While his action movie schedule tapered off in the 2000s, Russell chose exceptionally cool films to star in, many of which are severely underrated, though he never got into the sequel game the way a lot of actions stars of the era did.
Before the 90s were over, Russell dipped back into the sci-fi genre when he starred in Soldier as Sgt. Todd, a man literally born and raised to do nothing more than fight as part of a galactic government program.
The beginning of the movie takes us quickly through Todd’s youth and through a brief look at his extensive military career before we drop into the present narrative where Todd and his kind are being replaced with genetically modified super soldiers. He is now considered obsolete after decades of war on many planets and is used with his fellow Adam-era soldiers as training fodder for the new guys.
When he’s injured and mistaken for dead, he’s dumped on a distant planet used for waste disposal where he finds a colony of humans that have been stranded there for decades. They eventually welcome him and give him a home worth fighting for. One of the most impressive things is Russell has about two sentences of dialogue in the whole movie, showing he’s really an expert at using his body language and expressions to convey everything he needs to.
The standard issue assault rifle in the movie is built on the AKU-94, which is a bullpup configuration of the AK platform. photo from imfdb.org
The standard-issue assault rifle of the soldiers, both Todd’s generation and that of the super soldiers, is a highly modified AKU-94 bullpup rifle made by Century Arms, though it’s pretty difficult to make out under all the Hollywood accessories.
The rifles have been given extended barrels and shrouds that match the original rifle’s abbreviated one. The rifles are fitted with C-More red-dot sights, duel retractable bayonets (which are actually a thing now), and Surefire Universal Weapon Lights.
In some scenes, the rifles use 30-round AK-style mags, while in others they are fitted with 100-round drum magazines.
During the flashback to the “Battle of the Argentine Moons” at the beginning of the movie, Sgt. Todd is using a pair of nickel-plated Franchi LF-57 submachine guns with the stocks removed and some kind of scope attached, or possible a really big laser sight.
These same guns would later appear in John Carpenter’s film Ghosts of Mars.
One of the movie’s guns that looks like a futuristic prop gun made from scratch actually isn’t.
Todd and some of the settlers are seen carrying the Claridge LEC9—which is a long-barreled carbine version of the Claridge Hi-Tec S9, mostly known for its prominent appearance in Total Recall (1990)
The carbine, and its pistol version, had a rather innovative design that used a proprietary action. The lower receiver/frame is a one-piece design, including the pistol grip and trigger guard. It houses all the firing components and the safety mechanism. The grip also serves as a magwell, giving the whole gun a really sleek profile. A similar carbine was used as a sniper rifle in Assassins (1995).
While it was in production, 16-, 20-, and 30-round 9mm magazines were made for the gun, but none have been produced since 1993. However, it was found that re-notched Beretta magazines can be used, and many found on the market today are modified Beretta or SIG mags.
The upper receiver is a one-piece tube with a screwed-in match barrel. The receiver tube, which also acts as a barrel shroud, houses the bolt, guide rods, and guide springs.
The gun line didn’t cease production because of poor sales, but because of California’s gun laws.
In 1993, Claridge Hi-Tec, based in North Hollywood, was forced to cease operations due to the state government outlawing their products in California. No firearms based on the design have been produced since, which is a shame.
Heckler & Koch Mk 23 Mod 0
As we mentioned in the last section, Todd (Russell) uses the first H&K Mk 23 Mod 0 pistol in Soldier, marking the first time a real Mk 23 was ever seen on film.
In Executive Decision, Russell used a H&K USP mocked up to look like a Mk 23, since at the time, the gun was exclusively used by U.S. special forces and had not yet been released on the civilian market.
The USSOCOM Mk23 MOD 0 is a semi-auto large-frame pistol chambered in .45 ACP and designed specifically as an offensive handgun for the U.S. special forces. The USSOCOM version came paired with a laser aiming module (LAM) 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.
Handheld GE M134 Minigun
One of the super soldiers sent on the raid of the Arcadia 234 settlement is seen with a short-barreled handheld GE M134 Minigun. Todd kills the soldier when the gun jams, and then uses it to engage the soldiers following the raid.
The gun is considerably smaller and shorter than the hendheld MiniGun used in Predator and Terminator 2.
Rocky Mountain Arms Patriot Pistol “Carbine”
When gearing up to engage the super soldiers after repelling the initial rad on the settlement, Todd can be seen briefly with a pair of distinctive Rocky Mountain Arms Patriot Pistols, which have full-length telescoping stocks and look to be a Patriot Upper mated to a full-auto SP1 lower.
The guns are fitted with under-mounted weapon lights, some old-school laser sights on the top optics rail, and Beta-C magazines.
During the big face off at the end of the movie, Sgt. Todd takes a Steyr SPP that has been converted to full auto from one of the bad guys before dropping a grenade into one of the “Crawler” vehicles.
It seems that the SPP is the standard issue sidearm for the Adam-project soldiers, as we see a number of them carrying the pistol in flashbacks to the “Moscow Incident” at the top of the movie. They are secured in thigh holsters.
The SPP is the civilian market semi-auto version of the Steyr TMP, a select-fire 9mm machine pistol made by Steyr Mannlicher of Austria. The company makes 15-, 20-, or 30-round magazines for the machine pistol, which can be used with a suppressor. In 2001, Steyr sold the design to Brügger & Thomet, who made it into the Brügger & Thomet MP9, which is still in production.
The design bears some similarities to the Heckler & Koch MP7.
This movie is a strange entry, and probably one of the least known on this list. Part of the reason that a movie with such a stellar cast ended up in the “Movies You May Have Forgotten” bin is because it has a very confused tone. Apparently, the two stars, Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner, disagreed on how the movie should feel.
Once filming wrapped, the studio let each actor submit their own cut of the movie—Russell’s cut was more comedic and light while Costner’s take was more violent and action oriented.
The result was a kind of weird mixed up story about a group of ex-con robbers who dress up like Elvis impersonators in order to rob a Las Vegas casino that has a large Elvis show in its theater, so they’ll be disguised and blend in at the same time. That sounds like it could be fairly light-hearted action comedy fodder, right?
And it is, until the casino shootout starts, which is strikingly violent and bloody and causes an immediate and confusing shift in tone. Plus, Costner’s character is genuinely mean and kind of creepy—so much so that it’s a shame the performance was wasted on what turned out to be a mediocre movie. So I guess the studio took a bit of both actors’ versions and overlaid a super-90s club music soundtrack between Elvis songs? At least there was no shaky cam.
Maybe, in the end, Costner and Russell just never got over the “who was the better Wyatt Earp” argument.
But whoever the armorer was for the movie went all out, the array of firearms in the movie is is pretty remarkable, though Russell doesn’t get to use many of them.
Regardless of the movie’s shortcomings, it was cool to see Russell doing his Elvis thing again. Russell played The King in a TV movie, Elvis (1979)—not to mention the fact that he shared the screen with the real Elvis as a child actor in It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963), even kicking Presley in the shins.
Smith & Wesson Model 686
Michael holds the Smith & Wesson Model 686 revolver on Murphy. photo from imfdb.org
While pretty much everyone is extremely well armed in this movie, Michael (Russell) isn’t much of a gun guy, it seems. He’s particularly horrified that the robbery turned into the bloodbath that it did and is almost immediately at odds with Murphy (Costner) because of it.
Just before the warehouse shootout, Jack (Howie Long-yeah, Howie Long is acting in this movie) is seen loading a Smith & Wesson Model 686 revolver. Michael catches Jack off-guard and disarms him, then holds the gun on the two men until the SWAT team arrives.
Smith & Wesson 5946
The first half of the film, Michael carries a Smith & Wesson 5946 as his sidearm. At one point, he uses it to threaten Cybil (Courtney Cox) when she refuses to hand over her car keys.
We just assume he loses it when he’s arrested in Boise, Idaho.
Custom M16 Carbine
Both Hanson (Christian Slater) and Michael use M16 carbine variants that are mocked up to resemble Colt XM177s during the big heist at the casino. Both are hidden in rectangular guitar cases, as are the others’ firearms.
Michael never actually fires his rifle at any security guards, but uses it to shoot out a glass ceiling above a group of guards on their trail. Michael later passes his rifle to Murphy, who begins the heist with a SPAS-12 shotgun, and uses it to suppress more security guards on the roof.
None of the guns used in the movie are real XM177s, though Michaels does appear to have a slab-side receiver in the elevator. The others have M16A2-style receivers with a forward assist and brass deflector and an M16A2-style rear sight.
Hanson and Michael both start the robbery by loading the guns with two magazines held together with a mag clamp.
This is a movie that certainly lives up to its name, painting a seriously bleak and dark portrait of the LAPD in the early 90s with the Rodney King court verdict and the following LA riots as a backdrop. It deals with deep-seated corruption and guilt. It’s sometimes viewed by David Ayer fans as an entry in a series of films that he wrote about cops and criminals in LA.
Some consider this film as a sort of prequel to the Oscar-winning Training Day (2001), with Harsh Times (2005) and End of Watch (2012) following, though none of the films share characters, just the location of Los Angeles and a number of themes.
Russell plays Det. Eldon Perry, a second generation LAPD officer and a corrupt cop who has been doing things off the books pretty much from the start. He gets wrapped up in an off-the-books operation that’s too dirty even for him, and he has to come to grips with the fact that he’s not really a good person, or a good cop, and seek some kind of redemption.
Smith & Wesson 4506 and 4566
Det. Perry carries an S&W 4506 as his primary sidearm in shoulder holster rig. He carries a 4566 is a backup gun in a hip holster. photo from imfdb.org
SIS Detective Eldon Perry (Kurt Russell) carries a Smith & Wesson 4506 pistol in a shoulder holster, which is his primary firearm for most of the movie. The film takes place in 1992, the day before and of the LA Riots. In real life, the .45 ACP 4506 pistol wasn’t authorized for use by the LAPD until after the 1997 North Hollywood Bank Robbery.
The 4506 is a DA/SA pistol with a one piece wraparound grip and a stainless finish. It was produced from 1988 to 1999.
