John Wick Guns: the Ones He Uses (and How)
Although the first movie was released several years ago, the topic of John Wick guns remains a constant source of traffic and discussion here on The Mag Life. Usually, it’s firearms-related, other times it’s about the famous John Wick suit or even the movie’s score (i.e. the John Wick soundtrack). Many comments are made, some good, a few sadly among those that should have been reviewed before being posted. Sometimes they’re an appreciative discussion of the series’ cinematic value, other times it’s a source of contention. In the latter case, it’s typically centered around “realism”, an oft-quoted word that perhaps doesn’t quite belong to the description of an action film based on a comic book…
But anyway. Happily, John Wick’s guns, and the method in which he employs them, are extraordinarily well depicted. In fact, the guns and gun handling of the franchise have completely reset the standard by which such things should be measured in film.
John Wick: Colour and Music, Reference and Symbolism, Scott Waters
All about the lots of guns of John Wick, Travis Pike
How ’bout them headshots: Center Axis Relock, Jeremy Stafford
John Wick: Reference and Symbolism
Or, A small investigation of what all that stuff means
Maybe the idea came from watching Everything Great About John Wick, by Cinema Wins. His analysis of colour is a stand-out [note: that’s not a type: Waters is one them Canadian types. Ed.], but there were also some intriguing points about literary references and that got me thinking about how John Wick carries on traditions and honours [yes, that word too] its predecessors. So, let’s look at a totally non-comprehensive poke around.
An obvious caveat though: As with any analysis, this is personal and self-indulgent so… sorry not sorry.
What is John Wick? Well, most obviously, it’s a revenge film that may or may not be part of the Revenge Tragedy genre that begins, arguably, with Shakespeare, or more importantly with Thomas Kyd’s, The Spanish Tragedy. We could also consider the true story of The 47 Ronin, the film adaptation of which stars, yup, Keanu Reeves.
In a Revenge Tragedy, the protagonist dies, and even though the opening scene in John Wick leads the viewer in that direction, it ain’t the case (see the facts of John Wick 2 and 3). Our movie does, however, share the genre’s amoral hero and violence that sits squarely on the comedic side of things. Which is all to say, this film continues a centuries-old tradition.
Though John Wick isn’t a stage play, it is theatrical, literary, operatic, and comedic; it borrows and celebrates all these forms of storytelling.
Since I just drew a line between 16th-century Revenge Tragedy, I’m also gonna draw a much shorter line to Mid-80s glistening-bicep action films. I’m going to choose Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Raw Deal, but Commando or Rambo: First Blood Part II would do just as well.
Specifically, it’s the loadout scenes — that apotheosis of over-the-top Americana. Just so we’re clear, the load-out is when the protagonist assembles all the gear needed before entering combat. This usually happens with slow, erotic shots of hardware being slid in, strapped down, or otherwise bound, all with an accompanying instrumental soundtrack.
In Raw Deal, Arnold, in his bedroom, with hair greased back in a business-casual drug-dealer look, assembles his gear. It all gets cinched into a suit bag via guitar & saxophone soundtrack and is topped off with Arnold casting a sideways glance in the mirror as he heads out. So, I found myself pleasantly surprised on re-watching John Wick to see an updated version of the same scene. The clothes are better, the soundtrack isn’t (as) annoying, and the firearms aren’t so glammed up (such as the pointless barrel shroud on Arnold’s H&K MP5). But there’s Keanu at The Continental Hotel, sliding business attire over a white T-shirt and doing his loadout – including an H&K with a fancy muzzle brake – from a suit bag next to his hotel bed.
From there we head to The Red Circle, the nightclub where revenge hits the ground running. This scene grows directly out of two of the best Nightclub shoot-outs on film, one of which also includes Arnold. I speak of The Terminator, with the second film being Michael Mann’s superlative, Collateral.
Firstly, the music in The Terminator scene beats all comers. With its high-haired synth-punk it’s the perfect fit. Convince me otherwise.
