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Courage Under Fire

From Internet Movie Firearms Database - Guns in Movies, TV and Video Games
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Courage Under Fire (1996)

Courage Under Fire is a 1996 Gulf War film starring Denzel Washington as Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Serling, a former tank commander during Desert Storm who now is assigned to the Medal of Honor review for Captain Karen Walden (Meg Ryan), a US Army medevac pilot killed in action while rescuing crash survivors. Serling discovers that the incidents surrounding her sacrifice are remembered differently by the helicopter crew and soldiers who were there and could put into question whether her actions would warrant the Medal of Honor. Directed by Edward Zwick (Glory), this movie was one of the first to depict the Gulf War in a feature film.

The following weapons were used in the film Courage Under Fire:




One of the central weapons in the film is the M16A2 rifle. Its usage in the incident that led to the death of Captain Karen Emma Walden (Meg Ryan) is the chief debate for determining whether the Captain would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. M16A2 rifles can also be seen in the hands of other US Army soldiers during the film. The M16A2 in the film is also shown firing in sustained automatic bursts like an M16A3 because, like many movie M16A2s, it consists of an A2 upper receiver mated to a full-auto A1 lower.

M16A2 - 5.56x45mm
Sergeant Steven Altameyer (Seth Gilliam) aims an M16A2 rifle at attacking Iraqi soldiers. Here the A1 lower receiver can clearly be identified.
SGT Altameyer (Seth Gilliam) holds the M16A2.
In one version of the events, a wounded CPT Walden wields the M16A2 to cover the other crash survivors as they head for the rescue chopper. The blank fire adapter is clearly visible inside the barrel.
US Army soldiers carry M16A2 rifles during training.

Norinco Type 56

During the scenes set in Iraq, Iraqi Republican Guard soldiers can be seen armed mostly with Norinco Type 56-series rifles, both the standard Type 56 and the folding-stock Type 56-1. It should be noted that the Iraqi armed forces during Operation Desert Storm used Chinese-made Type 56 rifles alongside the more prevalent Soviet-made AKM rifles and the Romanian-made AIM rifles.

Norinco Type 56 - 7.62x39mm
Iraqi soldiers hold their Norinco Type 56 rifles over their head to signal their surrender.
Norinco Type 56-1 - 7.62x39mm
An Iraqi soldier dies with his Norinco Type 56-1.

M1903A3 Springfield

In a couple scenes, soldiers can be seen marching and drilling using ceremonial M1903A3 Springfield rifles fitted with white slings and having the metal parts chromed.

Springfield M1903 "Parade" rifle
Soldiers marching with ceremonial M1903A3 Springfield rifles.

Machine Guns

Browning M2HB

In the opening scenes depicting the invasion, a formation of US M1 Abrams tanks under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) engages an Iraqi Republican Guard tank unit in a night battle at Al-Bathra during Operation Desert Storm. LTC Serling at one point opens up on a group of Iraqi troops with the Browning M2HB heavy machine gun mounted on his M1A1 Abrams (in reality a mocked-up former Australian Army Centurion tank). One notable goof is that he fires the weapon manually despite all versions of the Abrams except the M1A2 (which wasn't in service during Desert Storm) having the .50 cal rigged to be fired from inside the turret. He also fails to use correct terminology when he engages the weapon, opening fire without saying anything instead of saying "Troops, caliber fifty!" and then firing.

Browning M2HB in vehicle mounting - .50 BMG (12.7x99mm)
LTC Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) opens up with a Browning M2HB heavy machine gun mounted atop his M1 Abrams.

FN Minimi

Another prominent weapon in the film is an an early-version FN Minimi, fitted with a heat shield to resemble the M249 SAW. It can be identified as an early Minimi by the fixed 90-degree carrying handle and open front sight compared to the folding carrying handle and enclosed front sight on the M249 and late model Minimi. The Minimi is used by Staff Sergeant John Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips), who comes along on Captain Walden's medivac helicopter as a door gunner (despite regulations stating that medivac vehicles and aircraft are forbidden to carry weaponry).

FN Minimi light machine gun - 5.56x45mm
SSG Monfriez fires the FN Minimi from Captain Walden's chopper. The machine gun appears to be attached by bungee cord to the helicopter.
SSG Monfriez brandishes his FN Minimi during the standoff with Walden.
A wounded CPT Walden lies with Monfriez's FN Minimi. You will note that there is a green 200 round drum attached indicating live 4 ball-1 tracer (4B1T). A black drum would indicate blank cartridges. Her Beretta is also visible.


During the battle at Al-Bathra, some Iraqi Republican Guard soldiers can be seen armed with RPDs.

RPD light machine gun - 7.62x39mm
An Iraqi soldier fires an RPD light machine gun.
At the right, an Iraqi soldier hold the RPD light machine gun over his head to signal surrender.

"Faux" DShK

The Iraqi T-54 tanks in the film can be seen fitted with DShK heavy machine guns mounted atop the turret. Upon closer inspection, these machine guns are in reality Browning M2HBs mocked up to resemble the DShK. These can be evidenced as mockups by the addition on the top cover and the M2 charging handle.

DShK heavy machine gun - 12.7x109mm
Browning M2HB .50 BMG in vehicle mounting
A mocked up DShK heavy machine gun mounted on an Iraqi T-54 tank.
During the helicopter rescue, a mocked up DShK heavy machine gun is seen mounted on an Iraqi T-54 tank.


