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Certain guns tend to get used exclusively by either heroes or villains.
Much of this is simply because the vast majority of TV shows are set in NATO countries. The popularity of the AK-47 as a "bad-guy gun" is easily explained by the vast quantities of the weapon which were manufactured by the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China and sold to Third World nations during the Cold War, which just happened to be enemies of America.
- Any AR-15 type weapon, especially the M16 and M4.
- Beretta 92F/S
- Most weapons of the Allied forces of World War I and World War II, especially the Colt M1911A1
- Smith & Wesson, Colt Navy and Colt Single Action Army revolvers.
- Lever-action rifles and shotguns (especially in Westerns)
- Any weapon generally exclusive to NATO forces (with a few exceptions; see below)
- Other weapons with black or dark finishes, however in the case of some guns of European manufacture (Heckler and Koch, Sig, and Steyr; see below) they tend to be "bad" guns just as often as they are "good" guns, usually to show how the people using them are professionals and/or affluent, or that they're mercenaries.
- Anything distinctly Soviet/Warsaw Pact in origin, most notably the Russian AK-47 and SVD rifles and the Czechoslovak Škorpion submachine gun.
- The Steyr AUG and TMP - though again, there are exceptional cases. And pretty illogical ones at that, since the AUG has always been used by western armies and very rarely by organized crime. Thank a certain classic action movie for giving it the "evuuul firearm" image. All the more weird because most modern German and Austrian guns are usually depicted as being of the "hero"/"good" gun variety.
- Any rifle produced by SIG (later Swiss Arms). Pistols tend to bounce around on either side.
- Almost anything made by Heckler and Koch, but like Steyr firearms, there are exceptions, such as if the good guys are part of a counter-terrorism or police unit.
- Machine pistols in general, like the aforementioned TMP, the TEC-9, MAC-10, Mini-Uzi, and so on. The Weapon of Choice of urban gangsters and disestablishment types.
- Anything made by Calico.
- Most weapons of the Central/Axis forces during World War I and World War II, especially the distinctive-looking Luger.
- Except the Walther PPK. The Mauser C96 and Walther P38 also tend to get a free pass.
- Thompson M1921, though only when fitted with the drum magazine.
- Sawed-off shotguns, unless there are zombies around.
- Other weapons with brown or bright (as in hard chrome) finishes, particularly Bling Bling Bang. Stainless and matte silver finishes tend to be the exception, especially for revolvers.
- Anything with one or more parts that are lit up and / or a Laser Sight.
- Desert Eagle, unless the protagonist is an Anti-Hero.
This also happened to some extent with the film cameras used by characters. Good guys favor Leicas or beat-up old manual SLRs; bad guys prefer Nikons. (A bit of Lampshade Hanging in the first season of 24 -- the good guys use Macintosh computers, the bad guys use Microsoft.) Walker, Texas Ranger actually applied this to the cars characters drove; Walker and friends drove Dodges and Chryslers, the bad guys drove various General Motors products.
This is often Truth in Television, though specific ones are used unrealistically. For example, the Uzi and AUG have rarely been used by actual criminals, but are often used by Western-friendly countries in real life. Many insurgent groups use many non-Soviet designs, especially as Western weapons and ammunition have become more common. In post-2001 Afghanistan, the national army and police, which are part of the UN coalition, use mainly ex-Soviet weapons, as do a lot of the British private security contractors working for Western organizations. "Good" weapons like the FAL and Lee-Enfield are now far more common among insurgents and militias than they are in national militaries.
Note that what constitutes a "good gun" often depends on the audience. In Russian media, for example, a Kalashnikov is an everyman's weapon with no evil connotations - after all, they invented it. And in Africa, the Kalashnikov is widely seen as a symbol of liberation from colonial oppression; Mozambique even depicts an AK-47 on its national flag. Nazi weapons, however, are a shorthand for evil almost everywhere.
Subversions of this trope:
- In V for Vendetta, the government Fingermen use Berettas. Creedy uses a massive revolver.
- Only in the movie. In the graphic novel, they use .38 caliber revolvers, possibly Colt Police Positives.
- Both played straight and averted in Marvel's GI Joe run (and the toys). Cobra troopers usually sport Russian Dragunovs or AKs, but Snake Eyes, one of the most popular Joes, uses an Uzi.
- In Iron Man (2008), the bad guys almost exclusively use Western guns. They're referred to as made by Stark International. This is used to illustrate how Stark can't bother himself at first over his tech falling into the wrong hands.
