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From Internet Movie Firearms Database - Guns in Movies, TV and Video Games
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Jimmy Cann.jpg
Movie poster
Country Flag of the United States.jpg United States
Directed by Michael Mann
Release Date 1981
Language English
Studio Mann/Caan Productions
Distributor United Artists
Main Cast
Character Actor
Frank James Caan
Leo Robert Prosky
Barry Jim Belushi
Okla/David Willie Nelson
Jessie Tuesday Weld
Carl Dennis Farina
Attaglia Tom Signorelli
Ancell Chuck Adamson
Katz & Jammer bartender William Petersen

Thief is the 1981 crime film that marked the feature film directorial debut of Michael Mann. The crime thriller stars James Caan as Frank, an experienced free-lance jewel thief who is convinced to perform high level jobs for a Chicago mobster. Mann, who would go on to direct such crime films as Heat and Collateral, brought to this film a level of attention to detail, especially in firearms, rarely seen in Hollywood productions at the time.

The following weapons were used in the film Thief:


Custom Jim Hoag M1911A1

One of the guns used by the main character, Frank (James Caan), is a 6" long slide M1911A1 pistol customized by California gunsmith Jim Hoag. There is a long vertical cutout on the skeletonized trigger, which means the pistol is most likely a Colt Gold Cup National Match, or just used such a trigger. Hoag Gun Works modified the pistol by lengthening the slide, squaring the trigger guard, adding a Bo-Mar adjustable rear sight, skeletonized hammer, and beavertail grip safety. If this pistol is indeed a Gold Cup, then it is presumably chambered in .45 ACP.

Colt Gold Cup National Match - probably the base pistol for the custom Hoag longslide used in the film.
James Hoag Colt Longslide.
Frank (James Caan) does a brass check on his Hoag M1911A1, before going into Attaglia's business. Note that in the film, this is supposed to be the long slide pistol, but it is actually a normal Colt Gold Cup NM in this brief scene. Note the way he does a brass check, thumb in trigger guard, fingers in front of muzzle. At the time of filming this was the taught method, but is no longer taught anymore.
Frank holds his custom 1911A1 on Attaglia, demanding his money.
The business end of Frank's pistol. This particular angle appears to be a signature Michael Mann shot, as similar shots were seen in Manhunter and Heat.
Best view of Frank's (James Caan) longslide M1911A1, as he clears the rooms in Leo's home.
Like in the scene when he does a brass check, his longslide 1911A1 changes to a normal Colt Gold Cup NM when Caan is seen in Leo's home. In the DVD commentary, James Caan recalled the extensive training he received in clearing rooms.
Frank aims his longslide 1911A1 on a wounded Leo.
Frank fires his longslide 1911A1 at Leo. This is the first movie that director Michael Mann would have a character perform the "Mozambique Drill" or "Failure Drill", meaning two in the sternum, and one in the head.
Frank changing out a magazine outside Leo's home. Note that the slide isn't locked back, he only fired 5 to 6 rounds prior. So he would have 1 to 2 rounds remaining depending on how he loaded his gun. Frank is smart enough to swap in a fully loaded magazine at the opportune time rather than run out in the middle of the gun fight and then try to reload.
Frank loading in a fresh magazine.

Colt Combat Commander

When Frank (James Caan) first goes to visit Attaglia (Tom Signorelli) about his money, a Colt Commander is seen in the hidden compartment of the door panel. In one brief scene, Frank flashes the Colt Combat Commander at a nightclub bouncer played by a young William Petersen. Frank is later seen with at his car lot when he is looking for Barry (James Belushi). But he is unable to use it because he gets knocked out by a mobster with an M1 Carbine. It looks like the stainless model, but I don't think stainless CCs were available in 1980, so it's probably a chromed finish. It has a Bo-Mar adjustable rear sight, and custom skeletonized hammer. Even though the entire pistol cannot be seen, due to the crease in Frank's waistband and the shadow it casts, it appears to be the shorter slide of a Combat Commander.

