Guns of the Silver Screen: V22N1

By Kyle Shea

Wonder Woman's Wonder Weapons

Wonder Woman first appeared in “All Star Comics” #8, when an American pilot named Steve Trevor crashed on an island and was rescued by Diana, daughter of the Queen of the Amazons. Upon hearing of the evil happening around the world, Diana decided to go back with Steve Trevor and help fight against the forces of Nazi Germany. She takes as her uniform a suit with American symbols on it, and the title “Wonder Woman.”

In 2017, Wonder Woman finally got her own big-screen movie. In the movie the storyline changes a bit; Diana rescues Steve from WW I German Soldiers and joins him in a quest to end “The War to End All Wars.” They are joined by a number of other soldiers, including a Scottish sniper named Charlie, a secret agent named Sameer and a smuggler named Chief Napi.

In the movie, Charlie carries an M1917 Enfield Rifle, and Chief Napi’s weapon of choice is a Winchester Model 1866 “Yellow Boy.” The 1866 rifle is actually the first model of the great Winchester line of lever action firearms. It earned its nickname “Yellow Boy” from the receiver, which was made of a combination of bronze and brass called Red Brass or Gunmetal. This actually made the gun cheaper than its successors and was in production until 1899. The gun in the movie has an interesting pattern on the buttstock, with brass tacks forming some sort of sniper crosshairs. Native Americans were known for personalizing their rifles, frequently with brass tacks in patterns. Two were used in the movie although I only saw one on screen.

The Winchester 1866 saw service in the French Army during the Franco-Prussian War and the Turkish Army during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. Despite losing the war, the Turks, using the 1866 rifle, inflicted heavy casualties on the Russians, especially at the Siege of Pleven. Here the Russians lost between 20,000 and 40,000 soldiers. This would eventually lead to the Russians adopting the Mosin-Nagant Rifle.

The M1917 Enfield, aka the P-17, is one of the best bolt-action rifles ever created. It shoots 7.62x63mm (30-06) from a 6-round clip. It has a range of about 600 yards, though it can shoot farther with the M1 Ball Cartridge. It weighs close to 10 pounds and has a length of 47 inches. Much of it is based off the British Cal. .303 Pattern 1914 Rifle, or the P-14. In 1916, the United States decided it needed a new rifle for the upcoming war. The M1903 Springfield was the rifle of choice for the US Armed Forces. It was a good rifle and was still used during World War I. However, much of the production had been suspended because of heat treat problems with the receivers, and there were just not enough to supply the troops. So, they adopted the M1917 Rifle and used both rifles in the war.

The M1917 performed well in the field and soon surpassed its predecessor to become the dominant rifle for the Americans on the Western Front. It would be used in the conflict after the Great War, WW II, though they were slowly phased out by the M1 Garand. They were also used by the Philippine Commonwealth Army and hundreds of thousands of them were supplied to China, England and to the French Free Army. It would continue to be used long after World War II, even being used today by the Danish Sirius Dog Sled Patrol in Greenland.

A great story about the reliability of the M1917 was the story of Sergeant Alvin C. York during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. In this battle, York and his unit were sent behind enemy lines to silence a machine gun nest. However, after capturing a group of enemy soldiers, they were hit with enemy machine gun fire and half the unit was killed. Armed with an M1917 Rifle and a pair of M1911 pistols, Sergeant York managed to rescue his unit and take over 132 German soldiers captive. For his actions, Sergeant York was awarded the Medal of Honor and other medals by the American and French Governments. These events were recreated in the movie “Sergeant York,” a movie worth watching for Gary Cooper’s performance as the title character.

As for “Wonder Woman,” it is a great movie. Unlike other DC movies that came out in recent years, it was well received and was a box office success. Gal Gadot does an excellent job as Wonder Woman, as does most of the cast with their characters. The action scenes are good, and the effects well done. The sets are good as well, to the point where it actually feels like you are in 1918 WW I. If you enjoy superhero movies, it is definitely worth a watch.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N1 (January 2018)
and was posted online on November 17, 2017


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