Death Race 2000 (1975)
“Machine Gun” Joe Viterbo
M1928 Thompson Submachine Gun
Stallone’s earliest credited roles were mostly tough guy roles determined by his demeanor and physique. The first time he got his hands on a gun in front of the camera was for the 1975 low-budget science fiction film, Death Range 2000
It was one of those odd 70s movies that depicted the future as everything that was trendy just turned up to 11, including everyone and everything being splashed with bright colors and huge lapels.
The story is set in a dystopian future where the main form of entertainment for the masses is a violent, bloody transcontinental race across the U.S. The only way a driver wins is if he’s the only one to survive to cross the finish line, and racers gain points by running down innocent people they come across along the way.
Stallone plays “Machine Gun Joe” Viterbo, once of the drivers, with a kind of futuristic 1940s throwback aesthetic. When showing off for the crowds at the beginning of the race, Joe lives up to his nickname and sprays a crowd with an M1928 Thompson submachine gun. We don’t see the carnage, but it can be assumed he racked up a few points.
Other than that, the only guns Sly fires in the movie are mounted to his race car. The film also starred David Carradine and was updated in 2008 by Paul W.S. Anderson starring Jason Statham for less than stellar results.
The M1928 Thompson was an updated version from the original with provisions for box magazines and drum magazines. It also had a Cutts compensator, cooling fins on the barrel, and employed a delayed blowback action. The charging handle was also moved to the top of the receiver. This was the version most commonly depicted being used by gangsters and cops alike during prohibition and gained the nickname of “Chicago Typewriter.”
It could be fitted with a straight forend, like those found on the M1 versions made during WWII, or a front pistol grip like the M1921 Thompson. Over 1.5 million military Thompson submachine guns were made during World War II.
Star Model B
Stallone had a small role that same year in Capone, a biopic about the legendary Chicago gangster and Prohibition kingpin Al Capone, playing one of Capone’s triggermen, Frank Nitti. He didn’t have many lines and spent most of the movie leering and looking dangerous.
He does get to fire a few guns though. He shoots a Colt Detective Special when he and two other hitmen kill Capone’s rival Dion O’Banion.
The movie also has a number of Star Model B pistols LINK standing in for 1911s. In the 70s, the Star 9mm was often substituted for the 1911 because it was much easier for armorers to make 9mm blanks that would reliably cycle than .45 ACP rounds. Nitti keeps one as his sidearm and uses it a number of times in the film’s latter half.
Farewell, My Lovely (1975)
Smith & Wesson Model M&P
1975 was a busy year for Stallone, though none of the films he was part of were necessarily successful.
Another one to add to the list was Farewell, My Lovely an adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel with the setting moved to the present day. Robert Mitchum played Phillip Marlowe, the private detective role made famous by Humphrey Bogart in the 1940s.
Stallone played another tough guy, this time a hired goon working for a brothel’s sadistic madam, played by Kate Murtaugh.
In one scene, a surprised Jonnie fires a Smith & Wesson Model M&P pistol in .38 Special and a 5-inch barrel.
In an interesting bit of trivia, Joe Spinell had a role as Nicky, a hired thug for France Amthor in the movie. Spinell played Stallone’s loan shark boss, Gazzo in his breakout movie, Rocky (1976).
Det. Sgt. Deke DeSilva
Stallone had a few more tough guy roles and TV spots after Farewell, My Lovely until 1976, when he starred in a low-budget film he wrote about a washed up Philadelphia boxer given a shot at the world championship. The film, Rocky, changed his life and launched his career as a bonafide movie star.
The next few years saw him star in the underrated F.I.S.T. (1978) in which he played a Jimmy Hoffa-esque character and the passion project Paradise Alley (1978), though his next big success would be with a followup to his most successful film with Rocky II in (1979).
He followed that up with something completely different, tapping into a love for the taut, hard-boiled crime dramas of the decade like The French Connection with what could be considered his first action movie.
Nighthawks (1981) was an ambitious film about a Vietnam veteran who joined the NYPD working dangerous undercover stings in a New York City at the height of its crime epidemic. Det. Sgt. Deke DeSilva has to face a new enemy, however, when an international terrorist (Rutger Hauer) targets his city and he and his partner Sgt. Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams).
