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December 21, 2023

Famous Movie Guns

By Joe Engesser

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Firearms have played a central role in cinema since the earliest Westerns of the silent era. From popular models wielded by extras to stand-alone hero props tied to silver screen icons like Han Solo's DL-44 blaster, guns are a defining element of many motion pictures, and their portrayal in popular films can often elevate the value of a firearm in the eyes of the collecting community.

Rock Island Auction Company earned the top spot in the 'Guinness World Records' book for the "Most Expensive Prop Gun Sold at Auction" with the $1,057,500 sale of the BlasTech DL-44 Heavy Blaster, made for the character of Han Solo in the original 'Star Wars'.

Some of the most famous movie guns have been sold at Rock Island Auction Company in recent years. From specific screen-used firearms like Lara Croft's H&K pistols, John Wayne's 'True Grit' revolver, and Han Solo's blaster to rare models like the SPAS 12, Desert Eagle, and Bren Ten that made their mark in the entertainment world, we'll examine some of Hollywood's favorite guns. Click on the images throughout this article to learn more about each model.

A documented brace of H&K USP 9 match semi-automatic pistols from the London-based prop house Baptys & Co. served as Angelina Jolie’s on-screen “hero” pistols from the 2001 film 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.'
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Han Solo's Blaster

The legendary BlasTech DL-44 Heavy Blaster wielded by Harrison Ford in 'Star Wars: A New Hope' headlined Rock Island Auction Company's August 2022 Premier Firearms Auction. One of the most famous movie guns of all time, Han Solo's blaster was based on a Mauser C96 broomhandle pistol modified with a World War 2-era scope and the muzzle from an airplane-mounted machine gun.

The only survivor of the three original props made for the first 'Star Wars' film, Han Solo's blaster became one of Rock Island Auction's top-selling guns of 2022 and earned the 'Guinness World Records' title for the "Most Expensive Prop Gun Sold at Auction."

Among the most iconic movie guns in history, the only surviving Han Solo blaster from 'Star Wars: A New Hope' sold for $1,057,500 at Rock Island Auction Company in August of 2022.

John Wayne’s Revolver

Any discussion about famous guns in movies is destined to include Hollywood legend John Wayne. For generations of Western fans, the Duke was America's quintessential cowboy. Like every horse-mounted hero of his era, Wayne always packed a sixgun on film, and his silver screen smoke wagon became one of the top stories in gun collecting in 2021 when his revolver went up for auction. Wielded by Wayne onscreen in 'Rooster Cogburn,' 'The Cowboys,' and the Duke's Academy Award-winning role in 'True Grit,' it was no surprise to see his iconic wheelgun land more than a half-million dollars as it passed the podium.

John Wayne's 'True Grit' revolver, one of the most famous movie guns in all of cinema, sold for $517,000 in October of 2021.

The 'Quigley Down Under' Rifle

Mathew Quigley's rifle is one of those famous movie guns fans grew up wishing they could own, and Rock Island Auction Company's December 2023 Premier Auction finally offered that opportunity to the collecting public. As one of three rifles customized for 'Quigley Down Under' star, Tom Selleck, and one of only two rifles designed for the shooting scenes, Quigley's custom Shiloh-Sharps Model 1874 Long Range rifle saw significant interest leading up to auction and realized an impressive $105,750 when the smoke settled.

A top contender on any list of famous guns in movies, Matthew Quigley's rifle earned $105,750 at RIAC's December 2023 auction.

Lara Croft's Pistols

Lara Croft's Heckler & Koch USP 9 Match pistols from the 2001 'Tomb Raider' film are true hero guns by every measure. The pistols were modified in several ways to allow star Angelina Jolie to pull off some truly memorable stunts. Standout features included extended magazine wells and ambidextrous slide releases that gave these famous movie guns a distinctive look, helping the iconic pistols turn heads at auction.

