Too often, Hollywood portrays firearms as objects imbued with some sort of scary aura, as if they are inherently violent in their nature. Worse than that, many of these actors and actresses routinely campaign against your Second Amendment rights while simultaneously enjoying the luxury of armed security.
How many times have you watched a movie or television show and thought to yourself, That’s just not even close to right, when a firearm is used? Likely, it has been a lot.
In reality, firearms are simply tools. When treated with respect—in other words, handled safely—guns are nothing more than tools. Everyday Americans can’t afford armed security; it is incumbent upon them to utilize their constitutional rights to protect themselves.
Hollywood, more often than not, fails to recognize this, but sometimes, it just so happens to get it right.
Those who watched the action-packed season four premiere of Yellowstone saw realistic firearms handling. Without giving away the plot, it was refreshing to see a show that actually treated firearms with reverence and didn’t sensationalize their usage.
More than that, though, was how the big gunfight that ensued depicted a realistic portrayal of how things would go down. There were no bombastic explosions or Rambo-esque rampages; instead, there was disciplined firearm handling, including actual reloading.
“There’s a lot of thought put into the gun fights. They’re not just arbitrarily spraying blanks everywhere,” said NRA Publications Editorial Director Mark Keefe.
Kayce Dutton (played by Luke Grimes), in particular--a former Navy SEAL whose training has been displayed throughout the show’s seasons and in this exhilarating start to season four--had his proficiency on full display. He’s not an otherworldly John Wick sort of character who is incapable of missing a shot, but he is a trained marksman who skillfully and tactfully addresses situations presented.
“The actor playing Kayce [Grimes] obviously has some confidence and competence. The scene where he comes out from underneath his desk with his Kimber [Custom II], that’s one of the guns that, to me, represents the modern American west. And this is a 21st century cowboy show,” said Keefe.
Beyond its realistic take on firearms, the show does take moments to imbue some lessons as well. Before going hunting in season two, John Dutton (Kevin Costner) imparts some wisdom upon his young grandson, Tate (Brecken Merrill), before the two depart.
“That rifle has the power to take a life. Whatever you point it at. You know that, right? So if you know that, you also know you don’t have the power to bring it back, do ya? Even if you wanted to, even it was a mistake. It’s not a trick question, Tate. You just gotta be sure before you pull the trigger, because killing’s the one thing you can’t undo,” said the elder Dutton.
Of course, many anti-Second Amendment types like to claim the Second Amendment is only for hunting, something we know couldn’t be further from the truth. Hunting, however, is one of the reasons that the Second Amendment is relevant in our culture, and Yellowstone’s respect for both our hunting and firearms culture is a breath of fresh air.
This also isn’t series creator Taylor Sheridan’s only work that gets it right. Prior to creating Yellowstone, Sheridan wrote and directed the movie Wind River (2017), and one line in that film stuck out. Jeremy Renner’s character, Cory Lambert, tells his son, Casey (Teo Briones), that “a gun’s always loaded, even it if ain’t, right?” He was echoing one of the cardinal rules of safely handling any firearm.
This character—and, by extension, Sheridan in his work—understands that firearms are not sentient, nor are they inherently destructive. Rather, they are tools that are meant to be handled with respect, safety, and care. It was refreshing to see this in such a prominent film.
“If you saw Wind River, you knew Sheridan was going to do his best on the firearms in Yellowstone. The firearms chosen are believable, and these are very specific decisions that someone put a lot of thought and effort into,” said Keefe before noting that Kayce Dutton’s use of the Heckler & Koch HK416D was noteworthy. “That’s a pretty esoteric thing if you’re not in the culture.”
“Sometimes you see some of these network shows, and you have these actors playing SWAT teams or cops, and they have no idea how to hold a carbine. You don’t see them manipulating safeties or pulling charging handles, but you get that in Yellowstone,” said Keefe.
This is not to say that Yellowstone is the only Hollywood production that treats firearms properly. There are certainly other movies and shows that do, too, but these are exceptions. Regardless, it turns out even Hollywood—or rather, Montana, where the show is set, and where much of it has been filmed—can get it right sometimes.