Tag Archives: movie guns

A Continental Fish

As ever, my entry in this competition is a little less well-thought-out than Parvusimperator’s. Given that I am a little less well-informed about the wider world of firearms than he is, I started with the intention to hit as many achievements as I could while still choosing things which make sense for me. So, without further ado, here are the achievements, and here’s what I’m buying.


HIPSTER: because it’s me.
EUROTRASH: which is more or less implied by…
BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN: I went so far as to pick one manufacturer, even.
LEATHERSLAP: I don’t know if I would actually go for this were I a real card-carrying member of the Continental, but I wasn’t able to do Heavy Metal because the BREN 2 BR isn’t available yet, so I’ll go this way instead.

The Pistol: CZ P-09 9mm Suppressor Ready (Cajun Gun Works tuning)

We’re going to start with the pistol, because that’s where I’ve been doing most of my thinking lately. It’s also a crucial piece of kit for the Continental assassin—sure, the carbine comes out now and then, but the bulk of your wet work will be done with the handgun, so it behooves you to pick a good one.

Anyway, back to the P-09. It fits my hand almost perfectly and I shoot it well. It’s a good base, and the Cajun tuning turns it into a great gun by any standard. The trigger is light and predictable, if not quite up to custom-gun snuff, but then again, we aren’t allowed to buy custom guns here anyway. The standard sights aren’t great, but they’ll do. If I weren’t doing Leatherslap, I would have Cajun mill the slide for an optic and backup sights (which adds $160).

As we say on the defense blogging side, the suppressor-ready model is fit for but not with a silencer1. It bumps the cost up, but we still get away for a Cajun Gun Works website-quoted price of $915.

Backup Gun: CZ P-07 9mm (also Cajun Gun Works tuning)

I might as well go with a familiar face here. Cajun just so happens to sell tuned P-07s, too, which have all of the virtues of the P-09 while remaining within the confines of the compact pistol style.

The Carbine: CZ BREN 2 7.62×39

Foiled in my plan to go Heavy Metal by the fact that the BREN 2 BR is not yet available in civilian trim, I had to improvise a bit. I ended up with another CZ BREN 2.

The particular model is the BREN 2 MS, which comes in pistol form in the US with a provision for attaching an AR-style buffer tube or the factory stock (not yet available on the open market). The factory stock is a side-folder, which I would prefer if the Sommelier can get it for me. If not, I’ll settle for an AR stock with a folding buffer tube adapter. In either case, it’ll add some cost—say $200, to be safe.

Why bother with folding? Well, because the BREN 2 you can buy today is technically a pistol, slapping a stock on it makes for a delightfully short-barreled rifle, and making that stock fold means you have something extremely compact—about an inch or two longer than the pistol itself. Assuming we’re going for the nine-inch barrel, that gives us an overall length in folded configuration of maybe 22 or 23 inches. You can stage that just about anywhere for your fighting retreat.

Why 7.62×39? One: because it’s me. Two: I’m on record (possibly over on Discord?) with the view that 7.62×39 can do everything a modern .30 short cartridge (.300 Blackout, I’m looking at you) can, and in vast swathes of the world, you will never find yourself hurting for ammo.

Adding our $200 in stock expenses to CZ’s MSRP, the BREN 2 tips the scales at $1,999.

The Shotgun: CZ 712 Utility

It’s a short-barreled semi-automatic shotgun. I’m not much of a tactical shotgunner, and have very little interest in shotgun sports which don’t involve shooting at aerial clay targets, so I don’t have much to say here.

Evidently, Benelli Nova tube extensions have the same thread pitch as the CZ 712’s cap, so I might have the Sommelier throw a few of those into the order, but honestly, the shotgun’s purpose in my loadout is 1) to make a big boom, and 2) to maybe blow open a locked door. It’s part of the challenge, but it’s not my thing, really. If I weren’t writing this at the last minute, I would add a bonus section on a precision rifle, which is much more my speed, but alas, time is short.

MSRP: $499.

The Knife: Gerber Truss multitool

If you have a knife you don’t know how to use, and get into a fight with someone who does know how to use a knife, you’d be just as well (poorly) served by handing him the knife before the fight starts.

