The Economist: How Guns Get Into Movies

601px-OblivionRifle

A number of firearms have played iconic roles in movies, film, and tv shows over the years. Clint Eastwood’s .44 Magnum in Dirty Harry or the plethora of P90’s in Stargate (yes, I am totally a nerd). From there, one can point to plenty of other examples. The Beretta 92’s in the Die Hard franchies, Walther PPK’s in Bond films, and the M16 with M203 from Scarface come along.

In many cases, the iconic role of a particular firearm can spawn or spur sales. I know plenty of internet commando’s who do replica builds of their favorite on-screen option.

So how do these firearms get picked up for their various starring roles? Turns out, its as various as the firearms themselves. Options include:

  • Sponsorship – According to The Economist, Beretta pitched in $250K for the 92 series to be prominent in Lone Survivor. The 92 is not typically in active SEAL service, with the SOCOM group commonly carrying the Sig P226.
  • Armor’s Choices – Directors do not typically specify a particular gun. Often they state their requirements and an armorer will pick up a model that suitably works for the given scenario.
  • Propmasters – Like Han Solo’s modified C96, weapons can be chosen for ability to conceal their base model or easy of modification. The ACR in Oblivion also comes to mind.

For the full story, check out The Economist, which has some fun graphics on the inclusion of various popular models in film.

*Note – The story is gun-control friendly. 

Number of guns models used by various actors.

Number of guns models used by various actors.Econo



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • TheNotoriousIUD

    In the case of Tom Cruise his contract stipulates that the gun must not be taller than him.

    • Dougscamo

      So you’re saying he WON’T be in the next remake of “Last of the Mohicans”??!!

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Yeah, hes going to play a teenage Native American girl who teaches her people how to be samurai fighter pilots.

        • Ron

          Yes Hollywood has convinced everyone that all one needs to do is get the right training montages scene and 13 year old girl can beat up the 220 lb MMA fighter.

          • AD

            Well, to be fair, that 13 year old girl must also be the Special Chosen One of Unique Destiny.

        • Dougscamo

          Okay, his typical role…but no Mimics this time?

          • crackedlenses

            Booo, I liked those exo-suits….

    • Darren Hruska

      Does that mean the Moist-Nugget is out of consideration?

      • iksnilol

        And the MK18 variant of the M4 is also outta the question then.

        That’s how Russian micro-gun makers have broken through in Hollywood.

        • LCON

          hell that would rule out a Derringer.

    • mazkact

      Got to put Sly Stallone and Marky Mark in the same itty bitty category.

  • Ron

    If I remember right the use of a PPK for James Bond came right from the Ian Fleming books.

    • kbroughton77

      Correct. Although in the 1st novel, 007 carried a Beretta 418

      • Sianmink

        Until M dressed him down for carrying ‘a lady’s gun’ and forced him to take a .32 PPK.

        • Hoplopfheil

          I always laugh at the description of a .32 as having “a delivery like a brick through a plate glass window.”

          Compared to .25 Auto, I guess he’s right.

    • tiger

      Fans of James Bond will remember how, in the novel
      Dr No, Bond was forced by ‘M’ to relinquish his
      weapon of choice, the 0.25 calibre Beretta, to be
      replaced with the now iconic Walther PPK. This
      change was instigated on the grounds that, on a
      previous mission, the Beretta had failed Bond,
      almost bringing about his death. In reality, Ian
      Fleming had acted on the advice of a man called
      Geoffrey Boothroyd. As well as being a James Bond
      fan, Boothroyd was also an expert on firearms. In his
      opinion, the 0.25 calibre Beretta was the type of gun
      that a lady would carry in her purse. A man like Bond
      needed something more fitting.
      Boothroyd tried to persuade Fleming to have Bond
      use a Smith & Wesson air-weight revolver,
      chambered for the 0.38 Special cartridge. There is no
      doubt that Smith & Wesson produce excellent
      firearms and that the 0.38 Special can be a proper
      man stopper in the right hands. However, Fleming
      decided that 007 was not a ‘revolver man’, feeling
      that the sleek lines of a semi automatic weapon
      would suit Bond better. Boothroyd suggested the
      Walther PPK chambered for the 7.65 calibre and the
      rest, as they say, is history. The Walther PPK became
      Bond’s signature weapon and has remained so, even
      with the advent of a new Bond played by Daniel Craig.
      According to the Dr No novel, three other guns which
      were considered for Bond, as well as the Walther
      PPK. These were the Japanese Nambu M14, the
      Russian Tokarev TT-33 and German made Sauer
      M38. The Nambu and the Tokarev seem to be odd
      choices for a concealed weapon and one wonders how
      they ever came into contention. The answer may lie
      in correspondence which took place between Fleming
      and Boothroyd in May 1956, which was reproduced in
      Sports Illustrated magazine on 19th March 1962.
      In this correspondence, Boothroyd related how, in
      1948, the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps tested some of
      the various pistols used in WW2. Amongst these
      were the Nambu, Tokarev and Sauer M38. Fleming,
      who was never an expert on firearms, seems to have
      used this information as part of his research for Dr
      No

      • Phil Hsueh

        The Nambu would have been a horrible choice given how bad they are, I’ve never heard a good about any of the Nambu pistols.

        • tiger

          Agreed. Not my gun pick for a ’60s spy.

    • Mike

      Walther PPK was a British service issue handgun.
      But I don’t believe many drive Aston Martins though

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    Suicide Squad immediately comes to mind. In most movies the guns are normal boring looking guns so people often dont look beyond the fact that it is a gun. In Suicide Squad the guns were not your regular old black guns. They had some personality themselves and that probably did a lot of good promoting the Chiappa Rhino. Im also sure there are a number of Deadshot AR builds that have happened since the movie.

  • Twilight sparkle

    Not gonna lie, stargate was 40% of the reason I got a ps90

    • Every time I see that Bell & Carlson thumbhole stock at a gun show, I totally think about buying it and doing a “Carter Special” build.

      • Twilight sparkle

        I would have done a Carter special build if that stock was easy to find down here. Just not a fan of the short barrel and elcan, seems like two things that don’t belong together

        • I guess one way of approaching it is “AR-15s that have a 7.25″ barrel are a joke, ergo who cares about the optic?” You can find used Elcan M145s for relatively cheap on the interwebs, so it’s no worse than buying any other military-grade optic.

          • Johnny Lee Lewis

            It was all filmed in Canada… Elcans are domestic to canada

          • Twilight sparkle

            That’s also why it was built on an Olympic arms rifle, they’re a lot easier to find in Canada

    • alex waits

      Battlestar is why I want a PX4 Storm.

      • TW

        Same. Some day I will find the funds for a PX4 and PS90.

      • The explosive rounds are pretty frakkin’ expensive, though, so not much use against toasters.

    • PK

      Stargate was the reason I have a SBR PS90, and the whole uniform with mag carrier vest and all.

      Expensive show.

      • Twilight sparkle

        Well I’m still in college so funds are a little dry here, I’d just like to find a black ring sight for it for now

        • PK

          The ringsight is the best for sure. I prefer the type with tritium illumination. I love mine, I bought it factory-installed on the PS90 back when that was an option.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3d7aa450dd7a5087a1c59e3ad4d61f5247829efa82917dad0a8bc6ca711cf7d6.jpg

          • Twilight sparkle

            Mine just has the FN branded c-more red dot sight. I might do something like the black ring if I wanna do a stargate kit but i feel like it would also work well with a T1… all I know is once I get a new optic it’s gonna get chopped. BTW are those all factory mags? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/359b2da4b67f11f43c1fac6b164dee8e358fac30a85f3a89ec9352ac0eb71ae4.png

          • PK

            Nice! Also, yes, factory 50rd mags. Back when I set all that up, there were no aftermarket mags available. I’ve had it for a while, now.

          • Twilight sparkle

            I kinda figured with that factory sight :p
            I’ve mostly got factory mags but I wanted to get a few more range mags before risking a skyrocket price so I bought a few ar 57 brand mags which seem to work suprisingly well, it can actually be hard to tell much of a difference except for the fact that I got the darker color ones.

    • Bob

      For me it was closer to 70%

      • Twilight sparkle

        Well the rest of that percentage went to the fact that I didn’t already have a bullpup and it’s just a cool gun in general

    • KestrelBike

      Clear and Present Danger = My obsession with a silenced mp5. Just waiting another ~8mo for MK9K stamp to spring it from jail.

    • .45

      My father would jump all over a PS90 if they were at all practical, but since he can’t get full auto and would need a tax stamp to get a short barrel, it is only an idle pipe dream. I personally don’t get the attraction even though we are both fans of Stargate, but to each their own. He also would like a Desert Eagle for reasons I also don’t understand.

      • Twilight sparkle

        Tax stamps aren’t that expensive compared to the price of the gun, plus the gun is great for home defense or small to medium sized game no bigger than coyotes, plus since when did guns have to be practical? :p

        • .45

          Yes, but don’t you have to keep throwing $200 at the government every year? Adds up over time.

