The Guns of Indiana Jones
All the firearms used by the legendary globe-trotting archeologist in four movies...with a 5th on the way.
News came out back in 2017 that Disney would be releasing a fifth installment in the Indiana Jones series of films that began in 1981, once again starring Harrison Ford. It will be a follow-up to the poorly received fourth film released in 2008.
The 5th Indy movie was supposed to hit theaters in the summer of 2019, but it hit major delays. Slotted for Summer 2020, it was bumped again to 2021, and amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been pushed again to July, 2022, but the project is still a go.
This may be the first Indy movie without George Lucas on the writing team (he and Disney aren’t on great terms since the Mouse bought the rights to Star Wars as well as his production company, Lucasfilms, which included the rights to the Indy franchise).
He and Steven Spielberg teamed up to make the original film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, a passion project for both of them that harkened back to the movie serials and features of the 1930s that follow tomb-raiding, jungle-navigating, desert-scouring adventurers in search of lost treasure or answers to ancient mysteries.
The story and character were bigger than life, and provided leading man Harrison Ford with yet another iconic character for his filmography, after he worked with Lucas on the first two Star Wars films playing Han Solo.
And, as is required of any globetrotting adventurer who routinely battles secret cults who are into child slavery and Nazis…a lot of Nazis, he’s usually armed.
In addition to his trusty bullwhip, satchel, leather jacket, and always-present fedora, Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones usually carries at least a handgun, and sometimes something bigger. After all, he’s a cautious fella.
Let’s take a look at the guns of Indiana Jones, starting at the beginning:
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indy’s trusty sidearm in the first film, usually carried in a leather holster with a top flap, is a large-frame Smith & Wesson revolver, but there were actually two different models used in the movie.
For scenes filmed in studios in the U.S., it was a S&W Model 1917 chambered in .45 ACP, which is the gun Jones turns over to Belloq (Paul Freeman) after barely escaping the boobytrapped Peruvian temple, including the now infamous giant boulder, with the golden idol at the beginning of the movie.
We see the same revolver again when Jones is packing his suitcase (“Besides, you know what a cautious fella I am”), which we can tell from the unique front sight blade and the corner chunk missing from the wood grip.
The M1917 was developed during World War I as a supplemental pistol to the U.S. military’s M1911 that could be produced concurrently in large quantities. It was chambered to accept .45 ACP rounds in half moon clips, so as not to require the issuing of separate pistol ammo. While it saw some use in World War II, it was most relegated to non-combat personnel and the civilian market after the First World War. Later models were able to fire .45 cartridges without the use of the fragile, easy to bend moon clips.
According to indygear.com, Indy carries a different revolver later in the film in scenes filmed in Britain and the Middle East. The pistol, obtained from the Bapty and Co. prop house in the U.K., was, fittingly, a British variant of the Smith & Wesson Triple Lock revolver, known as the Mk II Hand Ejector, with a shortened barrel chambered in .455 Webley that only fired blanks. The Mk II actually lacked the third lock that gave the original it’s name. About 70,000 of this model were produced to help cover shortages of Webley Mark VI revolvers.
While both guns were fairly similar and of the same frame size (the largest revolver ever produced by S&W at the time), there are some visible differences. The M1917 front sight is rounded, with bluing removed from the barrel beneath it, and the Mk II front sight ramps up at an angle. The former also lacks the round gold S&W medallions on the grips that are included on the Mk II.
The Mk II was used in the Ravenwood bar shootout, which was filmed on a studio set in England, and in the Cairo street scenes, which were actually filmed in Tunisia.
The Mk II is also the gun Indy uses in the famous scene where he’s confronted in the street by a giant bad guy, showing off his skills with a sword, inviting a fight when Marion is kidnapped.
Indy lets the guy show off with his blade for a few moments, and after a beat, simply draws his pistol and shoots him. While the scene became one of the more memorable action-comedy scenes of the movie and one that’s often mimicked and satirized, the story of how the scene came to be isn’t as widely know, but one of classic on-set Hollywood lore.
The script originally called for Indy to fight the giant swordsman, but on the day of filming, Harrison Ford had the flu and was running a fever. He suggested to Spielberg that instead of fighting the huge bad guy with a sword and wasting time, Indy would probably just shoot him and move on, with the ulterior motive of getting out of filming the difficult fight scene in his condition. That also explains why he’s sweating so badly.
The difference in revolvers also gives us a glimpse into just how disparate movie scenes can be in real life, though they seem to flow effortlessly on screen.
The Revolver Indy handles in the scene where he’s packing his suitcase at home is the M1917, since that shot was filmed in the U.S.
However, the following shot of the revolver landing in the suitcase after Indy tosses it was a pick-up shot filmed later in Britain, so the gun that was tossed as an M1917 actually lands on his clothes as an Mk II.
When Indy shows up at the Raven Bar he finds Marion under attack by a group of Nazi-hired thugs and reveals that, in addition to his revolver, he also carries a Browning Hi-Power made by Fabrique Nationale of Belgium. Jones only uses the semi-auto briefly before it’s lost to the raging fire that destroys the bar.
The Hi-Power gets its name from the fact that it had a magazine capacity of 13 rounds in its original chambering of 9x19mm, which was about double that of most semi-auto pistols of the time.
The pistol was designed by John Browning, and in some ways, is a testament to just what a genius gunmaker he was.
When Browning was hired by FN to design a new military sidearm for the French government, this was the task set before him: Browning had to make a pistol that not only conformed to the French specifications, but one that also didn’t infringe on any of the patents he had filed for the M1911, the rights to which belonged to Colt at the time. Imagine creating a masterpiece, and then having do it all over again, from scratch, but in a completely different way.
But that’s exactly what he did. Browning filed his first patent for what would become the Hi-Power in 1923 and utilized the new staggered magazine designed by Dieudonné Saive to increase the gun’s capacity without extending the grip length. The gun was put into service and endures to this day as a popular steel-framed 9mm pistol, and has also been chambered in various other calibers.
By 1928, the Colt M1911 patents had expired, so Saive integrated many of the Colt’s features into the Saive-Browning Model of 1928, including the removable barrel bushing and takedown sequence of the 1911.
Originally, Indy was supposed to use a 1911 in this scene, but since 9mm blanks were much easier to find and work with for the European gun wranglers, it was changed to a Hi-Power.
During WWII, the Hi-Power was manufactured by FN in Nazi-occupied Belgium for use by German forces as the Pistole 640b.
Strangely enough, the gun was also manufactured during the war by Inglis of Canada for Allied use, thanks to the designs being smuggled out of Belgium into Canada ahead of the Nazi occupation. While the Raven Bar gun was made by FN, the pistol Indy later wields on the cargo ship is an Inglis-made gun—an anachronistic oversight, since that model wouldn’t have been made until 1944. The Hi-Power is one of the very few pistols to see service on both sides of WWII.
After the war, the pistol’s manufacture was continued by FN and was adopted as the official sidearm of nearly 100 nations. For a time, it was used by most NATO countries and was issued to forces throughout the British commonwealth.
Near the end of the movie, as Jones intercepts Belloq and the Nazi caravan transporting the Ark in the desert, he gains leverage, for a moment, by threatening to blow up the holy relic with a rocket launcher of some kind. If it doesn’t exactly look right, that’s because it was a prop cobbled together for the movie.
According to imfdb.org, the movie’s armorer, Simon Atherton, says it actually a Chinese Type 56 copy of the Soviet RPG-2 (rocket propelled grenade) mocked up to look like a WWII-era German anti-tank weapon.
It also has a shoulder grip that looks to be taken from an M9 Bazooka. In 1936, the year the film is set, the Germans had no such weapon. The Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust would come later, during the war.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
In 1984, while in the midst of a painful divorce, George Lucas again teamed up with Steven Spielberg for a wholly darker and differently feeling Indiana Jones movie with The Temple of Doom, placing Indy in India where he is set on a mission by desperate villagers to find a mystical stone that was the source of their prosperity. While doing so, he stumbles upon an evil plot in the catacombs of an ancient palace.
