New NRA exhibit features weapons from classic Westerns that include The Wild Bunch and True Grit.
- Written by Phil Spangenberger
- Published March 29, 2011
“Why, by God girl, that’s a Colt’s Dragoon,” uttered by none other than John Wayne in 1969's True Grit.
These words, uttered by none other than John Wayne, in his Oscar-winning performance as Marshal Rooster Cogburn in 1969’s True Grit, brought star status to the Italian replica Colt Walker revolver, which was originally intended to simply be a prop that saw sporadic use throughout the movie.
This and many other firearms used throughout movie history have become more than mere props or backdrops to the actors. Many became somewhat stellar themselves.
When you think of motion pictures like 1969’s The Wild Bunch, you can’t help but recall the 1917-A1 Browning machine gun used in the exciting final shoot-out scenes. In John Wayne’s 1939 classic Stagecoach, or in many of the Duke’s films, his large loop 1892 Winchester comes to mind. Thanks to the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) National Firearms Museum, in Fairfax, Virginia, 105 unforgettable movie guns are on display through July 2012 in a special exhibit titled “Hollywood Guns.”
Curator Phil Schreier assembled this impressive collection of firearms used in films from as early as 1929 on up through the latest hit movies of today. The exhibit displays guns from Westerns, film noir, war movies, fantasy films and epic adventures, as well as firearms commonly used by many of Hollywood’s top actors.
A sampling of the cool Western movie guns in the exhibit includes a Remington New Model Army .44 that was used by John Wayne in the 1929 epic The Big Trail, which marked the Duke’s first starring role. You’ll see Richard Widmark’s rare Nock flintlock Volley gun from 1960’s The Alamo. Two six-guns (a Peacemaker Colt and a New Service model altered to look like an 1873 Colt for fast firing) used by Marlon Brando in the 1961 oater One Eyed Jacks is on display. There’s Billy Bob Thornton’s “Davy Crockett” flinter long rifle and shooting accessories from 2004’s The Alamo, as well as Schofield replicas from 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma. When you look at Viggo Mortensen’s “eight-gauge” shotgun used so effectively in 2008’s Appaloosa, you’ll see that the shotgun is really a 12 gauge. I was pleased to be able to loan the NRA a .45-70 Springfield trapdoor carbine used in the 1948 John Wayne classic She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.
Schreier has also trotted out a number of more modern arms, including the 1917-A1 Browning—complete with a movie blood-spattered ammo box—from The Wild Bunch, Bruce Willis’s Die Hard Beretta 92FS featured in the 1987 flick, the M1 Garand from Clint Eastwood’s 2009 movie Gran Torino and Johnny Depp’s Colt M-1921 Thompson submachine gun, used in his 2009 hit Public Enemies.
If you like guns and movies, this exhibit is a must-see—and it is free! If you find yourself in the Washington, DC, “Beltway” area, stop by the NRA’s National Firearms Museum. A copy of the full-color exhibit guide is available for $19.90 postpaid. Visit NRAFoundation.com to find out more information.
John Bianchi, 50 Years of Gunleather
John Bianchi: An American Legend, 50 Years of Gunleather, written by Dennis Adler, covers Bianchi’s extraordinary life from police officer to firearms industrialist, innovator, citizen soldier, Western personality and all-around great American. This is the first biography published by Blue Book Publications, responsible for the Blue Book of Gun Values, and what a great read! Known as the “Godfather of Gunleather,” John Bianchi is a name well known to anyone who has ever owned a handgun holster, including those in law enforcement and the military, and sportsmen and Westerners. The 260-page hardcover volume features a foreword by Gunsmoke’s James Arness and is chock-full of great photos ($39.95). For more information, visit BlueBookInc.com or call 800-877-4867.