Additionally, Perry carries a S&W 4566 in a strong-side hip holster as a backup pistol, which we clearly see when he has his rig laid out on a hotel bed, which is a midsize version of the 4506 with a 41⁄4″ barrel on a full-size steel frame.
Smith & Wesson Model 10
During the final act of the film, Perry carries his father’s .38 Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver in the small of his back. It’s implied that it was his father’s service pistol and says at one point that his father and his partner “built this city with bullets.” The butt of the pistol has several notches carved in it, denoting its bloody past.
He uses the Model 10 to shoot through the roof at the two suspects that he’s chasing for most of the movie.
Mossberg 500 Cruiser (modified)
When Perry heads to the ambush at the house where Orchard and Sidwell live, he arms up with his father’s Smith & Wesson and a modified Mossberg 500 Cruiser shotgun, which has a cutdown barrel, shortened forend and a side-saddle shell holder mounted to the receiver.
Stepping back into a pair of cowboy boots for the first time since Tombstone, Russell returned to the genre with a bit of a tweak. Instead of a straight western, Bone Tomahawk is more of a horror film set in the old west.
Russell plays Sheriff Franklin Hunt, who rounds up a posse to search for a young woman from his town believed to have been snatched by a tribe of cannibals who live a secluded existence in the nearby mountain caves. It’s kind of like The Hills Have Eyes, but with six-shooters and cowboys.
On the firearms side, Peter Sherayko, who was the armorer on Tombstone was brought on for this film, and it seems he put in extra effort to make sure this wasn’t just another western with a collection of Colt Single Action Army revolvers with different finishes and barrel lengths.
Smith & Wesson Schofield Revolvers
Hunt begins the movie carrying a 5-inch barrel S&W Schofield revolver with a blued finish. photo from imfdb.org
At the beginning of the film, while still in town, Sheriff Franklin Hunt carries a Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver with a 5-inch barrel and a blued finish. The revolver was a top-break design chambered for the proprietary cartridge, the .45 Schofield.
While most revolvers of the era had to be reloaded one cartridge at a time through a loading gate, a top-break revolver can be emptied and reloaded much faster.
Later in the movie, after setting out with the posse, Hunt carries a full-sized S&W Schofield revolver with a nickel-plated finish and ivory grips, which really makes it stand out against the dusty background.
Winchester Model 1892
We also see Hunt briefly carrying what looks to be a Winchester Model 1892 lever action carbine. The movie takes place in the 1890s, so for once, the inclusion of the rifle is not anachronistic. The rifle is never fired.
Russell had a small but important role in the seventh installment of the Fast & Furious franchise, Furious 7, as a government agent and the leader of covert ops team wanting to capture Mose Jakande, a mercenary who is after the God’s Eye, a program capable of tracking a specific person using anything on a digital network.
The character never gets a name in the film, and is supposed to be a personification of the evil, shady government man.
UTAS UTS-15 shotgun
Mr. Nobody with the UTAS UTS-15 shotgun. imfdb.org
Both Mr. Nobody and Dom (Vin Diesel) use the always futuristic looking UTAS UTS-15 shotgun. Russell was featured prominently in the trailer and promotional materials with the big 12-gauge, which has two magazine tubes running along the top of the barrel, holding 7 rounds of 2.75″ shotshells each.
While early versions of the gun were prone to jams and stoppages, the problems with the pump gun have reportedly been ironed out with more recent versions, though it still has its shortcomings. But hey, it looks pretty cool on screen.
Twin SIG-Sauer P230 pistols
During the ambush in the warehouse, Mr. Nobody is shown to carry twin SIG-Sauer P230 pistols as his sidearms.
The P230 was a compact, semi-auto pistol chambered in .32 ACP or .380 that resembled the Walther PPK pistol quite a bit, though somewhat larger.
It was first made in 1977 and SIGARMS began importing the pistol in 1985. In 1996, the pistol was replaced by the P232, which was then produced until 2015.
The same year, Russell starred in another western (this one without the horror, but plenty of blood), The Hateful Eight, directed by Quentin Tarantino.
He plays John Ruth, AKA “The Hangman,” a bounty hunter known for bringing in outlaws alive rather than dead, who is currently escorting a prisoner to Red Rock for trial when they are come upon by a surprise storm and are forced to take shelter with an assortment of characters.
Remington 1858 New Army “Cattleman’s Carbine”
A couple shots of The Hangman in the carriage with his Remington 1858 New Army ‘Cattleman’s Carbine.’ photo from imfdb.org
Ruth carries something of an odd Old West gun in this one, which gets a lot of screen time in the dialogue heavy beginning stage coach scenes. The Remington 1858 New Army Cattleman’s Carbine was used heavily during the Civil War by Union officers. The .44-caliber gun was built on the same frame as the original 1858 New Army Remington revolver, with a long blued steel octagonal barrel.
The single-action gun also included a brass trigger guard and buttplate along with a full walnut stock and the distinctive fin and loading lever are present, a signature element that was retained on the Remington 1875, though it served no function on that later revolver.
A modern reproduction of the carbine is produced today as the Uberti 1858 New Army .44 Caliber Target Carbine, which is pretty faithful to the original, which is very rare.