Goodbye to the Gunny — RIP 4.15.18

By Dave Dolbee published on in General

R. Lee Ermey, a former Marine Corps drill instructor known to millions of moviegoers as the sadistic Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” died Sunday morning, according to his longtime manager. 74 years old, Ermey died due to complications from pneumonia. Beyond a favorite among gun owners and movie goers, he was a helluva lot of fun to be around.

I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to spend time with the Gunny on many occasions. Unlike his character in Full Metal Jacket, Ermey was always the gentleman— at least until he found out I was former Navy anyway. Then, the  fun really started. I tried to hold my own, but he quickly cut me down and proved he was more than an actor who could read a movie script. From that day on, he always greeted me as “Lawrence.” As a fan of the movie Full Metal Jacket, I understood the reference immediately.

Warning: The following clip contains language only appropriate for current and former military…

Ermy was the Drill Instructor all other Drill Instructors wanted to be. R. Lee Ermey was hands down the quint essential “Drill Instructor.” His voice, truly unmistakable, is one that will be remembered for generations to come. If you went to boot camp, R. Lee Ermey’s performance had to bring back memories that made you smile on one end and pucker on the other. Even as a former sailor, I vividly remember my Company Commanders, ENC Hanna and BT1 Tucker and our introduction about 0400 on my first day of boot, complete with their boot camp alarm clock—a stick and trash can…

R. Lee Ermey

A Kansas native, Ermey enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1961 at age 17. He served for 11 years, including 14 months in Vietnam, before he was discharged in 1972. He served as a technical adviser in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War epic, “Apocalypse Now,” in which he also had a small role as a helicopter pilot.

But Ermey didn’t get his big break until eight years later, in Kubrick’s own take on Vietnam. He was originally supposed to be a technical adviser, but Kubrick offered him the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman after seeing a demo tape of Ermey railing at extras while tennis balls flew at him.

In his role as a drill instructor, breaking in new Marines at boot camp on Parris Island, S.C., Ermey roared his way into film history by berating his unfortunate charges.

A longtime spokesperson for the Second Amendment and for the firearm community, Ermey was the Spokesman for Glock firearms for many years, with his commercials for the right to bare arms forever being immortalized by his mere presence in the commercial.


While Full Metal Jacket put Ermey on the radar of most, as the host the History Channel’s “Mail Call” series, “Lock N’ Load with R. Lee Ermey,” and shorts for the Glock & Gunny series forever etched his place among gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment.

This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.

My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will…

My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit…

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will…

Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.

So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy, but peace!

Fair winds and following seas Gunny…

What was your favorite Gunny moment or clip? What boot camp memory do you associate with the Gunny’s performance in Full Metal Jacket? Share your answers in the comment section.


Growing up in Pennsylvania’s game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Dave’s writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersen’s Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business,, and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!

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Comments (14)

  • Derek Hardesty


    I loved your films and all the roles that you played, but most of all was Gunny Time watching you shoot and enjoying blowing stuff up. I have always been a big fan of Yours .I will always continue to waste brass and blow up stuff in your honor. Hooray!!


  • Jim Harvey


    Gunny reminded me of my drill sergeant. I always tell my family and friends if they want know what I went through at 17 watch FMJ. I am a marine, I am the of a chosin marine. I will always be proud to be a brother to men like my father, gunny and all of those that serve. Thanks for the great article… Lawrence. :)


  • Terry Wright


    I never served in the military but I’m proud and honored to know that men and women like Gunny served and died to protect the rights of us all. He was the perfect spokesman for the rights of free, gun owning men and women everywhere. Let’s continue the fight,

    for Gunny Lee


  • CPL. Teigen


    Oorah and Semper Fi Gunny. We Marines will see you again while guarding heaven.


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