Moving forward from The Terminator through Collateral to John Wick, the choreography becomes more melodramatic. Terminator is prosaic force, dirty trench coats and a sawed-off 12 gauge; Collateral brings us the business attire and the choreography, as Vincent takes on Chinese gangs, Mexican cartels, and law enforcement all while retaining something closer to real-world dynamics.
John Wick takes choreography into the operatic and ties it all together with hyper-saturated hues. This scene might as well be a musical.
In case you were wondering:
Bar: Tech Noir
Music: Tahnee Cain And Tryanglz, Caught in the Third Degree, Photoplay
Mission: Close Protection
Music: Paul Oakenfold, Ready Steady Go
Bar: The Red Circle:
Music: Le Castle Vania, The Red Circle
A person could do far worse with their evening than watch these three scenes back-to-back-to-back several times over. Maybe with a couple of nice Pale Ales.
One of the strongest elements of John Wick, especially at the The Red Circle, is colour; It’s used as a visual guide to what’s taking place.
As Cinema Wins tells us,
“John gets blues and greens when he’s winning. Viggo (the crime boss) and his men get reds and yellows. You can actually predict what’s going to happen based on lighting colour…. [A Russian goon] leaves his red light and enters John’s blue light of death. [Then] John leaves his blue and gets into trouble in this [other] goon’s red light”.
And lastly, in another nod to history, this lil’ zinger, “Apparently, Russian henchmen don’t watch enough Star Trek, wearing those red shirts”.
I could go on. John Wick is filled with references. The Red Circle is a reference to the French New Wave film, Le Cercle Rouge; The Matrix is referenced on multiple occasions (as required); There’s even a small nod to Keanu Reeves’ first action film, that surfer/bank robber gem, Point Break. I could go on.
Hopefully, the above self-indulgent overview offered some new nuggets of interest and offers some directions to go poking around:
“Alexa, what type of Bourbon does John Wick drink?”
“Siri, tell me about bullpup shotguns!”
If nothing else, maybe you’re queuing up a John Wick, Collateral, and The Terminator bar scene triple-play. With an IPA or two on hand.
The Lots of Guns of John Wick 3
So I went and saw John Wick 3, a series now famed for its gunplay, intense stunts, and absolute lack of shaky cam. These movies aren’t Oscar bait. They are largely brainless action flicks that are a ton of fun. If you’ve never seen one, it’s essentially an impressive set of stunts on cool set pieces loosely connected via a thin plot. It’s fun, it’s satisfying, and it’s chock full of guns. What guns does John Wick use in John Wick 3? Let’s talk about it.
This article is from May 2019.
What Guns Does John Wick Use in John Wick 3?
Glocks, lots of Glocks, most tapped with some Taran Tactical upgrades. Unlike the other two films, John doesn’t necessarily have a handgun of choice for the entire film. In the first movie, it was the lovely HK P30L with a custom comp, in John Wick 3 it was a custom Taran Tactical G34. In this film John uses a variety of guns, often picking them up along the way. We see John and his ally Sofia utilizing the Glock 34, the 19, and 19X.
Often these guns are topped with red dot sights, which is a nice touch since red dot equipped handguns are becoming the norm. These include some Taran Tactical models, who did John’s guns in John Wick 2. We do see a non-compensated P30L, as well as a funny scene where John Wick handles a Remington 1875 and has to assemble a working revolver. There wasn’t an appearance by the Glock 47, though. Maybe next time.
We also see the screen debut of the SIG P365, heavily customized by Grayguns and in Halle Berry’s hand. It’s only fired once, and we get a good look at it. We also see a massive Bond Arms Derringer used in a single scene that’s humorous.
Finally, we get the John Wick hero gun near the very end of the movie in the form of an STI 2011 Combat Master customized by Taran Tactical in 9mm major. This is a double stack 1911 and it packs 24 rounds in the magazine. This is a 9mm Major gun, 9mm Major being designed to compete as a major power factor cartridge in competition.
