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It may not leave a warm glow, show the joy of time spent with family and friends at the holidays, nor offer a redemption arc, falling far short of a Christmas movie, but Sylvester Stallone’s “First Blood” IS set at Christmastime.
In some scenes, bare trees and snow can be seen, and prior to the small town sheriff’s department getting shot up by John Rambo and his M60, Christmas decorations, like a small tree and a wreath over a door, can be spotted in background shots. As Rambo enters the town of Hope, Washington a sign over the roadway declares it “Gateway to Holidayland.”
There’s not a whole lot of Christmas cheer to be found at the sheriff’s department, from Sheriff Teasle who immediately drives Rambo out of town before arresting him, to the deputies that bully him, causing the Vietnam veteran to have a PTSD episode that leads to his escape and the ensuing manhunt.
Though Rambo mostly takes on the sheriff and deputies with his survival knife, there is plenty of firepower to be found in “First Blood,” beyond the aforementioned M60. Let’s take a look at the guns involved in this tale of a scruffy underdog sheriff’s department that foolishly takes on a special forces Medal of Honor winner.
Deputy Galt who took a Billy club to Rambo in the police department, spurring the former Green Beret’s escape, attempts to take a shot of him outside the station with his Winchester Model 88 but is stopped by Sheriff Teasle. As Rambo flees into the surrounding forests, Galt and his rifle take to the air where things end badly for the deputy.
Pursued on the ground, Rambo is trapped by a sheer cliff into a gorge. He starts climbing down when a helicopter searching for the former Green Beret arrives on the scene with Galt riding in the passenger seat. Galt fires on Rambo who jumps, falling through several trees and cutting his arm before landing. Rambo grabs a rock as Galt continues shooting. Rambo hurls the rock at the helicopter, momentarily rattling the pilot and wobbling the aircraft and throwing Galt to his death on the rocks below. Rambo retrieves the hunting rifle.
Rambo uses the rifle to shoot a dog tracker in the leg and some of his dogs before discarding it because the Winchester is out of ammo.
The Winchester Model 88 is a lever-action rifle with a rotating bolt, the first in Winchester’s history when it came out in 1955. The gun has a front locking system that gets rid of bolt compression and receiver stretch seen with rear-locking actions. The gun’s detachable box magazine holds four rounds. This rifle was made in 1957.
Trailing Rambo in the woods, the deputies open fire in full auto on a silhouette with their M16A1s only to learn it is a scarecrow. One deputy says, “We ain’t hunting him, he’s hunting us.” Soon the deputies are chasing shadows, opening up occasionally with their rifles but unable to find their quarry. He stabs a deputy in the leg, disables another, and subdues and ties up a third.
After incapacitating several deputies in the forest with little more than his knife and his wits, Rambo confronts the sheriff, played by Brian Dennehy, holding a knife to his throat and growls a warning, “Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go.”
Rambo recovers an M16A1 from one of the deputies and later fires on police and the National Guard at an abandoned mine.
Later in the movie, as Rambo drives an Army truck through a road block deputies and state police officers fire on him with AR-15s but are unable to stop him.
The AR-15 was originally designed by Eugene Stoner for Armalite, later selling the patent to Colt in 1959. Numerous manufacturers took up making the AR-15 after Colt’s patents for the modular platform expired in 1977. Because it is modular, it is highly customizable to an owner’s needs. The U.S. National Shooting Sports Foundation categorizes the AR-15 as a “modern sporting rifle.”
As the sheriff and his deputies fan out in the woods, the sheriff is carrying a Heckler & Koch HK93A2. Like all of the deputies, he is disarmed and confronted by Rambo who gives him a dire warning that Teasle fails to heed.
The HK93A2 is Heckler & Koch’s semi-automatic civilian version of its HK43 and has a fixed stock. About 18,000 HK43 and HK93 rifles were imported before the 1989 import ban. The rifle pictured was recently sold at RIAC’s December Premier Auction.
When Sheriff Teasle heads out of the sheriff’s department in the morning he carries his trusty Model 66. He greets several townfolk as he gets into his squad car. A short time later, he runs across John Rambo walking through town and takes note of the long hair and worn Army jacket.
