4 Movies That Portray Firearms Correctly

Best Correct Gun Movies Man in chair holding revolver

Let us start by saying that no movie is going to be perfectly accurate, but some take the time to get most things right.

If the gun movie happens to have a higher-than-likely hit ratio or a greater-than-likely bullet impact effect, I can overlook that a lot more than I can overlook 15-shot revolvers or police running down the street with their finger on the trigger without a negligent discharge.

That being said, here are a few movies that get it right when it comes to firearms.

1. John Wick (2014)

For all the abuse these gun movies take due to John Wick being an unassailable master of death. If you can get past that, the gun work is actually quite good.

It may be a bit gun gamer, but the reality is there are guys and gals who are that good with guns. Keanu Reeves trained extensively with a very famous California gun trainer for this (and the sequels).

I have seen videos of Keanu shooting in a 3-Gun competition. He is very smooth in his shooting, and his reloads and marksmanship are on point.

Certainly, the movie makes his hit ratio a bit high, but again there are people that are that good and much of his action is within seven yards. The real people capable of this usually do have the advantage of being on a one-way range.

John and almost all the professionals he faces have perfect trigger and muzzle discipline. He carries several extended magazines and a back-up gun at all times. His shooting does not exceed his magazine capacity and he reloads often.

Even to the point of picking up guns from the bad guys if he is out of ammo. They even make a point of emphasizing the maxim that there is no such thing as too much firepower, and anything worth shooting once needs to be shot at least twice.

This is one of the most popular modern gun movies that is also fairly accurate.

2. Heat (1995)

This is one of the gun movies that has very good gun accuracy. I am told the director, Michael Mann, demands it, as he is very strict on all aspects of authenticity and doesn’t want to take the viewer out of the scene with anything dumb.

The 10+ minute shoot-out scene, it is very accurate in many ways. The average patrol officer is very undergunned and very much in shock. They are not prepared for a dynamic firefight environment and only a few think to go for long guns.

Both the bad guys and the good guys run out of ammunition, often at inopportune times. The bank robbers have very obviously planned, practiced and trained for the heist, as well as their potential need to shoot their way out.

Long guns were the preferred weapons and lots of barely concealed magazines are seen as soon as the heist begins.

The police are much more selective in their shots than the bad guys. The bullets sometimes wound, and sometimes they incapacitate or kill immediately, but this is shown in direct relation to the point of impact. Also, dozens of rounds are fired for every injury sustained.

Val Kilmer burns through an entire 30-round magazine without a single human hit. He does destroy several police cars, and if it were a real-world situation, I am sure more than a few officers would have had soiled pants, not to mention hide from the bullets.

The only shot that has that movie-magical quality is the headshot of the robber holding the little girl as a hostage.

That said, considering the ruthlessness of the robbers and it was a rifle shot at less than 30 yards, I can see myself taking the shot.

3. Dirty Harry (1971)

Do I feel lucky? I should point out that this gun correctness mostly applies to the character played by Clint Eastwood. It is also vintage 1971, so some of the things we take for granted now, were not widely implemented.

With that in mind, this is one of the gun movies that provides a good look at period gun usage.

Most of the other police officers, and certainly the bad guys, do not follow proper gun rules. In the breadth of things, proper gun etiquette was slow at infiltrating many police agencies and didn’t really take stronghold until the late 70’s.

This only increases the period-correct realism, as does the offhand gripping of the wrist as a way to control recoil. This was taught as proper into the late 70’s as well.

To fault a movie because the bad guys have bad trigger and muzzle discipline is to ignore the facts of life.

I am of the belief that much of the Harry Callahan gun handling was a result of Clint Eastwood being a gun owner and a Second Amendment advocate, more than it had to do with any directorial input.

The focus on terminal damage, as well as needing to know how many shots had been fired, was a key component for those using wheel guns. It was also important to their opponents, as the movie humorously showed.


4. Lone Survivor (2013)

This is a story based on a real-life occurrence and follows the book written by the survivor, a Navy SEAL, Marcus Luttrell.