DeSilva carries an M1911A1 as his regular sidearm, as does his partner, Fox. In the 70s, the NYPD didn’t officially authorize any semi-automatic pistols for duty use, and detectives usually carried Colt Detective Specials or S&W Chief’s Specials in .38 Special ands some carried the heavier S&W Model 10 with a 2” barrel.
However, Detectives in special units were given quite a bit of leeway and often carried semi-autos like the 1911. In the book “Serpico,” the author describes carrying a Browning Hi Power in 9mm as his sidearm, though it was never officially an authorized sidearm.
In today’s NYPD, officers buy their own sidearms and can choose from three options: a Clock 19, the S&W 5946, and the SIG Sauer P226 DAO loaded with Speer’s 124-grain Gold Dot hollow-point +P loads.
Cut-Down Remington 870 with Folding Stock
When Fox and DeSilva gear up to make a high-risk arrest in an apartment building, he arms up with a Remington 870 Police Magnum shotgun with a barrel that has been cut down to match the length of the gun’s magazine tube.
The 12-gauge shotgun also features a top-folding stock and a pistol grip, making it a good tactical choice for close quarters. During the same raid, Fox uses a Winchester Model 1897 12 gauge shotgun.
Smith & Wesson Model 60 Revolver
During a scene at the police shooting range near the middle of the movie, DeSilva fires what looks to be a Smith & Wesson Model 629 with a 4″ barrel. A shorter barreled, stainless steel version of the Model 29 .44 Magnum made famous by Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry just a few years earlier.
We don’t see the gun again until the memorable final scene. SPOILERS AHEAD. Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer) sneaks into the home of DeSilva’s girlfriend, hoping to exact a last measure of revenge after his plot was foiled. He approaches what he believes to be a woman washing dishes at the sink.
The figure turns at the last second and it’s revealed to be DeSilva in a wig and robe. He pulls his Model 629, wrapped in a plastic bag, from the sink water and takes Wulfgar out. This scene may seem like it’s edited strangely, with the shots and the hits not matching up. This is because the original version of the scene attempted to depict the actual damage six .44 Magnums at close range would do.
The MPAA freaked out over the entire movie, and many parts were deeply cut for violence by both the agency and Universal Pictures. This included Wulfgar’s death scene, which showed him being shot five times in slow motion and then a final time in the head. The footage has since been lost and the cuts have been blamed for the film feeling choppy overall.
First Blood (1982)
John J. Rambo
M60 Machine Gun
If Nighthawks was Stallone’s first foray into the new genre of action movies, he jumped in with both feet in 1982’s First Blood when he introduced his second-most memorable character, action icon John J. Rambo.
Rambo is a former Green Beret who was a POW in Vietnam. The story catches up with him after he has returned to the United States and bounced around from odd job to odd job, eventually becoming a drifter. He hitchhikes and walks his way to Washington state to find the last remaining member of his team from Nam, only to find he has died of cancer blamed on exposure to Agent Orange during the war.
He begins to wander, maybe headed toward Portland, when he’s stopped by small-town Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Denehey) on the side of the road for looking like a hippie with long hair and a beat-up army jacket. Instead of taking him somewhere to get something to eat, the Sheriff drives Rambo through Hope, Washington and leaves him on the highway headed out of town, basically telling him he’s not welcome.
Rambo defies the Sheriff and immediately walks back toward town. This leads to his arrest and abuse by a sadistic deputy that kicks his PTSD into overdrive. He escapes from the police station, steals a motorcycle, and leads Teasle on a chase that ends with Rambo scrambling into the mountains in jeans and a tank top with nothing more than his survival knife, which he swiped from the station during his escape.
The sadistic Deputy Sgt. Art Galt (Jack Starrett) attempts to shoot Rambo from a helicopter when he’s clinging to a cliff with a Winchester Model 88 lever action rifle.
When Rambo hits the helicopter’s windshield with a rock, the pilot jerks and Galt falls from the chopper and is killed on the rocks below. Rambo retrieves the Model 88 and later uses it off-screen to shoot two dobermans that are pursuing him through the forest. He then runs out of ammunition and has to kill the final dog with his knife.
