Guns of Rambo: Section 2

The second Rambo movie was an astonishing international success, breaking box office records all over the world, and cementing the … Continued

The second Rambo movie was an astonishing international success, breaking box office records all over the world, and cementing the character of John Rambo as a pop culture icon of the 1980s. Another sequel was inevitable. Stallone hit the gym and came back for the simply titled Rambo III, dropping the “First Blood” moniker and leaning into the sequel craze of the era in 1988. Sly was bigger, his hair was longer, the film’s budget had more zeroes, and this time, it was personal. No seriously. That was one of the movie’s tag lines. And at the time, it wasn’t that unoriginal. The movie is fun and its pure Rambo, but it does have a feeling like the filmmakers were constantly trying to outdo the previous two movies, making it more a spectacle with far less meaning and emotional impact than either of the previous installments. Instead of having to rescue nameless POWs from their captors in Vietnam, this time Rambo has to rescue his former mentor, Col. Sam Trautman, from a Soviet fort in Afghanistan. The plot has to do with Tratuman volunteering for a CIA mission to smuggle Stinger missiles to Afghani rebels (this really happened BTW) so they could stand a chance against the mechanized Soviet forces, namely their devastating helicopter attacks. Rambo refuses to accompany Trautman on the black bag mission, and his guilt and sense of duty compel him to go on the solo rescue mission after he’s captured.

Rambo III (1988)

When Rambo III came out, the character had changed quite a bit in the public consciousness. Rambo 2 was a sequel to a somewhat sleepy post-Vietnam story that was unconventional but fairly subdued.

The third movie had to pick up after the second movie made the character an 80s icon. In the late 1980s, Rambo was on all kinds of products, including lunchboxes, action figures, and all kinds of toy guns—not to mention a popular cartoon series. The long hair, headband, muscles, knife, and machine gun had become iconic.

So the only thing to do was make the third movie even bigger than the first. It has some high aspirations. Rambo had been in the forest, then the jungle and now he was going, prophetically, to the desert—which would become the primary environment of U.S.-involved warfare for the next few decades.

And sequels had become very common, hence the simplified title that ditched the “First Blood” moniker and just went with a big, bold “Rambo III.”

Rambo with an AKM rifle oddly fitted with an M203 grenade launcher, which is made for the M16 / M4 rifle platform. Trautman (Richard Crenna) is carrying a Hungarian-made AMD-65.

Rambo III is a strange movie, from a gun perspective. It’s also strange in that it helps make the titles of the Rambo film series one the first to actively confuse audiences, though there have been many since. First Blood was followed by Rambo: First Blood Part II and then we got, Rambo III, which was followed 20 years later by the fourth film, simply titled, Rambo. One could say the titles regressed.

But back to the guns, which are strange, especially for the time period. Originally, the entire film was set to be filmed in Israel, standing in for Afghanistan, with the opening filmed in Thailand, standing in for, well, Thailand.

After the events of Part II, we find John Rambo in Thailand, having retreated there after his return to Vietnam and subsequent double-cross by the CIA. He lives in a Buddhist Monastery, but when Col. Trautman goes looking for him, he finds his former protege living a double life, one of peace and service in the monastery acting as a carpenter, and one of violence, participating in vicious stick fights in a nearby village on the river for money, which he then gives to the monks.

Trautman, again in league with the CIA, has decided to embark on a dangerous covert mission in which he will be inserted into Afghanistan to help clear the way for the secret delivery of Stinger missiles to rebel groups fighting against the Soviet invaders. He wants Rambo to come along, but he says no. Trautman goes anyway and gets himself captured, and Rambo can’t live with that, so he sets off to rescue him on his own.

AKM
Note how Stallone has to awkwardly grip the AKM’s magazine in order to fire the M203 grenade launcher.

A number of scenes were filmed in Eilat, the southern most tip of Israel between Jordan and Egypt, using Israeli armorers to provide guns for the film.

Consequently, the first half of the movie is replete with accurate Soviet weapons of the time, something hardly any movie made in the 1980s can claim. Most American films of the era had to make due with Chinese AK copies and other modded weaponry and gear.

