A Brief History
On this Independence Day we would like to acknowledge the important role firearms and guns of all types have played in the formation of and preservation of the United States. Especially with the 1996 movie, Independence Day and the 2016 sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, we also recognize the prominent role firearms and weapons have played in Hollywood movies and television productions. On June 27, 2016, Shooting Illustrated, an NRA affiliated publication, published a list of “Top Ten Guns of American Pop Culture” giving us inspiration for making our own list.
10. Take Down Sniper Rifle.
Many movies have shown a sneaky sniper snapping together the pieces of his sniper rifle (that somehow magically keeps its point of aim) and then making incredibly accurate shots at incredible range. Honorable mention: All the other sniper rifles, including the modern .50 caliber beasts.
9. Star Trek Phaser.
A neat electronic gun that could be set to “kill” or “stun,” although for some reason orders were always given to “set phasers to stun!” Despite the short lifespan of the television series, the movie franchise perpetuated this iconic, although sadly fictional, gun. Honorable mention: The “neuralyzer” from Men in Black.
The real life cop “less lethal” device, the name stands for ‘Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle.” From failing to stop Rodney King to “Don’t tase me bro” this weapon has now joined the ranks of movie and television regulars, although just as often used by criminals to subdue victims as they are by police arresting perps. Honorable mention: Mace.
7. Side by Side Double Barrel Shotgun.
Preferably with exposed hammers for visual effect, these guns are heavily featured in western movies, horror movies, and any action movie where the director wants to make a major statement about blasting power. (Think of Ash in The Evil Dead series of movies and television show.) For some reason Hollywood thinks these guns can blow victims off their feet and several feet back, which they cannot, but are still incredibly effective in real life. Honorable mention: Pump shotgun.
6. M-60 Machine Gun.
The main US medium machine gun since 1957, this is the machine gun you are most likely to see in any US military scenes since then. Although recently replaced by the M-240, the M-60 is still in service all over the world and is undoubtedly the most often depicted in use in movies and television the past few decades. Honorable mention: Any type of Gatling Gun, including the Minigun and Vulcan.
5. Flintlock Kentucky Rifle.
Perhaps more correctly called the Pennsylvania Rifle, these long barreled muzzle loaders are standard fare of early pioneer and frontier movies (such as the 2016 release, The Revenant), as well as the preferred arm of Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, and Natty Bumpo (look him up if you are not familiar with him!). These guns can be “seen” defending The Alamo and sniping British officers in films about the American Revolution and The War of 1812. Honorable mention: M-1 Garand and M-1 Carbine.
Including its variants (AR-15, M-4, etc), this rifle arms American troops since the mid-1960’s and thus makes its appearance in all appropriate films and shows depicting the last 50 years of warfare. These guns also find a starring role in many other action and police type movies and television shows as well. Honorable mention: AK-47, the gun used by “the bad guys.”
3. Colt Single Action Army (Peacemaker).
Powerful, but incredibly slow to reload, Hollywood gets by this fact be making Cowboys have unlimited amounts of ammunition already in the pistol! The Colt Single Action Army is just about the only handgun (other than derringers) seen in western movies and is the preferred handgun for fancy handling tricks and quick draw. Honorable mention: Lever action rifle, usually Winchester 1873.
2. Smith & Wesson Model 29.
This .44 Magnum beast in the hands of San Francisco detective “Dirty Harry” Callahan has caused many thousands of red blooded Americans to run to their local gun shop to buy the gun to “feel lucky” or “make my day,.” No longer “The most powerful handgun in the world,” this big pistol is still Big Medicine for bad guys and game animals alike. Not for wimps! Honorable mention: Thompson Sub Machine Gun (Tommy Gun).
1. Walther PPK.
Sorry Inspector Callahan, this little .32 ACP or .380 ACP hideaway pistol has been in a heck of a lot more James Bond films than your .44 Magnum has been in Dirty Harry films, although to be honest, #1 and #2 are extremely close when it comes to being iconic weapons. Honorable mention: Colt 1911 .45. “Old Slabsides” is of course featured in virtually all war movies and television shows set from 1911 to recent years, as well as in the hands of cops and robbers alike.
Question for students (and subscribers): What guns/weapons would you include on your list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Donovan, Barna William. Blood, Guns, and Testosterone: Action Films, Audiences, and a Thirst for Violence. Scarecrow Press, 2009.
Meyer, David N. A Girl and a Gun: The Complete Guide to Film Noir on Video. Avon Books, 1998.