In the scene where John gets the gun, we get a short commercial for the gun essentially where it’s described.
In John Wick 3 we see a ton of bad guys using a wide variety of rifles. Mostly a combination of M4/AR 15s, as well as plenty of SIG MPX action. Another hero gun is a highly customized SIG MPX with tons of Taran Tactical gear.
This includes a TTI magwell, a TTI magazine baseplate, as well as some aftermarket accessories including a carbon fiber handguard, Trijicon MRO, and a Streamlight TLR 8.
Oddly, this is the carbine variant of the MPX with a 16-inch barrel. It’s kind of an odd choice for a 9mm gun when John Wick can clearly get smaller, easier handling SMGs. It’s massive, and like most guns in John Wick, it is oriented more towards 3-Gun and competition shooting than actual tactical use. The guns look cool for sure, but it’s still movie fantasy so it doesn’t always make sense.
Also, John reloads… a lot, especially with this rifle. he seems to reload way more than necessary for a gun that’s semi-auto. It’s odd. Most movies are unbelievable because they never reload, but John Wick 3 has a problem with too much reloading. At least with this rifle.
There is also a scene with an arms room where we see a massive variety of guns. This includes sniper rifles, rifles SMGs, and oddly enough SB Tactical Brace equipped CZ Scorpions. Why assassins worry about federal gun laws I don’t know.
My Biggest Complaint
In the scene where John is getting the MPX, he’s getting ready for a massive fight, and he knows it. He passes by numerous rifles in 5.56 and 7.62 including an FS2000, a Galil, and a G36. Why would you take a 9mm that’s a full-sized rifle over a real rifle? C’mon John.
We see two shotguns in the movie. One is a Benelli M4, similar to the model we saw utilized in John Wick 2. However, John never uses the M4, he instead takes up a highly customized M2 Super 90. This M2 Super 90 predictably wears tons of Taran Tactical Innovations gear. It is referred to as the Ultimate 3-Gun Package.
It’s a sweet shotgun, with a ribbed barrel, gold bolt, high viz front sight, spare single round holder, and what appears to be an 8-round tube. John handles it like a monster and we see several successful quad loads during the film.
John Wick and Gun Handling
The John Wick movies have always demonstrated that their actors are well trained with firearms. With every movie, it steps up just a hair more. The gun handling is obviously still based in fantasy, but the actors appear to be proficient with their weapons. They don’t just reload, they reload fast and intuitively. You don’t see teacup grips or firing from the hip, or anything annoying. Both Keanu Reeves, who plays John Wick, and Halle Berry, who plays Sofia, were trained by Taran Butler of Taran Tactical Innovations.
Again, the main stars are basically superheroes, but it looks good and while their tactics aren’t exactly great, they are proficient. Additionally, the stunt work is fantastic, and the fight choreography is amazing with both hand-to-hand fighting as well as bladed weapons. It’s always fun, and John Wick can apparently use anything to kill anybody.
It’s one of the most fun action movies out there, and if you like guns you’ll enjoy the erratic action. At the very least you should appreciate the effort the crew put into these stunts and the time they spent shooting. Check it out and let us know what you think.
Center Axis Relock
How About Them Headshots?
The 2014 movie “John Wick” was a revelation for most of us in the firearms community. Keanu Reeves’s titular hitman moved like he knew what he was doing, handled firearms like a real shooter, and even reloaded his guns correctly! With the fourth one coming up, let’s take a look at his styles and separate fact from movie fiction — let’s talk about Center Axis Relock and the evolution of John Wick’s fighting styles (specifically the shooting style John Wick uses).
First off, let’s talk about what’s awesome about John Wick… Freakin headshots! The dude goes straight for the finish. Headshots aplenty, because that’s how you end fights immediately with a pistol.