But, about halfway through filming, the spectacle of a major American movie being filmed int he Middle East drew a lot of attention. It didn’t hurt that *First Blood: Rambo Part II** had made the character, and Stallone, internationally famous. There were some terrorist threats made against the production, and in the film’s commentary, Stallone says he was near some type of security incident in which his bodyguards had to intervene. Regardless of the particulars, things got too dangerous and Israel revoked permission for the film to be made there, citing security concerns.

The movie wasn’t going to be scrapped, so the production was up and moved to the deserts of Southern California and Arizona. But all those accurate Soviet guns were still back in Israel. Stembridge Gun Rentals took over, according to imfdb.org, for the U.S. shoot and did the best it could to produce Soviet-looking guns.

As a result, the end of the film includes mocked up Browning M2 .50 Cal machine guns meant to look like real Soviet DShK 12.7 mm machine guns. If you pay attention, the accurate Soviet vehicles from the middle of the film are modified American tanks in the final battle.

Though there are numerous intercut scenes, the portion of the movie filmed in Israel with Soviet weapons ends roughly after the first prison escape, and the scene filmed in the U.S. with mocked up guns picks up from there.

M203
Here Stallone hits the release on the M203 with his left index finger to reload it. imfdb.org

This film is also a departure in that Rambo doesn’t get his signature firearm or a variant of it, the M60 machine gun. Actually, he really doesn’t use any one gun for very in this film, frequently trading them out for guns he finds along the way. This makes a bit of sense in the context of the film. He makes his way to Afghanistan with the help of the CIA spook who was working with Trautman, so he can’t bring a lot of gear. When he meets his contact, he has some gear waiting for him: C4 explosives and timed detonators, a bow and explosive arrows from the previous film, his knife (presumabley), and some clothes and other gear, but no gun. After all, the plan was to silently get Trautman out and escape the enemy fort with nobody the wiser.

In fact, he’s not even carrying a gun during his insertion into the Soviet camp, only his knife and a bag of explosives, though he does pick up a carbine shortly after getting through the minefield.

The most distinctive gun he uses in this film is an odd one. During the final scene, after Rambo beats Sgt. Kourov (Randy Raney) hand-to-hand and sends him into a cavern at the end of a rope, after pulling the pin on a grenade hooked to his vest (yeah, it was pretty awesome), he picks up the Russian’s weapon: an AKM rifle with an M203 grenade launcher mounted under the barrel.

This is obviously a portion of the film shot in the U.S. First, the rifle is a Maadi ARM rifle with an aftermarket side-folding stock made for a Galil rifle, instead of an AK or AKM.

Second, the M203 40mm launcher was made to be attached to the M16 and M4 rifle platforms, not the AK-47 platform. At the time, the correct grenade launcher would have been the Soviet 40mm BG-15, which would have been mounted to an AK-74 during the Russo-Afghan war.

According to imfdb.org, the mating of an M203 to an AK was seen much later in the 21st century by militias in Africa out of necessity, but this was a pretty original looking arrangement in the 1980s, and made for a distinctive firearm, even if it’s highly inaccurate. 
 In the photo above, you see the odd way Stallone has to hold the magazine in order to pull the trigger on the M203 launcher.

Rambo with another AKM in the Russian fort.

During Rambo’s first attempt to rescue Trautman, he picks up an AKM rifle from a downed guard before making his way out of the Soviet fort, forced to leave Trautman behind when the kid from the village alerts the guards, and gets himself wounded.

The AKM and variants are used by both Mujahideen and Soviet soldiers as well as by Rambo and Trautman, throughout the film, however they alternate between real Soviet AKMs and Egyptian-made Maadi ARM rifles for the U.S.-filmed scenes.

During the fort escape sequence, many viewers assumed there were continuity errors, as Rambo’s gun changes a couple times. Actually, since he’s not carrying any magazines or pouches for them, Rambo simply keeps picking up fully loaded guns from downed bad guys along the way.

AKMS
Rambo uses Mousa’s AKMS with a wire stock to help break through a grate in the sewer to escape the Soviet fort. imfdb.org

He enters the tunnel with Mousa Ghani (Sasson Gabai) and the wounded boy with a full stock AKM, but soon after uses a AKMS with a wire stock to break through the sewer grating. He actually discards his rifle along the way and takes Mousa’s AKMS for the task.

