The 5 Most Popular On-Screen Guns of All Time from IMFDB.com

The Internet Movie Firearms Database is a wonderful resource and a powerful tool. They brains behind IMFDB recently begun to use its accumulated data to compile a variety of fascinating facts on guns in pop culture and the results of this list — the most frequently-used guns on screen — may surprise you . . .

Number five is the iconic MP40 submachine gun. Popular culture has portrayed the MP40 as the most common weapon in the hands of German soldiers during World War II. This is actually incorrect, as the bolt-action Karabiner 98k was more common, but in films, television, and especially in video games, the MP40 will be seen issued on at least a one-to-one basis with the Kar 98k. We tallied it at 375 individual onscreen depictions.

Number four on the list with with 406 appearances is the classic Luger P08. This seems to be one of those firearms that everybody knows the second they see it. Its unique grip angle and toggle-action made it one of the most desirable “trophy guns” for American GI’s to bring back when they came home from the Second World War.

Coming in at number three with 523 screen appearances is the venerable M1911A1. The U.S. military was re-issued the 1911 pistol in 1924, now designated the M1911A1. Changes to the gun included a larger ejection port, a shortened trigger, a longer grip-safety spur and slightly shaved hammer spur to prevent hammer bite, serrated front sight, a curved mainspring housing, simplified checkered grips (although diamond grips still appeared on some), and relief cuts around the trigger guard on the frame.

Our guess is that if you lumped in all the M1911 appearances with this of the M1911A1 it still wouldn’t surpass number two on our list, the Teutonic GLOCK 17. The G17 tallied 713 appearances. That’s pretty amazing with a lifespan of only a hair over three decades compared to the lower ranked guns on the list.

And the number one firearm on our list is the ubiquitous Beretta Model 92FS with 847 appearances. The pistol is also known as the M9 in U.S. military service (there are few actual M9’s seen in movies and TV shows; property masters and armorers almost always use the civilian 92FS, even when the pistols are seen in the hands of actors playing U.S. military personnel).

Four out of five branches of the military issued the Beretta M9. It was all five did until 2006 when the USCG adopted the SIG-Sauer P229. Of course the Beretta’s 30+ years of illustrious service will be coming to an end with the announcement of the Army’s new handgun choice: the SIG SAUER P320.

We were amazed that the Uzi, Colt SAA, Thompson submachine gun or even the AK-47, MAC-10 or AR-15/M16 did not make the list, but the numbers don’t lie.

comments

  1. avatar William says:

    So how many times was the Winchester 94 seen on the screen? What about the Colt SSA?

    1. avatar BLoving says:

      Without checking, I would guess the 92 would outrank the 94 by a pretty wide margin.

      1. avatar Montesa_VR says:

        Yeah, like 1000 to 1. And the 1873, while far behind the 92, would vastly out rank the 94.

  2. avatar -Peter says:

    How about the ol’ index finger and thumb gun?

  3. avatar former water walker says:

    Nice try but what about the ubiquitous oater guns of cowboy flicks?

    1. avatar Big Bill says:

      Without putting any effort into actual research (lazy slob that I am), I will posit that there are almost as many guns of that era as there are characters. Even if you wanted to cover just the Colt SAA, you would need to pick a caliber, of which there were a bunch.
      In the more modern movies, the guns are frequently chosen for their having some sort of audience connection; for a WWII movie, for example, the 1911A1 would be chosen for American characters whose roles would never justify it being carried, just because many in the audience expect it.
      The Glock is often used where it wouldn’t be expected, and I have seen several of them have their “hammer” cocked.
      Only in actual documentaries do I expect realism. And that does NOT include “documentaries” from M. Moore.
      (Just for kicks, Google “fat movie maker” (sans quotes) and see who is #1)(And to show that Wikipedia isn’t fail-proof, it lists Moore as a maker of documentaries.)

