Sylvester Stallone has had one of the most varied and explosive careers in cinemas history, from his rise as an award-winning writer / actor to an action movie icon who helped define the pop culture of a couple decades, at least. During that career, he’s fired a bunch of guns on screen. Like, a whole bunch.
Take a tour through Stallone’s career through the firearms he has used on screen from 1986 to 1995.
Lt. Marion “Cobra” Cobretti
Colt Gold Cup National Match 1911 Pistol in 9mm
1986 saw Stallone beef up his action superstar image with the ultra-violent crime thriller Cobra. In retrospect, the movie plays like a hard-boiled, somewhat detached 1980s remake of Dirty Harry, at least when it comes the philosophy and themes, paired with the hysteria of the time over cults and serial killers. It even includes some of DH‘s supporting actors, with Reni Santoni playing Cobretti’s partner Gonzales, and Andrew Robinson as Det. Monte.
Stallone stars as Lt. Marion “Cobra” Cobretti of the Los Angeles Police Department assigned to the “Zombie Squad,” which seems like some primitive hostage rescue team consisting of two people, as far as the movie shows us, Cobra and his partner.
In the opening of the film, Cobretti is called in to handle the situation when a crazed maniac takes people hostage in a supermarket, armed with a Remington 870 “Witness Protection” shotgun that features a cutdown barrel and a birds-head pistol grip.
Cobretti gets the drop on the killer with his pistol trained on his head, and we get our second look at what he carries. The entire opening of the film is actually an extreme closeup of the gun’s custom grips as the pistol sits in the waistband of a pair of jeans. Apparently, this is how you had to carry your gun if you were a badass LAPD detective in the 1980s. Just ask Det. Sgt. Martin Riggs. The gun is drawn and slowly rotated toward the camera as Cobretti rattles off some depressing statistics about violent crime in the U.S. in a voiceover.
The gun is a custom Colt Gold Cup National Match 1911. The film’s armorer, Steve Karnes, said the gun was special-ordered and built-up by Colt for Stembridge Gun Rentals to provide for the film. It was fitted with custom white grips with a hooded cobra head and converted to 9mm.
Later, when Cobretti takes the gun apart to clean it in his apartment, we get a look a the 9mm barrel, which you can see has been tapered so it fits in the .45 ACP slide, which has a unique flat top.
We also see that Cobretti loads his pistol with 9mm Glaser Safety Slugs. The specialty ammunition was developed by Jack Canon in 1975, the same year Armin Glaser founded his ammo firm. The rounds are still made by Cor-Bon/Glaser.
The frangible round was intended for use by air marshals and other law enforcement personnel who might be forced to fire on a target in an environment where any over-penetration is a no-no.
The original round was a hand-made hollow point bullet filled with No. 12 birdshot with a flat blue polymer cap, which is what we see in Cobretti’s magazine.
In 1987, a polymer-tipped round ball was introduced and the current configuration made of a compressed core form was introduced in 1988. The formulation of the polymer was changed in 1994 to improve fragmentation reliability.
It should be noted that the Glaser Safety Slugs are available in blue and silver, the silver having greater penetrating power due to being loaded with No. 6 birdshot.
The current Glaser Safety Slug bullet still has a core of very tightly packed lead pellets. On impact, the bullet fractures along manufactured stress lines in the jacket—imparting all the bullet’s energy very quickly rather than over-penetrating a target or ricocheting on a miss. The extreme light weight and fragility of the projectile make it unsuitable for long range shooting or against protected targets.
However, the bullet design can produce large, shallow wounds in flesh, while failing to pass through anything thicker than a sheet of drywall or sheet metal.
The fact that these rounds were created specifically to help keep innocent bystanders safe in the event of a police shooting is an interesting insight into Cobretti’s character.
While the 1911 is Cobretti’s go-to gun for the majority of the movie, he has something a little more heavy duty he breaks out for the big standoff at the end of the film that begins at the motel, includes a highway chase, and ends in a factory.
He first breaks out the SMG rather unceremoniously during the first car chase in L.A. (where his sweet ride gets destroyed), pulling it out from somewhere in the car’s interior and firing it one-handed from the window. In this scene, the gun is not equipped with the laser sight that we see later.
