Wednesday, 1 June 2011

May I suggest that Mr. Bond be armed with a revolver?

Late-May of 1956, James Bond author Ian Fleming received a politely critical letter from a firearms expert named Geoffrey Boothroyd. It began:
I have, by now, got rather fond of Mr. James Bond. I like most of the things about him, with the exception of his rather deplorable taste in firearms. In particular, I dislike a man who comes into contact with all sorts of formidable people using a .25 Beretta. This sort of gun is really a lady's gun, and not a really nice lady at that. If Mr. Bond has to use a light gun he would be better off with a .22 rim fire; the lead bullet would cause more shocking effect than the jacketed type of the .25.

May I suggest that Mr. Bond be armed with a revolver?
Boothroyd's long letter continued in a similar vein, filled with incredibly detailed weaponry suggestions for 007. Fleming, delighted to be furnished with such expert advice, immediately replied with the letter seen below, and, as a result of their subsequent correspondence, equipped Bond with a Walther PPK in the novel Dr. No.

And the name of Bond's new armourer? Major Boothroyd.

Update: The BBC have footage of Boothroyd talking about this very exchange, introduced by Sean Connery. (Thanks, Simon!)

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Auctions.

(The copyright in this letter is owned by the Ian Fleming Estate and is reproduced here with the Estate's permission. Further use of the letter is not permitted without the Estate's express permission.)


31st May, 1956

Dear Mr Boothroyd,

I really am most grateful for your splendid letter of May 23rd.

You have entirely convinced me and I propose, perhaps not in the next volume of James Bond's memoirs but, in the subsequent one, to change his weapons in accordance with your instructions.

Since I am not in the habit of stealing another man's expertise, I shall ask you in due course to accept remuneration for your most valuable technical aid.

Incidentally, can you suggest where I can see a .38 Airweight in London. Who would have one?

As a matter of interest, how do you come to know so much about these things? I was delighted with the photographs and greatly impressed by them. If ever there is talk of making films of some of James Bond's stories in due course, I shall suggest to the company concerned that they might like to consult you on some technical aspects. But they may not take my advice, so please do not set too much store by this suggestion.

From the style of your writing it occurs to me that you may have written books or articles on these subjects. Is that so?

Bond has always admitted to me that the .25 Beretta was not a stopping gun, and he places much more reliance on his accuracy with it than in any particular qualities of the gun itself. As you know, one gets used to a gun and it may take some time for him to settle down with the Smith and Wesson. But I think M. should advise him to make a change; as also in the case of the .357 Magnum.

He also agrees to give a fair trial to the Bern Martin holster, but he is inclined to favour something a little more casual and less bulky. The well-worn chamois leather pouch under his left arm has become almost a part of his clothes and he will be loath to make a change though, here again, M. may intervene.

At the present moment Bond is particularly anxious for expertise on the weapons likely to be carried by Russian agents and I wonder if you have any information on this.

As Bond's biographer I am most anxious to see that he lives as long as possible and I shall be most grateful for any further technical advices you might like me to pass on to him.

Again, with very sincere thanks for your extremely helpful and workmanlike letter.

Yours sincerely



G. Boothroyd, Esq.,
17, Regent Park Square,
Glasgow, S