Sunday Gun Day L - Dumb Things Movies and Television Do With Guns Part 1

Credit: Ward Clark

We’ve all seen it. The Western movie hero whose six-shooter holds at least 20 rounds, the shotgun that somehow picks up a bad guy weighing 200 pounds and tosses him ten feet; we’ve all seen the movie hitman screwing a tiny flash hider on his handgun and firing it, making a tiny pew – with a revolver.

The simple fact is that most people who make movies or television shows don’t bother hiring a firearms adviser, and it shows. Many are the dumb things movies and television get wrong when it comes to guns – so here are some of the most egregious. Note that this is part 1, as there are too many such tomfooleries to fit them all in one story.

So, without further ado:

Magazine Capacity

One of my favorite Westerns in recent years is Kevin Costner’s film “Open Range.” It’s a beautiful piece of work, with vast landscapes, authentic clothing and props, a compelling story with an excellent villain, and two typically Western heroes in Costner and Robert Duvall: Tough, taciturn, never the ones to start a fight but always ready to stand up for what’s right.

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But the gun handling?

One problem comes at the beginning of the climactic gunfight — which I admit is beautifully filmed and mostly accurate — showing the antagonists equipped with black-powder-era rifles and revolvers using ammo of uncertain quality, literally hacking away at each other at short range. But when one counts rounds, and mind you, there was no time in which reloading would have been possible, Costner fires at least 15 rounds from a six-shot, single-action Colt – which, to carry safely, smart gunmen usually carried with the hammer down on an empty chamber, leaving five rounds available for action. If we choose to be charitable and assume Costner’s character, Charley Waite, loaded the gun up full and had a second revolver concealed somewhere around his person, that still leaves three rounds unexplained.

And as much fun as the movie “Predator” was, being a classic Schwarzenegger action film, and as much fun as shooting a man-portable minigun would be, the backpack that presumably was full of ammo would be good for about one two or three-second burst. That’s in addition to it being heavy as all get out, loaded with hundreds of rounds of 7.62 NATO rounds. I doubt even Jessie “The Body” Ventura would want to lug that very far.

WARNING: Language

Also, in that scene, there’s no way elite light infantry/special operations troops would have poured that much ammo out with no target in sight. Ammo is something you have to carry; you don’t just dump it downrange willy-nilly like that (although it is still a cool scene.)

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Most shooters know that a suppressor takes the bang of a gun down a few notches; it doesn’t and can’t reduce the report to the puff that we too often see in the movies. In fact, for purposes of illustration, someone has taken a scene from the “John Wick” franchise and dubbed what the suppressors in play in that action flick were more likely to have sounded like:

What’s more, the suppressor on the end of a handgun barrel, while reducing the sound of the report somewhat, does nothing to diminish the supersonic crack of the bullet (actual suppressed arms require sub-sonic ammo to be fully effective) or the clatter of the action cycling, which somehow you never hear in the movies.

As for sticking one on a revolver and having that work, there’s that problem of the cylinder gap, the implications of which should be obvious to anyone with enough smarts to pound sand.


Let’s circle back to “Open Range.” There’s a scene in the final gunfight where Robert Duvall’s character “Boss” Spearman is hiding in a shack, and through the slats that make up the side of the shed, he sees a bad guy moving slowly between the buildings. He carefully cocks his double-barreled shotgun and fires, and the blast picks up the bad guy and flings him a good six feet, and slams him into the wall of the adjacent building.

Even Isaac Newton knew this was impossible. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and a shotgun capable of such a feat would have hurled Mr. Spearman in the opposite direction just as roughly. This is something I can attest to with personal experience, having been the recipient of a charge of shot to the leg from a 12-gauge shotgun at the range of approximately three feet (let’s call it a misunderstanding and leave it at that), and it didn’t knock me off my feet or even knock that leg out from under me – while I hit the ground pretty fast it was due to that leg’s suddenly being able to support me, not to the impact of the shot charge.

People really ought to know better than this. This doesn’t require any real knowledge of firearms, just good old Newtonian physics.


From my youth, I remember a TV cop drama called “Cannon,” starring the rather hefty William Conrad as the police detective hero. In one episode, the detective comes under fire from a sniper with a scoped rifle at least a hundred yards away on a hilltop. The sniper misses the big, overweight detective at least twice, at which point the detective, who is, by the way, standing in the open, yanks out a snub-nosed .38 and drills the sniper with one round. Now, that will cause anyone even remotely knowledgeable about guns to burst out laughing, but the show’s producers expected us to take it seriously.

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Also, whenever a movie or television program shows the supposed view through a riflescope, the view is either cluttered with so many lines and hash marks to make it look as though one was looking through a nuclear submarine’s periscope, or else the reticle is so thick that it looks like black bananas were intruding into ones’ field of view. The worst I’ve ever seen was on a long-ago television show (which escapes my mind) that showed a scope with no reticle at all.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good Western gunslinger tale or action movie shoot ‘em up as much as the next guy. But were I to have a swear jar next to a “pointing out firearms inaccuracies in movies” jar, I know which one would fill up more quickly.



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