The Cold War era “Red Dawn” was the story of a conventionally fought World War III, featuring some of the most popular actors of the time. The theme of a potential Soviet invasion resonated deeply with the American public, especially gun owners as it portrayed a small group of determined Americans standing up for freedom against all odds. It also demonstrated human resilience and emphasized the Second Amendment by featuring a bumper sticker that stated: “They can have my gun when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.”
“Red Dawn” featured a variety of firearms from behind the Iron Curtain, such as the AKM, an updated version of the AK-47—most were mocked-up versions because true versions were unavailable—and a Tokarev TT-33 pistol, the movie also exhibited numerous American classics like the Colt Single Action Army, the Ruger 77, Ruger Mini 14 and the M1911A1.
Up until the fall of the Berlin wall, many folks prepared for a possible invasion by what Ronald Reagan called the “Evil Empire.” This movie emphasized that Americans fought, and would fight again, for their freedoms.
At some point in their lives, almost everybody wanted to become a cop, fighting crime with a devil-may-care attitude and snarky insults. With awesome explosions and one-liners, Bruce Willis fostered those dreams as Sgt. John McClane in “Die Hard,” with a Beretta 92F and a limited number of rounds. Entering the scene in 1988, when heroes showed little fear or emotion, this movie quickly became a classic in the cops versus robbers genre, and led to multiple sequels, some even as good as the original.
While few of us actually followed through and became police officers, which is probably best since this is very untypical in the life of most law enforcement officers, this movie reminds us that good can triumph over evil with skill, training, determination and a few well-placed shots. Yippee-ki-yay.
Sure, “The Godfather” was more of a drama than an action film, but what other movie has influenced people’s perception of the world as much as this classic tale of intrigue, love, lust and power. Of course, there are guns in this movie, one of which inspired the well-known phrase: “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” There are also a few iconic firearms depicted, such as the Thompson M1928 (tommy gun) used to assassinate Sonny Corleone, and the Colt Detective Special, which is historically accurate since it was popular with the Cosa Nostra due to its small size and six-, rather than five, round cylinder.
“The Godfather” also introduced other phrases that continue to permeate American culture such as “go to the mattresses” and “sleeps with the fishes.” While not rip-roaring with action, this film affected millions in many different ways with its cinematography, plot and underlying themes, such as how with determination anyone can become powerful, even if that power is of the criminal nature. Who has not dreamed of having the power and respect of Michael Corleone? That he built his empire through violence is only that much more alluring.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, zombies do not exist, but at the same time, the CDC has developed a comic book manual called Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic. In “Zombieland,” the apocalypse begins with a single individual scarfing down a burger and being infected with a mutated strain of mad cow disease that mutates into mad person disease, and eventually into mad zombie disease. The protagonist is a bit of a wimp, who survives through his list of rules, such as cardio and the double tap with his IGA Coach double-barrel shotgun. In his quest to discover if his parents are still alive, he meets other survivors, including zombie-bashing Tallahassee—first seen with a Winchester 1892 “Mare’s Leg”—falls in love and overcomes his fears, leading to a change in his rules.
Sure, the idea of a zombie apocalypse is pretty far-fetched, but it has introduced a new group of people to preparedness and firearms. It has also provided some awesome targets and produced a new type of training that is fun and useful in a world-gone-crazy situation. Besides, the final fight scene is just awesome, with Tallahassee using a variety of firearms, including a Mossberg 500 Marine Cruiser and an H&K MP7A to put a massive dent in the zombie population of Los Angeles.
The Delta Force
In the 1980s, Chuck Norris was one of the premier action stars, using hands, feet and firearms to give final reckoning to multitudes of evil doers. In “The Delta Force,” Norris stars with Lee Marvin—Marvin’s last film—as the leaders of the Army’s elite counterterrorism unit commonly known as Delta Force. In the movie, which has some historic connections to real terrorist attacks and a failed Delta Force mission, operators have to rescue hostages taken on ATW Flight 282 out of Cairo on its way to New York City, via Athens and Rome. The film follows both operators and hostages, and ends with an action-packed scene where the heroes save the hostages and eliminate the terrorists. Throughout the movie numerous military arms are shown, including Chinese and Soviet made AK-47s, but the gun most seen in the hands of the stars, both suppressed and unsuppressed, was the Mini UZI.
While The Delta Force itself has never been truly hidden from the public, most missions are classified—the U.S. Government does not officially recognize the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment’s Delta Unit—it wasn’t well known at the time, as nations were still trying to determine the best response to terrorism. The Delta Force was part of that response, and revealed that the United States was going to back up its “never negotiate with terrorism” principle. The movie made this unit’s name a common term, and had many young boys dreaming of being good enough to become an operator.
The Road Warrior
While “The Road Warrior” was not Mel Gibson’s first movie role, this 1981 film made him a household name and paved the way for the post-apocalyptic movie era of the ‘80s. While it is now called “Mad Max 2,” because it was a sequel, it will always be best known by its original title. Filmed in Australia, this film showed the fallout of society, with roving bands of marauders fighting and killing over a few gallons of “juice” with homemade weapons and a few firearms. In it, Max is just as hard as the wasteland marauders, but rediscovers his humanity by helping a group of settlers get away to a more peaceful climate with his black V-8 Pursuit Charger, four-legged companion and sawed-off double-barrel shotgun.
There are very few firearms featured in “The Road Warrior,” as well as very, very little ammunition, but the warrior of the wasteland, The Humungus, does brandish an awesome Smith & Wesson Model 29 with scope in a few scenes. This movie made some people realize that ammunition is a commodity, and would be useful if the world ever does hit the fan.
“Tremors” wasn’t a box-office smash, but it emerged as a cult classic for its diverse cast and interesting humor, spurring two straight-to-video sequels. It also resonated with gun owners and preppers with its introduction of Burt and Heather Gummer played by Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. Their choice of home location—the area provided for “geographic isolation”—and massive firepower made this movie a must-watch with gun owners. The scene in Gummer’s basement was a variable bucket list of firearms for most shooters, showing multitudes of firearms popular in the early ‘90s, including several Model 70s, AR-15s and even a Desert Eagle.
To battle huge, snake-like creatures called “Graboids,” the heroes used rifles, handguns and shotguns, including a William Moore & Company 8-gauge wielded by Burt, who showed both good and poor gunhandling skills in the movie. They were good when he instantly checked the status of the Ruger Redhawk that he used to motivate Melvin (Robert Jayne) into running, and bad when he aimed the 8-gauge with the buttstock under his arm. In the end the protagonists used dynamite and cannon fuse to eliminate the monsters, prompting Earl (Fred Ward) to ask Burt for what he had cannon fuse. Burt responded: “My Cannon!”