Two movie guns with an attitude. Lara Croft's Heckler & Koch USP 9 Match pistols served as Angelina Jolie’s on-screen “hero” pistols in the 2001 film 'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider' and sold for $35,250 during RIAC's August 2022 auction.

A Tommy Gun from 'The Godfather'

The Thompson SMG ranks as one of the most recognizable guns in movies, and the Tommy gun's appearance in 1972's 'The Godfather' might be the weapon's most famous onscreen outing. A Tommy gun formerly of the Stembridge Gun Rental collection, one of the oldest and most notable armories in Hollywood, was sold by Rock Island Auction Company in 2020. As one of the weapons wielded by the hitmen of Emilio "The Wolf" Barzini during their ruthless assassination of Sonny Corleone, this already desirable and fully functional example of the Tommy gun genre offered buyers an additional level of collectibility.

A documented Hollywood screen-used Colt Model 1921 Thompson submachine gun sold for $43,125 in December of 2020.

Famous Movie Gun Models

Hollywood has a history of elevating the popularity of an entire gun model, and few firearms illustrate this better than Harry Callahan's Smith & Wesson Model 29 in .44 Magnum. While Clint Eastwood has wielded countless guns throughout his career, some of his most famous lines were delivered while toting the Model 29 revolver in 1971's 'Dirty Harry.' Like the film it started in, the S&W .44 Magnum, described by Eastwood as "the most powerful handgun in the world," became an overnight sensation, heightening the value of the gun in the eyes of shooters, collectors, and movie fans to this day.

One of the most famous movie guns of all time, the S&W Model 29 revolver. While a revolver in 6 1/2 inch barrel length was featured in the film, Clint Eastwood carried a version with an 8 3/4 barrel in the posters and promotional images.

While the Model 29 suited a tough-as-nails cop like Dirty Harry, Hollywood's favorite fictional spy required something more refined. As James Bond's preferred sidearm, the Walther PPK instantly became one of the most famous movie guns to ever grace the silver screen. From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, through countless film, comic, and video game appearances, the diminutive German pistol has served the suave secret agent in nearly all his incarnations.

One of the most recognizable guns in movies, the Walther PPK served as the primary sidearm of James Bond in 22 films.

Classic Movie Rifles

If there's one film that defines the impact guns in movies can have on popular culture and arms collecting, it's 'Winchester 73'. The movie's title and central conflict revolve around a Winchester 1 of 1000 rifle, a rare specialty variant of the rifle model that won the West. A publicity campaign surrounding the film's release involved a contest where Universal Pictures invited owners who possessed a Model 1873 1 of 1000 rifle to supply the studio with a photo of their gun, a serial number, and a notarized letter of ownership. In return, the first 20 respondents were rewarded with a new Model 1894 rifle.

In a fall, 1950 press release, Universal wrote, “From obscurity these unique “One of One Thousand” Winchester Model 1873 rifles have graduated within only five months into one of the most sought after collector’s items in the country. Even garden variety Model 1873’s have doubled in price in the last few months.”

Today, antique Winchester rifles are still one of the most desirable guns in collecting, and much of the public's interest in the rifle was started by James Stewart's 1950 film.

A Winchester 73 One of One Thousand that was reported to Universal Pictures, and the Winchester Model 94 carbine presented by Universal to the rifle's owner as part of the 'Winchester 73' search.

The Hawken rifle saw its popularity skyrocket thanks to the classic 1972 film 'Jeremiah Johnson.' The film opens with the titular character, portrayed by Robert Redford, searching for a larger bored rifle to replace his .30 caliber long gun before he heads into the Rockies. Johnson encounters the frozen remains of another mountain man, whose deathbed note reads, “I, Hatchet Jack, bein’ of sound mind and broke legs do hereby leaveth my bear rifle to whatever finds it."

That rifle is a .50 caliber half-stock Hawken, one of the most famous Plains Rifles from the Golden Age of the St. Louis fur trade. Jeremiah Johnson wields his new prize for the remainder of the story, and countless fans of the film have since been inspired to acquire replica Hawken rifles or genuine examples of the historic platform.

