Indiana Jones is one of the greatest movie heroes of all time. He’s scholarly without being stuffy. He wears a fedora better than any man since Bogart, and has a charm that didn’t crack even when he was about to get crushed by a boulder. Join us on an adventure as we take a look at the guns of Indiana Jones.
But being a world-traveling whip-cracking debonair archaeologist is dangerous. Indy had to square off against Nazis, evil Kali worshippers, Nazis again, and even Cate Blanchett over the course of his four movies. Naturally, adventures like Indy’s are going to include a lot of guns!
In this article, we will go over some of our favorite firearms from the original Indiana Jones trilogy. We might even include one or two from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, even though Harrison Ford is old enough to collect Social Security in that movie and acts in it like he’s got something better to do.
Guns of Indiana Jones
Smith & Wesson M1917
This is Indy’s primary sidearm in Raiders. It’s a revolver chambered for 45 ACP, and it was adopted by the U.S. military during WWI to supplement increasingly scarce M1911s. The M1917 would have been 19 years old when Raiders takes place. That means Indy’s revolver was newer in 1936 than an original Glock 17 is now.
The M1917 is official canon for those who follow the guns of Indiana Jones. Indy fires his revolver in the famous scene where a big oaf challenges him to a sword fight (without success). The pistol he actually uses during that encounter is an S&W Mk II Hand Ejector modified to fire blanks. Spielberg was wise not to bring the real guns of Indiana Jones to Tunisia.
The scene where Indy comically shoots the swordsman was originally meant to feature an epic battle of sword vs. whip. Rumor has it, Harrison Ford had dysentery during the shoot and couldn’t film for more than 10 minutes. So he asked Spielberg if he could “just shoot the son of a bitch.”
Indy whips a Remington 1875 Single Action Army out of his aggressive tour guide’s hand in the beginning of Raiders. Remington based the 1875 off their previous New Model Army, carrying over the handsome sail that blends its barrel and frame geometries together.
Remington’s Single Action Army would never see as much success as Colt’s, which had hit the market two years earlier. The revolver exited production in 1899, giving it plenty of time to migrate down to Peru by 1936 when Raiders takes place.
Any reputable self-defense expert will advise that you practice whipping 1875s out of people’s hands. Uberti makes a replica that looks good enough to practice with, and it even fires smokeless powder cartridges.
The Walther P38 was developed for the Wehrmacht in 1938. It obsoleted the Luger, which looks neat but was expensive to make. The P38 was the first breech-lock pistol with a DA/SA trigger, and features of its design inspired the Beretta M9 that became America’s service pistol in 1985.
Several Nazis are seen carrying the P38 throughout Raiders, including the smirking weasel who got his face melted off while looking at the Ark of the Covenant. (He didn’t know that you need special glasses for that.) Why did the bad guys have P38 pistols when they weren’t in production yet? That is a great question. At least it makes sense when they have them in Last Crusade, which is set in 1938.
This is Indy’s backup pistol in Raiders, a semi-automatic chambered in 9mm. Its name comes from its 13 round magazine, which was enormous for its time. John Browning died before finishing the Hi-Power’s design in 1925, so it was completed later on by Fabrique Nationale. The Hi-Power finally went into service in Belgium in 1935.
Indy would have been one of the earliest American adopters of the Hi-Power in 1936. He couldn’t have lifted it off of a Nazi, because Germany didn’t have a significant number of Hi-Powers until after it won the Battle of Belgium in 1940.
Because Indy is American, you would have expected him to carry an M1911. He was originally intended to, in fact, but blank 9mm ammo was superior to 45 ACP when Raiders was filmed. Spielberg didn’t want to set up a big action scene only to have the prop guns not work.
Colt Official Police
Indy starts out Temple of Doom with a Colt Official Police revolver, but his soon-to-be girlfriend promptly grabs it by its hot barrel and drops it out of the car. Colt began marketing the aptly named 38 Special revolver to law enforcement agencies in 1927, and they did a very good job of it. Countless cops carried Official Police revolvers by the 1950s.
Arguably the most iconic submachine gun of all time, the Thompson fired in Temple of Doom is specifically the M1928A1 variant adopted by the U.S. in 1938. Winston Churchill was famously photographed holding a Thompson in 1940, complete in pinstripe suit and top hat. The Germans used the image as propaganda to portray Churchill as a gangster. The British also used it for propaganda, but to make Churchill look like a badass. It’s all about presentation.
Indy has to dodge a spray of 45 ACP bullets from a “Chicago Typewriter” during the opening nightclub scene. The name of the bar where everything goes down is “Club Obi Wan,” a clever nod to Indiana Jones creator George Lucas’ other great film franchise. Now that Disney owns Indiana Jones too, it’s only a matter of time before we see The Rock the remake.