Of course, in Hollywood, that doesn’t necessarily mean even the main story or outcome will be the same, much less “small details” like gun handling will be correct. This is different.

I have read accounts that the four actors who portray the main characters were put through a very intense three or four-week boot camp. My understanding is the boot camp was a stripped-down version of the SEAL’s BUDS course.

I am sure it had much less focus on physical determination and eating crickets then it did on small group tactics, weapons handling and the mindset of a SEAL.

The actors seem to all be very comfortable with their guns, and they exhibit great muzzle discipline and trigger control. The reloads, round counts and impairment as injuries mount are all taken into account.

As the team depletes their ammunition stores, the tension from the actors ratchets up. It is obvious, that the soldiers know there are more bad guys than bullets.

They are very concerned with making all shots count, even though they know in the end it won’t likely matter. To this end, all shots are aimed semi-auto, even though their long guns are capable of full-auto fire.

For those who have served or just those who know guns, this attention to detail greatly adds to the mounting drama and foreboding.

Conclusion: Gun Movies

Although most gun movies have no idea what gun reality looks like, there are many more than the above listed that do.

What are your favorite instances of firearm usage in movies? Or just your favorite gun movies in general? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (26)

  1. I’d add 13 Hours in Benghazi, Proof of Life (Russell Crowe) Collateral (Tom Cruise) and the Cinemax series Strike Back (original iteration).

  2. The Wind and The Lion with Sean Connery and Candice Bergen displays 1900’s exact era weapons such as Springfields, Mausers, Krags, Webleys, Broomhandle Mausers, and grat shooting secuences.

  3. I would like to add “13 hours” movie. If you haven’t see it, it is the account by the contractors that ignored stand-down orders during the attack of our consulate in Bengazi, Lybia. The contractors were on set to pick the actors and to help direct the actions best as they could remember. They were the ones who saved the 33 C.I.A. agents working at a nearby compound. Unfortunately the Ambassador and 3 others lost their lives in the 13 hours waiting to be recused These men were real heroes in my opinion.

  4. The Way of the Gun (2000) starring Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro. If anything the gun usage is too correct, press checking, clearing stove piped rounds, and the antiheros using some pretty intense hardware like a Galil. Story not the best but definitely get a gun users attention.

  5. Amazing how the Hollywood “sharpshooters” can get on target in milliseconds in late-afternoon fading sunlight, then pop a bad guy with perfectly-placed shots with what appeared to be M16s with their puny 556 rounds. Were they really supposed to be shooting these, or were the shots supposed to personify shots with .308s? I use the .223s (really the same as the 556s) for varmint control, and can’t imagine their being used for “human control.”

  6. Thanks for a great article! The new Hollywood Cool is the lever-action .45/70, scoped. The rifle is flashed in at least one of the Jurassic Park sequels, though maybe not fired on camera (I don’t recall, but fine by me, given the age of the target audience). “Wind River” is a noir-ish neo-Western with Jeremy Renner. He plays a F&WL game warden (if that’s the correct term). Definitely check out the AR’s of the bad guys vs. the Righteous Westerner’s lever gun. I’ve never seen a human being hit by a .45-70 and hope to keep it that way, but on-camera, well as we say in the West…Dang! PS The Longmire TV series had some nonsense about .45/70s. Too bad – they love it in Wyoming!

  7. “Den of Thieves” is another good one. The ending shootout is very reminiscent of “Heat” and the climax of the shootout feels very real.

  8. The Netflix movie Extraction is pretty good. A lot of cool details like clearing malfunctions and tactical reloads. The sniper part is a little silly but it’s hard to film in action and make it look cool.

  9. Good list. Glad that John Wick was included. There is a lot of typical hollyweird over-the-top insanity in the series (which ratchets up to insanity during the 3rd movie), but the fight scenes were clearly well orchestrated and it’s well known that Keaneu trained with pros in firearm handling/tactics and jujitsu, as well as doing his own stunts (not to mention being well-known what a humble and generous soul he is). I love these movies and watch them every time I channel surf past them.

