You don’t need a validating statistic to know that a crazy number of guns in movies.
But while they do add a lot of bizazz to their scenes, and a fair number of us have fantasized ourselves into those situations, have you ever wondered how accurate it really is? Of course, movies by definition are fiction. One of the things people like about them is the over-the-top action.
Can anyone really pull it off in a less than fictional setting? Most of the time, the answer is no. While there are a handful of movies that do decent depictions of how guns are actually used, most of Hollywood tends to favor flash over accuracy.
Let’s look at some of the most inaccurate gun tropes, movies seem to love!
1. Slide Racking
How often do you see this? An officer of the law goes out on a raid or investigation with their firearm, spots the villain and then slides the rack with a round. What self-respecting officer who knows full well there’s a good chance for violence, waits to spot the target before slide racking?
Of course, this completely adds to the suspense, and maybe we’re nitpicking, but it’s an inaccuracy nevertheless.
2. The Redundant Sounds
Not all firearms sound the same. And not all firearms work the same. A common inaccuracy in movies is choosing to depict any gun as the same gun. So to add to the suspense of a gun scene, you notice the gunman dramatically pull back the hammer, to make that evocative click.
We’ve established that this person means business.
Except that all firearms do NOT make that sound, and especially not Glocks who seem to be true victims of this inaccurate depiction. And all this is without mentioning the sheer redundance of cocking the gun, which in a lot of cases is completely unnecessary.
3. Flying Backwards
A bullet can do a lot of things. It can cause irreparable or even fatal damage to you or your organs, but as much as crime dramas will have you otherwise, it cannot send you flying 10 feet backward, slamming you into a wall.
You are one whole being. The bullet is tiny. The whole purpose is to inflict as much damage on one crucial point.
If it were really going at the kind of speed or force it would need to push you back, it would more likely go right through you, not take you with it.
4. Fighting Through the Pain
And more importantly, forgetting about the pain entirely. You may as well have not been shot. It’s this Oh no, moment, followed by heroic bravery, he’s fighting through the pain and finally, you forget he was even shot at one point.
Bullets hurt. A lot. A shoulder wound won’t cause any lasting damage, nothing that a human with no known powers or exceptional strength can withstand, right? No, not right.
You don’t miraculously recover within a day, waking up larger than life and twice as natural. Arteries burst, you will bleed incessantly, there’ll be excruciating pain, and unless you’re really lucky, there’ll be broken bones too.
5. There’s Always Room for a Gunfight
Now this one is understandable with a certain kind of villain. They don’t care who they hurt, they just want to get away with something. It is well within their character to put everyone at risk with a public gunfight.
But why do protagonists not care more about an open fire in a crowded place?
Any responsible firearm owner no matter how skilled they were would never dream of doing this. Your surroundings have more to do with your accuracy than your target itself. But almost every movie insists on a complete disregard for where you are and who else is around you.
6. The Trigger Ready Finger
If you have a firearm or just common sense, you’d know that keeping your finger on the trigger without your target around is just downright dangerous. But that’s not how things roll in the movies.
Every gunman (or woman) worth their salt knows that as humans we’re prone to all kinds of involuntary movements, twitches, reflexes and more, particularly during stressful situations. Yet every protagonist is running across endlessly, trigger ready at all times.
Unless your plan was to unintentionally injure innocent bystanders, this is not a smart idea.
7. A Limitless Supply of Ammo
It’s gradually becoming more commonplace for people to run out of ammo, so that’s one point in favor of Hollywood. However, it still isn’t common enough. A lot of gunfights carry on endlessly with a seemingly unlimited supply of ammo.
8. The Unlikely Water Shot
Movies, like Saving Private Ryan, used this trope for dramatic effect. A bullet cuts through the water and into something else. Chances are, if you’re submerged lower than 2-3 feet under water, you’re probably safe from any potential gunfire.
Nah, it doesn’t work like that. Bullets cut through air and water very differently.
9. Two Is Not Better Than One
Wielding two guns makes you a terrible, terrible shot. Sure, there’s no arguing how badass and impressive it looks, just think of The Matrix. But it takes a lot of focus to make one accurate shot.
If you’ve got two guns, you need twice the focus. Since you can’t possibly set your sights on two targets at once, you’re better off just firing one gun, or firing both and missing two targets.
10. The Drop of a Gun
No, it does not set it off. Obviously, it would be absurdly careless of any manufacturer to allow this to be a possibility. Maybe that used to happen, way back in the day, but it definitely doesn’t anymore.
You’re actually better off letting it fall to the ground than catching it.
11. Silencers Do Not Silence
No, you can’t just add a silencer to your gun and magically make it inaudible. If you really want to diminish or muffle the gunshot, head off to a good manufacturer like Spikes Tactical and invest in a good suppressor instead.
It will still be significantly loud, but it won’t be as loud as before. It won’t make it as soft as a purring kitty either.
12. Recoil Is a Real Thing
Bad grips everywhere.
Grips that refuse to take into account recoil. Grips that forget to readjust after every shot.
It’s a firearm, not a water gun. I mean, the bullet gains its momentum from somewhere, right? There’s no good reason why anyone should forget about that one inevitable thing that happens when you fire a gun.
But as most movies would have you believe, all you have to do is whip out your semi-automatic and fire at the bad guys. Don’t worry about the recoil or anything!
13. Bullet Proof Vests Don’t Make You Invincible
Oh no, he got shot, it’s all over. But wait, he was wearing a bullet-proof vest. Ah well, all is good with the world again.
Yeah, as much as we’d like to believe it’s true, it isn’t. Now, bullet-proof vests are relatively safer than not wearing one. And best kinds of bulletproof vests can protect against a variety of handguns, but they’re definitely not as effective against high caliber bullets.
The point is, they’re just bullet-proof, not fool-proof (see what I did there?).
Take that scene from Back to the Future, Dr. Brown should really not have survived that scene if things were playing out realistically. Yes, that was the most inaccurate thing about the film.
14. Shoot, Shoot, Explode!
You can’t shoot at a car and then watch it magically combust into flames. Unless, of course, you added a bunch of explosives to the care beforehand, that’s just not going to happen.
And while we’re at it, bullets don’t really cause sparks either. Not as often as you see them in films at least. Most bullets are made from copper, and if you paid attention in science class, copper isn’t very likely to cause sparks.
More Guns in Movies: When Hollywood Got it Right
So now that we’ve sufficiently analyzed the many inaccuracies of guns in movies, let’s consider a couple that got it right. You can check out Lone Survivor, Enemy at the Gates and Way of the Gun, each of which does a great job of depicting realistic gunfights.
Have you spotted inconsistencies of your own? Feel free to drop in a comment and tell us about your own observations too. We’d love to read them!