Axel F at 40: The Guns of Beverly Hills Cop

Earlier this year, Netflix released the teaser trailer for “Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F,” which will hit the streaming service on July 3. The upcoming film is the fourth installment in the 1980s buddy cop action comedy, “Beverly Hills Cop,” starring comedian Eddie Murphy. This sequel comes nearly 40 years after the original became one of the top-grossing films of 1984 – despite being released in December of that year.

While we try to forget that “Beverly Hills Cop 3” arrived three decades ago to largely negative reviews, there’s hope this fourth entry does the series justice. It is important to remember the cultural phenomena of “Beverly Hills Cop.” Adjusted for inflation, it remains the highest-grossing R-rate comedy in history at the American box office and the third-highest R-rated film of all time. Only coming in behind “The Exorcist” and “The Godfather.” It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, while Murphy was also nominated for a Golden Globe. “Beverly Hills Cop” went on to win the 1984 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture, serving to further remind us that the film was something special.

Though it wasn’t the first buddy cop action comedy, and it came just two years after Murphy starred in “48 Hrs.,” the film was noted for standout performances from Murphy and the supporting cast. With a more serious actor in the role, it would have been yet another by-the-numbers detective story, but as the wisecracking Detroit Police Detective Axel Foley, Murphy added both humor and a cocky charm. It should be noted that the film was originally to have starred Sylvester Stallone. Can you imagine how different that would have been?

The BHPD including Detective William "Billy" Rosewood get in on the action.
“Beverly Hills Cop” mixed humor and action, becoming one of the most successful films of the 1980s. In the film, the Beverly Hills PD officers are seen with several Police Special Ithaca 37 shotguns – an accurate choice for the era. [Photo: Paramount Pictures]

“Beverly Hills Cop” Choice of Firearms

While staying true to the buddy cop genre, the film successfully delivered equal parts humor and action. Moreover, the film’s first two sequels upped the ante in terms of diverse firearms to appear on screen. That being said, the arsenal in the original was still notable for action films of the era.

The movie came out in 1984, before the era of polymer-framed pistols, and accordingly, none are seen on the screen. Instead, several revolvers and steel-frame semi-automatic pistols are present—quite accurate for the era. Likewise, the villain’s crew isn’t unrealistically armed. Kudos should be given to the armorers for the wise selection of Beverly Hills and Detroit-worthy firearms.

The Guns From the “D”

As a Detroit police detective, Murphy carries a post-World War II Browning Hi-Power, noted by the external extractor and spur hammer. It would seem a rather unorthodox choice for a police detective, but Axel Foley continues to carry it in the sequels. It could be speculated that the production team didn’t want Foley armed with a service revolver nor a large frame revolver – as a Smith & Wesson Model 29 was initially carried by Nick Nolte in the aforementioned “48 Hrs.” Likewise, Murphy’s Reggie Hammond carried a Smith & Wesson Model 19 Snub Nose in that film. Thus, a decision may have been made to see Murphy with a semi-automatic for this film.

Eddie Murphy in "Beverly Hills Cop"
Eddie Murphy may have been convincing as a police detective, but his grip on the Hi-Power pistol is questionable. [Photo: Paramount Pictures]
Detroit PD officers are seen armed with Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolvers, which were standard issue duty sidearms for the DPD at the time the movie was shot. It has been noted that the revolvers seen in the film are nickel finish, which was also accurate for the era. In the opening scene of “Beverly Hills Cop,” a Detroit police officer is seen with a Smith & Wesson Model 67, the stainless version of the Model 15 revolver.

DPD officers in "Beverly Hills Cop"
A Detroit PD officer (left) carries a Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver, while the officer on the right is armed with a Smith & Wesson Model 67. [Photo: Paramount Pictures]
Another Detroit police officer is seen with a Smith & Wesson 639 semi-automatic pistol. The 639 is also carried by Detective Jeffrey Friedman (played by Paul Reiser), and the same model firearm is carried by one of the villain’s henchmen and also seen as the primary sidearm of Beverly Hills PD lieutenant Andrew Bogomil (Ronny Cox).

