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The Final Countdown

From Internet Movie Firearms Database - Guns in Movies, TV and Video Games
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The Final Countdown (1980)

The Final Countdown is a 1980 science fiction film that follows the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz as they find themselves mysteriously transported back to December 6, 1941, the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and are faced with the question of whether or not to alter history. The cast included Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, and James Farentino. Made with the cooperation of the United States Navy, the film is notable for being one of the first to feature actual F-14A Tomcats as well as filming carrier operations aboard the actual USS Nimitz: forty-eight of her then-serving crew are credited as extras, some with speaking roles. Filming on the Nimitz was forced to wrap early due to the carrier being recalled for the ill-fated Operation Eagle Claw: pickup shots were filmed on several other vessels. The final shot of the carrier returning to Pearl Harbor is actually the USS Kitty Hawk: this is because in real life the USS Nimitz was stationed in the Atlantic until 1987.

The following weapons were used in the film The Final Countdown:



US Marine guards can be seen carrying M1911A1 pistols as their sidearms throughout the film. During the hostage situation aboard the USS Nimitz, a captured Japanese Zero pilot (Soon-Tek Oh) commandeers an M1911A1 in the Nimitz sickbay. Another Marine responding to the crisis is also wielding an M1911A1, but doesn't fire it during the incident. It should also be noted that the M1911A1s have a gloss blued finish like a civilian pistol, instead of the military parkerized finish.

M1911A1 - .45 ACP
A Marine Captain holds his M1911A1 as he responds to the hostage situation in the sickbay of the Nimitz.
The Zero pilot (Soon-Tek Oh, the character's name is given as "Simura" in the credits) holds his stolen M16A1 and M1911A1.
The Zero pilot holds Laurel Scott (Katharine Ross) at gunpoint with a commandeered M1911A1. Note that the thumb safety is engaged, though given how the pistol is used in this scene this is an understandable precaution for the filmmakers to take.

M8 Flare Pistol

While being dropped off by an SH-3H Sea King on a remote island near Hawaii, Senator Samuel Chapman (Charles Durning) takes an M8 Flare Pistol from the helicopter's emergency gear and threatens to fire it if he isn't taken to Pearl Harbor.

M8 flare pistol - 37mm
Senator Samuel Chapman (Charles Durning) steals the M8 Flare Pistol from the helicopter's storage box.
Senator Chapman holds the M8 on the pilot, ordering him take the Sea King to Pearl Harbor.
Reverse shot of Chapman threatening the pilot. Interestingly, the M8 is clearly loaded in this shot (probably because it would be obvious if it was not): it is safe to assume the flare is not a live round.


M16A1 Rifle

The M16A1 assault rifle can be seen wielded by Marines several times during the film; first when the Nimitz goes to General Quarters following the time shift, then when guarding the Zero pilot. The pilot then gets hold of one of these weapons in the Nimitz's sickbay.

M16A1 with 20 round magazine - 5.56x45mm
The Zero pilot opens up with an M16A1 taken from a Marine guard.
The Zero pilot brandishes his stolen M16A1.
A closeup of the M16A1 as the pilot threatens his hostages.
US Marines open fire with their M16A1 rifles. Note the visible blank firing adaptor in the rifle on the left.

MGC M16 Replica

In the sequences that did not require live firing, all M16A1s are replaced with MGC M16 replica rifles.

MGC M16 replica
As the Nimitz sounds General Quarters following the time shift, a squad of Marines are shown passing through the forecastle of the carrier and leaping over the anchor chains, armed with what are most likely MGC M16 replicas. While dramatic, this is a little bizarre given the layout of the ship: they are running across the ship from port to starboard, right at the bow end.
US Marines armed with MGC M16 replica assault rifles take the captured Zero pilot into custody. Note the famous bolt-insert replacing the forward assist.

Machine Guns

Fake Type 99 Cannon

A pair of American-made North American T-6 Texan trainers (specifically, Navy SNJ variants) owned and operated by the Commemorative Air Force and mocked up to look like Japanese A6M "Zero" fighters (also done in Tora! Tora! Tora!, footage from which actually appears in this film, and they also played P-47s in A Bridge Too Far) are seen attacking a civilian yacht, and later engaged by two F-14 Tomcats from the Nimitz. This is historically inaccurate: no Japanese aircraft took off before the main strike force.

