Hollywood With Guns: More Movie Madness

John Wick with 20 guns pointed at his his head from all angles

Not long ago I wrote about the insanity and misconceptions perpetrated by the media and the motion picture industry. I was only able to touch on a tiny bit of the outlandish representations they hoist on the unsuspecting unknowing audiences. So, without further ado, here is a bit more of Hollywood’s insanity.

I know I mentioned this one before but didn’t get into it enough so here goes again cause it’s one of my favorites. In lots of movies, we have a scene where someone gets hit by a bullet fired from a handgun and is lifted clean off their feet and through a plate glass window, all by the force of that one bullet hitting them. Can this happen in real life?

Stick figures being shot in different parts of the body
OK. I’d rather be #4 than #7, but other than that, which ones look like a real reaction?

Let’s try to recall some basic physics from Junior High School. Newton’s third law of motion states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In that case, if there’s enough energy in a bullet fired from a man-portable weapon to send a person flying back 10 feet in the air, there should be an equal amount of recoil energy acting on the firearm. This would send the shooter and the firearm flying backward 10 feet, as well.

That wouldn’t look too good, would it? Unless it was the Three Stooges, of course. There are firearms that can deliver enough energy to knock a person off their feet (such as a cannonball), but those are usually mounted on a platform for a reason and are not man-portable. Basically, there is not enough kinetic energy to knock a person backward.

Sounds Galore!

This next one I always find irritating. It’s when you hear a sound when there should be no sound, such as a pistol/shotgun/revolver cocking, whether it needs to be or not. The scene is played out in almost every shoot ’em up movie.

Sometimes it goes like this. The hero has a bad guy covered with his pistol and the bad guy is refusing to answer questions. The hero then dramatically pulls back on the hammer to cock the gun (or racks the shotgun’s slide) to show the bad guy that he means business. The bad guy immediately spills his guts.

The other version has the dramatic clicking sound happening when a character walks into a room and something dramatic needs to happen to indicate that the protagonist is ready for action. It’s even funnier when you hear the hammer cocking sound when the actor is holding a firearm that has no hammer, like a striker-fired Glock. In real life, no one ever walks into a dangerous area without their firearm already loaded and ready to go at a moment’s notice. This is called Condition 1, which I am sure you are aware of.

Man pointing a gun toward the good guy while holding a woman hostage
Why the drama? Why wouldn’t the bad guy in the movie just shoot the good guy and the girl and then get away?

In addition to cocking sounds that don’t belong, because it’s tactically stupid or the wrong type of firearm, we also get cocking noises out of firearms that are already cocked or don’t typically make such a noise in real life like an AR sounding like a Single Action Army. Another example is the sound of a hammer being cocked, when the character in question is holding a pistol but is not cocking the pistol, you only get the sound. Worse yet is the sound of the slide racking on a pump-action shotgun, when the character is holding a double-barrel shotgun.

Hits and Reloading

Another movie favorite is the scene where someone shoots 15 times without reloading, while holding a 6-shot revolver. Or the submachine gun that shoots for 30 seconds clearing a room when it only has 3 seconds worth of ammo. Priceless.

Oh! Oh! It’s only a flesh wound. In the movies, there seems to be a general idea that if someone gets shot in the arm, shoulder, or leg, the person will not bleed. They might limp around a bit but will survive in the end.

Likewise, there is the scene where a person will shoot someone in the leg to prevent them from running away and the person getting shot doesn’t fall. They just hobble off. Individuals getting shot in the shoulder make a full recovery after only a couple of days, but only if they are on the good guys’ side. Bad guys always have a much rougher time with flesh wounds and even die from them on occasion. There is no equality of flesh wounds in Hollywood.

Man holding an AR-15 rifle that is missing the rear sight with poor form
If they were going for a guy holding a knife while shooting an AR they nailed it. Perhaps his head was in that position because he was looking for the missing rear sight?

