Aliens is the 1986 sequel to Alien. The now classic science fiction film was only the third feature directed by James Cameron (following Piranha Part Two and The Terminator). Sigourney Weaver returns as Ellen Ripley, who travels with a platoon of US Colonial Marines to investigate a loss of contact with the colony established on the same planet discovered by the crew of the Nostromo in the original film. For Aliens, the majority of the weapons seen in this film were actual firearms visually modified for the production.
The following weapons were used in the film Aliens:
Colonial Marine Weapons
M41A Pulse Rifle
The Marines of the United States Colonial Marine Corps (USCM) famously carry the M41A Pulse Rifle as their standard issue weapon. In the film, the weapon is described as a futuristic assault rifle with a magazine capacity of 99 rounds (loaded to 95 to prevent jamming, according to the Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood) of 10mm caseless armor-piercing ammunition with a pump-action 30mm grenade launcher mounted underneath the barrel. The rifle is also fitted with an LED readout that displays the number of rounds remaining in the rifle's magazine. At the end of the film, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) fastens one of these rifles to an M240 Flamethrower in her attempt to rescue Newt (Carrie Henn).
The Pulse Rifle was constructed from an M1A1 Thompson submachine gun fitted with a cut-down Remington 870 shotgun with the heat shield and foregrip of a Franchi SPAS-12 covering it, although only one weapon used on the production had a functioning shotgun unit. The weapon was finished with a custom-made futuristic aluminum shell painted in "Brown Bess" paint, although due to the predominantly blue on-set lighting in the film the weapons often appear olive green on screen. Following the production, all but one of the Pulse Rifles (the "hero" rifle with the functioning shotgun unit) were broken down - the surviving gun was reused in the filming of Alien³ several years later.
M56 Smart Gun
Both PFC J. Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein), and Private M. Drake (Mark Rolston) use a heavy machine gun system designated the "M56 Smart Gun" (the weapon's designation comes from the Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual). These weapons were constructed from German MG42 machine guns with the grip and stock removed. The body-mount apparatus was a built-up Cinema Products Model III Steadicam harness with the Model III Steadicam arm attached to the left side: the arm was then bolted to the MG42's rear sight bracket using a custom C-clamp. The two rigs are not identical, with both using different variations of the Model III arm (Drake's has more anodized components than Vasquez's), and Vasquez's vest was modified slightly for comfort.
'Dressing' on the MG42 was constructed from various motorcycle parts, most notably the handlebars from a 1976 Husqvarna ("Husky") Magura 360 used for the linkage to the weapon's actual trigger (actually a brake lever mounted in a clutch perch) and grips, a 1981 Kawasaki KZ750 control panel used for the front controls, and the footpegs from a Kawasaki AR-125 used to decorate the barrel shroud. The weapon is paired with a special sighting system worn on the operator's head. This was inspired by the FLIR eyepieces mounted on the helmets of US AH-64 Apache pilots.
When the Marines are ordered to unload their weapons, Vasquez is seen removing a module to "clear and lock" her weapon: this module normally serves as a connector between two cables, one on the gun and one on the Steadicam arm. According to the Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, this is a "DV-9" battery unit that can be disconnected in order to prevent the weapon from firing. The battery prop was constructed from an Edison Giocattoli 3-in-1 "Secret Agent" folding pop gun fitted with two "connectors" made from classic quarter-inch mono audio jacks. The same pop gun was also used to make "tools" of unclear function worn on the belts of six of the Marines in the film.
Another weapon used by the Marines is the M240 Flamethrower, most notably used by Sergeant A. Apone (Al Matthews), Corporal Dietrich (Cynthia Dale Scott), Private Drake (Mark Rolston), and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) when she famously tapes it to an M41A Pulse Rifle before she goes to rescue Newt (Carrie Henn). These flamethrowers were created from parts from M16 rifles with the M203 handguard. The 'faux' flamethrower used the upper receiver assembly of an M16A1 - cut into two parts, using the top handle facing forward, but the section with the ejection port turned backwards.
