Clint Eastwood has used a lot of guns on screen. He’s been an avid shooter since the 1960s and cut his teeth on the TV Western Rawhide before making the jump to the big screen. His form isn’t great, and you won’t ever catch him using a two-handed grip — that thing where he occasionally grasps his wrist while shooting Dirty Harry Callahan’s .44 Magnum doesn’t count, as it was a wheelgun-weirdo grip briefly in vogue back in the ’70s — but there isn’t a man in Hollywood who ever looked more natural pointing a six-gun.
Here are some of our favorite guns from Clint Eastwood movies, in ascending order of awesomeness.
THE GUN: Sig Sauer P228
THE MOVIE: In the Line of Fire (1993)
Of all the times Eastwood has used guns on screen, this was the first and only instance in which he used a semi-auto pistol invented after 1980. Frank Horrigan is an aging Secret Service agent who usually works undercover on fraud cases. When he’s pulled back into presidential guard duty by a nutjob who wants to play some cat and mouse before trying to get into the history books by killing the current president, Horrigan suits up and carries a Sig Sauer P228 like the other USSS agents. At the time, the P228 was the standard USSS sidearm. The agency later switched to the Sig Sauer P229.
While it is extremely strange to see Eastwood carrying a modern handgun without a spinny thing in the middle, he actually never shoots the Sig on screen. But there was one extremely cool moment with the P228 in the above trailer that I remember seeing on TV constantly as a 10-year-old kid, and it pretty much told me everything I needed to know about Clint Eastwood movies.
And here’s a little tidbit that made me feel old: The trailer for this movie was one of the first few that AOL made available online. It was downloaded a whopping 170 times in about two weeks — but to be fair, every one of those downloads took, like, 12 hours.
THE GUN: Starr 1858 Army Revolver
THE MOVIE: Unforgiven (1992)
If you don’t pay very close attention to this classic Western, you might think Eastwood’s William Munny carries another Colt Single Action Army at the movie’s start, but Unforgiven includes a little Easter egg for gun nerds. The revolver Munny keeps cased up at his farm is actually a double-action Starr 1858 Army percussion revolver.
This interesting cap-and-ball wheelgun functioned in double action, though it wasn’t a true double-action revolver as we think of one today. The Starr has two triggers that function kind of like a set trigger on a rifle.
The large trigger rotates the cylinder and cocks the gun’s hammer, making it ready to fire. If the large trigger is pulled back even further, it contacts a light second trigger behind it, which actually drops the hammer and fires the gun. The large trigger could be pulled in one motion for fast double-action-like firing, or the hammer could be cocked for each shot like a single-action for more accurate shooting, since the full-length trigger pull on the gun was quite long and heavy. Maybe that’s why Munny kept missing the cans on the fencepost and had to use the 10-gauge to get it done.
THE GUNS: Twin MP 40 Submachine Guns
THE MOVIE: Where Eagles Dare (1968)
In his early career, Eastwood alternated between Westerns and war movies. In Eagles, he plays Lt. Schaffer, the American member of a WWII Allied force tasked with parachuting behind enemy lines to raid a German castle. As such, Eastwood has to dress in a Nazi officer’s uniform and tote around German hardware from the 1940s.
Eastwood’s star was still rising in Hollywood, and he didn’t get to do much in this one. He mostly just sounds off with the typical hardheaded American lines when called for, but he has a genuine Rambo moment about 15 years before Rambo existed. In a stone corridor, Schafer picks up two MP 40 submachine guns and fires them simultaneously to mow down a wave of attacking German troops — with the buttstocks folded. In 1968. Beastly.
THE GUN: M1 Garand
THE MOVIE: Gran Torino (2008)
In his later years, Eastwood turned the portrayal of a surly curmudgeon into a true art form. In Gran Torino, he leans into that shit as the newly widowed Walt Kowalski, a Korean War veteran who hates his kids, hates how his old Detroit neighborhood has changed, hates pretty much everything other than the 1972 Ford Gran Torino in his garage that rolled off the production line when he worked at the factory.
Kowalski grows something like a heart by the film’s end after the kind immigrants who live next door soften his spirit, but before all that, he enters their story when a dispute with a local gang spills onto his front lawn. He emerges from his house with his issued M1 Garand rifle and a growl to persuade them to take it elsewhere.
Like so many veterans of the day, Kowalski saw to it that the Garand and the M1911A1 pistol he was issued during the war made their way to the States. When Kowalski hears someone breaking into his garage, we see that he can still load an en bloc clip into his M1 with alacrity.
