With the new James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” in theaters Friday this is a good time to look behind the movie magic and compare the “reel guns” of Agent 007 to the real guns used in the films.
The iconic James Bond gun is, of course, the Walther PPK pistol. The PPK is a pre-war German design chambered in 7.65mm (.32 ACP) or 9mm Kurz (.380 ACP). The pistol’s compact size and slim lines make it easy to conceal in a tailored suit. The small caliber and relatively low ammo capacity (seven rounds in the magazine in 7.65mm) are not major disadvantages to a spy who lives by his wits instead of relying on pure firepower.
The PPK enters Bond lore in the first Sean Connery Bond film, 1962’s “Dr. No.” In an early scene Bond’s boss, “M”, forces Bond to turn in his Beretta for the Walther pistol. The character “Maj. Boothroyd” presents the new gun and tells Bond, “Walther PPK 7.65 millimeter with a delivery like a brick through a plate-glass window.” (Maj. Boothroyd was named after the Scottish firearms expert who earlier wrote Fleming with suggestions on Bond’s weapons).
While it’s questionable whether the 7.65mm round really hits like a “brick through a plate glass window,” it is a step up in power from the “.25 Beretta” Bond creator Ian Fleming had the spy carry in the “Dr. No” novel.
Interestingly, neither of two prop pistols in this scene are what they are supposed to be. The Beretta pistol Connery surrenders is a Berretta Model 1934 in 9mm Kurz, not the .25 ACP Berretta Model 418. And, instead of receiving a PPK in 7.65mm, Connery is actually handed a slightly larger Walther PP in 9mm Kurz. So, not only is neither pistol what it is supposed to be, neither one is actually the correct caliber and they both are the same caliber! (A photo of Connery’s Walther PP is included in the slideshow at top.)
A third “stand in” prop pistol is also used later in the film. When Connery attaches a suppressor to his handgun a FN Model 1910 pistol is used as the prop instead of the Walther PP (or PPK).
The Walther PPK remains Bond’s sidearm for the majority of the following movies. Pictures of the actual prop guns at the Original Prop Blog and Long Mountain Outfitters show that both the 7.65mm and 9mm Kurz guns were used. In 1963 Sean Connery was armed with a 9mm Kurz PPK in “From Russia With Love,” while in1989 Timothy Dalton had the correct 7.65mm PPK in “License to Kill.”
In 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me” Bond actor Roger Moore can be seen with a Walther PP in some scenes.
In 1983 both Roger Moore and Sean Connery made James Bond movies, they both used the same gun, and it wasn’t a Walther PPK. Instead both Moore’s “Octopussy” and Connery’s “Never Say Never Again” feature Walther P5 pistols. The P5 is an eight round pistol in 9x19mm based on the WWII Walther P-38 German army pistol.
In 1997’s “Tomorrow Never Dies” Pierce Brosnan’s Bond acquires a Walther P99 pistol mid-movie. The P99 is a 9x19mm handgun with a 16 shot magazine. Although this much larger pistol seems more suited to a Commando than a secret agent, it becomes Bond’s service sidearm in 1999’s “The World is Not Enough.” The P99 stays in service until current Bond Daniel Craig’s second movie, “Quantum of Solace,” where the PPK returns as standard issue.
This brings us to “Skyfall” and yet another new Bond pistol. This time Bond is issued a Walther PPK/S in 9mm Short (.380 ACP) with a special palm print reader to make the gun useable only by him. The PPK/S was designed to meet U.S. import regulations in 1968 and features a slightly longer butt that adds one round to the magazine capacity. While the switch from 7.65mm to 9mm Short (9mm Kurz/.380 ACP) is an upgrade, I question the wisdom of outfitting a secret agent with a gun that can be so easily linked to him. Other possible problems with having a palm print reader on a gun include not being able to shoot while wearing gloves or worries that dirty, muddy, or bloody hands might obscure the reader and keep the gun from firing. In “real life” palm print readers on firearms are still experimental, at best.
This is not the first time Q has issued a personalized gun to Bond. In “License to Kill” the agent uses a sniper rifle disguised as a 220-film format Hasselblad camera outfitted with a palm print identification system to keep anyone but Bond from using the weapon. This feature saves Bond’s life when an enemy later tries to use the gun against him.
Of course, Bond is resourceful, and he’ll also use whatever guns are handy or better suited to the job. In “From Russia with Love” Bond loans a “.25 sniper rifle” (actually a .22 AR-7 survival rifle) to a fellow agent to assassinate a rival and, in a boat chase, uses a flare gun to set a pursuing boat on fire. In 1973’s “Live and Let Die,” Roger Moore‘s Bond channels Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” character when he uses a Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum revolver to rescue a woman from a Voodoo sacrifice.
Aside from the PPK, the most distinctive firearm in all the Bond movies is the “golden gun” from the 1974 Roger Moore film, “The Man With the Golden Gun.” In the movie assassin Francisco Scaramanga assembles a single-shot gun from a fountain pen (the barrel), cigarette lighter (the chamber), and a cuff link (the trigger). The 23 karat gold bullet was hidden in the assassin’s belt buckle. In actuality three “golden gun” props were made. One solid prop for the actor’s to handle, a second that would fire a small blank, and a third that could be assembled on-camera. One of the three prop pistols was reported stolen from Elstree Studios in 2008. It was valued at 80,000 pounds.
Many of the James Bond prop pistols have been sold at auctions for prices ranging from about $11,000 for the blank firing only “non guns” Walther P99’s used in the later movies to over $100,000 for Connery’s “Dr. No” Walther PP. Amazingly, the highest known price was for a gun not even used in any of the movies. A Walther air pistol held by Sean Connery for a publicity photo and used in the movie posters of “From Russia With Love,” sold for over $430,000 at auction in 2010. Of all the Bond pistols, that seems to truly be the golden gun.
Acknowledgements – This article includes information from:
Internet Movie Firearms Database
Orignal Prop Blog
Christie’s Film and Entertainment category (Links below are from past auctions of various Bond movie guns)
Dr No Walther PPK
Octopussy Walther P5
Golden Eye Walther PPK and silencer
Tomorrow Never Dies Walther P99 with silencer
Long Mountain Outfitters (Links below are archived pages showing several different Bond movie guns)
Roger Moore’s main Walther PPK
Timothy Dalton’s Walther PPK from “License to Kill.”
Sean Connery’s Walther PPK’s and Walther P5
Pierce Bronson’s Bond guns