Hannibal Smith on the A-Team with 12 guage shotgun

Just what is in that lock box in the back of the van?

One of the unique aspects of the A-Team television show was its incorporation of firearms. In the early 80s, guns were a huge part of the movies (Rambo, Terminator, etc.) but were generally not a part of family-friendly television shows. Despite thousands of rounds fired per season, there was rarely an injury and only one death during the shows run.

The A-Team had a few signature firearms - let's take a closer look.

 

Ruger Mini 14 as seen on the A-Team

Ruger Mini-14 .223 rifle

The image of a Ruger Mini-14 will be forever linked to the A-Team television show. This seemed to be the standard issue rifle for members of "The A-Team". For television purposes, this rifle was likely picked just to be different from the normal weapons seen on the majority of 80s tv and movies. Televisions shows of this era were completely FULL of original long-barrelled M-16s as issued to United States soldiers in the early 80s. Using the same old weapon would not have been innovative, nor stood apart from the weapons used in the adversaries of the particular episode.

The Mini-14 was first introduced in 1974 by Ruger. Mini-14 is derived from the military M14 rifle implying a miniature version of the M14. Ruger used the M14 as a model for the new rifle while incorporating numerous innovations and cost-saving engineering changes. The Mini-14 proved popular with small-game hunters, ranchers, law enforcement, security personnel and target shooters. It competes with other rifles like the comparably-priced and numerous inexpensive AR-15 variants. 

The A-Team with Ruger Mini-14s.

One of the most commom mis-understandings about the A-Team Mini-14s is the fact that they are not select-fire weapons. In other words, contrary to the fully automatic sound effects applied to the soundtrack - the guns are semi auto only. Look closely and you can actually see the actors very quickly pulling the trigger to simulate full auto fire. Add in the sound effect and cut away to simulated bullets hitting dirt or metal and it is very convincing. This is not to say that Mini-14s could not be converted to full auto - but it simply was not deemed necessary on the set for whatever reasons.

While Mini-14s were offered in blued and stainless variants the A-Team generally was seen with the stainless variant. Ruger Mini-14s are notoriously unreliable with aftermarket magazines and stainless or nickel plated factory magazines became stainless issue for the A-Team.

The Mini-14 is still in production today, however the unique side-folding stock stainless steel variant seen on the A-Team is no longer produced. An original stock of this kind can fetch almost as much as the cost of a complete brand-new rifle.

Actual Ruger fully-automatic Mini-14 style weapons are known as the AC-556. When the creation of select-fire weapons for civilian use ended in 1986 - the Ruger AC556 became the very last transferrable machine gun to be serviced by the factory that created it. Since machine guns are not limited to the 16 inch barrel rule applied to all rifles in the United States - the AC-556 is recognizable instantly by its much shorter barrel. Actual AC-556 rifles were used in one episode of "The A-Team".

Uzi carbine was used on "The A-Team" by many bad guys.

Quite often variants of the famous UZI submachine gun were seen on the television show. What is unique about the UZI on "The A-Team" compared to the movies of the same era - is that typically the UZI CARBINE was used and not a real UZI submachine gun or select-fire conversion. This can be discerned from the long barrel and or long flash hider still seen in place on the firearm. By federal law, the Uzi Carbine must retain a rather funky looking 16 inch barrel to be legal. Without proper class III paperwork, the shorter and correct short barrel cannot be used.

A running theme of the A-Team screen-used weapons seems to be that using true full auto weapons was avoided if at all possible. This could have been due to rental costs and legal paperwork wrangling. Remember the show was filmed in California, not the most gun-friendly of the 50 states.

Team Leader Hannibal Smith used a Smith and Wesson 639

The team leader has to stand apart from the crowd. This was certainly true of Hannibal Smith, who was most often seen packing a stainless steel Smith & Wesson model 639 9mm pistol. This was a second generation handgun and was chambered for 9mm. One of its most unusual features is that it was a single stack magazine, like a Colt 1911. The vast majority of 9mm pistols are designed to take advantage of the rounds small size and utilize a double stack magazine for high capacity. This gun likely was chosen due to the 9mm being the easiest caliber blank to procure for filming the television show.

Hannibal Smith with his Smith and Wesson 9mm pistol

Bad guys on The A-Team occasionally toted HK 94s

Along with the UZI, baddies on "The A-Team" occasionally toted the Heckler & koch 94. This was a popular semi-automatic clone of the famous MP5 submachine gun, imported from Germany and sold to the public. Until May 1986, this guns could be legally converted to fully automatic to become MP5s. However, the guns seen on "The A-Team" were typically unconverted and appeared with the required 16 inch barrel - something that would have never been seen on an MP5.

Since these guns ceased import in the late 80s, most existing examples were converted to machine guns or registered short barreled rifles. Existing HK94s with the original long barrel intact can fetch up to $4,000 - and that is for a semi auto!

The army chasing the A-Team routinely carried the M-16s

Very early in the series, The A-Team carried the M-16. This likely proved not unique enough, as the Army that routinely chased them carried the same weapon - thus the use of the Mini-14 for the rest of the series. Apart from the Mini-14 it was the most widely seen weapon of the series.