The Gunny, R. Lee Ermey Passes Away at 74 ~ VIDEO

by Philip Schreier, Senior Curator, NRA Museums

AmmoLand Editor’s Comment: “R. Lee Ermey, was an outstanding personality within the firearms industry. At many trade-shows, R. Lee drew huge crowds to the Glock and other booths. To his credit he would stand for hours until he had shaken everyone’s hand that wanted to meet and greet him. You will be greatly missed, rest in peace fine sir.” ~ Fredy Riehl, Editor in Chief, AmmoLand News.

R. Lee "The Gunny" Ermey
R. Lee “The Gunny” Ermey

Palmdale, Calif – -( The NRA Board of Directors lost one of its beloved members on Sunday, April 15, 2018, when R. Lee Ermey of Palmdale, Calif., passed away from complications of pneumonia at the age of 74.

Known to millions of fans as “Gunny,” Ermey was a native of Emporia, Kansas. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the age of 17 and served for 11 years, 14 months of which were spent in Vietnam.

He earned his first film role—the first of 70 films he would eventually star in—as Sergeant Loyce in 1978’s The Boys in Company C. This was quickly followed up in 1979 when he appeared in Apocalypse Now, co-written by fellow NRA Board Member John Milius.

It was Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket, that earned him lasting fame and the sobriquet “Gunny” for his stunning performance as Marine Corps Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman. Although he was medically discharged from the Marine Corps as a Staff Sergeant, he was recalled from retirement and officially promoted to Gunnery Sergeant and then immediately retired at the rank for which everyone came to know and love him.

He served as the host for “Mail Call” (2002 – 2007) and “Lock and Load” (2009). Both shows featured Gunny describing and shooting vintage and modern firearms. His marksmanship and working knowledge of the firearms earned him the respect and admiration of service members who knew his interest and expertise were genuine.

During a taping of the first episode of Lock and Load, I had the privilege of working with Gunny on the set here near NRA Headquarters in Fairfax, Va. A small group of us went to lunch at a local restaurant and at first, Gunny went completely unrecognized by the staff and guests. It didn’t take long for the waiters to recognize the face and especially the commanding voice that was “Sarge” in Toy Story (1995). He was soon deluged for autographs, handshakes, and photographs. He obligingly posed for every photo and signed every napkin placed in front of him. One of the crew asked him if that ever got old for him.

He said “Never. When they stop asking is when it’s time to worry. The ones that ask are the ones that are watching the shows and paying my salary. It’s the least I can do. I owe them.”

R. Lee "The Gunny" Ermey
R. Lee “The Gunny” Ermey

We worked together on numerous shows and programs and enjoyed many a fine cigar over the years that I was fortunate to know him. Once, in 2005, while we were taking a break during a celebrity golf tournament that he was hosting near Annapolis, Md., (something about a “shotgun start” required my presence and a Winchester Model 1897 to get things going) a friend of mine serving in the 82nd Airborne called me from New Orleans to say he had just been deployed to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Gunny asked me to forward his concern and respect for their efforts and later asked me for Matt’s contact details as he decided to go there himself to provide support. Matt was floored when Gunny called, and he ended up being his driver for the next few days while Gunny bolstered morale following that dreadful natural disaster.

At the time of his death, Gunny was a member of the NRA Board of Directors, elected by petition in 2012. He competed annually in NRA High Power Rifle Championships on Dennis DeMille’s team and served as a spokesman for Glock since 2004 and SOG Knives since 2010.

His support for the U.S. military was legendary, in particular, the Young Marines program, as well as his advocacy for veterans and their treatment at VA Hospitals.

He and his wife, Nila, were married for nearly 40 years. He was a father to six children and grandfather to nine.

We are diminished by your passing. The example you set by how you lived your life is your legacy. Vaya con Dios, my friend. You are sincerely missed.

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Wayne Renniger

I am very glad that you were on our side! RIP Gunny!


Say hello to my grandpa up there. He’s another fine old Marine Gunny Sergeant and will welcome the company. I’m hoping your shows enjoy another few years of reruns – they never get old. You will always be the quintessential Gunny – none finer!


Your beloved Corps will miss you Gunny. God Bless you and your family. Hold down the fort till we get there. It won’t be long. Say hi to my boy for me. Semper Fi. Marine.



Keep their heads down till we get there.

RIP Brother,
“Taj”M.A. Hall




I was fortunate enough to meet Lee Ermey on several occasions at the CMP matches in Arizona. He was very amiable and loved talking firearms, particularly the M1 Garand. He will definitely be missed by all who knew him.
My heartfelt condolences to his loved ones!

Mark Glass

First time I saw Gunny I flashed on my Senior Drill Instructor! Blessings to The family and all of Gunny’s BRA family.
Semper Fi, Gunny.


VERY SAD to hear this news, awesome person, man, Marine there ! He will be missed.

Butch B

all ways enjoyed watching him on his shows . he also was in a movie with Steven Segal & Micheal Caine . he will be missed for sure. the true definition of a gunny


Always enjoyed his shows and the Glock commercials he starred in.

Wild Bill

Pneumonia! Now days? We will miss him. His voice was a bright and clear beacon shining on the foolishness of unAmerican libtardism.


I am saddened to hear of Gunny’s passing. He was a man of wit, wisdom, and integrity. He lived by his honor and code. He will be missed. Semper Fi….!


WE will miss you. To a great MARINE. Our heart go out to his wife and children SEMPER FI GUNNY. ray – linda .sc


Shocked and sad to learn of Gunnys passing. Always enjoyed his gun tests and reviews on the Outdoor Channel. He had his unique style and humor that really was fun and interesting to watch and listen to. Learned lot from him. Prayers out to all of his family. He will be greatly missed.

Peter Conant

Too soon gone! So sorry to learn of Gunny’s untimely passing.


Really shocked and sad to hear of Gunnys passing. Loved to watch his programs he was on testing different guns or cannons. He was quite a character. He will be sadly missed. An honor to have known him. Prayers out to his whole family. SEMPER FI Gunny.

Matt in Oklahoma

Semper Fi
You will be missed.


To a great man that did Kansas proud.

Marc Disabled Vet

From One Grunt to Another
Now is Your Time to Stand
Guard at the Pearly Gates


Damn. Sad to hear this. No one should die from pneumonia these days. You have to take that stuff seriously, especially past age 50. Get to the doctor quick folks and treat pneumonia like it can kill you… it can.