Whether one looks at comic books, fiction or film, firearms play a huge part in geek culture. In fact, there’s an entire web site dedicated to document who carried what.
Geek Guns takes a look at some of these weapons – focusing on their real-world performance rather than in-universe function. If there’s something you want to know more about, be sure to mention it in the comments.
This week we’re going back to the movie vault of forgotten favorites and look at Burt Gummer’s Remington 870 from the all-time classic Tremors.
From Liberal Yuppie Dad to Survivalist Gun Nut
Tremors is a tremendously fun movie (heh, I crack myself up) but modern audiences may not appreciate just how much of a sensation it was when it came out in 1990. Yes, Kevin Bacon was a fixture of 80s films, but one of the most inspired casting choices in Tremors was having Michael Gross play the role of heavily armed survivalist Burt Gummer. For much of the 80s, Gross had played the mild-mannered father on Family Ties. The premise of the show was the struggle of 60s flower children to adjust to being responsible, working parents. One of the core conflicts was between Gross’ very liberal character and his extremely conservative son (played by Michael J. Fox).
For years people tuned into see the painfully sensitive and thoughtful Gross try to resolve yet another amusing family dispute, and now we see the same guy living out west with a redhead (Reba McIntyre) and possessing more guns than a Third World army. The scene where the pair of them defend their rec room (and it’s epic Wall of Guns) is the epitome of a Geek Guns moment.
“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya, you bastard!”
Pump Shotguns for the Win
After the sporting rifles fail, the couple moves onto a pair of shotguns, she using a Winchester 1200 defender and he using the ubiquitous Remington 870. Pump shotguns are deeply beloved by Hollywood because nothing signals impending violence like the distinctive sound of a slide being racked. Indeed, this little bit of dramatic flair has become something of a cliche, with character racking what were supposed to be loaded weapons prior to engagement. Perhaps the directors think it’s like thumbing the hammer back on a double-action revolver. Ah well, no one ever accused Hollywood of scrupulously adhering to realism.
Because ammunition is cycled manually, shotguns are also favored because they can reliable use blanks. As we’ve discussed before, auto-loaders don’t always cycle properly when blank ammunition is employed, and this can require special (and expensive) modifications for them to function. Pump shotguns avoid that problem entirely.
The Remington 870 comes in a dizzying variety of styles and calibers, and has endless after-market options to cater to one’s very need. Burt’s has a more traditional look, but these things can go fully tactical if desired. One can also swap out barrels to optimize performance for certain times of game.
Depending on its configurate, the 870 typically holds between 3 and 5 shells, and a skilled user can crank out a considerable volume of hard-hitting close range fire very quickly. Though much attention is given to the alleged superior lethality of “assault weapons,” shotguns are actually more more deadly – so much so that American troops using them to clear German trenches in World War I were accused of war crimes.
A Weapon for Every Season
Like their double-barreled counterparts, the recoil in a pump shotgun like the 870 goes straight back to the user. With only one barrel, the Remington 870 weighs considerably less, so felt recoil might be higher, but this depends greatly on ammunition. Using a ‘youth model’ 20-guage with birdshot can be utterly unremarkable, but a 12-gauge firing 3-inch Magnums will quite literally leave a mark in the firer as well as the target.
Not only can you change ammunition, you can change out the barrels as well, going with modified chokes on longer barrels for upland birds or even a rifled barrel for deer hunting. In many ways, it anticipated the modular and flexible traits of the modern AR-15.
The Remington 870 is still in production and at the moment, shotgun shells are one of the few ammunition types that are available and not outrageously expensive. To be sure, certain varieties are harder to find that others, but just about everything one puts through a shotgun is going to cause hurt at short range.
I mean, look at what Burt did to that critter!
Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell | Recap of Tremors 1-5 | Own it now on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital