Rambo III is the third installment in the Rambo saga. Sylvester Stallone returns in the 1988 sequel as John Rambo, the former Green Beret, who drops into Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation after his mentor Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) goes missing following a mission.
The 1988 sequel is an unusual movie in that its production was halted about two thirds into the shooting schedule of the film. Rambo III was originally scheduled to film almost entirely in Israel (with parts of the opening filmed in Thailand), and many scenes were filmed in Eilat (the southern most tip of Israel between Jordan and Egypt), using Israeli armorers. However, the spectacle of a major American movie being filmed in the Middle East created a lot of concern about terrorist attacks (to disrupt the production and "send a message to the U.S."). Before production could be completed, it is said that Israel revoked the production's permission to remain in the country (the rumored reason being security concerns and threats made to the American film crew). Not wishing for a multi-million dollar film to be scrapped, then California State Senator Pete Wilson (R) (a big proponent of the film industry in California and later Governor of the state), helped the production to relocate back to Southern California and Arizona. The remaining shots were completed (including many insert shots) using the same talent, but utilizing areas around the American Western Desert, most notably Yuma, AZ for the final battle and Lone Pine, CA for 2nd unit photography.
This sudden relocation back to the U.S explains the sudden change from accurate Soviet weaponry (provided by the Israeli armorers) to the typical faux weaponry seen in many American movies. As Stembridge Gun Rentals took over the final shoot in the United States, mocked up Browning M2 .50 cal Machine guns instead of real Soviet DShK 12.7mm MGs, etc. appeared in the final battle. Most notably, the armored vehicles at the final battle changed from the authentic and original Soviet armored vehicles from the middle of the film, to the modified American tanks in the climatic final battle. These were provided by Veluzat Armored Vehicles out of Newhall, California (the company who notably produced these very good mockups of Soviet armor for the original Red Dawn). Only aficionados of armored fighting vehicles would notice the change.
Stallone would not return to the character until 20 years later with 2008's Rambo.
The following weapons were used in the film Rambo III:
Seen carried by the Mujahideen and by armed tribal members in Peshawar, Pakistan. The ones in the early parts of the film are authentic USSR-made AK-47s. These were all captured enemy arms, taken during the many wars between Israel and their neighbor nations. Israeli movie armorers have access to tons of authentic captured Soviet weaponry over the years, and any film shot in Israel would have real Soviet guns.
Seen briefly, some of the Soviet soldiers carry the milled receiver AKS-47 underfolder rifle, the predecessor to the AKMS. Since this sequence was filmed in Israel, one can assume these are authentic Soviet AK-47 Milled receiver weapons.
Full-stock AKMs are used by the Mujahideen and the Soviets. John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) and Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) also use AKMs on numerous occasions throughout the film. The ones used while filming in Israel are real Soviet AKM rifles. The ones used while filming in the United States were Egyptian-made Maadi ARM rifles (the American imported versions of the MISR).
AKMSs are carried by Mujahideen, the Soviets and Rambo.
Norinco Type 56
When filming shifted to the U.S., the Chinese-made Norinco Type 56 (the military name of the imported Norinco AKS-47 rifles) were used in place of the AK-47s. In a historical context, this is not an anachronism, since China supplied many Type 56 rifles to the Mujahideen fighters (by way of Pakistan) during the 1980s.
Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) and Rambo are seen with Hungarian-made AMD-65s. The traditional muzzle brake of the AMD-65 was replaced with an Israeli Blank fire adapter (also seen on the other AK variants). The same AMD-65 type rifles were also wielded by Soviet tankers (ironically, wearing the same 'faux' Soviet winter tanker uniforms made for the film Red Dawn.)
AKS-74s were seen used in the film, mocked up from AKMS underfolder rifles - The real AKS-74 assault rifle (5.45x39mm) is a side folding rifle. The ones in the film, however featured obvious underfolder stocks as well as 7.62x39mm-style magazines. A faux AK-74 style muzzle brake was put on the rifles. Remember that this was filmed in 1987, and no AK-74 or 5.45mm guns existed in the United States (or our allies) at this time.
