In this part, I’ll cover the guns, tactical belt, holsters and related items. I thought this part would be easy to write about, but because I didn’t put much effort into this part of the costume for Halloween, I did a lot of research while writing and upgraded pretty much everything in the process. I’m hoping this article didn’t suffer too much from the extensive editing.
In Avengers Natasha Romanoff is equipped with two Glock 26 guns. Most airsoft guns look very much like real guns and they are relatively inexpensive, but they can fire plastic pellets, so they usually need to be deactivated for conventions etc. I was going to use the costume at a night club and they wouldn’t allow a real-looking gun prop at the party, so I just made a quick foam & duct tape gun in half an hour before the party started. This was a big reason why I put much more effort into the Widow’s Bites and baton weapons – the gun that I had at the party just didn’t look all that great.
Glock has apparently been waging a bit of a war with replica makers, so I had difficulty finding an airsoft Glock 26. At least in Europe though, the Cyma P.698 is still widely available and luckily it’s dirt cheap too. I found some on amazon.de. It needs a bit of black paint to look right, but the shape and size are about right. I used heat shrink tubing to cover the orange tip, so if I need it to be orange, I just pull off the cap and it’s there. I also filled the barrel with epoxy glue. It’s a plastic barrel and a bit of testing revealed that the Cyma isn’t particularly accurate.
Aside from the foam gun I made for Halloween, I had an airsoft Walther P990 that I used as a part of a costume at a 007-themed party over ten years ago. I’m not much of a gun fanatic, but I can appreciate great industrial design when I see it and I think the P99 is a good example of that. The Halloween costume had just one holster and I used the P990 in photos that I took before the party.
Conventions and Rules
I’m going to go to Wizard World in Oregon in Februrary 2016 and possibly to London in late May. I found a nice, quick overview of US convention rules for weapon props on Youtube. The Cymas have been converted into convention-safe non-firing props, but making foam guns are also an option. I’ll travel through O’Hare airport, so I may also need to check to see if the extra strict rules in Chicago are a problem even when staying well outside of the city for a few days and keeping non-firing props packed up in my luggage. London shouldn’t be a problem.
The drop leg gun holsters in the films are Blackhawk SERPA holsters. I couldn’t find a cheap SERPA holster for the P99, but DealExtreme had a H&K USP Compact holster for $15, so I took a chance and bought one. It was initially a very tight fit, but after the P990 had been in the holster for about an hour, it turned out to fit really well. I ended up buying a genuine left hand Blackhawk SERPA Sportster holster from Ebay. I didn’t actually notice that the DX holster was for the USP Compact than until the genuine on arrived. There are definite differences in the design, but both holsters work well with the Walther and the Cymas.
You can save a bit of money and trouble by going for an Age of Ultron configuration where she only has the left side holster and one gun.
There was one extremely entertaining puzzle related to the holsters though. The DX holster camewith two different mounting platforms. One of them is a rounded paddle that slots at the top of your pants and the other one is a belt loop platform. For the costume though, you want to drop the holster down to the leg. You can get drop leg versions of the Blackhawk SERPAs, but they are a little bit more expensive. I spent probably two hours just trying to get the standard platforms securely mounted down on the leg, but the gun was just top heavy and wouldn’t stay nice and flat. Then I came up with a crazy idea and it turned out it worked perfectly.
The idea was to ignore the third mounting screw completely and flip the belt loop platform upside down. That way it is mounted much closer to the pistol grip. Also, the slot where the third screw went is now all the way up and is perfect for attaching the straps that comes down from the belt. Obviously this isn’t the way you are supposed to use the mounting platform and you are ignoring one screw, so there’s no guarantee this would be a safe configuration for a real gun. For cosplay with props, it’s fine. Note that the Blackhawk Sportster holster only comes with the paddle platform and it’s a dark gray rather than a black. I used just a bit of matte black spray paint on it and found a belt loop platform for $6 on Ebay.
I took belts and buckles from two worn down waist packs. The straps are heavy duty cotton, so they look nice and didn’t cost a thing. In the Halloween costume, both straps as used for the single holster, but converting the costume to double holsters, I made new straps to go around the legs and used 2cm elastic for them. I think the holster is much more likely to slip a bit if the straps do not stretch at all.
