Cartridges in movies


To expand on an earlier thread, name some movies that have good (or bad) scenes of ammunition as either props or part of the story.

My picks:

“Saving Private Ryan” - The cloth belt carried by a US soldier for the M-1919A4 in the scenes towards the end of the movie appears to be loaded with .303 British cartridges, minus primers, and you can see where some of them have fallen out…

“Quigley Down Under” - Quigley’s sharps(?) rifle and it’s cartridge figure prominantly in the movie.

“Kelly’s Heroes” - There is a scene where one of the soldiers is putting a magazine into his Thompson SMG…upside-down! You can clearly see what appear to be ball cartridges in the magazine, not movie blanks as one might expect.

Any more?



In “quigley down under” there’s also a nice conversation between Selleck and the local gunsmith about “cartridge conversion” to make the 45 - 120 Sharps from " British Musket #2" ( italian translation)


“Lord of War” intro comes to my mind instantly.


Growing up as I did in a household where a shotgun leaning against the fireplace was the most natural thing in the world I regret very much the fact that the only exposure to guns that most of our kids get today is a computer game where they steal cars and blow cops away with an AK47,

You have to respect the films of Clint Eastwood where he used a Cap and Ball revolver, or a shotgun, instead of the ever present Colt.45.In one film (Unforgiven) he has two C&B revolvers converted to take cartridges. Nice touch and very good historically. His sidekick, a young man, uses a Bisley Colt that had belonged to his uncle.
However he blew it a bit in the Dirty Harry films for me with his endorsement of the .44 Magnum

The early books of James Bond were factually very accurate in describing the Walther PPK and the 2" Colt detective’s Special .38 used by British Intellegence.
That accuracy carried over to some of the early films.

I still bemoan the fact that in all films a baddie shot by a singe bullet falls over and lies still instantly. In reality this is so far from the truth that it creates a dangerous belief in the mind of policemen and soldiers who still have to deal with real life situations on a daily basis.
I read a report many years ago about policemen shot in the line if duty. The one consistant thread running through many of the stories was the fact that most of the policemen, in the heat of the moment, competely failed to realise they had been hit.

A baddie shot by a single bullet is more likely to get very angry and empty his gun at you rather than fall over. There was a report in the British press only this week where it said it takes an average of five good hits from a 5.56mm to bring down a Taliban fighter. This was in support of a campaign to re-issue our troops with 7.62s

If I have to mention any films as being good I would mention the films of Kevin Costner, Silverado and Open Range for their use of contemporary rifles, and in Open Range a shotgun, although there are a few too many Colts on view instead of the more historically accurate S&Ws and others. however, if I remember correctly, the baddie in Open Range had a S&W.

There was a poster out recently in Britain advertising a Police series in which the hero is carrying a shotgun and a bandolier of cartridges. I don’t think our police use bandoliers ( I’ve never seen it) but the main point was the bandolier contained visibly fired cartridges open at the ends.


I get a kick out of the movies where the bad guys have crossed cartridge belts about the chest, containing .45-70 size or larger cartridges, but these guys only ever seem to have the typical revolver as a weapon. Seems like a lot of weight to carry around…Randy


I am watching “Das Boot” with my son (Jason, those torpedos!!!). He asked me why the deck guns did not rust. I guessed they were painted and sealed, but…maybe there is another explanation?



Straying a little, what was wrong with Dirty Harry using the 44 Magnum? Since he was a Det wouldn’t he have been allowed to use any handgun, at his own discretion?

I was reminded - two years ago when I took a refresher course for my AZ CCW, I brought my 2" S&W Model 60 with a bobbed hammer. Everybody saw it and remarked, “You aren’t going to qualify with that are you? You’ll never hit anything.” Well I did, much to their surprise, but not mine. Pretty good shooting for a one-eyed fat man.

Then a few shooters later this young man steps up with his 6 1/2" S&W M29 44 Magnum. He got the same response from the other shooters plus a wide-eyed gasp from the instructor. You have probably already guessed - he did himself proud. I’m very experienced with the big boomer revolvers and I’m not sure I could have beat him.




