Sci-fi flicks have to be fueled by imagination but still seem grounded. When you dress up existing items as props, you can do both.
As such, over the years, I’ve picked apart movies and television shows that utilize real guns in fictional frames. I took my own nerdism and translated it into a list of my favorite fiction firearms with a rear firearm at their core.
Without further explanation, let’s dive into my favorites, and at the end, I hope you add your favorites.
Best Fictional Firearms That Used Real Guns
1. Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B – Taurus Model 85
The Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B is both a mouthful to say and the chosen sidearm of Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds of the Firefly-class vessel the Serenity.
We see Mal use the Model B dozens of times in the show and movie, and he appears quite proficient with the handgun. He’s a quick draw and accurate enough to shoot a rope during a high-speed chase.
The Model B looks and functions like a semi-auto handgun. As a space western, you get the classic revolver-style grips and aesthetics of a Volcano repeating lever-action pistol.
It’s free from most space-age do-dads and presents a simple appearance with simple sights, with lots of industrial age lines and ridges to make it distinctive.
Inside the Model 5 sits a Taurus Model 85 revolver with a futuristic shell built around the gun.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
It’s an interesting take on a sci-fi blaster. They took a revolver and turned it into a semi-automatic and dolled it up to produce a rather fine-looking futuristic handgun.
The Model B is so closely associated with Nathan Fillion’s character that it pops up in other shows, like Castle, as a subtle reference to the classic character.
2. M41A Pulse Rifle – Thompson SMG and Remington 870
The Space Marines of 2122 carry the M41A Pulse Rifle into combat, and the squad in the film Aliens mostly packs the M41A.
This select-fire weapon fires 10mm caseless ammunition with a total magazine capacity of 99 rounds — although it’s mentioned in some lore that Marines only load the magazines to 95 rounds to prevent jamming.
Even in the future, the Colonial Marine Corps can’t perfect their rifles. Outside the 10mm main gun, the M41A rifles are fitted with pump-action 30mm grenade launchers mounted beneath the barrel.
The M41A is a short carbine and isn’t too far off from the use of the M4 with an M203 in the modern-day.
The use of a Thompson makes the M41A complete a rather larger circle. Marines carried Tommy guns as early as the Banana Wars, and the circle comes complete with the famed Colonial Marines carrying the M41A.
The combination of the rifle and grenade launcher makes the M41A pulse rifle an awesome weapon for destroying alien scum. You can see it in plenty of hero shots involving Ripley, Vasquez, and Hicks.
This setup also used .45 ACP blanks, which meant massive and sweet-looking muzzle flash.
3. M56 Smart Gun – MG 42
I don’t want to fill this list with guns from one series or another, but I simply couldn’t choose between the M56 Smart gun and the M41A Pulse Rifle.
What can I say; I’m a machine gunner and have a bias. After becoming a machine gunner, I saw the actual benefits of the M56 Smart gun. Also, I appreciated that the machine gun team of Vasquez and Drake were tight and worked together.
The M56 Smart gun mounts a machine gun to the body of the gunner with a harness. This allows them to better carry their heavy weapon and utilize it in the standing. An advanced sighting system allows shooters to engage from the hip with accurate fire, and the weapon can aim autonomously.
In real life, the M56 Smart Gun is an MG 42 machine gun that certainly gives the gun that old-school look and feel, but the armorers dressed it up for that future-proof design.
The MG 42 has a famously fast firing rate of 1,200 rounds per minute and earned the name Hitler’s buzzsaw by American G.I.s in World War II. It’s a medium machine gun and one of the first true general-purpose machine guns.
For the mounting system, they used a camera Steadicam mount. Heck, they used motorcycle parts with a linkage to the trigger to make it fire when carried in such an odd way.
It’s an ingenious setup, and the M56 Smart gun was all kinds of cool.
4. Auto 9 – Beretta 93R
When you have a massive cyborg police officer, you give him a massive gun. You can’t give RoboCop a Glock 17 and call it a day.
A big gun was needed, and filmmakers tried the Desert Eagle…but the Desert Eagle of all weapons was still too small.
So, they went to the shop and created their own — the Auto 9. RobCop’s Auto 9 was no standard pistol but a machine pistol that seemingly integrated a targeting system into Robocop’s visor.
We see him shoot a variety of people without ever aiming with seemingly perfect accuracy.
In real life, they dressed up a Beretta 93R. The Beretta 93R took the Beretta 92 series and added a burst feature to the fun. This allowed the weapon to be selective fire with a 3-round burst or semi-automatic.
As you’d imagine, it was too small for Robocop’s hand. To make it look bigger, they made the grip and barrel longer with a full-on shroud that added higher sights and gave it a look straight out of 2028 Detroit.
Part of that shroud appears to be a compensator that would reduce recoil and muzzle rise fairly well. It also granted the filmmakers some intense muzzle flash which always looks cool on film.
The Auto 9 is the first time a machine pistol has been practical.
5. Lawgiver MKII – Glock 17
2012’s Dredd was a sleeper hit but an overlooked gem. This film stuck to the source material of the famed comics and created a grisly and violent world devoid of Stallone yelling that he is the LAW!
Instead, we have Karl Urban playing Judge Dredd as the brutal and efficient killer that he is. In his hand is the famed Lawgiver MKII pistol.
This sidearm features a biometric identification mode that only Judges can use. It’s more than just a handgun.
The Lawgiver also utilizes a variety of modes, including the full auto “rapid-fire” mode, an armor-piercing mode, suppressed mode, stun rounds, incendiary rounds, and high explosives. Plenty of options for any situation in which a Judge might find themselves.
To keep track of all those modes, a display shows the current ammo count, mode, and other information to use such a complicated weapon.