I have seen photos of many Black Widow costumes that use the velcro/cordura cloth holsters. I bought one from DealExtreme for about $10 just to make sure I had at least some kind of holster in time for Halloween. In terms of holding any type of gun and maybe a bit of lipstick etc, there’s nothing wrong with them, but be aware that they are far bulkier than the SERPAs. In terms of looks, the SERPA wins hands down.
Belt & Buckles
I bought a guard belt from a local military supply store. One thing to note is that tactical belts have a velcro surface on the inside and part of it is left uncovered. The belt that I got has the hook side, so in order to reduce wear on the suit under it, I bought some more 5cm wide velcro and used it to cover the rough part. If you want the belt to stay exactly in place without slipping at all, you could sew the inner velcro to your suit. I can see how that might be necessary for actual combat duty and when you have some more weight attached to the belt. The belt buckle in the Avengers movie is an AustriAlpin Cobra. In photos, the tactical belt is narrower than the logo belt, which implied that it’s a 38mm belt (1.5″).
In January 2016, I bought 1.5″ security guard belt from Ebay for $4 and the 38mm Cobra buckle. The single side adjustable 38 mm buckle is an exact match for the belt buckle in Avengers. In the film, the buckle is reversed, so the text on it isn’t visible and the shape looks slightly different from most online photos, which show the other side.
The leg drop holster straps in the film costume have three more Cobra buckles – two on the left and one on the right. A lower cost 25mm “fashion buckle” exists, but it’s probably not 100% accurate for the holster straps. There’s a 25-28mm buckle that was used for Dredd that looks about right. Buying all four buckles from the UK including shipping would be about 77£ (106€). You can get generic plastic buckles that work just fine for a fraction of the price. How important is accuracy? How much is it worth to you? I think it really comes down to what your priorities are: if you are interested in crafting an accurate costume, then buying a the exact right buckle can’t really be considered crafting or challenging (except maybe for your credit card).
One more option for the buckles is that you could 3D print fake buckles and use those. I found a Black Widow kit on Thingiverse that includes 3D model for a full size belt buckle. I printed a some of these buckles out at 50% size at a local library. At that size they fit 20mm straps. The model isn’t 100% accurate for the leg/gun straps, but they look pretty nice anyway. The cost for all three was 40 cents. The buckles will not open and are probably fragile, so they are just for show: the straps open & close with velcro. I think I found a good compromising between authentic and inexpensive.
I exchanged some emails with Dave Wildford from Concact Left. His expert opinion based on reference photos was that the tactical belt buckle is the 38mm FC38KVF (adjustable female, fixed male) and the holster buckles are 25mm FC25MFF-B (male & female fixed). He didn’t have the 25mm buckles on stock, so they were not listed on the website when I was writing this, but he ordered some, so they might be there now. I still think the 25-28mm looks right to me, but I’m just basing that on photos, so Dave probably knows better.
I have seen some nicely made utility packs and I was considering making pouches out of craft foam, but at the same time I knew it might not be possible due to my tight schedule. So while I was on a business trip in Chicago, I wandered off to Menards one evening just to see if I could find anything useful for the costume. I found a set of three Toughbuilt Cliptech Hubs at Menards for $5. They fit perfectly and securely on the guard belt. I used a black permanent marker on the yellow parts to make them black and then used them like that. I didn’t have time to improve on these for Halloween.
The Black Widow kit on Thingiverse also includes a version of the pouch. It’s pretty nice and fits directly on a belt, but I wanted to learn Blender, so over Christmas holidays I made my own version that fits over the Thoughbuilt hubs. If I had a 3D printer of my own, I would iterate a bit on the design, making it even more accurate, since I’m using a public printer, I was happy enough with the first print and made two more at slightly higher resolution. The first one I printed was done using draft settings, but surprisingly it snapped perfectly onto the belt hub without any modification at all. The high resolution print was a bit tight and needed sanding, so the third print used a slightly updated model. If there’s interest, I could probably write an article on how the 3D-printed pouches were made and share the model files. The design could be more accurate, so I might revise it now that I know Blender a bit better.