In the Navy, everything rusts. If the Chief is browsing here, he can tell you about rust and submarines. They don’t call him that rusty old Chief TM for no reason. ;)



Vince - I think you are mixing up the film “Unforgiven” with some other film. In “Unforgiven” Clint Eastwood carried an old Star revolver, and a side-hammer double-barrel shotun. His Black side-kick, of age similar to Eastwood, carried a Spencer carbine, later used by Eastwood in the bar room fight. I don’t remember what revolver the Black fellow used, or if he even had one. The young side-kick carried a Schofield Revolver. There were other guns in the movie, including the usual Colt SAAs, Winchester-type rifles, and the Englishman also had a .32 hid-out top-break revolver. Good assortment.

As to Eastwoods .44 Magnum, he probably could have gotten away with it as an Inspector, but it was not up to San Francisco Police Regulations of the time, which called for a blued steel, natural grips. six-shot, 4" or 6" barrel revolver (2" ok for inspectors, backup guns, off duty guns, etc.) .38 or .357 magnum revolver, Colt or Smith and Wesson make. Guns were issued, but officers could carry their own if it met regs. That said, I had a customer, a solo officer (motorcycle officer) who was 6 foot 7 inches tall, and a big guy in build (muscle, not fat). Because of his size, no one seemed to notice that the carried an 8-3/8" barreled Model 29 Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum, loaded with .44 Magnum, and he wore it in a low riding duty-style holster.

In one movie, Eastwood mentions that he uses the .44 Magnum usually with .44 Special loads. I forget which one it was, but probably one of the later ones. In the early ones, it was obvious from the “kick” done by him - nice touch, one of the first actors to show a pistol having recoil-that he was supposed to e shooting .44 Mags. He alluded to that caliber often, also. In one movies, he used a .44 Auto Mag pistol, or a Wildey .475. Mag, I forget which.

Movies have gotten much more accurate about a lot of things, and plenty of it is thanks to regular shooters - non-hollywood guys. Cowboy Action Shooting has had a big effect on the guns used in Western movies, and also on the clothing worn, and other equipment used. Civil War reenactors have had a huge effect on movies of that period, including the hiring of entire civil war reenactment groups to perform in them - a director’s dream, as they all have their own weapons, uniforms and equipment, and in some cases, their own horses. They have made civil war movies a helluva lot more realistic and accurate.

Of course, firms like Uberti making replicas of all manner of early Winchesters, Spencers, Muskets, etc., have helped a lot. I remember when every civil war movies, the standard “musket” was a .45-70 Trapdoor Springfield, and in every Western you saw two guns - single action Colts and Model 1892 Winchesters, sometimes showing each used in movies taking place even before the Civil War of 1860-1865.

Interesting topic. Movie blanks are interesting too. All manner of them, as has been discussed here before - difference noise levels, different flash durations, etc.

John Moss



It’s true that reenactors have played a big role in making movies more realistic but, unfortunatley, there are still many times when the reenactors have to imitate the movies because that’s what Hollywood wants.

Back in the 70s and 80s I was into reenacting, big time, along with a group of my buddies. We went to great pains to make our outfits as realistic as possible. Not by the book, but using period photographs and written descriptions of what the soldiers actually looked like. One summer we heard of a Hollywood producer who was going to make a film about the Little Bighorn and so we signed up. In order to be accepted we had to furnish photographs of our uniforms, arms, accoutrements, and equipments. We were turned down. Our stuff wasn’t up to Hollywood standards. We later heard of a small independant producer who was filming a semi-documentary of the Battle and we signed up and were accepted. There were about 30 of us total, guys from all over the US. Everyone who has seen the film says it was one of the most realistic ever made.

Back to Dirty Harry - do you really think he paid attention to regulations?



Ah, but the good guys bravely keep fighting despite being shot!


The NRA’s National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, VA had an excellent exhibit of guns from the movies recently. The Cody Firearms Museum (part of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center complex) in Cody, WY, also had an exhibit of guns from the movies as late as this summer. (Some ammo in both, just to keep it ammo related).

Those are two out of the three best arms museums in the U.S. and are highly recommended, with some good ammo stuff there too. The premier arms museum in the U.S. is the Frazier Historical Museum, in Louisville, KY.

If you EVER have the opportunity, take the time to visit each of these. The whole family will enjoy them (some members more than others…). The Frazier has headsets you can rent which greatly enhance the experience.


Hello again
Just to explain my disapproval of the .44 Magnum in the Dirty Harry series comes from the fact that I ran a club for many years. For far too many newbies the only pistol they aspired to was the .44 Mag . Clint Eastwood’s film did wonders for the sales of Mod 29s but nothing for the standard of shooting of the average novice under instruction.