In reality, there is no safe place where a person can be shot and be assured of not dying. There are some large arteries in the arms, shoulders, and legs that can cause a person to die from blood loss within minutes if punctured and not attended to quickly and correctly. The shoulder joint is also very hard to put back together if shattered by a bullet (unless you are the good guy).

Professionals don’t aim to intentionally wound someone because there is a chance that the shot could miss and hit an innocent person. They are trained to aim center mass so that there is a greater chance of hitting the target. No one in their right mind ever shoots to wound someone, you should always aim for center mass.

Here is another good one that you see a lot. “Put down your gun or the hostage dies.” This is a classic, almost prerequisite, scene in many movies. The hero crashes into a room with his gun out and finds the bad guy holding a gun pointed at the beautiful heroin’s head. The villain then tells anyone that will listen to throw their guns down and kick them toward him, or else she gets it.

The hero will do that as the dramatic music starts. Does anyone ever wonder why the villain doesn’t just shoot the hero and then the hostage, before making his escape? I’ll tell you why, Hollywood has a long tradition of trying to portray the morally correct thing to do, even though they don’t follow that rule in real life. Reality, however, requires police officers and military forces never to put down their guns in a hostage situation… Go figure.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

How about how not to hold a gun to shoot it. In this image from the popular TV series The Walking Dead notice the character’s support hand. He’s holding a supposedly sharp knife while supporting his rifle at the same time. Not a good idea even if you are worried about stabbing zombies

Then, if you can get passed that, look at how he’s trying to look through the sights. It actually looks painful. Wait, did I say sights? I should have said “sight.” To top it off, the rifle appears to be missing the rear sight. Shotgunning an AR is a new one for me, but I guess during a zombie apocalypse, anything is possible. They really should direct the performers better. The sad truth is that most of the people who work in the industry no longer know anything about firearms.

Fun With Lasers

In a scene from, Captain America, The Winter Soldier we see agent Jasper Sitwell taking a phone call that informs him that he has just been targeted by a sniper and he looks down to see a red dot visible on his tie. To begin with, red lasers are not very visible in bright daylight so, this scene is another bit of movie magic that is effective but not possible in real life.

Lasers are quite useful to acquire targets quickly at short range, in low light conditions, because the user looks at the target and places the dot on it without having to align the weapon’s iron sights.

Man talking on the phone with a red laser dot on his check
Call me crazy, but if I was in this position, I would not look at the dot. I would want to know the location of the shooter.

However, laser sights are not useful or used for long-range shooting due to the following reasons:

            1. The primary goal of any shooter is to stay hidden. If you used a laser like the ones shown in the images, everyone would know where you are. They could just follow the laser beam back to the source.

            2. Pointing out the dot would also allow the target to know that he or she is being targeted. In that case, they could take evasive action.

            3. Laser light travels in a straight line, but bullets don’t. A laser sight completely ignores the effects of drop, deflection, etc. This is why riflemen have to make adjustments for elevation and windage.

            4. The dot gets larger the farther it travels and though it appears as a dot to the shooter at 400 yards it covers many feet rather than fractions of an inch.

For these reasons, the scenes with snipers using lasers are highly questionable. They do look pretty cool on the screen though. I hope this helps to clear up some of what Hollywood does to stretch the bounds of reality when telling their stories, or just gives you a laugh and the encouragement to post a few Hollywood gun fallacies of your own.

