“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’” San Francisco detective Harry Callahan poses this question of a bank robber while reminding him that he wields a .44 Magnum, aka “the most powerful handgun in the world.” The Model 29 revolver was used by actor Clint Eastwood, who portrayed the legendary “Dirty Harry” in both Dirty Harry (1971) and Magnum Force (1973).
The Model 29 was presented to John Milius by Warner Brothers and Clint Eastwood. Photo by Michael Ives
As writer John Milius described it, the idea of using a .44 Magnum was to have somebody actually be very careful about the shooting that he did. Instead of shooting a lot of shots, he shot one very powerful shot, and that was usually to telling effect.
The original thought was to have a four-inch .44 Magnum Model 29, but due to the gun’s popularity, they couldn’t acquire enough for the film. So Milius went with the six-inch model, and it became an instant classic.
While lanky star Clint Eastwood was one of the few who could wear the six-inch Magnum and not have it show, Milius thought a detective wearing a coat buttoned with a .44 Magnum underneath was unrealistic, so the holster was empty unless Eastwood was going to use the gun.
This gun was gifted to John Milius by Warner Bros., and it’s one of the many historic treasures that can be seen at the NRA National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va., located on the first floor of NRA Headquarters.