Ever notice how much Hollywood hates guns? From directors to producers, and of course, the outspoken actors.
Par for the course, except for the fact that Hollywood largely serves as a gateway into the gun culture, projecting cinematic proof of how cool guns and the heroes who wield them are to scores of audiences in theatres worldwide.
Some guns make it into movies because a gun company is more than willing to pay to get them there. Guns can make a movie but sometimes, movies make the gun.
We took a look at some of the best movies of all time to find the most iconic Hollywood heroes – scratch that – movie heroes worthy of a CrossBreed listicle and the firearms that helped them find a place in pop culture and beyond!
Please silence your phones: HERE WE GO!
10. Rooster Cogburn – Winchester 1892 “Saddle Ring Carbine”
“Well, a gun that’s unloaded and cocked ain’t good for nothin’!”
If westerns and guns go together like peanut butter & jelly, John Wayne is the bread that holds it all together. True Grit, The Searchers, Rooster Cogburn, Rio Bravo, The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance… Wayne’s larger-than-life persona brought the long list of no-nonsense, gun-totin’ straight-shooting characters he played to life. And they’ve lived on well beyond their time on the silver screen.
At the beginning of the classic Western True Grit, Rooster Cogburn is shown using a Single Action Army revolver with a 4 3/4 inch barrel and ivory grips in a shootout with a gang of outlaws. Six-shooters are commonplace in movies of that era but the Winchester 1892 lever-action rifle Cogburn carried sparked my interest in long rifles as a kid and I started shooting very shortly after watching this movie with my dad.
Lever-action rifles aren’t just iconic to Westerns, their history is intertwined with America herself. In the ranching days of the American West, the Winchester 92 was considered a premier rifle for looking out for the safety of livestock. The large loop was to ensure shooters could easily operate the firearm with gloves, as many of them wore while hunting or driving cattle and roaming the range on horseback.
When asked by Winchester to design an improved lever action, John Browning guaranteed he’d get them a prototype in under a month, or it would be free. True to his word, Browning had a functioning prototype of the 92 within two weeks. A smaller, lighter version of his large-frame Model 1886, the 92 replaced the 1873 as the company’s lever-action for pistol-caliber rounds such as the . 44-40. This iconic rifle remains a slick, fast, extremely reliable firearm still used by competitors in Cowboy Action Shooting events today.
Winchester re-released the rifle in 2019 with a walnut carbine style buttstock and forearm, strap style buttplate, and ladder rear sight and you can own one for just $1259.99.
9. Han Solo – Mauser C96
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”
The guns in Star Wars are always fascinating, but most people can’t look at the blasters in these movies and identify real guns. That doesn’t stop us gun nuts from trying to figure it out. In Star Wars the distinctive look of the blasters comes from the fast they are all based on real guns. Harrison Ford’s character Han Solo’s BlasTech DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol is most famously based on the Mauser C96. The Mauser C96 is an ancient weapon with an incredibly distinctive appearance.
They dress this gun up quite a bit in the film, but anyone who knows anything about firearms can identify the C96. The long, thin barrel, the forward magazine well, and the distinctive broom handle grip give it away. The Mauser C96 is a famous gun in its own right. Winston Churchill and Lawrence of Arabia both carried the C96 in numerous battles. The C96 was copied across the world and used in numerous wars.
It’s fitting for Han Solo and his role in Star Wars. Han Solo is the lovable ruffian, he’s not very nice, not very smart, but he has a way with a blaster and can pilot a ship. He carries the C96 based blaster from the beginning of his smuggling career until the end. He’s shot down bounty hunters, pirates, and piles of Storm Troopers. Not bad for a gun built-in 1896.
8. John Rambo – M60 Machine Gun
“They drew first blood, not me.”
Vietnam War veteran John Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone… wait: it’s Sly. it’s a machine gun. it’s a man fighting the system with maximum firepower.
I don’t really need to sell this, do I?
Rambo is a timeless character and the M60, officially the United States Machine Gun but also known as ‘The Pig’, is a kick-ass Franken-machine-stein-gun created using technology amassed in WWII.
The initial version of the M60 was officially adopted by the U.S. Army in 1957 and the first guns rolled off Springfield Armory’s production lines in December 1958. it would eventually go on to replace both the Browning light and heavy machine guns in our soldiers’ arsenal. Equipped with a 50-round link belt of 7.62mm ammunition and a muzzle velocity of 2,800 feet per second, it had a maximum effective range of 1,200 yards with a bipod, an additional 329 feet with a tripod, and an optimal operating range of about 3,900 feet.
