Created By: GuyIncog on October 30, 2011 Last Edited By: Paradisesnake on October 28, 2013
Troped

Flamethrower Backfire

Flamethrower + Bullet = Man On Fire ((Vote in title crowner now!))

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
A subtrope of Man on Fire, for when the person carrying the flamethrower burns to death (or simply disappears in a fireball) when his/her pack is hit, or for when a bullet strikes a Molotov cocktail or incendiary grenade before the person carrying it has a chance to throw it. Would also count if the soldier manages to ditch the burning equipment before they themselves ignite (i.e. for a smoldering grenade attached to their web gear).

Not actually Truth in Television. While shooting or otherwise damaging the tank of a flamethrower will make it leak, the fuel won't ignite immediately (even a tracer bullet isn't guaranteed to so, since there's no oxygen inside the tank) unless something else ignites it.

Sister trope to Reliably Unreliable Guns. See also Hoist by His Own Petard. Compare Shoot The Fuel Tank, where the target is a vehicle but the results are similarly explosive. For other convenient, if unrealistic, sources of Stuff Blowing Up, see Exploding Barrels, Every Car Is a Pinto, and the other subtropes of Made of Explodium.

Contrast Videogame Flamethrowers Suck, as a Flamethrower Backfire in a video game is usually to the player's advantage: often, the player can make enemies' flamethrowers explode, but not vice versa.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Black Lagoon: Revy manages to shoot "Torch" Weaver's fuel pack, causing him to fly like a rocket before exploding.

Film
  • The opening scene of Lethal Weapon 4 has Riggs do this to a flamethrower-toting bad guy.
  • Windtalkers does this to the squad member carrying the flamethrower.
  • Done in the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan
  • Done in the Ultramarines movie - despite having no backpack tank the damaged space marine flamethrower explodes like a bomb.
  • In Red, an agent shoots a RPG at John Malkovich, and he shoots the RPG, which explodes mid-air and kills the agent
  • In The Running Man, one of the professional hunters dual wield's flame throwers. It ends badly for him.

Literature
  • In the Doom novelisation, the Cyberdaemon is defeated by smashing it into a wall so that its ammo pack explodes.
  • In the Ciaphas Cain novel "For The Emperor" a sniper accompanying the main character shoots the pack of a (already dead) genestealer cultist's flamethrower to create a barrier to cover their escape. Averted in the novel "Caves of Ice" where a flamethrower equipped guardsman is killed by a bolter to the chest.
  • In the Star Trek novel Strangers From The Sky, the terrorist Racher comes to a fiery end due to this after his laser-powered napalm-fed flamethrower jams in the arctic weather conditions it's being used in, causing the fuel to saturate his clothing and ignite when he charges with it.

Tabletop RPG
  • In Warhammer, skaven warpfire thrower has a good chance to explode violently on any malfunction.
  • Paranoia. A flamethrower could malfunction as a result of being hit in combat. If it did it would explode, causing massive damage to anyone within 5 meters, including the wearer.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Ork weapons are designed with no safety features in mind, so shooting the Ammunition Backpack is usually a good tactic.
  • Ghost in the Shell The Roleplaying Game (d20). If a flamethrower's backpack is reduced to zero Hit Points it ruptures and explodes, causing fire damage to the wearer and splash damage to everyone within five feet.
  • Heavy Gear Equipment Catalog: Terranovan Equipment. If the fuel tank of a flamer (flamethrower) is hit it will have (undescribed) catastrophic results.
  • Battlelords of the 23rd Century. If a flamethrower's tank is punctured, it has a 20% chance of exploding.
  • Car Wars. A vehicle-mounted flamethrower could burst into flames and explode if hit by weapons fire.
  • GURPS Technomancer. If a flamethrower's backpack fuel tank is penetrated, it has a 1/6 chance (1/3 if it was a fire attack) to explode. The damage done depends on how many shots are left in the tank.
  • Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon magazine #67 article "Modern Monsters". A hit by a firearm on a flamethrower's fuel cannister will cause an explosion doing 8d8 Hit Points of damage (with a saving throw for half damage) to all within 10 yards.
  • Classic Traveller
    • The Dragon magazine #116 article "Aim and Burn" has several types of flamethrowers, each with their fuel supply in backpack tanks. On any penetrating hit from behind the tanks could explode, which would not only kill the user but cover a large area with burning fuel.
    • The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #3 article "Advanced Powered Battle Armor". The armor has a built-in flamer (flamethrower) with a fuel tank on the back of the suit. If the tank is hit there's an 8% chance the tank will explode, disabling the suit and killing the wearer.

