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Guns of Pop Culture: “Equilibrium” and the Cleric Pistols

In this Guns of Pop Culture, we look at the Cleric pistols used in the post-WWIII dystopian film "Equilibrium."

The early 2000s was the era of dark, grim movies, trench coats, and sci-fi. It created some real edge lords and cringy fashion, as well as some very stylish movies.

While the Matrix will always be the king of this trend, we can’t forget Equilibrium

Christian Bale and Taye Diggs in Equilibrium
Christian Bale and Taye Diggs in Equilibrium

Equilibrium stars Christian Bale and Taye Diggs in a grim dystopian future taking place after World War III.

WWIII is blamed on human emotion, and people are forced to take a compound that eliminates emotions. If you don’t take the compound, you get whacked. 

The film follows Christian Bale’s John Preston, a Grammaton Cleric.

Christian Bale as John Preston
Christian Bale as John Preston

Grammaton Clerics are high-level law enforcement who track down “sense offenders” while dressing in massive trench coats and dual-wielding machine pistols and employing gun kata. 

There’s obviously a lot to unpack here…

The Cleric Pistols 

The Grammaton Clerics are elite-level law enforcement, and since they are so dang special, they require special guns. The special guns are never named but are only ever seen in the hands of the Clerics.

Rubber prop Cleric pistol used in Equilibrium
Rubber prop Cleric pistol used in Equilibrium

Those in the know can tell that they’re highly modified Beretta 92 series pistols. 

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Modifications include a massive addition to the slide, frame, and barrel that seems to be nothing more than a weight.

It’s not a compensator and not anything that seems exceptionally useful. It sure does look cool.

Cleric pistol profile silhouette
The profile does look kinda sick though, right?

Another addition is the M16 style selector switch that allows the shooter to move between semi and auto.

Cleric pistol M16 style selector switch
M16 style selector switch seen on a Cleric pistol

This is not a Beretta 93R but a modified Beretta 92 with a drop-in auto sear. The Beretta 93R uses a frame-mounted safety, and the Cleric pistols clearly have a slide-mounted safety. 

These weapons also emit a muzzle flash that’s absurd for a full-sized 9mm, and the flash is actually the same symbol on the nation’s flag.

A neat detail but not very accurate for a 9mm handgun. 

Also, the magazines have varying baseplates. One has stubs built into it for pistol-whipping, and another has weighted base plates that allow them to stand up on the ground for crazy reloads.

Speaking of reloads, Clerics have mechanical arms attached to their arms that will reload the gun for them. 

In reality, the Beretta 92 is a practical duty pistol that served the United States military for decades.

Beretta 92
The real-life Beretta 92

It’s a 9mm handgun that does have Beretta’s unique open slide design that does lend to a rather futuristic appearance. The weapon is large and does look good on screen.

It has starred in a number of roles, including in legendary films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

Riggs with his Beretta in Lethal Weapon
Detective Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson, with his Beretta in Lethal Weapon

Gun Kata

The film uses martial arts mixed with gun fighting called “gun kata.” It’s explained that gun kata treats the gun as a total weapon. To which I ask, compared to treating the gun as half a weapon? 

Each fluid position represents a maximum kill zone, inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of opponents while keeping the defender clear of return fire. 

According to the film, mastery of gun kata will increase your firing efficiency by no less than 120%. It’s a gobblygook of words that sounds right but says nothing. 

It translates to the Clerics spinning around, firing in all manner of different directions.

It’s absurd, and I thought it was so cool when I was 12. The guns shoot an impossible number of rounds, and while reloads occur, they are nowhere near as frequent as they should be. 

Equilibrium clearly goes for more style than realism. This era of films was filled with stuff like this. It’s all style with no grounding in reality. That’s fine. I don’t need Act of Valor gun fighting in a sci-fi flick. 

This film might not hold up well 20 years later, but it was plenty cool for the era. Sadly it flopped hard, and we never saw a sequel or any additional world-building. Equilibrium died and took gun kata with it.

What did you think of Equilibrium? Give us your thoughts in the comments below. For more Guns of Pop Culture, head to our Fun Category!

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6 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Dan A

    Other than a single, dramatic, slo-mo visual of a casing headed for the floor, it's one of those movies where there's no apparent brass ejected. I love it. Very cheesy skip-the-details-go-for-style cool. Kinda like Fahrenheit 451 meets Ultra Violet.

    Coulda sworn it was a Luc Besson flick, but it was done by Kurt Wimmer.

    January 19, 2023 10:17 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Chuck Cochran

    Never saw it, I was working and the job required a lot of travel and I was usually too worn out to watch the TV most of the time. Is it on Netflix or Prime? If so,, maybe I can rent it. Even if it has it plot impossibilities, it sounds like a cool action flic.

    January 19, 2023 10:02 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Andrew James Hodges

    Regarding gun kata the idea that it improves your own accuracy is pretty stupid. But it is expressly stated that mastering the ability to shoot while in and moving between the unusual stances dramatically reduces the chance an enemy will hit you. Although not likely in good lighting it does make sense in dim or intermittent light you might experience in some situations. Whether it actually has merit in practice I don't know.

    January 18, 2023 8:28 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      I'd wager it doesn't help, especially considering how they're seemingly dancing around automatic gunfire from multiple people, and that it's just a narrative device to explain why the gunfights are so stylized and not ground in reality. "Rule of cool", and all.

      January 19, 2023 2:06 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    This is one of my favorites. I like Christian bale and it had a perfect story line that fits into even todays mold. Sure, it’s sci-fi but not that far removed…at least the story line. Still, very fun movie.

    January 18, 2023 7:32 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    .40 cal Booger

    "Sadly it flopped hard, and we never saw a sequel or any additional world-building. Equilibrium died and took gun kata with it."

    I've got it, have watched it over and over again over the years. I like it even though its a bit dated now but like the Matrix and John Wick movies to me its fun to watch.

    January 18, 2023 12:29 pm
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