Hollywood does an awful job portraying gun owners and the proper use of firearms in most cases. Terminology and concepts are often butchered to the point where those of us in the know can’t even enjoy your average movie. However, there are a few gems of the film industry that actually reference realistic firearms uses and practices. Sometimes we even use these scenes to teach a lesson. At Renaissance Firearms Instruction, when we are educating new students on the importance of checking both chamber and magazine before they walk away from a firearm, we use the iconic line from Dirty Harry:
“I know what you're thinking. 'Did he fire six shots or only five'? Well to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kind of lost track myself.”
Sadly the line is lost on most millennials—and even a few who should be old enough to remember the speech that made Clint Eastwood famous. Well, I guess with references from as far back as 1971, I ought to update them a bit. Brad Fitzpatrick first covered this topic in the original work here, but since it was published there have been a few good ones, as well as a few personal favorites that I would like to mention. So I parked my butt on the couch, surrounded myself with junk food and “worked” very hard on this project. I hope you all enjoy the labor that I endured for the sake of NRA Family.
1. John Wick
It seems that overnight Keanu Reeves set the benchmark for what all gun handling should be—and rightfully so, as he spent months preparing for the role with World Champion Shooter Taran Butler. Throughout the movie we consistently see Mr. Wick utilize tactical sequence, ensuring each foe is shot once before getting a second round. We also see him keep his eyes on the threat (or next threat) as he reloads, something taught in every defensive pistol course and a tactic used by nearly every competitive shooter. Also on the topic of reloads: I liked seeing a realistic “flick out” of a magazine that doesn’t drop free, as well as a plausible tactical reload during a lull before he enters the next room. Also during this scene, I had a lot of respect for the writers who didn’t have his soft (level IIIA) body armor stop anything that it wasn’t rated for. However, nothing is perfect, While Keanu’s movements and techniques were pretty good, one huge flaw that I noticed was when the female assassin used the pillow as a suppressor in the hotel room. While this might marginally stifle on a semi-auto, you certainly aren't going to get any noise reduction out of the revolver she had pressed against it.
2. The Irishman
This one is on Netflix and this assignment gave me the perfect excuse to donate another three and a half hours of my life to Martin Scorsese. The movie revolves around Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Frank Sheeran, a high-level mob hitman. Halfway through the movie came the scene that earned this movie its spot on this list. This was when Sheeran was deciding which firearms would be best for his next job. What caught my eye was not only proper terminology, but real insight on the cartridges' strengths and weaknesses. The voiceover starts with De Niro’s character explaining “you want something with more stopping power than a .22,” referencing not only low power of the rimfire, but the mafia’s reputed “love affair” with it. Then he goes on to explain that he didn’t want something suppressed because he wants to “make witnesses run away…But not the noise a 45 makes, because a patrol car can hear that a few blocks away.” 1911s sure are noisy, especially when compared to the .38 Special and .32 S&W Long that he eventually decides on. I like how he regarded the latter as still capable of doing the job although most regard it as “a woman’s gun.” Bonus points were also awarded for being nearly 100 percent accurate as he removed each referenced gun through his process of elimination.
3. The Town
The 2010 heist film The Town stars Ben Affleck in his role as the head of a team of bank robbers hailing from Charlestown, Massachusetts. Naturally, any crime drama is going to have its fair share of gunplay, and this film was no different. Sure we saw the typical firefight stuff, but one maneuver that struck a chord with me was the use of suppressive fire. Towards the end of the movie, Affleck’s character puts his rifle through the gun port on an armored car, effectively thwarting the guard's ability to fire and allowing his team to move out. Most directors would try to cut that as an attempt to shoot the people on the inside, but I liked that they chose to go the route of portraying an actual military tactic. While this was impressive, nothing was more impressive than one of the final handgun exchanges that took place with no more than 15 feet between combatants. While both actors dumped an entire magazine, they only managed about a 50 percent hit rate. Most movies utilize “magic bullets” that only hit what needs to be hit and miss what doesn’t (looking at you, Pulp Fiction). However in real life people miss close-range targets like this all the time, especially when those close-range targets are shooting back!
4. American Assassin
American Assassin was released in 2017 and stars Dylan O’Brien as a crazed vigilante hell-bent on avenging his fiancée's death. Early in the movie he gets into one of the hardest ISIS camps to crack and is immediately employed by the U.S. Military to help infiltrate other camps. So a lot of the gunplay in this one is cheesy, but it makes the list for one scene and one scene only. Early on in the movie when O’Brien’s character is “training” on a public static shooting range, he begins to walk downrange while the folks on the other points are still firing. Immediately they stop firing and call him nearly every name in the book. I like that the writers took a few seconds out of the film to portray firearms owners as the safety-conscious individuals that they are. They also put out a mini PSA, letting the audience know that this is not acceptable behavior. As a firearms instructor, I applaud.
This 2007 action flick might top the list for its accurate portrayal of government corruption, but let’s try to stay focused on guns. This movie scores highly with me for the amount of ballistic research that went into the script. Sure watching a sniper team work might not have the sex-appeal of watching Keanu Reeves shoot people to the hottest dubstep mix, but the gun geek in me got a little excited when I heard the Coriolis effect mentioned. This phrase came out of the string of accurate observations as Mark Wahlberg’s character explained what would be required if someone were to attempt a presidential assassination at 1800 yards (more than one mile). Here he mentions bullet drop, flight times, atmospheric effects and the requirement of wind indicators.
The movie continues on like this and even shows scope-cam footage where he holds for wind and target movement. Although the dope he applied was completely bogus (Really? Only 2 mils for an 800-yard target moving 30 MPH?!) it was nice to see him put the second subtension on his target and score a hit. The movie is packed with scenes purely for gun owners, like his 200-yard shots with a .22LR.
While it’s true that I don’t get to many movies these days, I do get to say that I’m one of the few people who has fired live ammo on TV during my participation in Season Four of History Channel’s TOP SHOT. While the guys above may not have had the grace and sophistication that we had when we were competing for over $100,000 in prizes, they certainly are talking to the right people and “faking it” better than ever. Check out the above flicks, they’re entertaining, educational and won’t leave you screaming at the screen…
Who carries a .44 revolver today anyway?