In the final battle, Mousa uses a Chinese-made Norinco Type 56-1 with an underfolding stock.

Chopped AMD-65

Rambo with a chopped AMD-65 rifle, originally made for tank crews.

The first gun Rambo picks up upon entering the Soviet fort the first time is a Hungarian-made AMD-65 (Automatic Modified Paratrooper), which is a variant of the AKM. The rifle’s size makes it adequate for use as an infantry rifle as well as for use as a fire support weapon from an armored vehicle or tank.

The gun is fitted with a 12.6-inch barrel and a side-folding stock to keep it extra compact. It uses a specially designed muzzle brake in lieu of a gas expansion chamber to ensure reliable cycling. The brake reduces muzzle flash but makes the gun quite a bit louder. It also has a vertical fore grip for added control.

The brake on Rambo’s gun has been replaced with an Israeli Blank fire adapter. Several Soviet tankers are seen with the same gun and Trautman uses one at the beginning of the final battle.

Rambo with the Dragunov after escaping the crashed helicopter.

When the Hind helicopter Rambo uses to evac himself, Trautman, and at least four other prisoners, crashes a the bottom of a canyon, he grabs his bow and a gun on the way out of the cabin…and perhaps most disappointingly for gun lovers watching, it’s never seen again.

The rifle is an SVD Dragunov, a particularly vicious looking semi-auto sniper rifle chambered in 7.62-54mmR that was developed in the Soviet Union around 1963. It was designed as a squad support weapon.

SVD Dragunov
In a deleted scene, Rambo fires the Dragunov sniper rifle as Trautman spots for him, calling hits and misses. imfdb.org

It’s entirely possible the gun in the film is a Chinese-made NDM-86, which was readily available on the commercial market in the late 80s, since that scene was likely filmed in the U.S.

When the movie was released on DVD, we found out that there were deleted scenes filmed of Rambo using the Dragunov to snipe a number of Soviet troops with Trautman acting as a spotter.

He thins the numbers of the pursuing soldiers until the rifle runs out of ammunition and is discarded as the pair heads into the caverns. Trautman calls the range at about 1,000 yards…so the shots Rambo ends up making are pretty amazing lol.

Rambo with a PKM fitted with a 200-round drum during the final battle.

During the final battle with the Red Army, Rambo briefly uses a PKM machine gun, which one could say was the Soviet counterpart to the M60. This means the scenes of him using the gun with a 200-round box magazine attached were likely shot in Israel and inserted into the final battle footage.

Rambo fires a Browning M2HB machine gun, mocked up to look like a Soviet gun.

The heavy machine guns are interesting in this film. During the final battle, we see Rambo use a machine gun mounted in a blue pickup truck driven onto the battlefield by the rebels. It’s actually a Browning M2HB .50-caliber machine gun fitted with a fake barrel shroud and muzzle brake to make it look vaguely Soviet, or at least, not like a Browning M-2, but if you take a close look at the receiver, it’s obviously a Ma Deuce.

Rambo behind an actual Soviet DShK 12.7mm heavy machine gun, used while the production filmed in Israel.

Earlier in the film, when the Soviet attack helicopters tear up the Afghan village, we get a rare cinematic look at an authentic DSkH 12.7mm Soviet Heavy Machine Gun, as this was almost certainly one of the Isreal-filmed scenes.

Soviet DShK
Another shot of Rambo on the DShK. Here you get a good look at the gun’s non-disintegrating ammunition belt. imfdb.org

The gun was often featured, made out of a mocked-up Browning M2, but this is the real thing, with it’s distinctive sights and non-disintegrating ammunition belt.

One of the guards at the base camp is also armed with a DShK and so is the clueless guard who Rambo sneaks up on when he goes back to the fort to rescue Trautman.

Rambo fires an RPG-7 at a truck during the first escape from the Soviet fort.

In what is possible a nod to the previous film, Rambo picks up an RPG-7 as he is escaping the fort the first time. He fires it from behind some large rocks and takes out an enemy truck, temporarily blocking the fort entrance and buying them some time to get away.

Since the scene is pretty dark, it’s tough to see if it’s a genuine RPG-7 or not. But the launch looked pretty good, even if the rocket was on a wire.