Lee-Enfield No.1 MkIII*
In actuality there are no clear examples of the SMLE (No 1 Mk III) in the movie, however it is very possible that they were used in the mass scenes of horsemen. The Vast majority of rifles seen clearly seen being carried by any combatant on film are AK-47s, Mauser Kar98ks, Mosin-Nagant M91/30s and Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk.Is. When Rambo was in Peshawar, a number of Afghans in the crowded street were seen with No.1 MkIII* rifles slung over their shoulders while Rambo was heading to the arms dealer.
Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk.I
Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk.Is are seen in the hands of Mujahideen fighters throughout the film.
Mauser Karabiner 98k
Karabiner 98ks are seen in the hands of Mujahideen fighters thoughout the film. A Kar98k is notably wielded by the youth fighter Hamid (Doudi Shoua). Since most of the film was made in Israel, it is likely that the Mauser Kar98k rifles that were used were Israeli Mauser Kar98k rifles chambered for 7.62x51mm NATO.
Mosin Nagant M91/30
Mosin Nagant M91/30s are seen in the hands of Mujahideen fighters thoughout the film.
An SKS is seen in the weapons shop by the Peshawar Arms Dealer.
Rambo is seen briefly carrying an SVD Dragunov after crash-landing the Hind helicopter. Considering the time frame, it is likely that the rifle is a Norinco NDM-86, the Chinese clone of the SVD rifle, since the NDM-86 was readily available for commercial sale during the late 1980s. Rambo is seen in a deleted scene using the SVD to take down several Soviets before it runs out of ammunition and is discarded.
A PKM is used by Rambo during the final battle with the Red Army.
An unfortunate result of the sudden relocation of filming back to the U.S., a 'Soviet' soldier fires a mocked up Browning AN/M2 .30 cal machine gun with a fake extended barrel shroud to simulate some sort of Soviet weapon. Weapon supplied by Ellis Mercantile.
An FN MAG is seen as one of the machine guns on the fake Soviet Hind helicopters.
In the final battle, Rambo is also seen using a Browning M2HB mounted to a 'light blue pickup truck' and modified with another fake barrel shroud to disguise the weapon's origins.
An authentic and accurate DShK 12.7mm Soviet Heavy Machine Gun is used by Rambo to down a Soviet attack helicopter. This is one of the very rare instances (for a film of the era) that a real DShK (rather than a fake one made out of an American gun like a Browning M2 .50 cal) is used in an American Motion Picture. The scenes where a real DShK was used were filmed in Israel, using real Soviet weaponry courtesy of the Israeli Armorers.
Oerlikon 20mm AA gun (Acetylene Gas Mockup)
A Oerlikon 20mm AA gun is used in the final battle, wielded by Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna), however it is mysteriously missing a rear sight and (most importantly) the drum magazine - This is an auto cannon with no ammunition. The one used in the film was an 'acetylene' gun (a real weapon mocked up with Acetylene gas internals to 'fake firing'). This method is used many time in either helicopter mounted guns (for safety) and heavy machine guns. They fire a 'flash of fire' rather slowly to simulate the firing of a large machine gun round. Supplied by Ellis Mercantile for the film during the re-shoot of the final battle in the U.S.
Gatling Gun (Mockup)
A fake mockup of a M134-style Minigun is mounted (with a very lightweight mount) to the front nose of the fake Soviet Hind Helicopter Gunship. It fires (very weakly) a fake Acetylene fire blast during some of the fly by sequences. Most of the time in the movie, the firing of the helicopter's Minigun is implied, using ground squibs and sound effects. It is supposed to be a stand in for the real 12.7 mm YakB machine gun that is mounted on the real Mil MI-24 "Hind" gunships. The YakB Gatling gun is a rotating four barrel gun similar to the M134.
M203 grenade launcher (fitted underneath AKM)
Lacking the Soviet 40mm BG-15 grenade launcher, which was mounted to the real AK-74 rifles in the Russo-Afghan war, the movie armorers merely attached a U.S. made M203 grenade launcher to a Maadi AKM (ARM) rifle (with an aftermarket side folding stock). It is first seen wielded by Sgt. Kourov (Randy Raney). Rambo later takes the weapon and uses it at the final battle. The mating of an M203 to an AK has been done much later (in the 21st century) by militias in Africa and there are some Communist (or former Communist) bloc 'clones' of the M203, but none of these were available in the 1980s, and a Spetnaz NCO would be using front line Soviet armament, thus making this combination unlikely and anachronistic.
According to armorer Steve Karnes, the AK was Soviet-made with a Colt M203 and a Galil folding stock that was supplied to the production by an Israeli company.