I don’t really know how to use knives, so in place of a knife for fighting, I will instead elect to bring a knife for utility. Along with the traditional pliers/wire cutter tip and a variety of potentially useful screwdrivers and files, the Truss has a saw and two different knife blades, giving me some flexibility in how to cut things.

Bonus Picks: Pinching Krugerrands

Obviously, the BREN 2 is the big cost center in this loadout. If I drop it in favor of whatever complete AR-15 Palmetto State Armory has on sale this week (typically for $450 to $500) and add the classic UTG DS3840 red dot ($50), I have a $550 rifle to go with my $500 shotgun and $915 pistol, which brings me in neatly below the $2000 mark.

  1. It’s a Hollywood gunfight movie, so let’s use the classic term. 

Parvusimperator’s Continental Loadout

Last week we looked at our favorite guns from the John Wick movies. This week, let’s insert ourselves in a slightly different way; choosing our own firearms for crazy Hollywood multigun battles. I’m going to go for all of the maximum performance, Open/Unlimited division guns.

Shotgun: Dissident Arms KL-12 14″ NNS
Amusingly, even though I’m not much of a shotgun guy, this was the easiest choice to come up with. Per our rules, we need a shotgun. Going with box-mag fed shotgun means we can reload without worrying about deuces and quads nonsense. The most proven box-mag fed semiautos out there are the Dissident Arms Vepr 12 builds, which are almost an entirely new shotgun. The KL-12 comes with all of the fancy extras pre-selected, including a lengthened forcing cone on the barrel, left-side charging handle, threading the barrel for (internal) chokes that can be installed and swapped with a compensator still on the barrel, replacing the iron sights with picatinny rail segments, adding an AR stock adapter, tuning the action, installing a tuned ALG trigger, adding a magwell, installing an extended mag release, and installing an extended safety. We have but a few choices to make: stock, pistol grip, cerakote color(s), compensator model, keymod or mlok handguard, and barrel length. Vepr 12s come with a 19″ barrel from the factory, but Dissident arms will happily cut that down to 16″ or 14″ and then redo the threading for the compensator if you like, pinning and welding as necessary for the NFA. A shorter barrel is handier, and we don’t give up very much in terms of reduced length in a shotgun barrel.

Our chosen options are: the Custom Arms Competition grip (with a palm shelf), XLR Industries Tac Lite stock, Dissident Arms Phoenix Comp, Mlok handguard, and a barrel cut to 14″. We’ll go with a two-color cerakote finish, with Cobalt (actually a dark grey) as the primary color and USMC Red as the accent color.

For shotgun sights, we’ll take a Vortex AMG UH-1 atop the rear sight block rail, We’ll mount a Trijicon Type 2 RMR06 a 45 degree offset mount on the dust cover rail to let us take right hand corners more easily without switching shoulders. We’re going with the big Huey for primary because I kinda like holographics, and the offset RMR because it has the nicest controls of any microdot and window size really doesn’t matter for offset long gun sights.

Carbine: Cobalt Kinetics Evolve
This one was quite a bit harder, since I like to go out and build my own rifles from carefully chosen parts. Now I need someone to do it for me, but without choosing from a giant list of options so as not to break my own rules. So let’s try to find a rifle with the premium parts I love plus some special sauce that I can’t easily do myself. And it’s gotta look really good, because this is Hollywoodland. Enter Cobalt Kinetics. Their Evolve is their flagship competition model. It has a bunch of high-end parts, including a billet matched receiver set, billet handguard matched to the upper, 16 inch Proof Research carbon-fiber wrapped barrel, Cobalt’s excellent and effective Pro compensator, a gorgeous billet aluminum pistol grip, and a billet aluminum adjustable stock. The operating system is exactly what we’d expect with an adjustable gas block, low-mass bolt carrier, and a tuneable buffer setup with a weight and spring set for that perfect recoil feel. The safety is a 45-degree throw design, and the trigger is the exceptional AR Gold. All of that is cool. The real special feature is CARS, which will automatically drop magazines when empty, and automatically send the bolt home when you insert a full mag. This can be disabled if you prefer to do all of this manually, but it can give you a bit of a speed edge. I really like it. I also like the lines of the handguard, receivers, and stock. Everything else is classic high-end carbine parts.

We don’t have much in the way of options for the Evolve: the gunsmiths at Cobalt Kinetics have already put all of their magic into it. All we get to pick are our cerakote finish colors. Again, we’ll go with Cobalt as the primary and USMC Red as the accent color. Now our longarms are color coordinated.

Sights time. This is pretty easy. While I love my Vortex, the Swarovski Z8I-BRTi 1-8×24 has two more magnification levels, has fantastic FOV and glass clarity, and even has a bright dot. We’ll grab that and mount it with Geissele’s mount, because I’m pretty fond of that mount. We’ll grab another Trijicon Type 2 RMRO6 in a 45 degree offset mount for those hard cover leans, the occasional rapid transition, and maybe as a bit of a backup.

Pistol: Limcat Stormcat
Saving the hardest for last. Of course, I wanted a fancy Open-division ready 2011 with all of the optional extras. These tend to be custom guns made to order, which is not what my rules allowed. Sigh. Limcat makes some excellent pistols that have been used by some fantastic shooters to win a whole bunch of competitions. They’ll make you something custom, or you can order a preset model. The Stormcat is Scott Greene’s model for Unlimited Division 3-gun, which we pick for its awesome features that are compatible with minor power factor (i.e factory) ammo. We have a few options to choose here. We’ll pick a caliber of 9mm, midlength “HBar” barrel, which has a tungsten sleeve, steel grip, and a medium, flat, red SVI Trigger. I do like a heavy pistol. Heavy is good. It’s a sign of reliability. And if you ever run out of bullets, you can always hit people with it.

On to the sights. We’re going with a frame mount, of course. I’m not entirely satisfied with any of the current red dot sights on the market for pistol use. I think the best choice as far as balancing durability with window size and overall mass is the Leupold Deltapoint Pro, though I’m not a big fan of its control setup. Still, it’s a really nice dot. That gives us our heavy, really high-capacity pistol with a fantastic trigger and a cool guy compensator. Plus, plenty of fancy slide cuts and a nice finish.

Backup Pistol: Glock 26 Gen 5 with TTI Combat Carry package
I really like that John Wick carries a backup pistol, so I’m gonna get one too, by Awerbuck. I’m going with the Glock 26 Gen 5 for my backup. There are smaller backups, but I like the Glock 26’s size to balance concealment and shootability. Also the Glock 26 has a solid history of reliability. I like to stick with more proven options. The Glock 26 also allows us to use the larger Glock magazines if we like, or if we find some. The Gen 5s are pretty fantastic, and I could make do with them as they come from the factory, especially given that the excellent high-visibility Ameriglo Bold sights are a factory option. But that’s not really our style. So we’ll get a complete TTI Combat Carry package. And, since an RMR cut is an option, we’ll go with that too, and a Type 2 RMR06 for our sights. Done and done.

Knife: Ban Tang Double-Edge Clinch Pick
My grandfather gave me a pocket knife for my eighth birthday, saying that every little boy should have a pocket knife. I still like knives, and I’ve spent some time studying their use. In this context, I want something for the close in fight, something that’s easy to deploy, something to give you that extra edge1 in a grappling engagement. The Clinch Pick is designed for exactly that purpose by Craig Douglas, and it fits well with his style of knife employment. Ban Tang makes a nicer version, available in single or double edge. We’ll take the double edge model.

There we have it. Super fancy guns, and they’ll look great on camera, which is important for Hollywood. They’re also gonna be really fun to shoot our way through various stag–er, Hollywood Gunfights with.

We’ve also earned ourselves the following achievements:

  1. Pun intended. 

Choosing Your Own Continental Loadout

You probably know, dear reader, that I love the John Wick movies. Well, what if I was a cool assassin working at the Continental? What would I request from the sommelier for three-gun the movie all kinds of crazy Hollywood shootouts?

As ever, let’s define some rules to keep us honest. And so that you can play along at home if you like.

1) Your loadout must include a pistol, a shotgun, and a carbine.
2) Carbines may be of pistol or rifle caliber.
3) You may include (1) backup pistol if you wish.
4) You may include (1) knife if you wish.
5) No custom weapons. As in no full house custom builds; nothing with some giant option list. Semi-custom is permitted. E.g. an Atlas Custom Pistol build is not allowed, but an Atlas Titan would be permissible.
6) The Sommelier won’t build you anything. He has better things to do.
7) You may add whatever sights you like, given that the appropriate mount is there from the factory (e.g. sight dovetails, Picatinny rail) or is being added by your specified semi-custom modder (e.g. you’ve opted for a TTI Combat Master with red dot cut for your specified sight)
8) Everything must be currently in production.