Video Games
  • Borderlands uses this trope in spirit; the elite Crimson Lance units all have ammo packs on their back and come in electric, acid, and fire varieties. You can shoot it until it explodes (although it'll take quite a bit of damage before blowing up) For Massive Damage.
  • Call of Duty: World At War: Nazis with flamethrowers explode when their tank is shot. In the Pacific, flamethrower Marines will explode in scripted events but the player is immune to this weakness.
  • Also done in the intro of Dawn of War, when the flamethrowers exploded when hit by an axe.
  • In Diablo2 bosses enhanced with fire damage will explode violently upon death.
  • Gears of War: Flamethrower Locust mooks go up in flames after a few shots to their fuel tank. The Player Characters thankfully have no need for the thing.
  • Kill Zone: Liberation featured scout units (Helghast of course) with unusually explosive, large radios on their backs that stun the wearer when detonated. Thankfully, destroying the radio of a scout prevents them from calling in backup or alerting other Helghast.
  • In Mass Effect 2, flamethrower-wielding enemies will explode if hit with the correct power (Overload or Incinerate) or their fuel-tanks are shot. This can be used tactically by a player to inflict damage on other enemies.
  • Happens in Men of War, usually by shooting a high enough caliber shot at the fuel tank carried by flamethrower troopers will cause the container to combust, and setting fire to everybody within several meters of them before finally burning to death themselves.
  • In The Punisher, this is how you defeat the Russian (he throws Exploding Barrels at you. )
  • In Red Alert, Flamethrower explode when they died, even when it was with bullet.
  • In Saints Row: The Third, Flamethrower-armed Brutes can be killed the normal way, but since they wear a welding-visor, they're mostly immune to headshots, making it much harder. On the other hand, if you can put enough bullets into the backback of the flamethrower, it'll jet them into the air and explode.

Webcomic
  • In Gone with the Blastwave, Crosshair at one point suggests destroying a group of Yellows by having Pyro run into the middle of them and then shooting his fuel tank. Pyro replies that the blast radius wouldn't be big enough.
  • In Demon Fist, Jaws takes out Bon Bardman by biting holes in the gas hose of his flamethrower, extinguishing his pilot light at the same time. When he tries to use his lighter to restart it...

Western Animation
  • In Batman: Under the Red Hood, Red Hood does this to a mobster by shooting the Molotov Cocktail (petrol bomb) he's about to throw.


Community Feedback Replies: 75
  • October 30, 2011
    Koveras
    • Happens to the pyromaniac bounty hunter in the Greenback Jane arc of Black Lagoon.
    • Also, the standard means of dispatching flamethrower-armed Vorchas in Mass Effect 2, especially for snipers.
  • October 30, 2011
    Bisected8
    • This isn't a Truth In Television at all actually. While shooting or otherwise damaging the tank of a flamethrower will make it leak, the fuel won't ignite immediately (even a tracer bullet isn't guaranteed to so, since there's no oxygen inside the tank) unless something else ignites it.

    Of course soldiers with flamethrowers, like snipers, were less likely to be captured alive for other reasons...
  • October 30, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    • In Diablo2 bosses enhanced with fire damage will explode violently upon death.
    • Done in the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan
    • Done in the Ultramarines movie - despite having no backpack tank the damaged space marine flamethrower explodes like a bomb.
    • In Warhammer, skaven warpfire thrower has a good chance to explode violently on any malfunction.
  • October 30, 2011
    KZN02
  • October 30, 2011
    Generality
    In the Doom novelisation, the Cyberdaemon is defeated by smashing it into a wall so that its ammo pack explodes.
  • October 30, 2011
    ChunkyDaddy
    In Red, an agent shoots a RPG at John Malkovich, and he shoots the RPG, which explodes mid-air and kills the agent
  • October 30, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    I remember two "Molotov Coctail hit by bullet" instances.
  • October 31, 2011
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Paranoia. A flamethrower could malfunction as a result of being hit in combat. If it did it would explode, causing massive damage to anyone within 5 meters, including the wearer.
  • October 31, 2011
    AFP
    As mentioned above, not necessarily Truth In Television for military flamethrowers, which use a jellied fuel that, while very much flammable, is not explosive. If the backpack did somehow catch fire, though, the wearer would probably be in trouble.
  • October 31, 2011
    TooBah
    One of the missions in World at War had you explicitly aim for the backpacks of enemy flamethrowers to take out several enemy soldiers at once.
  • November 1, 2011
    Tambov333
  • November 1, 2011
    VioletOrange
    • In Red Alert, Flamethrower explode when they died, even when it was with bullet.

    • Also done in the intro of Dawn Of War, when the flamethrowers exploded when hit by an axe.
  • November 1, 2011
    Stratadrake
    "Roman candle" is not a good analogy for your laconic; it's a type of firework defined by launching projectiles. (They're banned for safety reasons in numerous places, like Oregon)
  • November 1, 2011
    Earnest
  • November 1, 2011
    Stratadrake
  • November 1, 2011
    Falco
    • In Mass Effect 2, flamethrower-wielding enemies will explode if hit with the correct power (Overload or Incinerate) or their fuel-tanks are shot. This can be used tactically by a player to inflict damage on other enemies.
  • November 1, 2011
    KZN02
    Black Lagoon: Revy manages to shoot "Torch" Weaver's fuel pack, causing him to fly like a rocket before exploding.
  • November 2, 2011
    Bisected8
    • Borderlands uses this trope in spirit; the elite Crimson Lance units all have ammo packs on their back and come in electric, acid, and fire varieties. You can shoot it until it explodes (although it'll take quite a bit of damage before blowing up) For Massive Damage.
  • November 2, 2011
    Chabal2
    Warhammer 40 K: Ork weapons are designed with no safety features in mind, so shooting the Ammo Backpack is usually a good tactic.
  • November 2, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    I see there is a sister YKTTW for jetpacks
  • November 3, 2011
    bluebandana
    For the Paranoia example, it's partially justified in that the most common weapon used in combat is a laser.
  • November 3, 2011
    surgoshan
    • In the film version of The Running Man, one of the professional hunters dual wield's flame throwers. It ends badly for him.
  • November 3, 2011
    Bisected8
    • In the Ciaphas Cain novel "For The Emporer" a sniper accompanying the main character shoots the pack of a (already dead) genestealer cultist's flamethrower to create a barrier to cover their escape. Averted in the novel "Caves of Ice" where a flamethrower equipped guardsman is killed by a bolter to the chest.
  • December 10, 2011
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Ghost in the Shell The Roleplaying Game (d20). If a flamethrower's backpack is reduced to zero Hit Points it ruptures and explodes, causing fire damage to the wearer and splash damage to everyone within five feet.
  • December 11, 2011
    Maxaxle
    In Saints Row: The Third, Flamethrower-armed Brutes can be killed the normal way, but since they wear a welding-visor, they're mostly immune to headshots, making it much harder. On the other hand, if you can put enough bullets into the backback of the flamethrower, it'll jet them into the air and explode.

    Oddly enough, you can pick up the flamethrower they leave behind yourself and use it just fine WITHOUT a fuel-filled backpack... ah well, expecting realism from Saints Row is like expecting loyalty from a cat.
  • December 11, 2011
    Maxaxle
  • December 12, 2011
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Heavy Gear Equipment Catalog: Terranovan Equipment. If the fuel tank of a flamer (flamethrower) is hit it will have (undescribed) catastrophic results.
  • December 13, 2011
    RedneckRocker
    In an issue of The Boys, this trope is briefly discussed.
  • January 21, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Battlelords of the 23rd Century. If a flamethrower's tank is punctured, it has a 20% chance of exploding.
  • April 15, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Car Wars. A vehicle-mounted flamethrower could burst into flames and explode if hit by weapons fire.
  • May 11, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • GURPS Technomancer. If a flamethrower's backpack fuel tank is penetrated, it has a 1/6 chance (1/3 if it was a fire attack) to explode. The damage done depends on how many shots are left in the tank.
  • November 7, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Dungeons And Dragons, Dragon magazine #67 article "Modern Monsters". A hit by a firearm on a flamethrower's fuel cannister will cause an explosion doing 8d8 Hit Points of damage (with a saving throw for half damage) to all within 10 yards.
  • December 9, 2012
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Classic Traveller
      • The Dragon magazine #116 article "Aim and Burn" has several types of flamethrowers, each with their fuel supply in backpack tanks. On any penetrating hit from behind the tanks could explode, which would not only kill the user but cover a large area with burning fuel.
      • The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #3 article "Advanced Powered Battle Armor". The armor has a built-in flamer (flamethrower) with a fuel tank on the back of the suit. If the tank is hit there's an 8% chance the tank will explode, disabling the suit and killing the wearer.
  • December 10, 2012
    Chernoskill
    Another vote against Truth In Television. Shooting a Flamethrower tank does not make it explode if it wasn't some kind of exploding or incendiary ammo. Flamethrower wielders probably were prime targets, though... At least various armies tried to disguise the weapon as a normal rifle and backpack.
  • September 20, 2013
    arbiter099
    Is this Up For Grabs? I'd like to take a stab it it if it is, how does the name Flamethrowers Are Deathtraps sound?
  • September 21, 2013
    DAN004
  • September 21, 2013
    Arivne
    ^^ The OP Guy Incog hasn't edited this since November 2011 so it's definitely Up For Grabs as per that page.
  • September 21, 2013
    spacemarine50
    Do we call this a a gross violation of physics?[[note]]hint hint[[//note]]
  • September 21, 2013
    m8e
    Moved, namespaced, italicized and sorted the examples and did some other editing. Used AC but it should probably be changed to folders instead of AC, but folders don't work and looks ugly in YKTTW.

    Still Up For Grabs.
  • September 21, 2013
    arbiter099
    alphabetized the vidya section and added Co D Wa W and Gears examples
  • September 21, 2013
    MonaNaito
    Any objections to settling on Flammable Flamethrower as the title? It concisely explains the trope and sounds nice to boot. If people would prefer a different title, then we're going to need a crowner.
  • September 21, 2013
    m8e
    I think Flamethrower Backfire is slighty clearer, it's also wittier.

    Flammable Flamethrower seem too Department Of Redundancy Department, all flamethrower are flammable. (Except those that are Inflammable. :P)
  • September 21, 2013
    dalek955
  • September 21, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    probably related to Every Car Is A Pinto.

    also, Rupture Sensitive Flamethrower? since any rupture cause them to explode. doesn't say a thing about someone holding it though.
  • September 21, 2013
    DAN004
    Title crowner plz.
  • September 21, 2013
    Melkior
    "wields" doesn't have an apostrophe (why do people seem to think that any word ending in S needs an apostrophe?)

    The Batman: Red Hood example is too close to zero-context. Expand it: "... Red Hood does it to a mobster by shooting the Molotov Cocktail (petrol bomb) he's holding above his head, about to throw it."
  • September 21, 2013
    Melkior
    For the trope name, I vote for Explosive Flamethrower since that's close enough to what we're talking about.

    True, the trope isn't exclusively about flamethrowers exploding, but that's part of the trope and there's not a big distinction between "rapid combustion" and "explosion". In fact, "low explosives" such as gunpowder literally explode by very rapid combustion.
  • September 21, 2013
    MonaNaito
  • September 24, 2013
    ShanghaiSlave
    Flame Thrower Backfire makes it sound like the character is using a flamethrower and somehow got Reverse Polarity and it got aimed towards him instead.
  • September 28, 2013
    MonaNaito
    Flamethrower Backfire is the current leader in the alternative titles crowner. How much of a margin does a title have to be ahead by before it is declared the official title?
  • September 28, 2013
    DracMonster
    Cars do this too, because Every Car Is A Pinto.

    This would be as Sister Trope of Reliably Unreliable Guns.
  • September 28, 2013
    OlafMerchant
    I also favour the title Flamethrower Backfire. Nice and clear, with a shade of witty.

