Rambo III

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Rambo III (1988)

Rambo III is the third installment in the Rambo saga. The 1988 sequel finds the former Green Beret dropping into Afghanistan during the Russian Occupation after his mentor Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) goes missing following a mission. The film was directed by Russell Mulcahy.

This 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 scheduled to film entirely in Israel (and Thailand for the first part of the film), 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 of 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 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 notable Yuma, AZ for the final battle and Lone Pine, CA for 2nd unit photography. The sudden change from 'accurate Soviet weaponry' (provided by the Israeli armorers) to the typical 'faux' weaponry seen in many American movies, is explained by this sudden relocation back to the U.S.A. Thus, the appearance in the final battle of mocked up Browning M2 .50 cal Machine guns instead of real Soviet DShK 12.7mm MGs, etc. as Stembridge Gun Rentals took over the final shoot (back in the States).

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. These were provided by Veluzat Armored Vehicles out of Newhall, California. Only aficionados of tanks would notice the change.


The following weapons were used in the film Rambo III:

Contents


Assault Rifles

AK-47

Seen carried by the Mujahideen and by Armed tribal members in Peshawar, Pakistan. The ones in the early parts of the film are authentic AK-47's (the real deal). 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.

Type I AK-47, hybrid stamped/milled receiver with prototype slab sided magazine - 7.62x39mm
Tribal member in Peshawar holds an AK-47 - 7.62x39mm
Mujahideen fighters hold a council with Rambo, many holding AK-47s. These are Israeli movie guns, evident by the extra long screw on blank adapters on the end of the barrels. American Armorers usually have drop in BFAs or thread the interior of their barrels and use a hex nut as the blank adapter, but the Israelis don't. This is the case for every movie filmed in Israel that has AK-47s and is a good visual indicator where a scene was filmed.
Another good shot of the AK-47s with the extended screw on blank adapters. These are noticeably thinner than any of the military screw on blank adapters and are a different shape than any military BFA issued for the AK or any of it's variants.

AKS-47

Seen briefly, some of the Soviet Soldiers carry the milled receiver AKS-47 underfolder rifle, the predecessor to the underfolder AKMS rifle. Since this sequence was filmed in Israel, one can assume these are authentic Russian AK-47 Milled receiver weapons.

AKS-47
Soviet soldiers make their rounds carrying the AKS-47 underfolder assault rifles - 7.62x39mm

AKM

Full Stock AKMs are used by the Mujahideen and the Russians. Rambo and Col. Trautman also use the AKM rifle 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 Maadi ARM rifles (the American imported versions of the MISR).

AKM assault rifle, 7.62x39mm
Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) and his AKM - 7.62x39mm
Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna) fires his AKM - 7.62x39mm
Russian soldier fires his AKM at the final battle (filmed in the United States). He is wearing the 'faux' copy of the KLMK pattern camo suit made for the movie Red Dawn and is wearing the plastic Soviet style helmet shell used by OPFOR (U.S. Military training units) - 7.62x39mm
Rambo with an AKM in the base. What appears to be a continuity error is actually an error by the editor. Rambo discards the AMD-65 he is originally using and picks up an AKM from a dead Russian soldier, but the action was cut down to a reaction shot where the AKM just 'appears' in his hands. This continuity issue was actually discussed by the armorers on the film.

AKMS

Carried by Mujahideen, the Russians and Rambo.

AKMS, stamped steel receiver w/ slant muzzle brake and under-folding stock - 7.62x39mm
Mujahideen fires his AKMS - 7.62x39mm
Rambo uses the wire buttstock of an AKMS to break through a stone wall - 7.62x39mm. Again a weapons change that some thought was a continuity error, it actually isn't. Rambo enters the tunnel with a full stocked AKM, however he discards it along the way and takes Mousa's folding stock AKMS.

Type 56 Assault Rifle

When filming shifted to the U.S., the Chinese Type 56 (the military name of the imported Norinco AKS-47 Chinese 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.

Norinco Type 56-1 Underfolder AK variant - 7.62x39mm
Mousa (Sasson Gabai) fires his Type 56-1 rifle to save Rambo from a charging Russian soldier - 7.62x39mm

AMD 65

Colonel Trautman (Richard Crenna) and Rambo are seen with a Hungarian AMD-65 rifle. 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 Russian Tankers (ironically, wearing the same 'faux' Soviet winter tanker uniforms made for the film "Red Dawn".)