Rambo wields an RPG-7 during his night fight with the compound guards.
M19 60mm Mortar
Used by Mudjahideen fighters during the final battle.
An improvised flamethrower is used by the prison guards at the Soviet military base.
F-1 Hand Grenade
Outside the base, trip wires are made using WWII vintage Soviet F-1 hand grenades, the arming wire wrapped around the pin. Soviet soldiers can also be seen with these grenades on their jackets. In reality, the Red Army and their allies would be using the RGD-5 or later generations of fragmentation grenades.
Fake Helicopter Rocket Pods
Seen mounted on the fake Hind Helicopter and other attack helicopters, these are completely built props to fire acetylene gas bursts and pyrotechnic charges.
Rambo's Survival Knife
Unlike the first two films, Rambo's knife is not a survival knife in this film. Instead, it is a modified bowie design by knife artist Gil Hibben in collaboration with Stallone. The slot in the blade was originally supposed to accommodate a bizarre "wing blade" attachment, but this was ultimately not used in the movie.
Hoyt Archery Rambo Compound Bow
As in Rambo: First Blood Part II, the custom takedown Compound Bow is Rambo's weapon of choice when he wants to kill silently, or with blue cyalume light sticks or Torque arrows to 'explode a helicopter' (!)
The Hoyt bow pictured below is the version created for Rambo: First Blood Part II. The bow used in Rambo III differs slightly in that the flashlight is removed (which was only seen in night entry sequence in the camp in the previous film) and an on-board arrow quiver is added.
"Faux" Mil Mi-24 "Hind" Gunship
The "Mi-24 Hind" gunships seen in the film are in fact Aérospatiale Puma helicopters, first modified for the 1984 film Red Dawn and subsequently seen in the preceding Rambo movie, Rambo: First Blood Part II. For the filming of First Blood Part II, the Hind-A-style noses from Red Dawn were removed since they limited the pilot's field of view and were in constant risk of being torn off during violent maneuvers. However, the wings and rocket pods were a much more stable and permanent modification to the Puma helicopter and were retained. For Rambo III, the aircraft received some minor additional cosmetic modifications, including the removal of the black nose bulge seen in the previous film (replaced with a searchlight), the addition of a fake cannon beneath the nose that could fire simulated acetylene muzzle blasts, and a new desert camo scheme. A similar (but far less convincing) "Faux Hind" modification was done to another type of helicopter for the films Bulletproof, Braddock: Missing in Action III and Red Scorpion, utilizing a Sikorsky S-62.
"Faux" Soviet attack helicopter
Joining the Hind gunships in this film are smaller attack helicopters, which in reality were Aérospatiale SA341G Gazelles modified with wing mounted launchers, machine guns, and short nose extensions. They do not particularly resemble any real Soviet military helicopter.
Authentic Soviet T-62 Main Battle Tank
Rambo ducks under and hitches a ride underneath an authentic Soviet T-62 Tank. This was the night compound sequence filmed in Israel, (which was the only way an American film could obtain a Soviet tank, since no motion picture vehicle company in the U.S. had access to real Soviet Armor, especially a relatively recent tank like the T-62, during the time frame of this film).
"Faux" Soviet T-72 Main Battle Tank
When the production was forced to relocate to the United States, the movie's access to real Soviet vehicles suffered. The Soviet armored vehicles in the final battle were taken straight from the 1984 film Red Dawn. This includes the film's mock-up of a Soviet T-72 tank, built on the chassis of an M8A1 Cargo Tractor by Veluzat Armored Vehicles out of Newhall, California.
"Faux" Soviet ZSU-23 Self Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun
Built for the film Red Dawn, this fake ZSU-23 AA gun was a mockup built on an American M8A1 Tractor Chassis.
Elbit Falcon gunsight
Seen used by Spetsnaz in the battle in the caves, we see an early model Israeli Elbit Falcon red dot optical sight mounted on a fake AK-74. This was filmed in 1987 so we would see the early ancestors of today's EOTech or Aimpoint sights.
Fake Soviet Uniforms
Not a weapon, but worth noting, the Soviet soldiers were outfitted years before any surplus came out of Soviet or any of the Eastern bloc nations. The actors wore a bunch of stuff that no Soviet soldier would be caught 'dead' wearing ....