Guns of the Silver Screen: V22N5

By Kyle Shea

Aliens: In Space, no one can hear you scream

That was the tag line of the first “Aliens” movie, “Alien.” The plot is about a crew of space travelers who are hunted on their own ship by a strange extraterrestrial creature. The atmosphere in the movie is intense and dark. When you are looking around the ship, it is full of suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is also realistic, the crew not being super geniuses like in “Star Trek,” but regular men and women just doing their jobs, working in an advanced spaceship.

In the sequel, “Aliens”, a survivor from the first movie joins in a rescue mission to save a colony from an army of aliens. The survivor is joined by a unit of Marines armed to the teeth with some advanced weapons. Still, they find themselves over their heads against a terrifying enemy. Unlike the last movie, there is a semi “action movie” theme mixed in with the horror.

In the movie, the Marines carry M41A Pulse rifles that are a combination of a .45 Caliber M1 Thompson and a Remington 870 12 gauge pump shotgun with a Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun exterior put on it, meant to look like a grenade launcher. The rest is movie magic and plastic. Another weapon used by the Marines is the M56 Smart Gun, a firearm that looks ridiculous if you are a soldier walking down a narrow corridor. It’s too big and cumbersome and needs special sighting systems on the helmet to work. Other weapons are pistols and a few shotguns that do not have any movie magic on them.

The Remington Model 870 was first produced in 1950 and is still in production today. There are a number of variants, including the Mark 1. They are made for the military, police and citizens alike. They are possibly the most popular shotgun in the world, having sold between six to eleven million firearms. The barrel length varies between 20 inches to 30 inches, and they can be bought to use 12-, 16- or 20-gauge cartridge; the tubular magazines on the guns hold between 4 to 10 rounds.

The M1A1 Thompson was the second part of the M41A Pulse rifle. It is an upgraded version of the M1 Thompson and was widely used on both the European and Pacific Fronts of World War II. It fired .45 ACP from either a 20-round or a 30 round stick magazine. It was not designed to use the famous drum magazines that its parent the M1928 had used, but that was a small loss, both because of weight and it was difficult to keep the drum clean. Another difference is that the buttstock on the M1A1 is permanently attached to the gun and cannot be removed like with earlier models.

The other real firearms in the movie include an Ithaca 37, which is used to shoot an alien trying to enter through a door. Heckler & Koch VP70s and Smith & Wesson 39s are used by the Marines as pistols. And something I did not notice the first time I watched the movie is when they are in the armory you can clearly see firearms without any movie magic on them. They include M16A1s, L85A1s and Lewis Guns. I didn’t notice this until I started researching the film.

I don’t really enjoy horror movies, but “Alien” and its sequel “Aliens” are really well done Sci-Fi films. The Xenomorphs are terrifying and are well designed, especially the Queen alien. All the actors were good at their roles, especially the character of Ellen Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver. The atmosphere of both movies is dark and suspenseful, keeping you on the edge of your seat. If you like horror and suspense, these movies are certainly for you.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N5 (May 2018)
and was posted online on March 23, 2018


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