Revolvers are the epitome of a cool, rugged, and reliable firearm. These six-shooters were made famous by cowboys in the old Western films, but the use of revolvers in films goes well beyond the Wild West. They were the first repeating firearm in the days of percussion cap rifles and continue to be popular. There is an old saying that “God made Man, Sam Colt made them equal” was a genius marketing ploy in the 1800s that was fundamentally true in ways that shaped the forming of the United States.
Revolvers are still popular today, especially when firing a magnum round, as many automatics cannot handle the additional power. Many of our favorite films and actors would simply not be the same without these iconic revolvers. Join us as we take a look at some of the most iconic revolvers to hit the screen over the years.
Colt Buntline Special
Wyatt Earp was one of the most legendary lawmen of the Wild West. He was well known during the era as being a badass no-nonsense lawman. The shootout at the O.K Corral is one of the best-known shootouts of the Wild West in which Earp was the only member left unscathed. The film Tombstone gives a fantastic depiction of the leading up and following the shootout.
There are some minor historical inaccuracies in the film, (if that interests you history buffs) however, one thing they got accurate was Wyatt Earp’s classic revolver. Nevertheless, court files show the real Wyatt Earp didn’t use his go-to revolver in the shootout at the O.K. Corral for whatever reason.
Regardless, the film did portray that Earp’s Colt Buntline Special was more than just his sidearm of choice. Without that revolver, the epic scene of him removing this legendary handgun from its case and carrying it the rest of the film, signifying his return to law enforcement and his return to a life of fighting crime, wouldn’t be as special.
This single action Colt has an extra-long barrel, especially for the era. Most cowboys and lawmen want a shorter barrel to have a faster drawl, but Wyatt Earp’s larger than life persona is personified in this long-barreled version of a classic pistol.
- Caliber: .45 Long Colt
- Action: Single-Action
- Capacity: 6
- Barrel Length: 12 Inches
- Overall Length:
- Weight: 2.7 lbs.
Smith & Wesson Model 29 Revolvers
The best-known revolver from any film in history has to be Dirty Harry’s Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 magnum. Nowadays, Clint Eastwood probably would’ve been carrying a Smith and Wesson Model 500 but the .44 Mag Model 29 was the most domineering revolver in the world at the time.
People who have never seen any of the films from the Dirty Harry franchise probably still know that Dirty Harry carried a .44 magnum. “Do you feel lucky, punk?” was made famous by Dirty Harry not knowing if he shot 5 or six rounds out of his revolver. That scene and all of the associated props are immortalized in film and for good reason.
The power of the .44 magnum is honestly no joke. It’s not a standard-issue by police departments since not many individuals can handle the recoil from this beast, yet Clint Eastwood wields it with one hand and accurately fires off rounds at a very high rate of fire for such a large caliber. If Dirty Harry had any other firearm the film it just wouldn’t be the same. If you ask your average person to name a movie gun, they will likely spit this one at your first.
- Caliber: 44 Magnum
- Action: Double Action
- Capacity: 6
- Barrel Length: 8 ½”, 6 ½”
- Overall Length: 12″
- Weight: 47.7 oz
Colt 1851 Navy Revolvers
The Navy Colt is all over The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly, not to mention countless other Western films due to its prevalence in that era. This was one of the most popular guns in the West because it was able to be converted from a cap and ball revolver to a revolver that could fire cartridges.
The iconic scene of Tuco mixing and matching different parts from a variety of Navy colts was such a memorable scene. It was an amazing way to quietly demonstrate his prowess as a gunman. Having him pick the best parts and put together his ideal Navy Colt shows the variability in the production of the revolver while simultaneously showing the superb craftsmanship in design and production. The final 3-way shoot out in at the end of the film solidifies the Navy Colt as the ultimate Western firearm and historically significant revolvers in film.
- Caliber (Cartridge): .38 Rimfire / .38 Centerfire
- Action: Single Action
- Capacity: 6
- Barrel Length: 7.5″
- Overall Length: 14″
- Weight: 2.6 lbs
Smith & Wesson Model 19
The Lethal Weapon franchise was one of the most iconic action movie series of the past century. Definitely in part to the unique dynamic of old school and new school police and firearms that are depicted in all of the movies. This dynamic is heavily dependent upon the use of a revolver by Riggs, the embodiment of the old school badass police detective played by Danny Glover. “I’m getting too old for this shit” was made famous by this iconic franchise and was helped by this iconic revolver.
When he dispatches the bad guy in the second film, at an incredibly long range, after doing his signature neck roll, is partly iconic because of his use of an arguably outdated revolver. His attachment to his revolver is made evident in the scene when he is put back as a beat cop and forced to carry a new S&W semi-auto pistol which accidentally discharges while in the locker room. The revolver was an essential part of the character of Riggs and an essential part of this iconic movie franchise.
- Caliber: .357 Magnum
- Action: Double Action
- Capacity: 6
- Barrel Length: 4″
- Overall Length: 9.9″
- Weight: 37 oz
One of the most memorable revolvers in film comes from Hellboy, the original film (naturally). The custom rounds that the samaritan fired were just as memorable as the revolver itself. All of the weaknesses of the underworld creatures all put into one single round filled with white oak, holy water, garlic, and silver shavings. These bullets could take out a vampire, werewolf, and everything in between.
The revolver looks so big that it seems like an impossible thing for anyone but the protagonists to shoot. He even admits that he isn’t that adept at shooting it, which I always enjoy a bit of honesty from a leading character. The revolver only chambers four rounds, but he does shoot eight in the film without reloading, but who is counting. The Samaritan does leave ammo capacity to be desired but makes up for it with the large rounds of 22mm. To put the size of the round into perspective, the M61 Vulcan cannon that is commonly mounted on jets and anti-aircraft guns uses a 20mm round. Hands down the biggest revolver on this list, possibly the biggest revolver in film history, to not have the Samaritan on this list would have been a travesty.
- Caliber: 22mm
- Action: SA/DA
- Capacity: 4
- Barrel Length: Unknown
- Overall Length: Unknown
- Weight: 10 lbs.