      1. avatar Skoon says:

        I saw a glock slide cover plate that said cocked and locked. I laughed …

        I may buy it to be ironic

  4. avatar Pete says:

    WRONG!!!!!! The most popular gun of all time is the gun in Heat that Al Pacino used. Many people discuss it and get the brand and model wrong.

    1. avatar anonymoose says:

      The 1911 or the FNC?

  5. avatar AlanInFL says:

    What no DEagle?

  6. avatar Brick says:

    We were amazed that the Uzi, Colt SAA, Thompson submachine gun or even the AK-47, MAC-10 or AR-15/M16 did not make the list, but the numbers don’t lie.

    I love getting lost in IMFDB as much as the next guy, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that the list of screen uses is pretty much casually reported. It’s not comprehensive and it probably skews newer.

    I was kind of expecting to see some kind of revolver in there because of all the 60’s-70’s cop movies/tv shows, etc. Or an AK.

  7. avatar dwb says:

    I thought that the gun with the shoulder thingie that folds up was the all time most shown. I can’t remember the name offhand, the AK-15 Glock in .9 mm. I think.

  8. avatar BlackRipleyDog says:

    Last weekend I watched “Where Eagles Dare” starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. I have never seen more MP40’s in any other movie.

  9. avatar Mark N. says:

    My wife is a fan of Law & Order SVU, and it seems to me all the cops carry Glocks and the bad guy, if he carries a gun, carries the Beretta. It makes me wonder if they only have one extra gun for bad guys in the armorer’s gun case, so it gets used again and again and again.

  10. avatar Vhyrus says:

    Translation: War movies are popular. WW2 movies are slightly more popular than modern war movies.

  11. avatar AR says:

    I was going to say that the most mentioned but never seen weapon is, “phased-plasma rifle in the 40-watt range”, but they were in fact seen in the later sequels to “Terminator”. So it isn’t really a unicorn….

    And no scatterguns made the list? “The Untouchables” are NOT happy.

    1. avatar Aaron M. Walker says:

      I, of course would say the ever iconic Star Trek Hand Phaser, or Star Wars blaster…For the scifi fans…”Set to heavy Stun of course!”

  12. avatar Anon in CT says:

    Was the Beretta actually carried by any major police force? I know that John McLane and Martin Riggs used them, but were they LAPD issue?

    The Vancouver Police Department use them until recently, when they were replaced with Sig P226s.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Yes, many departments used the 92fs and A1, including LAPD.

  13. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    Depends on how far back you go! The very first scene of the very first commercial movie far predates everything listed, so I doubt their list. How many cowboy movies were made shown and then rotted away or were lost in fires that these people have never even heard of.
    On top of that, that ugly Beretta open slide monstrosity at number one? I don’t think so!

  14. avatar Southern Cross says:

    It was a link from IMFDB that brought me to this site.

    There is a lot of good info on the site, especially with historical variants. And it is good to see where the film makers did their homework and where they were lazy (such as using Mosin-Nagants in a movie about Catherine the Great because they looked old). Mauser variants being used because the period items are too rare, but most people wouldn’t pick up on those.

    It is a site you can browse for hours (the only worse site for wasting time would be tvtropes) and the discussions can get interesting with the fanboys getting heated while betraying there lack of real experience.

  15. avatar adverse4 says:

    They just invented movies.

  16. avatar PROUD chicano says:

    Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal used plenty of 1911s. Also Clint Eastwood used one in Gran Torino.

    1. avatar adverse4 says:

      Chuck Norris’ fingers were 1911’s. He did not even have to say ‘pow’ when he pointed them at you.

      1. avatar Timmy! says:

        Psh, Chuck Norris. I seem to recall him getting his ass handed to him by Bruce Lee in “Way of the Dragon.”

        Oh crap! Did I post that under my usual screen name? I was hacked Chuck! I was hacked!

        1. avatar JSW says:

          I laughed and laughed, still do even thinking about it, when Bruce pulled off a handful of Chuck’s chest hair, stopped what he was doing to look at it. One of the ‘great moments’ in movie history.

