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or guns from the other Die Hard movies, go here Before it was a somewhat odd Christmas movie staple, the original Die Hard set a lot of bars in the action movie world. It's one of those movies that came up with so many things that became genre tropes later on that it's almost hard to find the original movie in there.

The poster for the original *Die Hard* released in 1988.
The poster for the original Die Hard released in 1988.photo from IMFDB.org

At its core, Die Hard is a fish-out-of-water story, and it's also a solid underdog story. And, you could classify it as an army-of-one story but John McClane (Bruce Willis) gets so busted up he doesn't quite fit into the unstoppable superhero mold. McClane is an everyman—an average NYC police detective. He's not ex-Navy SEALs, he doesn't have a USMC past with a Medal of Honor in it.

Beretta 92F
The screen-used Beretta 92F carried by McClane in *Die Hard*. Notice the extended slide stop, which was added at Willis' request.
The screen-used Beretta 92F carried by McClane in Die Hard. Notice the extended slide stop, which was added at Willis' request.photo from imfdb.org

He's not a a super cop or one of the best FBI agents in the country...he's just in the wrong place at the wrong time (or right depending on your point of view), and armed when nobody else is—plus he has the street smarts to hide from a group of terrorists when they take over a skyscraper in Los Angeles.

Det. John McClane (Bruce Willis) firing his Beretta 92F through a table top at a terrorist with an MP5. Willis actually suffered hearing loss from shooting this scene with extra loud blanks.
Det. John McClane (Bruce Willis) firing his Beretta 92F through a table top at a terrorist with an MP5. Willis actually suffered hearing loss from shooting this scene with extra loud blanks.photo from imfdb.org

The movie begins with McClane flying from New York City to L.A. on Christmas Eve to surprise his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), at her high-power corporate job at the Nakatomi Corporation, hoping to patch things up for the holidays. Of course, the company is located in Nakatomi Tower, a new and still under construction skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles.

He surprises her. They argue. She goes off to do work stuff while he cleans up in her executive bathroom.

When the terrorists strike, John isn't exactly prepared. He runs out of Holly's office with his Beretta 92F, his pants, an undershirt, and not much else—not even his shoes. His shoulder holster and extra ammo (presumably) are left in the office as he runs up the stairwells, hoping to find a way to evade the well armed bad guys.

John takes cover with his Beretta 92F.
John takes cover with his Beretta 92F.photo from imfdb.org

The thing about McClane is he doesn't go looking for trouble—he doesn't see a gang of terrorists and thin, "I'm gonna get em all." He hides out in upper floors that are under construction trying to figure out a way to alert authorities before he finally manages to set off a fire alarm (oh how easy it was to write a script before cell phones).

When the alarm is cancelled and a bad guy comes looking for him, he does what he has to do, and it's far from some expert Krav Maga hand-to-hand takedown from a Jason Bourne movie—it's a nasty fight that ends with a tumble down a some stairs and a broken neck for the bad guy.

Walther PPK
When the terrorist enter the Nakatomi building, Karl (Alexander Godunov) uses a suppressed Walther PPK to kill the security guards on the lobby floor. He can also be seen carrying the pistol with the
When the terrorist enter the Nakatomi building, Karl (Alexander Godunov) uses a suppressed Walther PPK to kill the security guards on the lobby floor. He can also be seen carrying the pistol with the suppressor removed later after Takagi's murder. Here he has the pistol in one hand and a hockey-puck shaped flash bang in the other, which he uses to take out the guard by the elevator bank.photo from imfdb.org

That victory allows John to get his hands on some ammunition, a lighter, a pack of cigarettes, and an MP5A3 (which is actually a chopped and modified HK94 made for the civilian market) with spare mags, but still no shoes.

"Nine million terrorists in the world and I have to kill one with feet smaller than my sister."

He takes his frustration out by using the dead body to rile up his fellow terrorists, one of whom, unbeknownst to John, is the dead man's brother.

"Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho."

He adds the submachine gun to his Beretta 92F, which has been modified with an extended and reversed slide stop, and a reversed magazine release to accommodate Willis, who is left handed.

We do see him reload his pistol once in the film, so he must have grabbed the extra mag out of his shoulder rig when he grabbed the handgun, and put it in his pocket maybe?

Fortunately, most of the terrorist henchmen are armed with 9mm MP5s, so there's plenty of ammo around for John's Beretta.

HK94 standing in for MP4A3
McClane and his acquired MP5A3, which is actually a chopped HK94.
McClane and his acquired MP5A3, which is actually a chopped HK94.photo from imfdb.org

The group of terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), now number 11 with Tony dead. Most of them are armed with HK94s standing in for MP5A3 submachine guns.

The film's armorer converted the civilian firearms to fire in full auto and look like their military counterparts. The easiest way to tell when a movie does this is by looking for a magazine release lever behind the magwell. An HK94 has a button magazine release on the side of the receiver.

If you notice, everything McClane does in the first half of the film has the goal of getting the attention of authorities, or he's acting in self defense. The first time he actually attacks the terrorists is when he blows up the pair firing rockets at the police armored vehicle.

He's not some lunatic cop willingly going face-to-face with a bunch of well-armed terrorists with only his handgun, unless he has no other choice.

"Happy trails, Hans." McClane fires the last two rounds from his Beretta, which he concealed by taping it to his back with some "Merry Christmas" packing tape he found.
"Happy trails, Hans." McClane fires the last two rounds from his Beretta, which he concealed by taping it to his back with some "Merry Christmas" packing tape he found.photo from imfdb.org

The fact that the bad guys' MP5s also fire 9mm rounds allows McClane to replenish his Beretta magazines whenever he picks up gear from a downed bad guy, though we never actually see him do this.

In the end, it all comes down to two last 9mm rounds in his Beretta, affixed to his bloody back with a roll of “Happy Holidays” packing tape.

Heckler & Koch P7M13
Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) with his H&K P7M13 and matching suppressor (top), and a shot of the gun and Gruber's surprised face as he begins falling.
Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) with his H&K P7M13 and matching suppressor (top), and a shot of the gun and Gruber's surprised face as he begins falling.photo from imfdb.org

After performing a ruse with the empty MP5, he puts one round in the last remaining henchman with his pistol, who has been pretending to be a security guard at the front desk through the movie, and the other round goes into Hans, sending him out a shattered window, but not before he grabs Holly's arm.

John unclasps Holly's Rolex (you don't mention a Rolex in Act One...), sending Gruber plummeting to his death. Funny story: when they filmed this scene, they told Alan Rickman they would let him go on a 5 count, and then dropped him at the count of 2, hence his legendary surprised expression.

But here's something to think about. Not all of the terrorists were killed. There are actually two survivors, who inexplicably are never used or mentioned in any of the sequels.

In the above scene, when John first enters the room, he takes down a terrorist by smashing him in the face with the stock of his empty MP5. He clearly knocks him out, sending a stack of bearer bonds across the floor, but he doesn't kill him. We never see the guy again.

Then, the bad guy's tech guy, Theo, is merely knocked out by Argyle when he attempts to flee in the gang's hidden ambulance. Likewise, he's is never seen or heard from again.

Steyr AUG
Karl (Alexander Godunov) holding his Steyr AUG bullpup rifle one handed in the final sequence.
Karl (Alexander Godunov) holding his Steyr AUG bullpup rifle one handed in the final sequence.photo from imfdb.org

Bad Guy Guns

The terrorists are extremely well armed, including Karl’s (Alexander Godunov) Steyr AUG bullpup assault rifle, likely chosen because of it’s high-tech, modern looks that would contrast against the LAPD’s M16s and revolvers. This was one of the first times the gun appeared in a film.

