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In the 1968 Charlton Heston movie Planet of the Apes, the ape civilization appears to be relatively primitive, yet they have modern-looking guns (at least by 1968 standards). Even if we assume they have scavenged and preserved/maintained firearms left over from the human civilization, the "conquest" happened in the apes' distant and almost forgotten past (various clues suggest it to be on the order of centuries). That's a long time to keep a weapon in usable condition. It's also a long time to keep ammunition. How could they manufacture replacement ammunition or properly maintain, repair, or replace their firearms, apparently lacking the required knowledge and technological infrastructure?

How can the apes' guns be explained in-universe, or is it a writer's mistake?

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  • What's wrong with the idea that the apes made the guns and ammunition? There are other manufactured goods visible in the movie? Or do you imagine that the chains and cages are also leftovers?
    – JRE
    Jun 14, 2020 at 19:56
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    @JRE The chains, cages, and other artifacts are suggestive of a much less advanced technology - medieval perhaps.
    – Anthony X
    Jun 14, 2020 at 20:17

1 Answer 1

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Nothing is shown in the movie about the apes manufacturing weapons and ammunition but we’re led to believe they do craft their own guns: for example, the bulky carbines they use don’t look like any real-world rifles that I can think of.

enter image description here

Actually, this site says they're modified M1 carbines, which only half answers your question: this means the props are made out of real-world carbines; but in-world, modifying an existing (and working) piece of weaponry would make little sense.
So we'd rather take these weapons as an original design by the apes.

In the sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the apes use an even fancier gun: a few years have passed from the events shown in the previous movie (I can’t remember how many) and this kind of rifles could be an improvement over the previous, which might suggest they’re able to make their own weapons (the same site as above says the props are actually modified Madsen M50s).

enter image description here

In this movie the apes are also shown trailing and loading their own cannons, that look like 19th century muzzleloaders, which wouldn’t be available in the 20th or later Earth: as it’s an outdated technology for the 20th century Earth, it’s very likely the apes have discovered the way to produce them themselves. (Sorry, I couldn’t find any picture of these cannons online).

This seems to comply with Pierre Boulle’s original novel, whose story is set on a different planet than Earth until the final scenes: and although the apes of this faraway planet revolted to their former human masters while «wielding a parody of a weapon» (that is, whips), through the novel they are also shown self-sufficient in everything.
Hence, the reader is led to believe that even the guns they use to hunt humans are made by the apes.

In conclusion, I would say that the apes in the movie make their own weaponry.
How they reached this I can’t say: they either copied the technology from the human leftovers or developed it by themselves, which I think is more likely and in tune with the setting and the novel.
Probably they started with basic flintlocks and then over the centuries reached the technological improvements needed to make 20th-century-alike weapons. And even go beyond them.

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  • If they could make such an advanced weapon, why is the rest of their technology so primitive? The technological infrastructure to make all the precision parts, cartridge casings, etc needed for a semi-automatic weapon, not to mention the chemical engineering to make primer caps would be more consistent with a steam age civilization, not a medieval one as suggested by the carts and cages.
    – Anthony X
    Jun 14, 2020 at 20:24
  • Because the movie's visuals took a fantasy/jungle-ish style. On the contrary, the apes society in the novel (which should be taken into account as the movie inspiration) is based somewhere in the early 20th century.
    – Zab Zonk
    Jun 14, 2020 at 20:32
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    Gunsmithing need not be all that advanced a technology. If you don't demand that the parts be interchangeable, guns can be manufactured one at a time as a cottage industry. Jun 14, 2020 at 21:10
  • @AnthonyX - Because when those things were invented by humans they were the product of centuries of slow technological evolution whereas the apes live in a post-technological society where the plans for things like guns (and examples of them) are likely to be readily available if you go digging around.
    – Valorum
    Jun 14, 2020 at 23:30
  • @AnthonyX : the rest of their technology need not be so primitive. Not the entire planet was shown. Maybe they have cities and factories elsewhere.
    – vsz
    Jun 15, 2020 at 6:26

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