          • Johnny Lee Lewis

            Its a one time tax.. its not every year. Now if you sell it, the next guy gets to buy a $200 tax stamp to start his ownership.

          • Chipsa

            No. It’s one time tax.

      • Phil Hsueh

        It’s even less practical in CA where we can’t even take advantage of the P90s large magazine capacity. Being limited to just 10 rounds no SBR allowed, the P90 loses a lot of appeal and most of its advantages in CA.

  • DaveP.

    I gave up on The Economist when the published an article explaining how “hardcore” (their word) gun magazines should be banned to reduce ‘gun violence’.

    • Yep, I dumped them for much the same reason. I can tolerate a bias towards gun control, but they moved way beyond that into actively advocating for draconian restrictions.

    • TheNotoriousIUD

      Who buys hardcore magazines nowadays? Dont they know you can get porn online for free?

    • 11b

      They’re still an excellent magazine if you can ignore the European anti-gun slant. Don’t ignore something because it doesn’t line up with your views- that’s why we have partisanship because people stay in an echochamber (facebook). I still read the NYT even though I absolutely hate their views on guns, although I won’t subscribe and give them my money.

      • Bierstadt54

        Exactly.

    • Financial services crime costs America several orders of magnitude more blood and money every year than guns; maybe we should ban “hardcore” financial magazines instead.

  • Christopher Wallace

    Where’s ARNOLD?

    • RA

      GOOD POINT!!

  • Hoplopfheil

    End of Days (1999) with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Basically a two hour commercial for GLOCK.

    Arnie: “Between your faith, and my All New Gen 3 GLOCK 34 9mm, available in stores now… I’ll take my GLOCK.”

    • Edeco

      Ha, never saw the movie but checked imfdb; awesome. Might as well use the prettiest Glock, although a police officer using a G34 could only happen in fiction because they’re too raw and sporty for all but the clutchest firearm enthusiasts.

      • Hoplopfheil

        The scene where he nearly kills himself with the GLOCK probably wasn’t the kind of advertising they had in mind… Ah well.

        • Dougscamo

          Neither was the virologist blowing his brains out in WWZ…..

          • n0truscotsman

            I actually didn’t see that coming. My reaction? “DUDE!?!?”

      • FightFireJay

        I know a Border Patrol agent that carries a G34 as his off duty weapon. Does that count?

        But to be fair, a Glock 34 for Arnold is like a Glock 17 or 19 for most people.

        • Edeco

          O.O

          That’s the user/gun equivalent of giving a 15 year old loaded on bath salts a nitro-burning land-speed-racing Camaro to drive to the mall to work at Cinnabun.

          I kid. Seriousely, wow, person after myown heart. I stand corrected about LE/G34’s.

    • Anomanom

      Yet you don’t mention that MP5 with grenade launcher? Which might be the coolest (real) movie weapon ever, after the “MG42 on a steadicam mount” of Aliens.

      • Hoplopfheil

        I doubt that was a product placement situation but either way, Half-Life beat them to it!

        • melena

          Everyone assumed it was an AR with grenade launcher, so doesn’t count.

          • John

            Didn’t it eventually become an AR with grenade launcher?

            I haven’t played the remastered version, but if it still uses pistol ammo then it makes even less sense.

          • crackedlenses

            Yup, the remastered changes the MP5/GL combo to a AR-15 carbine/GL combo, still using 9 mm. rounds. Doesn’t make any sense but it looks cool.

          • Hoplopfheil

            And the GLOCK becomes a Beretta. Which is a bit of a downgrade since GLOCK still wasn’t in a lot of video games at the time.

            The sound effects for the CAR-15 (M4? I forget which) were way better than the MP5.

            The weird thing about the MP5 (Aside from how you never had to load the launcher) was that it had a silencer on it, but wasn’t silenced. Early in development it was considered a silenced weapon, and had the sound effect to match. That fit a lot more with the “stealth” role of the HECU Marines.

            But an AR is just more fun.

          • crackedlenses

            What’s even wierder is that the world model for the MP5 does not have the silencer.

            Totally agree on the AR. I would modify my weapons folder to give myself the AR HD skin while using the other original weapons.

  • Mark

    So did they fire the armor on the set of Ant Man? Why on earth could they just not pick a gun that has a hammer!! But noooooo “I want a hammer put on that GLOCK” *sigh*, maybe they were trying to troll us on purpose. At least you answered the Beretta thing in Lone Survivor for me. Couldn’t understand how they got it wrong with SEALs working on set.

    • alex waits

      The ISSC m22 looks just like a glock and it has hammer, and a slide mounted safety.

      • raz-0

        Well except for the hammer, slide mounted safety, slide cuts, and rear sight (kind of).

    • Johnny Lee Lewis

      Money trumps reality and truth… in reality.

    • Blake

      That seriously drives me nuts every time I watch Ant Man. I don’t understand how that happened. VFX designers use reference material when creating effects, how in the world could they have made that mistake? The only situation that makes sense to me is that they just weren’t paying attention – or had a different reason for him not firing that gun in mind – when they originally shot the sequence then had to fudge it when they got to post.

      • iksnilol

        I mean, they could’a just given that bad guy a 1911 and problem solved? Rite?

        • Dougscamo

          Mais, bien sûr…..whatever that means….

        • Blake

          Yeah that’s what makes me think it was an oversight during filming. Either they didn’t think about the fact that it doesn’t have a hammer, or there was originally going to be some other reason for the gun not firing, and then they had to fake it once they got to making the visual effects.

          • Phil Hsueh

            It was probably an oversight and, most likely, the director not really thinking of informing the armorer that the scene in question was in the script. I’m pretty sure that the armorer has little knowledge of what’s in the script so he just used what he had/liked/or what the director suggested with the director not knowing enough about guns to realize that a Glock does not have a hammer.

      • mnanan

        For some reason, I think leftists see the Glock type guns as more evil than ones with safeties and ‘thumb clicky thingamajigs”. So it would be inconsistent for the baddy to have that type of gun.

        • Blake

          Well with how massively popular Glocks have gotten they do kind of fit that “faceless endless bad guy” type look unfortunately. I hear people talk about how ugly the Glock is, but besides a custom made 1911 I think it’s the best looking handgun out there.

      • AD

        Different people work on different VFX “shots” – often even different companies. So the people working on the shots with the outside of the gun wouldn’t have been the same as the ones working on the inside shots. Somewhere in the insanity of 14-hour work days that is VFX production, the fact that a Glock doesn’t have a hammer wasn’t noticed until it was too late / too expensive to change it.

    • GD Ajax

      Because 1911’s are the pistols of the right wing Gary Stus, that’s why.

  • Bill

    Sean Bean Always Dies.

    • SP mclaughlin

      He even committed career suicide in The Martian.

  • >> So how do these firearms get picked up for their various starring roles?

    Also, because it simply looks different/unique. .44 Auto Mag, Desert Eagles, Chiappa Rhino come to mind.

  • FulMetlJakit

    Surprised and glad that the hopolophobe Matt Damon is not on this list.
    And Bill & “Biggie” are right.
    Off to practice my gun katas.

  • gusto

    In a french (of all) movie about robbers and cops they have a pretty long behind the scenes thing with the director going thru an armory and selecting the guns they want, and really going thru why each character would have such and such

    it is called 36th precint

  • ReadyorNot

    I loved Capt America: Winter Soldier, but it drove me nuts to see M4’s
    without rear sights. Same applies for the Walking Dead too. I still
    remember seeing ‘the Governor’ aiming and firing an optic’d Steyr Aug
    with his blind eye!

    • iksnilol

      Point shooting, bruh! 😀

  • Madcap_Magician

    Am I the only one not seeing the link?

    • EmptyJay

      I also do not see it.

  • valorius

    “This is the M41A 10mm pulse rifle with over and under 30mm grenade launchers. Feel the weight.”
    That’s the movie gun I’d love to own.

    • Thomas Weißhuhn

      ohh yeah, but i still wonder how they can squeeze 99 10mm rounds in that tiny magazine.

      • iksnilol

        they just fire the whole bullet, that’s like 65% more bullet per bullet, which means they can make a smaller bullet to get the same bullet mass. That’s how they squeeze 99 rounds in that small magazine. 🙂

        • Dougscamo

          Gee…I was just going to say “suspension of belief”…but you beat me again…

          • iksnilol

            Well, it’s science.

            I mean, the great innovator and scientist Cave Johnson came up with the idea. Though it hasn’t spread as much as one would hope.

          • Dougscamo

            Sorry…not into video games…

          • iksnilol

            It’s a reference to Portal. There’s a hilarious video on the turrets in the game.

          • Dougscamo

            Okay, you’re right….HILARIOUS….”What idiot picked those?”….I have just used the entire bandwidth of the neighborhood watching the other Aperture Investment Opportunities….

          • forrest1985

            Haha love it!