What are your favorite Hollywood gun fallacies or movie scenes that the truth a little too much? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (34)

  1. @Bo
    You mean you CAN’T Duke’s of Hazzard it with a compound bow with explosives on the end of an arrow and not ruin bow. What’s wrong with you?! 😆 Hell, it’s all I can do to draw mine with a 45lb draw weight and normal arrows. Old shoulder ingury with titanium screws holding my shoulder together… it sucks. S*** pisses me off. And you’re super correct about nerves. The brachial, in my CRDT training, a hit with the back of your knuckles to the inside of a person’s arm would make it go numb, yeah… it doesn’t feel nice. Neither does a quick with back of hand hit to the carotid.
    Inturrupts blood flow to brain.
    Sorta the same way if you hit common peronial on top of the foot or strike the femeral atery on inside on thigh.
    These are hits to disable and meant to do it fast but why do people think you can just get up? Adreanlin for one. I had an AF Lt. Col ortho doc once that griped at me for that crap. He asked why do you ARMY AIRBORNE people want to get up and still go? Because I’m a mechanic for the 101st and my guys need me, I’ve got to make sure their equipment is functional. He was not impressed and told me to shut up while he stretched out the tendons on left finger.
    All in all, s*** hurts and it doesn’t feel good, I don’t give two chickens how bad a** you are.
    Because I promise, you little snot nosed kids, when you get old the injuries ARE going to hurt.

  2. As I have stated before, I was a medic in the Army and then spent more than 30 years working in metropolitan ERs. In that span of almost 40 years, I have seen many GSW and other traumatic injuries that Hollywood cannot portray in a manner that resembles the real thing.

    I think number one on my pet peeves list as far as portrayed gunshot wounds (GSWs) is the guy who is shot in the shoulder and is “just winged.” Multiple old westerns, as well as Kevin Costner in “The Bodyguard” come to mind. I have seen multiple people who sustained injuries like that, most of whom died. There are several important structures in that area of the body, like the subclavian arteries and veins and the brachial plexus. It takes almost no time for a person to bleed out when shot there, even if only one vessel is hit. And almost every person I have seen who was shot there dropped a lung (pneumothorax) which filled up with blood from the vessels mentioned above (hemothorax). Those that did not die frequently had severe damage to the brachial plexus, which is the nerve network that innervates the entire upper extremity, resulting in paralysis of that limb. If the joint was hit, the result was devastating damage to that joint, frequently with permanent disability.

    Several movies have shown people who after getting shot in the chest are coughing up blood, ostensibly from a lung shot before they began to return fire or whatever. I have never seen anyone coughing up blood from a lung shot; most of them could not breathe well enough to cough at all, let alone perform any purposeful act. I have seen multiple people shot in the chest, arm, leg, and/or thigh who bled out and died before aid could even be rendered. The exceptions were people shot with slow moving, small caliber rounds which punched smaller holes in the thoracic vessels and took longer to bleed out. If no major vessels were punctured, we saved them. Some of them died but it was too late for the person who shot them. In almost all the cases of those who died, the person was on drugs or alcohol and was seemingly unaware of the gravity of his injuries up until he collapsed and died.

    Another pet peeve is someone being struck on the head and being just “knocked out” but comes to and is okay. Head injuries with loss of consciousness are serious. I have seen too many people back in the days before CT scans who died from head undiagnosed bleeds from being “knocked out” with a blunt instrument or even a fist in a barroom brawl.

    There was one of the Rambo movies where he uses a compound bow to fire an explosive charge at a tank from over 100 yards away and blows the tank apart; a sure sign of a writer who knows nothing about explosives or the abilities of a compound bow, especially back in the 70’s-80’s when the movie was made.

    And then there are the regular guys who are in a shootout and they talk in a normal voices in the immediate aftermath with no difficulties in hearing or any emotional response at all to what just happened. I have had ringing in my ears since the early 70’s and VA still refuses to accept that the Army is responsible for my hearing loss.

  3. Is it any wonder that non-gun people are so terrified of firearms with Hollyweird’s depictions?
    With the way “Sleezy Joe” describes the 9mm what antigun individual would not want to ban them?
    I honestly believe politician’s take on firearms is solely to dismantle the Second Amendment. Anything less and the person is too stupid to be in politics.
    Perhaps it’s time to stop laughing at these movie scenes and get angry. Hollyweird needs to understand that these type of antics are not appreciated by people who know better…as if they really care! Hollyweird and antigun politicians are in bed with each other. This includes the Media.