- In Star Wars Han Solo's signature DL-44 is really a rebuilt broomhandle Mauser, normally a 'bad guy' gun.
- Then again, it is often overlooked that Han Solo is not a hero -- he's a smuggler. A smuggler with a bad-tempered partner (known to pull people's arms off if beaten at holo-chess), a highly illegal ship, and who has mastered the art of the subtle draw in order to be able to blow away the amateur bounty hunters that come after him if he screws up a smuggling job (no matter which version you believe, Han was definitely drawing his gun under the table and pointing it at Greedo's crotch for several seconds while Greedo talked). This was another clue that Han Solo is NOT a nice guy.
- More generally, good guys in Star Wars tend to wield pistols (Han, Leia, Luke, the rebels on the Tantive IV) whereas bad guys use rifles (Stormtroopers, Battle Droids).
- Zig-zagged for the generic Rebel soldiers after the first movie - in The Empire Strikes Back the standard blaster rifle was based on the StG-44, a weapon used by Nazi Germany. In Return of the Jedi, their rifles were instead based on the AR-15.
- In Commando, many bad guys carry M16 rifles (possibly justified in that one of the terrorists' bosses was a turncoat Special Forces man).
- In Avalon, protagonist Ash carries a PPK and SVD, and at one point borrows a broomhandle Mauser. Later, she trades her PPK for a dead player's M1911.
- In the Korean Western, The Good, the Bad, the Weird the Good bounty hunter wields a lever-action Winchester rifle, the Bad bandit uses a Webley revolver, and the Weird thief uses a pair of Walther P38 pistols.
- In The Rocketeer the Police and FBI use .38 Special Revolvers while the Mobsters all carry Colt 1911 .45s. At the climax both the FBI and Mobsters use Thompson Machine Guns again the Nazis.
- Captain America the First Avenger is set in World War II, and it features American and German soldiers using American and German weaponry. Red Skull's Luger is distinctive among the film's many examples of Good Guns, Bad Guns because it is modified to use an infinite supply of divine power as its ammunition.
- The 1995 film adaptation of Richard III seems to zig-zag on this trope, being set in an alternate Dieselpunk Britain. Richard, a villain, carries the Mauser C96, while Edward (ostensibly good) and Richmond (definitely good) carry the Colt 1911. However, the troops of both sides use Lee-Enfield rifles and Browning Automatic Rifles. Also, in the coup that opens the film, Richard's troops use the MP-18 and Edward's men carry the MP-40, both German-made weapons.
- In the SF/Horror film Lifeforce, the SAS troopers are armed with Steyr AU Gs.
- Though the villains of Heat use all sorts of firearms throughout the film, the big shootout has the more sympathetic Shiherlis and McCauley wielding Colt 733s (AR-15 varient with a 11.5" barrel) while Cheritto, the more stereotypical bad guy, carries a Galil ARM, which resembles an AK.
- In The Avengers, good guy Hawkeye carries a Heckler and Koch P30 as his sidearm.
Live Action TV
- Lost's guns constantly change hands, making "good" and "bad" irrelevant.
- Interestingly, many of the guns used by the "bad guys," the Others, were obtained from the US Army, generally seen as good guys in other media.
- Partly subverted in Jericho, where the townspeople generally use hunting and police-issue weapons, while the marauding Ravenwood mercs use M4s with all the bells and whistles. Arguably, Hawkins' preferred weapon--a Beretta Cougar INOX (stainless steel finish)--reflects the doubt as to whether his intentions are good or evil.
- Even though it wasn't officially allowed, more than a few US soldiers in Vietnam chose to use "informally acquired" AK-47s rather than their issued weapons due to the AK's greater reliability in crappy environmental conditions.
- Occasionally SEALs would use an AK or two on missions for the effect it would have on VC/NVA forces. Hearing the AK's distinctive bark would confuse the enemy, and seeing green tracers coming toward them was at best more confusing, at worst morale- and soul-crushing.
- Australian soldiers also often chose to use AK-47s in Vietnam, which added to some of the confusion about identifying them as they mixed and matched their uniforms quite often as well with items from other military forces.
- In a few nations, especially those of the former Eastern Bloc, AK-patterned weapons are used by the military and law-enforcement agencies as well as criminals. However, many of them have since phased the AK-47 out of service in favor for more modern AK-pattern designs, importing other weapons or developing their own.
- The TEC-9 semiautomatic pistol gained a reputation for being favored by gangs and violent criminals due to easy modification into a full-auto weapon. The original was banned in the US, and its watered-down successor, the AB-10, only narrowly avoided the same fate before the manufacturers went out of business.
- The Steyr AUG is the standard service rifle of the Aussies With Artillery and Kiwis With Carbines, among others.
- Mossad in many of its operations has most commonly used either Uzis or AK's. Granted the first is an Israeli weapon, and both have traditionally been both ubiquitous and untraceable, especially in many of the countries in which Mossad has operated. Given that they're spies, rather than soldiers, it's expected that they'd use whatever weapon was available in order to not raise suspicion.
- After the Cold War, many nations once allied with the Soviet Bloc are getting better relations with Western nations. This means that they use both Western and Eastern weapons designs. The former Soviet-allied nation of Georgia for example has both the AK-47 and M16's/M4's in its inventory. Polish Special Forces use Western European and American designs while the basic infantryman uses the AK-derived Kbs wz.1996 Beryl, which fires the NATO-designed 5.56mm round. Other non-aligned nations such as Pakistan and Slovenia also have a mix of Eastern and Western weapons designs.
- Several NATO or NATO-allied nations use rifles patterned after the AK. The Finnish Valmet, Israeli Galil and the South African Vektor CR-21 (itself a modification of a copy of the Galil) all have internals modeled after the AK action. And externals too, in the Valmet's case.
- The Glock can be either, depending on what country you're in. For example, in the United States, many police departments carry it (in probably 9 out of 10 cities, any cop you see will have a Glock on his belt), whereas in Ireland, it has gained a notorious reputation as the weapon of choice for criminal gangs. Though in Northern Ireland, it's the standard police gun. (At least, the few times UK police get to use guns)
- Assault rifles themselves can count as an aversion - they're the standard infantry weapons of almost every modern military force in the world, even though the Nazi German StG-44 is commonly held to be the first true example of one.
- For that matter, the 9x19mm pistol cartridge was original developed for the Luger, but it is now the most common pistol cartridge in the world.
- Subverted by the Israeli army during its early years. The early IDF used cast off equipment from WW 2, namely the German made Karabiner 98K and the Soviet made Mosin-Nagant.
- In Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, enemy soldiers are equipped with NATO weapons instead of the standard AK-47s. AKs are available in multiplayer matches for use by anyone.
- In Call of Duty 4, you fight both Middle Eastern terrorists and Ultranationalist Russians. The Russians, while armed with AKs, also have H&K G36Cs, which the SAS are also frequently using. Also, any generic NPC using a pistol is using a Beretta M9. Named characters play it more straight - Captain Price's sidearm of choice is an M1911, while Zakhaev carries around a Desert Eagle.
- In Modern Warfare 2 in contrast, while the Americans stick to U.S. military small arms and Task Force 141 uses Western small arms, this is all thrown to hell by the Russian forces throughout both sides of the campaign, who seem to primarily use Western weapons to the point of absurdity, as "WarPac" weapons are actually in the minority. You might find an "AK-47" (oddly enough with polymer furniture and a custom M4-style stock), but you're more likely to find Israeli, Austrian, French, or Belgian assault rifles, while all the Russian "shielders" are using MP5Ks...
- Also played around in multiplayer for the whole series, where you can customize your armory regardless of which side you're on, leading to U.S. soldiers wielding AKs or Russians with M16s.
- ...or Japanese soldiers with FG-42's, or TF141 operatives with Model 1887 lever-action shotguns, or Viet Cong with FAL's, or African militia with XM25's, or...
- In Army of Two, for the first few missions Salem and Rios end up fighting Iraqi and al-Qaeda soldiers who use AK-47s, and they fight Chinese troops later on using AK derivatives. However, during the Aircraft Carrier the Abu Sayyaf terrorists wield mostly M4s and M16s, and during the Miami mission the SSC mercenaries use FAMASes.
- Truth in Television for the Abu Sayyaf. Licensed and unlicensed variants of the M16 and M4 are so common in the Philippines they are much more easy to obtain in-country than even the internationally ubiquitous Kalashnikovs. Consequently, both sides use them. Same goes withe Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the New People's Army. There are AKs reported in use here and there by local media, but only a few were smuggled in the Philippines during the Cold War.
- Grand Theft Auto San Andreas has the protagonists allies in the Grove Street Families use the Tec-9 as their submachine gun of choice, while all other gangs in Los Santos use the Micro UZI.
- Unless you spray all rival gang tags in the city, when the GSF start using MP5s, playing the trope straight (mostly, as OGs like Sweet will, with very rare exceptions, still use the Tec-9 during missions).
- In Splinter Cell Conviction, the standard handgun Victor Coste gives to Sam Fisher has a reflex sight. All other Mooks do not have reflex sights unless they are other Splinter Cells. In fact, the reflex sight is to add another Mark & Execute point for Sam to use.
- Police Quest: SWAT 2 features the Z-M Weapons LR-300, an AR-15 variant, as the main bad guy weapon.
- Similarly, in SWAT 3, terrorists who are heavily armed tend to use AR-15s just as often as they do AK-47s. Their sidearms generally follow this rule (M1911A1 as SWAT standard, while bad guys stick with CZ-75's and Makarovs), though the player can use the enemy's pistols through a Sierra-made mod. Meanwhile, both it and SWAT 4 also have an abundance of Heckler & Koch weapons (typically bad guy weapons as noted above), but in both games they are only available to the police.
- Subverted in Jagged Alliance 2 (both the original game and the v1.13 fan mod) and 7.62 High Caliber, a Spiritual Successor, by the need to rely on battlefield pickups early on if you left the default options enabled; only later may you be able to pick and choose one way or the other. In fact, while the available choice of "operators" is multinational (including a Russian veteran), the first enemies you'll encounter are usually local bandits running around with sawn-off "M1891/30" bolt-action pistols (cut-down Mosin-Nagant rifles, whose family came long before the Soviet Union).
- Rainbow Six. In all games while for the first few missions you usually deal with terrorists with AKs and Uzis, in later missions you will start dealing with terrorists armed with what usually good guys' weapons (M16, M4, and M60 to start with). Though the briefing of the terrorist groups' background will usually justify them.
- In the intro of Rainbow Six: Raven Shield a Neo-Nazi assassin uses a Luger P.08, now more a museum piece than a gun one could use as a convenient sidearm.
- The Vegas subseries also zig-zags this; the terrorists in the first mission of 2 in particular are typically wielding AK-47s and MG36s, but later in the game they start using more NATO weaponry (possibly justified as, like the title indicates, most of the series is set in and around Las Vegas). The player, meanwhile, starts both games carrying both an MP5 and an SG 552.
- Second Sight stands out as a game that completely ignores this. For instance, a street gang has some members with revolvers and some with sawed-off shotguns, a violation no matter how the group is perceived (it's more good than bad, for the record.)
- Averted in Home Front, where the North Koreans are using mainly NATO weapons instead of the typical Soviet Bloc weapons that they have in real life. This is due to the fact that they now control South Korea and Japan, which gives them access to plenty of NATO weapons.
- In GoldenEye, the enemies usually use knockoffs of various Soviet weapons while Bond uses NATO weaponry. There's nothing stopping him from picking up and using their guns, though.
- Mooks in Blood who actually use guns most commonly use a Sawed-Off Shotgun or a Thompson with a drum magazine, both of which Caleb also uses. His shotgun gets a good-gun pass due to all the zombies, but his Thompson still counts as a bad gun because he's not exactly a good guy himself. Blood II mixes this up a bit, with the return of the shotgun and machine pistols wielded in pairs, but it also prominently arms characters with Beretta 92s and M16s.
- Averted in Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker. Mooks are armed with various weapons, both NATO and Warsaw Pact issue. Plus, each of these (plus many others) are available for the player to research and use for themselves.
- Pretty much averted in Operation Flashpoint, particularly in the campaign of the Resistance expansion pack, where you act as the leader of a resistance group fighting to liberate his homeland from a recent Soviet invasion. Practically all the standard guns of your partisans are either Warsaw Pact or civilian/hunting models. Most of your arsenal is therefore identical with that of the Soviet soldiers. On the other hand, there is a subversion later on, when the freedom fighters manage to acquire aid from a local NATO garrison. After this, they can also use a small supply of western firearms (e. g. FN FALs, Steyr AUGs and M21 sniper rifles).
- Only averted after the first unlock in Battlefield 3, where the first weapons available to each class are for one particularly side only. This means when you first start you can only use American weapons as the US (including the M4, M16, and Mk 11), and similarly when you play as the Russians you can only use Russian weapons (including the AK-74M, RPK-74M, Dragunov SVD and the AKS-74U). Of course, from the first weapon unlock onwards of each class, you can use those weapons regardless of side. This will often, similarly to Call of Duty, lead to Russians with MP7s, M39 EMRs and HK416s and Americans with AEK-971s and PKP Pechenegs.
- In the Darwin's Soldiers universe, this trope is totally averted as "good guns" are frequently used by the bad guys and the "bad guns" are used equally by heroes and villains.