Made to cut down the jungle, literally and figuratively, the M60 is a gas-operated, air-cooled, belt-fed, automatic, iconic machine gun chambered in NATO 7.62 round. Seriously, what’s not to love?
7. Ellen Ripley – M41A Pulse Rifle/M240 Incinerator Unit combination
“Get away from her, you bitch!”
Undoubtedly Sigourney Weaver’s best role, Ellen Ripley lit up movie screens in 1979 and we’ve admired her ever since. Aside from being considered one of the most significant female protagonists in all of cinema, Ripley literally duct-taped two guns together to battle otherworldly life forms.
Ripley’s Pulse Rifle is a combination of a standard-issue M41A Pulse Rifle with a sling and an M240 Incinerator Unit duct-taped together, with the M240 on the left-hand side and the M41A on the right-hand side. Ripley also duct-taped her locater to the top of the M41A’s carrying handle to aid in locating Newt’s Tracer Bracelet inside the Hadley’s Hope Atmosphere Processor Sub-Levels.
Badassery levels pegged, I know what I’d choose to wield if I ever find myself needing to exterminate a race of blood-thirsty aliens on an interstellar mission.
6. Bryan Mills and the Taurus Millennium Pro PT111 & Pro PT145, SIG P226 & GSR, and Heckler & Koch MP5K
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money… but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that will be the end of it – I will not look for you, I will not pursue you… but if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you… and I will kill you.”
Pretty sure most of us call Liam Neeson’s character ‘Liam Neeson’ in all of the Taken movies but his character Bryan Mills was so good, it hooked us deep.
Those of you who are parents can certainly empathize with Neeson’s character, a former CIA operative who hears his daughter being kidnapped in Paris and taps into his “special skills” to find her before she disappears into the sex trafficking trade.
Gun aficionados also know Neeson tapped a bevy of ballistic beauties to get his child back; the Taurus Millennium Pro PT111 & Pro PT145, SIG P226 & GSR, and of course, the Heckler & Koch MP5K. There aren’t many modern submachine guns as iconic as the MP5. The original MP5 was chambered in 9x19mm and capable of firing full-auto at an impressive rate of 800 rounds a minute.
The MP5 has been adopted by more than 40 nations as well as countless military, law enforcement, intelligence, and security organizations. The specific firearm used in the movie Taken has a 3-lug/threaded barrel and a Navy trigger group, making it an MP5KN: K from the German word Kurz meaning “short” and N for Navy.
5. John McClane and the Beretta 92F
“Welcome to the Party, Pal.”
In the late 1980s, the Beretta 92 was the pistol to have. From Die Hard to Lethal Weapon and the lesser-known Kuffs, the Beretta 92 was everywhere. It was the chosen gun of heroes and was used to great effect whenever terrorists needed to be dispatched. The Beretta 92F was John McClane’s gun of choice and in 1988 it represented the peak combat pistol. It offered high capacity, a modern DA/SA design, and was chambered in the soon-to-be favorite 9mm.
If video killed the radio star then the Beretta killed the single stack 45 and 38 Special revolvers. The DA/SA design, 15 round magazine, and exposed barrel made it a distinctive weapon that contrasted the typical police officer’s 38 Special Service revolver.
In Die Hard, the Beretta 92F evened the score between the armed terrorists taking over Nakatomi Plaza and a lone NYPD detective. He took on numerous bad guys with the gun, firing it from under tables, taping it to his back, and keeping it even when he got his hands on an MP5. It killed the final boss, Hans Gruber, and even made it to the movie’s poster.
The Beretta 92 was already serving the US Army and would go on to serve for decades. While it’s being phased out for the SIG P320, the Beretta M9 us still serving is massive numbers. The Beretta 92 continues to be a favorite of film and TV. Its design is still distinct and eye-catching, and when you look at the Beretta 92, you can certainly see how the Italians could design things like Ferrari, and the Sistine Chapel.
4. Sarah Connor – Remington 870 Shotgun
“Don’t even think about it.”
One of our favorite memes reads, “In a world of Kardashians, be a Sarah Connor.” and we’re not sure there is a better piece of advice for young women out there. In Terminator 2, Sarah Connor must protect her now teenage son, John Connor, from a more advanced and powerful cyborg that failed to kill her 10 years before.
3. James Bond – the Walther PPK
“Bond, James Bond.”
James Bond started his literary career armed with a teeny tiny 25 ACP. A firearms expert and fan of the James Bond novels wrote Ian Fleming and suggested Bond be armed with a Walther PPK. And the rest, as we know, is history.
