By Kyle Shea –
The year is 1971. San Francisco is a city living in fear. A deadly killer roams the area, killing random people and scaring innocent people for years to come. The killer sent letters to police, taunting them and boasting that he killed over 30 people, though only five have been confirmed to be his victims. To this day, the Zodiac Killer has never been caught or identified, making his murders some of the most notorious in history.
The Zodiac Killer was the inspiration for the main villain in the movie, “Dirty Harry.” Scorpio, a reference to the constellation of Scorpius, is a crazy sniper who threatens to kill innocent people if the city of San Francisco does not pay him money. This is different from the real Zodiac Killer who never asked for a ransom. Scorpio is played by Andrew Robinson, who is best known for playing Elim Garak on the show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Robinson does a good job playing the sick and twisted Scorpio, who will not hesitate to kill even children.
At one point of the movie, Scorpio gets his hands on a Walther P38 and takes a bus full of children hostage until SFPD Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) comes in and saves the day. The Walther P38 came into service in 1939 in order to replace the Luger P08 and is considered one of the greatest handguns ever made. It saw service throughout World War II and many conflicts afterward, with over a million guns being made. The gun is still in service today in some places and is popular with collectors.
The Walther P38 shoots 9x19mm Parabellum from an eight-round magazine. It weighs about 2 pounds and is less than 9 inches in length, the barrel being about 5 inches. It is easy to load and unload, with the switch sticking out in the bottom called a “hill.” An interesting feature of the gun is the loaded chamber indicator, where, when there is a round in the chamber, a pin will stick out above the firing pin so the operator can manually feel there is a round in the chamber. The safety is on the left side of the gun, just in front of the hammer.
The production of the P38 came to an end after World War II, but started again in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, a new variant of the gun, the P1, went into production. The biggest difference between the old and new variants is the frame of the gun. The old ones had steel frames while the P1s have aluminum frames.
Other guns in the movie include a Colt Detective Special pistol used by Callahan’s partner, Inspector Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni), a Winchester Model 12 shotgun used by a bank robber and a Winchester Model 70 rifle used by Callahan during his hunt for Scorpio. Scorpio himself uses a Sporterized Arisaka Type 2 Paratrooper Takedown rifle to shoot random people. He also uses an MP40 submachine gun twice in the movie, once on a rooftop in a shootout with Callahan and again in a shootout in a park with Gonzalez. But the most famous gun in the movie is Callahan’s Smith & Wesson® Model 29, a cannon of a handgun that has become as iconic as Dirty Harry himself.
“Dirty Harry” is an outstanding movie. It was an instant hit at the box office and well received by critics and movie goers alike. Client Eastwood is great as Harry Callahan, and Reni Santoni does a good job as Inspector Gonzalez. The movie helped start a series of films starring Eastwood as Harry Callahan. Eastwood was already a big star with the number of westerns he had done, but he became a legend thanks to “Dirty Harry.” This is a classic for action movie lovers and a great movie for all.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V25N2 (February 2021)|