The Terminator begins in a futuristic robot paradise. In this world robots are finally free to kill humans as often as they like, which is to say all the time. A robot can shoot giant lasers at humans, crush them with tanks, and otherwise unwind from the tough life of being a robot. Unfortunately, a human named John Connor is trying to ruin the robots’ weekend plans of killing humans. So, they send a robot who really loves killing humans back in time to kill the one that made John Connor.
The plan didn’t work, so they try something like it again in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Then, again, in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and again in Terminator 4: The Machines Take Manhattan. Finally, they did it again in Terminator 5: Baby’s Big Score.
There is a Terminator 6 film in the works. We think you can guess what the plot will be!
Somehow, the directors of the Terminator movies managed to work a lot of guns into their plots. I wanted to at least touch on all of them in this article, but because there are so many I’m only going to write about the firearms used by Arnold in the first Terminator movie.
If you are angry that I left your favorite Terminator gun off of my list, let us know in the comments below. We’ll forward your thoughts to Terminator’s Director James Cameron so he can continue to raise the bar.
Terminator Guns #1
AMT Hardballer Longslide (1977-2002)
Arcadia Machine & Tool made the Hardballer. It was the first M1911 pattern pistol to be made entirely of stainless steel.
The pistol is essentially a brushed stainless steel version of Colt’s Gold Cup. That Colt is currently available in the same finish. The Longside variant had a 7-inch barrel instead of the regular Hardballer’s 5-inch.
The company that eventually became Surefire made the movie pistol’s signature laser sight. In the film, an external battery powered the unit. It was turned on via a switch Arnold held in his off-hand.
And why might a killer robot need a laser sight, you ask? For the same reason that we all do: It looks cool.
Terminator Guns #2
IMI Uzi (1950-present)
Arnold referred to this gun as an “Uzi 9 millimetah,” possibly because he wanted to specify that he didn’t want it in 9x21mm. The latter is a caliber invented by Israel Military Industries for markets where the 9mm caliber was banned. Arnold would never have found 9x21mm ammo lying around in L.A., where the 9mm is the official city bird.
This weapon is probably most famously pictured in a photo of the Reagan assassination attempt. In that photo, a secret service agent in a gray suit and brown wingtips unfolds an Uzi’s stock in preparation for more action. The Uzi was one of the first firearms to use a telescoping bolt design. This allowed its magazine to be housed within its grip. It could be relatively compact, although Arnold wouldn’t have found an Uzi with so short a barrel at a legitimate gun store (Especially in California… sorry guys!)
Guns of Terminator #3
Franchi SPAS-12 (1979-present)
The SPAS-12 can be adjusted for pump action or semi-automatic operation.
This shotgun is meant primarily for combat. Its pump action setting is mostly reserved for tear gas and bean bags. It works well at what it’s meant for, to the extent that it is now banned in several states.
Arnold’s SPAS-12 came with a folding stock. It’s designed to facilitate one-handed shooting. Schwarzenegger apparently ripped the stock off before he used it at the nightclub, probably because he didn’t need it. According to the official math a Terminator robot weighs up to 264 pounds, which along with being made of metal and wires lets one manage the recoil of 12 gauge buckshot easily. (The real Arnold seems to soak up abuse just fine, too. Look up “Arnold gets kicked” to watch him barely notice taking a drop kick to the back in 2019.)
Terminator Gun #4
Ithaca 37 (1937–present)
The Ithaca 37 is based on John Browning’s original Remington Model 17, but added a bottom loading and ejection port that made it popular with both right-handed and southpaw shooters.
The Ithaca Gun Company released this pump action shotgun during the Great Depression, when it was not a good time to sell anything. They picked up production again after the war, and now it has the longest production run of any other pump action.
In the films, the Ithaca 37 is used by Arnold as well as Kyle, the guy the Terminator hunts.
Kyle’s Ithaca 37 starts out as the model with the seven round extended magazine, but the people who made The Terminator messed up and gave him a four round model in a later scene. It is our belief this is the only reason Leonard Maltin gave the movie four and a half stars.
Terminator Gun #5
Armalite AR-18 (1969-1985)
This is another firearm that Arnold would have had a hard time finding at a gun store, since it was designed for the Army as an alternative to the AR-15 and as such was automatic.
The Army never adopted the rifle. Although, we should mention its eventual production in England and Japan would influence several future foreign weapons including the SA80 and the Howa Type 89. Arnold unceremoniously chucks his AR-18 from a moving motorcycle after it runs out of ammo. We do not advise doing that to any firearm. It would be terrible for its finish.
So, that just about wraps up this look at the guns of Terminator. We hope you had as much fun reading about them as we did writing and researching it.
Most of the guns used in the film probably aren’t California compliant, which is a shame. However, we do have some good news from the state of California. Do you know you can watch the original Terminator movie in its entirety for free on YouTube? What a time to be alive!