The official playtest for my new book GURPS Tactical Shooting: Extreme Conditions starts soon. If you are interested in testing the rules and helping us to make the book better, head over to the Steve Jackson Games forums, where you can find the details of how to take part in the playtest.
Gentlemen, shortly you will be provided Thompson submachine guns, BARs, and uh, .351 Winchester semiautomatic rifles. We are pursuing hardened killers. It will be dangerous.
– Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Melvin Purvis in Public Enemies (2009)
Michael Mann’s Public Enemies (2009) is but the latest effort to bring the life of infamous bank robber John “Johnnie” Dillinger on the silver screen. It follows his exploits between autumn 1933 and summer 1934, but really concentrates on his affair with gun moll M. Evelyn “Billie” Frechette. As in many other Mann movies, the law enforcement side receives almost equal attention, here in the shape of Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Melvin Purvis. While Mann undertook extraordinary effort to bring the time to life through clothing, automobiles, firearms, and locations, he stuck less rigidly to the historical facts, including the timeline. Events have been moved forward or backward, people have been omitted or changed, etc. It has to be understood that Public Enemies is not really a historical film at all, unlike Bryan Burrough’s meticulously researched book Public Enemies (2004), on which it is based. It is still an excellent movie, not the least because of its awesome score and of course its actors, including Johnny Depp as Dillinger, Christian Bale as Purvis, and Stephen Graham as “Baby Face Nelson.”
Few are the sights that Gotham has to offer
Of greater interest and instructive aid,
Than the rare contents of this famous coffer
From all the earth’s ransacked corners here displayed.
‒ Francis Bannerman Sons Military Goods Catalogue (1927)
Between 1865 and 1959, Francis Bannerman Military Goods ‒ from 1918, Francis Bannerman Sons Military Goods ‒ was probably the largest and certainly the most important military surplus store in the entire USA. From 1905, it had its primary outlet at 501 Broadway in New York, New York (GURPS High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 5; GURPS High-Tech: Pulp Guns 2, p. 24; Investigator Weapons 1, p. 25).
One’s backfire, three is gunplay.
– Joe Sarno in The Way of the Gun (2000)
Christopher McQuarrie’s The Way of the Gun (2000) is an imperfect cult movie. Its main characters “Mr Longabaugh” (Benicio del Toro) and “Mr Parker” (Ryan Philippe) are of course named after the famous Hole in the Wall Gang members “Butch Cassidy” (née Robert Parker) and “The Sundance Kid” (née Harry Longabaugh), and there are several references to George Hill’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), including the location where the showdown was shot. Unlike that brilliant Western, the story about two drifters who decide to finally pull a major score by kidnapping a surrogate pregnant woman suffers from plot holes, is irregularly paced, and has a good deal of forced dialogue. However, I have no issue with the dubious moralities displayed; the main characters are criminals and no more reprehensible than other fiction criminals ‒ or indeed, many nominally good guys. On the plus side, the film boasts first-class acting performances by the likes of Benicio del Toro, James Caan, and Geoffrey Lewis, an ace score, and, unsurprisingly given its title, some very cool shootouts.
Happy trails, Hans!
‒ John McClane in Die Hard (1988)
John McTiernan’s Die Hard (1988) is the ultimate action movie for the festive days. Like most such films made in the 1980s, it ticks many boxes of the genres covered by GURPS Gun Fu. NYPD Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) is the ultimate badass in both body and spirit, and the shooting shown is in the same vein ‒ “Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker!”
A three-barrelled high-velocity .25 calibre air rifle that could be switched from triple volley to full auto, hung from the flexible mounting above the cockpit. A ground-crewman checked the two racks inside the cockpit filled with 180-round magazines … With a comparatively high rate of fire of one hundred and eighty rounds a minute, they were able to direct an almost continuous rain of nickel-coated lead …
‒ Patrick Tilley, The Amtrak Wars 1: Cloud Warrior (1983)
Patrick Tilley’s The Amtrak Wars (1983-1990) is a six-part epic chronicling the events in 2989/2994 AD prior to the fulfilment of the “Talisman Prophecy.” It is set in a devastated and substantially changed North America, with several factions involved in a deadly struggle for supremacy. These include various tribes of Mutes, the Iron Masters, and the Amtrak Federation ‒ inexplicably changed to the Lone Star Confederation in the later reissue, making the many train connections obsolete. It is perfect as a setting for a GURPS After the End campaign.
You want to be a gunfighter, huh?
– LAPD Detective Tom Ludlow in Street Kings (2008)
Street Kings (2008) is about LAPD Detective Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves), a member of the Vice Special unit that seems to be inspired by the real LAPD’s controversial Special Investigations Section (SIS), a unit that got a reputation as a “gunfighting” outfit in the late 1980s. Ludlow is a renegade “gunfighter” caught up both in his own post-traumatic stress disorder and in larger issues having to do with in-service corruption and power struggles.
OK, I wanna introduce you to a personal friend of mine: This is an M41A pulse rifle, 10mm, with an over-and-under 30mm pump-action grenade launcher.
‒ CPL Dwayne Hicks, 1st Platoon, A Company, 2/9 USCM, in Aliens (1986)
The Armat M41A is the famous weapon arming the US Colonial Marines in Aliens (1986) and the Weyland-Yutani Corporation security forces in Alien 3 (1992) ‒ also, for some obscure reasons, the bank robbers in The Simpsons #13.12 (2002) … It accounts for a lot of the pseudo-realistic setting of Aliens, giving the main characters a mean-looking yet functional weapon to combat the dangerous Xenomorph XX121. Ultimately, the powerful, effective carbine ‒ and all the other ultra-tech gear of the year 2179, from nukes to sharp sticks ‒ does not mean much against the swarm intelligence, evolutionary perfection, and insidious breeding habits of Internecivus raptus, giving the Alien saga a distinct, rather desperate Lovecraft-esque vibe.