The Guns of Bad Boys: Sensible and Common Firearm Choices
Michael Bay is simultaneously one of the most reviled and one of the most successful movie directors in the business. Critically pilloried for his simplistic plots, uneven pacing, clichéd characterization and dialog, and style over substance, Bay has laughed all the way to the bank as his movies are consistent gold at the box office. Fellow director William Wellman went so far as to say: “Directorially, I think his pictures were the most horrible things I’ve ever seen in my life. But he put on pictures that made a fortune. In that respect, he was better than any of us.” Whoops, my mistake, Wellman was referring to another American film director you may have heard of: Cecil B. DeMille. Spectacle is as much an art form as any other genre of movie, and has been for as long as we’ve had movies. And if you want breathtakingly shot and epically scaled action movies where bigger than life heroes battle despicable villains, nobody delivers like Michael Bay.
Bay made his feature film debut by directing 1995’s Bad Boys, which took the buddy cop formula established by 48 Hours and the Lethal Weapon series and wrapped it in the stylish gloss and glamour borrowed directly from his earlier work in commercials and music videos. Beautifully shot with dramatic angles and energetic jump cuts, his brash style breathed new life into a genre that had grown stale. Bay also largely abandoned the scripted dialog and relied on the talents of professional comedians Will Smith and Martin Lawrence (as Miami police detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett) to improvise the hilarious, character-building banter that propels the movie.
For fans of cinematic gunfights, Bad Boys is a treat, combining both sensible and common firearm choices with outlandish and rarely seen pieces, employing them in a variety of high energy shootouts and dramatic standoffs.
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The movie wastes no time in introducing us to our heroes, and their sidearms. In foiling an impromptu carjacking, Will Smith’s Mike Lowrey draws an electroless nickel SIG Sauer P226 from a black leather shoulder holster. A double-stack 9x19mm Para, the P226 was developed from the single stack P225 in a failed bid to win the U.S. military’s service pistol competition that the Beretta 92 eventually won. Despite the loss, the P226 went on to considerable success in the police and commercial markets and continues to be a popular choice. Lowrey’s P226 is finished in SIG’s electroless nickel, a corrosion resistant metal treatment that was popular before the current trend of flat black nitrocarburized pistols. Flashy, sophisticated and expensive, the shiny P226 is the perfect pistol avatar for the hip, stylish trust-fund rich boy Lowrey.
Martin Lawrence’s Marcus Burnett carries a Smith & Wesson 4506, the full sized, stainless single stack .45 ACP member of the 3rd Generation Smith & Wesson lineup. Encompassing everything from slim aluminum-framed 9mm compacts to all-steel duty pistols, the series was dominant in domestic law enforcement until finally overtaken by Glock in the late 90s. Much like the great variety in the Smith & Wesson catalog, Burnett’s 4506 switches from a late model with a round trigger guard and fixed Novak ramp rear sights to an earlier version with a squared off trigger guard and winged adjustable sights. Burnett also carries his pistol in a leather shoulder holster.
Both Burnett and Lowrey are seen carrying and using backup guns. Lowrey selects another offering from SIG Sauer’s catalog, the .380 ACP P230, a fixed-barrel delayed-blowback autoloader that mimics and improves on the classic old Walther PPK. Burnett is seen with a Smith & Wesson 6906, a compact double-column 9mm 3rd Generation Smith & Wesson.
The bad guys in the movie are equipped with a hodgepodge of oddball pistols. Ringleader Fouchet (played with a deadpan intensity by Turkish-French actor Tchéky Karyo) is seen mostly with a nickel-plated Beretta 85BB with pearl grips. A single stack version of the .380 ACP Beretta 84, the 85BB resembles the more famous Beretta 92, but is smaller in every dimension. Fouchet also draws a three-inch barreled Smith & Wesson Model 27 .357 Magnum revolver in one scene, where he fires it and his Beretta 85BB simultaneously.
One of Fouchet’s henchmen favors a Detonics Scoremaster 1911. A long-barreled modification of the classic .45 ACP, the all-stainless Scoremaster is easily identifiable by its extended barrel protruding from the end of the slide. Another henchman carries an Intratec TEC-DC9 9mm pistol with a 30-round magazine, and we see another expendable bad guy with a Smith & Wesson 639, an earlier 2nd Generation double-stack 9mm automatic.
Fouchet’s gang appreciates the shotgun, employing both the action movie staple Franchi SPAS-12 and the less often seen Winchester 1300 Defender. Developed as a semi-automatic shotgun with a secondary slide-action capability, the SPAS-12 was unreliable in service and a failure in the police market, but thanks to its husky appearance went on to Hollywood fame. The Winchester 1300 represents the final development of the classic Model 12 before Winchester’s American operations went bankrupt in 2006. Notable for its rotating, M16-style bolt and fast, effortless slide operation, the design lives on as the FN P-12.
