Spies have been a movie staple for almost a century. Though there may have been references to espionage in earlier movies, the first spy film ever made was probably ”Mata Hari,” a 1931 hit starring Greta Garbo as the legendary real-life Dutch exotic dancer of that name who spied for Germany during World War I.
The real Mata Hari probably never resorted to the use of firearms (her charms were deadly enough), but in the film, Garbo’s version shoots General Shubin as he is about to make a telephone confession with a Smith & Wesson .32 Hand Ejector Third Model revolver – then places it in his hand so it appears as if he committed suicide. (These are the best spy movies based on true stories.)
Since that time, fictional spies – occasionally based on real ones – have been pulling triggers with great frequency and abandon.
To assemble a list of the iconic guns of the most famous spies on screen, 24/7 Tempo consulted the Internet Firearms Database, and drew information on movie release dates and television season spans from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon. In almost every case, the fictional spies wielding the weapons listed here are depicted as using a variety of firearms in each of their films or TV series. We have chosen just one representative example from each. Some characters appear more than once, as they have been portrayed in both TV series and movies. In the case of the most famous fictional spy of all, James Bond, we have included one film and its associated weapon representing each of the six actors who have portrayed Bond.
One Bond movie, “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974), with Roger Moore as 007, features one of the more unusual firearms to appear in a spy film – the golden gun of the title, a weapon made of that precious metal in innocuous-looking parts that could be assembled into a deadly pistol. (Because it was the invention of hitman Francisco Scaramanga, and not directly associated with Bond, it isn’t included here.)
Throughout his cinematic history, though, Bond used a wide array of weaponry that actually exists, if not always convincingly. In “From Russia With Love” (1963), for instance, he employs an AR7 as a sniper rifle, a purpose for which it is ill-suited).
Other spies who are seen firing many different guns include Ethan Hunt in the Mission Impossible franchise and “burned” spy Michael Westen in the TV series “Burn Notice.” Other spies, though, fall back repeatedly on the basics – like George Smiley in the 2011 film version of John Le Carré’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” for whom a classic Walther PPK is more than enough, or Maxwell Smart in the 1960s spy spoof “Get Smart,” who fought the bad guys with a trusty Colt Detective Special – Colt, of course, being one of America’s top revolver companies.
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