Geek Guns Part 2: The Mariachi’s Twin Ruger KP90s
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.
As alternative to my usual screeds, this feature will take a look at some of these iconic 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.
For this week’s offering we’re stepping away from sci-fi to the gritty world of Mexican cartels and armed musicians, specifically El Mariachi’s twin Ruger KP99s from the movie Desperado.
A Sexy Latin Shoot ‘Em Up
Robert Rodriguez’s first film, El Mariachi, was a low-budget tale of mistaken identity and revenge set in contemporary Mexico. Shot on a shoestring budget with a single prop gun, it was an impressive work, and as a result we was able to secure enough funding to make a sequel on a far more lavish scale.
This was a breakout film, boosting the careers of Antonio Banderas and Cheech Marin (who proved he could so more than just smoke pot with Tommy Chong) and create new stars in Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi and Danny Trejo. It was smart, sexy and hilariously violent all at the same time.
It is awash in guns, as a small band of musicians take on Mexico’s fearsome drug cartels, and the film features a comprehensive arsenal of weapons, ranging from the well-known (Desert Eagle, Beretta 92, Colt 1911) to the bizarre (machine gun- and rocket-firing guitar cases, a twin revolver jock strap).
Main character Antonio Banderas might have been expected to have one of the more well-known or exotic weapons as his mainstay, but instead he’s armed with two Ruger KP90 auto-loaders. The KP90 was the .45 ACP version of Ruger’s P89 (which was chambered in 9mm Luger) and the “K” prefix indicates the stainless steel slide. These weapons are blocky, heavy and yet fit the mood of the film perfectly.
Unique for the genre, Desperado takes its firearms quite seriously. There are no weapons with infinite magazines or off-camera reloads – in fact reloading is a major dramatic element in the film. Where it falls short are the usual Hollywood blind spots regarding recoil (obviously blanks don’t have much) and a notorious instance of a revolver with a silencer. But all these are mere details. Like Underworld, this movie is a love letter to firearms aficionados.
The Age of the Wonder Nine
The 1980s saw a revolution in handgun development as designers broke away from traditional military designs and embraced new materials and techniques.
Ruger’s answer to this challenge was the P series of pistols, which were both double and single action and featured a safety that also served as a de-cocker. The P series is rugged and functional, built around the same swinging link system as the venerable Colt 1911. They lack the smooth lines of their European rivals and are not particularly ergonomic, but they get the job done.
Having Banderas use a stainless steel version not only provides a nice aesthetic flourish, it makes sense insofar as they are far more resistant to rust and corrosion. The heavier slide also dampens felt recoil. I have not managed to track down a KP90 but have fired a KP89 (the 9mm version) several times, and while the grips are somewhat blocky and the trigger not as crisp as I would like, it is a solid piece of machinery.
It is not by any stretch designed for precision shooting, but handles extremely well in speed drills. Again, this meshes perfectly with the on-screen needs of the hero.
If you are interested on collecting one, the KP90 is more scarce than the KP89, but both are out there and relatively inexpensive, even with COVID-boosted prices.