As any firearms enthusiast/cineaste knows, as moves evolve thematically and technologically, fashions in cars, costumes, hairstyle and guns often follow suit.
Of necessity, the early days of films saw a large variety of different arms, but like today, ended up relying on a few stalwarts which, because of their ease of use, adaptability and actor-friendly characteristics, saw more action than many of the others. Except in a few films, such as Arizona (1940), where the director insisted on using percussion rifles, shotguns and handguns because cartridge guns were so much easier to manage and more reliable, they were often substituted for earlier arms. I can think of at least a half-dozen or so longarms and handguns that stand head and shoulders above the rest and were movie mainstays from the silent era right up to the 1960s. Here’s the casting call, and just why they were so popular.
- The .45-70 “Trapdoor” Springfield has probably seen more use in films than just about any other firearm, with the possible exception of the Colt Single Action Army. There are several reasons for this. First off, the gun looked so close enough to a Civil War or Crimean War muzzleloader that it could easily be substituted. It had the advantage of being so easily loaded from the breech with blanks that even in such early epics as Birth of a Nation (1915), The Four Feathers (1929 ), Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) and Gone With the Wind (1939), it was used even when proper rifle-muskets were available in abundance. Of course the gun was era-correct in post-Civil War westerns, so no problem there. Also, the Trapdoor could easily be converted to a faux flintlock musket, jezail or pirate pistol simply by replacing the original hammer with a dummy flintlock cock and adding whatever embellishments the art director deemed proper.