Note that I haven’t defined what constitutes a backup gun. To paraphrase Potter Stewart, I know one when I see one, and so do you. Don’t try to slip in a Glock 17 as your backup–because I’ll know.

Some bonus achievements for you to unlock: (probably more to come)
(Note that for the firearms set achievements, these only apply to your three principal weapons, not your backup gun or knife)
HIPSTER: No standard competition choices (So no Glocks, 2011s, AR-15s, Benelli shotguns)
EUROTRASH: All guns made in Europe
BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN: All guns made in former Soviet Bloc countries
REAL AMERICAN: All guns made in USA
IRONS DEFICIENCY: All firearms have electronic sights with no backup irons on any of them
ONLY SHOOT OPEN: All firearms are only allowed in Open/Unlimited Division competition
LEATHERSLAP: All firearms have iron sights only.
HEAVY METAL: Pistol caliber: .45 ACP, carbine caliber: .308 or similar, 12 gauge pump shotgun.
PINCHING KRUGERRANDS: Total MSRP of weapons and sights does not exceed $2,000.
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUNS: Total MSRP of weapons and sights exceeds $25,000.

The Guns of John Wick: Which Are Best?

Inspired by a post by TTI over on Instagram, let’s look at the guns of the John Wick movies. All three of them. We’re going to compare (primary) pistols, carbines, and shotguns across all three movies. We’ll pick best by category and best movie set overall.

First, let’s talk through our ground rules. We’ll be picking as if we work at The Continental. Therefore these guns are chosen for “assassinations” (read: epic, awesome movie gunfights) and not to fit in any particular competition ruleset. Also, we pay in Magic Assassin Gold Coins, so we don’t really care what the list prices are. We also don’t get to make any changes to the guns as we see them in the movies. What the sommelier has is what we can pick from.

Second, let’s review our weapons. In the first movie, Mr. Wick is armed with an HK P30L with compensator as his primary handgun, an HK 416 clone with EoTech sight as his carbine, and a Kel-Tec KSG with EoTech sight as his shotgun. In John Wick 2, our hero has a Glock 34 that’s been tricked out by TTI as his main pistol, a TTI built custom AR-15 carbine (the TR-1) with a Trijicon Accupoint 1-6x scope and offset RMR, and a TTI customized Benelli M4 as his shotgun. His arsenal in John Wick 3 is an STI 2011 pistol that’s been customized by TTI, a SIG MPX that’s been tricked out by TTI with a Trijicon MRO red dot sight, and a Benelli M2 that (you guessed it) has been customized by TTI.

We’ll start with carbines because that’s the easiest, and because I’m quite fond of carbines. First, we can rule out the MPX. It’s a pistol-caliber carbine, which is great for USPSA’s PCC division, but much less so combatively. 9mm is less potent than 5.56mm, and will have much more trouble dealing with armor. The MPX also has a long, NFA-compliant barrel, so we can’t even take advantage of the pistol caliber to get us something PDW-sized. Plus, the MPX has a reputation for eating parts and needing frequent cleaning. It’s in its third revision from SIG, and I don’t trust them to not beta test things on their customers. We’re left with a pair of carbines in 5.56mm. We can eliminate the HK 416 clone, because it’s got lame old quadrails, is entirely too heavy for what it is (since it has a piston and the aforementioned fat quadrails), and has the least nice sights of the three. EoTechs have that annoying tendancy to shift zero in the heat. The piston does literally nothing for us in the current configuration, and it’s probably got some stock, untuned, garbage trigger. Lame. That leaves us with the TR-1, which is also my favorite configuration of the three. It’s got a low-power variable, is reasonably light, comes in 5.56mm, and has a tuned trigger (and probably gas system/bolt carrier too).

Winner: TTI TR-1

The KSG is a pretty easy out, because I don’t like it, because it’s the only non-autoloader, and because Benelli’s QC and reliability are light years better than that of Kel-Tec. Also, no tuned trigger and reloads are a pain. After that, we’re looking at a tuned Benelli M4 v. a tuned Benelli M2. Were I buying the guns stock, the Benelli M2 would be the clear winner since it’s way cheaper and has a much larger aftermarket. In this case, we have them already customized. The big advantage to the M2 is some very long magazine tube extensions, but those haven’t been mounted here. Given similar capacities (and our payment in Killer Krugerrands), the differences are going to be that the M2 is somewhat lighter, being recoil operated, and that the M4 is going to be softer shooting, being gas operated (and heavier). I’m not much of a shotgun guy, so this is a toss-up. I’ll take the M4 because I’ve always wanted one and because it should shoot softer.

Winner: TTI Benelli M4

The P30L is another easy out, because it’s got the lowest capacity and worst trigger by far of the bunch, though I do like the compensator. After that, it gets tricky because neither the TTI Combat Master Glock 34 nor the TTI Combat Master 2011 are customized in the way I’d like. But you do your job with the weapons the sommelier has. Of the two, the 2011 will have the better trigger, and will probably be a little more pleasant to shoot. So we’ll go with that. We shouldn’t really be in a position to take advantage of the Glock’s famous reliability, to the extend that it hasn’t been compromised by modifications.

Winner: TTI Combat Master 2011

Movie Winner
While we could do this as a “total up the wins” exercise, it’s more interesting to look at the weapons sets as a whole and compare them. I trust my readers can add. In terms of weapons sets, the original doesn’t have much in the way of cool custom stuff. Between the sequels, I think the shotguns are a toss up, the TR-1 is better than the MPX and the 2011 is better than the Glock. All that said, I think you’re getting more if you go with the TR-1 over the MPX than you lose with taking the custom Glock instead of the custom 2011. So my overall choice is the arsenal from John Wick 2.

Winner: John Wick 2

Honorable Mention: Backup Glock 26
No word yet on whether or not the Glock 26 backup gun has made it into John Wick 3. But it’s been his backup for two movies, with some slide work done for John Wick 2. I like when a character like John Wick actually goes to the trouble of carrying a backup gun, and the Glock 26 is an excellent choice.

Overanalyzing John Wick’s TTI Combat Master 2011

The trailer for John Wick Chapter 3 dropped some weeks ago. You can bet I’m super excited. With the trailer out, we see Keanu Reeves with some cool new hardware. And the NDAs on said hardware got lifted. John Wick has a snazzy new sidearm: a collaboration between STI and TTI to make a cool, tricked out 2011. Since I love John Wick, custom1 guns, and 2011s, I thought I’d take a crack at it.

The TTI Combat Master 2011 is built on a 2011 platform. It’s single action only and appears to have a government-length barrel (i.e. a 5″ barrel). The barrel is an “island” barrel, with a large milled rib on top, and a corresponding area milled out of the slide. This rib contains the front sight. Since the front sight doesn’t move, it’s easier to track through recoil. It also means there’s less slide mass, which means less reciprocating weight, which reduces felt recoil. The slide has also been “tri-topped”, which means it has a trapezoidal top cross section instead of the usual round one. This reduces weight and looks cool. There are also aggressive looking front and rear slide cocking serrations, plus some slide windows to show off the barrel finish, reduce weight, and look cool.2

The grip is a standard plastic model from STI with Taran Tactical’s excellent stippling applied all around. I would also expect it to have a tuned trigger. There’s also TTI’s 2011 magwell at the bottom for faster reloads.

One more thing to note is that, according to Taran himself, the TTI Combat Master is designed to shoot 9mm Major. Or, 9x19mm rounds where the muzzle velocity times bullet weight in grains divided by 1000 is greater than 165.

Let’s talk about caliber first. I like 9x19mm. 9mm Major is hot stuff. Really hot stuff. Hotter than most +P+ loads. In fact, it’s really hard to find commercial 9mm rounds from large manufacturers that make Major power factor. And it’s a really niche thing. Most of the people interested in 9mm Major shoot in USPSA Open Division, which is the only division where you can permissibly use rounds with a caliber of at least 0.354 inches (9mm) in diameter to make Major. And we open guys like shooting 9mm Major to get those power factor points and get gas to work the compensators and barrel ports you see in open guns. Gas is good. Those guns are based around lots of gas. Mr. Wick’s latest gun has no compensator and no barrel ports. In limited division, where iron sighted guns play, major power factor rounds must be at least 0.40 inches (10mm) in diameter. And, of course, from a “tactical” standpoint, pistol rounds that make major power factor don’t really perform any better than ones that don’t as far as defeating bad guys. Pistol rounds suck at that. Major power factor ones still do. You can pass the FBI standards with well-made 9mm rounds, and nobody sees much benefit to going hotter in the people-stopping department. At least, to the best of modern ballistics science.

I look forward to a fun movie explanation of why he’s rocking the major power factor ammo, of course.

Honestly, the biggest thing that confuses me here is the plastic grip. I know, that’s STI’s marketing campaign, some nonsense about “transmitting less recoil” or somesuch. I don’t know why it would “transmit” less recoil. Maybe it’s that notion of “polymer flex” that comes up sometimes when talking about recoil characteristics of polymer-framed handguns. I have no idea to what extent “polymer flex” is a thing, and frankly, I don’t care. I do know that competitive shooters love weight low in the gun. Like in the grip. Steel grips are super popular on 2011s that people modify/have built for them. SVI, Phoenix Trinity, and CK seem to have no trouble selling steel grips despite the added cost. Since I follow the top USPSA Open Division guys, I can say that the top 10 shooters at 2018 Open Nationals all had steel grips. And that’s in a division with compensators. From a shootability standpoint, steel grips are better, full stop.

Now, there are reasons you could argue to go with a polymer grip, like that it’s less annoying to carry (because it’s lighter) or because some people like them. But I’m betting this is STI marketing. At least it has a nice stipple job.

My one other big gripe is with the lack of red dot support. At this price point, it really should give you the option for a slide-mounted dot. Most other 2011s in this price bracket have such an option available, and dots are better. Some rules (e.g. Limited) don’t allow them, but it really ought to be something the end user can request. For 3-gun. Or for fighting one’s way through an army of angry assassins from the Continental.

It is a small thing, but the lack of even minor customization options is lame. No options for different trigger shoes? Seriously? This isn’t a 1980s Colt. Again, in this price bracket, lots of other places will let you pick trigger shoe length/color for no extra charge.

Overall, it’s a really nice gun, but it’s kinda overpriced for what it is: a pistol with zero options. If its set up the way you want, go for it. Rock on with your bad self. Otherwise, you can do better for just shy of four grand.

  1. Actual, properly custom guns. If you can’t specify every detail down to the screws of your gun, it’s not really custom. You just have some marketing-speak for “fancy”. 
  2. There are other ways to reduce slide weight and make it look cool. Consult your custom smith for details. If you can’t specify your own slide cuts, you aren’t at a custom shop. You’ve been had by the marketing guys. 

Movie Guns: Bond’s Walther PPK

Quite possibly one of the most famous movie guns ever, the Walther PPK has been (generally) Bond’s sidearm since his introduction to the silver screen in 1962. It probably doesn’t need much introduction, but I’m going to give it one anyway.

The 7.65 Browning (.32 ACP) Walther PPK replaced the .25 ACP Beretta 4181 as Bond’s sidearm in the novels starting in the book Dr. No. A fan, Geoffrey Boothroyd, had written Fleming disapproving of this small choice of firearm (in the Beretta). They corresponded for a while, and after establishing that Fleming thought Bond should be armed with a semiautomatic pistol, eventually settled upon the Walther PPK as the new firearm.

As a brief aside, I hate the Walther PPK. I can’t stand it. The trigger is garbage. The sights are virtually nonexistent. The mag release is in a stupid place. The grip is entirely too small for the hands of any reasonably-sized man. The slide seems purpose-designed to tear up the web of your hand. I would say at least it’s pretty, but there are plenty of other pretty guns out there that aren’t a total soup sandwich to shoot.

Now, because James Bond is a franchise but his weapon remains basically unchanged, we’re going to look at this first in the context of 1962 when the first movie was made. We’ll also look into it as a choice today.

Much as I hate to admit it, the PPK is not a bad choice in 1962 given Fleming’s strict criteria. There are not a lot of small semiautomatic pistols available. My preference would be to either relax the semiautomatic requirement and carry an S&W Centennial Airweight, chambered for .38 Special, or to relax the size constraint a bit and carry a Colt Commander2, chambered for 9mm. In either case, I get a much more effective round and a much more shootable weapon. Most of the time, Bond has a great concealment garment on. This does require a bit more effort on the part of one’s tailor, but that is why one employs a tailor.

