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The Guns of James Bond
Ian Fleming
March 19, 1962
James Bond is fictional. His weapons are not. Here is the inside story of why he abandoned his favorite gun
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March 19, 1962

The Guns Of James Bond

James Bond is fictional. His weapons are not. Here is the inside story of why he abandoned his favorite gun

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The police had a record of all owners of .38 weapons in the neighbourhood, and Geoffrey Boothroyd, on the list of suspects, received an urgent visit from a police sergeant asking to see his Smith & Wesson. A thoroughly worried Boothroyd had to admit that this was in the hands of a certain Ian Fleming living in London, and he now warned me over the telephone to expect an early visit from Scotland Yard.

With the C.I.D.'s deadly efficiency, the visit resulted in a matter of hours, and it was fortunate that I not only had an alibi for the night in question but also a firearms certificate covering a .25 Browning automatic which I had occasionally carried during the war on Naval Intelligence duties and a Colt Official Police .38 Special revolver which was presented to me as a memento of our friendship by General "Wild Bill" Donovan, head of the American Secret Services known as O.S.S., with whom I had had frequent and close association in wartime.

But of course I did not possess the suspect gun! This was in the hands of Dickie Chopping in his studio in Essex! My imagination boggled at the impact of a police visit on this sensitive person, who would, in any case, obviously be without a firearms certificate. Fortunately the sergeant from the C.I.D., having read through my correspondence with Geoffrey Boothroyd and Dickie Chopping and after making copious notes, accepted my plea not to descend upon poor Chopping so long as the suspect gun could be quickly returned to me and so back to its rightful owner.

As luck would have it, that same afternoon Dickie Chopping came to see me with his completed painting for the book jacket and with the gun, so a telephone call to Scotland Yard and the hasty despatch to Glasgow of the incriminating weapon closed the incident so far as we were concerned.

As to the Burnside Murders, the husband, a prominent Glasgow man, was arrested, but was later released, and with the aid of his solicitor eventually laid the trap which brought the true culprit to account.

The man responsible was a certain Peter Manuel. He was arrested, and these three and several other murders were laid at his door. Manuel conducted his own defence and was later convicted and executed for his crimes. His gun had, in fact, been a Webley and not a Smith & Wesson. Both are made in .38 calibre but the rifling is different.

The Chopping jacket was a tremendous success, both in England and America, and from that day on he and I and Michael Howard of Cape's have devised all the James Bond jackets, which have now become something of a hallmark with the book trade and have earned prizes for Cape's.

With the page proofs of From Russia with Love finally out of the way, my mind was busy with the next in the series of James Bond's adventures—Doctor No—and I retired as usual to my small house in Jamaica to write this in January and February of 1957. It is in this book that "The Armourer," a certain "Major Boothroyd," is called in by M to give judgment on James Bond's weapons, the inadequacy of which at the end of From Russia with Love so nearly cost him his life.

Major Boothroyd echoes the strictures of Geoffrey Boothroyd, and James Bond, much to his preliminary annoyance, departs on his mission against the redoubtable Doctor No with a Walther PPK 7.65-mm. with a Berns-Martin holster for close work and a Smith & Wesson .38 Centennial Air-weight for longer-range work.

Unfortunately, even after the careful coaching by the real-life Boothroyd, a couple of the dreadful technical errors that dog each of my books here again crept in. The Berns-Martin holster can, in fact, only be used with revolvers, and not I but the real-life Boothroyd received a sharp letter which said, "If he [ Bond] carries on using this PPK out of that Berns-Martin rig I shall have to break down and write a rude letter to Fleming. I realize that writers have a whole lot of licence but this is going too far!" Second, for longer-range work, The Armourer, or Major Boothroyd, should have equipped Bond with the S & W .357 Magnum as the real Boothroyd suggested, instead of with the S & W .38 Centennial Airweight, which he had suggested as the close-work gun.

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