Hungarian AMD-65 as seen in the film. This one has an American copy of an Israeli blank fire adapter (which is slightly longer and thinner than most commonly seen external BFAs. This is the version seen in the movie.)
Rambo and the AMD-65 inside the desert prison - 7.62x39mm
Soviet tanker crews getting mowed down by Rambo, all wielding AMD-65s with the Israeli BFAs - 7.62x39mm


Fake AKS-74

AKS-74 rifles were mocked up from AKMS underfolder rifles. The real AKS-74 assault rifle (5.45mm) is a side folding rifle. The ones in the film, however were obvious underfolding stocks as well as 7.62 sized magazines. A faux AK-74 style muzzle brake was put on the rifles. Remember that this was filmed in 1987, and no AK74 or 5.45mm guns existed in the United States (or our allies) at this time.

Colonel Zaysen (Marc de Jonge) gets ready to grab a fake AKS-74 (mocked up from an AKMS) to fire at a fleeing helicopter. These examples have the underfolding stock and the metal 30 round magazines.
A Spetsnaz Commando (looking suspiciously like Borat) is killed by Col. Trautman in the caves when the commando corners Rambo. Details of the firearm are visible in this double shot.
Spetsnaz commandos ride back towards the camp on armored vehicles, all carrying the fake AKS-74 rifles.

AKM with underslung M203 40mm grenade launcher

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), who is killed in a one on one fight with Rambo. 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.

The AK was Russian made with a Colt M203 and a Galil folding stock that was supplied to the production by an Israeli company. -Phoenixent

Kourov (Randy Raney) fires his AKM/ARM with the M203 mounted underneath - 40mm
Closeup of the mounting device which attaches the M203 to the rifle.
Closeup detail of the real M203 launcher - anachronistically attached to the AKM rifle.
Rambo and Trautman walk the desert. Rambo's combo gun is clearly visible, while Trautman carries the AMD-65 listed earlier.
A detail shot of the way the M203 is mounted to the AKM. Since these two weapons were never designed to work together, note the bizarre way Stallone has to grab the weapon (by the magazine) in order to fire the M203 launcher.

Rifles

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 1s. 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.1 Mk III* - .303 British
It is possible that some horsemen carry the Lee-Enfield No.1 Mk III* - .303 British, which would be accurate historically.

Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk.I

Seen in the hands of Mujahideen fighters throughout the film.

Lee-Enfield No.4 Mk.I - .303 British. The most common British Commonwealth World War Two Rifle, in service between 1941–Present
An man is seen with a No.4 Mk 1 rifle slung over his right shoulder in the Arms bazaar in Peshawar Pakistan. He is likely an Afghan expat, having crossed over the border of Afghanistan, but many remote Pakistani tribals, especially those on the Afghan border, are so armed as well.

Mauser Karabiner 98k

Seen in the hands of Mujahideen fighters thoughout the film. 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 the 7.62mm NATO round.

Karabiner 98k - German manufacture 1937 date - 7.92x57mm
A Mujahideen holds a Kar98k rifle at the tribal council - 7.92x57mm
Hamid (Doudi Shoua) holds a Kar98k when he tracks Rambo at night - 7.92x57mm

Mosin Nagant M91/30

Seen in the hands of Mujahideen fighters thoughout the film.

Full-length, Mosin Nagant 91/30 chambered in 7.62x54R
Mujahideen holds a Mosin Nagant M91/30 Rifle - 7.62x54R
Hamid (Doudi Shoua) holds a Mosin Nagant M91/30 Rifle - 7.62x54R

SKS Rifle

Seen in the weapons shop by the Peshawar Arms Dealer.

SKS rifle - 7.62x39mm
SKS rifle - 7.62x39mm

SVD Dragunov

Rambo is seen briefly carrying the SVD Dragunov rifle 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 Russians before it runs out of ammunition and is discarded.

SVD Dragunov sniper rifle - 7.62x54R
Rambo holds an SVD rifle when conferring with the escaped prisoners - 7.62x54R
Closeup of Rambo's SVD rifle.
Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) holds the SVD at the ready.
In a deleted scene, Rambo takes aim with the SVD rifle as Trautman spots for him.
Close up on the receiver of the SVD.
Close up on the muzzle of the SVD.

Submachine Guns

PM-63

This weapon is used by Colonel Zaysen (Marc de Jonge) during the interrogation scene.

PM-63
Colonel Zaysen holds his PM-63 to the throat of Col. Trautman.
Colonel Zaysen's PM-63 is cocked back, ready to fire, evident by the cocking shroud being level with the barrel tip. The PM63 must be cocked back in such a manner to fire, and also makes it very obvious that is is locked and loaded.

Squad Automatics and Heavy Machine Guns

PKM machine gun

Used by Rambo during the final battle with the Red Army.

