Throwback Thursday: "Die Hard" Beretta

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posted on January 5, 2017
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Die Hard may be the quintessential late-1980s action film, and it cemented star Bruce Willis' role as the action hero of that decade (not to mention a few subsequent ones). In addition to pushing Willis to the stratosphere of stardom, the movie also resulted in the increased popularity of the Beretta 92FS, the sidearm carried by Willis' John McClane. This semi-automatic handgun, which is on display at the NRA National Firearms Museum in their "Hollywood Guns" exhibit, essentially served as an uncredited sidekick to McClane. 

The firearm, which is a real gun modified to fire blanks, is as battered and dented as poor McClane is by the end of the movie. Otherwise, the Beretta was quite an interesting choice. The John McClane character's backstory is that he is a police officer; however, at that point in the 1980s, most LEOs still carried revolvers. Those who didn't tended to favor 1911-style semi-autos. It's also interesting that the prop director elected to have McClane, who is ridiculed throughout the movie as a "cowboy" by Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber character, carry a European firearm.

However, there's even more to the story than that. The movie's director, John McTiernan, wanted the film's guns to offer big, flashy muzzle blasts, so handmade blanks had to be used. Those blanks not only required that the prop firearms be modified, they also resulted in what was described as "deafening" muzzle blast. The "blank rounds" were in fact so loud that Rickman developed a very visible flinch after firing his prop gun; in many of the sequences, an astute viewer might notice that the camera cuts away from Rickman's face after he fires. 

Although Die Hard is rated "R," mostly due to language and violence, the NRA National Firearms Museum is definitely appropriate for all ages! Come and visit 364 days out of the year; admission is free and membership is not required.

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