The 1980s were an eclectic decade for Eastwood, though the frequency of his action-oriented films decreased quite a bit as he got older and began exploring different types of movies, like The Bridges of Madison County. Nevertheless, he mades some awesome gun flicks, right on up to 1990.
Sudden Impact (1983 – Dirty Harry series)
For the fourth Dirty Harry film, Sudden Impact, Eastwood goes in a slightly different direction when it comes to handguns. The character is also taken out of his native San Francisco for the majority of the film, instead investigating a multiple murder case that leads him to the California town of Santa Cruz.
At the start, Callahan returns with his trusty S&W Model 29 and delivers the famous “Go ahead, make my day” speech before taking out a bunch of bad guys trying to rob a restaurant. There’s also another great line from that scene that gets overshadowed by the now-immortal tagline:
Harry: “Well, we’re not just gonna let you walk outta here.
Armed Robber: “Who’s we, sucker?”
Harry: “Smith. And Wesson. And me.”
During a transition scene, we see Callahan setting up a makeshift shooting range near his car in the woods in order to try out a new acquisition: an AMP Auto Mag Model 180 chambered in .44 AMP. If you never heard of it, don’t feel bad. They haven’t been around for about 30 years.
The .44 Auto Mag was designed between 1966 and 1971 and produced until 1982 with the goal of bringing .44 Magnum power to a semi-auto pistol. The .44 Auto Mag cartridge was designed to shoot .429-inch, 240 grain bullets at about the same velocity as the .44 Magnum and we formed from cut-down .308 Winchester or .30-06 cases.
The pistol’s relative short life span had less to do with the gun and more to do with constant leadership changes and bad decisions at AMP. The company ended up losing more than $1,000 on each gun they sold, which retailed wholesale for about $170. They intentionally underpriced it to indicate market demand to potential investors. The guns sold for about $220 in the 1970s. Used Auto Mags sell for $3,000-$4,000 today.
Recently, rumors of the Auto Mag’s return have been circulating since Walter Sanford sold all the company assets, including the name and trademark to Auto Mag Ltd. Corp. in August 2015.
UPDATE: As of SHOT Show 2018, the Auto Mag has made a comback, being produced with modern manufacturing techniques and materials. You can read more about it here.
Callahan keeps the semi-auto in a wood case with two spare magazines, though it seems he keeps the gun unloaded. Apparently, the production crew had a tough time acquiring an Auto Mag for filming. They actually had to contact the original designer who built two guns for the film from parts in his basement. The first was left in live fire mode so Eastwood could shoot it at the range, so later, he could accurately depict recoil. The second gun was converted to fire blanks for the movie. The serial numbers on the guns were “Clint1” and “Clint2”.
From a tactical standpoint, the Auto Mag gave Harry two additional rounds over his Model 29, and much faster reloads, even though Harry uses speedloaders for his revolver.
In the film, he has to retrieve the Auto Mag from his rented room when his Model 29 is kicked off a dock by the leader of a group of rapists and thugs, Mick (Paul Drake). He uses it for the remainder of the film to go up against the gang and avenge the murder of his friend Horace King (Albert Popwell), and the beating of his dog, “Meathead.”
In 1984, Eastwood was cast in City Heat, a period gangster film in which producers attempted to pair him with Burt Reynolds. The movie was a success, but not the hit the studio thought it would be.
It takes place in 1933 Kansas City, near the end of Prohibition. Speer (Eastwood) is a police lieutenant who is buddies and rivals with a former cop turned private eye Mike Murphy (Reynolds).
At one point, Speer uses an M1911A1 pistol taken from a thug to threaten Dub Slack (Jude Farese).
In a comical scene, Murphy pulls a long-barreled artillery model of the Luger P08 before the gun battle at the warehouse. As a rebuttal, Speer pulls a ridiculously long Colt Buntline Special revolver from his coat, which is a Colt SAA with a 12-inch bore.
During the gunfight, Eastwood also uses a Winchester 1897 pump-action shotgun.
As he is wont to do every few years, Eastwood returned to westerns in 1985 with Pale Rider. As the Book of Revelations-referencing title indicates, the hero of the story, a mysterious unnamed preacher (Eastwood) protects a humble prospector village from a greedy mining company trying to take their land.
While it was a return to westerns for the actor, it wasn’t a return to the Colt SAA. In PR, Preacher carries a Remington 1858 New Army revolver with a cartridge conversion. He also carries several pre-loaded cylinders to use like a modern speed loader.
Though it isn’t particularly easy to swap out the cylinders on some converted 1858 revolvers, with practice and the right gun, it could certainly be faster than unloading and loading each chamber through the loading gate.