If you look at the movie critically, his gun handling is excellent (and there are lots of John Wick guns). He has definitely been well trained, but his actions on onscreen are highly stylized. That’s one of the tough things when talking about the gunfights in John Wick, remembering that despite how awesome it looks, it’s still a movie and some things are done simply because they look cool. One of the most controversial things as far as the difference between Hollywood and real life is probably the extensive use of the Center Axis Relock. With this technique, the pistol is held in a stylized stance, almost like a compressed Weaver, in front of the shooter’s face.
Supposedly it helps when in a CQB environment, which is total bullshit. Here’s the deal…ready for it?
Hardly anyone that really hunts bad guys for a living uses this.
When you’re hunting for assholes, you don’t want your hands in front of your face. You also don’t want your pistol crossing the threshold of a doorway before you do. That’s a great way to have your pistol bashed into your own face during a fight, but whatever. That being said, it looks badass. In fact, it looks very similar to some stances from Iaido, and with the Director of the film stating in print that he was influenced by Samurai films, it’s easy to see why this particular technique was used. As far as actually running his pistol, I’ve seen clips of Keanu working with some Israeli guys and it looked like a total shitshow.
Luckily he also worked with Taran Butler, who seemed to get all of the lameness out and had him absolutely shredding. I’ve shot with Taran before, and I know how hard he works to get his actors on point. Of course, when it came time to burn down targets, all of the stylized bullshit went out the door and Wick used a solid Isosceles with high thumbs forward. Just like the rest of us do. His long gun handling was also on point, and you could tell that he put in lots of work here with Taran as well. That’s why his long gun manipulations reflect some very mainstream techniques. I actually broke down the film that Taran released of him in slow motion, and besides some little stuff like looking his gun into his holster, his manipulations and accuracy are very impressive.
It’s gratifying to see an actor give a shit like that.
Next, let’s talk about his empty-handed combatives. Remember folks, it’s a damn movie! It’s completely and totally choreographed. Many of the scenes defy logic and gravity at the same time. But the fact that the star has spent so much time training in Judo, Traditional Jiu-Jitsu, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu allows him to really sell the fight scenes and make them look not only plausible but very grounded in reality. If you watch the movie enough and you also pay attention to the trailer for the sequel, you can really see the elements from all of the previous mentioned martial arts. I’ve also seen a little kickboxing and Krav Maga thrown in there, but with the “gun-fu” style of the action scenes, the thing that has impressed me most is acrobatic take-downs where the actor actually keeps his weapon pointed in a safe direction. It’s obviously choreographed, but Reeves’s ability to pull it off shows not only his athleticism but also his dedication to the craft. The martial arts he trains in don’t care if you’re a movie star, they only care that you put in the work. He obviously does.
In this day and age of legions of Hollywood elite lining up to deprive us of our rights, It’s not often that an actor like Keanu Reeves is willing to put in the work, the sweat and the blood to portray his character in a manner that actually impresses the firearms community. Likewise with Director Chad Stahelski, who decided to let the physicality and hard work take precedence over computer-generated bullshit. I know that many in our community no longer go to the movies because most of the people starring in them detest our culture, but if you only see one next year, go see John Wick 4. They give a shit where most don’t, let’s support them with our cash and enjoy the anchor shots.
Note: Center Axis Relock does have its adherents, obviously. You can read Matthew Collins’s opinion on the matter on Pew Pew Tactical.
Center Axis Relock demonstrated
Here’s the originator of the technique talking about it several years ago before his untimely death by cancer.
Here’s a little more on it from just a couple weeks ago (as of this writing).
Everything Great About John Wick
This reviewer does an excellent job. If you’re not following Everything Great About, you should consider doing so.
The John Wick Suit
Terminator Club Scene
The shootout in Tech Noir
Collateral Club Scene
The Collateral club scene is one of the best modern shootouts on film — though it didn’t do much for the Fever nightclub.
This has been a collaborative effort by two or more members of The Mag Life contributor team: to wit, a JWOT (Joint Writing Operations Team). We’ll advise which specific contributors in the text of the article. Subscribe to GunMag TV and follow GMW on Instagram, @gunmagwarehouse. Connect on Facebook, /gunmagwarehouse/.