  4. There’s a reason I love my bride… I don’t have the slightest clue how she tolerates me. I point out thing like this all the time. One particular reason is she has a ton of patience.
    All I can say is after many years… she hasn’t shot me yet but if she would I’m pretty sure she’d make it look on purpose and I’m sure I’d deserve it. Haha
    Really though… there’s a Kevin Costner movie… like several of his 1990’s ones that are about 4 hours long… called “Wyatt Earp”…
    Where he takes the single action Colt Peacemaker and spins the cyinder on his sleeve… I don’t own one of those but if you do that stupid s*** to any of my guns I’m taking it and pistol whipping you.

  5. I had to smile through the entire reading of this article. It was true yet amusing at the same time. I’m sure the author had a good time writing this one.
    Verry interesting!

  6. If you look hard enough, you can usually find a few screw-ups in most movies. I often miss following the plot while looking for faux pas or other blunders (thanks ADD) … and that’s usually more entertaining than the movie itself IMO. I once noticed the fly zipper on an actor being wide open in a G-rated movie….but then again no surprise…after all, it’s Hollywood! Another enjoyable article by
    the Sicilian stallion!

  7. Better for Hollyweird to use props as opposed to the real thing. There is no Alec Baldwin. In that mixture.
    People who do not believe in guns should not make movies involving them.

  8. A dummy gun, (not real, just a thing to carry often rubber or plastic), is given to actors by a Prop Master. Most people, mainly men, who work as Prop (property) Masters are a mixed bag of folks from many different backgrounds, all are super creative folks with massive organization skills. Sometimes, even on a decently budgeted shoot, a prop guy is hired for other reasons than knowledge and skill set, ergo, they are clueless about firearms and did not do their research.

  9. How many times do you see anyone reload during a prolonged firefight? Almost never do you see a revolver or lever action rifle reloaded.

  10. How about when you take the slide off and poke the guy in the throat with it!
    Or drop the mag out! What about the one in the chamber?? Or grab the pistol and it doesn’t fire?

  11. A Hollywood long time favorite that irritates the hell out of me.
    Screwing a silencer on a revolver. The hammer impacts the cartridge fully exposed !
    How could any sound be muted ?

  12. I’ve seen airguns used in episodes on forensics files. one deputy was using a Crosman 2100 pump action pellet rifle. I also saw an old Marksman BB pistol that they were trying to resemble a 1911!

  13. Sorry, Ed, but is your ego as fragile as it sounds??? Do you lie awake at night listening to the sound of your own voice??? Happens to me all the time!!!

  14. I’ve been looking for that silencer you put on a 38 special or 357 magnum revolver that makes it go pfft and not be heard 3 feet away. And this was with revolvers from 30’s to 70’s. the kind that could shred your hand if you hold the weapon with wrong grip.

  15. In the 3rd or 4th DIE Hard Bruce put a pistol up to his shoulder, which has already been shot, and shoots through himself to kill the bad guy. Apparently having the full muzzle blast firing through one’s shoulder does not incapacitate a Hollywood hero. Bruce is seen layer sitting in an ambulance talking to someone and ignoring the pain of being shot twice through his shoulder. I have had two shoulder surgeries on each shoulder and they are extremely painful.

  16. My favorite is someone holding a 1911 with the hammer down and shooting or threatening someone standing close, take the gun away and beat him with it. Or after shooting the camera zooms up and the hammer is down, I often irritate my wife when pointing out these things or when then hero stands out in the open shooting bad guys at 100 yards and they can’t hit him.

  17. Bruce Willis in The Whole Nine Yards was shown cleaning a Walther (?) barrel from the muzzle end.
    I noticed the image of Keanu Reeves. I cannot speak for some of the scenes but he loves firearms. I do not believe that the NRA would do an article on him if he was not pro gun.

