Heavy. Relatively slow. Hard to conceal. These three factors may lead you to think twice about picking up the shotgun. But the tradeoff of power minimizes those negatives. This weapon can be depended upon like a best friend, possessing loyalty and encouraging you to accomplish whatever you set out to do.
Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) nicely summed up the benefits of being assisted by the shotgun, stating “Yeah, you wanna get sh** done, you gotta get it done yourself,” prior to opening up Roger’s (Scott Glenn) chest in Training Day (2001).
Harris, a foul-mouthed, undercover narcotics officer, liked to refer to the shotgun as “The Bi***.” I proudly substitute another five-letter word: Trick. However this gun is commonly referred to as: the 12-gauge, double barrel, pump action and the sawed-off double barrel. Often shorter terms or slang like: the gauge, the sawed-off, the pump, the shotty and the spreader are heard, but there is definitely no drop off in power for a piece of artillery so heavily respected and feared that if its blast comes in contact with any region of the upper body the chance of death is almost certain. Contemplating revenge? Then serve the dish cold, hot or warm with a trick like many on the big screen.
First, two movies worthy of mention for the laughter they produce despite the shotgun’s little to nonexistent sense of humor.
Coming to America (1988)
Consistently identified as one of Hollywood’s most notorious screamers, Samuel L. Jackson (Hold-Up Man) made his presence felt with the pump in the lone comedy of this list. Despite not putting a hole in anyone except the roof of McDowell’s – a bogus McDonald’s – Jackson incited fear in the customers and employees when he delivered the classic statement, “Anybody move and I’ll blow your (trucking) head off!”
New Jack City (1991)
Many God-given talents and attributes fuel intimidation such as size, strength, tone of voice and attitude which all influence this psychological advantage. Carrying a gauge has the same effect no matter how frail, muscular or well-dressed you are. For instance, in this realistic portrayal of the emergence and power of crack in the ghetto, Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) is an average looking Black man, but when “drug lord” is attached to his name an edge follows. Also when a pump shotgun is put in his hands and momentarily glued to your temple, anyone (landlord) can quickly forget how embarrassing it is to be nude in front of the community.
Now, 25 movies, evoking some of the greatest gauge moments.
Twenty Five: Face/Off (1997)
Sean Archer (John Travolta) and Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage) tried to kill each other with all types of weapons, automatic, semi-automatic pistols, machine guns, etc. but never the almighty shotgun in this film about a bizarre facial swap. However, Dietrich (Nick Cassavetes), Castor’s running mate, did show two cops how much of a problem the pump is, guaranteeing necessary arrangements for two perfectly folded and immaculate flags. Dressed in appropriate attire – all black – while dropping down a zip line, this tactical agent was forced into a relaxed position just perfect for a coffin. His partner met the same fate one pump later.
Twenty Four: Belly (1998)
Shooting up the strip club is always bad for business. Same goes if you are not thrown, but shot out of one like in this story of drugs and violence despite the all-around display of bad acting by a cast of popular rappers and singers. After “dropping” Big (Tyrin Turner) for “dropping a dime,” Shameek (Method Man) didn’t have any plans to stick around for more entertainment. Firing off shot after shot while slowly retreating, Shameek was given a big boost after one blast from the bartender’s pump. All fire ceased as Shameek burst through the glass door. Luckily, his vest held up its end of the bargain.
Twenty Three: Narc (2002)
Don’t trick yourself into playing around with the trick! It will make a fool out of you! Such happened when a random drug dealer/user decided to get high while in the bathtub of this drama about an undercover narcotic’s agent alleged murder. Too lazy to get another bong and not fully contemplating the risk, Leo Lee (Carson Durven) unwisely chose to start his personal party again with a loaded pump shotgun. Literally, Leo created his own bloodbath. Later in one of the closing scenes, Detective Henry Oak (Ray Liotta) was not bluffing and his partner Det. Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) knew it. Oak, high-strung throughout due to his friend’s death, stopped Tellis from calling for backup with just the resounding click of the pump. A stern, but final warning.