Aliens is notable as being one of few films to employ military-spec liquid-fueled flamethrowers in its production, as opposed to the vastly more common (and far safer) gas-powered models usually seen in films (although some gas-burning models are also used in the movie, usually in scenes with actual actors using the weapons). The liquid fuel flamethrower is most notably seen in the sequence where Ripley incinerates the Alien nest.
UA571-C Remote Automated Sentry System
In the extended version of the film, the Marines set up sentry turrets in the hallways leading to their refuge. In the Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, this weapons system is designated as the "UA571-C Remote Automated Sentry System". These were built upon WWII German MG42 machine guns, the same weapons used for the M56 Smart Guns and provided by Bapty & Co. (The UK film armorer). The ammo drums on the side are from WW1 German Spandau Maxim MG08/15 machine guns, leading to them frequently being misidentified as MG08s.
The Cheyenne dropship, a fictional VTOL aircraft in the Aliens universe, can be seen with a multi-barrelled, chin-mounted cannon of some kind. In the Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, this weapons system is designated as the "GAU-113/B". Some of the barrels appear to be chambered for different calibres of ammunition, and the weapon would appear to operate "Gatling"-style (owing to the circular arrangement of the barrels). Similar weapons are seen dual-mounted in the front of the Marines' APC.
Ithaca 37 (Shorty Custom)
Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn) keeps an Ithaca 37 hunting variant with an engraved receiver customized with a cut down barrel and MP40 pistol grip (making it resemble the Ithaca 37 "Stakeout") handy for "close encounters". In one memorable scene, Hicks sticks the barrel of the weapon in an Alien's mouth, and yells "Eat this!" before blowing the back of its head off. The resultant acid spillage apparently destroys the weapon, as it is never seen again. It appears to be the same custom Ithaca 37 featured in the British television series The Professionals and Dempsey and Makepeace, although the wire stock has been removed and the grip wrapped in tape.
The "over/under 30 millimeter pump action grenade launcher" seen underneath the M41A Pulse Rifle is in reality a cut-down Remington 870 shotgun mounted inside the heat shield of a Franchi SPAS-12 and operated using a cut-down SPAS forend. This particular weapon uses grenade rounds that are roughly the shape of shotgun shells. The grenade round props were constructed from a 12 gauge snap cap with various cuts and a button added on top - in fiction, the button on top can be depressed to detonate the round by hand.
Heckler & Koch VP70
The Heckler & Koch VP70 is the service pistol of the Marines in the movie. This gun is notably seen in the hands of Private Frost (Ricco Ross) just before the Aliens attack. Cpl. Ferro (Colette Hiller) attempts to draw hers from its holster, but is unable to in time when an Alien gets aboard her ship. Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) uses one to shoot at Aliens during the airshaft scene. Another VP70 is seen given by Vasquez to the synthetic droid Bishop (Lance Henriksen), who then declines to take it and passes it back to Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). Sergeant A. Apone (Al Matthews), Corporal Dietrich (Cynthia Dale Scott), Private Spunkmeyer (Daniel Kash), and Private Crowe (Tip Tipping) keep theirs holstered throughout the film.
In the special features included with the Collector's Edition DVD, it is mentioned by one of the film's armorers that the VP70 was chosen as the standard issue sidearm for the Colonial Marines because of its "futuristic look" as well as its relative obscurity.
Smith & Wesson 39
PFC Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) uses a blued Smith & Wesson 39 with ivory grips as her sidearm. She most notably uses it to kill an Alien while moving through the vents, but burns her foot from the creature's acidic blood in the process. The pistol was referred to as the M4A3 in the Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual. It was supposed to be a 10mm cased-ammo pistol with a 12-round magazine that had been recently replaced in service by the VP70.
What appear to be M16A1 rifles are briefly seen on the gun racks in the USS Sulaco's armory.
Several L85A1 rifles are seen on the gun racks in the Sulaco's armory.
Seen on the gun racks in the USS Sulaco's armory.
Lewis Gun (Modified)
What appears to be modified versions of the Lewis Gun are seen on the weapons racks in the USS Sulaco's armory. In a production image, it appears that these machine guns have their barrel shrouds removed.