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The Guns of James Bond
Ian Fleming
March 19, 1962
James Bond is fictional. His weapons are not. Here is the inside story of why he abandoned his favorite gun
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March 19, 1962

The Guns Of James Bond

James Bond is fictional. His weapons are not. Here is the inside story of why he abandoned his favorite gun

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James Bond is the hero of a succession of immensely popular mystery novels by the British author Ian Fleming. Bond is an agent of the British Secret Service, and the charm he exerts on his readers—who include the President of the United States—is based partly on the drama of his assignments but even more on the factual detail of each Fleming book. Although Bond's extravagant adventures (between torrid love affairs with improbably beautiful and compliant ladies he has been tossed to a giant squid, tied to a buzz saw and poisoned by a drug derived from the sex organs of the Japanese globefish) have caused his originator to be described as "a sort of British Mickey Spillane," Author Fleming is really a reserved English gentleman with a passion for accuracy. As such, he willingly listened and learned when Gun Expert Geoffrey Boothroyd wrote him concerning what Boothroyd thought were errors in Bond's choice of weapons. Fleming was so pleased with Boothroyd's constructive criticism that he not only followed his suggestions but incorporated Boothroyd into his next book as "The Armourer" of the British Secret Service. The article that begins on the next page is Fleming's account of his correspondence with Boothroyd. It is both an authoritative discussion of small arms and a fascinating detective story in itself.

Enter Boothroyd

Some reviewers of my books about James Bond have been generous in commending the accuracy of the expertise which forms a considerable part of the background furniture of these books. I may say that correspondents from all over the world have been equally enthusiastic in writing to point out errors in this expertise, and the mistakes I have made, approximately one per volume, will no doubt forever continue to haunt my In basket.

But it is true that I take very great pains over the technical and geographical background to James Bond's adventures, and during and after the writing of each book I consult innumerable authorities in order to give solidity and integrity to his exploits. Without this solid springboard, there would perhaps be justification for the frequent criticisms that James Bond's adventures are fantastic, though I maintain that such criticism comes from people who simply do not read the newspapers or who have not taken note of the revealing peaks of the great underwater iceberg that is Secret Service warfare. The frogman mystery of Commander Crabb, Khokhlov and the bullet-firing cigarette case with which his Russian masters hoped to have a West German propaganda expert assassinated, the whole of the U-2 affair—what incidents in my serial biography of James Bond are more fantastic than these?

It was in pursuit of verisimilitude that my friendship with Geoffrey Boothroyd was born in May 1956, and I think it may be an interesting sidelight on the work of two enthusiasts, one in thriller writing and the other in gun lore, for me to print here our correspondence and then to recount the rather bizarre sequel to the long and forceful letter that came to me one day from Glasgow.

BOOTHROYD TO FLEMING, MAY 23RD, 1956

"I have, by now, got rather fond of Mr. James Bond. I like most of the things about him, with the exception of his rather deplorable taste in firearms. In particular, I dislike a man who comes into contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a lady's gun, and not a really nice lady at that. If Mr. Bond has to use a light gun he would be better off with a .22 rim fire; the lead bullet would cause more shocking effect than the jacketed type of the .25.

"May I suggest that Mr. Bond be armed with a revolver? This has many advantages for the type of shooting that he is called on to perform and I am certain that Mr. Leiter [ Bond's sometime associate] would agree with this recommendation. The Beretta will weigh, after it has been doctored, somewhere under 1 pound unloaded. If Mr. Bond gets himself an S & W .38 Special Centennial Airweight he will have a real man-stopper weighing only 17 ounces loaded. The gun is hammerless so that it can be drawn without catching in the clothing and has an overall length of 6� inches. Barrel length is 2 inches, but note that it is not 'sawn off.' No one who can buy his pistols in the States will go to the trouble of sawing off pistol barrels as they can be purchased with short 2-inch barrels from the manufacturers. In order to keep down the bulk the cylinder holds five cartridges, and these are standard .38 S & W Special. It is an extremely accurate cartridge and when fired from a 2-inch barrel has, in standard loading, a muzzle velocity of almost 700 ft./sec. and muzzle energy of around 200 ft./lbs. This is against Bond's .25 Beretta with muzzle velocity of 758 ft./sec. but only 67 ft./lbs. muzzle energy. So much for his personal gun. Now he must have a real man-stopper to carry in the car. For this purpose the S & W .357 Magnum has no equal except the .44 Magnum. With the .357, Bond can still use his S & W .38 Special cartridges, although not vice versa. The .357 Magnum can be obtained in barrel lengths as follows: 3� inches, 5 inches, 6 inches, 6� inches and 8? inches long. With a 6�-inch barrel and adjustable rear sights Bond could do some really effective shooting, getting with the .357 Magnum a muzzle velocity of about 1,300 ft./sec. and a muzzle energy of nearly 600 ft./lbs. Figures like these give an effective range of 300 yards, and it's very accurate, too—1-inch groups at 20 yards on a machine rest.

"With these two guns Bond would be able to cope with really quick-draw work and long-range effective shooting."

Now to gun harness, rigs or what have you. First of all, not a shoulder holster for general wear, please. I suggest that the little Centennial Airweight be carried in a 'Lightning' Berns-Martin Triple Draw holster. This type of holster holds the gun in by means of a spring and can be worn on the belt or as a shoulder holster. I have played about with various types of holster for quite a time now and this one is the best. Here are descriptions of how it works—as a belt holster and as a shoulder holster:

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