On the night before the assault in the motel, Cobretti opens a case he’s been carrying and assembles the submachine gun in his hotel room, and this time, it has a giant tube on top…that’s the laser sight.
If you don’t recognize the gun, don’t feel bad. It’s only appeared in about five movies in all of cinema history, and is a rarity on the gun market.
It’s actually a Finnish-made Jatimatic SMG. Only about 400 were made by Tampereen Asepaja Oy between 1983 and 1986.
The 9mm, full-auto firearm was designed primarily for police, security forces and armored vehicle crews and was one of the first noted weapons to use a diverted recoil system prior to the TDI Vector.
In the movie, the Jatimatic is seen fitted with an early model Laser Products Corp. (today known as Surefire) laser sight that consists of a large tube running along the top of the gun (it’s most likely an LPC Model 7).
The gun also includes an integrated, folding vertical fore grip.
Rambo III (1988)
John J. Rambo
AKM with M203 Grenade Launcher
Rambo III is a strange movie, from a gun perspective. It’s also strange in that it helps make the titles of the Rambo film series one the first to actively confuse audiences, though there have been many since. First Blood was followed by Rambo: First Blood Part II and then we got, Rambo III, which was followed 20 years later by the fourth film, simply titled, Rambo. One could say the titles regressed.
But back to the guns, which are strange, especially for the time period. Originally, the entire film was set to be filmed in Israel, standing in for Afghanistan, with the opening filmed in Thailand, standing in for, well, Thailand.
After the events of Part II, we find John Rambo in Thailand, having retreated there after his return to Vietnam and subsequent double-cross by the CIA. He lives in a Buddhist Monastery, but when Col. Trautman goes looking for him, he finds his former protege living a double life, one of peace and service in the monastery acting as a carpenter, and one of violence, participating in vicious stick fights in a nearby village on the river for money, which he then gives to the monks.
Trautman, again in league with the CIA, has decided to embark on a dangerous covert mission in which he will be inserted into Afghanistan to help clear the way for the secret delivery of Stinger missiles to rebel groups fighting against the Soviet invaders. He wants Rambo to come along, but he says no. Trautman goes anyway and gets himself captured, and Rambo can’t live with that, so he sets off to rescue him on his own.
A number of scenes were filmed in Eilat, the southern most tip of Israel between Jordan and Egypt, using Israeli armorers to provide guns for the film.
Consequently, the first half of the movie is replete with accurate Soviet weapons of the time, something hardly any movie made in the 1980s can claim. Most American films of the era had to make due with Chinese AK copies and other modded weaponry and gear.
But, about halfway through filming, the spectacle of a major American movie being filmed int he Middle East drew a lot of attention. It didn’t hurt that *First Blood: Rambo Part II** had made the character, and Stallone, internationally famous. There were some terrorist threats made against the production, and in the film’s commentary, Stallone says he was near some type of security incident in which his bodyguards had to intervene. Regardless of the particulars, things got too dangerous and Israel revoked permission for the film to be made there, citing security concerns.
The movie wasn’t going to be scrapped, so the production was up and moved to the deserts of Southern California and Arizona. But all those accurate Soviet guns were still back in Israel. Stembridge Gun Rentals took over, according to imfdb.org, for the U.S. shoot and did the best it could to produce Soviet-looking guns.
As a result, the end of the film includes mocked up Browning M2 .50 Cal machine guns meant to look like real Soviet DShK 12.7 mm machine guns. If you pay attention, the accurate Soviet vehicles from the middle of the film are modified American tanks in the final battle.
Though there are numerous intercut scenes, the portion of the movie filmed in Israel with Soviet weapons ends roughly after the first prison escape, and the scene filmed in the U.S. with mocked up guns picks up from there.
This film is also a departure in that Rambo doesn’t get his signature firearm or a variant of it, the M60 machine gun. Actually, he really doesn’t use any one gun for very in this film, frequently trading them out for guns he finds along the way. This makes a bit of sense in the context of the film. He makes his way to Afghanistan with the help of the CIA spook who was working with Trautman, so he can’t bring a lot of gear. When he meets his contact, he has some gear waiting for him: C4 explosives and timed detonators, a bow and explosive arrows from the previous film, his knife (presumabley), and some clothes and other gear, but no gun. After all, the plan was to silently get Trautman out and escape the enemy fort with nobody the wiser.
