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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

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90's Serial Killers

Gunfights and Films - Halloween Edition - 90's Serial Killers

In staying with our Halloween theme, today we take a look at two iconic early 90's serial killer films. Both films filled with eerie, gritty detail and are still parodied and quoted in current times. Let's delve into the minds of some serial killers, shall we?

The Silence of the Lambs is the 1991 thriller that was the feature film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris and marked the first appearance of Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In the film, FBI recruit Clarice Starling  is asked by the Bureau to elicit Lecter's help in tracking down a notorious serial killer who has kidnapped a US Senator's daughter. Directed by Jonathan Demme, the film would receive five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film would open the door for the reprise of Anthony Hopkins in his roll as Hannibal Lecter in two more films: Hannibal (2001) and Red Dragon (2002).

As the film opens we follow the promising FBI Academy student Clarice Starling. She is being pulled from her training at the FBI facility at Quantico, Virginia. The gentleman looking for her is Jack Crawford of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, who tasks her with presenting a VICAP questionnaire to the notorious Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Lecter is  a brilliant forensic psychiatrist and incarcerated cannibalistic serial murderer. After learning the assignment relates to the pursuit of vicious serial killer Buffalo Bill, Starling travels to the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and is led by Dr. Frederick Chilton to Hannibal Lecter, a sophisticated, cultured man restrained behind thick glass panels and windowless stone walls. Although initially pleasant and courteous, Lecter grows impatient with Starling's attempts at trying to figure  him out and viciously rebuffs her. It is the beginning of the strange and somehow touching relationship between the two. All the books and movies continue the complex relationship of Lecter & Starling. As Starling departs, another patient flings semen onto her face, enraging Lecter. As if to somehow make up the atrocity of that Lecter calls Starling back and offers a riddle containing information about a former patient. Miggs, the gentleman that had disrepected Starling was talked into taking his own life by Lecter. After some time Starling finally solves the riddle. This then leads her  to a rent-a-storage lot where the severed head of Benjamin Raspail is found. Starling returns to Lecter, who links Raspail to Buffalo Bill and who offers to help profile Buffalo Bill if he is transferred to a facility far from the venomous, careerist Dr. Chilton.

Hours and miles away, Buffalo Bill abducts Catherine Martin, the daughter of United States Senator Ruth Martin. Starling is pulled from Quantico and accompanies Crawford to West Virginia, where the body of Bill's recently-discovered victim resides, and where Starling helps perform the autopsy and extracts the chrysalis of a Death's-head Hawkmoth from the victim's throat. At Quantico, as news of Catherine Martin's abduction sweeps the country, Crawford authorizes Starling to offer Hannibal Lecter a fake deal promising a prison transfer if he provides information that helps profile Buffalo Bill and rescue Catherine Martin. Instead, Lecter begins a game of quid pro quo with Starling, offering comprehensive clues and insights about Buffalo Bill in exchange for events from Starling's own traumatic childhood. Unaware to both Starling and Lecter, Dr. Frederick Chilton tapes the conversation and after revealing Starling's deal as a sham, offers to transfer Lecter in exchange for a deal of his own making. Lecter agrees and following a flight to Tennessee reveals Buffalo Bill's real name, physical description and past address to Senator Martin and her entourage of FBI agents and Justice Department officials.

As the manhunt begins, Starling travels to Lecter's special cell in a local Tennessee courthouse, where she confronts him about the false information he gave the Senator. Lecter refuses Starling's pleas and demands she finish her story surrounding her worst childhood memory. After recounting her arrival at a relative's farm, the horror of discovering their lamb slaughterhouse and her fruitless attempts at rescuing the lambs, Lecter rebuffs her, leaving her with her case file before she is escorted out of the building by security guards. Later that evening, Lecter escapes from his cell. The local police storm the floor, discovering one guard barely alive and the other disemboweled and strung up on the walls. Paramedics transport the survivor to an ambulance and speed off while a SWAT team searches the building for Lecter. As the team discover a body in the elevator shaft, the survivor in the ambulance peels off his own face, revealing Lecter in disguise, who kills the paramedics and escapes to the airport.

After being notified of Lecter's escape, Starling pores over her case file, analyzing Lecter's annotations before realizing that the first victim, Frederica Bimmel, knew Bill in real life before he killed her. Starling travels to Bimmel's hometown and discovers that Bimmel was a tailor and has dresses with templates identical to the patches of skin removed from Buffalo Bill's victims. Realizing that Buffalo Bill is a tailor fashioning a "woman suit" of real skin, she telephones Crawford, who is already on the way to make an arrest, having cross-referenced Lecter's notes with Johns Hopkins Hospital and finding a man named Jame Gumb. Crawford instructs Starling to continue interviewing Bimmel's friends while he leads a SWAT team to Gumb's business address in Calumet City, Illinois. Starling's interviews lead to the house of "Jack Gordon", who Starling soon realizes is actually Gumb, and draws her weapon just as Gumb disappears into his basement. Starling pursues him, discovering a screaming Catherine Martin in the dry well just before the lights in the basement go out, leaving her in complete darkness. Gumb stalks Starling in the dark with night vision goggles and prepares to shoot her when Starling, hearing the machinations of his revolver, swivels around shoots Gumb dead.

Days later at the FBI Academy graduation party, Starling receives a phone call from Hannibal Lecter, now in the Bahamas. As Lecter assures Starling he has no plans to pursue her, he excuses himself from the phone call and speaks of having an old friend for dinner before hanging up and we see the camera following Chilton through the streets of the village.

Chilling on many pyschlogical levels this movie has become famous for so many scenes. From overly quotable dialogue to creepy scenes of Hannibal's escape, Silence Of The Lambs is a movie that is always watchable. Let's take a look at some of the weapons used in this film.

FBI recruit Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) carries the then-standard FBI-issue Smith & Wesson Model 13. This .357 Magnum, 3" barrel revolver was the last revolver issued by the FBI (usually loaded with .38 Special +P .158 gr lead LHP ammo). Starling is shown being issued her Model 13 and training with it on the range in several deleted scenes. She is also seen doing a quick reload of her revolver with a speedloader after she opens fire on a suspect and expends all 6 rounds. When Starling fires her weapon at the suspect, there is noticeable recoil and she flinches. However, when she fires it on the range in the deleted scenes, there is absolutely no recoil, and she keeps her eyes open. This could indicate multiple weapons were used on the set.

Smith & Wesson Model 13 - .357 Magnum

FBI recruit Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) checks in her S&W Model 13 with Sergeant Tate when visiting Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in Memphis. She draws the revolver, then opens the cylinder, but does not unload it before handing it to Tate.

                      Clarice opens fire on a suspect in the dark with her S&W Model 13.

                                                                     "FBI, You're safe!"

      Clarice with her S&W Model 13 drawn at the ready as she shouts to Gumb's hostage, Catherine Martin, in Gumb's basement.

Cactus Tactical also sells accessories and gear including those for Smith & Wesson. You can see what we carry here: Smith and Wesson accessories

Jame Gumb a.k.a "Buffalo Bill" (Ted Levine) is seen holding what appears to be a 6" barreled, stainless steel Colt Python with Pachmyr Presentation grips. In the book, it is said that Gumb loads the gun with .38 Special lead wadcutters.

                               Colt Python Stainless Steel variant with 6" Barrel - .357 Magnum

               Buffalo Bill leaves his Colt Python on the stove as he answers Clarice at the door.

To watch the scene where Starling enters the house, you can watch it here:

With his night vision goggles on as Clarice stumbles in the dark, Buffalo Bill raises his revolver.

To watch the scene with the gunfight in the dark you can watch it here: 

Several variants of the Ithaca 37 shotguns are carried by the Memphis P.D. SWAT officers that respond to Hannibal's prison break. An FBI agent is also seen wielding an Ithaca when Hannibal Lecter arrives in Memphis.

Ithaca Model 37 riot version - 12 Gauge

The agent on the left guarding Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is armed with the Ithaca.

To see the scene from where the photo is from you can do so here: 

To see the other weapons used in this film you can go here:,_The

Grab yourself a nice Chianti and settle in for some serial skin suit psychosis while watching Silence Of The Lambs some weekend soon., 

Se7en (aka, Seven) 

is a 1995 police crime thriller directed by David Fincher that stars Brad Pitt as David Mills, a young detective new to working downtown homicide who is partnered with Lt. William Somerset, a veteran detective who's seen too much and only has a few days to retirement. Together, they try to crack the case of a serial killer who uses the Seven Deadly Sins (Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Lust, Pride, Envy, and Wrath) as his inspiration. The film's dirty, violent, dreary and large metropolitan setting is intentionally never told, as "the city" is supposed to be a fictional,darker version of New York City. Police Technical Advisers were on the set at all times to correct the actors, which explains the exceptional gun handling seen throughout the film.