Twenty Two: Miami Vice (2006)
Yes, this big screen version of the famous television drama starring Crockett and Tubbs had plenty of dry moments except when someone’s life was lost. It was bad when those two undercover agents got unexpectedly put to sleep with a high-caliber sniper rifle and worse when the hostage taker had his life ended in a blink of an eye, literally. But as usual things got ugly at the end when the gauge got involved. Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) followed an evasive roll with a pull of the trigger that spread his enemy’s blood type all over the wall.
Twenty One: I, Robot (2004)
Despite not possessing any bloodshed, this science-fiction picture gets its due for special effects. During the robots temporary seizure of the city, Lieutenant John Bergin (Chi McBride) made sure at least two robots were permanently shut down by his gauge. The two blasts were for the ages since they penetrated glass before beheading the first aggressive target then dismantling the next.
Twenty: Kill Bill Volume 2 (2004)
The beauty of the sword is its ability to function without any other part. Unlike the shotgun, the sword is ammo free but ineffective after a certain distance. In this concluding installment of a story about a woman (Uma Thurman) checking off names on her hit list, the gun was mightier than the sword. Prepared to sever Budd’s (Michael Madsen) head from his body, The Black Mamba/Beatrix Kiddo (Thurman) was a step too slow, absorbing a blast to the chest which sent her quite a distance from the trailer she attempted to enter. Luckily, those shells from Budd’s double barrel were filled with rock salt or The Black Mamba would not have been worrying about being buried alive.
Nineteen: Matrix (1999)
Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) were not the only individuals doing special things in a world without limits. Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) had her moments as well in this groundbreaking sci-fi action film. In the scene prior to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) being rescued, one of the cops was letting off a round per second until Trinity perfectly kicked the trick over his shoulder and put one in his back, unplugging him from the Matrix forever.
Eighteen: Never Die Alone (2004)
Circumstances turn for the worst between the female and the shotty in this drama with the same name as a Donald Goines novel, proving this powerful piece of machinery has no mercy. Blue (Antwon Tanner) being stabbed in the eye with an ice pick by King David (DMX) was not a pretty sight and neither was Blue’s execution moments later at point blank range via pump shotgun. Mike’s (Michael Ealy) sister was slain during the same ambush except she went sliding across the parking deck like a cannon ball hit her flush.
Seventeen: Four Brothers (2005)
Prior to assisting Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to a permanent ice bath, Bobby Mercer (Mark Wahlberg) was a quite a marksman with the all black gauge in this action flick, containing tears, laughter and cruelty. All three of Bobby’s victims were a result of life preservation, starting with a critical blast to save his brother Jack (Garrett Hedlund) from being shot in the head. Seconds later, Bobby laid another goon to rest on that cold street in Detroit with a shot to the chest. The last contract killer got his knee rearranged and while trying to retreat caught misery again after absorbing one in the back.
Sixteen: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The cliché’ “Out with the old in with the new,” sums up the makeover Sarah Connor underwent, evolving from a frightened, passive character to a militant, all-business mother who insured the safety of her son, John (Edward Furlong), in the second chapter (what should have been the conclusion) of this action-packed sci-fi thriller. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) may have stolen the show with that lever-action shotgun, splitting T-1000’s (Robert Patrick) wig nearly as wide as the elevator he pried open. Yet, Connor gets the recognition for overcoming combat wounds and a limp right arm to display true grit, pumping that gauge with her good arm while ushering T-1000 a little closer to his demise until The Terminator added the finishing touches with the grenade launcher.
Fifteen: Commando (1985)
John Matrix (Schwarzenegger) is the epitome of a one-man army in this intense action film featuring an ex-special agent who turned a tool shed into a butcher shop, used a pipe like a spear and delivered silly one-liners (‘Let off some steam Bennett,” “Don’t disturb my friend. He’s dead tired.”) following the disposal of a foe. Moments before finally being reunited with his kidnapped daughter, Matrix added another key corpse to his high body count. Using a dodge move for the perfect angle, Matrix sent multiple shots with a huge pump into the body of Arius (Dan Hedaya), who stumbled back through a balcony door before falling over the edge, becoming a lifeless being on an island already littered with bodies.