In fact, he’s not even carrying a gun during his insertion into the Soviet camp, only his knife and a bag of explosives, though he does pick up a carbine shortly after getting through the minefield.
The most distinctive gun he uses in this film is an odd one. During the final scene, after Rambo beats Sgt. Kourov (Randy Raney) hand-to-hand and sends him into a cavern at the end of a rope, after pulling the pin on a grenade hooked to his vest (yeah, it was pretty awesome), he picks up the Russian’s weapon: an AKM rifle with an M203 grenade launcher mounted under the barrel.
This is obviously a portion of the film shot in the U.S. First, the rifle is a Maadi ARM rifle with an aftermarket side-folding stock made for a Galil rifle, instead of an AK or AKM.
Second, the M203 40mm launcher was made to be attached to the M16 and M4 rifle platforms, not the AK-47 platform. At the time, the correct grenade launcher would have been the Soviet 40mm BG-15, which would have been mounted to an AK-74 during the Russo-Afghan war.
According to imfdb.org, the mating of an M203 to an AK was seen much later in the 21st century by militias in Africa out of necessity, but this was a pretty original looking arrangement in the 1980s, and made for a distinctive firearm, even if it’s highly inaccurate. In the photo above, you see the odd way Stallone has to hold the magazine in order to pull the trigger on the M203 launcher.
AKM and AKMS Rifles
During Rambo’s first attempt to rescue Trautman, he picks up an AKM rifle from a downed guard before making his way out of the Soviet fort, forced to leave Trautman behind when the kid from the village alerts the guards, and gets himself wounded.
The AKM and variants are used by both Mujahideen and Soviet soldiers as well as by Rambo and Trautman, throughout the film, however they alternate between real Soviet AKMs and Egyptian-made Maadi ARM rifles for the U.S.-filmed scenes.
During the fort escape sequence, many viewers assumed there were continuity errors, as Rambo’s gun changes a couple times. Actually, since he’s not carrying any magazines or pouches for them, Rambo simply keeps picking up fully loaded guns from downed bad guys along the way.
He enters the tunnel with Mousa Ghani (Sasson Gabai) and the wounded boy with a full stock AKM, but soon after uses a AKMS with a wire stock to break through the sewer grating. He actually discards his rifle along the way and takes Mousa’s AKMS for the task.
In the final battle, Mousa uses a Chinese-made Norinco Type 56-1 with an underflowing stock.
The first gun Rambo picks up upon entering the Soviet fort the first time is a Hungarian-made AMD-65 (Automatic Modified Paratrooper), which is a variant of the AKM. The rifle’s size makes it adequate for use as an infantry rifle as well as for use as a fire support weapon from an armored vehicle or tank.
The gun is fitted with a 12.6-inch barrel and a side-folding stock to keep it extra compact. It uses a specially designed muzzle brake in lieu of a gas expansion chamber to ensure reliable cycling. The brake reduces muzzle flash but makes the gun quite a bit louder. It also has a vertical fore grip for added control.
The brake on Rambo’s gun has been replaced with an Israeli Blank fire adapter. Several Soviet tankers are seen with the same gun and Trautman uses one at the beginning of the final battle.
SVD Dragunov Sniper Rifle
When the Hind helicopter Rambo uses to evac himself, Trautman, and at least four other prisoners, crashes a the bottom of a canyon, he grabs his bow and a gun on the way out of the cabin…and perhaps most disappointingly for gun lovers watching, it’s never seen again.
The rifle is an SVD Dragunov, a particularly vicious looking semi-auto sniper rifle chambered in 7.62-54mmR that was developed in the Soviet Union around 1963. It was designed as a squad support weapon.
It’s entirely possible the gun in the film is a Chinese-made NDM-86, which was readily available on the commercial market in the late 80s, since that scene was likely filmed in the U.S.
When the movie was released on DVD, we found out that there were deleted scenes filmed of Rambo using the Dragunov to snipe a number of Soviet troops with Trautman acting as a spotter.
He thins the numbers of the pursuing soldiers until the rifle runs out of ammunition and is discarded as the pair heads into the caverns.