In an unidentified city of constant rain and urban decay, Detective William Somerset is preparing to retire and leave the horrors of the city. Before he retires, he is partnered with Detective David Mills, a cocky, young and short-tempered cop from Springfield, a comparatively small town. The two investigate the murder of a highly obese man  who was fed all manner of food until a kick to his stomach burst him open. Somerset investigates the murder while Mills is given the murder case of Defense Attorney Eli Gould, with GREED written in Gould's blood on the floor. Gould was forced to carve a pound of flesh off of his body, and subsequently bled to death. The police captain gives Somerset an evidence container with three slivers of a plastic-like material found in the stomach of the obese man, which he was forced to consume along with some spaghetti. Going to the victim's house, Somerset finds three groove marks in front of the refrigerator and finds that the plastic-like slivers fit into them perfectly. Knowing the slivers resulted from the refrigerator being moved, Somerset looks behind it. He finds the word GLUTTONY written behind the fridge in grease, along with a note containing a quote from Milton's Paradise Lost. Somerset theorizes that a serial killer is basing his crimes on the Seven Deadly Sins, with five more to go.

To give Mills and Somerset a chance to get along with each other, Mills's wife, Tracy Mills  invites Somerset over for dinner. While they are eating, a train passes by on the track nearby, making the building and all its contents and inhabitants tremble: the couple mention that that's why the realtor was so nervous for them to see the apartment quickly. After Tracy goes to bed, Mills and Somerset examine case evidence from the two scenes. They find a picture of Gould's wife with blood painted around the eyes. Realizing that this means she is supposed to spot something about the murder scene that nobody else would, the detectives have a distraught Mrs. Gould look at the pictures in a safe house and she notices an abstract painting that is upside down. Brushing powder on the wall behind the painting, Somerset finds fingerprints outlining the words "Help Me."

After running the fingerprints through AFIS, the prints are traced a day later to a pedophile named Victor, who escaped conviction for the rape of a minor due to the efforts of his lawyer, Eli Gould, the GREED victim. SWAT and the detectives raid his apartment and find Victor to be the SLOTH victim, having been bound to his bed for one year to the day, as evidenced by pictures at the scene; one taken every day from the day he is discovered. Remarkably, he is still alive but suffering from severe physical and mental deterioration. His hand was cut off and pushed onto the wall behind the painting to leave the prints. Mills and Somerset ask to interrogate Victor in the hospital, but the doctor says that he's chewed off his tongue and that his mind had suffered too much trauma from the ordeal.

That evening, Tracy calls Somerset and requests that he meet with her. The next morning, Somerset meets Tracy in a diner where she tells him how miserable she is living the big city life. At Somerset's urging, Tracy reveals the truth of her request to meet: she is pregnant, afraid of raising a child where they now live and afraid of telling David. Somerset advises her to tell her husband only if she decides to have it, and he sets himself as an example: he insisted his partner have an abortion, that he finally convinced her, and now he is remorseful.

Later that day, using a contact in the FBI, Somerset gets a library list of people who have borrowed books related to the Seven Deadly Sins. The list leads the detectives to a man named John Doe, whose apartment they visit soon after. Doe, his face hidden, sees them as he comes home, pulls out a gun and begins shooting. After a short chase, Doe hits Mills with a tire iron, keeps him subdued at gunpoint, but lets him live and suddenly flees.

While examining Doe's apartment  they find notebooks of his thoughts, trophies of the crimes and a picture of Mills fighting off Doe, who, at the time, was posing as a press photographer. John Doe calls the apartment and congratulates the detectives on them finding him and apologizes for hitting Mills, also telling the young detective that he has a great admiration for him. Their actions, he says, have caused him to change his plans, and he hangs up. They also find a photo of a young woman, a prostitute, who they believe may be the next victim. A receipt leads them to a S&M leather shop where Doe placed an order for a sexual device. The girl is soon found dead in a room with LUST written on the door. Also found in the room is a visibly shaken man forced by Doe at gunpoint to wear and use the device, a large strap-on dildo with a blade attachment, to rape and kill the girl. The owner of the place, Wild Billy can give no clue to the physical aspect or the briefcase John Doe used, as every customer used to carry special clothes or equipment into the place.

The next morning, a model is found dead with PRIDE written on the crime scene. Her nose has been cut off "to spite her face",  upon which Doe gave her the choice of suicide by sleeping pills or calling for help and living scarred. She chose the former, and swallowed the pills. As the detectives return to the police headquarters, John Doe walks up to them, his hands bleeding (he shaved the skin from his fingertips to avoid identification) and gives himself up. He talks to his lawyer and agrees that if he can take Somerset and Mills to two more bodies, he will confess to all the murders. Wanting a confession, the detectives agree. Somerset and Mills both have microphones taped to their chests so the rest of the task force can monitor their conversation with Doe. During the prep, Mills tries to tell Somerset about some concerns with Tracy , but can't bring himself to talk fully about it.

