Yes, we have at least one thing in common with Hollywood – we love our guns. Hollywood prop rooms would put the arsenals of some small countries to shame. It is such a waste that they sit locked up, only getting out for brief appearances when we could be shooting them!
So, here’s a countdown of the “Dirty Dozen”, twelve of the most iconic guns to ever play across the silver screen. These are the top movie guns of all time.
#12 – Winchester Model 1873 – “Winchester 73”
It’s not often you get a movie where the gun plays a leading role, but with a film titled “Winchester 73” what do you expect? The Model “73” is widely known as the gun that won the west. In this film, the rifle is a custom engraved model that is so perfect that it’s been named “One of a Thousand” but it causes nothing but grief.
The ’73 was chambered in .44-40 and you could pair it up with a nice Colt Frontier to use the same ammo.
#11 – DL-44 Blaster – Star Wars
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid” – Han Solo.
OK, Han Solo’s blaster is not a “real” gun exactly but the iconic sidearm does have some earthly roots. Han’s original blaster started out life as a Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” chambered in 7.63x25mm. It then underwent a little Hollywood rework.
The original cone on the muzzle was rumored to be pilfered from a German MG81 aircraft machine gun. There were some model airplane engine cooling fins glued onto the front of the magazine well. A scope got stuck onto the top and voila! You had a DL-44 Blaster. It does make me sad they hacked up a perfectly good vintage pistol though. Couldn’t they have carved it out of balsa wood or something?
#10 – Colt Diamondback – Bullitt
Who was cooler than Steve Mcqueen? In 1968 – Nobody. As SFPD Lt. Frank Bullitt he wore a turtleneck, drove a Ford mustang and shot this oh-so-sweet Colt Diamondback in .38 Special. Looking like a baby Colt Python, the Diamondback had that famous deep rich Colt bluing and the trademark vent rib on top of the barrel.
Maybe a little under powered with the .38 Special cartridge but it was typical for the time. To be even cooler McQueen carried the Colt in a gravity defying inverted shoulder rig under his sport coat. I can’t do a turtleneck but if I had the dough I’d be all over a Diamondback.
#9 – 1894 Sharps Rifle – Quigley Down Under
And the best supporting actor goes to… The Sharps Rifle! This long gun was a beast in its day. Tom Selleck’s character in the movie described the rifle pretty crisply:
“…a lever-action, breech loader. Usual barrel length’s thirty inches. This one has an extra four. It’s converted to use a special forty-five caliber, hundred and ten grain metal cartridge, with a five-hundred and forty grain paper-patched bullet. It’s fitted with double set triggers, and a Vernier sight. It’s marked up to twelve-hundred yards. This one shoots a mite further.”
Seems like a brag but Sharps have been used effectively at distances up to a mile.
# 8 – Mosin Nagant M91/30 Sniper Rifle – Enemy At The Gates
Ah, the Mosin… Jude Law played a historically rooted character, trying to hold off the Germans by picking them off one at a time with his Mosin Sniper rifle. The Mosin sniper wasn’t much different from a garden variety Mosin 91/30 rifle other than having a scope, a bent bolt and maybe a little better than average Proletariat QA who selected the best of the bunch for sniper duty.
Mosins fire the funky 7.62x54r rimmed cartridge and Uncle Joe’s corrosive Soviet stuff had a muzzle velocity around 2700 ft/s. What Mosins do as good as any rifle out there, in spite of being kind of primitive, is work in heat, cold, mud, water, you name it. There were about 19 million of those suckers produced. They must have been doing something right.
#7 – Colt Single Action Army “Peacemaker” – True Grit
It doesn’t get any more American than John Wayne taking care of business in the old west with a Colt SAA (Single Action Army). Maybe the Winchester 73 won the west but the Peacemaker kept it. Colt made a bunch of different variations of the Single Action, this one is in the original caliber of .45 Colt.
The Duke made a lot of movies featuring the Colt SAA including the Comancheros, set in Texas in the 1830’s – which was 40 years before the Colt Single Action Army was even produced. Now that’s ahead of its time.
There were so many Westerns, and so many Peacemakers used, this definitely belongs on the list of Top Movie Guns of All time.
#6 – Winchester 1887 sawed off – Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Halfway through the Top Movie Guns of All Time, Arnold shows off his one handed cocking skills in T2 like John Wayne in True Grit, but gets it done on a Harley instead of a horse. Only the Terminator would raid a biker bar and snatch a gun like this out of some guy’s hands.
Referred to as the “Rosebox Shotgun” from the Terminator hiding it in the flower box, it takes some serious “guns” to shoot a 12G with a grip like that one handed.
#5 – Heckler & Koch HK94A3 – Die Hard
Some say that John McClean’s true weapon is the Beretta 92F he carries, but I say it’s when he gets himself a “machine gun” that the party really gets started. Bruce Willis goes through three of these MP5 lookalikes in the movie.
I don’t really understand why HK94’s were modified to look like MP5s (instead of using actual MP5s) but that’s how it went down. If I ever have a free month to kill, I’m going to slow this down and count how many rounds are really fired from each magazine.
#4 -M-60 Machine Gun – Rambo: First Blood
You know a movie gun is iconic when the characters in a completely different movie talk about it. In Lord of War we get this dialogue with Nicolas Cage:
Baptiste Jr.: Can you bring me the gun of Rambo?Lord of War
Yuri: Part One, Two, or Three?
Baptiste Jr.: I’ve only seen Part One.
Yuri: The M-60. Would you like the armor piercing bullets?
Baptiste Jr.: Please.
Who wouldn’t want to own this belt fed heater? The M-60 cranks out a 7.62 NATO round at about 600 rounds a minute. Those belts don’t last long, or at least they don’t last as long as they do in the movies. Best viewed in slow motion so you can get the full pec shaking effect.
#3 – S&W 29 44 Magnum – Sudden Impact
“Go ahead. Make my day.”
This has got to be competing for the all-time best gun movie quote. Inspector Harry Callahan squints down the barrel of the S&W 44 Magnum at the last robber left alive. The robber wisely decides not to lose his head and gives up.
Frank Sinatra was originally supposed to have the role of Harry Callahan but he had messed up his wrist and could not hoist the three pound revolver. It just wouldn’t have been the same with old blue eyes playing it would it?
Harry toted the 6 ½” Model 29 in a Bucheimer-Clark shoulder holster. Not exactly a quick draw setup but he made it work.
#2 – Walther PPK – From Russia with Love
No gun has been so tightly associated with a single character than James Bond and the Walther PPK. Although called a PPK in the earlier “Dr. No”, in that film Bond is using the longer Walther model PP. He gets the real deal in “From Russia with Love”.
I guess spies don’t need a lot of firepower as PPKs were chambered in .32 or .380 ACP. Still it’s a step up from the Bond character’s original piece – a mouse-like Beretta 418.
#1 – Colt AR15 – Scarface
“Say hello to my little friend!“
The unanimous number one on our list of Top Movie Guns of All Time. Not just because of the over top final scene of the movie featuring Tony Montana mowing down would be assassins, but because of his iconic battle cry. Raise your hand if you’ve never uttered the words “Say hello to my little friend”. Yeah I thought so.
The movie gun is actually an AR15 that was modified to shoot full auto, with a kluged on fake M203 grenade launcher. Why not an M16 you say? Evidently the rate of fire on the modified AR15 gave a better muzzle flash effect when interacting with the movie camera’s shutter speed. I guess that’s what’s known as firing for effect(s).
That concludes the our top movie guns of all time. Let’s hope Hollywood doesn’t wimp out and gives us another dozen!