The Lawgiver MKII in real life is a Glock 17 Gen 4 or Gen 3. We see the finger grooves that lock it down to those two generations.
Oddly enough, the Glock 17 makes a lot of sense since Glock pistols arm the majority of police officers in the United States.
Glock’s polymer frame pistol has dominated the market since its inception and created an awesomely reliable pistol that is both simple and robust for law enforcement.
6. Deckard’s Gun – Charter Arms Bulldog
In the film Blade Runner, Deckard’s gun never gets any official designation, so we’ll just call it Deckard’s gun.
Deckard is a biological robot-hunting police officer tasked with bringing escaped “skinjobs” down.
Blade Runner is far from an action film, but Deckard’s gun is prominently shown over and over throughout the film. It’s always been a different kind of cool — bizarre but realistic. Deckard’s blaster seems to be issued by the LAPD, and we see it in the hands of another Blade Runner.
In real life, the armorer took the classic Charter Arms Bulldog and morphed it into one of the most unique weapons in film.
The Charter Arms Bulldog is a .44 Special revolver that barely clings to its compact designation. Air Marshals in the 70s apparently carried the Bulldog, and it’s easy to see why.
It fires a big, heavy, and slow round that packed a decent punch for the time. Deckard’s blaster took the Bulldog and mounted the bolt-action from a Steyr Mannlicher Model SL to the top of the gun. There was a series of LEDs, a second trigger, and a really cool grip.
Deckard’s blaster might not be named, but it has a special place in all our hearts.
7. DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol – Mauser C96
I could make an entire list of real guns modified to be in Star Wars, but maybe that will be something for a later article.
Since I had to choose one, the gun I settled on comes from Star Wars’ most lovable rogue, Han Solo. He shoots first, and he does so with the DL-44 Heavy Blaster Pistol.
This handgun arms our hero through four films, and he clearly has an affection for it.
Also, interestingly enough, Solo’s gun features an optic and muzzle device, like most Gucci pistols in 2021. The DL-44 Heavy blaster pistol hits hard and makes Storm Trooper armor rather useless.
In real life, the Star Wars prop team utilized a Mauser C96 to form the distinctive pistol. The propmaster attached an early 4X optic made for German sniper rifles, a heavy barrel, and the muzzle device from an MG81 machine gun.
Ultimately, the whole package became the gun that Han Solo would wield in many a film, comic, video game, and book.
The Mauser C96 shares the pride of being an early successful semi-auto pistol – the 96 in C96 comes from 1896! This gun originally came in the 7.62 Mauser but later chambered everything from 9mm to 8mm Gasser.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
It was used by both sides of World War I — sticking around for decades due to its robust design and reliable nature.
8. Colonial Handgun – Smith & Wesson 686
Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica. The early 2000s series might easily eclipse the classic series it aimed to remake. This series brought us Edward James Olmos, the Beretta CX4, and Katee Sackoff’s abs to make us feel a little bad about that last Reeses.
It also brought us the Colonial Handgun.
The Colonial Handgun takes some cues from Blade Runner and uses a revolver as its core design. It’s seen in the hands of dozens of characters and appears to be the standard-issue pistol of the Colonials.
This handgun takes a 2.5-inch Smith & Wesson 686 and propels it to the future with a CNC machine aluminum shell.
We get the classic wood grips and DA trigger, but the hammer is fully enclosed, as is the cylinder. The cylinder release has also been removed.
The S&W 686 is one of the more modern .357 Magnum revolvers on the market, and it’s an awesome pistol. Heck, you might even argue it’s the company’s current flagship revolver. It’s a 6-shooter, but a 7-shot plus model exists.
If I needed to carry a revolver on duty, it would likely be this gun.
9. The Resistance Rifle – AC556 in a Muzzelite Stock
I love the Terminator series, and as a kid, some of my favorite scenes were of the brutal future war between man and the machine.
We saw more than a few firearms shooting lasers in these short portions, and the unnamed resistance rifle always stuck out to me. We know very little about the weapon but can assume it worked well for killing Terminators.
Kyle Reese mentions that they’d be tough to kill with weapons from the 80s, and the Terminator mentioned a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range. So maybe it’s a plasma rifle. What we do know is that it’s a bullpup rifle outfitted with a massive scope.
In reality, the rifle of the Resistance is an AC556, a.k.a. a select-fire version of the Mini 14. The film’s armorers shoved it into a Muzzelite stock that creates a bullpup platform.
On top of the gun is an iMatronic Lasersight LS45. This is not an optic you’ll look through but a massive laser that tossed a simple red dot downrange.
To make it look more optic-like, the armorers added what appears to be eyepieces of some type or another. The combinations of this sight, the stock, and the rifle might make this the most 80s gun ever.
It offered a more traditional alternative to AR-type weapons and used a design very similar to the M14. The Mini 14 series offered a light and semi-auto rifle in .223 that wasn’t the futuristic and not-so-traditional AR-15.
They weren’t known for their accuracy but tended to be robust and handy guns.
If you’ve never handled a Muzzelite stock, don’t worry, you aren’t missing out on anything. They feel exactly how they look. They made trigger abysmal but were a true drop-in design that greatly shortened a Ruger rifle.
You can tell when a sci-fi gun isn’t based on anything real. It’s often an impractical and unergonomic mess that makes no sense from a practical perspective.
The best sci-fi guns are always gun-based on real guns, which adds a certain degree of realism to the sci-fi design.
Plus, if they didn’t use real guns, nerds like me couldn’t pick them apart to an extreme degree.
What’s your favorite fictional gun based on a real gun? Let us know in the comments below! For more movies and guns, check out the Guns of Hollywood: Which Firearms Made Their Mark?