        • forrest1985

          Its 10mm caseless. I own the Colonial Marines manual (sadly) and the advice was to only load 95rds per magazine to prevent jamming.

          • iksnilol

            What if you need 4 more rounds though ?

          • forrest1985

            Bring a shotgun for “close encounters”

        • Thomas Weißhuhn

          and the bullet propels itself?

          • valorius

            rocketball!

      • valorius

        “Lieutenant, just what kind of ammunition do those rifles fire?”

        “10mm caseless explosive tip, standard light armor piercing, why?”

        • Uniform223

          Well according to the schematics they are right under the primary heat exchangers….

          • valorius

            “Cut the power? How did they cut the power man? They’re animals!”

          • Uniform223

            Game over man! GAME OVER!

    • Uniform223

      Don’t forget to tape a flame thrower to it with 100mph tape to it for those pesky xenomorphs.

      • valorius

        To me, if your weaponry is not Xenomorph infestation ready, you’re under-armed. James Cameron’s Aliens are the gold standard of SHTF scenarios.

        • Uniform223

          Your ass is already on the line. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

  • Richard

    I bought a Chinese copy of the Winchester 1887/1901 because T2.

  • forrest1985

    Check out the page for Dennis Hayberts “The Unit”. Lotta firearms there!

  • GD Ajax

    The gun is a difference between a Mary Sue and a good charcther. If they use a gun, their not a Mary Sue. Anything else besides a knife like a Machete, you have a Mary Sue on your hands.

  • tiger

    Hollywood has kept the Desert Eagle selling for years.

    • Renx

      I suspect video games as as much to blame for that one as Hollywood. 🙂

  • gunsandrockets

    I’m under the impression that airsoft props + CGI account for most movie guns nowadays.

    Aside from being safer and cheaper, that probably also helps to sidestep legal issues with actors who might be prohibited persons under Federal Law.

    • As if Hollywood gave two squirts in a bucket for federal firearm laws. This is the industry that lionizes incestuous pedophiles like Woody Allen and child rapists like Roman Polanski– “human decency” is something that happens to other people.

  • crybaby

    heaven forbid there is an obvious link that takes you to the actual article referenced…

    I know you don’t claim to be journalists, so citing sources is not a requirment drilled into you, just saying it would be nice for those of us too lazy to open up another taab and google the article. 😉

    • Maybe they reckon someone too lazy to use spellcheck would have trouble clicking a link?

  • RicoSuave

    Liam Neeson… used quite a few in his movies yet acts rather hypocritical about guns in real life. Matt Damon calls for outright bans in the US while promoting his Bourne movie in Australia.

  • CharlesH

    What about Arnold Schwarzenegger? Commando alone…..

    • Uniform223

      The pinnacle of 80s hip shooting cutting down everyone while nothing even grazed you or comes close. Also having infinite ammo.

  • Hank Seiter

    Of course one of the coolest Hollywood firearm makeover was the “pulse rifle” in the movie “Aliens”. Turns out it was one of those gangster-era or WWII “tommy guns” that an enterprising movie armorer, Babty & Co., converted into the iconic “Aliens” rifle. I’ve read where there was only one fully functioning “hero” rifle for all the close-up and it was frakkin’ HEAVY! It was said the actors hated lugging it around during the filming of scenes but most of the males loved the full auto .45 blank firing. If you look carefully, you’ll notice the scenes are filmed in such a way that only one rifle in the squad is firing at a time … that’s the hero weapon. The “grenade launcher” was actually a Remington 870 but maybe this has all been discussed before on previous stories/threads.

    Logistics and costs required that the other “pulse rifles” be made of resin and possibly fiberglass and were (gladly) carried by cast members with non-shooting roles in each individual scene.

    I must admit to buying an Airsoft version of the pulse rifle despite owning real steel firearms like the SCAR, ACR, Robinson M96, Beretta AR70, etc … I just couldn’t resist. Now I’m considering buying an Auto-Ordnance Thompson, carefully disassembling the Airsoft pulse rifle and using its shell to wrap around the real steel Tommy. This shouldn’t prove difficult since the Airsoft pulse rifle version itself uses an Airsoft Thompson!

    BTW, the countdown counter is a pretty cool feature. Of course I’d have to modify a magazine to fit within the smaller mag well. I believe there’s a YouTube video of a few shooting enthusiasts who have done exactly that.

    • Nunya Bidniz

      Never wanted that giant excrescence of a firearm the pulse rifle anyway. Now, a pocket plasma cutter & welder? That would be handy! 😀

      [H’wood be stooopid… ::) ]