For many years, since Western films launched into popularity in Hollywood, guns have become an intrinsic part of cinema and pop culture as a whole. Whether you are a fan of the simple air gun or love the ridiculous machine guns seen in The Expendables franchise, you have to admit; guns add an element of fun to the silver screen.
We have taken a look at some fun – and hopefully interesting – facts about guns in pop culture, from rappers to James Bond.
Though most sci-fi films opt for lasers, lightsabers and other fantastical weaponry, they could have just been using guns – though Han Solo without his blaster would be weird. The majority of guns operate very simply: a firing pin ignites a small amount of gunpowder in the base of the bullet causing a gas pressure that forces the bullet out of the barrel at deadly velocity. In the void of space, where there is no oxygen to create fire, it would seem that guns are redundant. However, modern gunpowder has an oxidising agent allowing any space cowboy to bust a cap in the cosmos.
Another fun fact – in the past, Russian cosmonauts actually brought guns into space, but not to fight any aliens they might encounter. They were used to fight off any bears if they landed in the middle of nowhere when they returned.
Possibly the most well-known fictional character to carry a gun is James Bond. From the opening sequence, we are introduced to Bond through the barrel of a gun. But did you know the original gun he carried? In Ian Fleming’s first five novels, Bond used a .25 Beretta automatic as his primary sidearm, but a fan and firearms expert Geoffrey Boothroyd wrote to the author complaining the Beretta was hardly adequate for a superspy, saying it was more like a lady’s gun. Fleming took the advice on board and armed Bond with a Walther PPK in subsequent novels. He also changed the armourer to Major Boothroyd.
If you have seen any rapper or gangster films and music videos, you may have noticed the tendency for them to hold their guns sideways. Guns have been held like this for decades on screen, such as the 1966 films The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and was done so the gun and the actor’s face could be seen at the same time. But for rappers, this sideways stance was made popular with the film Menace II Society, about hoods in South Central Los Angeles. After its release in 1993, holding guns sideways became a fashion, though with no practical benefit as it negatively affects the aim. A similar effect can be seen if you’ve ever watched “The Walking Dead” as the main character Rick Grimes has a tendancy to hold his revolver at a 45 degree angle downwards, great for filming, not so good for accuracy…
Anyone who loves BB guns will have come across the name Daisy. The company have made a fortune in the last few decades in the niche market of ‘toy’ weapons. However, they started off doing something completely different – selling windmills. The BB guns were a giveaway gimmick for those who bought a windmill, but they quickly became more popular. This resulted in Daisy changing their business, ending up with the success they know today.
One of Nicolas Cage’s better films, Lord of War follows the rise and fall of an illegal Russian arms dealer. Cage’s character was based on the ‘Merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout, a Soviet officer who took advantage of the fall of USSR to become one of the most famous arms dealers in the world, supplying African warlords and the Taliban. He was eventually imprisoned for 25 years for all his many crimes. According to director of Lord of War, Andrew Niccol, he employed real arms dealers to obtain props for the film, such as the Soviet T-72 tanks.
Real name Jonathan Goldsmith, the Most Interesting Man in the World seen in the Don Equis adverts (and that meme, "I don't always... but when I do...") really is pretty interesting. While filming a John Wayne movie in 1976, The Shootist, he took multiple blood-filled pellets to the face because there was no CGI to make it look realistic. Afterwards, he received a well-deserved pay rise!
Detective ‘Dirty Harry’ Callahan is strongly associated with his .44 Magnum revolver, the most powerful handgun in the world. Harry’s gun in the 1971 film was a Smith & Wesson Model 29, chambered for .44 Magnum ammunition. The Model 29 was no longer in production at the time of filming, so the gun seen in the film was custom made, including the blanks fired. Eastwood familiarised himself with the gun, taking it to a gun range and firing live rounds. Safe to say the effort pays off, it does look like the “the most powerful handgun in the world.”