THE GUNS: Josey Wales’ Walker Colts
THE MOVIE: The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Everything about Josey Wales is just a bit larger than life — that includes the two revolvers he carries as his main sidearms. Set right at the end of the Civil War, this cap-and-ball Western is super grim, but it has a darkly humorous side, and Eastwood’s character is so wonderfully fuckin’ salty that it makes you want to hock a stream of chew spit on some jerk’s white suit.
The two guns he made famous with this movie’s awesome poster were a pair of huge Colt Walker 1847 revolvers that he wields with near-superhuman deftness. The Walker was a powerful gun built for cavalry soldiers and was meant to be carried in holsters hung from saddles. I simply cannot articulate why, but lean-and-rangy Eastwood always looks absolutely natural and comfortable shooting giant pistols one-handed. To see him shoot a Glock with a two-handed grip would be like watching Jimmy Page play drums.
Since reloading revolvers in pre-metallic-cartridge days was very slow and laborious, Wales carries more than just the two behemoths. He keeps a Colt 1860 Army revolver in his belt and a Colt 1849 Pocket in a chest/shoulder holster.
THE GUN: Coiled Snake Revolver
THE MOVIES: A Fistful of Dollars (1964); For a Few Dollars More (1965); The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Eastwood broke out of TV and into movies as the “Man With No Name” in the Dollars Trilogy, a trio of spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone, though Eastwood’s character has a name in two of the movies and a nickname in one, and they’re not really sequels.
The stories aren’t connected at all, and while Eastwood’s character might be the same guy in all three, he also might not be. One link that binds all three is Eastwood’s revolver, outfitted with distinctive red grips emblazoned with a coiled, silver snake. We see it in all three movies, but all three guns aren’t exactly the same.
In A Fistful of Dollars, Eastwood’s deadeye, loner character is called Joe and carries a Colt Peacemaker with the aforementioned grips and a color-case-hardened frame. In For a Few Dollars More, people call him Manco, and he carries what is, presumably, the same Peacemaker. He’s also sporting some kind of leather wrist/thumb brace thing on his shooting hand that isn’t ever explained, but it sure looks badass.
In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, only one character refers to him by name, and that’s Tuco, who calls Eastwood “Blondie.” A lot. Even though he has ditched the wrist brace, Eastwood is again carrying a handgun with the red snake grips, but this time it has mysteriously become an older Colt 1851 Navy cap-and-ball revolver converted to fire cartridges. The coolest thing? They never even attempt to explain it or give him a backstory.
If you want one, you can buy a sweet replica from Cimarron Firearms.
THE GUN: .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 29 Revolver
THE MOVIES: Dirty Harry (1971); Magnum Force (1973); The Enforcer (1976); Sudden Impact (1983); The Dead Pool (1988)
It’s probably the most iconic handgun in all of film history. I’ve tried and failed to think of its equal. When people talk about Harry Callahan’s Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum Model 29 revolver, they usually talk about the legendary “Do I Feel Lucky” speech from the original Dirty Harry, and deservedly so. But my favorite .44 Mag moment comes in the fourth DH movie, Sudden Impact.
I’m an ’80s child, and while Callahan is thought of as a ’70s character, his second-most famous line came in this 1983 sequel. The first half-hour of every DH movie features Callahan foiling some kind of crime that has nothing to do with the main plot via gunfight. In this one, he takes on four guys trying to rob his favorite diner during the breakfast rush after the waitress tips him off with over-sugared coffee.
Callahan: “Every day for the last 10 years, Loretta there’s been giving me a large black coffee. Today she gives me a large black coffee, only it’s got sugar in it. A lotta sugar. I just came back to complain. Now, you boys put those guns down.”
Robber No. 1: “Say what?”
Callahan: “Well, we’re not just going to let you walk outta here.”
Robber No. 1: “Who’s ‘we,’ sucka?”
Callahan: “Smith, and Wesson, and me.”
Callahan blows away three of the bad guys with five shots. The remaining wounded robber tries to take a waitress hostage with a little automatic, and he freezes when he comes face to face with the train-tunnel bore of Callahan’s .44 Magnum. A calm and collected Callahan squints behind it, cocks the hammer, and says, “Go ahead. Make my day.”
Nobody — and I mean nobody — could deliver that kind of badass dialogue while wearing a tweed sports jacket and not sound corny doing it.