Fourteen: The Dark Knight (2008)
Trix are for kids but “tricks” are for adults in the continuation of the prequel Batman Begins (2006) which visited how Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) became the superhero Batman. Like The Joker (Heath Ledger), this summer blockbuster was full of tricks. Most cops carried a pump and so did the goons with the exception of a shorter barrel. As rare as it is, the sawed-off pump was the preferred weapon of choice in Gotham City. Oddly enough, the victims had no idea this model of the gauge would rob them of their lives. Like any other thief, the masked bank robber probably didn’t have any plans of killing anybody but certain actions produce certain consequences like a blast to the back. Unfortunately, he was unaware of how fearless and insulted the shotgun-toting bank manager (William Fichtner) would be after having his money stolen. On the other hand, the traffic cop saw disaster a split second before it struck. Who would have thought while telling a truck driver he needed to move his vehicle that The Joker would suddenly appear and fire, marking another unpleasant surprise by the villain with the painted and disfigured face.
Thirteen: Training Day (2001)
Alonzo (Denzel) killing Roger (Glenn) was rather vicious, but not the best shotgun moment in this drama about a dirty cop, whose ways finally caught up with him. The other two scenes revolving around the shotgun – pump and double barrel – did not include death, but definitely had you anticipating it. In unfamiliar territory and the hood at that, a betrayed and bloodied Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) found himself in a bathtub with twin barrels pressed into his cheek. Smiley (Cliff Curtis), who was ready to pull the trigger, said “Close the door, it’s gonna be loud.” Certainly would have been and messy as well if Hoyt had not saved Smiley’s niece from being raped earlier that day.
Following that near brush with death, Jake then had to stay clear of the pump Alonzo had latched to his girlfriend’s bed. After Alonzo took control of the gun battle, he confidently informed his trainee of his capabilities, “You know I’m surgical with this bi*** Jake,” he shouted while grinning. “How you want it, Dog? Closed casket? Remember that fool (Blue/Snoop Dogg) in the wheelchair? How you think he got there?”
Twelve: Terminator (1984) Who can shake off consecutive shotgun blasts? Or what? A relentless cyborg (Schwarzenegger) from the future. This science-fiction thriller could have easily been labeled as an action-horror. At club Tech Noir, The Terminator was seconds away from accomplishing its one and only mission: eliminate Sarah Connor. But her lone hope, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), lifted a huge trick from behind his trench coat and let loose, sending his nemesis through the wide glass frame and onto the sidewalk. However the shells didn’t stop flying there. After shaking off the damage, The Terminator got a pump of its own, leading to a vicious exchange of bullets which stretched from a parking garage to the city streets. Reminiscent of two heavyweights throwing haymakers at one another, but unable to connect.
Eleven: Heist (2001)
Joe Moore (Gene Hackman) and Bobby Blane (Delroy Lindo) provided some exhilarating double-barrel shotgun work in a film proving criminals still can’t trust other criminals. Consistently executing a flawless scheme, these two thieves were just as poised with their lives on the line. When it seemed to be all said and done for Joe, Bobby – without warning – appeared with a life-ending blast in defense of Joe, setting up one of the best responses to a well-known question. With the double barrel in hand, Joe stood over a wounded Mickey Bergman (Danny DeVito), who said, “Don’t you want to hear my last words?” Without pondering the request, Joe responded, “I just did” before splattering Mickey’s brains all over the dock.
Ten: The Wire (2002, 2004)
Like Joe, Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) was in the business of taking from others in this HBO series which introduced the dark side of Baltimore to America. A slight edge goes to Joe for plan execution, but definitely an advantage for Omar in Shotgun 101. Infamous for robbing drug dealers, dating men and aiming for the knees, Omar – believe it or not, a homosexual menace – still abided by a code, killing solely for revenge or in self defense. His most fulfilling moment came when he pumped two shots into Stringer Bell (Idris Elba), co-leader of the Barksdale crew, in Season Three. However, Omar’s most thrilling minute occurred while clutching the double barrel shotty. In the first season, Stinkum (Brandon Price) was ready to take a corner from the competition and call it his own, but Omar negated such, speaking from the darkness, “Hey now” before making Stinkum’s body as cold as the Baltimore night.