Colt Commander .45 ACP
When Frank draws his custom longslide, a Colt Commander is also seen in the hidden compartment.
Frank (James Caan) flashes his chromed Colt Combat Commander on a bar bouncer (William Petersen in his acting debut).
Frank with his Commander as he gets knocked out by the mobster.


Smith & Wesson Model 19

Leo (Robert Prosky) uses a Smith & Wesson Model 19 with pearl grips at the end of the film.

Smith & Wesson Model 19 - .357 Magnum
Leo draws his Smith & Wesson Model 19.
Leo fires his Smith & Wesson Model 19 at Frank.
A wounded Leo aims his Smith & Wesson Model 19 at Frank.

Smith & Wesson Model 19 Snub Nose

Attaglia (Tom Signorelli) carries a Smith & Wesson Model 19 Snub Nose in the film. It's mostly tucked in his waistband, so it's hard to tell.

Smith & Wesson Model 19 Snub Nose (right side).
Smith & Wesson Model 19 tucked in his waistband.
Attaglia draws his Smith & Wesson Model 19 after being knocked out by Frank.


High Standard Model 10

A High Standard Model 10 shotgun is used by Carl (Dennis Farina) at Frank's car dealership and the final shootout. This film was Dennis Farina's first acting role. His role as a mobster in the film is somewhat ironic as Farina worked for 18 years as an officer in the Chicago Police Department.

High Standard Model 10
Carl fires his High Standard Model 10 at Barry.
Carl (Dennis Farina) with his High Standard Model 10 outside Leo's home.
Closeup of the High Standard Model 10.

Ithaca 37

Sgt. Urizzi (John Santucci) is seen armed with an Ithaca 37 Shotgun when he pulls over Frank (James Caan). John Santucci's role as a police officer in the film is contradictory as to what he was in real life, a former thief. In addition to being a technical advisor for the film, most of the tools used by Frank (James Caan) to crack the safes were his; in fact, at one point in his criminal career he was actually arrested by Dennis Farina while the latter was working with the Chicago PD.

Ithaca 37 Deer Slayer Police Special - 12 gauge.
Sgt. Urizzi holds an Ithaca 37 Shotgun on Frank.


M1 Carbine

An M1 Carbine is used by one of the mobsters at Frank's car dealership.

M1 Carbine
The mobster taking cover armed with an M1 Carbine.
The mobster hits Frank in the back of the head with his M1 Carbine. The rifle appears to bend at the stock, mostly likely indicating a rubber stunt prop, understandable given how you wouldn't want to clock James Caan in the head with a real weapon.

Heckler & Koch HK91

Barry (James Belushi) is briefly seen covering Frank during his exchange with Leo and Attaglia at the harbor with what appears to be a Heckler & Koch HK91. The script refers to it as an "H&K .308 assault rifle".

HK Model 91.jpg
Barry (James Belushi) is briefly seen covering Frank during his exchange with Leo and Attaglia at the harbor with what appears to be a Heckler & Koch HK91. Note the rifle's shadow on the wall.
An over-the-shoulder view of Barry with the rifle.


Michael Mann is supposedly a certified range instructor himself, but for this film, he had actor Caan try to attend the American Pistol Institute (a/k/a "Gunsite"), the celebrated firearms training facility founded by Jeff Cooper in the Arizona High Desert north of Chino Valley to instruct in the "Modern Technique of the Pistol."

When Cooper learned that the film's protagonist was a career criminal, he reasoned that a thief would never be exposed to the Modern Technique and declined to instruct Cann. Galen D. "Chuck" Taylor, Cooper's operations manager at the time and later a well-known instructor himself, then agreed to take Cann off-site and teach him the rudiments of what the actor performs in the film. Taylor's instruction is obvious, as Cann uses an exaggerated Weaver Stance, high thumbhold grip, speed reloading, and room clearing techniques directly attributable to the Modern Technique taught at API. "I didn't actually have to do any of this," Cann told a radio interviewer during a publicity tour for Thief -- "I just needed to look like I knew what I was doing!"

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