PKM machine gun
During the final battle with the Red Army, Rambo briefly uses a PKM machine gun, which one could say was the Soviet counterpart to the M60. This means the scenes of him using the gun with a 200-round box magazine attached were likely shot in Israel and inserted into the final battle footage.
Browning M2HB heavy machine gun
The heavy machine guns are interesting in this film. During the final battle, we see Rambo use a machine gun mounted in a blue pickup truck driven onto the battlefield by the rebels. It’s actually a Browning M2HB .50-caliber machine gun fitted with a fake barrel shroud and muzzle brake to make it look vaguely Soviet, or at least, not like a Browning M-2, but if you take a close look at the receiver, it’s obviously a Ma Deuce.
Soviet DShK 12.7mm heavy machine gun
Earlier in the film, when the Soviet attack helicopters tear up the Afghan village, we get a rare cinematic look at an authentic DSkH 12.7mm Soviet Heavy Machine Gun, as this was almost certainly one of the Isreal-filmed scenes.
The gun was often featured, made out of a mocked-up Browning M2, but this is the real thing, with it’s distinctive sights and non-disintegrating ammunition belt.
One of the guards at the base camp is also armed with a DShK and so is the clueless guard who Rambo sneaks up on when he goes back to the fort to rescue Trautman.
In what is possible a nod to the previous film, Rambo picks up an RPG-7 as he is escaping the fort the first time. He fires it from behind some large rocks and takes out an enemy truck, temporarily blocking the fort entrance and buying them some time to get away.
Since the scene is pretty dark, it’s tough to see if it’s a genuine RPG-7 or not. But the launch looked pretty good, even if the rocket was on a wire.
Rambo’s Compound Bow
Although Rambo didn’t get his M60 this time around, he still got his bow and knife.
Making a second appearance in the franchise is Rambo’s compound bow, which was part of the gear he request Mousa have ready for him. It’s the same model from Hoyt used in Part II, but with some different accessories. The flashlight from Part II has been removed and an on-board arrow quiver has been added, instead of the bow bag doubling as a quiver like in Part II.
He first assembles the bow just after the helicopter crash, before he and Trautman descend in the caverns. He uses the first arrow with an explosive tip to take out a helicopter as it crests a hill.
He then uses the bow in a stalking scene, similar to those includes in previous films, which takes place in the canyons, which is made a bit more interesting as it takes place in complete darkness, though at least on of Rambo’s pursuers has night vision goggles. Rambo also attaches a blue cyalume lightstick to an arrow, which he fires into a bad guy, to distract his other pursuers and allow him to change position.
The Rambo III Knife
Rambo also gets a knife, though its a major departure from the previous two blades he carried. Though Jimmy Lile was again contacted to create a new knife, he and Stallone couldn’t agree on a design. Stallone then went to knife maker Gil Hibben, known largely for his remarkable fantasy knives, who first created a knife based on Lile’s previous designs. It was a larger version of the same survival knife shape, but now inflated to bowie-knife size with more saw teeth and a blood groove in the center of the polished blade, as well as finger grooves in the hollow, cord-wrapped handle, which went back to being green like the knife from First Blood.
The knife even made it on set and can be briefly seen in a couple shots during the mine-field probing scene, but Stallone really wanted the character to have a bowie knife this time around instead of a survival knife.
The knife we see in the rest of the film is the distinctive and menacing bowie from Hibben with an angled stainless steel guard, rapier style handle, and a stainless steel butt cap.
The blade was over 12 inches, made of 440 chromium steel, and was .25-inches thick.
Instead of sawteeth, there is the suggestion of saw teeth on the blade’s spine with eight notches for the eight men who served in Rambo’s unit, Baker Company, in Vietnam. There is actually a deleted scene showing Rambo forging the knife himself in the monastery before embarking on the rescue mission to save Trautman. It’s pretty silly to think he could make such a refined product in such a facility in only one night..and perhaps that’s why it was scrapped. Stallone re-used the idea in the next film on a knife that looks like it was forged from a truck spring in the jungle.
The knife also has a distinctive slot cut into the blade, which it was assumed acted like a runnel to balance and lighten the big knife. In fact, in a prototype photo of the knife, it was revealed Hibben had intended for a Batman-symbol-looking horizontal blade to be inserted into the slot and locked with a spring-loaded release button—the purpose of which remains a mystery.