        2. avatar retrocon says:

          I like and respect Chuck Norris, but years after Bruce Lee died, Chuck came out and said something like he would have won a real fight with Lee, because Lee wasn’t a competitive fighter, and Norris was.

          That really bothered me. And i doubt it. Most people don’t realize that Lee was very much a real martial artist before he was an actor. More importantly, he was, in a sense, the “godfather” of MMA. He was one of the very first to start to incorporate many styles, as well as street fighting techniques, into his style.

  17. avatar Hannibal says:

    # 1 doesn’t surprise me.

    guns like the MP40 seem odd until you consider the vast number of WWII movies out there. The glock makes sense because cop movies and the fact that it’s just ubiquitous.

  18. avatar strych9 says:

    Idle curiosity causes me to wonder if they classified the main pistols Selene uses in Underworld as 92FS pistols or not.

  19. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    C olt Python must be #6 because every time I see someone flash a revo lver I back it up so I can identify it as a (almost always) a Python.

    No surprise about the 92, they’re everywhere on film. I’ve heard that’s because they function well with blanks.

    1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      They’re common in films just because they’re so recognizable, even iconic. Same reason GFZ signs generally use them.

  20. avatar IN Dave says:

    I demand a recount!! If the ar15/m16/m4 or the ak47 is not at the top of the list I am not sure how they are counting.

    1. avatar Jason says:

      Can’t believe the AK47 didn’t make it, just about every bad guy or someone in his crew, in every movie has an AK47 variant.

  21. avatar Chris says:

    I’m surprised the M1 Garand didn’t make it to the list given how many WWII movies have been made over the years. I’m assuming that’s how the MP40 and Luger made it.

    1. avatar Ranger Rick says:

      Excellent call on the M1’s rifle and carbine.

  22. avatar Ian says:

    Not at all surprised that the Beretta 92 is at the top of the list. It has a very recognizable appearance, and John Woo himself is known for saying “any other semi auto pistol looks stupid”. I’m sure Die Hard (and its sequels) is probably the most famous use of it, though I believe its technically a 92f, at least in the first two.

  23. avatar Fitani says:

    MP5?

    1. avatar Wzrd says:

      That’s the first one that came to mind when I read the title of the article.

  24. avatar tiger says:

    The total lack of Western film guns is perplexing. The John Wayne alone spent most of his life packing a Winchester or a Colt SAA on film. The Mp40 is kinda right. Every movie has them. The fact they look mean & work with blanks helps. As for the Beretta fans? Nothing beat the custom jobs in Leo DiCapro’s version of Romeo & Juliet. Underrated film gun? M-1 carbine. The ending shootout in of William Holden & Mickey Rooney In “Bridges at Toko Ri,” made me buy one as a first center-fire rifle.

  25. avatar Gunr says:

    Well what about a good old fashion slingshot? I saw “Spanky” use one in that 1934 classic……………….Oh! wait a minute, that’s before your time.

  26. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

    Have a hard time believing that SAA colts are not on this list considering how many cowboy movies had every single guy carrying one. Also Winchester rifles.

    1. avatar Big Bill says:

      “Have a hard time believing that SAA colts are not on this list considering how many cowboy movies had every single guy carrying one.”

      Except for the Remingtons, Colt Navies, Colt Armies, Colt Patersons, Colt Walkers, Smith & Wessons of several types, Enfields,Webleys, and many minor types.

  27. avatar BearBow says:

    I would have guessed that the AR or AK would have ranked in the top five but I’m not at all surprised the Beretta 92 came in first. I was actually pondering that exact thing a few weeks ago while looking over my 92A1. Seems like the 92 makes an appearance in just about every movie or TV show that has any kind of gun content. In the 80’s you couldn’t watch a TV show or movie without a Beretta 92 popping up. I was seeing 92’s in my sleep during the 80’s, well I was seeing a lot of weird stuff. It was a wild era, don’t judge.

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