Guns Of Heat
Heat is one of those popular movies with something to satisfy nearly everyone, although in different ways. Bordering…
No Country for Old Men combines extreme violence interspersed with humor and creative direction from Joel and Ethan Coen. Based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, the movie received the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2007. The guns used in No Country For Old Men are mostly true to the era the film is set in, with few exceptions.
The film has an all-star cast that includes Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, and Kelly McDonald. Javier Bardem steals the show as a black-clad hitman whose weapon of choice is a captive bolt pistol. This unusual weapon is better known as an air-pressure-powered cattle gun.
Set in 1980 in Southwest Texas, the film tells the story of a poor welder named Llewelyn Moss (Brolin). While hunting in the desert, Moss stumbles across several drug runners who died in a violent exchange of gunfire. Moss tracks down the missing drug money (two million dollars) and decides to keep it instead of turning it in.
Soon, a hired killer named Anton Chigurh (Bardem) starts trailing him and destroying anyone who gets in his way. Moss, having done two tours in Vietnam, is confident he can take on all comers. His wife (McDonald) tells the sheriff (Jones) that her husband “won’t back down.”
Explosive and violent confrontations ensue. There’s conflict between Chigurh and some Mexicans and between Moss and a charging pit bull. Chigurh has it out with two “managerial types,” and of course, Moss and Chigurh clash. Along the way, several funny interactions provide relief from the mayhem and balance things out. Chigurh being unable to get the better of Moss’s trailer park manager is beyond amusing. Chigurh’s coin-tossing incident with the gas station’s owner is also illuminating in understanding his character’s view of chance.
However, this is a film about bloodletting, and there are plenty of weapons to help facilitate it. Following are the backgrounds of five weapons from the movie and where they appeared. The unique one is Chigurh’s, but they all play an essential role.
Let’s start by looking at the guns used in No Country For Old Men with the H&K Llewellyn Moss finds at the drug scene in the desert.
As Llewelyn Moss appraises the scene of the drug deal debacle, he finds a pickup where a survivor of the shootout sits dying. He takes the man’s semi-automatic and carefully lifts a 15-round magazine from his shirt pocket. The gun is a Heckler & Koch SP-89 (Sport Pistole M1989). This is the only version of the H&K MP5K designed for civilian use.
This firearm was originally imported into the US as a pistol until the Semi-Auto Weapons Ban of 1989 banned it. Later, it gained a modified vertical foregrip redesigned into a traditional handguard, making it compliant with the ban. The 9mm parabellum SP89 has a delayed roller-locked bolt system. Weighing 4.4 pounds, it’s considered a reliable and accurate weapon. It remained in manufacture from 1989 until 1994.
Early on, moviegoers see Chigurh’s unique weapon, the captive bolt piston. He pulls over a luckless motorist to switch out the stolen police car for something less noticeable. Chigurh directs the man, “I need you to step out of the car. Would you hold still, please, sir?” before firing a bolt into the man’s brain and stealing his car.
Using a captive bolt pistol is a “humane” method to stun cattle before slaughtering them. A pneumatic gun fires a bolt into their brain, which then returns to the weapon. Chigurh prefers the pistol to a traditional firearm because it makes little noise and leaves virtually no evidence. He also uses it to blow out door locks and windows without expending ammunition.
Chigurh kills three Mexican drug dealers in a motel room using a suppressed Remington 11-87, one of the movie’s most interesting props. The hitman carried the silencer-equipped semi-automatic shotgun, though nothing like that existed in 1980. But, through the magic of Hollywood, technicians created a fake silencer and edited out the shotgun blast.
The Remington 11-87 wasn’t designed until 1987, seven years after No Country for Old Men took place. Today, it is a popular 12-gauge or 20-gauge gas-operating auto-loading shotgun available in barrel lengths from 14 to 30 inches, with a four to seven-round capacity. Chigurh carried a short-barreled model. The 11-87 is still in production to this day.
Llewelyn buys a Winchester Model 1897 field shotgun in anticipation of a future confrontation with the psychopath Chigurh. He also orders a box of 00 Buckshot, which the gun clerk promises will deliver quite a “wallop.” He saws off the barrel of the pump-action shotgun and uses it in his hotel room to fire at (and miss) Chigurh. This occurs right after Chigurh’s bolt pistol sends a flying lockset at him and wounds him. Out on the street, Moss shoots and injures Chigurh before fleeing across the border to Mexico for a short hospital stay.
Winchester discontinued the Model 1897 in 1957, but before it did, it sold over a million in various barrel lengths and grades. The shotgun weighed 8 lbs. and had a 5-round tubular magazine plus one in the chamber. In that time, it received plenty of visibility in films, TV series, and video games.
Llewelyn Moss first appears onscreen as he hunts pronghorns in the desert with his Remington 700 VLS. He hits one of the deer-like animals but only wounds it, which means he must track the blood trail. This leads to a chain of events that spills much more blood than any hunting excursion.
The Remington 700 VLS (Varmint Laminated Stock) is well-respected for its 26” heavy contour barrel, which delivers long-range accuracy. It also has good looks with its resin-impregnated, laminated stock and includes a Monte Carlo cheekpiece and beaver-tail-shaped fore-end for enhanced stability.
Although it’s hard to be sure, the version of the guns used in No Country For Old Men 700 VSL is probably chambered for Winchester .243 or .308. As with many of the film’s firearms, the Winchester was not produced until 1995, well after the 1980 setting of the movie.
Rarely do the talents of a fantastic writer (McCarthy), excellent producers and directors (the Coen brothers), A-list actors, and character actors come together to create a gem like this one. Even the weapons speak to the uniqueness and inventiveness of all who participated.
Why do so many people watch No Country for Old Men more than once and keep watching it over 15 years after it debuted? Two reasons: First, it’s such a great movie that it never gets old. The second reason relates to the first: There are so many subtleties and surprises in the film that you’ll pick up on by watching it several times.
After Wendell asks Sheriff Tom Ed Bell if he thinks Moss “Has got any notion of the sorts of sons of bitches that’re huntin’ him.” The sheriff replies, “I don’t know, he ought to. He’s seen the same things I’ve seen, and it’s certainly made an impression on me.”
Watching this movie a few times will certainly make an impression on you!