Tango & Cash (1989)
Det. Ray Tango
Smith & Wesson Model 36 “Chief’s Special”
In 1989, Stallone started taking some lighter roles and dipping into the well of action comedies as Arnold Schwarzenegger had done so well. He teamed up with Kurt Russell to play a pair of Odd-Couple LAPD narcotics detectives who reluctantly join forces when they’re both framed for murders they didn’t commit.
In the beginning of the film, Ray Tango (Stallone) carries a Smith & Wesson Model 36 Chief’s Special snub-nosed revolver in .38 Special.
In the opening scene, in a nearly shot-for-shot homage to Jackie Chan’s Police Story (1985), Tango uses the revolver to face down an approaching big rig transporting cocaine in it’s fuel tanks. After firing a few well-placed shots at the truck’s windshield, the driver slams on the breaks, and he and his partner are sent through the windshield and land at Tango’s feet.
Smith & Wesson Model 60
Later in the film, Tango is also seen using a Smith & Wesson Model 60 as a hideout pistol in an ankle holster. It’s unclear if this is supposed to be the same pistol or if he just has an affinity for S&W J-frames.
Making Tango’s choice of firearms even stranger, he apparently carries a Detonics Scoremaster 1911 in .45 ACP as a backup to his S&W Model 36, as we see when he and Gabriel Cash (Russell) run into each other in the warehouse where they are both arrested for murder.
LAR Grizzly Win Mag
Later in the movie, we see Tango use a two-toned LAR Grizzly Win Mag to sneak up on Requin (Brion James). It looks a lot like the gun used in Turner & Hooch, and could be the very same prop.
The Grizzly is a beefy gun based on the 1911 platform and chambered in a number of calibers, including .45 Winchester Magnum, 10mm Auto, .44 Magnum, 9mm Winchester Magnum, .357 Magnum, .50 Action Express, .45 ACP, and .357-.45 GWM.
Modified Heckler & Koch MP5A4
For the big final showdown, both Tango and Cash use heavily modified Heckler & Koch MP5A4 submachine guns that fire in full auto, which they obtain from the quirky armorer friend of Cash’s, along with a heavily armed assault vehicle.
The guns are housed in a fake shell and fitted with laser sights, scopes, and custom grips, and some seriously huge muzzle flashes.The housings actually make the guns vaguely look like the M4A1 Pulse Rifle from Aliens.
Calico M950 pistol
And rounding out the arsenal, Tango can briefly be seen in the final assault using a pistol that was the gun du jour of film armorers in the 80s, the Calico M950. Though usually used in futuristic movies due to it’s unconventional appearnce, the 950. The gun was chambered in 9mm and owed it’s distinctive look to its proprietary helical magazine mounted on top of the gun, which was available in 50- or 100-round capacities. Tango’s gun has a 100-round mag on board, which is impressive when you see how small it actually is.
Believe it or not, Calico Light Weapon Systems still makes the gun in various pistol and rifle configurations chambered in a variety of calibers.
Demolition Man (1993)
The 1990s started off a little rocky for Stallone…no pun intended. In 1990 he starred in Rocky V, which was the first to receive a lukewarm response from audiences and is often cited as fans last favorite film of the series. It was such low point for the character that Stallone didn’t return to the series until 2006.
He followed that with the flop-ish comedy Oscar in 1991 and the often made-fun-of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot action comedy in 1992, which we will happily blow by, even though there was a handgun or two and Estelle Getty using an Uzi.
But the little slump was rectified with the monster hit Cliffhanger in 1993. Even though Stallone got shot at a lot while playing Gabe Walker, a mountain rescue climber who has to outsmart a gang of high-tech, well armed thieves, he doesn’t fire a single shot himself.
He made up for it the same year with the action sci-fi hit Demolition Man as John Spartan, a cop from a near-future crime riddled Los Angeles who is put in cryostasis in lieu of a prison sentence. He wakes up in the far future, in a city called San Angeles, where crime has largely been abolished in favor of a dictator-like government and a whole bunch of rules.
Beretta 92FS Inox
Spartan is revived to combat a criminal from his time, Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) who was unfrozen and escaped during a parole hearing. Future society isn’t equipped to handle a criminal like Phoenix, so they thaw out Spartan to do their dirty work.
