The 1990s were pretty good for Kurt Russell. He starred in a bunch of hit movies, many of which were action flicks, starting with the Ron Howard-directed Backdraft (1991), which had a lot of fire, but no firearms. So, for our purposes, the first movie on this list is the somewhat forgotten Unlawful Entry.
Unlawful Entry was part of a wave of tense, adult-themed thrillers made in the early to mid 1990s that typically starred the biggest male and female leads the studio could get and adding a traditionally moral archetype that has a dark underbelly. Think Basic Instinct, Sleeping With The Enemy, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, etc.
This one stars Russell as Michael Carr, a businessman who befriends an Los Angeles police officer, Pete Davis (Ray Liotta), after experiencing a home invasion. But once Davis works his way into Carr’s daily life, it becomes apparent he may not be what he seems and that he has an obsession with Carr’s wife (Madeleine Stowe) that gets real dark real fast.
Beretta 92FS Inox
Russell as Michael Carr with a Beretta 92FS Inox in Unlawful Entry. photo from imfdb.orgd
The only time Carr gets his hands on a gun is when he picks up Davis’ Beretta 92FS Inox, which he carries as his sidearm while on duty. The Inox is the stainless steel version of the Beretta 92FS, which would have been standard issue for the LAPD at the time and had just been adopted six years earlier by the U.S. military as the M9 pistol, which is currently being phased out by the SIG-Sauer P320.
Davis also uses a regular 92FS and an S&W Model 60 revolver.
After Clint Eastwood’s seminal Unforgiven revived the western genre, we got was is perhaps the most fun cowboy movie ever made—if not the most historically accurate: 1993’s Tombstone.
While it is yet another retelling of the tale of Wyatt Earp, his brothers, and the gunfight at the OK Corral, it managed to freshen up the old story and create a film that is on many people’s Top Ten list with unforgettable performances not only from Russell, but also Val Kilmer’s remarkable turn as Doc Holliday, Sam Elliot as Virgil Earp, and the late Bill Paxton as Morgan Earp, not to mention the late Powers Boothe starring as Curly Bill Brocius, Michael Biehn as Johnny Ringo, Stephen Lang as Ike Clanton, and Thomas Haden Church as Billy Clanton.
Colt SAA Buntline Special
Wyatt Earp( Russell) with his ‘Buntline Special’ Colt SAA during the gunfight at the OK Coral, as depicted in Tombstone. photo from imfdb.org
While the movie does get some historical details correct that most previous movies got wrong, when it comes to Earp’s gun, Tombstone veers into the land of historical fiction just like so many others.
For the first half of the movie, which depicts the Earp brothers arriving in town and setting up various business ventures, Wyatt Earp doesn’t go heel, meaning he doesn’t carry a sidearm. He’s no longer working as a lawman, and his fame tended to attract gunfighters wanting to make a name for themselves, so it became safer for him not to carry generally, so the movie goes. It also makes his beatdown of Johnny Tyler (Billy Bob Thorton) all the more badass.
In the movie, when Earp goes out for a ride in the country, he straps on a Smith & Wesson New Model No. 3 with a nickel finish and pearl grips, which is usually carried by Virgil. Wyatt gives it back to him when he rides back into town and discovers Virgil and Morgan serving as deputies. The choice of firearm may have been a nod to the real life story that Wyatt carried a Smith during that time.
When it comes to the famous gunfight, the filmakers decided to have Wyatt carry the mythical Buntline Special, though the gun’s lineage has been changed for the film and it’s never referred to as such. So technically, he’s just carrying a “special” 12-inch Colt SAA.
The gun in the movie is one of three EMF/Uberti replicas custom-made for Tombstone with 12-inch barrels.
Earp continues to carry the long revolver during his crusade to hunt down and kill all the members of the Cowboy gang after they kill his brother Morgan and severely injure his other brother Virgil following the gunfight at the OK Corral.
Colt 1878 Double-Action revolver
Earp uses a couple more guns in the movie—when he arrests Curly Bill after the Fred White shooting, Wyatt carries a Colt 1878 Double-Action revolver, which he uses to threaten Ike Clanton by pressing the muzzle to his forehead and saying:
“They may get me in a rush, but not before I make your head into a canoe, you understand me?”
Billy: “He’s bluffin'”
Ike: “No. He ain’t bluffin’. Go on, get back.”
Wyatt: “You ain’t as stupid as you look, Ike.”
Ike: “Go on get back. Billy! He’ll kill me…”
Wyatt: “You’re not as dumb as you look, Ike.”
That gun doesn’t show up again in the film.
Stevens Three-Trigger 10-gauge Shotgun
During his vendetta ride, beginning with the shooting of Frank Stilwell (Tomas Arana) at the train depot, Wyatt carries a three-triggered Stevens 10-gauge double-barreled, side-by-side shotgun. Since the shotgun features external hammers, there’s no room for an action release lever, which is the purpose the third trigger serves.