Jeremiah Johnson helped make the Hawken rifle one of the most famous guns in movies.

Actor Daniel Day-Lewis popularized another classic American flintlock in 1992's 'Last of the Mohicans.' Hawkeye's rifle, called 'Killdeer', was custom-made for the film's leading man and built by contemporary gunmaker Wayne Watson. Though not a period-correct weapon, Hawkeye's rifle was inspired by the iconic Kentucky long rifles crafted in the early 19th century and has become one of the most famous movie guns of its genre.

When it comes to memorable guns in movies, Hawkeye's 'Killdeer' popularized the Kentucky-style rifle to an entire generation of filmgoers. The antique flintlock American long rifle pictured above is similar to Daniel Day Lewis's iconic custom weapon.

The Winchester Model 1892 Large Loop carbine became one of the most famous guns in Western cinema thanks to John Wayne. A chopped barrel and a big lever loop allowed the Duke to swing the Winchester under his arm when reloading, an exciting move that looked great on screen. Flip-cocking became a popular stunt, featured prominently in the 1958 TV series 'The Rifleman' and in the 1991 film 'Terminator 2,' where Arnold Schwarzenegger performs the maneuver with a sawed-off Winchester Model 1887 shotgun while riding a motorcycle.

(Bottom) Short barreled Model 92 Winchesters became famous guns thanks to the flip-cocking stunts performed with their large lever loop variants. (Top) A Winchester Model 92 carbine attributed to Western star Ken Maynard.

Famous Movie Revolvers

Of all the famous guns in movies, the classic revolver is perhaps most associated with the Golden Age of Hollywood. It's no surprise that the 'Indiana Jones' franchise, a throwback to the adventure films of yesteryear, decided to equip its title character with the iconic sixgun as well.

In ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ two 4 inch revolver models are featured onscreen: the Smith & Wesson M1917 and the Smith & Wesson Mark II Hand Ejector.

From the gun's memorable role in the 1970s ‘Starsky & Hutch’ series to serving as the sidearm of choice for 'Stranger Things' Season 4 antagonist Jason Carver, the Colt Python has appeared onscreen whenever Hollywood needed an intimidating double action revolver. The Python's status as Rick Grimes' signature firearm in AMC's 'The Walking Dead' series has elevated the weapon to one of the most famous guns in the zombie genre as well.

The Colt Python has been closely associated with both Detective Ken 'Hutch' Hutchinson and Officer Rick Grimes.

Famous Movie Pistols

The Beretta 92FS might be the most prominent handgun in recent Hollywood history. Certainly, this Italian-made 9mm pistol dominated the silver screen in the 80s and 90s, rising to prominence thanks to 'Lethal Weapon' in 1987 and 'Die Hard' in 1988. In terms of famous guns in movies that the average viewer can instantly recognize, look no further than the ubiquitous Beretta.

The Beretta 92FS, one of the most famous guns of the 80s and 90s thanks in large part to its association with Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson.

Eddie Murphy elevated another 9mm pistol to prominence in 1984's 'Beverly Hills Cop'. As Detective Axel Foley, Murphy sported the Browning Hi Power, one of the last designs from legendary gun inventor John Moses Browning. For its association with the 'Beverly Hills Cop' franchise and dozens of other Hollywood films, the Hi Power deserves a nod on any comprehensive list of famous movie guns.

The Hi Power pistol, one of the most prominent action movie guns of all time.

In contrast to the Hi Power and Beretta, the Bren Ten pistol presented a big, beefy pistol chambered in the stout 10mm cartridge. Thanks to the heavy-hitting handgun staring alongside Sonny Crockett in the original 'Miami Vice' series, the Bren Ten became one of the most famous guns of the 1980s.

The Bren Ten pistol has become a popular collector's gun thanks to its Hollywood exposure.