Interestingly, the late Gilbert R. Hill, who played Inspector Douglas Todd in the “Beverly Hills Cop” trilogy – and who was an actual Detroit City Police Officer before becoming president of the Detroit City Council – is seen with a Colt Mk IV Series 70. It has been suggested that as he was a homicide detective with the Detroit PD at the time, it may have been his personal firearm. He was seen a decade later in the 1994 sequel “Beverly Hills Cop III” armed with a Beretta 92F, another accurate choice as the Detroit PD had adopted it.

Guns From Beverly Hills

BHPD Detective William “Billy” Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) is seen with a nickel-plated first-generation Colt Detective Special, while his partner Sergeant John Taggart (John Ashton) carries a Smith & Wesson Model 19 Snub Nose. These firearms both seem fitting choices for veteran detectives in the upscale Los Angeles suburb.

Judge Reinhold in "Beverly Hills Cop"
BHPD Detective William “Billy” Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) is seen with his Colt Detective Special while employing the then-common one-hand grip. [Photo: Paramount Pictures]
Other members of the BHPD can be spotted with the Dan Wesson Model 15 revolvers, which feature an enclosed ejector rod and ventilated rib. The revolvers were produced by the Dan Wesson Company, founded by Daniel B. Wesson II, the great-grandson of one of the founders of Smith & Wesson.

Drug smuggler Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff) left most of the shooting to his lackeys but is seen at the end of the film with a Smith & Wesson Model 629 with a 2.5-inch barrel and chambered in .44 Magnum. According to some sources, it is believed to be the same revolver carried by Powers Boothe in the film “Extreme Prejudice.” The choice of this big, fancy revolver proves that Maitland had good taste, even with his firearms!

Steven Berkoff in "Beverly Hills Cop"
Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff) is armed with a custom Mag-na-ported Smith & Wesson Model 629 with a 2.5-inch barrel. A fitting weapon for the film’s villain. [Photo: Paramount Pictures]
While Berkoff got to carry the hand cannon, actor Jonathan Banks of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” fame was stuck with a Charter Arms Undercover .38 Special. As Zack, one of Maitland’s henchmen, Banks did get to use the pistol-gripped Smith & Wesson 3000 Shotgun in the film’s climax.

Jonathan Banks in "Beverly Hills Cop"
Long before his “Breaking Bad” days, Jonathan Banks played a henchman in “Beverly Hills Cop,” and among the firearms he carried in the film was a Smith & Wesson 3000 Shotgun. [Photo: Paramount Pictures]
One of the strip club robbers in the middle of the film is armed with an Ithaca 37 shotgun with the stock sawed off. His partner carries a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun. A Police Special Ithaca 37 with rifle sights and an 18.5-inch barrel is later seen carried by Taggart. The same model shotgun is employed with multiple BDPD officers. Again, this is an accurate choice as the Police Special – as its name suggests, was favored by law enforcement.

“Beverly Hills Cop” is light on automatic weapons, but several of Maitland’s thugs are armed with Uzi submachine guns in the climax of the film. At least two Uzis were supplied by the film’s armorer. It isn’t explained how Maitland came to acquire the weapons, but as a drug smuggler, he would have certainly had some connections around the world, and the Uzi was a popular choice with drug cartels of the era.

The Uzi 9mm in "Beverly Hills Cop"
“The Terminator” came out earlier in 1984 and put the Uzi on the map, but the Israeli SMG also appeared in “Beverly Hills Cop.” [Photo: Paramount Pictures]

Final Thoughts

“Beverly Hills Cop” remains one of those eternally re-watchable films, in part because it hits all the right notes. Though a true Hollywood film of the era, it should be commended for its authenticity regarding the choice of firearms.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based freelance writer who regularly covers firearms related topics and military history. As a reporter, his work has appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers, and websites. Among those are The National Interest, Forbes, and many others. He has collected military small arms and military helmets most of his life, and just recently navigated his first NFA transfer to buy his first machine gun. He is co-author of the book A Gallery of Military Headdress, which was published in February 2019. It is his third book on the topic of military hats and helmets.

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