Throwback Thursday: "Ghost Rider" Winchester 1887

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posted on November 19, 2020
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Ghost Rider, first screened in 2007, may be the perfect Nic Cage vehicle: By turns campy, funny, thrilling and scary, it's as cartoonish and outsized as its star. In an uncredited star turn is Cage's sidekick, a Winchester 1887 lever-action shotgun. As is only fitting in a Cage feature, the gun sports elaborate engraved sideplates...which are held on by adhesive. 

Ersatz though this movie gun's sideplates may be, the Winchester 1887 itself has a long and proud history as America's first successful repeating shotgun. Designed by the legendary John Browning, the gun was created for use with blackpowder-powered shells; the newer smokeless-powder rounds were too much for the 1887. Although Browning originally proposed that a pump action would make for a sturdier, more reliable repeating shotgun, Winchester demurred—at the time, they were known as a lever-action rifle company, and preferred that any shotgun they produced follow the same strategy. (By 1893, however, Winchester did move forward with a pump-action shotgun of Browning's design.)

In Ghost Rider, Cage's character Johnny Blaze sells his soul to the devil in exchange for his father's health...but the devil finds a way to cheat Blaze. Eventually, he's persuaded into accepting the role of the "Ghost Rider," a spirit charged with capturing errant evil souls and returning them to Perdition. The Rider doesn't really need a shotgun, but since Blaze is perfectly human during daylight hours, he frequently finds need for it. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in Hollywood, the movie makes a mistake with the firearm: Johnny and his girlfriend fire it a total of seven times without reloading—and the gun only holds five rounds in its tubular magazine.


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