September 09, 2021
By James Tarr
We’ve all bought guns because of movies or TV shows. Admit it. If you haven’t yet, chances are you just aren’t old enough. Or haven’t seen the right one yet. But for every Beretta 92 sold because of Die Hard and/or Lethal Weapon, every Sharps rifle sold because of Quigley Down Under, there are on-screen gun choices so dumb they take your breath away. And yet, still, maybe you want to take the stupid pill and get one for yourself, because they look so cool.
Perhaps the best example of this, ever? The short-barreled rifles of the front-line troops in the new Amazon Prime sci-fi flick The Tomorrow War, starring Chris Pratt. Let’s talk about what these rifles are before we explore why they are the absolute worst choice for the scenario they are intended for.
The SBRs the troops (including Chris Pratt) carry in The Tomorrow War are short-barreled AR-15s built on Bravo Company (BCM) M4 carbines by Gary Tuers at Xtreme Props and Weapons. I’ve written up Gary and Xtreme before, as he’s worked on the last two John Wick movies. Technically, for the movie, they are the “MK III” rifle. These SBRs are select-fire weapons, and the characters are apparently unaware they can do something other than spray entire magazines full auto.
They sport uber-short seven- or 7.5-inch barrels tipped with the V7 Helios linear compensator (VSevenWeaponSystems.com). These muzzle devices work—they send all the noise downrange, so you don’t kill your ears or the ears of the guys around you. The Helios has one baffle inside, to help reduce recoil slightly, however muzzle devices like this (despite manufacturer claims to the contrary) usually increase flash. The handguards are BCM MCMRs.
These AR SBRs look very futuristic, and that is mostly due to the stock and foregrips they’re wearing. They are the CQR stock kit made by Hera Arms in Germany, and available from many retailers in the U.S (Hera-USA.com). The stock has a blown-out angular thumbhole design, and the circular foregrip is styled to match. If the design looks vaguely familiar, that’s because it is designed to mimic the iconic lines of the FN P90 PDW.
One of the employees at my local gun store built up an AR a few years ago with the Hera furniture, just for the ridiculousness of it—meme potential, I think the kids would say. So, I have personal hands-on experience with it. While the sci-fi aesthetic is just as strong in person as it appears in the photos, both the stock and the foregrip seem very well made, close to if not on par with Magpul products. The stock set runs about $150 or so.
Atop this SBR is a 4X fiber-optic-illuminated version of the Trijicon ACOG (Trijicon.com) mounted on the rail, with a honeycomb killflash on the front. That makes it either models issued to the Marine Corps or the U.S. Army, as they’re the only models which come from the factory with killflashes mounted. Mounted at a 45-degree angle is a mini red dot of indeterminate make. The ACOG is tough, and battle proven. However, mounting a magnified optic with a notoriously small eyebox on an ultra-short SBR seems a weird choice, but you’re forgetting one thing—ACOGs look cool and sci-fi-ey. The whole point of this build is to produce a slick sci-fit gun. Mounted on the top rail of each SBR is a small Insight weapon light, probably chosen because of their sleek sci-fi (there it is again) looks. Insight products look cool, but aren’t especially known for their brightness or durability, and the model chosen for these guns isn’t the biggest or brightest.
In most of the photos, publicity and otherwise, I’ve seen of Pratt and crew with these SBRs, it appears they are running Mission First Tactical (MFT) Extreme Duty Magazines (MissionFirstTactical.com).
The aliens Pratt and his team are fighting in the movie are big and armored and fast. One guy on the team is wielding an LTT-style tricked-out Beretta 1301 shotgun, and that seems a much better choice, but it doesn’t look nearly as cool as the busy, convoluted SBRs in the hands of Pratt and crew.
In fact, if you were going to battle big, fast, armored aliens in an urban environment, just about every aspect of these SBRs seems completely wrong, the exact opposite of what you’d want. And the best (and funniest) explanation of why comes from a legendary public Facebook post by SK Arms about this movie, presented below in its entirety. Every time I read it I laugh harder:
A future soldier time travels into a gun store:
“I need a rifle to kill aliens that are mostly bullet proof.”
“Ok, you’re probably going to want a larger caliber, probably .308, or for armor the added velocity of 6.5 Creed might...”
“No, we only have 5.56.”
“Ok, no problem. You're going to at least want a longer barrel to keep as much velocity as you can.”
“I was thinking like, seven inches.”
“Ah, ok. If portability is a big concern you’re probably going to want a super compact PDW style stock.”
“I need the longest, heaviest stock you can find.”
“...Ok. Let’s talk optics then, a seven-inch 5.56 is gonna be pretty limited on range so a simple red dot...”
“I need magnification.”
“Oh, are these aliens hard to identify?”
“I tell you what, go ahead and put a red dot at a 45. They look sick.”
“Will you ever use it?”
“I will not.”
“....so, aliens huh? That sounds rough.”
“They have incredibly heightened senses. They can smell blood from a mile away.”
“OH. Well, now the shorter barrel makes a little more sense. You’re making room for a big suppressor.”
“A silencer. Especially if you’re going to be shooting these in close proximity to other people, the concussive forces will be...”
“No thanks. We’ll probably shoot a dozen of these full auto in a concrete stairwell.”
“That’s...I think you’re making my point.”
“We’ll also be fighting in dimly lit areas.”
“You’ll want a super bright weapon mounted light.”
“No, I said they’ll be dimly lit. What’s your dimmest light?”
“How is this war going for you?”
“We’re losing terribly.”