Rambo returns with the Hoyt compound bow and explosive arrows, but uses a bow-mounted quiver this time.

Although Rambo didn’t get his M60 this time around, he still got his bow and knife.

Making a second appearance in the franchise is Rambo’s compound bow, which was part of the gear he request Mousa have ready for him. It’s the same model from Hoyt used in Part II, but with some different accessories. The flashlight from Part II has been removed and an on-board arrow quiver has been added, instead of the bow bag doubling as a quiver like in Part II.

bow
Rambo using his bow in the dark caverns. imfdb.org

He first assembles the bow just after the helicopter crash, before he and Trautman descend in the caverns. He uses the first arrow with an explosive tip to take out a helicopter as it crests a hill.

He then uses the bow in a stalking scene, similar to those includes in previous films, which takes place in the canyons, which is made a bit more interesting as it takes place in complete darkness, though at least on of Rambo’s pursuers has night vision goggles. Rambo also attaches a blue cyalume lightstick to an arrow, which he fires into a bad guy, to distract his other pursuers and allow him to change position.

Rambo’s knife for the third film was designed by Gil Hibben and is a departure from the designs in the previous two films.

Rambo also gets a knife, though its a major departure from the previous two blades he carried. Though Jimmy Lile was again contacted to create a new knife, he and Stallone couldn’t agree on a design. Stallone then went to knife maker Gil Hibben, known largely for his remarkable fantasy knives, who first created a knife based on Lile’s previous designs. It was a larger version of the same survival knife shape, but now inflated to bowie-knife size with more saw teeth and a blood groove in the center of the polished blade, as well as finger grooves in the hollow, cord-wrapped handle, which went back to being green like the knife from First Blood.

The knife even made it on set and can be briefly seen in a couple shots during the mine-field probing scene, but Stallone really wanted the character to have a bowie knife this time around instead of a survival knife.

rambo knife
Prototypes for the Rambo III knife. An early Hibben prototype can be seen on the far right, with a horizontal blade fixed in the slot cut in the main blade. imfdb.org

The knife we see in the rest of the film is the distinctive and menacing bowie from Hibben with an angled stainless steel guard, rapier style handle, and a stainless steel butt cap.

The blade was over 12 inches, made of 440 chromium steel, and was .25-inches thick.

Instead of sawteeth, there is the suggestion of saw teeth on the blade’s spine with eight notches for the eight men who served in Rambo’s unit, Baker Company, in Vietnam. There is actually a deleted scene showing Rambo forging the knife himself in the monastery before embarking on the rescue mission to save Trautman. It’s pretty silly to think he could make such a refined product in such a facility in only one night..and perhaps that’s why it was scrapped. Stallone re-used the idea in the next film on a knife that looks like it was forged from a truck spring in the jungle.

early knife prototype
The original knife Gil Hibben designed for the film, which was more like the Lile designs, actually made it into a couple shots. imfdb.org

The knife also has a distinctive slot cut into the blade, which it was assumed acted like a runnel to balance and lighten the big knife. In fact, in a prototype photo of the knife, it was revealed Hibben had intended for a Batman-symbol-looking horizontal blade to be inserted into the slot and locked with a spring-loaded release button—the purpose of which remains a mystery.

Col. Zaysen (Marc de Jonge) puts his submachine gun to Col. Trautman’s (Richard Crenna) throat. Though it looks like the slide is locked open, the unusual gun is actually ready to fire.

Now here’s a gun you certainly won’t see very often on the silver screen. In fact, the only English language movies you’ll see it in are Rambo III and The Delta Force (1986).

The gun is a Polish-made submachine gun used extensively by Police Special Ops units and Airborne units, as well as police divisions while Poland was an active member of the Warsaw Pact. Its chambered in 9mm Makarov and is one of the few actual submachine guns issue behind the iron curtain in the post-war period between 1946 and the early 1970s. The gun was copied and produced without license as the Type 82 in China.

You might notice that the actor playing Col. Zaysen seems to work the slide when he draws it and when it’s pressed to Col. Trautman’s throat, it seems like the slide is locked open—this is due to the somewhat unusual operation of the gun.

