Premiering 40 years ago this month, "Rambo: First Blood" launched a five-film franchise and made sure the M60 machine gun will forever be remembered.

Loosely based on an excellent novel by English professor David Morrell, the 1982 action film co-written by and starring Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, a misunderstood and emotionally scarred Vietnam Veteran who just wanted to be left alone, First Blood was a hit and "Rambo" soon took on a life of its own. The small town it was filmed in-- which has a larger-than-life-sized chainsaw carving of John Rambo downtown-- recently held a week-long Rambo festival that drew thousands. 

Stacked with great action sequences-- the jailbreak, the "I'll give you a war you won't believe" forest hunt and resulting the cliff jump, the "nowhere to go" face-off among the ferns and rainforest, and the final "Nothing is over" meltdown-- "First Blood" is an adrenaline-filled classic. 

A product of its time, the guns used in the film are largely LE classics of the age-- Smith & Wesson K-frame service revolvers in .38 and .357, Remington 870 shotguns, a cameo by a Heckler & Koch HK93A2, and early slab-sided SP1 Colt AR-15s. These are augmented with period military small arms once the National Guard gets on the scene in Act II, including the M72 66mm LAW, the M1911A1 Government Issue .45, M16A1s, and the iconic M60 general purpose machine gun in 7.62 NATO.


M60 Vietnam
Who doesn't love the M60? Yes, it is heavy, at 23 pounds unloaded, but can crank out 7.62 at 550 rounds per minute for as long as the barrel lasts and the ammo belts hold out. (Photo: National Archives)
It is with the M60 that Rambo gets the most screen time, borrowing the GPMG from a National Guard truck and moving with it through the town, swaddled in belts of ammo that don't appear to be 7.62.  



The iconic M60 scenes proved so popular that Sly and company had a call back in the final minutes of the 1985 sequel, "Rambo: First Blood Part II," this time with a more current M60E3-- although he removes it from a UH-1 Huey which would have typically mounted a spade-gripped M60D. 



The Rambo-with-an-M60 scenes went on to become a top-shelf action movie parody in "Hot Shots! Part Deux" and "UHF," in the hands of bandana-clad Charlie Sheen and Weird Al Yankovic, respectively. Sheen even had an on-screen body count. 




Sadly, the parodies may have killed the use of the M60 in the later franchise's 1988's "Rambo III," 2008's "Rambo" and 2019's "Rambo: Last Blood," although Stallone did get an up-size in two of those films to using an M2 .50 cal instead.

However, with rumors persistent that Stallone, now just 76, could once more cough up another Rambo flick, maybe the M60 could get dusted off again.

revolver barrel loading graphic