The movie isn’t actually a sequel, but a prequel, taking place in 1935 before the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was set in 1936. This keeps with the inspiration for the Indy character—old-school movie serials and films following adventurers like Alan Quartermain, which weren’t exactly chronological—and it also gets rid of the need to explain any aftermath of the events from Raiders.
The whole movie takes place with Indy, Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), and Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan) on the run, eventually bailing from a crashing plane in an inflatable raft. This means they don’t have most of their usual supplies, and that, unlike the previous movie, Indy is armed with only his bullwhip until he later gets his hands on a sword, but not with a gun, for most of the movie.
In the opening Shanghai nightclub scene and the subsequent chase to the airfield, Indy fires a few shots from a revolver, and that’s the only time he gets a gun in his hands. It was long thought, by viewers who had only seen the film on VHS or cable, that the revolver he uses was the same from Raiders, a Smith & Wesson M1917 or one of the Mk II revolvers, but newer, higher-quality screenshots reveal that he used a 4-inch Colt Official Police .38 in the scene.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
After a few years, Indy got another chance on the big screen with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which cemented the series and character as a American icon for legions of young viewers who had grown up with the first two movies on home video.
Crusade gets back to the feel and tone of Raiders and returns several supporting members. We also get our first look at Indy as a precocious teenager in the opening sequence, which led to a semi-popular TV show and series of television movies as well as young-adult novels under the banner of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones. The filmmakers also added some additional star power to the movie poster by casting Sean Connery as the elder Jones.
The film sees Indy traveling across the globe to find his father, Dr. Henry Jones Sr. (Connery), who has gone missing. The pair eventually embark on a quest to find one of the greatest lost artifacts in history: the Holy Grail, while staying one step ahead of the Nazis, who also want the the legendary source of power.
Indy again carries a revolver for some of the film, but this time it’s a Webley “WG” Army Model. He’s first seen with it while searching for his father in the castle. He later takes it from his waistband to shoot at a German fighter plane, but finds it empty. He uses the pistol again in later scenes while chasing the German tank on horseback.
Firing the large .455 Webley cartridge, the revolver was one of the most powerful top-break guns ever made. The Webley Mk I was adopted in 1887 as the British service model to replace the .476 Enfield Mk I & Mk II. The revolver served in that capacity (through a few updated models ending with the Webley Mk VI) until 1963.
After finding his father in the castle, the pair are quickly set upon by Nazi guards before they can make their escape. When he gets a chance, Indy snatches a German MP40 submachine gun from a guard and shoots two others, to the shock of his studious father. He’s soon forced to give the gun up when Colonel Vogel (Michael Byrne) threatens Elsa (Alison Doody) with his Luger P08.
The MP40, chambered for 9x19mm Parabellum, was developed by Nazi Germany and used extensively by Axis forces during WWII on the eastern and western fronts. It was designed by Heinrich Vollmer in 1938, who was inspired by the submachine gun’s predecessor, the MP 38. From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.1 million MP40s were produced by Erma Werke.
Indy briefly uses another handgun, the Walther P38, in the big tank chase scene in the desert. It’s a common handgun in the film, carried by many German soldiers and officers. Jones grabs one during the tank chase and, in a memorable scene that typifies the odd but successful blend of violence and humor that gives Indy movies their unique flavor, he fires one round from the P38 through three German soldiers lined up in a row atop a tank and is visibly shocked by the outcome. Later, in the caves, Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) is seen carrying the P38.
The P38 is a 9mm semi-auto pistol made by Walther Arms as the service pistol of the German Wehrmacht at the beginning of WWII. It was made to replace the Luger P08, which was costly, time consuming, and difficult to manufacture. Production began in 1939. Several technical features were introduced to semi-auto handguns with the P38 that can be found on later automatic pistols like the Beretta 92 (M9).
It was the first locked-breech pistol to use a double-action/single-action trigger (the earlier PPK was an unlocked blowback design). The gun also featured a de-cocking lever that allowed the shooter to safely lower the hammer without firing a round and to carry the weapon chambered.
The P38 also had a visible and tactile loaded chamber indicator in the form of a small metal rod protruding from the top rear of the slide when a round is in the chamber. Early P38s had walnut grips which were later replaced by Bakelite polymer grips. Walther continued to produce the handgun after the war until 1963.
