Firearm Faux Pas in Film

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I am sort of a gun nut. When watching TV or a movie where a firearm is used or displayed I tend to notice details, especially the inaccurate, incorrect or careless depictions. If they don’t get it right when it comes to guns, it sort of spoils the whole movie for me. These are some of the things that bother me:

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Too many bullets

“I know what you’re thinking: 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a 44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?”

When a revolver is used, the majority of the time it will hold six rounds. Some can hold more, maybe a nine shot .22, and some less like a 5 shot .38 snub nose. So as soon as the first shot is fired I start counting. I can give a little benefit of doubt sometimes and assume maybe there was a quick reload that I didn’t see, especially if it is a pistol (semi-auto) and not a revolver. However, sometimes it’s negligence or carelessness on the part of the continuity editors when it’s obvious more rounds are fired than the gun can possibly hold. When a gun battle is depicted in a movie, I like it when reloads are shown.

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Wrong for the time period

Nothing irks me more than seeing a firearm that doesn’t belong to the time period in which the movie has been set. For instance if I see a model 94 (as in 1894) Winchester being used by a character in a story that takes place during the Civil War (1860 – 1865) then, for me, the story loses credibility, simply because of this little detail. The earliest lever gun produced was the Henry repeater in 1860. Winchester produced a lever action rifle that possessed a similar level of a technology, rim fire 44 caliber cartridge, tubular magazine, brass or bronze frame. The magazine of the 1866 could be loaded from the breech, where the Henry was loaded from the muzzle end. It was not until 1873 that Winchester produced a widely popular steel framed, center fire rifle.

Same thing for revolvers. I know Smith &Wesson produced the first cartridge revolver in about 1856, so if I see one in a movie that takes place before that year, I get a little upset. The first practical cap and ball revolver was a Colt, produced about 1836. Before then it was usually a single shot pistol, loaded from the barrel. These are the types of firearms I look for to be correct for the period. I’m not asking for any more attention to detail, than to use the period correct firearm.

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Excessive chambering / Delayed chambering

You’re quietly sneaking through the dark, dank and abandoned warehouse looking for the bad guys, when you turn a corner and find them about to do evil so you rack a shell into your shot gun and they all drop their weapons. Why didn’t you put a shell into the chamber before you even entered the warehouse? Or you just ejected the unfired shell that was already in the chamber and chambered a new one just for the sound effect. You hear someone banging around behind you so quickly you spin and chamber a new shell. Now you have two unfired rounds on the floor. Doesn’t make sense.

Similar thing with a semi-auto handgun. You are about to face the evil doers so you pull back the slide and chamber a round. If you are carrying the handgun in the first place and you expect trouble, wouldn’t you already have a round in the chamber. I guess just lifting the gun into ready position doesn’t make the cool sound that dropping the slide to chamber a round makes.

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Excessive clicking sounds

He is creeping around in the dark, hears suspicious sound and raises his gun ready to aim an fire. Click, click-ity, click. Nothing there. He lowers his gun. Wait, another sound, up comes the gun again. Clicky –clickity-click. No not over there, it’s to his left, swing the gun and another clickity-click. What is all this clicking noise? Could be a hammer being cocked, a safety being released? Maybe he forgot his pistol is double action and he only needs to silently squeeze the trigger. Maybe the sound is his thick gold bracelet and super bowl ring clicking against the gun metal. I don’t know. Used once in a while this sounds cool…maybe. Used too much it just seems stupid.

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Empty cylinders in a close up

I like the close up shot where the villain is threatening an innocent by shoving a revolver in his face. What are you going to do stupid? Hit him with it? Anyone can plainly see there are no bullets in the cylinder and likely not one in the cylinder that is under the hammer and not visible. To me this doesn’t seem like much of a threat. On the other hand, when you see the heads of hollow point bullets nested in the cylinders, that’s a scary sight.

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Using the entire cartridge to show a bullet

I saw a movie once where a woman with some magical power stopped all the bullets fired at her in mid air. As the camera zoomed in you could see that the end view of one of the bullets was a cartridge casing complete with primer. How did that get there? Maybe one of the villains was excessively chambering rounds when the unspent round popped out it flew directly towards the woman. Please, this kind of thing is inexcusable.

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Artificial report

I have to admit the sound of gunfire has improved in movies today. It is much better than the old westerns where every other shot was a ricochet. But still, many times is sounds flat. One of the best audio tracks of a gunfight was in “Open Range”. Depending on the perspective, shootee or shooter, you could hear the report of the rifle or revolver, followed by a short muffled whistling sound and them a smack as the bullet hit wood. Even the boom and echo in the small town street sounded realistic.

Improper loading of a musket

Often, especially in some of the older “Daniel Boone” type of movies, when you see a muzzle loading rifle or musket being loaded, the person just pours an unmeasured amount of powder into the barrel directly from a powder horn, then drops a lead round ball down the barrel and taps it vigorously with a ramrod. Wrong!

In order to get consistent and safe loads the amount of powder must be measured. The round ball needs to have patching material around it so it will seal the bore as the gases from the burning power propel it down and out of the barrel. Without the patching most of the gas would blow by the round ball and only push it a few tens of yards out of the barrel before it dropped to the ground.

Old time military loads for muskets were made of paper tubes filled with a premeasured amount of black powder and a lead round ball twisted in the paper at one end. The paper tube served as the patching.

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Everyone survives

As a kid I watched “Gunsmoke” on television every Saturday night. It seemed like every other episode Matt Dillon was shot in the shoulder. Before long I realized that thing must be torn to shreds like hamburger. He always recovered in time for next weeks episode.

When there is a hail storm of bullets flying back and forth and no one is even scratched I feel like I’m watching some sort of cartoon or the old 70’s TV show “The A-Team”.

So what I want is realism….and entertainment. In an action movie, realism with firearms is necessary, for me to feel the movie is well made and has potential to be entertaining.

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Comments 3 comments

Outbound Dan profile image

Outbound Dan 2 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

Ha - these are the things I pick up in movies too. One of my favorite things to do is count shots too. I think it was Last Man Standing where I saw Bruce Willis fire over 50 shots without reloading his 1911.


CWanamaker profile image

CWanamaker 2 years ago from Arizona

Too many bullets is one of my biggest pet peeves as well. I've seen movies where they literally never reload - even after firing thousands of rounds from an automatic weapon. It really detracts from the movie.

Another thing I hate is when the character in a movie tries to do some fancy move that is clearly impossible. One that irks me is from the movie "The Rundown" in the scene where The Rock is carrying two shotguns. With one shotgun in each hand he cocks them both at the same time using a variety of methods like pressing the guns onto a wooden crate. Ridiculous.

Another one that bothers me is when a guy gets hit with bullet and they fly clear across the room. That never happens in real life either.

Anyways, I really enjoyed reading this hub. Thanks!


jimmar profile image

jimmar 2 years ago from Michigan Author

I thought about the "fly clear across the room" scenario too, but didn't include it. I usually like Bruce Willis movies but some are not entertaining enough in the other aspects that I cannot forgive the firearm faux pas.

Thanks for reading.

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