Chris Partlow (Gbenga Akinnagbe) a cold-blooded, life-taking individual and acquaintance of kingpin Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector), has little in common with Omar outside of effective use of the gauge. Usually toting some type of handgun, Chris debuted in rare fashion of the Barksdale-Stanfield corner war in Season Three, sending fire with the pump into Avon’s parked SUV. Avon got hit in the shoulder, his “muscle” (counterpart) who was in the back seat and closest to the window died instantly. In obvious pain, Avon grunted in so few words to his shocked driver that retreating was the only option.
Nine: Open Range (2003)
Dictionary.com defines scatter as separating and driving off in different directions; dispersing. This website also defines gun as a weapon consisting of a metal tube, with mechanical attachments, which projectiles are shot by the force of an explosive. But when “scatter” precedes “gun” screen shots or a short video of Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) in this western style shoot ‘em up should be available after a Google search. Scatter gun is an earlier or original term for the shotgun with two barrels and Boss created wonders with it. After Charley Waite (Kevin Costner) started the madness with a headshot from point blank range, Boss’ first victim appeared to get undercut and carried by an invisible force before being dropped to a permanent facedown position.
His next target was totally taken by surprise. Plotting a sneak attack against Charley, Enemy No. 2 unfortunately moved himself into the path of disaster, being involuntarily bounced off a nearby cabin after Boss fired through the wall and into his back. Two shots. Twice the power. Two kills. Guaranteed!
Eight: Out for Justice (1991)
Content for the moment that enough energy had been exerted breaking bones, Detective Gino Felino (Steven Seagal) leaned on the pump for assistance in this throwback action flick filled with violence and profanity. Very familiar with a righteous kill, Gino needed a warm up before forcing a cork screw type object into the forehead of Richie Madano (William Forsythe), one vile criminal. Gino got loose by laying down four goons in an already filthy kitchen before blowing Victim No. 5’s shin completely off, similar to a wood bat snapping after coming in contact with a 95-mph fastball.
Seven: Running Scared (2006)
Nearly every form of crime (murder, assault, child kidnapping, domestic violence, sawed-off shotgun use) known to man was in this underrated action thriller about a revolver with a nasty history ending up in the wrong hands. Despite a knife to the neck, a razor blade to the Achilles tendon and a few hockey pucks to the face, the sawed-off pump still shined, catapulting one guy – who charged with a machete – into a wall due to an immediate change of direction and eliminating his running mates with chest and head shots at point blank range. And this was just the beginning of the movie. Since the tone was set early, you can only expect things to come full circle at the end in which another small-time actor just got the left side of his face removed by the sawed off, sealing a closed casket farewell.
Six: Snatch (2000)
If you asked me, this British film with a touch of comedy here and there had a whole lot to do with snatching lives. Definitely nothing pertaining to snatching a child or a purse just a bunch of thugs offing each other with the preferred weapon of choice: the gauge. Already carrying the burden of the loss of his mother, Mickey “Pikey” O’Neil (Brad Pitt) violated his agreement to throw a fight and Brick Top (Alan Ford) was very ready to make him pay once again. But Pikey already had the drop on those fools, having Brick Top’s crew ambushed and brilliantly placing an exclamation point on this mass execution. Disgusted, Brick Top tapped the car window and shouted, “Give me the (trucking) shooter!” His request was met in the worst way as his attitude shifted to one of shock since he stared into that double barrel, which snatched his soul into its dark, morbid world.
Five: A History of Violence (2005)
Determined to live a life free of crime, Joey Cusack aka Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), a former hitman, showed us glimpses of how he would not hesitate to end a life or two in this graphically violent tale of a family confronted with the vicious past of its breadwinner. Seeing Joey put in work with the trick is left for imagination, but his son, Jack (Ashton Holmes), gives one powerful example of Dad’s capabilities. With the one-eyed, revenge-seeking Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) on the verge of shooting his father, Jack side stepped fear, picked up the double barrel (family shotgun) and pushed Fogarty into the afterlife. BLOOM!!!
