Sonny Crockett’s Carbine

By Mr. Ash 

Though I am 100% gringo, I was born and raised in Miami. Spending my childhood there in the 1970s and 80s meant that I was surrounded by drama, both real and imagined. Columbian Cocaine Cowboys had a full-auto shootout at our local mall when I was in preschool and the FBI’s infamous 1986 gunfight took place only a few blocks from my grandmother’s townhouse. The one that hit closest to home was the arrest of my next-door neighbor, who was sentenced to 57 years for the kidnapping/extortion/murder plot that was not-so-accurately-depicted in the film Pain & Gain

Despite the real-life action, the local small-screen drama was even more exciting. As the entire world watched, Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs fought crime in my city. Ferraris, linen suits, go-fast boats, a Bren Ten and Himalayan piles of cocaine—what was not to like? Miami Vice sits just aside Magnum, P.I. on my television Mount Rushmore. If you can listen to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” without picturing Sonny and Rico driving wordlessly under the South Florida night sky, you are not of my generation. 

Though the show’s credentials are unimpeachable, it’s popular to dog the 2006 movie version, which featured an unhinged pre-rehab Colin Farrell as Crockett alongside Jamie Foxx as Tubbs. The film, like the series, was created by Michael Mann who is one of the geniuses of our time. Thanks to Mann’s deep involvement, this is one of the only tv-to-film adaptations to receive my coveted stamp of approval.   

Like the show, the film was chromatically vibrant but thematically dark, gritty and violent. The gunfights, a Mann trademark, were epic. Cinematically, Vice was brilliantly shot. Farrell’s mumbling, usually into his flip phone, did distract somewhat from Mann’s genius. Subtitles help.  Still, I loved the director’s cut version of the movie and will defend it and its creator to the death. All of that said, the highlight of the picture for me was the SIG 552 assault rifle carried by Crockett. Compact but lethal, the 552 was perfect for storing behind the seat of an F430 Spider. This ridiculously cool carbine was to Miami Vice what the Sharps 45-110 was to Quigley Down Under.      

The SIG 550 series is, to me, one of the best-looking military arms of all time. The Swiss take their rifles seriously both in appearance and function. The 550s combine the mechanical virtues of the AK with the precision and quality that the Helvetian Confederation is known for. This Kalashni-Rolex is available in rifle, carbine, sniper and commando variants. The original commando variant was the 552, as wielded by Crockett. The 552’s gas system was poorly designed, though, which led to the development of the improved 553.         

553s are as rare as rocking horse shit in the U.S. thanks to extremely low import numbers. Texas-based JDI Firearms is the sole source for Sig Sauer AG products as well as other brands including French-based PGM Prećision.  JDI offers the 550 series in rifle and pistol versions along with parts, accessories and magazines. I chose the gray enamel 553 with green furniture, which is the classic color scheme for this series of firearms. For the record, Crockett’s 552 was all black.    

With an 8.9-inch barrel and a side-folding stock, the 553 runs afoul of the National Firearms Act and requires jumping through some hoops, even as a semi-auto. I bought my 5.56mm 553 as a pistol and submitted a Form 1 application to “make” an SBR. The approval came back in less than three weeks and, stamp in hand, I had the receiver appropriately engraved and installed the folding buttstock. I’ve never considered myself a paraphiliac but, holding this little gun feels a lot like seeing Baywatch as a 14-year-old.      

My 553 came with a Picatinny rail and without the HK-style diopter sights depicted in the film. Models with the welded-on sights are an option. The sights themselves are also available as add-ons, but they cost as much as a new Glock. Shot in 2005, the film’s iron-sight-only carbines, like the flip phones, were indicative of the times. Today, Sonny would no doubt use a red dot. Aimpoint’s ACRO P-2 is tiny, durable and reliable—ideal for this compact setup. Installed with a 22mm adapter, the cheek weld is perfect. I’m sure Mann’s prop team would approve.    

The 553 is one of the most attractive, well-built and flat-out fun to shoot semi-autos around. The charging handle and magazine catch are AK-ish while the thumb accessible safety/selector lever is handy like that of an AR or MP5. With a pair of translucent polymer mags linked together, this carbine is ready to rock. Thanks to the ridiculously short barrel, this thing throws a healthy fireball when you stroke the trigger. My theory is that Farrell’s on-screen mumbling was the result of shooting the prop gun without ear pro. That and lots of Oxy.         

Sure, Don Johnson was the better Sonny but Farrell did have him out-gunned. So far, I don’t own a Ferrari and I will probably never find myself in a gunfight with meth-dealing P-Dubs down by the Miami River. Still, if either situation ever presents itself, I will be appropriately armed.      

From the FE Films Archive

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