Other than that, Rambo only gets his hands on two guns in the film. The big daddy of them all is the M60 machine gun. Symbolic of the Vietnam War, during which it was introduced and earned the nickname The Pig, heavy crew served weapon was actually designed to be used the way Rambo does if necessary, served by one person and fired from the hip.
Normally, the M60 is a crew served weapon with multiple troops carrying belted 7.62 NATO ammunition and replacement barrels. When fired, one soldier was usually responsible for loading and feeding ammunition into the gun to prevent jams or misfeeds.
In the final act of the film, after it’s believed he was killed by a rocket fired into a mine where we was hiding, Rambo hijacks an Army truck and uses it to blow up a gas station, but not before he takes the M60 and a few boxes of ammo from the truck.
He strings spare ammo belts across his chest and waist as many soldiers did in Vietnam and uses his left hand to feed ammo into the gun when firing. The gun is equipped with a sling, making it easier for Rambo to operate solo.
He uses the gun to take out the town’s electricity and destroy a number of buildings, including shooting out the police station. He also uses it to wound Teasle, who is waiting in ambush on the roof.
The poster of Stallone holding the M60 became the iconic representation of the Rambo character on everything from lunch boxes to pajamas, and it was emulated by the sequel, but we’ll get to that soon.
Rambo also briefly uses an M16A1 rifle, which he takes from a downed sheriff’s deputy from the forest stalk scene, though he doesn’t pick up any spare ammo, leaving him only with the 20-round magazine in the rifle.
He expends this rather quickly, spraying full-auto suppressive fire at a group of National Guardsmen who corner him in the mine he’d been using as shelter.
The movie famously had a different ending that more closely followed the ending of the novel “First Blood” by David Morrell in which Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna), Rambo’s former commander and mentor, kills the tortured soldier, believing him too far gone mentally. To be fair, in the book Rambo kills a whole bunch of cops and National Guardsman instead of wounding them like in the movie, so Trautman was a little more justified.
In the alternate movie ending, Rambo asks Trautman to kill him with his 1911A1 sidearm, and he, after much hesitation, does so, firing one shot into his abdomen. Rambo crumbles to the floor of the police station, and dies.
Needless to say, the ending tested horribly with audiences, and it was changed to one where Trautman talks Rambo into surrendering, saving his life—though a grainy version of the grim ending was included in DVD and Bluray releases of First Blood.
Bonus: Custom Survival Knife
While the M60 became Rambo’s signature firearm, the character really wouldn’t be the same without the weapon that never left his hip, unless he happened to be captured.
Teasle first finds Rambo’s custom survival knife tucked into the back of his belt and takes it from him before he is arrested. The blade was designed for the movie at Stallone’s request by the late master Arkansas knife maker Jimmy Lile. Lile had been making knives full time since 1970 and had become a respected custom knife maker and remained so until his death in 1991.
Lile’s innovative design incorporated features that he felt would make it a more all around tool for survival than just a knife. It featured a 9-inch blade with 14 split saw teeth along the spine, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers incorporated into the guard which also include holes so the knife could more easily be lashed to a pole to make a spear. The watertight hollow handle had a compass in the non-magnetic aluminum pommel cap. The original design has a small holding knife in the hollow handle, but the final version included a survival kit with fish hooks, line, needle and thread, and matches. Rambo famously uses the needle and thread to sew up a gash in his own arm after falling through a tree in the film.
For everything you’d ever want to know about Rambo’s movie knives, head to carter town.com.
Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (1985)
John J. Rambo
M60E3 Machine Gun
While the taught thriller First Blood was a surprise success that introduced the character of John Rambo (who was never supposed to survive the ending), it was the bigger than life sequel that cemented the character in pop culture, along with the image of a shirtless Stallone with a red headband and firing his M60.
Instead of drifting aimlessly, we find Rambo at the beginning of this film serving hard labor in prison for the crimes he committed in the first movie.
