Athlon Outdoors Announces the Passing of R. Lee Ermey
With heavy hearts, we report that R. Lee Ermey, actor, Marine and friend to Athlon Outdoors, has passed away at the age of 74 due to complications from pneumonia. Ermey’s longtime manager, Bill Rogin, announced the sad news on his Facebook page last night. Read his statement in full below.
It is with deep sadness that I regret to inform you all that R. Lee Ermey (“The Gunny”) passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia. He will be greatly missed by all of us. It is a terrible loss that nobody was prepared for. He has meant so much to so many people. And, it is extremely difficult to truly quantify all of the great things this man has selflessly done for, and on behalf of, our many men and women in uniform. He has also contributed many iconic and indelible characters on film that will live on forever. Gunnery Sergeant Hartman of Full Metal Jacket fame was a hard and principled man. The real R. Lee Ermey was a family man, and a kind and gentle soul. He was generous to everyone around him. And, he especially cared deeply for others in need.
There is a quote made famous in Full Metal Jacket. It’s actually the Riflemen’s Creed. “This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.”
There are many Gunny’s, but this one was OURS. And, we will honor his memory with hope and kindness. Please support your men and women in uniform. That’s what he wanted most of all.
Semper Fi, Gunny. Godspeed.
Ermey was born March 24, 1944 in Emporia, Kansas. In 1961 at the age of 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. From 1965 until 1967, he served as a drill instructor in India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. He was then attached to Marine Wing Support Group 17 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan. In 1968, he and MWSG-17 were sent to Vietnam. He spent 14 months in country. After rising to the rank of staff sergeant, he was medically discharged in 1972.
After leaving the military, Ermey attended college at the University of Manila in the Philippines. At the same time, Francis Ford Coppola was filming “Apocalypse Now” in the area. Ermey managed to get cast as a helicopter pilot in the film. He also served as a technical advisor.
Full Metal Jacket & Subsequent Career
Ermey then appeared in “The Boys in Company C” and a couple of other projects before landing the role that would come to define him in the popular consciousness. In 1987, he was hired by director Stanley Kubrick as a consultant on the film, “Full Metal Jacket.” After Kubrick trouble filling the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, he cast Ermey.
Ermey’s standout performance as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His film career began in earnest after that. He would go on to appear in over 60 films, including “Seven,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” “The Frighteners,” Mississippi Burning,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Murder in the First,” the “Toy Story” films and many more.
His television work includes appearances in “House,” “The X-Files,” “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.”
Ermey also hosted two different shows on the History Channel: “Mail Call” and “Lock N’ Load With R. Lee Ermey.” In addition, he hosted “Gunny Time” on the Outdoor Channel.
A staunch Second Amendment supporter, Ermey was an NRA board member, as well as a spokesman for Glock.
The Gunny was a friend to Athlon Outdoors and contributed to many of our magazines over the years, including “Tactical Weapons” and “Glock Autopistols.” He will be greatly missed by all of us.
An Interview with R. Lee Ermey
Author’s Note: This interview with “The Gunny” was held in 2013.
Everyone knows R. Lee Ermey. If you haven’t seen him in one of his many movie roles, usually playing a military man, police officer or other authority figure—most famously as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic Full Metal Jacket—you’ve probably seen him on TV commercials and military history shows. Your kids have likely heard his voice in multiple cartoons and video games.
Ermey earned his stripes in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Vietnam. Since then he has remained active, supporting vet organizations and visiting troops. He is also an extremely active member of the NRA’s Board of Directors, often speaking out on Second Amendment issues. A lifelong hunter and shooter, RF recently caught up with him at the Civilian Marksmanship Program National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, where he competes using vintage rifles.
MY FIRST GUN: It was a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun, and right after that I progressed to a .22 bolt-action rifle. The Daisy was a Christmas gift when I was seven years old, and Santa also brought me the .22 rifle the following year. I hunted a lot growing up in Kansas, and we had a lot of squirrels, too many squirrels and rabbits, and I was helping to cull the population. I got my use out of those guns, and they were pretty worn out by the time I was done with them.
IF I ONLY HAD ONE: There is no question: it would be a .30-06 bolt-action rifle. Plain and simple. You can hunt any animal in North America with a .30-06. It’s the most versatile round that there is in existence as far as I’m concerned.
MY MENTOR, LESSONS: The Marine Corps is the place I really received proper leadership and guidance at MCRD San Diego, from those three drill instructors, Sergeant Freestone, Gunnery Sergeant Spottenberg and Sergeant Devorak. Those guys were life-changers, and any young man who goes through Marine Corps training could tell you the same thing. The Marine Corps has been a larger part of my life, even more than my family, and I owe the Corps a tremendous amount.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: One of my most vivid memories is when I had a bunker go down on me in Vietnam. That one tends to stand out pretty good. I also lived in the Philippines and Okinawa after I retired from the Marines and I was single. That was a lot of fun.
SHOOTING TENDENCIES: I try to shoot the same way every time and make it a habit: seating the rifle in my shoulder the same way, taking a couple of deep breaths and relaxing. I don’t think I have any unusual little shooting quirks that I know of, or that anyone has ever pointed out.
FAVORITE TYPE OF SHOOTING: As team captain of SOG Specialty Knives & Tools Shooting Team, a.k.a. Team SOG, I shoot high-power rifle and vintage service-rifle competitions using the M1 Garand, the M1A1 and the ’03. I most like to shoot from the prone position at the 200-yard line. I generally do quite well there, although I like shooting at any distance.
HOW SHOOTING INFLUENCES ME: My interest in shooting has influenced me very much in supporting our Second Amendment rights, to the point of becoming a life member of the NRA and serving on the NRA Board of Directors. I am a firm believer that it is our God-given right to protect ourselves and we need our rifles and handguns. I think it should be a requirement that everyone be armed. If your family is ever attacked and you don’t have the means with which to protect them, shame on you.
MY GREATEST SHOT: It was last year on a lion about 40 yards away. We were hunting a nuisance lion in Africa, and what you do is you track them and chase them until they get tired and become angry enough to turn and come after you. I fired one round which clipped his chin and went right into his chest. As I was looking down my sights and that lion was coming, I was thinking to myself, “This is the most important shot of your life.”
IF I WERE NOT AN ACTOR I’D BE: If I were not an actor I suppose I would have gone into law enforcement or the fire department in order to protect and serve somehow.
MY CHOICE OF FOXHOLE PARTNER: If I had to pick someone to be in a foxhole with me and we were in a shooting war, it would be Dennis DeMille (GM of Creedmoor Sports), a retired Marine chief warrant officer. He is a shooting machine, either standing or in the prone position, and he just doesn’t miss. He has won the national shooting championships multiple times and currently holds many national records.
ADVICE I’D GIVE A YOUNGER ME: My advice to any young man is to wait until you are where you want to be in life before deciding to get married. Don’t get married until you achieve a certain amount of success and are satisfied with it. Once you have a family you have to do what it takes to support them instead of devoting yourself to attaining professional goals.
The Gunny on Glocks
Author’s Note: This interview was conducted in 2015.
Do you shoot every GLOCK pistol that’s introduced?
Yes I do. It’s not required, but I sure want to. And the latest have become two of my favorites. That’s the GLOCK 41 Gen4 .45 AUTO and the extremely compact GLOCK 42 pistol in .380 AUTO.
The G42 is the smallest GLOCK ever produced, with a handling comfort zone women will certainly appreciate, and which is rapidly catching on with men as well. Its carry and concealment possibilities are obvious, but the G42 packs plenty of firepower and shoots so well that it’s becoming a law enforcement favorite. It’s truly a backup gun gem. GLOCK has pulled out all the stops on extensive development, and it shows.
Did shooting the G42 make you a .380 AUTO believer?
When the pistol was introduced early in 2014, I tried it on the range with a bunch of big burly gun writers who looked at the little pistol with some disdain at first. When they left the range after shooting the GLOCK 42, every single one of them had smiles on their faces, and the comments all around were, “I gotta have one of those.” I feel the same way. I really love this amazing little pistol.
And the G41 Gen4?
I love the G41 as well. In my opinion, the G41 Gen4 and the G42 are the two best pistols GLOCK has come out with, and they have amazed me the most. You have the small G42, while the G41 Gen4 is a full-sized .45 AUTO that handles more comfortably and shoots more accurately than previous .45 AUTO pistols.
GLOCK engineers have figured out how to take the recoil out of the .45 AUTO by making the slide longer and manipulating the springs. This pistol has the recoil of a 9×19. I’m not kidding. It’s a dream to shoot, with a longer sight radius that improved my accuracy.
I have enjoyed talking about these two pistols all this year. And, by the way, with the G41 Gen4 available, the ladies will not have to depend only on a 9×19 for their home protection. They’ll love shooting the G41 for some added firepower.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in GLOCK since becoming the company’s spokesperson?
We are now assembling and manufacturing GLOCKs in the U.S. The plant in Smyrna, Georgia, where GLOCK USA is headquartered, is huge and runs just like the GLOCK plants in Austria. It has new equipment and is primarily manned by people from Smyrna and outlying towns. Hundreds of people have been hired and trained by GLOCK professionals.
Quality assurance at the Georgia facility is second to none. It’s the highest possible priority. Whether manufactured in the U.S. or Austria, GLOCKs will meet the highest possible standards. We demand the highest quality and consistency.
How do you account for the kind of popularity or fame that has people waiting in line for hours to meet you at gun shows?
Everybody seems to have the attitude that I’m like an old friend. People feel they’ve known me for years. The Gunny gets around, working with the military a lot, over 70 movies, including Full Metal Jacket, the hugely popular long-running TV series Mail Call, and also Lock ‘N Load with R. Lee Ermey. There are a lot of commercials like the ones I do for GLOCK. By now, I’m like the guy who lives next door.
It’s still one of the great pleasures of my life to not only meet people but to spend a bit of time with them. I don’t just shake their hand and shoo them along. I talk with them, joke around, give them some time. That’s why the lines are so long. We both have fun. No matter how long the lines are, nobody who waited gets sent away. Sometimes we have to close the lines because time runs out, but nobody who has waited gets disappointed.
The GLOCK Annual Shoot featuring The Gunny Challenge is now the most-attended pistol shoot in the world. You must be really proud of that.
I am proud. Some people come hundreds of miles to attend. It’s a two-day event, in a park-like atmosphere. About a half-hour out of Smyrna, Georgia, we have about 20 pistol ranges all going at the same time. We have things for kids. Everybody’s welcome. We have law enforcement teams, high school teams, all kinds of teams, but individuals can compete as well. The Gunny Challenge itself is an invitational event, but there are plenty of other matches. It’s a delightful weekend out for the entire family.
If you like guns and shooting, you should consider joining the GLOCK Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF). You can check it out at gssfonline.com. Get some shooting under your belt, then make plans to attend the GLOCK Annual Shoot and The Gunny Challenge.
GLOCK videos are riding high in national popularity. Your newest videos, “Wrong Taxi” and “Wrong Guy,” along with GLOCK’s G42 product launch video, won an incredible 18 awards in this year’s Telly Awards. What’s your secret?
Bill Rogin of Rogin Entertainment, my longtime manager and also the producer, director and co-writer behind these videos, and I are in total agreement: For a commercial to be successful, it has to be humorous. When they’re not funny, they don’t work as well.
I’ve been preaching this forever, but a lot of Madison Avenue types still don’t get it. Our track record shows I’m right. And we’ve taken on the impossible: Making gun commercials funny. However, the message is always there. The GLOCK pistol is a necessary deterrent in all types of self-defense and protection scenarios. A little humor just helps spread the message more effectively.
As far as I’m concerned, the mark of a great commercial is when people will go on YouTube.com and then share our commercials with their friends. That’s what has made our GLOCK commercials so successful. Also, we stress home protection. Men and women at the head of households must protect their families.
When you practice pistol shooting, what do you work on?
You’ve got to have a good solid foundation, and I work on that. Stance and grip. Then comes sight alignment, which differs from person to person and is pretty basic. Then comes the big one: Trigger squeeze, trigger squeeze, trigger squeeze. It’s all about muscle memory, your finger feeling the exact pressure needed to let that round go. We all get anxious. Our nerves screw up the pressure on the trigger, we jerk the gun off target. Foundation, sight alignment, trigger squeeze. Master these elements and you’ll be shooting in the black.
How do you protect your home out in the high desert where you live?
The first thing I do when I go to bed at night is pull my gun out of my safe and put it on my nightstand. I feel very safe and secure. I am protected, I have my gun there. The next morning, the first thing I do is put the gun back in the safe. That works for me as long as there are no grandchildren in the household. In that case, my trusty biometric gun safe is right under the bed, safe and secure, always at the ready.
But during the night, if somebody decides they’re going to get cute with me and break into my house, victimize my family and steal everything they can, they’re going to be looking down a gun barrel. I think that goes without saying.