The RAK is a selective fire, straight blowback firearm that uses a rotating barrel system. Like many submachine guns, it fires from an open bolt, but unlike most sub guns, it has a reciprocating external breech bolt, more commonly known as a slide.

The gun looks like the slide is locked open, but this means it’s ready to fire. When the trigger is pulled, the slide is released and driven forward by the return spring, stripping a round form the magazine and feeding it into the chamber. As soon as that cartridge lines up with the chamber, the extractor grips the rim and the gun fires while the slide is still moving forward. It is then driven back by the recoil of the round and the sequence starts over again.

Mousa (Sasson Gabai) fires his Chinese-made Norinco Type 56 during the final battle in the desert.

While many genuine Russian-made AKs are featured during the fort scene, which was largely filmed in Israel, the big battle at the end of the movie was shot in the U.S., meaning firearms had to be sourced from different places. Instead of AK-47 rifles, Chinese-made Type 56 rifles were used instead. Since China supplied many Type 56 rifles to Mujahideen fighters via Pakistan during the 1980s, this is actually accurate.

Trautman’s AKM Rifles

Col. Trautman aims his AKM during the Soviet abduction near the beginning of the movie.

There are a lot of genuine AKMs in the movie, especially in the first half that was filmed in Israel. When filming in the states, Egyptian-made Maadi ARM rifles were used to stand in for AKMs.

Both Rambo and Trautman use AKMs, and Trautman is clearly seen flicking the safety off on his AKM while listening for approaching helicopters while trying to facilitate the secret importation of Stinger missiles to the rebels at the beginning of the movie.

The AA gun used by Trautman in the final battle is actually an unloaded acetylene gun that shoots bursts of flame from the muzzle.

During the final battle, after Trautman is wounded in the shoulder, he mans a Oerlikon 20mm Anti-Aircraft gun, though they didn’t do a very good job at making its use look realistic.

Namely, its missing its rear sight and, more importantly, its missing a giant drum magazine that feeds into the top of the gun. So, we see Trautman firing an unloaded auto cannon.

And as we can see in several shots, the gun is actually an “acetylene gun,” which is a real gun mocked up with gas internals that simulate firing by ejecting bursts of flame from the muzzle—this is done often for large firearms and artillery pieces that would be simply too dangerous to actually fire, even with blanks, in front of the cameras.

Trautman fires it at an incoming helicopter at fairly close range, causing some damage. In reality, even a single 20mm round would likely tear right through that chopper at that range, taking it down instantly.

Gruesome Scene

For this movie, we get a throwback to First Blood as Rambo has to do a bit of self surgery. During the failed attempt to rescue Trautman from the Soviet fort, Rambo catches a piece of shrapnel in his side from an explosion. Its actually a fairly large piece of wood that goes clean through him. When first injured, Rambo he breaks off the giant splinter like an arrow so he can continue to fight.

Once he’s alone in the cave after he Musa, and the annoying kid escape, he reveals how much pain he’s actually in and rips his shirt open to expose the grievous wound. After washing it with some canteen water, he pushes the piece of wood out of the wound by jamming his thumb into the hole from the back. As if that’s not enough, he stops the bleeding by cauterizing the wound. He accomplishes this by dumping the propellant from a 7.62 round into it after knocking the bullet off with his boot knife.

He then sets fire to the propellent, causing a jet of fire to shoot out of both ends of the wound. On Blu Ray, The closeups of the piece of wood being pulled from the wound don’t look as real as they did on VHS, but the fire effect still holds up, still looks real, and still looks crazy painful.

Rambo (2008)

After Rambo III, the series took an unexpected and extended hiatus that ended up lasting about 20 years.

Stallone moved on to new projects throughout the 1990s, with several major hits like Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, Assassins, and Daylight.

In 1997, Sly went back to his dramatic roots, starring in the action-light Copland with an ensemble cast including Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, Michael Rappaport, and Robert Patrick, as well as a bunch of veteran character actors. He gained a significant amount of weight for the role, which got a lot of headlines. The movie wasn’t a box office success, and Stallone’s career took a bit of a downturn after that, with a few bright spots here and there.

