Friday, 7 April 2017

Guns for James Bond : Keep it Quiet!

A friend of mine is a major Bond fan, so rather enjoyed the Bond hook I put in the last blog. I thought it might be interesting to look a bit closer at the firearms of Commander Bond.

I’m not going to make an in depth study here, since there are many webpages that have done this already. This one is particularly worth a read.

Bond has been armed with some oddities over the years. In the early books his primary weapon was a .25 Beretta, most likely an M418. About the best thing you can say about this pistol is that it was most certainly concealable. A .25 ACP (6.35mm) is a bit like a knitting needle. It is lethal if you can put it in the right place, but only a “darn” fool would choose it as his main defence. Incidentally my book “Attack, Avoid, Survive” has some advice on getting the most out of “mouse guns” such as the .25.


One reader who objected to Bond’s use of such a puny weapon was Geoffrey Boothroyd. If the name seems familiar it is because Fleming named a character after him and the character of this name appears in some of the books and movies. Boothroyd suggested that Bond be armed with the Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight, supplemented by a .357 magnum for longer range situations.

In Dr. No Fleming equips Bond with a Walther PPK and a Centennial for longer ranges. In Fleming’s defence, an automatic is more logical for an agent who might need to use a suppressor. Some reviewers have noted that Fleming seems to have had a fondness for two-part names such as “Aston Martin” and “Vodka Martini”, so “Walther PPK” may have appealed to him. The claim that the 7.65mm/ .32 ACP gun has “a delivery like a brick through a plate-glass window” is, of course nonsense. The main merit of the .32 is that it is better than a .22 and .25.
The most likely explanation for the Centennial as a long-range gun is that Fleming did not understand what Boothroyd was suggesting. The Centennial seems to have been quietly dropped from later books, probably because Fleming was embarrassed by such a foolish mistake.

When John Gardner took over writing the Bond novels he inflicted a variety of personal firearms on Bond. The most bizarre was a Browning M1903 automatic chambered for 9mm Long cartridges. It’s an elegant looking weapon but offers not advantages over more modern weapons. Ammunition would be very hard to find, and when found would be of questionable age and reliability. In later books Gardner’s Bond uses a H&K VP-70, a P7/ PSP and an ASP, a customized Smith & Wesson M39 automatic. In one of the films Bond switches to a Walther P99. The particular movie is notable for some very unsubtle product placement, BTW.

My friend voiced the opinion that Bond needed a new, compact 9x19mm weapon, and I had to disagree.

If we accept that Bond is theoretically more about stealth than assault then the Walther PPK remains a good choice, although he’d be advised to use a .380 ACP/ 9x17mm version. It’s a compact, double action weapon and the round is subsonic, making it more compatible than a 9x19mm for suppressed shooting.
A more logical choice, however, might be for Bond to acquire a 9x18mm Makarov. The Makarov PM is very similar to the Walther PPK/ PP. The round was designed to be the heaviest load that could be accommodated by a simple blowback design. In short-barrelled pistols it is usually subsonic. The weapon, and its ammunition will often be encountered in the hands of likely enemies, many of which may be armed with vintage Soviet or Chinese armaments. Notable is that Bond never selects an identifiably British handgun. Having a weapon with Chinese, Bulgarian or Czech markings may promote disinformation.
There are a couple of alternatives to the Makarov pistol that use the 9x18mm. The Stechkin is probably too big. The Hungarian PA-63 is apparently a little more compact than the PM but cannot use PM magazines. The Czech Vz 82/ Cz 83 is a 9x18mm with a 12-round magazine, but if a bulkier weapon is warranted Bond may be better off with one of the compact .45s now available. The Makarov seems like the best choice. Perhaps Bond might even acquire the PB suppressed variant. At low temperatures the 9x18mm round may become transonic. The PB has a ported barrel to bleed some of the gases off and reduce muzzle velocity even further. The gases are bled off into a suppressor chamber that surrounds the barrel. A second suppressor that captures any muzzle blast can be attached to the muzzle.
Boothroyd’s idea of a second gun for longer-ranged and more combat-orientated situations does have some merit. In some of the books Bond keeps a Colt .45 in his car. Fleming gets the name wrong but the article here deduces that this is most likely an M1911A1 Government model. In some of Gardner’s books Bond keeps a Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum in his car. “Live and Let Die” is one of the few movie instances where Bond chooses to upgrade his armament before the mission. Here he carried a Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum but uses most of his ammunition shooting the statue of Baron Samedi!

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