The AA-12: Ready for its Close-Up

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For decades, when Hollywood wanted to arm its characters with a distinctive brand of gun, it went with the Desert Eagle. As we’ve noted, the triangular-barreled hand cannon has appeared in hundreds of film roles and reaped the benefits at the sales counter.

Now, this weekend’s release of Predators, a sequel to 1987’s Arnold Schwartznegger sci-fi action film Predator, is introducing an all-new brand of exotic weapon: the AA-12.[more]

The Auto Assault-12 (also known by its inventor’s name as the Atchisson Assault Shotgun) has been around in some form or another since the early 1970s. But the brand did not get rolling in earnest until it was purchased by Military Police Systems, Inc. in 1987. Twenty years later, the gun and its owner were given the rare honor of a profile in the New Yorker.

Like the Desert Eagle, which comes in a situationally-useless .50 caliber size, the AA-12 is capable of firing 360 shotgun rounds per minute. These guns are not for hunting or target practice or anything practical. Of course, this makes them excellent film props. Also, the AA-12’s distinctive drum magazine makes it reminiscent of another famous film weapon, the Tommy Gun, a favorite of celluloid gangsters. This may be why the gun is winning starring roles in major films. As mentioned, the main hero of Predators hefts an AA-12. This follows a role the gun had in 2009’s hit film G.I. Joe (below).

A month from now, the big-budget action film The Expendables will highlight an AA-12. The AA-12 is also popping up in media outside film. It is already a regular in video games such as Modern Warfare 2 and Grand Theft Auto, and in TV shows like 24.

So while the sky seems the limit for the AA-12’s future in Hollywood, it might not matter that much to the brand. One detail it does not share with the Desert Eagle is its availablility. For the timebeing, the AA-12 is a Class III weapon, requiring federal paperwork to purchase, restricting it to use by military and law enforcement only. To some, this might seem a waste of such good product placement.

A curious bit of product placement trivia: While the AA-12 is the star of Predators, the third sequel (threequel!) of the Predator series, it was the Desert Eagle that, twenty years earlier, starred as the hero’s gun of choice in 1990’s Predator 2.

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