Gruber, in keeping with the European-made hardware theme, carried a hard chromed Heckler & Koch P7M13 as his main sidearm, which he uses only once with a matching suppressor and once without. The stubby 9mm is unique in that it includes a large grip safety integrated into the pistol’s front strap.

S&W Model 10
Sgt. Al Powel with his Smith & Wesson Model 10.
Sgt. Al Powel with his Smith & Wesson Model 10.photo from imfdb.org

Gruber uses it to shoot execute Takagi and then later to shoot into the air to scare the hostages after killing Ellis.

An interesting note: if you’ve ever thought the gun shots in Die Hard sounded different than in other movies, they did. Director John McTiernan purposely requested louder blanks to give the gunfights more intensity. In fact, Bruce Willis suffered hearing damage from the scene in which he fires his Beretta while under a table at one of the terrorists, Marco, standing on top. Mythbusters proved this was possible with 9mm ammo, in case you were wondering.

The show also proved that John perforating the skyscraper window with his Beretta so he could swing through it on the fire hose from the roof was also, technically, possible. See below:

Bonus: About the Watches

This is something cool about the movie that has nothing to do with guns, but rather with the wristwatches worn by Gruber and the other terrorists.

Apparently, according to slashfilm.com, there was a quick scene that ended up on the cutting room floor of all the bad guys inside the panel truck they arrive in, huddled in a circle, and synchronizing their watches, at which point we see they are all wearing the exact same Tag Heuer watch.

When McClane kills Tony (Andreas Wisniewski) when they fall down the stairs while fighting, he takes his possessions. In the final cut, we see him grab a lighter, a pack of cigarettes, and Tony's fake ID. There was also a shot that was cut where John takes note of the watch Tony is wearing.

Later, when he's describing the terrorists to Al on the radio, he tells him they are all wearing the same watch.

When John runs into Hans on the upper floors of the building, it's the watch he's wearing that gives him away as a terrorist, not the fake American accent.

The problem came with a late decision to add the ambulance inside of the panel truck as the terrorists' planned escape route. To pull off the idea, the truck had to be changed to a much larger tractor trailer that could fit an entire ambulance in the back.

A Die Hard Christmas book
Just in case you had any doubt about Die Hard's status as a Christmas story, here's the cover of "A Die Hard Christmas" a new book that tells the tale of John McClane to the rhyme of 'The Night Before Christmas," fully illustrated. This was an awesome early gift from my wife—definitely worth a look. —DMphoto from amazon.com

If the shot of the terrorists checking their watches remained, it would have been very obvious instead of just plain obvious that the truck wasn't big enough to hold all the men, gear, plus an ambulance...not to mention that there's no ambulance. So, the shot was cut, making it necessary to remove all the other references to the terrorists' watches.

“Originally, they get off the truck, the camera craned up, you saw them in a circle and Alan Rickman says ‘synchronize your watches’”, explained screenwriter Steven E de Souza during a recent Q&A session. “They all put their arms out in a circle with the camera moving down and they all had the same Tag Heuer watch. If you notice, the first guy Bruce kills almost by accident going down the steps, he searches the body, looks at the IDs”.

“When Bruce offers the cigarette to Alan Rickman, Bruce sees the watch. You see his eyes look at the watch. That’s how he knows that he is one of the terrorists,” he added.

Unfortunately, this sacrificed a neat little thematic callback when, at the film's conclusion, its the undoing of the clasp on Holly's Rolex that sends Gruber to his death.

Consequently, McClane also wears a Tag Hauer watch (though a different model), reversed on his right wrist. For more about the deleted scenes, go here.

And in case you were wondering, all the physical punishment John endures through the movie, according to a doctor, would have killed him at least four times.

Personally, I think the scene where he dangles in an elevator shaft by the sling of an MP5 (I don't do well with heights and this scene still gets my palms sweaty) before dropping about 10 feet and somehow catching his full body weight with his hands on the sheer edge of an aluminum air shaft opening was where McClane would have certainly died in real life—and the video agrees with me.

Happy Holidays!