Thief is the 1981 crime film that marked the feature film directorial debut of Michael Mann. The crime thriller stars James Caan as Frank, an experienced free-lance jewel thief who is convinced to perform high level jobs for a Chicago mobster. Mann, who would go on to direct such crime films as Heat and Collateral, brought to this film a level of attention to detail, especially in firearms, rarely seen in Hollywood productions at the time.
The following weapons were used in the film Thief:
Custom Jim Hoag M1911A1
One of the guns used by the main character, Frank (James Caan), is a 6" long slide M1911A1 pistol customized by California gunsmith Jim Hoag. There is a long vertical cutout on the skeletonized trigger, which means the pistol is most likely a Colt Gold Cup National Match, or just used such a trigger. Hoag Gun Works modified the pistol by lengthening the slide, squaring the trigger guard, adding a Bo-Mar adjustable rear sight, skeletonized hammer, and beavertail grip safety. If this pistol is indeed a Gold Cup, then it is presumably chambered in .45 ACP.
Colt Combat Commander
When Frank (James Caan) first goes to visit Attaglia (Tom Signorelli) about his money, a Colt Commander is seen in the hidden compartment of the door panel. In one brief scene, Frank flashes the Colt Combat Commander at a nightclub bouncer played by a young William Petersen. Frank is later seen with at his car lot when he is looking for Barry (James Belushi). But he is unable to use it because he gets knocked out by a mobster with an M1 Carbine. It looks like the stainless model, but I don't think stainless CCs were available in 1980, so it's probably a chromed finish. It has a Bo-Mar adjustable rear sight, and custom skeletonized hammer. Even though the entire pistol cannot be seen, due to the crease in Frank's waistband and the shadow it casts, it appears to be the shorter slide of a Combat Commander.
Smith & Wesson Model 19
Smith & Wesson Model 19 Snub Nose
High Standard Model 10
A High Standard Model 10 shotgun is used by Carl (Dennis Farina) at Frank's car dealership and the final shootout. This film was Dennis Farina's first acting role. His role as a mobster in the film is somewhat ironic as Farina worked for 18 years as an officer in the Chicago Police Department.
Sgt. Urizzi (John Santucci) is seen armed with an Ithaca 37 Shotgun when he pulls over Frank (James Caan). John Santucci's role as a police officer in the film is contradictory as to what he was in real life, a former thief. In addition to being a technical advisor for the film, most of the tools used by Frank (James Caan) to crack the safes were his; in fact, at one point in his criminal career he was actually arrested by Dennis Farina while the latter was working with the Chicago PD.
An M1 Carbine is used by one of the mobsters at Frank's car dealership.
Heckler & Koch HK91
Barry (James Belushi) is briefly seen covering Frank during his exchange with Leo and Attaglia at the harbor with what appears to be a Heckler & Koch HK91. The script refers to it as an "H&K .308 assault rifle".
Michael Mann is supposedly a certified range instructor himself, but for this film, he had actor Caan try to attend the American Pistol Institute (a/k/a "Gunsite"), the celebrated firearms training facility founded by Jeff Cooper in the Arizona High Desert north of Chino Valley to instruct in the "Modern Technique of the Pistol."
When Cooper learned that the film's protagonist was a career criminal, he reasoned that a thief would never be exposed to the Modern Technique and declined to instruct Cann. Galen D. "Chuck" Taylor, Cooper's operations manager at the time and later a well-known instructor himself, then agreed to take Cann off-site and teach him the rudiments of what the actor performs in the film. Taylor's instruction is obvious, as Cann uses an exaggerated Weaver Stance, high thumbhold grip, speed reloading, and room clearing techniques directly attributable to the Modern Technique taught at API. "I didn't actually have to do any of this," Cann told a radio interviewer during a publicity tour for Thief -- "I just needed to look like I knew what I was doing!"