As the three travel to the desert outskirts of the city in a car, they are trailed by a police helicopter for security. Doe explains his rationale behind the murders as a way of showing people the truly evil nature of the world, as well as his desire to punish the wicked. He goes on to say he will be remembered and admired for what he has done, having been specially chosen to do so. As Doe speaks, the disgusted Mills is driven to rage, and screams at Doe while Somerset remains calmly worried.

Once they reach the outskirts, Doe directs them to a specific spot near some power cable towers. The detectives walk Doe out to an open spot. After a few moments, a van appears and Somerset stops it several hundred yards away, leaving Mills behind to cover Doe. The driver claims someone paid him $500 to deliver a box to Mills at this place at exactly 7 o'clock. As Somerset opens the box, he recoils in horror from what he sees inside. As he races back to Mills and desperately yells for him to throw his gun away, Doe states to Mills that he admires Mills's life, to the point of being envious of his wife and the love they share. He states that he tried to pretend to be a husband with Tracy that day but it didn't work out and he took a souvenir instead: "her pretty head." It was Doe's plan that Mills will kill him, as Doe himself was guilty of ENVY, as he became jealous of Mills's simpler life. He also reveals to Mills that Tracy was pregnant, and that she begged to be kept alive for the child's sake. Mills, despite the pleading of Somerset, is so devastated by his wife's death and the knowledge that she was pregnant, that he empties his gun into Doe. In killing Doe in vengeance, Mills comes to embody the sin of WRATH, completing Doe's twisted masterpiece.

After a catatonic Mills is taken away, their captain tells Somerset that they'll take care of him, knowing the jury will condemn him. Somerset tells his captain that he will be "around;" implying that he will be staying on the force. As the camera pans out from the desert, the movie ends with Somerset quoting Ernest Hemingway: "'The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part."

This film was filled with a dark flair of a serial killer with a theme and a delusion of divine purpose. The films ending was and is still iconic. But let's take a look at the guns used in this thriller.

Detective Lieutenant William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) carries a Smith & Wesson Model 15 as his sidearm throughout the film.

                                         Smith & Wesson Model 15 - .38 Special

                       Somerset with his Smith & Wesson Model 15 drawn in John Doe's apartment.

To watch the John Doe chase scene you can do so here:

Somerset (Morgan Freeman) draws and fires a shot into the air with his Smith & Wesson Model 15 to get the delivery man to stop his van. According to Somerset's history provided in the film, this is the first shot he ever fired in the line of duty. Note how he draws the gun with his finger off the trigger, which Freeman was told to do by the police technical advisors on the set after he drew his gun with his finger on the trigger originally.

To see "John Doe" turn himself in you can watch here:

Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) uses a customized Springfield Armory M1911-A1 with adjustable sights, mag-na-ported/bushingless bull barrel, beavertail grip safety, ring hammer, extended slide stop safety, extended slide release, light-weight 3-hole target trigger, square trigger guard, and stag horn grips as his sidearm throughout the film, notably during the climax.

An airsoft reproduction of the Springfield Armory M1911-A1 made by J-Armoury (Western Arms) used in the film.

Mills searches for John Doe in the apartment building while keeping an excellent grip and good trigger discipline on his Springfield Armory M1911-A1.

Mills drops prone with his Springfield Armory M1911-A1 after John Doe opens fire on he and Somerset outside his apartment.

                                 Mills (Brad Pitt) holds his M1911-A1 at the end of the film.

Some of the SWAT officers, notably California (John C. McGinley), wield Mossberg 590 shotguns with tactical flashlights when breaching the apartment of the third victim. One is fitted with ghost-ring sights.

                                       Mossberg 590 with ghost-ring sights - 12 Gauge

                            A SWAT officer with a Mossberg 590 with ghost-ring sights.

We here at Cactus Tactical carry parts for your Mossberg, you can check us out here:
Mossberg sling attachments

To watch a brief glimpse at all 7 deadly sins you can watch here:

To see the other weapons used in this film you can go here:

Se7en was scary and exciting to watch when I was in high school and although I'm older now it's still an  eerily entertaining film. It's got tons of action and twits and turns. I highly recommend it in the dark. Just don't eat too much spaghetti...

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Shawn in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."


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