Civil War reenactors have had a huge effect on movies of that period, including the hiring of entire civil war reenactment groups to perform in them - a director’s dream, as they all have their own weapons, uniforms and equipment, and in some cases, their own horses. They have made civil war movies a helluva lot more realistic and accurate.

John Moss[/quote]

The movie of Gettysberg was particularly memorable in this respect, plus a lot of it was shot on the actual battlefield. Especially good was Pickett’s charge on the third day.

Having been there and seen it for myself I think they would struggle to make a more accurate film. Plus, in the case of Picketts charge the actors would have been re-enacting it over the bones of the Confederate soldiers who died on that day and were buried where they fell. So it could be seen as a fitting tribute to their memory as well.


About dirty harry

1st movie : S&W M57 cal 41 magnum
2st movie and others : S&W M29 44 magnum .In this movie he speak about 44 magnum loads as “wad cutter” that in italian became “special loads” ( I saw all the movies in english too ( with subtitles , you americans speak a very strange english :) ) .He uses a Colt Python too

I don’t know the original title but in the 4th movie he used an automag 44 AMT since he had lost his Smitty


I now see what you mean by “the website is too busy.”

The movie “Shooter” is typical “Hollywood” in firearms - cartridge information.

Only one example is needed -the 1800 yard first round hit on a small can.
In reality the top shooters at a 1000 yard match are much more impressive.

Tommey Lee Jones would have fit the characteur of “Nick the Nailer” much better .
But in changing the time line of the movie all was lost except a few lines from the original books.



Hi,Some pictures I love from Hollywood:
Remington M8 (semiauto) from Riding the High country (?)

King Solomons Mines:
8bore double rifle.

Sporterized 71/84 Mauser.



Don’t forget “tremors” part I & II

Burt Gummer is the best

In “death wish III” can be seen the reloading of the 475 Wildey

In “Jaws II” , Martin Brody fills his 38 Special HP bullets with Cyanide and then seal the holes with wax

in “Beverly hills cop II” there’s a description of a 44 automag case made by trimming and reforming a 308 Win case , because “they are no longer produced because they were too expensive”



In the movie where Clint Eastwood used a .41 Magnum, it was only one of the guns. They kept two or three identical guns so there would be no down time if a gun got broken (actors are forever dropping their guns - the ones from the old series “Streets of San Francisco” were terrible about that - we were fixing them all the time). they needed to buy another gun, and this was at the time when not just Model 29s, but all Smith and Wessons were very hard to find.
No one in the San Francisco Bay Area had a Model 29 for sale, so I suggested to the tech guys that came in to buy a gun that if they could get blanks for it, we had a Model 57 that on film, would look identical to the Model 29. They bought it after one of the tech guys looked at some ammo and empty cases we showed them and told the others he could make blanks for it without problem.

We didn’t have a huge amount of contact with the movie industry at our store, but what we did have was a real education.

By the way, what Ray said is completely true, but it does depend somewhat on who is directing the film, or otherwise has the final say n costuming, etc. Some like it authentic - others seem to like it “Hollywood,” and the latter always end up with a poorer production in my view, and obviously Ray’s too.

Regardless, the films that deal with the old west, and historical events, are becoming much more accurate in technical details than they used to be. I am not including crap like “X Men” films and some of the other hyper-fantasy garbage that Hollywood and the TV Industry produce.
I don’t watch those. They are not even entertaining, in my view, much less of any other value for anyone to waste their time on them.

It is interest that as someone else point out, they do “discuss” ammunition more in films than they ever did - showing reloading, talking about how to make a specific cartridge if you’re “out”, etc. I think the first film that showed reloading of cartridges (some had showed the making of lead bullets), was a film from years ago with Robert Taylor in it, and there were some buffalo hunting sequences, including the men reloading cartridges while sitting around talking. As I recall, pretty authentic tools.

Movie ammunition can be an interesting topic, as we know from Doc Av’s explanations of some of it. Of course, from our group of collectors, he is probably the most knowledgeable of all in this field.



That Robert Taylor movie was The Last Hunt. Very authentic. Even the scenes of buffalo shooting were real. They were actual footage of thinning operations in one of the federal or state parks, maybe Yellowstone.