(As an aside, if you haven’t seen Copland since it came out, do yourself a favor and get a DVD copy of the Director’s Cut. There were a number of elements that were chopped out to trim the run time, and unfortunately for the theatrical release, the cuts created some serious plot holes and bad pacing. It really is a different movie with the material added in—a true gem from the past.)

As the years wore on, there wasn’t much confidence in the idea of an aged Stallone who wasn’t the box office draw he used to be returning to a role that was most known for being super chiseled and shirtless most of the time while running through explosions.

However, in 2006, Stallone revived the character that made him famous with the well-received Rocky Balboa.

In a sense, this marked a comeback for Stallone, and that allowed him to make the fourth Rambo film in 2008—which after two decades also served as sort of a reintroduction of the character to modern audiences. When they saw the red band trailer for the new Rambo movie (above), the buzz began building and the movie was a smash at the box office domestically, and especially in international markets.

Stallone returns as the former Green Beret, POW, and Vietnam veteran John J. Rambo, who is a much worse mental place than when we last found him and in a new, dark stage of his life.

Stallone reprises the role of John J. Rambo in a fourth film, and uses a handgun for the first time: an M1911A1, with some custom features. In the script for Rambo 2, he parachuted into the jungle with a silenced pistol on his hip, but it was changed to a bow for filming.

Again, like in the third movie, he has tried to find a harmonious existence by staying away from violence and working as a river boat captain and snake hunter in Southeast Asia, near the Burmese border—but he’s bitter about how his life has turned out and is tortured over the lack of meaning behind all the killing and death in his past.

Unfortunately, Richard Crenna, who played Col. Trautman, passed away in 2003 and Stallone did not want to recast the part, though Crenna is present in a few excellent flashbacks of Trautman.

The film begins with a group of missionary aid workers hiring Rambo to take them upriver into Burma. After a lot of prodding, Rambo agrees.

On the way, the group is stopped by a gang of river pirates. When they see that she’s woman, the pirates demand Sarah as payment for passage, despite Rambo’s attempts to offer money instead.

The leader of the river pirates holds a Walther P38 on Rambo and his passengers.

When the situation is just about to erupt, Rambo decides violence is the only option, and draws an M1911A1 pistol and shoots all the pirates with blinding speed, before marching onto the enemy’s boat and killing a wounded pirate with a final round to the head. If you watch the theatrical version, it’s like three shots to the head from different angles—in the Director’s Cut, it’s one shot.

Rambo’s pistol is a slightly customized M1911A1 with an ambidextrous safety and extended slide stop added, as well as a slightly flared mag well attached to the mainspring housing—a sidearm fitting a man who joined the U.S. Army in 1964.

Other than the deleted scene in First Blood, this is the first time we ever see Rambo use or even hold a handgun.

While the mercenaries Rambo later guides in the jungle are well-armed with an array of firearms, the titular character doesn’t even use another gun until the very end of the film, instead opting for his bow and a new knife, but we’ll get to those in a minute.

Rambo uses the Browning M2 to destroy the driver of the truck in which its mounted.

In an extremely memorable scene that has been burned into action movie history, when the mercenaries and their rescued prisoners are cornered by enemy troops against the riverbank, Rambo gets into position behind an enemy truck with a Browning M2 Aircraft machine gun mounted in the back of it.

After literally beheading the gunner with his knife (yeah, it’s a big knife), Rambo then liquify’s the truck’s driver with a few point-blank range rounds from the .50 caliber machine gun.

He then turns the gun on the enemy soldiers, unleashing a brutal salvo of machine gun fire that cuts down a large number of soldiers and trees, giving the mercenaries a chance to defend themselves.

Browning M2
Rambo firing the Browning, which originally, he was going to carry on the battlefield. imfdb.org

Rambo’s efforts are bolstered by the Karen rebels, who use his attack as a cue to begin their own assault.

The Browning M2 in the film has a perforated shroud around the barrel (which makes it an Aircraft model) plus an added muzzle brake that looks a bit like the brake on a Barrett M82A1. It’s in place to divert the muzzle flash to the sides, which can be particularly helpful if shooting from behind a shield with your only viewpoint located above the barrel.

