The Guns of Die Hard- The Book Vs the Movie

We’ve all established that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. In fact, it’s been a meme for about ten years now. Retire it, move on, and find something else to post about on Christmas, Uncle Dave! Die-hard is a Christmas movie, it’s famous for its firearms, and this is a gun website and it’s close to Christmas, so let’s talk Die Hard. Did you know it was based on a book and is kind of a sequel to a Frank Sinatra movie? The book was called Nothing Last Forever, and the movie takes tons of liberties. 

Even though the main character’s name is different, the general idea is the same. Man flies out to California to visit family during Christmas. Terrorists storm the building and a lone, barefoot man fights them off. The story changes a little bit with the details, but if I broke the two stories down to their outlines, it’s all the same. One big difference gun nerds like me will notice is the guns. 

The film Die Hard is famous for highlighting some of the best guns of the 1980s. The book was written in 1979, and the writer doesn’t come off as a die-hard (get it) gun guy. In the spirit of the Christmas season let’s have some fun and compare the guns of the movie Die Hard with the guns of the book Nothing Lasts Forever. 

The Hero Gun 

John McClane is our hero in the film Die Hard, and Joe Leland is our hero in the book Nothing Lasts Forever. McClane is a NYPD Detective and Leland is retired but works as a security consultant. Both carry 9mm handguns. 

(Wikipedia)

Joe Leland carries the Browning Hi-Power. If you were an American in 1979, the Hi-Power was fairly high-tech. It offered 13 to 15 rounds of 9mm and used a hammer-fired design. It’s single action only and is largely credited as the first ‘Wonder Nine.’ It’s Leland’s favorite handgun and one he carries everywhere. Including from New York to California. 

IMFDB

John McClane carries a Beretta 92 with an extended slide release. It’s one of the most famous screen guns of all time as it was also used in another Christmas film known as Lethal Weapon. In 1988, the Beretta 92 was hot stuff. It won the military contract in 1985 and dominated the market until Glock took over. It’s a DA/SA design with a 15-round magazine and a distinctive look. 

Ho, Ho, Ho Now I Have a Machine Gun 

One of the most famous bits from the Die Hard film is McClane writing, “Now I Have a Machine Gun Ho Ho Ho,” on a recently killed henchmen’s sweatshirt. The machine gun is an MP5. Behind the scenes, they were chopped and converted HK 94s. The MP5 was another uber-popular option in the 1980s for both film and real life. Every counter-terrorism, SWAT team, and special operator had an MP5. 

(IMFDB)

The roller-delayed, 9mm, submachine gun set the standard for light and handy submachine guns. It was well known for its accuracy, ease of use, and somewhat questionable ergonomics. McClane uses it quite efficiently throughout the film, 

Joe Leland pulls the same gag with a little less flare. With a black pen, he scribbles, “Now We Have a Machine Gun.” The use of We being used to deceive and trick the terrorist bad guys into thinking Leland wasn’t alone. Leland’s machine gun wasn’t an MP5, but a Thompson SMG. The Thompson would have likely been easy for terrorists to acquire in the era. 

There were plenty banging around after World War 2. Leland mentions only shooting one once during an FBI course and not exactly caring for it. He uses it to kill a few bad guys but ditches it for an assault rifle when he gets the chance. 

For Karl 

One thing the books and movie have in common is Karl. The blonde, hulking German terrorist. Leland describes him as a big blond German who looks like a rockstar. That fits both the book and movie Karl. In the film, Karl carries the futuristic Steyr AUG. The AUG is a 5.56 caliber bullpup assault rifle that was fairly revolutionary. Not only was it a bullpup, but it used tons of polymer to lighten the load and had an integrated optic. In 1988 it looks like a blaster from the future. 

(IMFDB)

Rewind time to 1979 and Karl is carrying an Kalashnikov. A gun Leland describes as the best assault rifle in the world. Karl and several other terrorists wield the AK series. This is the weapon Leland wisely ditches the Thompson for in the film. Sadly no one ever wields an AK in the book with a single hand. 

Gruber! 

One of the most famous Die Hard guns is Gruber’s HK P7M13. This 9mm squeeze cocker uses a 13-round magazine and is a befitting stainless steel design. Hans fits the gun with a custom suppressor of some kind at one point. The design and stainless steel appearance make it stand out and that’s why it works as the bad guy gun. 

(IMFDB)

In the book, Hans carries a Walther. What kind? I have no idea. It’s just called the Walther. I will guess and say it’s supposed to be a PPK. If you just say Walther, you likely mean the PPK. In the Die Hard script, Hans was supposed to carry a Walther but didn’t for whatever reason. 

Nothing Lasts Forever Unless You Die Hard 

Winter is here, so watch your Die Hard and enjoy Hans falling from Nakatomi Tower. Please stop posting about it. Instead, read the book Nothing Lasts Forever to get a double dose of the story. It’s certainly interesting to see the differences and where the inspiration came from, and of course the guns. 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.