Perhaps in a nod to his previous character Josey Wales, Preacher carries a backup gun tucked into his gun belt with the butt to the left so he can draw it easily with his left hand. This time, it’s a Remington 1858 Pocket revolver in .31 caliber converted to fire metallic cartridges.
The following year, Eastwood followed up with a new military film, but this time, it was set in the present day of 1986. In Heartbreak Ridge, he plays Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, a Marine Corps NCO and Medal of Honor recipient.
The title is a reference to the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in the Korean War. Highway earned his MOH during the battle while serving in the U.S. Army before joining the Marines.
Highway is nearing mandatory retirement age and finagles a transfer back to his old unit, where he proceeds to whip the young peace-time Marines into shape.
One of the most prominent of what I like to call the Woodland Camo Army Movies, the flick is notoriously over-the-top in it’s depiction of a Marien Corps with a severe lack of discipline and leadership that many found objectionable.
When approached before the film’s production, the U.S. Army refused to participate due to Highway being portrayed as a hard drinker, divorced from his wife, and using unapproved motivational methods on his troops. The Army reportedly called the character a “stereotype” of World War II and Korean War attitudes that did not exist in the modern army of the 1980s…plus they objected to the “obscene dialogue.”
According to Wikipedia, Eastwood pleaded his case to an Army general, contending that the point of the movie was that Highway was a throwback to a previous generation, and that there were values in the World War II and Korea War era armies that were worth emulating. The Army didn’t agree, but the USMC provided its support, so Highway became a Marine instead. The movie has since become an ‘80s cult favorite, mostly because of its many exceptional one-liners.
In the film, Highway and most of the Marines, use semi-auto slab-sided AR-15 rifles as well as full-auto M16A1s. In the photo below, Highway puts three rounds in the center ring with an AR-15, demonstrating that there’s nothing wrong with Lance Cpl. Fraghetti’s rifle.
During the training portion of the film, Highway regularly uses a full-auto AKM, standing in for an AK-47, so his recruits can learn and get used to the distinctive sound of the “preferred weapon of our enemy” being fired at them.
In 1988, Eastwood was back for his last go as Inspector Harry Callahan in The Dead Pool. He finds himself trying to solve a series of murders in San Francisco that appears to be linked to a list of celebrities who were included in a tontine list. The film includes a young Liam Neeson and boasts one of Jim Carrey’s first film roles as a drug-addicted rocker.
The S&W Model 29 Callahan carries in this fifth Dirty Harry movie appears to have lighter colored grips than it had in previous movies, which makes sense, since his gun was kicked into a bay in the last film and this would have to be a new Model 29. The only other gun Harry uses in the movie is a gigantic spear gun during the film’s final battle.
Clint Eastwood began yet another decade of filmmaking with 1990’s White Hunter Black Heart in which he plays the brash John Wilson, a character based on real-life director John Huston from the 1953 book by the same name.
Wilson travels to Africa for his next film—while there, he becomes obsessed with hunting elephants while neglecting the preparations for the film, leading to conflicts between him and his crew.
Wilson concedes that killing an elephant is tantamount to “a sin” but he cannot overcome his desire to bring down a giant bull with its extremely valuable ivory tusks.
Eastwood carries a Holland & Holland Double Rifle in the film valued at about $70,000. The rifle was sold back to H&H “unharmed, unscratched, unused.” The real Huston also had a Holland & Holland while he was in Africa filming The African Queen in 1951.
The other rifle Wilson uses is a Mannlicher Schoenauer sporting carbine fitted with a scope, which he is seen purchasing from store early in the movie. Eastwood also directed this film, in which he plays a film director. (That must have caused some crossed wires at times.)
The Rookie (1990)
Eastwood continued what would be one of his busiest years for film releases with The Rookie, a buddy cop movie Eastwood also directed that teamed him up with the then-popular Charlie Sheen as the titular rookie cop. Eastwood, of course, plays his veteran cop partner, Nick Pulovski (Eastwood).
They endeavor to take down a German crime lord in downtown Los Angeles in a movie meant to capitalize on the popularity of the new buddy cop genre created by Lethal Weapon in 1987, and was full of elaborate pyrotechnics and stunt work.
Previously, the most modern semi-auto handgun Eastwood ever carried on film was the Auto Mag from Sudden Impact. That changed in this film, as Pulovski carries a Smith & Wesson 4506 as his main sidearm throughout the movie. The .45 ACP pistol had been recently approved at the time by the LAPD as an optional carry gun in addition to the Beretta 92FS.
Oddly enough, this film and not a Dirty Harry movie, marks the last time Eastwood has used an S&W Model 29 on film. Pulovski grabs a Model 29 after taking a beating to chase Strong (Raul Julia) through LAX airport. Later, he takes the bullet that hangs around Strom’s neck and loads it in the gun.
Pulovski is also seen using a Smith & Wesson Model 28 in the airport.