During the battle at Al-Bathra, Col. Serling's tanks can be seen fitted with M60D machine guns (identifiable by the muzzle brake and front sight) at the Loader's hatch, standing in for the M240D machine guns mounted on real Abrams tanks.

M60D machine gun - 7.62x51mm NATO
An M60D machine gun (right) mounted on an M1A1 Abrams tank.
An M60D machine gun is operated on Serling's Abrams.


During a training sequence, soldiers are shown low-crawling under barbed wire while a standard M60 machine gun is fired over their heads.

M60 machine gun - 7.62x51mm NATO
A soldier fires an M60 machine gun over the heads of soldiers low-crawling under barbed wire.


Beretta 92FS

Several U.S. Army soldiers including Captain Walden (Meg Ryan) can be seen carrying Beretta 92FS pistols throughout the film. Serling's fellow tank commander CPT Boylar (Tim Ransom) is seen with a Beretta in his holster at the beginning of the film. Captain Walden uses hers during a standoff with Staff Sergeant Monfriez and Specialist Ilario (Matt Damon) is also seen with the Beretta during various re-tellings of the events.

Beretta 92FS - 9x19mm
CPT Boylar (Tim Ransom) carries a Beretta 92FS in a crossdraw holster just before the battle at Al-Bathra
SPC Ilario (Matt Damon) holds his Beretta as he tends to his wounded comrade. In this version of events, he appears to be wearing Altameyer's helmet, as it has the Sergeant (E5) rank insignia on it instead of the Specialist (E4) insignia.
CPT Walden (Meg Ryan) covers the other crash survivors with her Beretta 92FS as they head to the rescue chopper in one version of the account of her death.
CPT Walden aims her Beretta 92FS at Monfriez during the standoff.

SIG-Sauer P220

At one point in the film, Staff Sergeant John Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips) pulls a SIG-Sauer P220 on Serling while they are riding in Monfriez's car.

SIG-Sauer P220 1st Generation "American" Model - .45 ACP
SSG John Monfriez (Lou Diamond Phillips) holds Lieutenant Colonel Serling at gunpoint with a SIG-Sauer P220. Note the flat magazine baseplate.
LTC Nathaniel Serling (Denzel Washington) with the SIG in his face. Notice the thinner hammer, curved in the back.

Heckler & Koch P2A1 Flare Pistol

At one point in the film, CPT Walden orders the chopper's auxiliary fuel bladder be dropped on an Iraqi tank and used as a makeshift firebomb, SSG Monfriez using a Heckler & Koch P2A1 flare pistol to set off the bladder once it hits the tank.

Heckler & Koch P2A1 flare pistol 26.5mm
SSG Monfriez aims the Heckler & Koch P2A1 flare pistol at the gasoline-soaked Iraqi tank.


General Dynamics M197 Vulcan

The three-barreled version of the M61 Vulcan, the General Dynamics M197 Vulcan, is seen chin-mounted on the AH-1 Cobras in the film. In reality, these are mockups as the helicopters were civilian-owned conversions.

General Dynamics M197 Vulcan - 20mm
A pair of AH-1 Cobras armed with M197 Vulcans lay down suppressing fire on Iraqi soldiers

M18 Smoke Grenade

When friendly forces arrive to rescue the crash survivors, an M18 smoke grenade is used to mark their location. In most of the survivors' accounts of the events, the grenade is thrown by Sergeant Steven Altemeyer (Seth Gilliam), but in Specialist Ilario (Matt Damon)'s account, he's the one who throws it.

M18 smoke grenade
SGT Steven Altemeyer pulls the pin on an M18 smoke grenade in one version of the events.
SPC Ilario (Matt Damon) prepares to throw an M18 smoke grenade.


The RPG-7 is briefly seen with Iraqi soldiers.

RPG-7 with folded iron sights - 40mm
The RPG-7 launcher is briefly seen in the center with Iraqi soldiers.


"Faux" M1A1 Abrams

Unable to secure cooperation from the US Department of Defense to utilize their tanks, the production made the decision to create their own M1A1 Abrams tanks for the Desert Storm sequences. The "Abrams" were decomissioned British-designed Centurion Mark V tanks formerly of the Australian Army, with their hulls, turrets and guns visually modified to resemble the American tank. These "Abrams" were also later used in Cradle 2 the Grave.

The fake Abrams seen outside the movie. Note the six roadwheels rather than the Abrams' seven, fume extractor correctly mounted on the first third of the gun barrel rather than the last third as on Chieftain-based Abrams fakes, and the Centurion Mark V rear stowage bin presumably left fitted to represent the Abrams' Honeywell gas turbine.
The "Abrams" lined up ready to advance on the enemy.
A shot of the fake Abrams from the side.
A shot of the fake Abrams from the front: note the blanked-off fake main gunsight. The side of the driver's hatch mounting is visible to the left of the main gun rather than underneath it as on the real tank, and the front of the hull is far deeper than that of an Abrams. Note to the left of the Abrams is a mockup of T-55 tank with a machine gun mockup mounted on top.

AH-1 Cobras

The Cobra attack helicopters seen in the film were actually retired AH-1 helicopters owned by civilians. As these obviously had the original armaments stripped before sale, these helicopters were retrofitted with faux TOW missiles and a faux chin-mounted cannon for the production. Similar helicopters would be used in Zwick's 1998 film The Siege as well in Hulk, The Rock, and the series JAG and NCIS.

A pair of Cobras lay down suppressing fire.

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