In flying sequences the SNJs alternate between having prop gun barrels mounted in their wings (usually when they are flying directly towards the camera) and no guns at all, while closeups show them firing prop Type 99 cannons, which are actually acetylene-firing mockups. This was a necessity for shots depicting gunfire prior to the advent of CGI since FAA regulations make it virtually impossible to fly a civilian-registered aircraft in US airspace with functioning weapons on board.

Type 99 cannon aircraft variants, top an earlier Type 99 Mark 1 Model 3 - 20x72mm RB, bottom a later Type 99 Mark 2 Model 3 - 20x101mm RB
The mocked-up A6M Zero is seen firing one of its simulated Type 99 cannons. It is fairly obvious these scenes were filmed on the ground: the sky in the background does not move during them, and the camera is always placed to keep the propeller out of shot. This is a necessity for the gas to "bloom" correctly from an acetylene gun. Note also what appear to be strips of tape on the "Zero's" fuselage below the canopy, probably to protect the real pilot's name painted there when the rest of the plane was painted over in white.
One of the shots of an "armed" mocked-up Zero, as one of the F-14s tails it. These shots were apparently extremely hard to film, since the Tomcat was not exactly designed to match speed with a piston-engined fighter.
A long shot of the two faux Zeros in flight, with no guns at all. The drop tanks carried on their centerline also disappear and reappear during this sequence.

M61 Vulcan

The M61 Vulcan appears as the secondary weapon of US Navy F-14A Tomcats and A-7E Corsairs in the film, one of them being used by a Tomcat to down one of the Japanese Zeroes during the dogfight scene. Unlike the Zeroes in the film, the Tomcats were completely genuine, including their weaponry: the aircraft in the film are from two squadrons of Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8). Most shots are of aircraft from the VF-84 "Jolly Rogers" fighter squadron (disestablished in 1995) with their distinctive black tails with skull-and-crossbones markings, though some from VF-41 "Black Aces" (now VFA-41) also appear.

That said however, the effects of the Vulcan on the Zero are unrealistically minor, causing a trail of smoke from the disabled plane which plunges into the ocean largely intact (save for turning into a model shortly before impact). In reality the 20mm shells fired by the M61 would have shredded the notoriously fragile Zero.

While one might expect to see Phalanx CIWS listed here, at the time the Nimitz did not yet mount any: her installations were added during her 1983-84 Complex Overhaul. At the time her main defensive armament was three Mk 25 BPDMS (Basic Point Defense Missile System) 8-tube RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missile launchers, which were replaced with two Mk 29 launchers during the same refit.

M61A1 Vulcan - 20x102mm
A pair of F-14A Tomcats of VF-84 "Jolly Rogers" flying in formation, with the firing ports for their M61A1 Vulcans visible near the nose of each aircraft. Although VF-84 was disestablished in 1995, the Jolly Rogers name was passed onto another F-14 squadron, VF-103, formerly the "Sluggers". VF-103 became VFA-103 when they transitioned to the F/A-18F Super Hornet in 2005, with the F-14 being completely retired from US Navy service on September 22, 2006.
Another shot showing the F-14's cannon firing port.
While "playing" with the two fake Zero fighters, one of the Tomcats, piloted by VF-84 XO Richard "Fox" Farrell, drops very close to the ocean. Thought it sometimes claimed the aircraft stalls in this sequence and almost crashed (a rumour that originated in a long-gone blog post), Navy witnesses have stated Farrell was in complete control. The zoom makes it appear that the aircraft is much closer to the water than it actually is, and if the Tomcat had actually stalled one or both of the TF-30 engines would have suffered compressor stalls and flamed out. Legend has it that the odd sound heard at this point in the movie is partly a recording of the noise Farrell's wife made when she watched this footage.
One of the Tomcats opens fire with its M61A1 Vulcan.

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