This seemingly peaceful future is also largely bereft of firearms, forcing Phoenix to break into a museum to find some, which miraculously also includes ammunition that still works.
In the near-future beginning of the film, Spartan carries a Beretta 92F while still a member of the LAPD, which was the department’s standard issue sidearm at the time. He uses it to assault the abandoned warehouse where Phoenix is holed up and capture him. Unbeknownst to Spartan, Phoenix already killed the bus passengers he had taken hostage, and forced Spartan to blow up the warehouse. Afterward, his actions are blamed for their death, resulting in his imprisonment.
In the future, Spartan begins carrying a Beretta 92FS Inox that he snags while combating Phoenix in the gun museum scene.
He uses it to shoot the virtual meeting screens Dr. Raymond Cocteau’s (Nigel Hawthorne) in a particularly solid bit of futurism.
Smith & Wesson 3914
During the battle in the Cryo Prison, Spartan uses a Smith & Wesson 3914 along with a black Beretta 92FS. It’s unclear where he got the S&W, but Phoenix can be seen using the same gun briefly in an earlier scene, so it’s possible he picked it up from him.
Sawed-off Double Barrel Shotgun
While in the Hall of Violence, Stallone pulls a sawed off double-barrel shotgun that never really gets a good well-lit shot for a positive ID. Some sources say it’s a Remington Spartan shotgun, but the shotgun was only made in an over-under configuration and as a single-shot, but not as a side-by-side double barrel.
Spartan uses the shotgun to face off against Phoenix for the first time in the future, who is at the moment armed with a Remington 870 with a sawed off barrel and stock.
Ruger Mark I
Stallone had two solid releases in 1995. First up is Assassins the taut thriller about two hitmen, an older veteran type (Stallone as Robert Rath) with a history and a young overenthusiastic type (a young Antonio Banderas as Miguel Bane) who wants to usurp him as the industry’s top gun. It’s a dichotomy familiar to action movie fans of the era.
The interesting thing is that there are only a few gunshots heard in the entire movie, while dozens are fired.
Rath’s pistol of choice is a custom .22LR Ruger Mark I pistol (though it seems Mark I and Mark II pistols are sometimes used interchangeably) with an integrally suppressed barrel. That is to say, the barrels on his pistols have been cut down considerably, probably to 2 inches or so, and the snubby barrel then threaded to accept a suppressor. The effect is a fairly normal-sized Ruger Mark pistol, but with the length of the barrel replaced with a suppressor, which has a small front sight on it. As a contract killer, it makes sense that he’d use a gun like this, since the shots he’d take with a pistol would likely be close-range. Rath’s go-to gun has tan or cream-colored grip panels.
As a fanboy of Rath’s, Bane also uses similar, suppressed Ruger Mark I pistols, though his have black grips and possibly slightly thinner suppressors. both have a fixed front sight on the suppressors.
The ability of the suppressors to silence gunshots in this movie is pretty exaggerated, with the sounds reduced to little more than a metal clank. However, in the context of the film, the small silent bullets flitting around, and the look of the pistols compared to what was popular in movies at the time, helped give the film a unique atmosphere and a tone that set it apart.
And to be fair, subsonic .22 LR rounds, in a gun like this, with a short barrel that would reduce muzzle velocity, would result in a pretty quiet gun. Those little, slow .22s wont be going through any doors or walls, but for someone like an assassin, this is a good thing, since it mitigates the risk of unintended bystanders taking a bullet—but they better have some perfect shot placement.
If you ever come across an inexpensive Ruger Mark series pistol and want to build an Assassins gun, here’s how to do it, and how it shoots (the trick for getting the look right is finding a suppressor with a diameter that isn’t much bigger than the tube on the pistol’s receiver):
Remington Model 700 Rifle
Rath never has to take a long shot in the film, so he’s never seen using anything other than his Ruger. He is shown in the first scene to be carrying a suppressed Walther PP, which hands to a kneeling Ketcham, a fellow hitman who Rath allows to kill himself to fulfill a contract on his head rather than dying by Rath’s hand.
However, in a flashback, we see Rath using a suppressed Remington 700 bolt-action rifle to take a shot from a sniper’s nest in a window, a shot Bane attempts to recreate, with Rath as the target.