Browning M2
Rambo cuts down bad guys and trees with the .50-caliber machine gun. imfdb.org

According to imfdb.org, the original idea was for Rambo to wield the Browning M2 by hand—sort of like an M60 on a whole bunch of steroids—and Stallone was actually able to carry and fire blanks through the huge 120-pound gun, but they weren’t able to make it look good enough on film. It was just too cumbersome for him to move well.

They then mounted the gun in the back of a truck, but when they test fired it, the recoil ripped the gun right out of the truck bed. The mount was reinforced and bolted directly to the truck’s frame for the actual filming.

Rambo again has his trusty compound bow in this film, though it’s obviously a new one since he left the original in the jungles of Vietnam and the previous one in the deserts of Afghanistan.

In the beginning of the film, we see Rambo bow fishing from his boat using an ML14 Mountaneer Longbow with an attached reel, and is clearly different from the bow he uses later, as we can see from the lack of cam wheels.

This time, instead of a Hoyt, Rambo uses another vintage compound bow, a Martin Cougar II. The bow is extremely bare bones, with only a small arrow rest attached and no sights to speak of. Rambo carries his extra arrows in a quiver on his back the way he did in Rambo 2.

He only uses the bow in one scene, to stop the Burmese soldiers’ barbaric betting game in the rice paddies, killing several soldiers from ranges of about 60 yards.

Rambo with the small machete he forges himself at the river camp. The new knife was designed by Gil Hibben, who designed the Rambo III knife.

After that, Rambo relies on the knife, or more accurately, the small machete he forges in the river camp before heading out with the mercenaries.

The knife is crude and looks like it could have been hammered out in a jungle blacksmith workshop from a truck spring, which is exactly how Gil Hibben went about creating the prototype for the film, which was even a bit too refined for what Stallone wanted.

The final products isn’t much more than a brutally shaped, sharpened hunk of steel with wrapped paracord for a handle.

Combat Machete
A behind-the-scenes shot of Stallone with the Rambo IV knife. imfdb.org

Originally, Rambo has the knife from the second movie in his possession (which makes sense since he still had it at the end of Part II). In a deleted scene, he returns to the pirate boat the morning after the confrontation on his way back down river, uses the knife to punch holes in the boat’s fuel drums, and then sets the whole thing on fire, tossing his knife into the flames.

It was meant to show how angry Rambo was with himself for killing again. It was ultimately left out of the theatrical cut, but was included in the Director’s Cut of the film on Blu Ray.

Rambo 2 knife
A deleted scene feature Rambo using his knife from the second movie before throwing it away in disgust after being forced to kill the boatful of river pirates. imfdb.org

To create a sheath for his new knife, he improvises one by cutting off the bottom of the sheath for the Part II knife so it can fit the machete and that’s what he carries for the rest of the film.

Hibben made a version of the Part III knife for this movie, but it was either never filmed or ended up on the cutting room floor.

Combat Machete
Knifemaker Gil Hibben holding the blade he designed for Rambo (2008). imfdb.org

Most of the plot of Rambo (2008) feels like Stallone took the plot of Rambo III and made it more realistic and brutal. Even the scene where he hammers out his own knife was borrowed from the third movie, which if you have on Blu Ray, you know there was a deleted scene where Rambo forges his knife at the monastery before heading off to Afghanistan to rescue Trautman.

In this movie, he forges the small machete (which is a much more realistic blade to craft quickly with limited tools) at his fishing camp before setting out with the group of mercenaries to rescue the missionaries. Stallone actually worked through different stages of forging the knife to get the footage, burning his hands a bit during the process.

Combat Machete
Rambo preparing to use his machete to take the head off an enemy soldier in a particularly memorable scene. imfdb.org

We first see him use the big blade during the prison rescue scene as he stalks through the rainy camp to find the missionaries. Later, he uses it again to kill the .50 Cal machine gunner and then again at the very end, when he confronts Major Pa Tee Tint, the local army leader, as the battle dies down.

Rambo preps the fake Claymore mine, which has a coil of tripwire on the front.

On the way into the jungle with the mercenaries, the group passes an old, gigantic undetonated bomb stuck in the ground. Their guide tells them it is a British Tall Boy bomb that was dropped during WWII. There are a couple problems with this.