Rambo is offered the opportunity to score a win for the POWs and MIA soldiers, Marines, and sailors of the Vietnam War who were never recovered by a familiar face who shows up as a visitor: Col. Sam Trautman. The mission is to head back to the camp in Vietnam where he himself was held prisoner during the war as part of a covert CIA operation, which will also grant him a full pardon. His mission objective is to take photos that prove POWs are still being held in captivity in 1985, which would then be used to give congress the evidence it needed to authorize rescue missions to recover the POWs.
In reality, the mission was a smokescreen and the CIA spook running the operation intended for it to fail, and did not expect Rambo to survive, let alone actually find American POWs, which he does. And then all hell breaks loose.
It is a lightweight, “improved” version intended to reduce the load carried by the gunner. Unlike its predecessors, the M60E3 has several updated modern features. It has a bipod (attached to the receiver) for improved stability, ambidextrous safety, universal sling attachments, a carrying handle on the barrel, and a simplified gas system. However, these features also caused almost as many problems for the weapon as they fixed. There were different types of barrels used, but the lightweight barrel was not as safe for sustained fire at 200 rounds per minute as heavier types. However, some personnel claim to have witnessed successful prolonged firing of the weapon. The stellite superalloy barrel liner makes it possible, but the excessive heat generated by this process can quickly make the gun unusable. There were two main barrels, a lightweight barrel and another heavier type—the former for when lighter weight was desired, and the latter for situations where more sustained fire was required.
The sequel paid tribute to the original by giving Rambo the same machine gun he used to tear up the town in First Blood at the end of the Part 2 to tear up the POW camp, but, as a sequel should be, it’s just a bit different this time around.
In the final act, when Rambo beats the Russian interrogator hand-to-hand in the helicopter and “convinces” the pilot to exit, he takes control and lands the chopper at the POW camp after using its on-board weapons to soften the enemy defenses from the air.
On his way to free the prisoners, he grabs the door gunner M60E3 off its mount and wraps a belt of ammunition around his arm, and uses it as his primary weapon until the end of the film. He covers the POWs as they board the helicopter and takes out the last few enemy soldiers. (He also cements a firm action movie tradition of hitting every bad guy with every burst, while their AK fire miraculously misses him every time.)
The M60 E3 is a lightweight improved version of the M60 with a number of updated features. It has a bipod attached to the receiver, an ambidextrous safety, universal sling attachments, a carrying handle on the barrel, and a simplified gas system and a vertical fore grip to help make it more controllable when fired from the hip.
He puts the gun back on its mount after the POWs are aboard, and again uses it when he gets them back to the CIA base, in perhaps the movie’s most memorable scene, to chew up every piece of equipment in the high-tech control center in a rage until the belt of 7.62 NATO ammo runs dry.
Heckler & Koch HK94A3
We get a somewhat extensive “gearing up” montage before Rambo sets off on his mission. Shots of him preparing his gear are intercut with shots of the CIA-hired mercenary crew readying the plane that will take him to his insertion point, where he will parachute into the jungle. Some materials accompanying the film and some associated products describe it as a HALO jump (High Altitude, Low Open), but Rambo is actually executing a low-altitude jump using a static line.
He preps a bunch of gear he never actually gets to use. When he jumps from the plane, the lines get tangled and he gets hung up and dragged by the plane until he is able to cut through the line that got snagged. Unfortunately, he has to ditch a lot of his gear to get to that line, meaning he hits the jungle with nothing but his knife and his bow bag, containing his broken down compound bow, arrows, and explosive tips.
One of the weapons he loses is a Heckler & Koch HK94A3 standing in for an HK MP5A3 submachine gun. The HK94A3 is the semi-auto civilian version of the MP5A3, which can be distinguished by the lack of a paddle magazine release in favor of a magazine release button. When he’s prepping and loading the gun, we see Rambo look through a 3x scope mounted on top, but in the plane, the scope seems to have been removed.
Something that makes this gun stand out: it features the not often seen slimline handguard instead of the much more familiar and bulkier “tropical” handguard.
AKM Assault Rifle
Since he doesn’t have any of the firearms he prepared for the mission, Rambo has to rely on what he can pick up in the field. He gets his first AKM from Co after they split up following the river boat shootout. He uses it until he is abandoned by his CIA employers and taken captive on the hilltop.
