Let’s face it, Sylvester Stallone doesn’t quickly let go of his characters. He held on to Rocky Balboa for six films spanning 30 years (1976-2006). So far, he has shot up the big screen with the guns of Rambo in five pictures starting in 1982 and continuing into 2019 for an amazing 37-year run!
The Rocky franchise garnered several awards and grossed over $1.7 billion at the box office. If you’re craving action, you would be hard-pressed to find a group of movies that provides more than the Rambo series. No one is likely to mistake Sylvester Stallone for Sir Laurence Olivier. But he is perfectly cast as the troubled Vietnam War and Green Beret veteran who can’t turn off his kill-first-ask-questions-later instincts.
Most critics agree that Rambo: First Blood, the initial offering in the series, is the finest. It’s helped by an excellent supporting cast. Including veteran actors Richard Crenna as Rambo’s former commander Colonel Samuel Trautman, and Brian Dennehy as Sheriff Will Teasle. The plot is solid, and even though the violence often pushes the boundaries of believability, it’s a wildly entertaining film featuring more than a dozen various types of firearms.
Guns Of Rambo: First Blood (1982)
The Plot: John Rambo is a Medal of Honor recipient drifting from town to town looking up old war buddies when he happens into Hope, Washington, to find a meal. He comes under the radar of Sheriff Will Teasle, who arrests him for vagrancy. While in custody, deputies abuse him, triggering flashbacks of torture in Vietnam and setting off his military instincts.
Rambo manages to escape from the local jail. The sheriff’s department, state police, and National Guard fail to capture or subdue him. Only upon the arrival of his former commander, Colonel Trautman, is a total blood bath averted.
Among the slew of handguns, rifles, and shotguns that Rambo and law enforcement brandished, three weapons stand out—the M16A1 assault rifle, the M60 machine gun, and John’s survival knife. Here’s the scoop on each of them:
- M16: Firing a 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge, the M16 makes appearances in the hands of both the local cops and members of the National Guard in First Blood. It officially became the U.S military’s standard service rifle in 1969. It replaced the 7.62mm M-14, so Rambo would have been comfortable using it. Case in point: during the firefight in the Cascade Mountains, he captures an M16 and returns fire with it.
- M60: Seeing Rambo’s muscles bulging as he fires the M60 machine gun, we get the impression that it is quite heavy when it weighs only 23 pounds. The M60 is capable of firing 7.62x51mm NATO ammo at a rate of 600 rounds per minute. Making the gun the ideal weapon for destroying several businesses along with the town’s power supply.
- Survival knife: The First Blood survival knife was probably based on those carried by pilots during the Vietnam War. The handle contained a small survival kit they could use if shot down. The handles housed needles, thread, a small surgical knife, and a fishing lure. John used the wire and hook to stitch up a cut in his arm and the knife to threaten Sheriff Teasle.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
The Plot: Part I ended with John Rambo surrendering to an uncertain future. Part II picks up three years later as he is doing hard time (breaking rocks in a quarry). He receives a visit from Colonel Samuel Trautman, his former commander. Trautman has a proposition for him. Go back into the jungles of Vietnam, find American POWs, photograph them, and get a full pardon.
This mission sounds like a walk in the park for someone with Rambo’s training and experience. However, it turns into an unholy mess quickly. He loses much of his equipment during his drop into the jungle. Afterward, he meets and loses his female contact agent, manages to rescue one POW, and is captured and tortured—eventually escaping.
Meanwhile, Rambo uses everything at his disposal, including a compound bow with explosive arrows. He acquires a captured Soviet helicopter, to rescue the POWs while laying waste to the prison camp and his former captors.
In Rambo: First Blood Part II, the screen is populated with all types of handguns, shotguns, machine guns, assault rifles, submachine guns, and explosives. Here are two guns of Rambo that stand out:
- Heckler & Koch MP5A3: The CIA issues an MP5A3 fitted with a 3x scope to Rambo before his jungle mission (In reality, it’s a mocked-up HK94A3). The actual MP5 is a 9x19mm submachine gun with a retractable stock and can fire 800 rounds per minute. Optional trigger groups allow for single fire, fully automatic, 2-round, and 3-round bursts. The gun uses a delayed-blowback operating system and is known for its ease of handling, accuracy, and reliability.
- M72 LAW: The M72 LAW rocket launcher saw plenty of action in the Vietnam War, typically firing anti-tank and anti-vehicle grenades. One of the most unrealistic scenes in Rambo II occurs when John fires an M72 LAW rocket launcher from the cabin of his downed chopper. Weapons experts agree that firing an M72 in the helicopter’s enclosed space would have created a backblast that would maim him and his passengers.