Based on the shape of the bomb, it looks to be the larger “Grand Slam” bomb, which was one of the first bunker buster bombs, sometimes called the Earthquake bomb. It was 26 feet long and weight 10 tons. It was used by the RAF and the U.S. Army Air Force in 1944.

While the explosion depicted, which produces a mushroom cloud, is fairly accurate as the bomb contained 9,135 lbs. of Torpex D1 explosive, which is capable of displacing about 2 million cubic feet of earth.

What is kind of hard to fathom is what the bomb would be doing in Burma. No earthquake bombs of any size were use din the Far East or Pacifi theaters, and the RAF never even deployed the type of plane necessary to carry the Grand Slam bomb in Burma. The U.S. used the Grand Slam bombs, carried by modified B-29s against the Germans in Europe, but not in the Pacific Theater.

The only way the bomb could have ended up there was if a bomber carrying it was damaged, flew off course, and its crew as forced to ditch over the jungle, or it crashed while flying low and shed the bomb some distance from the crash site.

Regardless, in the world of the movie, the giant bomb is there. During their retreat later in the movie, Rambo leads his pursuers toward the bomb, which he then rigs up with an M18A1 Claymore mine he gets from School Boy earlier.

When the bad guys trip the mine, the explosion sets of the old bomb, creating a massive explosion.

MERCENARY TEAM

Reese (Jake La Botz) with his M4A1 with an M203 attached.

Reese (Jake La Botz) carries an M4A1 with M203 Grenade Launcher attached and a tan camo paint job. The carbine is topped with an ACOG sight mounted on the carry handle.

According to imfdb.org, this is the exact same gun originally built by Independent Studio Services for Tyrese Gibson to use in Transformers (although the camouflage paint job had worn off during shooting on the earlier film and had to be re-applied for Rambo).

Lewis with his customized Mossberg 590 shotgun.

Former SAS trooper Lewis (Graham McTavish) is the only member of the mercenary team to carry a shotgun. He totes a customized Mossberg 590 pump action shotgun with a rear stock attached to a Mesa Tactical m4 adapter block and a Mesa Tactical top receiver rail with an EOTech holographic sight mounted on top.

Lewis also carries spare 12 gauge shells in a large bandolier slung across his body.

Lewis with a Norinco Type 56.
Lewis with a Norinco Type 56. imfdb.org

Later, during the final battle on the riverbank, Lewis picks up a discarded Norinco Type 56 and uses it to support the Karen rebels during their fight against the Burmese army.

School Boy aims down the scope of his Barrett M107CQ rifle.

School Boy (Matthew Marsden) carries an Barrett M107CQ as the group’s sniper, which is a Close Quarters Combat version of the M82A1M/M82A3.During the night raid during the rainstorm, the gun is equiped with an AN/PEQ-2A mounted on the scope and is seen firing fully suppressed—or, at least, suppressed far more than a supersonic .50 BMG round can be.

The effects of the massive rounds are exaggerated a bit, shown to knock targets six feet backward and off their feet at range, but not very much, as a .50 BMG can do an awesome amount of damage.

Diaz (Reynaldo A. Gallegos) carries a DSA SA-58 OSW short FAL Carbine.

Diaz (Reynaldo A. Gallegos) carries a DSA SA-58 OSW, which is a shortened carbine version of the FAL, with a folding stock. The version in the movie has the Type III Metric receiver. Diaz’s gun is topped with an Aimpoint sight.

Major Pa Tee Tint (Maung Maung Khin) carries a compact version of the Jericho 941 pistol as his personal sidearm.

Antagonist Maj. Pa Tee Tint (Maung Maung Khin), leader of the local battalion of the Burmese Army carries a Jericho 941 RS compact as his personal sidearm. We only see him use it during the final battle of the film.

The actor, Maung Maung Khin, was a real life Karen resistance fighter who escaped to Thailand, where the movie was filmed.

Myint (Supakorn Kitsuwon) with his cut down AKMS.

Myint (Supakorn Kitsuwon), the Karen rebel leader carries a cut down AKMS that we see him use during the final battle.

According to imfdb.org, the custom gun has parts from the Norinco Type 56 and the AKMS. These guns don’t have interchangeable parts, but the gun was massively customized and rebuilt almost from scratch. This is similar to the gun used by Claire Danes in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.