Bond and the PPK became inseparable. The PPK is perfect for Bond for numerous reasons. It’s small and concealable, in a cartridge considerably more potent than the 25 ACP, and most importantly, doesn’t ruin the lines of a suit.
The Walther PPK is a 380 ACP pistol that is as handsome and classy as Bond himself. In a world where the polymer frame striker-fired pistols rule, the Walther PPK is a classic work of art. This stout little blowback pistol has been a favorite for concealed carry for decades, and to this day, Walther produces a PPK. The PPK has ebbed and flowed in Bond films, sometimes being replaced by more modern Walthers, but the PPK is the gun we all associate with the famed spy.
An absolute classic, PPK remains a favorite of shooters. It’s a bit heavy, underpowered, has a low capacity and kicks like a mule but its popularity can’t be diminished. The Walther PPK made its way back to Bond in the last few films and I imagine the newest Bond flick will have some gratuitous PPK action.
2. Shane – Colt Single Action Army 7 1/2″ Cavalry .45 Long Colt
“A gun is a tool, Marion.”
There are very few guns that become legendary in life and film as the Colt SAA. The Single Action Army is the gun that tamed the west, in both history and cinema. John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Gary Cooper, Lee Marvin, and Steve Mcqueen all wielded the Colt SAA.
The Colt SAA is also known as the Peacemaker, and it lived up to its name. Ladd’s iconic character Shane was a weary gunfighter attempting to settle down with a homestead family when conflict forces him to draw his weapon. Nominated for 7 Academy Awards and winner of Best Cinematography, this film also succeeded in teaching audiences the necessity of being responsibly armed.
After being scolded for attempting to teach little Joey how to properly carry and shoot a firearm, Shane responds to his mother with a quote that stands the test of time.
“A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”
Shane used his tool to save Marian’s family and the rest of the homesteaders from an evil cattle baron and his men. The Colt sixgun came in various calibers, but in the United States, the most famed is the powerful and proven man stopper the 45 Long Colt. And that’s exactly what Alan Ladd carried when he so expertly played the role of Shane in the 1953 classic of the same name.
1. Dirty Harry and His Smith & Wesson Model 29
“I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you better ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”
If there was ever a line more legendary than the words spoken by Inspector Harry Callahan, I haven’t heard it. Even that famed Star Wars quote is often misquoted. The S&W Model 29 is a 44 Magnum hand cannon that at the time of filming was out of production. Smith & Wesson was able to cobble one together, and it was a smart move. The gun’s popularity skyrocketed, and to this day is a favorite in the S&W lineup.
The Model 29 is a hulking revolver, and in Dirty Harry, the 6.5-inch barrel made it even more intimidating. It was a foot long piece of steel outfitted that weighs almost 3 pounds and sports a beautiful blue finish. The distinctive sharp front ramp and massive bore make it a distinguished-looking gun. The 6 rounds of 44 Magnum it packs make it a powerhouse. In real life, the 44 Magnum is a bit much for police work with its massive recoil and powerful, over penetrating load. The Model 29 is a wonderful revolver and is still currently produced by Smith and Wesson.
While Clint Eastwood is listed as the star of the film, his uncredited costar, the Model 29, has stood the test of time much like the actor himself.
While Hollywood may be an immoral cesspool of hypocrites preaching gun control while surrounded by armed security and making millions wielding them on screen… I forgot where I was going with this. Oh, yeah – what Hollywood films have done, though, is spawned a love of justice, redemption, and a burning desire to be responsibly armed!
The weapons seen in movies can often be someone’s first introduction to firearms. From here, they go from the theatre to YouTube videos and blogs like ours. Celebrating guns in movies can be tough with the often inaccurate portrayal, but there is a reason why the gun community goes in droves to see the John Wick movies. Guns in movies are meant to be fun, and we can always celebrate the fun parts of our hobby and our rights.
What do you think?
Is there a hero you think we left off the list?!
Sound off in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!
About the Authors:
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.
He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms based hobbies.
Jenn Jacques is a fierce defender of the Second Amendment, concealed carry advocate, fishing enthusiast, hiker, hunter, and an all-around great gal with a gun. As a former Private Detective, Jenn put those skills to good use, fighting for gun rights in her home state of Wisconsin before working as the Editor of a 2A News site, publication writer, and freelance blogger.
Jacques has hundreds of hours of firearms training under her belt including Street Encounters and Low Light/No Light Training, is a graduate of the Gunsite Academy, and was named a S.A.F.E. Summer Local Champion of Firearm Safety by the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Project ChildSafe.
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