A company you may have not heard of, but have absolutely seen their work in numerous films for decades is Independent Studio Services (ISS). This 3rd generation, family business got its start in 1977 by the way of Greg Bilson, Sr and the family business is making firearms for Hollywood!
Larry Zanoff, ISS Manager and firearms expert, dropped by the Brownells booth at SHOT Show 2018 and graciously let show attendees look behind the curtain of some of Hollywood’s most iconic firearms that ISS has produced. Before we get to the firearms themselves, Larry elaborated to what goes into making firearms for Hollywood films (paraphrasing):
One of the biggest obstacles is having the imagination, creativity and raw gunsmithing abilities it takes to produce the firearms movies can dream up or ask us to produce — while firing blanks! It is a difficult gunsmithing task.
It might be easy enough to just solicit a firearms manufacturer for extra guns to be used in a movie, but to find a gun maker that produces ones that fire blanks is few and far between. Also, some firearms are never fired. They merely need to be holstered in an actor’s/actress’s holster for a scene, or they are possibly pistol whipping some bad guys. So the need for non-firing replicas, firearms of various weights and ones that only shoot blanks is a definite need.
Now, for the firearms!
independent studio services desert eagles – “charlie’s angels 2” for demi moore
This first set of firearms has an interesting back story. Depicted is a Desert Eagle chambered in .50 Action Express (.50 AE) used by Demi Moore in “Charlie’s Angels 2” that fired blanks. In the movie, the audience only sees the .50 AE used in several scenes throughout… or do they?…
ISS also produced a Desert Eagle replica of a .40 S&W (which also fired blanks) that was obviously smaller and lighter so Demi Moore could perform gun handling tricks. The true-to-form .50 AE was too heavy and cumbersome for fast movements so they used both pistols in the film.
Now go rent “Charlie’s Angels 2” and see if you can notice…
independent studio services MOdel 1911 – “The Punisher”
This pistol is obviously a model 1911 from its overall appearance, but what brand? Well, it is no brand specifically to be honest. This is simply a model 1911 that was produced for “The Punisher” movie that was meant to depict a very general 1911 from the original comic books.
independent studio services custom colt 1849 .36 Cal percussion replica
This pistol has a very interesting story to tell as well. It actually never aired on television for anyone to see, but ISS still produced it upon request. They were provided a drawing by a film studio asking for a percussion pistol to be produced for a pilot TV show. After the firearm was made, the pilot show never was shown to anyone. So this custom Colt 1849 .36 Cal percussion replica stayed in storage ever since.
independent studio services ‘john wilkes booth derringer’ – “National treasure 2”
This blackpowder percussion pistol is an identical representation of the one used by John Wilkes Booth to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. It aired in “National Treasure 2” and is truly identical to the .41 Cal blackpowder percussion pistol used. Surprisingly, there were 3 of these made; all by hand.
independent studio services beretta m9a3 9mm
This set of pistols should look very familiar because it is one of Beretta’s newest handguns: the M9A3 9mm. These pistols are unique because they do not fire live ammo or blanks. They are simply film props. The Beretta M9A3 on the left is a hard-cast, medium-density meant for holster work while the one on the right is a soft-density meant for more aggressive scenes like pistol whipping. Neither are tied to a specific iconic movie or film scene because they are produced and place into inventory as general firearms to be used upon request.
independent studio services side-by-side 8 gauge – “apaloosa” for vigo mortensen
Many people have seen the popular film “Apaloosa” starring Vigo Mortensen. The cool thing about this movie (in regards to firearms) is he had a side-by-side 8 Gauge shotgun! Well, not to burst your bubble, but here is the truth.
ISS actually built 4 of those shotguns based off of South American 12 Gauge reproductions. Out of the 4 produced, 3 of them were fire-able with blanks as a heavy-sleeved 12 Gauge to give the impression that it was an 8 Gauge. The 4th reproduction had an insert for an 8 Gauge chamber to represent loading an actual 8 Gauge on camera. This 4th model was only used for scenes when loading or unloading rounds. It was not a fire-able model and the rest of the barrels were indeed a heavy-sleeved 12 Gauge.
ISS has had tons and tons of calls over the years asking to sell that famous 8 Gauge shotgun, but they sadly let people down when they explain that they do not have a real 8 Gauge – a real 8 Gauge never existed, not even in the movie.
So there you have it folks! Some very iconic and cool firearms with lots of history and facts you may have not known.
We want to thank Larry Zanoff and ISS one last time for affording us so much of their time and to be able to share all of these photos and information with you all!