Later, when Rambo escapes from the enemy camp with the aid of an indigenous CIA agent, Co Bao, he is able to grab his knife, which was used to torture him, but otherwise has to rely on enemy weapons for the rest of the movie. (Co hangs on to his bow and returns it to him, so he has that as well.)
During the escape, he picks up another enemy AKM assault rifle with a magical never-ending magazine that he uses to take out a number of enemy pursuers during a breakneck, nighttime, down-hill sprint through the jungle with soldiers and helicopters giving chase.
When morning breaks after his escape, Rambo and Co have a peaceful moment that actually turns romantic for a brief moment as they hammer out some rough plans to head to Thailand before trying to get back to the U.S.. Just as they are preparing to move on, Co is shockingly cut down by a barrage of enemy rifle fire.
Rambo picks up his AKM and sends automatic fire down at their pursuers accurate enough to take out all but one of the patrol, the one who fired the fatal shots at Co, who flees toward enforcements. Co dies in his arms, and Rambo’s goals change slightly.
He no longer cares about getting back alive, and instead sets out on a mission of revenge by doing what he knows how to do best, stalking the men who are chasing him in a scene very reminiscent of the forrest stalking scene in First Blood.
Remington 870 Shotgun
After the rescue of the first POW during the recon mission, the river pirates Rambo and Co used to get to the camp turn on them and reveal they are planning to turn the pair in for a payout.
They take Co’s rifle and as she argues with the boat captain, Rambo pulls two push daggers he has hidden in his belt (which we see him stow during the mission prep montage) and stabs one of the pirates with both and using his body to shield himself from the captain’s pistol fire.
When the pirate’s body falls, we see Rambo has his cut-down Remington 870 shotgun in his hands, which he then uses to shoot every one of the pirates on the boat, except for the one who tries to sneak on deck from the hold, who Co cuts down with her AK.
During the scene, Rambo slam fires the shotgun, which means he holds the trigger down and works the pump action. On older model shotguns, doing this caused a round to be fired as soon as it was chambered. The technique was often employed in WWI to clear trenches. The addition of the trigger disconnect on modern shotguns, intended as a safety feature, prevents today’s pumps from executing a slam fire. On those, if you hold the trigger down and work the action, all you do is chamber a new round. You must release the trigger for the internal hammer to reset.
Rambo proceeeds to
RPG-7 (Rocket Propelled Grenade)
M72 LAW launcher (Light Anti-Tank Weapon)
Compound Bow and Survival Knife
Lt. Marion “Cobra” Cobretti
Colt Gold Cup National Match 1911 Pistol
Rambo III (1988)
John J. Rambo
AKM with M203 Grenade Launcher
AKM and AKMS rifles
SVD Dragunov sniper rifle
PKM machine gun
Browning M2HB heavy machine gun
Soviet DShK 12.7mm heavy machine gun
Compound Bow and Bowie Knife
Tango & Cash (1989)
Det. Ray Tango
Smith & Wesson Model 36 “Chief’s Special”
Smith & Wesson Model 60
LAR Grizzly Win Mag
Modified Heckler & Koch MP5A4
Calico M950 pistol
Demolition Man (1993)
Beretta 92FS Inox
Smith & Wesson 3914
Remington Spartan Sawed-off Double Barrel Shotgun
Ruger Mark I
Remington Model 700
Judge Dredd (1995)
Sheriff Freddy Heflin
Smith & Wesson Model 686
Ithaca 37 shotgun
Get Carter (2000)
Eye See You / Detox (2002)
Smith & Wesson 59
John J. Rambo
M1911A1 – John J. Rambo
Browning M2 Aircraft heavy machine gun
Bonus: Combat Machete and Compound Bow
The Expendables (2010)
Kimber Gold Combat II
Custom Colt Single Action Army revolver
FN 2000 Tactical
Noveske Rifleworks Diplomat
The Expendables 2 (2012)
Custom Kimber Gold Combat II
SIG-Sauer P229 E2
Noveske Rifleworks Diplomat
Bonus: Expendables Arkansas Toothpick Bowie Knife