You must be joking. There are so many better choices in 2018 that it truly boggles the mind, and it gets even worse if you relax those constraints again. In the Profoundly Small Semiautomatic category, we have the Glock 43, S&W M&P Shield, Walther CCP, and SIG P365. Also the Glock 42 if we don’t mind shooting .380. If we let ourselves go a trifle bigger into double stacks, we now include the PPQ SC, Glock 26, M&PC, and P320SC, which are even better, and can take larger magazines from their bigger brothers. If you’re still packing a .32 ACP anything in 2018 and you plan on wet work, you need to have your head examined. The .380 version is outclassed both by newer, better pistols in .380 as well as the latest crop of small, single-stack 9mm pistols. In .380 right now, I’d be all over the soft-shooting Glock 42, which fixes basically every problem I have with the .380 PPK.

  1. To quote the wonderful Mr. Boothroyd, “It’s a lady’s gun, and not a very nice lady at that.” 
  2. Later called the Lightweight Commander. It’s a 1911 with a 4.25″ barrel, an aluminum frame, and chambered in 9mm. What’s not to like? 

Movie Guns: Colt Model 733 (Heat, 1995)

I love Michael Mann’s movies. All of them are great. He’s a guy who goes the extra mile to work out all the little details of the story, both in the dialogue and in the details of the scenes. Among his best movies is Heat (1995) starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Val Kilmer. This movie features one of the best gunfights ever to hit the silver screen. This scene, a fighting retreat from a bank robbery gone wrong, sees robbers McCauley (played by De Niro) and Shiherlis (played by Kilmer) endeavor to fight off the cops (led by Pacino as Det. Hanna) using Colt Model 733s converted to fully automatic.1

The Colt Model 733 is one of the models that falls under the umbrella term “Colt Commando”, and is based off the old-school CAR-15 projects that saw service in Vietnam. The Model 733 has a collapsible stock, fixed carry handle with A1-pattern sights, 11.5″ barrel, and a carbine-length gas system. They fire the standard 5.56 mm round. These are converted to be capable of fully automatic fire,2 and this is used to excellent suppressive effect.

If you’re expecting lame, cheesetacular gunplay, you’ve got the wrong movie and the wrong director. Mann gets his stars some real weapons training, so they look like they know what they’re doing. And I can find exactly zero, yes zero, faults with the gun handling in this film. Reloads are accomplished using good technique. Guns run out of bullets appropriately. Thirty round magazines hold thirty rounds, not 300. And De Niro and Kilmer fire their weapons in nice, controlled bursts. There’s even a great bit where De Nero, while carrying a duffelbag full of money on his back, supports a wounded Kilmer with one arm, and keeps shooting his carbine effectively with the other.

McCauley and Shiherlis conceal their Colt 733s under their extra-baggy 90s suits with the help of bungee slings. And yes, they’ve got a vest under the suit too to hold a whole bunch of magazines. The (converted) 733s provide massive amounts of suppressive firepower, and are vaguely concealable. At least concealable enough to let them take up positions in the bank without hassle. And the firepower means they can defeat police body armor and outrange the usual mid-90s standard patrol officer armament of handguns and 12 gauge pump-action shotguns.

As a brief aside, Heat was used as the model for several actual, real-world bank robberies, including one that would lead to the 1997 North Hollywood shootout, which would see illegally converted automatic rifles outrange and generally overmatch LAPD-issue handguns and shotguns.

Anyway, let’s look at the weapons choice. Remember, it’s 1995. So most modern bullpups aren’t available when you think ‘compact firepower’. The Steyr Aug is available, but due to import restrictions, it’s a lot rarer than the Colt 733. I would guess an Aug would be harder to convert to full auto, though I have no experience doing that with either weapon. Also, go see all of my previous discussions about the handling issues that come up with bullpups. Reloads are way easier with an AR-15. Short barreled AR-15s are still super popular among entry teams. The Model 733 is a fine choice. One I wouldn’t mind having in my own collection for more legal shooting endeavors.

  1. Presumably illegally. These are bank robbers, after all. 
  2. Generally speaking this is illegal. Obvious disclaimer: We here at the Soapbox are not suggesting or encouraging you to break the law. Conversions are only for dealers. Do not commit federal crimes. We do not condone such things here. 

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.