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Guns of the Silver Screen: V20N3, Red Dawn: “Robert’s Gun”

By Kyle Shea

In 1984, World War III broke out. Washington D.C. was hit by a nuclear weapon. Cuban and Nicaraguan Paratroopers attack from fake commercial airline flights over the US and take over the Midwest. The Soviet Army invades Alaska and takes control of the western half of Canada. American and Canadian forces manage to halt the advance of these armies, and guerrilla factions cause the Communists a severe headache that would eventually lead to their defeat.

That is the world of Red Dawn. Released in 1984, the movie has become a cult classic, especially with conservative Americans. It starred the late Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, and C. Thomas Howell as a group of high school kids who form a resistance movement called the Wolverines. The movie didn’t do well in theaters, and had mixed reviews by critics. Still, it has a cult following and even had a remake starring Thor’s Chris Hemsworth.

In the movie, the character Robert Morris, played by C. Thomas Howell, loses his parents to the communists, and becomes angry and vengeful. In a later scene in the movie, he is shown marking his “kills” on the buttstock of an AKM he captured off the enemy. An older American Air Force Colonel, played by Powers Boothe, tells him that fire of hate is going to burn him up, to which Robert responds that it
The Ak-47 was invented by the late General Mikhail T. Kalashnikov. It is one of the most common rifles on the planet, and the weapon of choice for countless countries, and due to its proliferation, as many rebel and terrorist groups. In fact, the country of Mozambique has the AK-47 on its flag, because of how important it was to their war for independence. It is a very easy gun to clean and operate, and can take a world of punishment. It has many variants and some caliber changes, including the AKM, AK-74, and the RPK-47 machine gun.

This particular AKM and others that were used in the movie were originally from Egypt, where they are called Maadi MISRs. There were very few AK-47s in the United States at the time of Red Dawn, making this very important. The company who supplied these was Stembridge Gun Rentals, who worked on other movies like Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Desperado, Predator, and Wild Wild West. Stembridge Gun Rentals was the oldest movie rental armory in the United States, having started in 1918.

There was no movie magic used on the gun, it was only blanked internally so the restrictions could not be seen from the outside. The only thing that truly stands out are the markings on the buttstock. There are more than seventy cuts made with a bayonet. The barrel has been blanked, making it impossible to shoot regular rounds.

Back to the world of Red Dawn, we can take delight in the fact that “we won.” Had it been in the real world, those kids would have been seen as heroes, and the next generation of children would have been idolizing them. As it stands, they were just a group of movie heroes who have inspired countless fantasies for many.

In movie rentals, there are always at least two of a character’s weapon in case there is a malfunction so the production is not slowed down—you simply switch to the back-up. In this case, I was working with my family on the Stembridge collection in 1999, and Syd Stembridge explained the significance of these rifles and out of the pile of about 30 other transferable AKMs I pulled this one out with all the markings.

“Robert’s Gun:” Serial Number-S001190
(There are always at least two “Hero guns” on a set, the other “Robert’s Gun” is serial number: S001249).

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V20N3 (April 2016)
and was posted online on February 19, 2016

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