Rambo III (1988)
The Plot: After his rescue mission in Rambo: First Blood Part II, John Rambo decided to settle in Thailand. Rambo III opens with Colonel Sam Trautman, John’s former superior, visiting him there to ask him to join him in helping the Mujahedeen rebels fighting against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Trautman goes to Afghanistan alone after Rambo turns him down, eventually trapped behind the enemy lines. John launches yet another rescue mission, this one to free his friend who his Russian captors are torturing.
As expected, there are no shortages of bombs and bullets as Rambo fights his way through a large contingent of Soviet soldiers.
As in Rambo II, there is plenty of killing and property destruction and lots of guns, rifles, and explosives to get it done. One of the most interesting firearms was featured in the film but didn’t survive the final cut:
- The SVD-63 Dragunov: The Dragunov is a semi-automatic sniper rifle developed by the Soviet Union and placed into service in 1963. It fires the 7.62x54mmR cartridge, notorious for its loud muzzle blast and severe recoil. The SVD-63 is a designated marksman rifle (DMR), meaning it fills the range gap between a standard service rifle and a dedicated sniper rifle at 300 to 600 meters.
The Plot: For the Rambo re-boot (Rambo IV), John Rambo is a boat captain in Thailand. This location keeps with the canon put in place by Rambo III. John reluctantly agrees to transport a boatload of missionaries downriver to deliver medical supplies. Things go sideways when the missionaries are captured by Burmese Junta soldiers. John Rambo must decide to maintain the low profile of his quiet life or join up with a band of mercenaries for a rescue mission.
The film features several classic Rambo weapons, including knives, a compound bow, and plenty of machine guns. Technically, this is the first film in the series to depict Rambo using a handgun, however, it also uses cut footage (in a flashback) from Rambo: First Blood showing an alternate ending to the first film.
- Browning M2: Oh baby, the Browning M2, or “Ma Deuce” is a .50 caliber heavy machine gun. Traditionally, it’s a weapon that’s fired from a mounted position, such as an aircraft or assault vehicle. It’s the perfect weapon to send a message to your enemies that they’re not safe hiding behind…well anything. The .50 BMG round the Browning M2 fires is capable of penetrating wood, brick, stone, and lightly armored metal barriers.
- M1911A1: A true classic. A veteran of two World Wars, the M1911A1 (or Colt 1911) is a semi-automatic pistol chambered in .45 ACP. Designed by John Browning, it was quickly designated the official sidearm of the US Army in 1911. Even though the design is now considered outdated, it’s still a popular handgun for civilians, competition shooters, and remains in service for some specialized US Military units.
Guns Of Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
The Plot: John Rambo has (kind of) retired and returned home to his father’s horse ranch in AZ. He searches for inner peace while raising horses, digging tunnels, and making knives. He shares the ranch with a family friend named Maria and her teenage daughter, Gabriela. Through a series of events, Gabriela ends up on the wrong side of the Mexican border and is abducted by a notorious cartel. John is forced to cross the border to rescue her. He rains his style of punishment down upon those who are responsible.
If you’re into knives and clawhammers, this is an action film for you. The film is bloody, with hand-to-hand action sequences shot in a quick edit style like a slasher movie. There’s less “spray and pray” machine gun action, and more close-range shotgun combat. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of gunplay from the cartel, they bring an arsenal to take on Rambo. Including AK-47s, AKS-74Us, and plenty of surplus hardware and equipment.
- M1 Garand: If you want to know how the allies won WWII, shoot an M1 Garand and you’ll understand. It’s a hunk of wood and metal that feels like you could beat down the doors of a bunker with it. It’s chambered for .30-06 ammo and kicks like a mule with 8-rounds stored in handy metal clips. It thumps targets hard, even from a distance. There were some sniper versions put into use on the battlefield, but for the most part, the M1 Garand was the designated battle rifle of the United States Military.
- Winchester Model 1892: The Winchester model 1892 is a lever-action repeating rifle. There were several variations of the rifle made over the years, many of them being popularized on television and in western genre films. John Wayne famously used one in the John Ford classic The Searchers. Although it actually went into production after much of the West had been won, it was a popular rifle. It was available in a variety of calibers with the .44-40 Winchester being the most popular.
The End Of Rambo?
Is Rambo: Last Blood the end of the road for the Rambo character? In true Stallone-style, Sly leaves the door open for a possible return to the role in the future. With one foot in the present and one in the past, perhaps Rambo has finally found the inner peace he’s been searching for. One thing is for sure, the fictional John Rambo character has retained his popularity over the years. In conclusion, with five feature films spanning four decades, it seems retirement isn’t slowing him down.