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Guns of Pop Culture: “24” and the USP Compact

In a new series here on Pew Pew Tactical, we take a look at the iconic guns of our favorite TV shows and films. First up, "24" and the USP Compact.

James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Jack Bauer captured my imagination as a kid. Like many young men, I appreciated spies, rogues, and men who did the wrong thing for the right reason.

I never cared for the goodie-two-shoes hero. I like the rogue, the man who breaks the rules to save a life occasionally. 

(Photo: Fox)
(Photo: Fox)

And often takes one, or two, or ten. 

Jack Bauer was the hero for a post 9/11 landscape. Season after season, he saved the world — or at least the city as part of the fictional Counter Terrorism Unit. Real-life was scary enough at the time, and occasionally it was good to have a hero save the day. 

Kiefer Sutherland played Jack Bauer and did so with gusto. Apparently, Kiefer Sutherland is a bit of a method actor, and as such, he liked to keep his characters consistent. 

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in "24"
Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in “24”

This included his character’s sidearm of choice.

Throughout the series, Bauer uses a variety of weapons, and in the first two seasons, his sidearm of choice was the Sig Sauer P228. From Season 3 to Season 8, he wielded the Heckler & Koch USP Compact. 

Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) points his HK USP-C in "24" S5E01
Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) points his HK USP-C in “24” S5E01

As such, I consider the USP-C his main sidearm.

The USP-C is the compact variant of the USP, and Bauers particular model comes in 9mm. Heck, the USP-C became so connected to the character it appeared on DVD covers and posters with Jack. 

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The two became interconnected, and by the time the show ended, the pistol was an executive producer.

I kid, but Bauer fans know the gun, and since only two were used as props total giving the show excellent consistency. 

The Putting the P in USP-C 

For a modern, high-tech counter-terrorism unit, the USP-C makes a lot of sense. It’s a firearm designed for police and military forces that’s modern and perfectly suited for duty use. That said, it’s no young buck either. 

USP stands for Universal Service Pistol, and the handgun comes out of the late 80s.

Heckler & Koch USP Compact
Heckler & Koch USP Compact (Photo: The Firearm Blog)

But to be fair, guns haven’t changed much in that time period. You get a double-stack magazine that holds 13 rounds, and you a polymer frame as well as a DA/SA design. 

Initially, the USP prototypes were tested alongside the famed MK 23 in the Offensive Handgun Weapon System program.

Jack Bauer aims his HK USP-C in "24" S6E04
Jack Bauer aims his HK USP-C in “24” S6E04

The OHWS trials impacted the weapon’s development and really brutalized these guns, pushing them beyond normal limits. While the MK 23 became the go-to for the OHWS and Solid Snake, the USP became a smaller, more conventional sidearm. 

The USP initially premiered in .40 S&W.

.40 S&W Round
.40 S&W Round

Most 9mm guns were scaled up for .40 S&W, but with the USP-C, the gun was scaled down for 9mm.

Finally, one of the big distinguishing features is the internal recoil reduction system. This maintenance-free design lowered recoil with the addition of a smaller, second spring in the main recoil spring assembly.

It’s simple but functional and reduces pistol wear and recoil. 

Banging Hammers 

Jack Bauer often turns to the HK USP-C, and as such, he looks comfortable with the gun. He wields it with a high degree of confidence and obviously has been successful for roughly nine days worth of terrorist attacks. 

To be fair, the action scenes in 24 are quite dated. Especially the earlier seasons.

They were network tv, and action choreography was not at the John Wick levels we know now. However, Kiefer Sutherland often did better than ok when wielding firearms. 

In the show, he was a former Delta Force commando, Green Beret, etc., and that might not be evident in his gun handling in 24.

However, he doesn’t look like an amateur by any means. He keeps nice, high thumbs forward grip and doesn’t flinch when he fires. 

Conclusion

There are plenty of dead fictional terrorists in the ground because of Bauer and his USP-C. Of the three spies with JB as their initials, Jack Bauer has always been my favorite.

He’s far from perfect, he’s morally compromised, but he gets the job done. 

Plus, the USP-C is way cooler than the PPK. (Sorry, Bond.) 

This is part of a new weekly series on Pew Pew Tactical dedicated to the guns of TV and film. If you’d like more of this content, drop us a comment below. In the meantime, for more pop culture check out the 9 Most Realistic Gun Scenes in Movies.

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4 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Mike Ceci

    It is because of 24 and Jack Bauer that my first handgun purchase was an HK USP .45 and I haven't switched from HK since.

    February 14, 2022 12:59 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jay Culebra

    Like the column! Give us more.

    February 10, 2022 5:13 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    motomike

    I really enjoyed 24 especially the first few years as it was a gritty, fast paced action show. The violence was surprising for network tv, but it really fed on the anti terrorist feelings at the time. It was like watching a 007 movie once a week! At least how Bond should have been as anyone who has read the books would know.

    February 9, 2022 2:19 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Davew

      Just started re watching the series. Funny how he drives 90MPH fights and has time to call his pain in the ass daughter LOL

      February 9, 2022 5:49 pm
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