Michael Mann Week: The Guns of Mann

August 15, 2009

manhunter1For us Gunmonkeys, a Michael Mann film—either great or not-so-great—almost always delivers on one promise—great guns and realistic gun-handling. You have no idea how much action movies suck when you’ve been trained to use a gun for a living. Suddenly all those cool action sequences in movies like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard are ruined by nagging questions like, “how come that submachine gun didn’t run out of ammo yet,” or “how can he fire so accurately one handed.” Mann is a perfectionist when it comes to gun-handling, and his films have become the yardstick for realistic gunfights (check out McCauley’s crew’s tactical bounding maneuvers in Heat). Mann’s characters, uncompromising in everything else, also carry some great guns. Let’s check some of the out, shall we.

Miami Vice (the series)—In the early seasons Crockett carried the new-practically-experimental Bren Ten 10mm automatic by Dixon and Dorneus. The Bren was something new, a platform for the much-considered, but never realized 10mm Auto cartridge. The 10mm is a round roughly the size of a .45 (technically a .40 caliber) with the same power as a .357 Magnum. D&D soon went out of business, and while the FBI adopted the 10mm in a lightened form, it has slipped into curio status. Still, it lives on in form of the .40 S&W round—same size, less power. The massive hand-cannon that was the Bren Ten barely ran 2000 pistols and is sought after by collectors and Vice fans (check out mine), and promises to be resurrected by Vltor Fortis. We can only hope, because that was one handsome gun. (Read the Bren Ten history here).

Charter ArmsManhunter— True to the novel, Will Graham uses a Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Special revolver. Author Robert Harris provided some backstory for this, explaining that an early arrest of Graham’s had gone bad when his .38 Special revolver failed to drop the bad guy, even after Graham had emptied it into the guy. On top of the massive .44 Special round, Graham uses Glaser Safety Slugs, which shatter upon impact causing massive tissue trauma and preventing over-penetration (I kept my bedside table gun loaded with these when I lived in a cheap apartment—doesn’t do to accidentally send a round into your neighbor’s place when trying to stop a home invader). In the climax of Manhunter, Graham takes out the Tooth Fairly with a series of one-handed shots—a bit of artistic license Mann wouldn’t repeat.

opb-layout-heat-colt-sidearm-x800Heat—Mann begins his love affair with the .45ACP caliber, as both cop and criminal carry .45s. Al Pacino’s Vincent Hanna carries an Officer’s Model (read: short) Colt 1991A1. While Neil McCauley carries a Sig/Sauer P220 in .45ACP. Mann knows a powerful round and a decent platform when he sees it.

collateralCollateral—Tom Cruise’s Vincent carries a Heckler & Koch USP in .45ACP in this movie and uses it like a champ (doing extensive training prior to filming). The H&K is a fine weapon, if a bit pricey. But if you’re going to kill a bunch of people in the course of one evening on contract, why half-ass it?

tiki_375_375_3Miami Vice (movie)—Not much pistol work in this one—mostly rifles of all shapes and calibers. Still, the handgun we see Crockett carrying is a worthy follow-up to the Bren Ten, a Strayer-Voight Infinity Tiki-T .45ACP. The Tiki is a custom-made pistol by SVI, featuring a titanium-frame and some fancy manufacturing processes I don’t even pretend to understand. It’s got a nifty sighting system that looks like the updated version of the old ASP 9mm’s Guttersnipe trench (only with improved elevation indicators–my big complaint about the Guttersnipe). It’s a helluva package at about $6,000.00. Sidearms don’t come much more elite than this. Pity we didn’t see it more.

public-enemies-empireFL-01Public EnemiesNot so much elitism here, as Mann hews to the historical record pretty closely. Dillinger and his crew mostly carry Colt 1911A1 .45 automatics (though Dillinger himself was said to prefer the gun in .38 Super). A nice bit of historical accuracy, as most of their Thompson submachine guns feature the straight magazine and not the drum magazine Hollywood loves so much.

Blackhat-A few surprises here, as Mann expands the scope of his characters’ weapons to reflect the international scope of the film. Most significantly in the film’s climax, when Nick Hathaway uses a recovered Walther P99–which is an excellent choice (IMHO–read why here).


It’s blurry, but it’s a P99

 But if it’s jarring to see a polymer-frame, striker-fired 9mm in a Michael Mann movie, at least we have Holt Macallany’s Deputy Marshal Mark Jessup carrying a 1911 pistol (in .45 by the looks of the bore) to let us know that all is right in the world. The movie features one scene in particular in which Jessup uses it to devastating effect. (updated 8 Jan. 2015)


Note, I didn’t cover rifles, because that would be a monstrously big post. Mann tends to diverge from reality in showing his cops carrying different types of long guns, whereas most law enforcement agencies have pretty standardized arsenals. Still, if you’re interested, check out the Internet Movie Firearm Database for the most thorough rundown of the guns of Mann.


  1. Mann’s love affair with .45s antedates Al Pacino’s Officer’s model in Heat.

    In Thief, James Caan’s character has at least two .45s — one of them a custom longslide (probably Hoag, since that was who was doing ’em at the time the movie was made), and in one or two other scenes what looks like a Colt Commander.

    • Yeah, I don’t rmember why I started this post with Miami Vice and not Thief (probably I was drunk at the time), but Mann’s affection for the .45 ACP round and the 1911 platform is pretty obvious in this movie.

  2. I love the 45s acp and the 1911 model but i dislike the TiKi Infinty pistol…i think this pistol is very ugly and non serious because looks like a toy, a fucking weird toy.
    PD: i prefer the TV series gun version.

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