From 1945 to 1957, no P38s were made until West Germany began to rebuild its military for defense. These later-series guns had aluminum frames instead of the wartime steel frames. The P38 was replaced by the similar but improved P1 in 1963. Germany began phasing out both guns in the 1990s, and the P1 was finally out of service in 2004.
An improved version of the P38, the Walther P4, was developed in the late 1970s and adopted by police forces in South Africa.
Here’s a bit of movie trivia for you: Harrison Ford’s first movie after the original Star Wars (1977) was a WWII movie called Force 10 from Navarone that co-starred Michael Byrne as Nazi commander Schroeder. Byrne played opposite Ford again as Nazi Commander Vogel in Crusade.
Here’s a cool piece of gun trivia: when Spielberg first set out to make an adventure movie, he wanted to make a James Bond flick, but it just wasn’t in the cards and he made Raiders instead. Throughout the series there are nods to Mr. Bond, like Indy’s very 007-looking tux in the beginning of Temple. The original Bond, Sean Connery, was even cast to play Henry Jones Sr. in Crusade. And, near the end, Connery’s character is shot by Julian Glover’s bad guy…Glover played Bond villain Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only (1981), one of the last Roger Moore Bond movies. Additionally, he shoots the elder Jones with a Walther PPK, Bond’s signature handgun.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Indiana Jones didn’t return to theaters for nearly two decades until Lucas and Spielberg again reunited for Indiana Jone and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is regarded by many fans as another departure from the original spirit of the film series.
This time it’s 1957, and for Dr. Jones, WWII has come and gone and America is deeply embroiled in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Of course, Red Army operatives replace the Nazis as the force of villainy.
While the previous films were tributes to heroes from the 1930s like Alan Quartermain, Skull was meant as a tribute to the science fiction B-movies of the 1950s with a plot involving telepathic crystal skulls and aliens, as well as a previously-unknown-about son for Indy, who goes by the name Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf).
At the top of the movie, an aged Indy is seen carrying the same Webley WG Army Model revolver from Crusade in a flap holster. He cocks the hammer while aiming at one of the cemetery guards, but never fires it on screen.
When the Soviets take Jones to the warehouse, they carry M1 Carbines while posing as U.S. Army soldiers, mostly fitted with 30-round magazines.
Indy gets his hands on one of the carbines when the Russians take him to find the mysterious Area 51 crate (which is located in the same depot where the Ark was stored away in Raiders). Indy gives up the carbine when Mac (Ray Winstone) turns on him with his Thompson M1921AC submachine gun.
During the CGI-heavy vehicle chase through the jungle, and in what is possibly a nod to Raiders, Indy finally gets to use a rocket launcher that he grabs from the back of the truck as Marion drives with Mutt in the passenger seat. The launchers looks to be a Chinese Type 69 RPG (which was the same weapon mocked up as an anti-tank weapon in Raiders) standing in for the Russian RPG-2, which would have been in use by the Red Army in 1957.
While the rocket is a PG-2, the type fired by the RPG-2, the launcher has the folding carry handle and thicker heat shield of the Type 69. According to imfdb.org, Ford never actually fired the launcher—the effect was computer generated.
Indiana Jones 5 (2022)
That brings us up to date. Since the release of Skull and its lukewarm reception by longtime fans, there were rumors that a new actor might be tapped to play the part of a younger Indiana Jones, perhaps during the OSS missions during WWII mentioned in the last movie. Instead, it appears Ford isn’t ready to put away the fedora and bullwhip and will reprise the role in 2022, likely for the last time.
Maybe it was the poor reception of a younger actor playing Han Solo in Solo: A Star Wars Story that put the kibosh on the Indy prequel.
Ford again stepped into his blaster belt and boots in 2015 to play his other iconic role, Han Solo, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and that will definitely be the last time he plays the role.
Ford reprised another of his momentous characters from early in his career when he returned as Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner 2049 alongside Ryan Gosling.
In the meantime, take a look at this compilation of the Top 10 Awesome Indiana Jones Movies: