Inaccurate Portrayal of Guns and Their Use in Film and Television – By Duane L. Martin


You know, being raised around guns as well as being a gun owner and the holder of a concealed carry permit, there are several things that have always REALLY irritated me about the portrayal of guns and their use in films. I actually started this out as a Facebook post where I was going to mention just a few things, but being the long winded guy that I am, I figured hey, why not just throw it all out there and turn it into a full on article? See how many of these you’ve noticed in film and television shows.

1. When people open a flip out cylinder in a revolver to check if there are bullets in it, they always spin the cylinder before they pop it back in, and the cylinder always makes a rapid clicking sound when they spin it. The cylinder on these weapons does NOT make any sound when you spin it. The only ones that click like that are single action revolvers that have a loading gate. When you flip open the gate, you can spin the cylinder freely, and the little tab that pops up to hold the cylinder in place on each round makes that click as the cylinder spins over it. Double action revolvers have this too, but when the cylinder is flipped out on a double action revolver, it’s not touching the tab, and is therefore silent.

2. People who point guns at someone and don’t have their finger on the damn trigger. If you’re gonna shoot someone, it helps to have your finger on the trigger, don’t you think? If someone was pointing a gun at me and had their finger extended along the side of the trigger instead of on it, I’d take the damn thing away from them and then slap ’em around for being so damned stupid. Then I’d shoot ’em. That’s not even mentioning that if they did have to shoot someone quickly, they’d have to put their finger into the trigger guard and over the trigger, which would not only cost them time, but would throw their aim off until they readjusted.

3. Why the hell doesn’t anyone in films ever seem to have a round in the chamber with the weapon ready to go? Shotguns, semi-auto pistols, full auto machine guns, etc… They always have to make a big show of cocking them, or they cock them as a warning to someone. If you’re doing something that requires you to possibly have to shoot someone and you don’t have your gun ready to shoot from the get go, then you deserve what you get.

4. FTEs, or failure to eject. On semi-auto pistols and semi-auto or full-auto rifles, this is a potential problem. You could have a weak round, some old ammo, an issue with the gun itself or whatever, and the shell will fail to eject, causing a jam in the weapon that will have to be cleared before you can continue shooting. I’d like to see that happen once in a while, just to add some realism. The rate of FTEs can go from almost never to semi-frequently depending on the particular gun and the ammo used.

5. Head shots, shooting the gun out of someone’s hand, etc… Whatever the situation, unless someone is standing there perfectly still, it’s unlikely you’ll ever pull off any of these shots unless you’re some kind of a superior marksman. Ever notice how headshots always seem to go dead center in the forehead, right between and above the eyes? Yeah, good luck with that. As far as shooting the gun out of someone’s hand, no one’s going to stand there perfectly still long enough for you to pull off a shot like that. Even if they did, good luck with the aim. Lots of things can throw your aim off, and it’s not a particularly large target to hit. At close range it’d be easier to pull off the shot, but again, that’s only if they’re standing perfectly still. Even then, if you’re that close and they’re standing still, you might as well just pop a few in their chest and end it rather than trying to screw around with some fancy trick shot. Oh, and did you ever notice how when someone gets the gun shot out of their hand, they just shake their hand like it was smacked with a ruler by some angry nun in Catholic school? Yeah…no. There’s a list of potential injuries possible with a shot like that, up to and including the loss of fingers.

6. People throwing their guns away when they’re out of ammo. I mean, seriously? Anyone who’s ever bought a gun knows that they’re not only expensive, but they’re a personal thing that each individual has to choose for their own comfort and feel. No one’s going to just throw a gun away willy nilly unless they’re in some kind of an extreme situation where they have to.

7. Endless ammunition and wasted shots. Isn’t it funny how you see people in films squeezing off rounds one after another like they have an endless supply? Depending on the gun, the size of the magazine and the caliber, a semi-auto pistol will typically hold between ten and fifteen rounds. There are variations obviously, but let’s say fifteen for a .40 caliber pistol. Now your average cop or bad guy will have one in the chamber and fourteen in the magazine. Then he’ll have two more fifteen round magazines on his person. Once these are empty, he’s out of luck. Every shot has to count, because if you get into an extended firefight, the first one to run out of ammo is going to quickly find himself on the losing end of the situation, and yet you see people shooting up the place like there’s no tomorrow. Sure it may be dramatic, but it’s not realistic.

8. People who hold the gun sideways to shoot “gangsta style” are just mind-numbingly stupid. Not only is it practically impossible to aim accurately, but you may end up popping out some hot shell casings that’ll come back down and land on you. When you’re firing a pistol, you want two things to happen. You want the spent shells to eject to the side, and you want to hit what you’re trying to aim at. Trying to shoot at anything “gangsta style” is something you do as a goof maybe once in your life just for fun when you’re shooting out in the country or something. It’s not something you’d EVER want to be doing in any kind of a serious situation.

9. Ever seen someone point a revolver at someone in a movie or a television show, and you can clearly see that there aren’t any rounds in the cylinder? Yeah, me too. Stupid, isn’t it?

10. This is a specific one. You know that scene in the car in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta’s character shoots Marvin in the face? Well, he’s using what looks like a .45 caliber pistol, which means that not only would the bullet at that range have gone right through Marvin’s head, but it would have gone through the back window and into or through whatever was behind them as well. If you look carefully in the movie however, there’s just a big splat on the back window, but no exit hole. Also, unless he was using some kind of weird, explosive ammunition that caused Marvin’s head to just make one big splat, what would have been a more realistic portrayal of the damage would have been a relatively normal sized hole in the front, and a larger hole in the back as the bullet tore through the exit and then continued on its merry way. That’s assuming he was using hollow points or some similar type of ammunition. If he was using solids, the holes in the front and back would probably be rather similar in size, and the bullet definitely would have tore through the back window and into whatever was behind them, since hollow points are made for stoppage and solids are made for penetration.

So those are some of my pet peeves about the way guns and their usage is portrayed in movies and on television. As a bonus, I could have mentioned how the A-Team could always seem to shoot a perfect three foot diameter circle around everyone they were aiming at without ever hitting them, but I decided to air on the side of generosity on that one.