    I’m also pleased that the others on the list were mentioned. I would like to have seen Black Hawk Down, We Were Soldiers, 13 Hours, and American Sniper on the list. I find that the military movies based on real engagements seem to be the most realistic, because the consultants are professionals and veterans who have been there, done that. NO hollyweird movie is perfect in regards to realism, but in general I think they’re getting better and overall the number of firefights with zero tactical reloads and nuclear blast level exploding cars seems to be going down.

  10. I thought of a couple of more “good gun movies:
    Unforgiving: Western w/ Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman
    The Wild Bunch: Western w/ William Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Robert Ryan
    The Rough Riders w/ Tom Berringer and Dale Dye.

  11. I’m still impressed with Rambo firing an m60 machine gun and the camera show all those blanks littering the floor, really impressed me.

  12. Not too sure about the John Wick inclusion. Reeve’s firearm handling appears to be periodically choreographed to impress audiences rather than to exhibit realism. I believe in one scene I watched him plant six rounds into an attacker from a 12 gauge that likely had a five round capacity and was being reloaded “on the fly” and was therefore unlikely to be loaded to capacity. And the “armor piercing steel slugs? Not! Take a look at the shells while they’re reloading, they are low brass target loads.

  13. I want to point out the sniper scene in Saving Private Ryan, where the bullet impacts were totally different from the crosshairs.

  14. In one of the animated Lucky Luke features, the Daltons are in a shootout. After firing off a good two dozen rounds, one of them runs out of ammo and says, “Bah, these six-shooters ain’t what they used to be!” 🙂

    1. I remember Hawaii Five O with them shooting guys out of the tops of tall buildings with snubbies.
      Incidentally Jack Lord despite all his snubbie shooting on that program was anti-2nd Amendment.

  15. On OCTOBER 13, 2020 AT 10:10 AM LEFTY wrote:
    “What about Magnum Force with Eastwood using the 44 Automag?”

    Magnum Force was the second Dirty Harry movie, and Eastwood still used his Model 29 there, while the bad guys (the four vigilante motorcycle cops) used 4″ Pythons. He didn’t use the .44 Automag until the 4th movie, “Sudden Impact.” I think the author was just trying to call out a few exceptional gun handling examples, not just run of the mill ones. I’m sure he could have listed a dozen more if he had the space. I didn’t really see anything exceptional about Eastwood’s handling of a 7 shot autoloader in Sudden Impact.

    1. OK,thanks for the correction.I recall[I think it was 1970?]when the Automag came out and the brass was being made from cut down 308Win brass.Seems like there may have been production/ functioning issues with the Automags.Interesting piece and preceded the IMI Desert Eagle in size.
      I wouldn’t mind retro fitting a full size Glock or 1911 for 460 Rowland.That would be less bulky than the Desert Eagle.Also want to get Ruger SuperRedhawk 5″ 454 Casull.My Magnum Research BFR 7.5″ 45/70 is rather awesome-muzzleblast is that of a muzzleloading rifle[[mild!] but recoil is serious!!

    2. That Ruger Super Redhawk 5″ .454 is also on my list, but wish they made a 6″ or 6.5″ The 7.5″ is a bit too long. It’s better quality with less frame flex than the Taurus Raging Bull, and lighter and less expensive and holds one more round than the S&W .460. The only revolver I might choose over it is the Freedom Arms SA in .454, but they are quite a bit more $.

      I know AMT did have some issues with the Automags. I only got to shoot one once in 1995 and it ran great, but perhaps ammo quality had something to do with it.

    3. I was always skeptical about the S&W’s advertising using a 200gr projectile. for 200 yards.
      I’m using >300gr cast loads in my Redhawk 45Colt.
      If I wanted 200 yards,I’d use a Contender,XP100 or Savage bolt action pistol

  16. Neat article, thanks. The first movie that came to mind when I read the title was “Heat,” so glad you included it!

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