Pam Grier has had a storied film career unlike perhaps any other. She became a cult film figure when she starred in a string of low-budget movies in the early 1970s, namely “women in prison” movies and blaxploitation films. It was this early career that endeared her to many filmmakers and fans alike, including director Quentin Tarantino, who revitalized her acting career in 1997 when he wrote the lead role in his followup to Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown. She won a Satellite Award and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress for that role.
Tarantino has said Grier is cinema’s first female action star, and he has a good point. Let’s check out the guns she has used on the big screen, from the 1970s to the new millennium:
In her first breakout role, Grier played the titular mononym character in the Jack Hill helmed blaxploitation flick about a female vigilante. The movie had the remarkable tagline: “They call her ‘Coffy’ and she’ll cream you!”
Coffy begins the movie as a nurse who goes on to seek revenge for her younger sister’s drug-related death and the widespread violence in her unnamed city. She disguises herself as a prostitute desperate for a fix and lures a drug pusher and mob boss to their respective residences before killing them.
Between vigilante missions, she returns to her job at the hospital—this is a setup that may have just been borrowed by Eli Roth for his remake of Death Wish, in which Bruce Willis’ version of Paul Kersey is a surgeon. Roth and Tarantino are both friends and both fans of 70s cinema, so its entirely possible.
Revenge plots and graphic, if low-budget, violence was a hallmark of this particular genre of films.
Coffy uses a suppressed Smith & Wesson Model 36 revolver when going to meet Arturo Vitroni (Allan Arbus) that she hides inside a plush lion in her large purse, but it’s taken away from her before she has a chance to use it.
Of course, a suppressor on such a revolver would be nearly useless, as too much gas escapes a revolvers cylinder gap, rendering a can ineffective. There is only one example of a revolver with a sealed cylinder gap lockup, and that is the Nagant M1895, which is decidedly rare.
In the movie’s opening scene, Coffy uses a hammerless sawed-off double barrel side-by-side 12 gauge shotgun to kill the two drug pushers. It’s fairly nondescript, so nailing down an exact model is almost impossible.
During the film’s big finale, Coffy uses another shotgun, this time a full sized High Standard Flite King pump gun, which she grabs from a burning police car.
Coffy (Pam Grier) takes a High Standard Flite King pump shotgun from a burning police car, using it during the film’s finale. She uses it to shoot Howard Brunswick (Booker Bradshaw) right in a very…painful place.
Foxy Brown (1974)
Based on the success of Coffy, Grier’s next movie was rushed to theaters only nine months later with the actress playing one one of her most memorable early roles in Foxy Brown as the title character whose trademark is an “unrelenting sexiness while battling the film’s villains.”
It was released as a double feature along with Truck Turner starring Isaac Hayes.
Foxy’s go-to sidearm is the diminutive nickel-plate Bauer .25 Automatic, which is an American-made copy of the Baby Browning, made by Fabrique Nationale since 1931. The Bauer is made of stainless steel and chambered in .25 ACP with a six-round magazine capacity. It was made in Fraser, Michigan from 1972-1984 and marketed for a couple years afterward as the Fraser-25.
In a memorable scene, Foxy is revealed to have stashed the tiny automatic in her rather large hair, which was reportedly an idea for the character that Grier came up with while making Coffy.
The pistol came from the factory with either wood or the “white pearl” grips like the ones on Foxy’s pistol. Most of the parts are interchangeable with the FN guns, including grips, magazines, and several internal parts.
Friday Foster (1975)
Another entry in Grier’s Blaxploiitation film career was Friday Foster from 1975 that was based on a Chicago Tribune comic strip. Grier again plays the titular character, which was actually a departure for her at the time. Foster is a mild-mannered photographer who, while working an assignment on New Year’s Eve, discovers a plot set up by a black senator to kill Blake Tarr, the wealthiest black man in America.
Grier doesn’t kick as much ass in this one as she usually does, and only uses a gun once when she uses a Star Model B pistol once during an assault on Sen. Hart. She drops it immediately, in shock after shooting a man. The Star Model B was often used in movies of the era as a stand-in for a 1911 pistol because it was inexpensive and it was also chambered in 9mm, which is a lot easier for armorers to use with blanks than a .45 ACP pistol.
Sheba, Baby (1975)
This time, Grier plays private investigator Sheba Shayne returns from Chicago to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to confront a gang of thugs who are intimidating her father into dissolving or handing over his family insurance company business.
Sheba teams up with her dad’s partner, Brick Williams, and the two end up rekindling an old romance. From there the movie alternates between shootouts and Sheba performing her investigation.
Sheba’s sidearm throughout the movie is a nickel Colt Python revolver in .357 Magnum with a four inch barrel and a large, polished wood grip. She carries the big revolver in a black leather shoulder holster.
The Python was first introduced by Colt in 1955 and was praised by gun writers and trainers like Jeff Cooper as being the finest production revolver ever made.
Unfortunately, the Python came out the same year Smith & Wesson introduced the Model 29 and the .44 Magnum, which overshadowed it a bit. The revered revolver has since been discontinued and fetches a high price on the used market.
We see that the Colt has a dedicated place in Sheba’s customized suitcase, right next to a Beretta Model 70 automatic pistol and a MAC-10 submachine gun, plus a single box of ammo. While she uses the MAC-10 at the end of the movie, Sheba is never seen using the Beretta.
Sheba uses the suppressed MAC-10 from the suitcase when she boards Shark’s yacht. The gun is briefly used by Fin (Paul Grayber) before Sheba rakes it back.
From the sound effects, we know that the funnel-shaped muzzle attachment is supposed to be a suppressor, though it is likely just a prop mocked up for the movie.
Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981)
After her string of Blaxploitation films, Grier played a variety of roles big and small, including a turn in the 1981 drama Fort Apache, The Bronx starring Paul Newman as an NYPD detective who works in one of the toughest and most dangerous precincts in the city. The title is a reference to the 1948 John Wayne western Fort Apache.
In her small role as Charlotte, Grier uses a nickel-plated Colt Pocket Positive snub-nosed revolver at the movie’s beginning. It appears to be the same gun pulled by a drug dealer in the hospital hostage situation as well.