Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! The Rimfire Report is TFB’s ongoing series that discusses, explores, and reviews various rimfire firearms throughout history and in today’s case – Hollywood. The movies can be a great escape from daily life and I’m sure that like most gun enthusiasts, your love of firearms also influences the types of movies and TV shows you’ll end up watching. Today we’ll be going over 4 examples of rimfire firearms showing up in the silver screen industry.
The Rimfire Report: Silver Screen Rimfire Firearms
Due to the inherent rarity of modern rimfire firearms compared to their historical real-world popularity you end up finding that film studios use a lot of modern replacements to replicate their rimfire counterparts. Some of the guns on this list are actually modern replicas or replacements of the rimfire firearms they are intended to portray in the films – for this reason, I’ll only be referring to the actual real-world rimfire firearm itself and not its modern replacement. That being said, there are plenty of modern rimfire firearms being used in films today.
1. Spencer Model 1860 .56-56 Spencer Rimfire – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
All of the firearms used in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly were supplied to the studio in the 1960s by Aldo Uberti Inc. of Italy and although many of the firearms featured in the film use accurate blank firing rounds, the Henry 1860 would have had trouble finding .46 rimfire blank ammunition in 1966 as it was already ancient history by the late 19th century.
The Spencer Model 1860 is probably most famous for the scene where Blondie (the man with no name – Clint Eastwood) shoots out Tuco’s noose from a distance, saving him from a slow death at the graveyard.
2. Cooey Model 600 .22LR – Shooter
In the military action thriller film Shooter starring Mark Whalberg, a former sniper winds up in the midst of a government conspiracy and ends up having to use his military training and any weapons he can get his hands on to fight back and clear his name of guilt. In a scene about midway through the movie Whalberg’s character, Bob Lee Swagger, saves an ally using an antiquated bolt-action 22LR rifle. The specific model of rifle used in the movie is stated to be a Cooey Model 600 (an updated version of the Model 60).
Swagger makes a life-saving shot using the rifle with an added makeshift suppressor which looks to be made from a water bottle secured to the end of the barrel via electrical tape. Later in the movie, some of the antagonists state that he made the shot from 100 yards which makes this quite a fantastical shot given that Swagger was standing on a boat. Realistic or not, this scene really stood out to me as an example of the humble 22LR finding its way into films full of much larger caliber firearms.
3. Ruger MK III 22LR – The Mandalorian
Disney’s spin-off Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, has seen all sorts of firearms being repurposed as cool blasters for the series. In fact, the Star Wars franchise has a famous history of doing this from everything to the popular E-11 blaster of the Storm Troopers to Han Solos DL-44 blaster which is in fact a Mauser C-96. In the new series The Mandalorian, a Ruger Mk III Makes a brief but memorable appearance.
In season 1 episode 6 of the Mandalorian, character Mayfield (portrayed by stand-up comedian Bill Burr) is tasked with clearing out a prison facility, and while he sports one blaster in each hand, a third one is added to the mix. Attached to a backpack-mounted rig is a dressed-up Ruger Mk. III 22LR pistol that acts as his tertiary sidearm seemingly taking down droid guards all on its own.
As a side note – Bill Burr has a pretty funny story about how he believes 22LR is the best caliber for home defense.
4. Henry 1860/Winchester 1866 .44 Rimfire – Various films
By far the most iconic and popular rimfire firearm featured in films has to be the Henry 1860 chambered in .44 Rimfire. The rifle has been in nearly every western-themed movie imaginable from the previously mentioned The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly all the way up to more modern films like Django Unchained and the recently redone True Grit – all of which feature the iconic lever-action rifle.
The rifle itself was designed in the 1850s and gained legendary status because of its reliable and quick loading and firing sequence. The design was revolutionary for the time and saw limited use during the civil war and was often referred to as “the rifle you could load on Sunday and shoot all week long.”
The firearm was so popular that it was adapted and modified less than a decade later by Winchester to become the Winchester Model 1866 “Yellow Boy.” While still maintaining the .44 Rimfire cartridge, Winchester improved on Henry’s design by introducing a more user-friendly loading gate. Today it finds its way into the hands of lever-action enthusiasts in more modern offerings like .38 Special.
By far my favorite (although satirical) appearance of this rifle has to be in the 1990s film Back to the Future Part 3 where Doc Brown saves Marty from death by hanging ala The Good The Bad and the Ugly. Doc has made several distinct modifications to his Winchester 1866 the most notable of which is the inclusion of a custom scope with exposed optics, as well as a custom front sight which looks more like an anti-aircraft sight.