The other day, Museum Director Wayne McCombs asked me if the gun used in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” was a real gun or was it just Hollywood-fiction. And like anyone in the History and Museum professions, I gave him the standard nebulous answer, “Yes and no.” Few things have simple answers, especially if you study a certain topic for any length time.
For those of you who don’t know, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” was a television series from 1964 to 1968. It was a spy show centered around the fictional “United Network Command for Law and Enforcement” which brought together agents from different countries like American agent Napoleon Solo (played by Robert Vaughn) and Soviet agent Illya Kuryakin (played by David McCallum) to defeat evil around the globe. The show rode the coattails of the spy craze brought on by the James Bond motion pictures.
The Solo and Kuryakin used all kinds of disguised weapons and tools of spy-craft. The firearm they were best know for was based upon the very real German Walther P38 9mm semiautomatic pistol. The P38 had a rather typical, boxy semiautomatic pistol appearance with a thin barrel protruding from the front. The prop guys on U.N.C.L.E. shortened this barrel and added a bird-cage-style flash hider to make it look unique. And when the agents needed an extra-precise shot, they pulled out their bag of tricks and attached a slim shoulder stock, telescopic sight, and an extended barrel with what looks like an integrated silencer to make the.
Now, for guys in my generation, we all know this U.N.C.L.E. Carbine by its “real 80s” name. . . Megatron. You see, Megatron is the leader of the evil Decepticons from the Transformers franchise of toys, TV shows, comic books, and movies. The original, Generation One Megatron toy consisted of a Walther P38 that transformed into a robot. In addition to the transforming P38 toy pistol, the boxed set came with a slim shoulder stock, telescopic sight, and an extended barrel with what looks like an integrated silencer.
So, now that you know about Napoleon Solo’s U.N.C.L.E. Carbine and the evil Megatron, you need to come learn some more about the Walther P38 they are both built around. Since we have one on exhibit at the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum, I am going to be mean to you and make you come down to the Museum to find it. Hint: You will find it near the Walther PPK (James Bond’s gun). What a coincidence?