Misanthropic Thuggees fire Martini-Henry rifles at Indy during Temple of Doom’s great minecart chase. The British army used the single-shot lever-action rifle from 1871 until 1918. The original Martini-Henry cartridge required both beeswax and cotton in its construction, two components you’re not likely to find nowadays at the Federal Premium factory.
Indy was lucky the Thuggees didn’t have the Greener Martini Harpoon Gun variant, which was designed for hunting whales and tuna. It fired a 38 Special blank cartridge to launch a pretty substantial harpoon up to 30 yards away. Getting shot with a harpoon must be unpleasant, and you can’t even run away afterward!
The Lee-Enfield entered service in the British Empire in 1895, but the No 4. Mk 1 that the Indian army uses in the movie would not exist until six years after Temple of Doom takes place. Again, Indy plays fast and loose with the facts.
The actors in the film play fast and loose with their Lee-Enfields, too. In one scene you can see an actor get a spent casing stuck in his chamber while loading a new cartridge. He was firing too fast because his blanks weren’t producing very much recoil. It is not recommended that you similarly short stroke your own Lee-Enfield at home.
The primary bad guy in Last Crusade carries a Walther PPK. He uses to gently compel Indy to go and retrieve the Holy Grail for him. Sean Connery, who plays Indy’s dad, must have had a little chuckle to himself when a PPK was aimed at him for a change. As James Bond he had pointed his own PPK at countless bad guys already.
The Guns Of Indiana Jones: Mauser C96
The C96 appears to be the standard sidearm of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword that gives Indy a headache in Venice during Last Crusade. The semi-automatic pistol’s distinctive “broomhandle” and integral box magazine in front of its trigger always make it fun to see in action. Mauser would have stopped producing the C96 one year before Last Crusade takes place, but Spain and China both made unlicensed copies for years afterward.
Interestingly, Han Solo’s DL-44 heavy blaster pistol from the Star Wars trilogy was modified from a C96. Mauser made at least one million C96s, but they are increasingly rare today. This is in part because so many Star Wars fans buy them to turn into their own props. Imagine telling a historic gun collector that you want to buy his C96 so you can glue a bunch of plastic to it. I predict such a conversation would earn you a death-stare.
One of the Brotherhood fires this beast at Indy and his girlfriend during the boat chase in Last Crusade. The Sturmtruppen favored the PM18/I for trench fighting during WWI. In fact it was the first submachine gun ever used for combat. When the Weimar Republic was allowed to possess only a small number of submachine guns, Germany chose the MP18/I for official police business.
The MP28/II improved upon the original’s design with the addition of its creator’s preferred simple box-type magazine. The updated model also added a button above its trigger that alternated between automatic and semi-automatic fire. The MP28/II’s barrel was more expensive to produce than the original’s, but its design simplified the rest of the gun’s production overall.
Villar Perosa M1915
Sean Connery somewhat clumsily destroys the tail of the biplane that he and Indy commandeered to escape the Zeppelin in Last Crusade. He uses a Villar Perosa M1915 to do so, thus making it one of the guns of Indiana Jones. Although it’s evidently a prop formed by twin Beretta Model 38/42 submachine guns.
The Villar was developed in Italy during WWI. It was initially mounted exclusively on planes, but Italy soon issued its ground troops the 9mm submachine gun instead. (By that point the 9mm had become an obsolete round to fire at increasingly rugged airplanes.) The Villar had two barrels, two firing mechanisms, and two 25 round magazines, and it fired 1,500 rounds per minute.
The Russians carry Tokarev TT-33s in Crystal Skull. You can tell that some of the props are Chinese copies, which real Soviets wouldn’t have been caught dead with, but whatever. By 1957 when Crystal Skull takes place, the Soviets would probably have carried Makarov PMs. They’d already replaced the TT-33 five years earlier.
The TT-33 had a nasty design flaw that caused its magazine to occasionally fall out during operation. That’s an embarrassing thing to happen to a Soviet soldier during a firefight. The flaw is one of the main reasons the Red Army sought to replace it.
Type 69 RPG
If you were disappointed that Indy didn’t get to use his rocket launcher in Raiders, then you only had to wait 27 years until Crystal Skull came out for satisfaction. Talk about delayed gratification. Indy uses a Chinese Type 69 RPG in the movie, but it was likely meant as a stand-in for the Soviet RPG-2. The Type 69 RPG isn’t actually capable of loading the PG-2 antitank rocket fired in the movie, so special effects are needed.