The Boomstick — The Best Shotguns of Film

Who doesn’t love a good shotgun? Shotguns have a special place in video games, TV shows, and of course, movies. The shotgun always stands out and is often exaggerated in its power and effect. The noise of the pump racking, the massive wall of lead fiction says they shoot, and of course, the power to throw a bad guy rearward with a single blast. A good shotgun stands out, and today I want to recognize the old boomstick, specifically the best boomsticks from some of my favorite movies.

Army of Darkness — Ash’s Boomstick

Ash from The Evil Dead and Army of Darkness films is the ultimate boomstick aficionado. He even calls his shotgun a boomstick. In reality, it’s a double-barrel, 12 gauge, Stoeger coach gun. It’s supposed to be the same gun from Evil Dead 2, but it changes between films. A coach gun is a name applied to any side-by-side shotgun with a somewhat short barrel.

The name comes from the era in which men with double barrel shotguns defended horse-drawn coaches.

Army of Darkness boomstick
This is my boomstick!

They are a bit obsolete for shotguns today, but Ash is in the medieval era in Army of Darkness, so he’s a little ahead of the curve. What’s impressive is that Ash is missing a hand and has no problem reloading his boomstick.

I love the Sam Raimi cheesiness and camp. He’s either a very fast reloader, or they just embraced the unlimited ammo perk that movies seem to adore. Also, randomly the barrel length of the gun changes here and there. It’s also a movie where a guy in an Oldsmobile fights skeletons, witches, and an evil version of himself, so continuity isn’t something I’m worried about.

Terminator 2 — Winchester 1887

That Terminator 2 theme will always get my blood pumping. Da, da, da duh, I can hear, and I bet you can too. Terminator 2 is one of the rare times where the sequel is better than the original. Arnold’s Terminator is a modern cowboy riding a steel horse and wielding a lever-action 1887. Winchester produced the lever-action 1887 shotgun, and John Browning designed it.

This isn’t any old lever-action 1887. The barrel and stock have been trimmed significantly to make it more compact and even concealable.

Terminator 2 with Winchester 1887 shotgun
T2 has tons of awesome shotguns and the 1887 might be my favorite.

We see the T-800 stash it in a box of roses so he can smuggle it into a mall to rescue John Connor. One of the most remarkable scenes is when Arnold flip cocks the gun while driving the motorcycle. That scene alone probably broke some fingers as people tried to mimic the move.

The 1887 shoots at least seven times in one scene. Impressive for a gun with a five-round magazine tube. However, you can ghost load the gun, and when you ghost load and add one to the chamber, you can get seven rounds in the gun. This is one of the few movies where it is believable that someone can be crazy effective with a PGO shotgun. Arnold is a super strong machine in the film, so I’m sure he handles recoil fine.

Jurassic Park — SPAS-12

Robert Muldoon is so freaking cool. Even as a kid, I appreciated this cargo-short wearing, SPAS-12-wielding awesomeness. This big game hunter is the park’s consultant and security for when dinos get a bit frisky. His weapon of choice in the film is the SPAS-12 shotgun. The SPAS-12 is one of those weapons that dominates film and media, even though it’s not a great gun. It just happens to be an eye-catching firearm.

Jurassic Park, Robert Muldoon with a SPAS-12
Muldoon even gets a chance to really use his SPAS-12

The SPAS-12 is a neat concept in its design. It’s a convertible shotgun that can switch between either pump or semi-auto modes. However, that’s where anything good ends. It was notoriously unreliable, ammo finicky, and sometimes the safety made the gun fire. Loading it is a serious hassle. Generally, it wasn’t a good gun.

In Jurassic Park, we see it wielded mostly with the stock folded over the top, although Muldoon does in-scene deploy the stock and use the sights. We never see him kill anything before those clever girls rip him to pieces. In an accurate representation of the SPAS-12, the character Grant gets his hands on one, and it promptly jams on him.

Lone Wolf WcQuade’s Browning Auto-5

Whippet it, whippet it real good! My dad is a huge Chuck Norris fan, and I grew up with a library of Chuck Norris movies and tv shows. One of my dad’s favorites is Lone Wolf McQuade. Lone Wolf McQuade has several weapons at his disposal, and we even see him training in his backyard…shirtless…sweaty…with plenty of rolls and quickdraws. One of his weapons is a Browning Auto-5 shotgun made into a whippet gun.

Lone Wolf McQuade with Browning Auto-5
You’ll never be this cool.

Whippet gun is a term Clyde from Bonnie and Clyde fame invented for his numerous sawn-off Brownings and Remington semi-auto shotguns. The barrel is cut down to be flush with the magazine tube, and the stock is essentially cut into a pistol grip. The Whippet variant is all kinds of cool.

McQuade easily fires from the hip, and later with one hand, and never misses. He spews buckshot quickly and efficiently. The finale has him rocking a Vietnam-era flak jacket, a red headband, and the Whippet gun. Lone Wolf McQuade encapsulates everything we love about 1980s action flicks, including awesome shotguns.

Aliens — Ithaca 37

Another entry into the sequel being better than the original is Aliens. Aliens take space in the far future, but that doesn’t mean the boomstick is outdated. In a world where the 10mm Caseless is standard for the Colonial Marines, the classic 12 gauge Ithaca 37 is still handy for close encounters. Corporal Hicks keeps his strapped across his back until those close encounters find them.

Hicks with an Ithaca 37 in Aliens
I like to keep this handy for close encounters,

The Ithaca 37 is a classic combat shotgun based on the Remington Model 17. Ithaca raised the gun to the next level and simplified its design. It became one of the most popular law enforcement shotguns and saw combat from World War 2 up until Vietnam. Ithaca produced the gun in numerous configurations, and Hicks uses a custom variant of one of their hunting guns.

The barrel has been chopped considerably, but a front and rear sight has been added. The pistol grip actually comes off an MP40, and the same screen prop was used in various other TV shows showing an MP40 stock mounted to the gun. In an undeniable moment of awesome, Hicks shoves the gun in a Xenomorph’s mouth, instructing it to “eat this” before blowing its face off.

The World of the Boomstick

As I write this list, I’m coming to realize my favorite movies are from the 1990s and 1980s. Maybe they just had the best boomsticks? In short order, everyone fell in love with the rifle, specifically the AR variants, and it feels like boomsticks in film have suffered ever since. Am I wrong?

If so, let me know below your favorite movie boomstick.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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