When it came to arming the characters of the Firefly series and its movie Serenity, one gun would not do. Heck, even two guns were not enough for men like Jayne Cobb and Captain Malcom Reynolds. The prop masters for this fictional world had their work cut out for them to create firearms steeped in western tradition, but still futuristic enough to support sci-fi plotlines. Larry Zanoff, a well-known armorer, gunsmith, and firearms consultant in the film industry, stated “it’s always been a belief of mine that, when creating props for a sci-fi show, they must have a foundation in reality. Something recognizable that allows the viewing public to look at it, and be able to say: “yeah, that looks believable.” …Firefly made that concept an art form.”
As the captain of the cargo ship Serenity, Malcom Reynolds needed good guns at his side for both practical and aesthetic reasons. Mal’s favored sidearm needed to remind viewers of a classic, western six-shooter, but it also needed to fit into the “outer space” environment. Subsequently, according to Zanoff, a removable magazine was “a must” for the prop masters. Unfortunately, a magazine fed weapon needs to eject shell castings, but that would diminish the futuristic element of the weapon. To achieve the perfect balance between “Old West” and “New Space,” the prop masters chose a Taurus 85 Snub Nose Revolver as their base.
By choosing this revolver, Firefly’s prop master Randy Erikson eliminated the need to eject shell cases. Additionally, the Taurus base allowed Captain Reynolds to get off multiple shots “before needing to cut for a reload.” Designed by the fictional Moses Brothers Firearms in the Firefly universe, a custom shell encased the captain’s revolver and evoked characteristics of early Volcanic weapons. Mal would use many types of firearms throughout the series, including more traditional firearms like the Colt 1903 and Marlin 1895.
No-nonsense first mate Zoë Washburne possessed equally as no-nonsense firearms. She used reproduction firearms as classic as the Winchester 1873 and as modern as the Colt Python. Still, the shortened, lever action firearm that fans see Zoë often wielding is a cut down Winchester Model 1892. Some fans might even recognize this gun as a copy of the firearm Steve McQueen used in the series Wanted: Dead or Alive.
Zoë would wield this shortened 1892 throughout the Firefly series and its feature movie. When it came to the movie Serenity, prop master Brad Einhorn wanted to make this firearm a little less old fashioned. To achieve a more futuristic appearance, he added a micro optic to the firearm.
As the ship’s resident mercenary, Jayne Cobb possessed a hefty arsenal of firearms. The firearm that arguably attracts the most fan-attention happens to be Jayne’s favorite long gun “Vera.” Though described as a “Callahan full-bore auto-lock, [with] a customized trigger, double cartridge thorough gauge” in the show, this firearm started out its life as a Saiga 12 ga. semi-automatic shotgun. Jayne acquired “Vera” after a close call with an assassin in Firefly, but this prop originally starred in the movie Showtime. Though this dolled-up firearm received very little attention in Showtime, Firefly gave it a second lease on life.
For those of you who regularly read the CFM blogs, you know that we chatted about Jayne’s modified LeMat Revolver “Boo” last week. The CFM has several of these firearms in the collection, including a LeMat “Grape Shot” Revolving Carbine like the one pictured below. Zanoff points out that “the LeMat has always been considered a [firearm] that was well ahead of its time, so it’s ability to look both nostalgic, as well as futuristic, is quite understandable.” The unconventional combination of revolver and shotgun matched Jayne’s equally as unconventional mercenary character. This reproduction revolver only required a few modifications by the prop masters to turn it into a firearm worthy of being in Firefly.
Done the Impossible
All of the firearms mentioned above are real, functional guns modified to shoot blanks. It’s thanks to professional armorers like Larry Zanoff that Firefly fans get to watch the characters turn from rogues into heroes.
Zanoff states that “it’s hard to predict what will become an iconic element of a TV show or movie while still filming it. You never quite know what will be the hit with fans until the show hits the screens.” The Firefly ‘verse achieved a massively passionate fanbase, and it’s easy to understand why. In addition to the witty banter and moments of (sometimes kitschy) derring-do, the impressive arsenal of guns in this show helped weave together a story in which viewers can immerse themselves.