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With the possible exception of “Dirty” Harry Callahan’s .44 Magnum, Tony Montana’s “Little Friend” might be the most famous firearm in movie history.
Montana (Al Pacino) graciously introducing his compadre — a custom-made M203 grenade launcher replica attached to a Colt AR-15 assault rifle — to Alejandro Sosa’s thugs during the climactic firefight in Brian De Palma’s Scarface landed at No. 33 on THR‘s list of Hollywood’s Favorite Movie Quotes. (Coincidentally, Dirty Harry’s “Do I feel lucky?” is No. 34).
The M203 grenade launcher was introduced in 1969 and used extensively by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. But Tony’s had to be fabricated by the studio props department because Scarface prop master John Zemansky couldn’t find a manufacturer willing to sell him an actual, live-firing M203. The launcher is not technically illegal to possess (or at least it wasn’t in California in the early ‘80s), but it is classified as a “destructive device” under the National Firearms Act and requires a special license to own.
“I basically manufactured one that looks exactly like the real one except that I put a different trigger system in so it would fire a blank cartridge,” says Zemansky, who had five duplicate launchers made for the production. “We put a sleeve in [the barrel] to accept what kind of cartridge we wanted.” Because the fabricated weapons weren’t capable of firing actual 40mm grenades (Zemansky recalls that it was outfitted to fire shotgun shells), they weren’t subject to the same onerous regulations as a real M203.
Still, after Scarface wrapped, the fake M203s were sold off to Stembridge Gun Rentals, an armory that supplies weapons to Hollywood productions. “I didn’t want it because I didn’t want to have a problem with the ATF or anybody! It was easier just to get it out of my possession,” says Zemansky.
Stembridge rented out Tony’s “Little Friend” to other films and TV shows over the years. Most notably, it appeared in Clint Eastwood’s Heartbreak Ridge (1986) and John McTiernan’s 1987 action classic Predator, where Arnold Schwarzenegger himself toted it in several scenes. It even appears on the one-sheet.
Stembridge Gun Rentals’ Syd Stembridge says he no longer has any of the Scarface M203s in his collection, but one of the launchers sold at auction in November (attached to a replica AR-15) for $54,400. A big number for a little friend.
The original one-sheet poster for 1987’s ‘Predator,’ which shows Schwarzenegger’s Maj. Dutch Schaefer holding his Colt SP-1 rifle with the faux M203 launcher made for ‘Scarface.’
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