  18. There’s a scene in The Matrix where you hear the sound of a revolver’s cylinder spin but Neo is carrying a slide-action pistol.
    The another annoying thing in movies is a cut to the face that doesn’t bleed. Look at the movie poster for Mission: Impossible 2. Cruise has a 4-inch long gash on his face but only the slightest trickle of blood. And his character doesn’t have a facial scar in any of the later movies.

  19. I agree with most or all of those sentiments.

    The shooter with the knife reminded me of something I have seen at youth days… His head position looks like a left-eyed person trying to shoot right handed. We would always get push back when trying to convince those boys (never girls) to try shooting left handed. When the did try it, the shot much better.

    Oh, and yes, the girls shot as well or better than the boys. Gotta love the South!

  20. I must admit that I drive some members of my family nuts, when we’re watching a action “shoot em up” movie, by constantly pointing out these things, lol.

  21. #1 sound issue is that in Hollywood, NO guns are loud. I’ve lost count of the number of movie firefights I’ve seen – many indoors – in which hundreds of rounds are fired from unsuppressed large caliber weapons, and despite NO hearing protection, none of the characters’ hearing is impaired. Offhand, the ONLY movie I can think of where hearing was an issue after gunfire was with one of the soldiers in the movie “Blackhawk Down.”

    Suppressed weapons in Hollywood of course are no louder than someone snapping their fingers.

  22. You should also mention silencers/suppressors. Whenever they use them in movies, they work magically well, you basically hear just a whisper, which is highly unrealistic.

  23. The one false commonality in almost all movie firefights, especially using M-16 type rifles and other long guns firing fully automatic is the bright star like flashes during firing. Very impressive to an audience. lol At night they emit streaks of fire extending outwards from the flash deflector. The reason for the “star” flash effect is that to make a blank firing Assault. Rifle or other fully automatic weapon operate reliably is the the starlike muzzle flash is exiting the barrel from holes in the sides of the flash deflector or sometimes a muzzle compensator by the barrel bore reducer “blank foteing adapters so that blanks can function in full auto mode. All Hollywood “flash” pun intended. Most fully automatic weapons in movies use a bore reducer similar to what soldiers would screw into the muzzle of the M16!to be certain blanks fire. However years ago some gun wrangler and director became enamored with the star like flash pattern especially in night gun fights. Reality is no sane gun fighter wants his barrel making 2 foot flames extending outward. It is a true “dead” give away of the shooter’s position. The M16 barrel bore reducer was adopted to most full auto weapons because it looks really cool on film . The firearms in most night shits use a similar barrel bore reducer for the same “appearance” effect. Nuff said!

  24. I worked on a couple of the film projects you mentioned. It is almost always the Director that calls for the “shots” as they are. The crew notices this often but since there is a strong hierarchy, nothing can ever get mentioned. Sound can have some of the funniest faux pas, even in this day and age. Post production sound is done more beautifully than ever before, full on stereo surround sound can be bought cheaply but soundtracks can be flamingly inaccurate. The sound engineers need to come up to the 2000’s. Most everything else is…..except the 30+ body blow punch out fights and gunshot wounds where the character just walks away normally with a few trickles of blood on them.

  25. Haha… yup.
    @DrewR… you’ve obviously never carried or handled a S&W SD40.
    They’ll rattle with a full 14 round mag. The slide feels loose on the frame. However, it’s completely normal for it, which annoys some folks. I’ll put my SD .40 with the factory irons in any competiton Glock or anything else. Thousands of rounds and years later it’s still going.

  26. Another fantastic article from a person that is truly talented with his writing ability and knowledge of fire arms, and shooting proficiency

  27. The lack of bleeding is, i think, related to the american rating system.
    It is my understanding that some ratings you cant show excessive (or any) blood etc.
    This may well account for the lack of depiction…

  28. Along with the other sound issues I always hate when drawing a weapon
    or just moving it around makes a series of rattles and clicks. It’s like the gun is so worn out that the parts all free float and bang into each other.

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