The sheriff offers a ride and the two chat. Rambo wants a bite to eat and the sheriff tells him there’s a good diner in the next town about 30 miles away. Asked if there was a place to eat in Hope, the lawman says no. “We don’t want guys like you in this town.”
Confronted by deputies after taking an Army truck with an M60, they fire their Model 10 revolvers at Rambo from their squad car before he forces the deputies off the road, slamming their police unit into a parked vehicle.
Pictured is a Model 10-5 that was introduced in 1962 where the sight width was changed from 1/10 to 1/8. The Model 10 was first introduced in 1957 but had previously held different designations before that including the .38 Hand Ejector Model of 1899, the Military & Police, or the Victory Model with changes to the gun along the way that included chambering for heavier rounds and changes in the lock mechanism.
The M60 is on the movie poster with a belt of ammo draped over Rambo’s shoulder showing it is nearly as much a star of the film as Stallone.
After Rambo jumps onto an Army truck as the movie heads to its conclusion, he learns from the soldier driving, before assisting him out of the truck, that an M60 is mounted in the truck bed. Crashing into a gas station’s pumps, Rambo removes the machine gun from its mount and fires at the pooling gasoline to create an explosion.
Rambo finds the sheriff atop the police station building and slowly stalks him, shooting out transformers to knock out power and darken the sheriff’s office. Rambo ultimately uses the M60 to wound Teasle who falls through a skylight.
Ready to continue the fight, Rambo is confronted by Col. Sam Trautman, his former commanding officer in Vietnam who talks him into surrender. Trautman, played by Richard Crenna, arrived in the small town trying to warn the sheriff and his men about the danger of Rambo, telling them, “I didn’t come to rescue Rambo from you. I came here to rescue you from him.”
The M60, or “the pig,” ranks among the highest selling machine guns Rock Island Auction has offered, with one selling for over $100,000 in December 2022. As a Vietnam veteran, Rambo would’ve been familiar with the M60 since they were carried through the jungle, went aloft in helicopters and mounted on gunboats of the brown water navy.
Don’t remember this pistol in the movie? For good reason as the end veers away from the book’s ending. In David Morell’s 1972 book, “First Blood,” on which the movie is based, Trautman fatally shoots Rambo. A similar scene in the sheriff’s department using an M1911A1 was filmed for the movie but discarded.
Director Ted Kotcheff recalled the moment after filming the scene that Stallone took him aside. Stallone said, “You know, Ted, we put this character through so much. The police abuse him. He’s pursued endlessly. Dogs are sent after him. He jumps off cliffs. He runs through freezing water. He’s shot in the arm and he has to sew it up himself. All this, and now we’re gonna kill him?”
Kotcheff agreed and went to the producers with the idea that Rambo would be walked out of the sheriff’s department by Trautman. The producers initially concerned about going over budget resisted, but Kotcheff and Stallone won out and shot the scene right after filming the initial ending. The producers played the original ending for test audiences who hated it. The movie opened in theaters with Kotcheff and Stallone’s ending.
“Unhappy endings are intellectual endings. But happy endings are popular endings,” the director told Entertainment Weekly in 2017. “To which I might add, for Andy Vajna and Mario Kassar, who produced three Rambo sequels: Profitable endings, too!”
The original scene was used as one of Rambo’s nightmares in “Rambo: First Blood Part II.”
Adopted by the U.S. Army in 1911, the Colt Model 1911 chambered in .45 ACP served in both World Wars with slight refinements along the way and was also used by the military through Korea and Vietnam until it was replaced by Beretta’s M9 in the mid-1980s.
While it is set around Christmas, “First Blood” fails to offer any of the tropes required to make it a Christmas movie other than a lot of evergreen trees, some decorations, and a hint of snow. That said it is definitely a fun but intense watch with its gunplay and action, truly a departure from stop-animation classics, Bing Crosby and nativity sets. Plus, most would agree that no one wants to see a wronged John Rambo coming down their chimney on Christmas Eve.
From the time a young Samuel Colt observed the working of a capstan on board a sailing ship in the early 1800s to when he produced the Colt Paterson
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