While the Bren Ten is a beast, the Desert Eagle reigns as the behemoth of action movie handguns. Appearing in films like 'RoboCop', 'Last Action Hero', 'Demolition Man', 'Austin Powers', 'The Matrix', and 'Deadpool', the Desert Eagle has made its mark in the world of movie guns, and its video game resume is just as impressive.

One of the most famous guns in movies due to its size and silhouette, the Desert Eagle chambers some of the largest cartridges of any commercially produced magazine-fed pistol.

Famous Shotguns in Movies

From Westerns to modern action films, the double barrel shotgun is perhaps the most famous movie gun in cinematic history in terms of sheer number of appearances. Perhaps no model is more recognizable than Ash's "Boomstick" from 'Army of Darkness.' Referred to as a "Remington," the Boomstick is actually a Stoeger Coach Gun chambered in 12 gauge, an ideal weapon for battling the undead.

The Boomstick deserves a top spot on any list of famous shotguns in movies for its pop culture impact alone.

The Franchi SPAS 12 found quick success as a movie gun thanks to its standout appearance. The select action shotgun's large heat shield and metallic folding stock give the weapon a unique look that helped earn the SPAS 12 prominent roles in blockbuster films like 1984’s ‘Terminator’ and 1993’s ‘Jurassic Park.’

A "clever girl." The Franchi SPAS 12 is not only one of the most famous shotguns in movies and television, but a prominent video game firearm as well.

As far as dramatic guns in movies go, few firearms make an impression like the Street Sweeper. From blockbusters like 'Total Recall' to a string of cult-classic 80s action films like 'Hard Hunted,' 'Men of War,' 'Bad Blood,' 'Death Sentence,' and 'Wicked Blood,' the 12-round revolving cylinder 12 gauge Street Sweeper shotgun made a decisive impression on screen.

The mighty Street Sweeper, one of the most memorable shotguns in movies from the 80s and early 90s.

Famous Movie Guns with Firepower

Before the Street Sweeper, there was the MAC-10. Despite its inelegant design and reputation for dubious quality, the MAC-10 SMG rose to become one of Hollywood's famous movie guns. The weapon debuted on-screen in 1974’s 'McQ,' carried by none other than John Wayne. The MAC-10 was touted to the public as “The Gun that Made the 80s Roar,” eluding to its real-world popularity among drug lords and mercenaries, an image embraced by both Hollywood and Hong Kong cinema in a series of notable appearances throughout the next few decades.

From use by Chinese hitmen to the A-Team, from anti-hero Snake Plissken to vigilantes like Chuck Norris’s J.J. McQuade and Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey, the MAC-10 became one of the most famous guns of its era.

Speaking of guns in movies from the 80s, the Uzi platform might be the king of the hill. Anyone who grew up on a steady diet of Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger is familiar with this Israeli-born SMG. Several close cousins of the Uzi family also became movie stars, perhaps most famously the "DEB M21" featured in 'Robocop 2.' Designed to fold in half for transport, storage, and concealment, the weapon in the film was dressed up with a handle and antenna to pass at a glance as a child's radio, and it could be unfolded in seconds into a fully functional automatic weapon.

A Pearl/M6 UC SMG, one of the most famous guns from "Robocop 2."

It doesn't get much more 80s than the 'Rambo' franchise. John Rambo was known for employing an arsenal of firearms, but none became more synonymous with the series at the height of its popularity than the M60. Featured alongside Sylvester Stallone on the poster for 'Rambo: First Blood,' and toted by the character in some of the sequel's most memorable action scenes, the M60 platform became one of the most famous movie guns of the decade.

Of all the heavy-hitting guns in movies set in the 70s and 80s, few can top the memorable M60 machine gun.

While we're talking famous movie guns from the 80s, we can't forget the minigun. Originally designed by General Electric, the M134 is a six-barreled, electrically-powered monster capable of raining down up to 6,000 rounds of 7.62x51mm NATO every minute from a helicopter. The "portable" minigun is a Hollywood invention, but that hasn't diminished its popularity in film and video games. Featured in blockbusters like 'Terminator 2,' 'Terminator 3,' 'Machete,' and 'The Matrix,' the minigun's most famous appearance might be as Jesse Ventura's "Old Painless" in 'Predator.'

"I ain't got time to bleed!" The minigun makes an easy case for itself as one of the most famous guns in movies.

The minigun's 19th century predecessor, the Gatling, has become another famous gun platform thanks to prominent appearances in films such as 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' and 'The Last Samurai' and recent television series like 'The English' and 'Hell on Wheels.' The Gatling gun is often depicted onscreen as a symbol of industrialization and technology clashing with traditional sensibilities and represents a challenging obstacle to overcome.

As movie guns go, the Gatling offers screenwriters an ideal option for introducing heavy firepower into the Old West and other 19th century settings.

Famous Guns and Movie Moments

Some movie guns are famous due to their association with memorable scenes. John Carpenter's 'They Live,' a cult classic from 1988, included one of the best one-liners of all time, uttered by the immortal "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.

"I've come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum." The ass-kicker in question? The Ithaca Model 37 shotgun.

Of all the scenes featuring shotguns in movies, few can rival Roddy Piper's magnum opus in 'They Live,' featuring the iconic Ithaca 37.

Another often-quoted one-liner featuring a firearm was delivered by Al Pacino in 1983's 'Scarface.' During the film's finale, Tony Montana reveals a full auto-converted Colt AR-15 equipped with a prop grenade launcher that's intended to be an M203. The weapon's appearance alone is enough to cement Tony's rifle as a famous movie gun, but his "Say hello to my little friend!" taunt immortalizes both the firearm and the film.

Tony's rifle and "little friend" accessory, one of the most famous guns in movies. Though Tony's original gun was intended to be an M16A1, a full auto-converted AR-15 was found to better synchronize with the cameras and provide more pronounced muzzle flashes.

Our next gun, the Heckler & Koch HK94, is associated with several legendary scenes from 1988's 'Die Hard,' including the film's defining line. While, “Now I Have a Machine Gun. Ho-Ho-Ho," is perhaps a close second and is also a quote related to the weapon in question, Bruce Willis totes another captured H&K 94 when delivering John McClane's favorite R-rated catchphrase, "Yippee-ki-yay, m**********r!"

With their distinct chopped down barrels and prominent role in the 'Die Hard' story, the Heckler & Koch HK94 makes the list of famous movie guns.

One of the biggest lines of Robert De Niro's career involved one of the smallest Smith & Wessons. Many a fan has parodied Travis Bickle's catchphrase from 1976's 'Taxi Driver,' "Are you talking to me?" The defining quote resonated with the audience thanks to the presence of Bickle's subcompact pistol, the S&W Escort.

No list of famous movie guns is complete without highlighting Travis Bickle's iconic pistol, the Smith & Wesson Escort.

Famous Movie Guns for Sale

Whether you're in the market for one of the more attainable models highlighted above, hoping to add a more elusive model with Hollywood appeal to your arms collection, or you're looking to own one of the silver screen's rarest hero guns, Rock Island Auction Company has you covered.

One of the most famous movie guns in history, Ralphie's dream gift from 'A Christmas Story,' the Red Ryder air rifle.

Subscribe to the weekly Rock Island Auction newsletter to catch new gun blogs and gun videos on some of the most popular arms of entertainment. From examining the onscreen arms of 'Peaky Blinders,' 'Bass Reeves', 'Masters of the Air', 'Yellowstone' and its prequels, and more, we explore some of the greatest guns of Hollywood.

"1923", the prequel to "Yellowstone," offers four different settings, three of which happen to be major gun collecting genres: World War 1, the Old West, and Dangerous Game hunting. Each setting is packed with classics from the genre, and Joel & Seth walk us through each one.

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