Earp also uses the 10-gauge when he finally tracks down Curly Bill at Iron Springs and performs his shootout miracle.
In the complete opposite direction of Tombstone, Russell also starred in the sci-fi epic Stargate in 1994.
In the film, Russell plays USAF Col. Jack O’Neil alongside James Spader as Dr. Daniel Jackson, who travel to a far flung planet on the other side of the galaxy via a recently uncovered ancient portal door left by ancient alien conquerors in Egypt.
The premise was later reworked into a successful TV franchise consisting of three separate shows: Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe.
O’Neil is seen at the top of the film caressing a Beretta 92FS while sitting in his home where his son died (it’s implied his son shot himself accidentally after finding his father’s gun).
Later in the film both Colonel O’Neil and Senior Airman Brown (Derek Webster) are seen armed with Beretta 92FS pistols as part of the USAF team. Berettas are also utilized by Technical Sergeant Louis Feretti (French Stewart) and Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) at various points in the film.
Heckler & Koch HK94A2
O’Neil with his Heckler & Koch HK94A2, made to look like MP5A2s. photo from imfdb.org
O’Neil and Airman 1st Class Reilly (Jack Moore) are armed with fixed-stock Heckler & Koch HK94A2s which have been chopped and converted to resemble the Heckler & Koch MP5A2 submachine gun.
You can tell easily because, instead of the magazine release lever found on the MP5A2, the gun has the push-button mag release found on semi-auto civilian versions.
Both are fitted with Surefire flashlight forearms and telescopic sights on STANAG mounts. The same faux MP5A2 submachine guns are used by the local rebels later in the movie when they fight Ra’s forces. The guns were taken from the team’s equipment cases that they brought through the stargate.
The 1990s were so good for Kurt Russell that he was able to make a sequel to a cult hit from early in his career, Escape from New York, because it was one of the favorite characters he’d ever played.
In 1996, Russell and John Carpenter teamed up again for the super campy Escape from L.A. and revived the eye-patched Snake Plissken, which is basically the same exact plot of the original, but this time, it takes place in the prison city of Los Angeles, which is now an island having been separated from the mainland by a devastating earthquake—and it has really terrible CG effects, even for 1996.
The problem is, Air Force One has crash landed somewhere in LA with the First Daughter on board and the government needs Snake to go in and get her. Unfortunately for him, they inject him with a virus that will kill him in 24 hours, unless he’s given the antidote, so he better be back in time.
“Coreburner” (Modified LaFrance M16K)
Snake realizing the first magazine in the ‘Coreburner’ was loaded with blanks. photo from imfdb.org
As in the original film, before being sent out on a nearly impossible mission with a deadly timer, Snake is outfitted with a small arsenal of guns and gear.
The rifle Snake uses is identified as a “Coreburner” and is actually a late-generation LaFrance Specialties M16K with a bunch of stuff on it. The original movie gun was based on a Rocky Mountain Arms Patriot fitted to a select-fire M16 lower, according to imfdb.org, but because the upper wasn’t designed to fire in full auto, it kept jamming when firing blanks.
The site says armorer Steve Karnes at Ellis Props & Graphics was hired to build a new version based on the M16K that work better.
The Coreburner has an odd looking stumpy stock that quite resembles a brace, so maybe the movie was more futuristic than we think. The magwell and pistol grip are joined by a handguard piece and a significant looking launcher of some kind is mounted under the barrel with a girder-like assembly.
The gun is also topped with an absurdly large scope for a gun that can’t really be and is never actually shouldered.
When he’s first given the gun, he’s shocked to find out that the first magazine they gave him was loaded with blanks. Turns out it was a pretty good idea, as Snake tried to kill everyone in the room.
Snake actually loses the Coreburner pretty early in the movie while on a motorcycle. Hell, he keeps his sweet coat longer than his rifle.
Smith & Wesson Model 629 Performance Center
Snake also has a couple sidearms in his kit in a double thigh-holster rig. The guns are a pair of Smith & Wesson Model 629 Performance Center .44 Magnum revolvers with Aimpoint red dot scopes mounted with a single scope ring to the handguns top rail.
Snake actually uses these guns quite a bit through the movie, especially after he loses his rifle and his long coat, which is used to conceal the two pistols. Sort of.
At one point, we see him clip on the custom holster rig, which has cuts for the Aimpoint scopes to fit.
In one memorable scene, Snake gets a couple of bad guys to agree to a old-fashioned duel. The deal is Snake throws an old can into the air, and nobody draws until the can hits the ground.
He tosses the can, and draws, taking out both bad guys before the can bounces to the pavement. That’s Snake Plissken.
