Last year marked the 60th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise that started with 1962’s Dr. No. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Agent 007 literary series, which Ian Fleming kicked off in 1953 with his debut novel, Casino Royale. This is a good time, then, to discuss the handguns of “The World’s Most Famous Secret Agent” – other than the Walther PPK .32 ACP, that is.
Naturally, most pop culture buffs and gun enthusiasts think of the PPK as being synonymous with “James Bond gun,” but in the novels, Commander Bond used a pretty good variety of of pistols and revolvers, especially once John Gardner took over writing the books in 1981 – 17 years after Fleming’s untimely passing – with the novel Licence Renewed.
Let’s now take a look at some of the additional guns of the literary iteration of Agent 007.
James Bond Gins: Meet the Fabrique Nationale M1903 9mm Browning Long
Licence Renewed takes us to the first gun on our list. As the ever-savvy Travis Pike states in an August 2021 article for GunMag Warehouse: “In the novel, the 00 section is abolished, and the Walther PPK is reportedly banned by the service. So he chose the FN M1903. As far as Bond’s sidearms go, this is a dumb one, and the fans reacted as such. In 1903 this was a great pistol, but the novel takes place in the 1980s.”
The M1903 pistol was designed by the legendary gunmaker John Moses Browning and was the second production-model blowback-operated pistol ever made. It used the 9mm Browning Long cartridge, which is not to be confused with the NATO standard 9mm cartridge the overwhelming majority of shooters are familiar with, the 9mm Parabellum AKA 9x19mm round. (Three of the four remaining guns on our list are chambered for that latter caliber.)
The Browning Long round is fairly similar to the Parabellum, but it has a slightly longer casing and is semi-rimmed, while the 9×19 is classified as a “rimless” cartridge. (This is a misnomer, but that is a long story of its own.)
Heckler & Koch (HK) VP70Z 9mm
This gun appeared in For Special Services, Gardner’s second novel in the James Bond revival series and my personal favorite of his bunch. The VP70 – VP as in Volkspistole and 70 as in 1970, the first year of production – had a number of unique and desirable features. Unfortunately, it also had some key shortcomings. Will Dabbs of The Shooters Log elaborates:
“The particulars are breathtaking. The HK VP70 was the world’s first production polymer-framed handgun. It was also the world’s first production striker-fired pistol, at least as we define striker-fired today. The double-stack, double-feed magazine is still arguably the best handgun magazine ever produced. The weird negative space sight system does kind of work…The trigger, however, is utter crap. In fact, the trigger is so bad that comparing it to crap is offensive to crap.
“The VP70 trigger actuates a striker not philosophically dissimilar to that of the modern Glock pistol. However, unlike the Glock, I would conservatively estimate the trigger pull on the VP70 at around 10,000 pounds. I can’t get through a full 18-round magazine without stopping to rest, and my trigger finger is nicely conditioned. Were it not for this abysmal trigger, the VP70 would have literally changed the world.”
The VP70Z variant that Mr. Bond uses has a special shoulder stock that enables the pistol to fire 3-round bursts, akin to RoboCop’s Beretta 93R.
ASP (Smith & Wesson Model 39) 9mm
Appearing in 12 of the Gardner novels, the ASP is a highly customized version of the S&W Model 39, which in its standard edition made history by becoming the first double-action 9mm autopistol adopted by a U.S. law enforcement agency – the Illinois State Police (ISP) in 1967. The ASP had over 250 modifications, including clear Lexan grips and skeletonized magazines, allowing the shooter to quickly see how much ammo remained during the heat of battle, and a so-called “guttersnipe” sight, which resembles a half pipe that the shooter looks though, channeling his or her aim directly down toward the target.
Though I’ve never fired the ASP, I own an ISP surplus M39, and while it’s far from the most accurate gun in my so-called “D’Orr-senal of Democracy,” it is very pleasant to shoot.
Ruger Redhawk .44 Magnum
As I said in my standalone review of the Redhawk, Ruger wheelguns are the Timex of revolvers, i.e. “Takes a Licking and Keeps On Ticking.” The Redhawk can take abuse that would totally sideline the most famous gun in the .44 Magnum caliber, that being Dirty Harry’s S&W Model 29. Small spoiler alert here: In Icebreaker, Commander James Bond uses a Redhawk for his final confrontation with the main villain.
HK P7 9mm
James Bond also wields this gun in Icebreaker. As I said in my separate article on the P7, it has the crispest single-action trigger of any factory stock autopistol I’ve ever fired, which contributes to superb accuracy. Real-life users have included the New Jersey State Police, Utah State Police, and U.S. Park Police, while its most famous fictitious cinematic user was the late great Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber in the original Die Hard.
I was fortunate to obtain a P7 in 2007 for a bargain price of $600.
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.