The P230’s spiritual predecessor, the Walther PPK, has a minor role when witness in protective custody Julie Mott (an improbably skimpily dressed Téa Leoni) steals one from Lowrey’s gun cabinet and attempts to shoot Fouchet in a nightclub.
For the climactic confrontation at an exploding airfield hangar, both cops and criminals upgrade to a variety of automatic weaponry. Lowrey and Burnett equip themselves with an H&K MP5K and an Olympic Arms OA-93 AR-15 pistol stowed in the front trunk of Lowrey’s Porsche 911 964 Turbo. If you’re an action movie nut, the MP5K hardly needs an introduction as variants of the German 9mm submachine gun have starred in movies since its introduction in the 1970s. Both the cops and the drug gang are seen with stockless MP5Ks in the final shootout. Like most Hollywood MP5Ks, the guns in Bad Boys are modified civilian market SP89 models.
Banned by name in the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, the OA-93 was one of the first commercially available AR-15 pistol derivatives. Featuring a side charging handle and a recoil spring incorporated into the operating rod that replaced the AR’s gas tube, film OA-93s are usually seen with a small receiver extension to accommodate a larger bolt carrier to enable reliable fully automatic fire. Lowrey’s OA-93 is devoid of any sighting system, but does have a Vietnam era straight wall 20-round magazine inserted.
Lowrey and Burnett’s backup show up carrying Calico 9mm M960A submachine guns. The Calico eschews the traditional under-gun box magazine for a helical fifty round drum that rides on top of the receiver. Combining futuristic looks with high capacity, the Calico remains a favorite in both movies and video games, even if it never found traction in the firearms marketplace.
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Other neat guns to look out for in the final act include an IMI Galil ARM 7.62x51mm NATO rifle, complete with folding stock and 20-round magazine, and the Winchester 1300 Defender shotgun previously seen at the nightclub shootout makes a return.
In the closing scene, Fouchet pulls an exotic looking COP 357 four-barrel derringer style pistol after totaling his Cobra in a drag race against Lowrey’s Porsche and being relieved of his Beretta. In a minor continuity error, Lowrey draws a nickel SIG P225 instead of his P226 and shoots Fouchet dead.
Bad Boys II
Eight years passed until the sequel was released in 2003, and it didn’t disappoint, building on its predecessor in every way. If Bad Boys revitalized the buddy cop flick, then Bad Boys II took the formula to its absurdly awesome extreme in its action, humor and scale. Beginning with a tense standoff and shootout at a KKK cross burning, Bay relentlessly ratchets up the action and violence until our heroes are crashing a Hummer H2 through an exploding shanty town on their way to a final confrontation on a live minefield with an exploding lizard and a slow-mo rolling headshot and suddenly our popcorn bucket is empty. It’s just that kind of movie.
Will Smith returns as Detective Mike Lowrey, but his SIG Sauers do not, exchanging the primary / backup gun concept for two primaries: a pair of Glock 17 9mm pistols with chrome plated slides. Lowrey makes a habit of drawing both Glocks at once throughout the movie, making for some dramatic and stylish, if improbable, feats of marksmanship. One interesting prop choice is that one of his G17s appears to be a Generation 3 model, identifiable by the raised finger grooves on the grip and accessory rail notch on the frame’s dust cover, while the other is a Generation 2 Glock, with a smooth grip and tapered dust cover frame.
Marcus Burnett also trades in his Smith & Wesson 4506 for a two-toned pistol, a SIG P226 with a stainless steel slide and black aluminum frame. While not having the attractive, silvery-gold finish of SIG’s earlier electroless-nickel pistols, a bare stainless slide is more durable and saves a manufacturing step.
Our heroes square off against ruthless Cuban drug dealer Johnny Tapia, who we first meet trying to take care of a rat infestation in his basement money room with a Colt Anaconda revolver. A very late entry into the large frame, big bore revolver market created by Smith & Wesson’s Model 29 in the 1960s, the Anaconda was introduced in 1990 and while technically excellent, just couldn’t catch up to Smith & Wesson’s lead and was discontinued in 1999. Tapia is later seen dispatching a troublesome henchman with a SIG Sauer P232, an updated version of the P230 seen in the first movie.
Another big bore revolver makes an appearance early on in the movie during the standoff with the white supremacist drug smugglers, as Burnett finds himself a hostage with a Smith & Wesson Performance Center 629 .44 Magnum held to his head. A “production custom” stainless revolver with an integral scope mounting rail and underbarrel weights, the PC 629 was popular with long range revolver shooters and commands a premium price on the used market.