Four: Menace II Society (1993)
Getting some “get-back” (revenge) in the harshest way is the only option when your cousin is left trembling, yet dead at the stoplight of an intersection in Watts. What’s not a choice is “letting it ride” (no retaliation) after you shed blood and you roll with a homeboy, who does not think twice about taking a life. Such were the situations Caine (Tyrin Turner) had to deal with in this drama of how life in the streets can sometimes lead to a tragic ending even at a young age. The plan was simple: ride out with O-Dog (Larenz Tate) and A-Wax (MC Eiht) and blast those fools. So, Caine returned the favor by wounding one of the guys involved in the incident before A-Wax finished the job. But O-Dog, equipped with the pump shotty, made the scene what it was, catching the killer of Caine’s cousin totally by surprise. “Yeah, n—– break yourself,” shouted O-Dog, who caused the guy’s head to explode like a cabbage while trying to turn around to maybe see what was going on. The surprise of the gauge just gets uglier and uglier.
Three: Man on Fire (2004)
How can one sawed-off double barrel, which fits unnoticeably in a pair of cargo pants, cause so much destruction? When John Creasy (Denzel) is pulling the trigger in this story based on true events about a suicidal bodyguard who found reason to live through a child he never thought he would see again. With a weapon so powerful, Creasy was able to destroy a club where innocent kids were held hostage and place holes the size of watermelons in doors. His first victim via shotgun didn’t know anything about Pita Ramos’ (Dakota Fanning) kidnapping so Creasy put the large individual to rest without a warning sign, fulfilling his earlier guarantee to a brutally tortured and deceased member of La Hermandad that he would not be lonely in the next life. Prior to making another statement with the sawed off, the constantly bleeding Creasy played with bombs, grenades and even a rocket launcher during his crusade. He concluded this monumental tear by blowing off the hand of The Voice’s brother, placing his final touches on an exclusive piece of artwork.
Two: Pulp Fiction (1994)
Jules Winnfield (Samuel L.) may have sported a jheri curl, but unlike Zed (Peter Greene) he did have his only set of “jewels” in this classic film – which ruled out chronological order – about betrayal, murder, drugs, reform and a mysterious brief case. Following failed attempts to kill one another, Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) and Butch’s (Bruce Willis) beef spilled into a pawn shop where things turned into a nightmare when the store’s owner, who was armed with a pump, took control, leading to some foul play with a sick friend of his. Bound to a chair and gagged at the mouth alongside Butch, Marcellus was chosen by Zed to be sodomized first.
During such, Butch managed to slip away, but decided to make all well with the now violated Marcellus, whom he failed to keep his word with before. By no means was Butch lacking confidence in his ability to box, but another struggle was asinine, leading the potentially washed up southpaw to toggle through a plethora of weapons (hammer, bat, chainsaw) like a cheat code for Grand Theft Auto was activated before deciding on a sword. After Butch put his Samurai skills to the test on the shop owner, a slightly recovered Marcellus cocked the pump and spoke just three words, “Step aside, Butch” prior to forever separating Zed from his cherished possession. Marcellus let bygones be bygones with Butch and promised more torture with a pair of pliers and a blow torch for the savage (Zed) who scarred his manhood. But the gauge had already completed the brunt of the work like it has always done in so many instances.
One: Scarface (1983)
People love the “come up”, the transition from poverty to prosperity, in this country, leading to why this tale of a virtual nobody who rose to the top of the drug game is loved by rap lyricists from coast to coast. Even with all his charisma, swagger and arrogance, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is not the reason this film sits atop this list. Sorry to burst your bubble but Tony, who did his fair share of killing, didn’t make any statements with the gauge. Now, he did amaze with that gigantic Army gun, which had the added bonus of a grenade launcher (“Say hello to my little friend”) and he did eliminate a large number of those intruders. But ultimately he was a result of the statement: If neither God nor life’s trials humble you first, the shotgun will.
For a moment, Tony – nearly overdosed on cocaine and grief – appeared to be invincible, absorbing bullet after bullet without going down. As the gunfire began to cease, Tony continued to shout his name and how he was still standing to Alejandro Sosa’s (Paul Shenar) troops below, failing to realize Sosa’s most reliable hit man was in the rear with a double barrel. The blast caused Tony to break through the banister and saturate his small pool below with blood. “Say goodnight to the bad guy.”
Righteous Kill (2008) was released in early September. It starred Pacino and Robert DeNiro as veteran detectives on the trail of a serial killer who preys on criminals the judicial system has failed to put away. Turk (DeNiro) delivered a quote for the ages while looking directly into the camera, “Most people respect the badge. Everybody respects the gun.” I wish he would have added, “Especially the gauge.”