Desert Eagle Mark VII
‘Map to the Stars’ Eddie (Steve Buscemi) carries a .357 Desert Eagle Mark VII. Snake liberates the pistol from him after forcefully boarding his car and uses it to interrogate him.
Hershe (Pam Grier) carries a Seecamp LWS pistol between her thighs. After some somewhat tasteless jokes about crossdressing, Snake finds the gun in its hiding place and points it at her before making some demands. Hersche and her people end up helping Snake perform the titular escape from the LA prison and get back to the mainland.
Converted Heckler & Koch SP89
During the air raid on Cuervo Jones, Snake has a custom H&K SP89 with a stainless steel receiver. That’s the gun he uses when firing from the hang-glider. According to imfdb.org, it’s the same submachine gun used by Dennis Hopper in Speed.
Here’s another strange entry in Russell’s action career. In the days before the Internet and trailers that gave everything away, audiences went into Executive Decision thinking it was going to be a big team-up between Russell and Steven Seagal (who was insanely popular at the time) with Russell playing a tech expert and Seagal playing the leader of a spec ops commando team.
Seagal fans were stunned when Lt. Col. Austin Travis (Seagal) was killed early in the first act, leaving Dr. David Grant (Russell) to quarterback the assault on the terrorists…sort of like how the entire SEAL Team gets taken out in the first act of The Rock.
Oh yeah, terrorists have taken control of a passenger plane, and a group of elite commandos, and Grant, board the plane using an experimental military aircraft that docks with the giant jet in mid air. Until something goes wrong and the umbilicus breaks, killing Travis and ruining the most of the rescue plan.
Heckler & Koch USP Pistol
Grant’s Mk23 was a mocked up USP, as the civilian version of the special forces pistol hadn’t been released yet. photo from imfdb.org
Toward the end of the movie, when Grant finally gets out of his tuxedo shirt, he takes one of the commando’s .45 ACP Heckler & Koch USP pistols, which has been visually mocked up to look like the H&K Mk 23 Mod 0 pistol fitted with an LAM unit and a fake Knight’s Armament suppressor.
When the movie was made, the only Mk 23 pistols in the world were those being used by U.S. SOCOM with the commercially-available Mark 23 not hitting the market for a few more years.
Oddly enough, Russell would be the first actor to use a real Mk 23 on screen in Soldier 1998, but we’ll get to that soon enough.
The USSOCOM Mk23 MOD 0 is a semi-auto large-frame pistol chambered in .45 ACP and was designed specifically as an offensive handgun for the U.S. special forces. The USSOCOM version came paired with a laser aiming module and suppressor.
The pistol was adopted by the U.S. Special Operations Command for spec ops units in 1996. Development of the handgun began in 1991.
While the USSOCOM MK23 designation usually applies to the complete system, it is also commonly used in reference to the pistol itself. The LAM and suppressor were developed by Insight Technology and Knight’s Armament Company (KAC), respectively. The civilian version of the Mk23, sold without accessories, is designated simply as the H&K Mark 23.
Ithaca 37 shotgun
When the commandos need another gun to help them take on the terrorists holding Flight 343 hostage, they ask Grant to help out and hand him an Ithaca 37 “Stakeout” short-barreled shotgun.
Grant is more than willing to help, but doesn’t really get a chance to do anything with the pump gun.
Breakdown is an awesome, tense thriller that’s often forgotten but shouldn’t be. Made in 1997, Russell plays Jeff, a mild-mannered husband who finds himself in the middle of the Arizona desert searching deserately for his wife, Amy (Kathleen Quinlan).
The couple are moving out to California, driving across the country to their new home, when their car breaks down and they find themselves stranded in the desert (yes, this was before everyone had a cell phone). Amy takes a ride with a friendly trucker to a small diner down the highway for help, but help never comes. Eventually, Jeff walks to the diner, but can find nobody there who has seen his wife.
He finds the trucker who gave Amy the ride, who acts like he’s never seen either of them. It turns out, Amy has been kidnapped by some bad men involved in human trafficking.
Jeff finally gets ahold of the bad guy’s Beretta 92FS. photo from imfdb.org
A Beretta 92FS is one of the main guns in the movie, changing hands a few times.
It’s first carried by Earl (M.C. Gainey) when he questions Jeff, and then used by Al (Ritch Brinkley) during the chase, though that may be a different pistol.
Eventually, when Jeff finally gets the upper hand, he gets ahold of the Beretta.
When Jeff finds his way to Red’s (J.T. Walsh) home in search of his wife, he finds a SIG-Sauer P226 in the glove compartment of a vehicle outside.
In a satisfying seen of comeuppance, Jeff uses the SIG to threaten Red on his hands and knees.