NOTE: One of the best articles to read on the subject of armor and its availability and make is the topic called “The various types of armor and where to find them” on the FISD. I suggest reading it in conjunction with this article.
If you email me asking how to get in touch with armor makers I will simply refer you to the above article. If you ask me questions which are explicitly answered here or on the above link I will refer you back here and/or to the above link.
Before buying anything, remember Proverbs 19:2 – “Desire without knowledge is not good — how much more will hasty feet miss the way!”
DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Realize you’re about to enter into a world that is much, much bigger than you could ever imagine. Or… to quote Lord Vader, “You don’t know the power (or the breadth) of the Dark Side!”
When you first see 501st stormtroopers, either online or in person, you will probably think we all look exactly alike. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, the longer you study armor the more you begin to see all the differences. Many of us can tell you what kind of armor someone is wearing by seeing only one small part of it… the ab plate, shoulder bells, legs, etc., etc. It’s not magic, we’ve just done our homework.
There are “idealized” helmets and “screen accurate” helmets. There are sandtroopers and stormtroopers. There are ANH, ESB, and ROTJ troopers. And all of these have differences in coloring, sizes, finishing, add-ons, holster placement, and so on and so on. Names like FX, AP, TE2, and TM may not mean anything to you when you start out, but wait a year or so and they mean almost everything.
It pays to do your research before purchasing your first set of armor. Make sure what you’re getting into so you’re happy with what you get!The primary resource for doing this is the helmet archive at StarWarsHelmets.com
You can spend weeks looking at and comparing helmets and armor on there… and my suggestion is you do just that.
The statements I make below are purely PERSONAL OPINION! I do not mean to disparage anyone, nor do I mean to even say one kit is superior than the other. I am also not interested in talking about who did what to make their armor. This is meant as a resource for people who are considering getting armor, or upgrading their armor, and want a quick run-down of what is available. If you believe I have some information correct, please contact me and let me know.
Here now is a run down of the popular armor kits.
First off, if you’re looking to get armor and want to join the 501st the advice that just about everyone will give you isDO NOT BUY FROM either eBay, or web sites! There are a lot of good Star Wars costuming web sites out there, but they are just that… COSTUMING web sites! And, if you’re doing this for real you don’t want a “costume”… you want ARMOR! You will save yourself a lot of grief and a lot of money if you’ll do your research first and take your time. Finding a “full set of armor” online may seem too good to be true because it almost always is!
Rubies costuming company has released a set of “official” stormtrooper armor. By “official” I mean that they have a license to sell it for profit. The armor isn’t 100% bad… it is, however, probably 98% bad. And, if you’re looking to get into the 501st then please DO NOT GET IT!
It should be said that it is possible to do some major modifications and be considered for admission into the 501st. But why go through all the extra work? Get good armor to begin with and save the grief.
The truth is, if you’re wanting some stormtrooper armor for Halloween, or some party, or whatever and don’t want to spend time putting together a suit, and don’t care about getting into the 501st, or about really looking very accurate at all, then the Rubies armor might be your best bet. But my advice… start with something else.
The AM (armor master) kit is sold by the same people that previously made the popular “FX Kit” which was by far the most popular stormtrooper armor kit for a very long time.
It is a “fan sculpt” but, while it looks good, it is not nearly as accurate as TM (another, insanely accurate, fan sculpt). The AM kit is made for the masses. It is idealized and stylized. On the up side the AM kits are also relatively inexpensive and they’re easy to track down. One good thing about the AM kit is that it is highly customizable. If you’re 6′ plus and weight 230 lbs or more you can pretty much make this armor work very easily. And with respectable troopers posting build threads like this one on the FISD and the like it’s certainly a set of armor to consider… just don’t forget what it is.
NOTE: It should also be pointed out that the FX helmet is basically no longer acceptable for most “elite” status programs within 501st detachments.
AVAILABILITY: No known problems though there may be a waiting list.
“Trooper Expert 2″ armor is a “TE” derived line of armor. It is made from molds taken from screen used suits. The molds were from ROTJ suits and ANH helmets so there had to be some “correction” on the part of the mold makers to fix things the ROTJ armor had messed up since its original use in ANH.
One of the biggest differences with TE2 armor is that it’s made from HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) and not ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). That means a few things. 1) It’s more light weight… and 2) it makes it a bit less “sturdy.” There are constant debates about which is better… but it really just comes down to preference.
(Side Note: I own this armor and haven’t had any major problems with it being made from HIPS instead of ABS.)
AVAILABILITY: TE2 is, to my knowledge, no longer doing runs.
AP (authentic props) armor is another “TE” derived line of armor except, unlike TE2, it is made from ABS, so it’s a bit more “sturdy.” That means, however, it is also a bit harder to work with. Since it’s ABS it already has a good glossy shine to it and won’t need to be painted like TE2 armor needs to be. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it of course.
Overall AP is a fantastic kit and anyone that owns one should be proud!
Photo is TK-4510′s AP helmet.
AVAILABILITY: No known problems obtaining this, though there may be a waiting list.
TM (troopermaster) is a “fan sculpt” which simply means it comes not from molds taken from suits used in the movies — like TE derived armor — but from molds made by “troopermaster” himself. He sculpted every single last part of the armor on his own. This is amazingly accurate armor! The more I’ve researched it the more amazed I am at the time he’s put into making every detail like that of the film used suits. He truly is a master at what he does and if you want something that looks exactly like screen used armor then this is pretty much the choice you’re going to have.
EDIT: February, 2011 – I now own a set of this armor and cannot stress enough how amazingly accurate it is. The details and nuances are spot on. And the quality is top notch in every regard! If you don’t mind spending the extra money this is a set of armor you must have!
AVAILABILITY: As slots become available, for sale threads will be posted. Kits are very limited and offered infrequently.
ATA (affordable trooper armor) armor is relatively very inexpensive and looks really good when finished. It too is TE derived armor — like AP and TE2. It is available in 2mm glossy ABS. I recently assembled a set of this for a friend and was very, very impressed with it. The pulls are really sharp and the quality is excellent! I’ll be singing the praises of ATA for a while yet to come… this is a very good armor in deed!
ATA is a great choice of armor though and I recommend it to many a new trooper.
Picture of Pandatrooper’s ATA bucket build.
EDIT: February, 2012 – I now own a set of ATA armor and am recommending it to all troopers who want a great set of armor for not much money. It’s amazing armor!
AVAILABILITY: Usually a waiting list but always prompt.