    Video Games

    • Happens in Men Of War, usually by shooting a high enough caliber shot at the fuel tank carried by flamethrower troopers will cause the container to combust, and setting fire to everybody within several meters of them before finally burning to death themselves.
  • September 29, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Wow, Flamethrower Backfire is made of win.
  • September 29, 2013
    Koveras
    Indeed. Have a hat.
  • September 29, 2013
    MonaNaito
    Cleaned up the title, description and laconic and added the new examples. This came together remarkably fast after it was rescued; well done, guys.
  • September 29, 2013
    Exxolon
    In the Star Trek novel Strangers From The Sky the terrorist Racher comes to a fiery end due to this after his laser-powered napalm-fed flamethrower jams in the artic weather conditions it's being used in, causing the fuel to saturate his clothing and ignite when he charges with it.
  • September 30, 2013
    DAN004
    Frick yeah my title wins again. =P
  • September 30, 2013
    DracMonster
    This is my hat. There are many like it, but this one makes five.

    Anyone want to do the honors?
  • September 30, 2013
    kjnoren
    Backfire sounds just wrong here - sounds like jamming or not getting the intended result.

    Why not go for Flamethrower In Flames or Exploding Flamethrower? Ie, focus on what happens.
  • September 30, 2013
    DracMonster
    ^I think it's clear. It's a flamethrower. Anyone who sees "backfire" connected to that word is going to instantly think "explosion". There's not really any other mishaps associated with them (in media I mean, not Real Life.)
  • September 30, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ I agree. It doesn't seem very likely that this would be mistaken for anything else.

    Here's your fifth hat by the way.
  • September 30, 2013
    MonaNaito
    ^^^ Not to mention it won the title crowner.

    So, since this trope doesn't really have a sponsor, what needs to happen before it launches? Do we need to choose some delicious and satisfying indexes to put it on?

    There's Index Backfire, This Index Is On Fire, Stuff Blowing Up, Ironic Index (situational irony, as in "actual outcome is exact opposite of expected outcome"), and Death Tropes. Do flamethrowers fall under Guns And Gunplay Tropes?
  • September 30, 2013
    Stratadrake
    I don't think this trope would qualify under irony; if you shoot the tank on a flamethrower, you already expect it to blow up and set nearby things (like the operator) ablaze — no irony there.
  • September 30, 2013
    DAN004
    "Do flamethrowers fall under Guns and Gunplay Tropes?"

    Fire Breathing Weapon does. :P
  • September 30, 2013
    dalek955
    • In Demon Fist, Jaws takes out Bon Bardman by biting holes in the gas hose of his flamethrower, extinguishing his pilot light at the same time. When he tries to use his lighter to restart it...

    ^^The irony comes from the Hoist By His Own Petard aspect of it.
  • September 30, 2013
    kjnoren
    Well, the title crowner doesn't have that many tropers participating, and all its proposals were of the noun only variation.

    I see no need to hurry through the YKTTW process, but I really do believe that a trope name that includes a verb is much better in this case.
  • October 1, 2013
    DAN004
    What then, Shoot The Flamethrower? (dunno, may be mistaken for Blasting It Out Of Their Hands)
  • October 1, 2013
    kjnoren
    I think Flamethrower In Flames would be a good name. I worded myself poorly in my latest comment, about nouns and verbs - it focuses on what happens in the situation, not on what might happen or what will happen (by law of narrative causality).
  • October 1, 2013
    MonaNaito
    ^^^^^ Exactly. Hoist By His Own Petard is on the Ironic Index, this is a specific variant on that theme; ergo, this belongs on the Ironic Index as well. If we do stick with Flamethrower Backfire as the title, then it would also belong in the Just For Pun index.

    ^^^You're right, there's no need to hurry through the process. I see that you've added another title to the crowner, let's see what people think of it.

    Added a reference to Shoot The Fuel Tank, which operates on the same principle, to the trope description.
  • October 14, 2013
    DAN004
    Launch plz?
  • October 15, 2013
    MonaNaito
    We had been holding off due to objections about the title. Can we consider that issue resolved?
  • October 15, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Namespaced an example.

    ^ Since the current title is the only one to even have a positive score, yeah, I'd say the issue is solved.
  • October 16, 2013
    MonaNaito
    Who wants to do the honors?
  • October 16, 2013
    robbulldog
    One more example comes from {True Lies}, in which Harry has improvised a flamethrower out of a fuel truck, and his nemesis shoots the fuel truck...with a rocket propelled grenade.
  • October 28, 2013
    arbiter099
    YKTTW to Houston, are we go for launch?

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=8jb1yfwfrc3l7ivyu7nlf0ld&trope=FlamethrowerBackfire