Tag Archives: movie guns

Movie Guns: Indy’s Revolvers

I’m lumping a couple guns together with this one. Indiana Jones primarily used a Smith and Wesson Second Model Hand Ejector in Raiders of the Lost Ark, a Colt Official Police in Temple of Doom, and a Webley-Government (sometimes referred to as a Webley Green) in The Last Crusade. The Hand Ejector and the Webley were chambered in .455 Webley, and the Official Police was chambered in .38 Special. I’m going to focus on the better movies. Indy barely uses the .38 in Temple of Doom anyway.

Recall that Raiders of the Lost Ark is set in 1936 and The Last Crusade is set in 1938, so choices of sidearms are limited accordingly.

The S&W Second Model Hand Ejector is a double-action revolver where the cylinder swings out to the left side of the gun. Pretty typical for the day. The example here, being a gun for the parts filmed in England, is chambered in .455 Webley. Also note that this is the pistol used to famously and simply dispatch the swordsman in Cairo, so it should have a place in the heart of pistoleros everywhere.

The Webley Government was a popular service revolver often purchased privately by British Officers and used as their sidearm. It’s a top-break double-action revolver, and it’s chambered in .455 Webley.

The .455 Webley is an interesting old cartridge. Interestingly, it’s one of three service pistol cartridges to get an endorsement from Col. Cooper as having ‘acceptable stopping power’.1 It’s rather lower pressure than .45 ACP, but comes from the same sort of ‘heavy and slow’ school of thought. It’s also more closely descended from black-powder loads. In an all-steel service revolver like the Webley Government, the .455 will provide quite tame recoil.

Overall, the .455 Webley gave good ‘man-stopping’ service in British hands in two world wars and a number of colonial actions. It also provided the origin of the term ‘dumdum’. The British had a large stockpile of early hollow point rounds at an arsenal in Dumdum, India around the time when they signed the 1899 Hague Convention outlawing the use of such rounds.

Double action revolvers were generally seen as the police sidearm of choice in the 1930s, though a good bit of this may be due to Depression-era finances and following the lead of the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover, who thought that semiautomatic pistols were tools of ‘criminals’ and not fit for law enforcement personnel.2 In military service, they tended to stick around due to post-Great War budget cuts not leaving room for new sidearms.

Revolvers do provide the advantage of letting you quickly deal with a bad cartridge by pulling the trigger again, rather than having to clear a jam. For this reason, they were commonly seen as the ‘more reliable’ option, despite having intricate, clockworklike internals. They also lack a magazine to go wrong. However, when they do go wrong, it tends to be a real bother to fix.

The biggest difference between the two revolvers is that the Smith has a swing-out cylinder, which you’re probably familiar with from more recent revolvers, whilst the Webley has a top-break design. With a low-pressure cartridge like the .455 Webley, the design choice really doesn’t matter all that much. As more powerful cartridges were developed, the ease of making a sturdy frame with a swing-out cylinder meant that design became the standard. There might be a small reload margin in favor of the Webley, since it automatically ejects spent cartridges, but that’s a minor one. The particular hand ejector used in the film had a shortened barrel, which might be a little handier.

As for the choice of firearms, they’re both pretty reasonable. They are duty pistols in a good caliber, and you could certainly do a lot worse. Of course, my preference during the era would be for an M1911A1. No surprise there. I’m quite fond of Old Slabsides. Despite the capacity disadvantage, I much prefer the handling characteristics, trigger characteristics, and lack of magazine safety of the 1911 when compared to the Browning Hi-Power. Also, being limited to 1930s ammo (i.e. ball ammo), I’d prefer to shoot .45.


  1. The other two rounds are the .45 ACP and the 10 mm Auto. 
  2. Though, of course, plenty of such semiautomatic pistols were used by G-Men, especially in the early days when equipment was less standardized. 

Movie Guns: USP Match (Tomb Raider, 2001)

And now for a fun little segment where I look at various guns used in movies and tell you what I think of the choice. A few caveats: first, when in doubt, imfdb is the source of truth on what the gun is, and second, all criticisms have to be leveled based on the time when the movie was set (so either the historical setting or when it was made).

Tomb Raider is a typical Bad Action Movie that’s based on a videogame. It’s a fun romp, as long as you don’t think too hard. In it, Lara Croft1 dual wields HK USP Match pistols. I won’t discuss dual wielding here, since that’s true to the source material, and really a question of TTPs.2 Let’s talk about the guns.

The USP was HK’s effort to make a ‘wundernine’ service pistol, in order to compete for the Bundeswehr’s service pistol contract and get other military service pistol and law enforcement duty pistol sales. It was released in 1993, and is a double-action pistol with a double-stack magazine. It comes with a proprietary accessory rail, and uses polymer magazines. HK would discover issues with these magazines, and all of their subsequent pistols would end up using excellent metal magazines, first designed for the P2000, and then lengthened for the P30. The USP had a bunch of innovative features, and sold reasonably well, but didn’t set the market ablaze.

The USP Match is a competition version of the USP. Lara is using the 9 mm version, as evidenced by the use of the ‘Jetfunnel’ magwells, only available on the 9mm version. These are smallish magwells similar to the modern crop of ‘concealment’ magwells, like the Freya magwell I have on the Glockblaster. These force the use of longer 18 round magazines rather than the standard 15 round magazines.

The USP Match comes with the match trigger system that HK made for competition use. I like nicer triggers. The stock USP is clearly a service trigger: double action is heavy and gritty with a double action pull weight of about 11.5 lbs and a single action pull weight of 4.5 lbs. The Match trigger drops these weights to about 7.5 lbs in double action and about 4 lbs in single action. Big difference for that double action pull. I don’t have enough experience with one to know if this setup risks light primer strikes, but I’m sure Ms. Croft can afford quality ammo. I approve of these kinds of competition triggers in general, and a 4 lbs. single action pull is hardly superlight. It also comes with an adjustable overtravel stop.

The most obvious external feature of the USP Match is the barrel weight compensator. A nose-heavy pistol will have less muzzle rise than one that isn’t as nose heavy. Also, this one is shaped to try to direct gasses upward somewhat. I suspect it will work, but not as well as a properly designed ported compensator will. This is all that’s available for the USP.

So what do we think of this as a hero gun? It’s not my choice given the circumstances, but it’s a pretty good one. It’s certainly defensible. Let’s break it down:

1) Does it look cool? Movie guns, especially hero guns, should look cool. And, probably look distinctive. This one definitely does. I’m sure its appearance in these movies in the hands of the lovely Ms. Jolie have sold a whole bunch of USP Match pistols. It looks different, but not too different. Good job.

2) Does it suit the character? Lara Croft is a rich adventuress. She would choose a reliable, accurate firearm, but she might not want something common, and she certainly has the money to get something a little unique and chase shooting performance. This fits the bill.

3) Is the choice plausible? While gun folks love to debate which brand is better, when you get right down to it these differences don’t matter much unless you’re a top end competitor. And lots of things boil down to preference. So I can’t knock this gun for being not my choice, as long as it’s not a stupid choice. And it isn’t. The USP Match is a good gun that’s reliable, accurate, and reasonably easy to shoot well. Just because Lara and I don’t agree on guns doesn’t mean she’s off her rocker.

Now, would it be my choice? No. Given the constraints of wanting a unique, effective pistol of circa 2001 vintage, I would look at the Glock 17L with a stainless slide, given my predilection for Glocks. Or a custom 1911 of course. We can always make one of those look good for the camera. Maybe a Wilson Tactical Elite.


  1. Played by Angelina Jolie. 
  2. Awful, awful TTPs. But that’s a rant for another time.