The next step up from the bottom of the barrel is the rigid light-up version you see here. It’s slightly more realistic in that it actually lights up as you would imagine a lightsaber does, and when it’s lit it’s not terrible-looking. It’s still entirely plastic from top to bottom, so it will definitely feel like a cheap toy, which it is. It has a handful of motion-activated sounds that replicate the sounds from the movie series, but the built-in speaker is weaker than you’d expect. They’re slightly more expensive than the cheapest option, but it’s a decent upgrade for kids.
HasbroAs far as mass-produced replicas go, the Force FX series is going to be your best bet. These sabers are modeled after those from the movie—including the brand new crossguard-equipped version Kylo Ren uses in The Force Awakens—and their quality is typically quite good. The hilts are constructed out of metal and the built-in sound effects are loud and recognizable. Pressing the power button causes the blade to light up from bottom to top just like the ones you’ve seen in the movies, thanks to a series of super bright LEDs. These are the most affordable lightsaber replicas that could possibly be considered “collectibles,” and most Star Wars fans see these as the top of the line, but the lightsaber market is deeper than many people realize.
Battle-Ready Force FX
The Force FX sabers look good, but they’re rather fragile and not designed to be used in anything resembling actual combat. Anyone who wants to actually have mock battles with their futuristic weaponry should look into the “Battle Ready” models from UltraForceSabers
. These are the same Force FX sabers as above, stripped down and rebuilt with stronger LED components and a much more durable polycarbonate blade. It’s definitely an investment, but it’s probably going to last forever, so it just might be worth it.
Had enough of movie replicas? Ultra Sabers
makes original custom lightsabers in all shapes and sizes, complete with removable blades, built-in sound effects, and all manner of accessories and add-ons. You can even build your own saber, choosing the hilt style, metal finish, pommel, blade type, color, and additional lighting effects. These are gorgeous devices made of machined aluminum and high quality components. They don’t carry the official Star Wars
license, but nobody would ever mistake one of these awesome gadgets as anything other than a genuine lightsaber. These are for the serious enthusiasts.
Park SabersPark Sabers
makes its own custom sabers modeled after the ones you’ve seen on the big screen, so you get the high-quality construction of a company like Ultra Sabers and the saber designs used in the movies. These are not officially licensed, so don’t expect to see any names or labels on the replicas, but virtually every iconic saber is represented on the company’s long list of products. Park Sabers uses its own method of blade construction, which it calls “Phase Blades.” These blades are built specifically to withstand abuse, including thick polycarbonate blade tubing and an LED strip designed to protect against dead spots.
The Real Deal
Profiles in History
Want a real piece of Star Wars
history? Keep an eye out for an official movie prop auction, because that’s the only place you can get a real lightsaber. The ones used in the movies don’t actually light up, make sounds, or do anything aside from looking cool, but as far as geek cred goes, there is no substitute.
A version of this story originally appeared on the Daily Dot on Nov. 29, 2014.
Photo via Remmac/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)