The odds are, if you’ve tried your hand (or thumbs) at a video game in the past few years, you’d be amazed by the level of realism that modern technology can allow. Nowhere is that more prevalent than in virtual firearms, and it comes as no big surprise. Many game developers are avid shooting enthusiasts, and in turn, many gun owners are also gamers. In fact, many new gun owners would not have been introduced to firearms if it was not for their gaming experiences. That is why the games industry as a whole often takes care to portray firearms more accurately than Hollywood does.
However, there are some guns that developers just love to heap attention on, regardless of the popularity or infamy of their real-life counterparts. The popular guns on this list are commonplace in video games, but are either relatively sparse in real life, used for a different purpose, or just not as common. That does not mean that these guns are bad, many of them have avid followings and are considered iconic firearms. They just aren’t as popular as some of the other big names in the gun world.
1. Pancor Jackhammer
Despite never even entering mass production, this 12 gauge bullpup is still featured in over a dozen video game titles, including notables such as Battlefield 2 and Far Cry. In some ways more like a gas-operated revolver than a shotgun, the Jackhammer included a 10-round revolving cylinder that was very similar to the British Webley-Fosbery revolver. Only a handful of prototypes were ever made and only two were capable of firing in fully automatic mode. Despite that, the shotgun’s sleek, futuristic appeal made in popular in video games—where it was often coveted as a powerful and effective late-game gun.
2. IMI Desert Eagle
Few firearms are as beloved by the film and video game industry as the Desert Eagle. There’s no question that this behemoth semiautomatic has a certain flair, from its intimidating size to its powerful .50 AE cartridge. Yet the Desert Eagle is hardly as common among special forces, hit men, and mercenaries as video games would have you believe. Not even considering how expensive the handgun and its ammunition is (at least of the .50 AE variety), most military and police forces would balk at its weight, unreliability, and sheer size. While we have no data on exactly how popular the Desert Eagle is with gangsters and drug lords, we’re fairly sure that the handgun is much more popular in interactive fiction than it is in real life.
3. Vz. 61 Skorpion
It’s small, it’s fully automatic, and it looks neat. That is all it takes to endear the Skorpion to many gamers worldwide, especially when it comes to frag fests in Call of Duty. Unlike many of the weapons on this list, the Skorpion did have relatively high production numbers and was standard issue to many members of the Czechoslovak Army. Despite being designed for special forces, the Skorpion eventually found its way into the hands of truck drivers, tank crews, and general army staff. The gun was also adopted by a smattering of other countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Still, the gun is nowhere as ubiquitous as it is in video games.
What is it with video games and prototype weapons? The XM8 was a lightweight assault rifle under development by the US Army from 1990s to the 2000s. Notice the “was” in that last sentence. The XM8 project was put on hold in 2005 and later formally canceled. You would never know it from series such as Rainbow Six or Splinter Cell, which treats the experimental firearm as the standard-issue rifle of the near future. While the XM8 has seen some use outside of the testing facilities, from mostly private security firms, it is still very much absent on the global stage.
5. H&K G11
Like the XM8, the G11 never quite made it into full production despite a number of innovative ideas—such as caseless ammunition—and a futuristic design. The West German G11 project was completed in 1990 and declared a technical success, but the design never received a military contract, possibly due to the German Reunification. To this day, whether the G11 would have been successful remains a point of speculation and debate between firearm enthusiasts, and the subject of countless “what could have been” scenarios.
6. Cobray Street Sweeper
Described by many as one of the worst guns ever designed, the Cobray Street Sweeper still managed to find popularity in video games. Along with the similar, if better made, Armsel Striker and Protecta shotguns, this firearm is often powerful and effective in its fictional iterations. The Cobray Street Sweeper also developed a notorious reputation in the real world as a strongly regulated weapon, being declared a “destructive device” by the Clinton Administration. Of course, game developers took this to mean that the Street Sweeper would be perfect against zombies.
7. Walther WA-2000
A favorite of secret agents and assassins, the WA-2000 is presented as a highly modifiable sniper rifle in video games. While it is true that many still sing the praises of this 1970s rifle, less than 200 working models of the gun are known to exist, making it more expensive than a gold-plated Desert Eagle (probably). The gun also has a reputation for being too fragile for field service and has only been used sparingly by some German police units.
8. S&W 500
The S&W 500 certainly has its fans. This massive revolver is often considered the most powerful production handgun in existence and is chambered for the huge .500 S&W Magnum cartridge. Its recoil is so powerful that numerous YouTube videos have been posted specifically to record the gun swinging back to smack unprepared and improperly supervised shooters in the face. Like most other big-caliber revolvers, the S&W 500 is perhaps best used for hunting or wilderness defense against bears, mountain lions, and dinosaurs. Not exactly something you’d tote around for concealed carry or for that matter, in the military.
Of course, in video game parlance, the S&W 500 is the typical hand cannon. Often appearing as an even more overpowered version, the S&W 500’s entrance into video games is best described as “you’ve won the game, no need to keep playing.” In titles such as Resident Evil 4, this revolver is so powerful that the player generally only unlocks it after the game is finished, so as not to render the entire experience trivial.
9. H&K MP7
This personal defense weapon (PDW) has enjoyed use in several special forces and police units, including even being found among the Pontifical Swiss Guard in the Vatican City. However, it can hardly be called ubiquitous in the real world. The MP7, like its more famous brother the MP5, is often included in video games as a relatively weak submachine gun that the player reluctantly picks up when they’re out of ammo for better, bigger guns. This representation is often due to the MP7’s unique HK 4.6×30mm cartridge, which is regarded by some as underpowered.
10. KRISS Vector
It looks cool and it has a few neat ideas, but contrary to video game logic the KRISS Vector is not found in the arsenals of every major military on the planet. The Vector series of firearms has a growing and dedicated base of supporters, including many gamers. It’s not too surprising to find the firearms sprinkled liberally in the annual crop of first-person shooters. The best thing that KRISS USA may have done for marketing is licensing their firearm to franchises such as Call of Duty and SOCOM.
11. Volcanic Repeater
In the list of the guns that won the West, you may find a footnote regarding this one. The Volcanic Repeater has an honored place in America history because of the role it played in bringing together two notable gunsmiths: Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson. The two were working with the Jennings Rifle Company when they collaborated to design this pistol, which itself was based off of the unsuccessful Volcanic Rifle.
The gun itself is very obscure and generally not very practical, but it did lead to Smith and Horace founding their self-named gun company as well as even playing a part in the development of the Henry rifle.
12. Bushmaster ACR
In recent years, the Adaptive Combat Rifle (ACR) has quickly challenged the M16 and its variants as the primary weapon in video games. In the real world, the ACR is a unique design that many recreational shooters employ as an alternative to the ever-popular AR-15. In the virtual world, however, the ACR is noticeably more common.
13. Franchi SPAS12
If a game can include just one shotgun in its arsenal, it’s likely to be the SPAS12. Although it’s often portrayed as a pump action shotgun, the SPAS12 is actually a combination-action firearm that can fire in both pump action and semiautomatic configurations. Along with the Desert Eagle, the SPAS12 has perhaps the highest number of appearances in video games on this list, although its real-life equivalent is not nearly as common. This is especially true since 2000, when production for the shotgun officially stopped.
What’s the most you can learn about the SPAS-12 in seven minutes? Take a gander at the video below: