Top Guns From Action Movies of the 1980s

Retro 80s VHS

The ’80s were jam-packed with some of the hottest action movies ever made. These Bad to the Bone flicks featured some radical guns and stellar action heroes. From pistols to rocket launchers, here are some of the best guns from ’80s action movies. So with that, let’s motor…

Beretta 92

One of the most prevalent pistols you’ll see is the Beretta 92. Check the holsters and hands of every movie cop or security guard, and you’ll find the 92’s familiar silhouette. It is no surprise to see it featured in popular films such as “Lethal Weapon” and “Beverly Hills Cop II.”

The Beretta 92 is a 9mm double-action/single-action pistol with a double-stacked magazine that held 15 rounds back in the day, and 18 rounds today. The open-top slide design makes for excellent reliability and quick malfunction clearance. This wondernine helped pave the road for the popularity of today’s semi-automatic, double-stack pistols.

Beretta 92 Lethal Weapon
Riggs holding his Beretta in “Lethal Weapon.”
Source: IMFDB


Featured in popular films such as “Die Hard” and “Commando,” the HK MP5 certainly makes its appearance on the big screen. This roller-delayed blowback 9mm submachine gun is known for its extreme durability and reliability. The iconic HK slap and a good catchphrase is the secret sauce for an action movie hit.

HK is known for making some of the most durable, reliable, and downright bad ass firearms for some of the world’s top operators. The MP5, or Maschinenpistole 5, is without a doubt one of HK’s most popular firearms. This lightweight and accurate firearm is incredibly easy to shoot and an absolute blast at the range.

HK MP5 Die Hard
McClane holding a pick-up MP5 in “Die Hard.”
Source: IMFDB

Uzi and MAC-10

Submachine guns were all the rage back in the ’80s. Both the Uzi and MAC-10 made their way into a ton of different movies and still do to this day. These direct-blowback, open-bolt subguns are compact and lightweight options that provide a ton of firepower.

Movies such as “The Delta Force” and “Big Trouble in Little China” helped make these guns famous, but there were countless others. Whenever Hollywood needs a ‘spray-n-pray’ scene, they turn to these classic gats.

Mini Uzi Delta Force
McCoy aiming his Mini Uzi in “The Delta Force.”
Source: IMFDB


The M16, along with other AR-15 variants, made their way into a host of movies. The most loved — or hated — rifle in America appears in classics such as “Scarface” and “Predator.” Obviously, hundreds of others have followed suit.

The modularity of the AR platform rifle has made it America’s rifle, and the M16 was the basis for this success. Gaining popularity throughout the Vietnam War, the M16 brought improved components, increased durability, and a three-round burst mode. Though the original AR-15 came about well before the M16, the improvements made to the rifle (for the development of the M16 for the U.S. military) paved the way for the modern iteration we have today.

M16 Predator
Dutch shooting his M16/SP1 in “Predator.”
Source: IMFDB


Action movies love 12-gauge shotguns because they blow people back several yards when hit… at least they like to pretend to. One of the coolest shotguns featured in movies during the ’80s is the SPAS-12. This shotgun is capable of firing in both semi-auto and pump-action modes. This makes for great reliability with different types of loads. It also incorporates an iconic folding stock that folds across the top for more compact storage and carry.

“Robocop” and “The Terminator” both feature this incredible scattergun, and I’m sure you’ll spot it in a number of your other favorite action movies.

SPAS-12 The Terminator
The T-800 firing the SPAS-12 in “The Terminator.”
Source: IMFDB

M60 Machine Gun

When action heroes need some serious firepower, they turn to the M60. The M60, or the “Pig,” is a full-auto, belt-fed 7.62 NATO machine gun that fires 550–650 rounds per minute. It earned the nickname from American soldiers because its report sounded like the grunt of a barnyard hog. Weighing in at around 26 pounds loaded, the M60 is about as heavy as three fully-loaded M4s, so it has some muscle to wield.

Paired with a seemingly endless supply of ammunition, this makes for some excellent heavy-duty firepower. Movie classics such as “Rambo: First Blood” and “Platoon” feature this behemoth, but the M60 often shows up on screen whenever GIs are present.

M60 Rambo: First Blood
Rambo holding the M60 in “Rambo: First Blood.”
Source: IMFDB


Although it’s not really a “top gun,” it wouldn’t be an ’80s action movie without explosions, right? One of the most iconic explosion producers is the RPG, or Rocket Propelled Grenade. The RPG produces a lot of smoke and a big bang, making it a Hollywood favorite. The RPG appears in several war/military movies, but most notably shows up in hits such as “Red Dawn” and “Red Scorpion.”

The shoulder-fired weapon launches a rocket equipped with an explosive warhead. The RPG-7 was developed as an anti-tank weapon in 1958. Today, the RPG is used by military units in over 40 different countries and a number of terrorist organizations.

RPG-7 Red Dawn
Matt aiming an RPG-7 in “Red Dawn.”
Source: IMFDB


The ’80s may have had its drawbacks, but it certainly had some hard-hitting action movies with eye-catching firearms. Whatever the movies lacked in realistic gun handling, they certainly made up for in movie magic. In the end, I could watch these hits every day.

All right, I’m sure I missed some. So, let’s hear it. What are your favorite ’80s action movies and featured firearms? Share your answers in the comment section.

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
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 (12)

  1. 44 Automag in Sudden Impact (along with Clint’s S&W model 29) and while just a bit past the 80’s, Ash’s lever-action twelve gauge in Amry of Darkness (1992).

  2. My younger Brother was prone to buying the latest “Star” on the Silver Screen, hence after “the Terminator” and “Jurassic Park” he couldn’t resist buying a SPAS 12. The same thing with “They Live” and “Robocop” and the Desert Eagle. While it’s Heavy as all get out the SPAS is actually a pleasure to shoot, even with the heaviest 3″ Magnums. The 357 Desert Eagle on the other hand seemed to recoil “Sharper” than it’s 44 Magnum version.
    I, by contrast, chose to equip myself with the Mini 14, an IMI model B and from “Red Dawn” KBI’s SA-85M and I’ve never regretted my choices!

  3. The one handed pump with a 12 ga shotgun? Unlimited ammo, and rack it over and over Just for sound effect so they know you mean business!

  4. My ATeam Mini 14.
    The IMI Desert Eagle in 44 and then 50 later on.
    The AK47.
    The Remington 700 for any sniper scenes.

  5. Since when is an RPG a gun. It is a Rocket Propelled Grenade (thus the acronym RPG). If that is on your list of guns, then I choose the big 16 inch guns on our battleships or maybe a good old Tomahawk missile.

  6. How could you leave out Dirty Harry Callahan’s S&W .44 Mag?!?! After all, “It could blow your head clean off!” “Do you feel lucky, well do ya punk”

  7. Honorable mentions: Mossberg 500 bullpup, and Mini 14, particularly in the bullpup stock or that funky old side folder.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.

Discover more from The Shooter's Log

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading