By Dr. Tom Lewis.
The exploits of the British spy have now been famous for over 60 years, with Ian Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale, appearing in 1953. The book series featured 12 novels and two short-story collections, and the films have now reached 24 productions. But one of the most enduring features of Bond’s popularity were his many, and often quite exotic, guns.
In the first five Bond novels, author Ian Fleming has his character use a .25 calibre Beretta 418 automatic as his primary sidearm. In the books, his pistol is described as having a skeleton grip (i.e. grips removed - frame only), and either a threaded barrel to support a silencer or completely sawn off barrel.
Fleming had used such a gun during World War II when he was in Naval Intelligence, and felt it was an appropriate sidearm for a secret agent on an undercover mission. Then again, Fleming‘s role in the war was more to use his brains than be a commando type…
Boothroyd was a retired Army Major and gun collector. In his letter to Fleming he wrote: “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.”
Boothroyd also objected to the choice of holster. Fleming had Bond use a flat chamois leather holster. Boothroyd proposed that Bond should use a revolver like the Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight. It had no external hammer, so it would not catch on Bond's clothes. The Smith & Wesson could be kept in a Berns-Martin triple draw holster held in place with a spring clip, which would decrease Bond's draw time.
Fleming thanked the Major for his letter and made a few points. He felt that Bond ought to have an automatic pistol, perhaps Boothroyd could recommend one? He agreed that the Beretta 418 lacked power, but pointed out that Bond had used more powerful weapons when the need required, such as the Colt Army Special he uses in Moonraker.
Boothroyd recommended the Walther PPK 7.65mm as being the best choice for an automatic of that size, with its ammunition available everywhere. He suggested, however, that 007 ought to have a revolver for long-range work. Fleming asked Boothroyd if he could lend his illustrator, Richard Chopping, one of his guns to be painted for the cover of From Russia with Love. Boothroyd lent Chopping a .357 Magnum revolver that had the trigger guard removed for faster firing.
In the film adaptation, the first in the series, Boothroyd only offers the Walther and Bond reluctantly turns in his Beretta.
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