In the next big action sequence, Lowrey and Burnett interdict a shockingly violent Haitian gang and get into an extended car chase and rolling gun battle across the streets of Miami and onto the MacArthur Causeway Bridge. As in the first movie, our heroes retrieve submachine guns from Lowrey’s high dollar sports car, only this time it’s a pair of H&K UMP-45s from the back seat of his Ferrari 575M. The polymer framed replacement for the stamped-steel MP5, the UMP-45 is identifiable by its straight magazine and folding stock. Chambered in .45 ACP, the UMP is known for its comparatively slow cyclic rate and for its more controllable fully automatic fire. However, this doesn’t prevent Burnett from negligently discharging a burst into the dashboard of Lowrey’s Ferrari. Rule 3 applies, even during a car chase!
The Haitian drug gang uses a dizzying array of weapons, including AKMSU Kalashnikov pattern carbines, Valmet M76F 5.56 NATO AK style rifles, Ithaca 37 shotguns, a SWD/Cobray Street Sweeper revolving magazine shotgun, and a DS Arms SA58 OSW FAL derivative. A modern reinterpretation of the “Right Arm Of The Free World,” DSA’s select-fire OSW featured a para-style folding stock, optic rail, short 12-inch barrel and an extended 30-round magazine. This prop gun got around a lot in the movie, appearing later in the hands of one of Tapia’s thugs, then finally in U.S. Marine service at Guantanamo Bay.
During the gunfight, DEA undercover agent, Lowrey’s love interest, and Burnett’s sister, Syd (Gabrielle Union) uses a Serbu Super Shorty to take out a carjacker. A severely cut down double pistol gripped Mossberg 500, the Super Shorty exploits a footnote in federal NFA law to be transferrable with only a five dollar tax stamp, as opposed to the $200 stamp required of a conventional short-barreled shotgun.
After a brilliantly shot revolving gunfight in the Haitian drug house, a couple more chases and other hijinks, Lowrey and Burnett are off to Cuba with an ad-hoc commando team made up of DEA agents, Cuban resistance fighters and fellow police to stage a daring raid on Tapia’s government protected mansion and rescue Syd. Their extensive arsenal is outstanding and diverse. Lowrey and another cop roll with integrally suppressed H&K MP5SD submachine guns, complete with Aimpoint red dot sights and underbarrel flashlights. Burnett takes along another H&K, a G36 5.56 NATO carbine. Developed in parallel with the UMP, the polymer framed “Lego Gun,” as nicknamed by the Bundeswehr, replaced the 7.62 NATO G3 in German service. Other team members are equipped with more common M4A1 carbines, with Aimpoint red dot sights and Surefire flashlight rigs, but we also get to see an M249 “Para” SAW belt-fed machine gun put to good use, and the action is kicked off with an M141 SMAW-D rocket launcher fired at the main security room.
The Cuban Army counterattacks with soldiers carrying the familiar variety of Kalashnikov variants, but the propmasters also did a great job mocking up a couple of M2 Browning .50 BMG machine guns to look like Russian DShK heavy machine guns. The SMAW fire is also replied to with a couple of shots from convincing RPG-7 props.
After the raid and escape through the exploding shantytown, the final confrontation takes place on a U.S. military minefield just outside of the Guantanamo Bay naval base. Exhausted and literally down to their last rounds of ammunition, Tapia and one of his last remaining goons hold our heroes and Syd in a standoff with a SIG P226 and a Steyr SPP. Derived from the Steyr TMP 9mm submachine pistol, the SPP is a semi-automatic civilian market version that is often modified to fire fully-automatic and called upon to stand in for its impossible to obtain cousin.
The standoff is resolved with Syd activating a landmine with her pistol as a distraction, then Burnett takes a rolling dive and makes a headshot on Tapia. Like the closing gaffe in the first movie, between the roll and the shot, his two-tone P226 morphs into one of Lowrey’s two-tone Glock 17s.
Rumors about a third Bad Boys have circulated ever since the sequel hit theaters, but despite sporadic reports of progress, it doesn’t seem likely. Michael Bay noted that the salaries of the principals involved would consume the entire budget of a sequel, and it’s difficult to imagine how a follow up could possibly top the quantity and magnitude of action achieved in Bad Boys II. So it will probably remain standing unchallenged as the most over the top, ridiculous, entertaining and profitable buddy cop flick ever filmed.
By Peter Barrett. Originally published in the February 2014 issue of GunUp the Magazine.