Russian PKM Machine Gun - 7.62x54R
During the final battle, Rambo runs carrying a Russian PKM - 7.62x54R
Front shot of his Russian PKM with a 200 round box magazine.
Rambo runs with his Russian PKM - 7.62x54R

Browning AN/M2 .30 Cal Machine Gun

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 Russian weapon. Weapon supplied by Ellis Mercantile.

Russian Soldier fires a mocked up Russian MG, made from an AN/M2 machine gun - .30-06.

FN MAG

Seen as one of the machine guns on the fake Russian Hind helicopters.

Israeli FN_MAG on display - 7.62x51mm
FN_MAG-58 mounted as the door weapon on a fake Hind Helicopter
FN_MAG-58 with buttstock removed, used by the Russian Door gunner
Rambo ducks past another FN MAG-58 Machine gun (with a fake barrel extension) mounted to the turret of the faked T-72 tank.
Rambo runs past another FN MAG-58 Machine gun (with a fake barrel extension) mounted to fake Hind Helicopter gunship.

Browning M2HB Heavy Machine Gun

In the final battle, Rambo is also seen using a Browning M2 Heavy Barrel mounted to a 'light blue pickup truck' and modified with another fake barrel shroud to disguise the weapon's origins.

BrowningM2.jpg
Rambo fires a mocked up M2 .50 cal on a truck - .50 BMG
A disguised M2 .50 cal mounted on a standard pintle, with a four point 'tower' mount. (on a light blue pickup truck!)
A better shot of the four point 'tower' mount for the .50 Cal Machine gun)
Detail side shot indicating that it is, indeed, a Browning M2HB

DShK 12.7mm Heavy Machine Gun

An authentic and accurate DShK 12.7mm Soviet 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.

DSHK.jpg
Rambo readies the authentic DShK Heavy Machine Gun
Rambo racks the charging handle on his DShK Heavy Machine Gun - noteworthy is the non-disintegrating ammo belt (which is correct).
Russian guards at the base camp fire their DShK Heavy Machine Gun at Rambo - 12.7mm
Rambo prepares to take out a Russian sentry supposedly manning a DShK Heavy Machine Gun - 12.7mm. Rather than do the obvious thing and grab the AKMS with folding stock on the sandbags, the sentry tries to rotate the large heavy machine gun around to kill Rambo, but he is too slow and Rambo ends up killing him.

"Acetylene Gas firing" Oerlikon 20mm AA gun

A real Oerlikon 20mm AA gun is used in the final battle, wielded by Col. Trautman, 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.

Trautman (Richard Crenna) mans a fake Oerlikon 20mm gun. For an example of a correct Oerlikon gun (see the Stealth page.
Colonel Trautman tracks the Fake Hind Gunship with his Oerlikon. In reality, one direct hit in a vital area from a 20mm shell at that range would down the helicopter immediately.
Good side shot of the "Acetylene Gas firing" Oerlikon.
Col Trautman (Richard Crenna)‎ fires 'acetylene fire' from the front of his fake autocannon. This is a common special effect 'trick' used in movies when blanks are either too dangerous, too expensive, or too much of a hassle.
In stand by mode, one can see the 'pilot light' still burning, waiting to ignite the bursts of flammable gas when the gun starts 'firing' again.
The Oerlikon 20mm gun is seen again, mounted to a jeep with Masoud (Spiros Focás) riding in front, this time with the AA sights attached. Note: It is highly unlikely that a 20mm auto cannon would be mounted to a lightweight vehicle like a jeep. Even a .50 Cal MG would need special plates to keep from ripping itself from the mount of a lightweight vehicle.

Other

RPG-7

Rambo wields an RPG-7 during his night fight with the compound guards.

RPG-7 - 40mm
Rambo holds the RPG-7, judging by its appearance, it could be the same RPG-7 prop used in Rambo: First Blood Part II.
Rambo fires the RPG-7.

M19 60mm Mortar

Used by Mudjahideen fighters during the final battle.

Firing the mortar during the final battle.

Flamethrower

An improvised flamethrower is used by the prison guards at the Russian military base.

Afghan guard, dressed in all black clothing, but wearing Soviet tanker's insignia wields an improvised flamethrower, which Rambo takes and uses against him.

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.

F-1 High-Explosive Fragmentation hand grenade
Russian F-1 Hand Grenades used as trip wire explosives.
One of the Russian F-1 grenades almost goes off before Rambo stops the booby trap from exploding.
Detail shot of the F-1 Grenade on Kourov's web gear. One can see that the center post of the fuze is made of wood.
Rambo pulls the pin on Sgt. Kourov's grenade to loosen his bear grip during a fight.

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 Russian 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.

A real American M134 Minigun for comparison.
A real Russian YakB 12.7mm Gatling gun for comparison.
The fake Minigun is seen firing flame bursts during flybys on the battlefield.
A better detail shot of the fake M134 minigun firing Acetylene flame bursts in flight. In reality the nose gun would be the much larger 12.7 mm YakB machine gun, but that gun is only seen on the real Mil MI-24 Hind helicopters.

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.

Special effects made rocket pods for the fake Hind Helicopter

Rambo's Survival Knife

Unlike the first two films, Rambo's knife is not a survival knife in this film. Instead, it is a design by a fantasy knife artist, made more for looks than for practicality.

Rambo III Survival Knife
Rambo searches for land mines with his knife.
Rambo uses his knife to cut barbed wire on the base perimeter.
Rambo drops his knife while fighting with the big Russian soldier.

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 Rambo II) and an on-board arrow quiver is added.

Rambo's Hoyt Archery Compound Bow
Rambo assembles his Hoyt Archery Custom Compound bow when an enemy helicopter approaches.
Rambo fires his explosive tip arrows at the helicopter gunship. Gotta love that 1980s mullet hair!.
Rambo fires an arrow with an attached blue cyalume light at the Russians in the cave.

Weapons Platforms

Fake MIL Mi-24 Hind

The mocked up MIL Mi-24 Hind gunships were actually heavily modified Aérospatiale Puma helicopters and were first built for the film Red Dawn at the behest of director John Milius. For the filming of Rambo: First Blood Part II, the Hind Model-A noses from Red Dawn were ultimately removed since they were just extended shells with tinted windows that slipped over the real nose of the Puma Helicopter and actually limited the pilot's field of view and were in constant risk of 'falling off'. The 'wings' with rocket pods mounted was a much more stable and permanent modification to the Puma Helicopter and remained on the 'movie helicopter' and used in both Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III. The addition of fake wings (and rocket pods) was an effective means of 'militarizing' an otherwise ordinary looking helicopter. A similar "Faux Hind" modification was done to another type of helicopter for the films Braddock: Missing In Action 3 and Red Scorpion utilizing a Sikorsky S-62.

The "Hind" as seen in Rambo III.
The "Hind" as seen in Rambo III.

Fake Russian 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 and machine guns.

The smaller Russian attack helicopters were in reality Aérospatiale SA341G Gazelles modified with wing mounted launchers and machine guns.

Authentic Soviet T-62 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.

A real Russian T-62 Tank moves over a hill during the night compound sequence in Rambo III

Fake Russian T-72 Tank

When the production was forced to relocate to the United States, the movie's access to real Soviet vehicles suffered. The Russian armored vehicles in the final battle were taken straight from the film Red Dawn. This is a fake Russian T-72 tank from Veluzat Armored Vehicles out of Newhall, California.

Rambo miraculously manages to drive a tank, fire the main gun and reload it, with no other crewmen in the vehicle, while charging a helicopter!
Detail shot of the fake mocked up T-72 Russian tank sitting in a "hull-down" position. The small posts sticking out on the turret are smoke grenade launchers (as seen on the real T-72s)
The T-72 is along with other faux Russian armor.

Fake Russian ZSU-23 "Shilka" AA Gun

Built for the film Red Dawn, this fake ZSU-23 AA gun was a mockup from an American M8A1 Tractor Chassis.

Fake ZSU-23 AA mocked up from an American M8A1 Tractor Chassis by Veluzat Military Vehicles, Inc.

Trivia

Early Holographic/Red Dot sight

Seen used by Spetsnaz in the battle in the caves, we see an early model holographic or red dot optical sight mounted on a fake AK74. This was filmed in 1987 so we would see the early ancestors of today's EOTech or Aimpoint sights.

Spetsnaz commando searches the cave with an early aimpoint or holographic sight attached to his AK rifle.

Fake Soviet Uniforms

Not a weapon, but worth noting, the Soviet soldiers were outfitted years before any surplus came out of Russia or any of the Eastern bloc nations. The actors wore a bunch of stuff that no Soviet Soldier would be caught 'dead' wearing ....

Soviet soldiers wear French Tropical hats in place of the correct Soviet desert boonie hats
More "Soviet" extras in the Arizona desert. While carrying AKM rifles, they wear the fake KLMK style jumpsuits("Red Dawn" camo), Austrian web gear and Red Chinese Fur hats with the mini red star pins ... all while having hair that is far too long for the Soviet military standards. Only soldiers on long range missions, far from their base camp would be let-off being unshaven or grow their hair so long.

See Also

Rambo Franchise
First Blood (1982)  •  First Blood Part II (1985)  •  Rambo III (1988)  •  Rambo (2008)


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