Throwback Thursday: "Ghost Rider" Winchester 1887

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posted on December 15, 2016
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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.

Want to see more? The NRA National Firearms Museum has this and dozens of other Hollywood guns on display every day of the year except Christmas. Come and visit sometime!

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