Long before he was best known for anti-Semitic rants, drunken phone calls, and overly-gory religious films, Mel Gibson was a major action movie star. And it looks like he’s throwing his hat back in the explosions and gunshots ring.
The trailer for his upcoming film, Blood Father, shows the 60-year-old actor playing an ex-con tattoo artist who comes to the aid of his estranged 16-year-old daughter to protect her from a gang of drug dealers trying to kill her.
Warning: trailer contains adult language:
While that plot doesn’t sound too deep, take a look at the trailer above and you’ll see two things that make it seem worthwhile. A, this movie looks like a bunch of fun, and B, Gibson can still be a badass. We see him use a hard-to-see polymer handgun and get reacquainted with his old friend from the Mad Max days, the sawed-off double-barrel shotgun.
In fact, Gibson has been shooting guns on screen since 1979 in his first turn as Max Rockatansky. So let’s take a look at Mel Gibson’s hardware history:
Mad Max (1979)
The Road Warrior (1981)
Attack Force Z (1982)
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
The Mad Max Era
One of Gibson’s first roles ever was as Max Rockatansky in Mad Max (1979). Gibson starred in three Mad Max films, with the second movie providing the character’s signature weapon. In the original, the shotgun was a cut down VG Bentley. The gun used in the sequel, Road Warrior (1981) was slightly different, but basically the same.
After Road Warrior, Gibson took a more grounded role in the 1981 war film Gallipoli in which his character Frank Dunne wielded a classic Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk.III rifle.
Though it isn’t one of his more widely recognized movies, Gibson actually did another, Australian-made, war film after Gallipoli in 1982 called Attack Force Z about members of the titular commando team sent to rescue the survivors of a plane crash on a Japanese-occupied island in the Pacific during WWII. Gibson’s character Capt. P.G. Kelly uses an interesting-looking M3A1 (Grease Gun) with an integrated suppressor, which is also featured on the poster art.
It was one more Aussie film for Gibson before he made his big breakout at the U.S. box office, the third and final installment in the original Mad Max series, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. For a complete rundown on the Guns of Mad Max, and the most recent installment, Mad Max: Fury Road go here.
Gibson Gets Lethal
Then came the movie that would change his career, and action movies, forever. Lethal Weapon was released in 1987 as an odd couple buddy-cop movie with a strange mix of darkness, humor, and action that audiences hadn’t seen before, but struck the times just right. Setting it against the backdrop of Christmas in Los Angeles only adds to the strangeness.
Gibson introduces his character of Det. Sgt. Martin Riggs, an ex-special forces sniper who served in Vietnam. Riggs is a mess, not because of PTSD, but because he lost his wife in an accident before the film begins, leaving him living alone in a trailer on the beach with his dog and his Beretta 92F.
This was actually one of the very first U.S. films to use the Beretta 92F, a fairly new pistol at the time that was about to be adopted as the U.S. military’s standard sidearm. In 1987, it was on the cutting edge of high-capacity 9mm handguns, when many police officers around the country were carrying something more like Det. Sgt. Roger Murtaugh’s S&W Model 19 revolver. The pistol has now become a standard movie pistol, much like the 1911 before it and the Glock after it.
Riggs got his hands on some other cool guns in that first Lethal Weapon, like an HK94A3, standing in for the MP5A3 submachine gun, fitted with a scope. He also gets some trigger time with the Heckler & Koch PSG-1 sniper rifle during the desert showdown.
The following year, Gibson starred in the taught cops-and-robbers action drama Tequila Sunrise along with Michelle Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell, and followed it up quickly in 1989 with Lethal Weapon 2. Riggs is nothing if not a creature of habit. In the sequel, he carries the slightly updated Beretta 92FS.
It’s the exact same pistol Gibson uses as Riggs in Lethal Weapon 3 and 4. As you can see from the photo, it’s showing its age. He also gets a few rounds off with another MP5A3, but a real one this time, not a converted civilian model.
In 1990, Gibson starred with a young Robert Downey Jr. in Air America, billed as a Vietnam War comedy—a genre that could only have been born of the 90s. It’s about two civliian pilots employed by the CIA as part of a secret program, based on the real thing, that provided unofficial transportation of arms and goods into the country of Laos during the Vietnam War. Gibson’s Gene Ryack character mostly performs pilot tricks, but he does get to rock a full-size Uzi 9mm. The Uzi was officially adopted by the Israeli Army in 1951. The CIA purchased Uzis from FN in Europe, and these were often issued to special forces types, and there a reports of them being used by CIA and Air America personnel, so its use in the film is pretty spot-on.
Also that year, Gibson starred in the adventure rom-com Bird on a Wire with Goldie Hawn, but he didn’t use anything heavier than a tranquilizer gun, though he was shot AT a lot.
He swung back into the action world after doing 1990s Hamlet with the 1993 sequel Lethal Weapon 3. Again, nothing different for Riggs. He’s still using his trusty Beretta 92FS.
A 1990s Slow-Down
In the mid-90s, Gibson stepped back from the action world a bit, picking up a Colt SAA in Maverick (1994). He used a Beretta 85BB in Ransom (1996) and a Smith & Wesson 5946 in Conspiracy Theory (1997), but thats about it until he picks up the Beretta again for the fourth and final installment in the Lethal Weapon franchise, Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). To be fair, he was busy making movies like Braveheart, The Man Without a Face, and Forever Young, so he gets a pass.
In 1999, Gibson decided to take the against-type role of Porter, a thief who is double-crossed and left for dead by his wife and former partner. Payback (1999) is a hard boiled story full of revenge fantasy and firearms. Porter wields a classic S&W Model 29 of Dirty Harry fame through most of the film, but with a shorter barrel than Callahan’s. In some shots, the revolver turns into a S&W Model 28 in .357 magnum, an obvious continuity error. And how could he resist picking up another Beretta 92FS? He can’t. He does.
The new millennium saw Gibson step back a couple centuries to play Benjamin Martin, the leader of a guerrilla force during the American Revolutionary War in The Patriot (2000). As one would expect, he wields Kentucky Flintlock rifles and pistols along with some severely badass tomahawks.
Next up is the 2002 Vietnam War film, We Were Soldiers, which was based on the book “We Were Soldiers Once, And Young” by Joe Galloway and Lt. Gen. Hal Moore.
Gibson plays, at the time, Lt. Col. Hal Moore, who led the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 7th Calvary Regiment in the first major engagement of the Vietnam War, and the first combat test of the Army’s new Air Cavalry idea, using small forces replenished by a constant stream of helicopters.
The engagement occurred so early in the war that the U.S. soldiers are using XM16E1 assault rifles, the predecessor of the first M16s widely issued in Vietnam, though many of the rifles featured in the film aren’t actual XM15E1s, but rather M16A1s made up to look like the older models with chromed bolt carriers and 3-prong flash hiders, according to imfdb.com.
The Modern Era
Again, Gibson took a long break from action movies…and eventually from films all together in the following decade, instead directing films and getting involved in personal controversy. In 2010 he starred in a little-seen cop movie, Edge of Darkness, in which he plays homicide detective Thomas Craven, who is investigating the death of his activist daughter. He carries the Glock 23 in .40 S&W throughout the film, which is accurately portrayed as the firearm issued to Boston detectives.
Then, in 2002 he made the low-budget, but extremely fun Get the Gringo, which takes place in a Mexican jail/town run by a drug cartel kingpin. He again uses a Beretta 92FS as the titular Gringo as well as an old-school AR-18 rifle.
That brings us to the has-been-star studded action extravaganza The Expendables 3, in which he plays the villain Conrad Stonebanks. He has a revolver to match his name, the powerful Smith & Wesson Model 500 with a 4-inch, ported barrel. When something a little less intense is required, Stonebanks goes with the Heckler & Koch G36C.
Now we’re caught up to the present, awaiting the release of Blood Father on August 12. Let’s hope it marks Gibson’s return to being a badass.