Created By: MetroidPeter on November 13, 2017 Last Edited By: MetroidPeter on January 14, 2018

Dramatic Gun Failure (considering launching)

Someone tries to shoot someone else with a gun, only for the gun to fail at the last moment.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
trope
"9 shots: you're out."
Robocop, Death Battle

Our hero is being chased by the villain. Not just any villain, they've got a gun! And they're firing at the hero, more often than not with a shotgun. After some time of chasing, shooting, and loads of property damage, the villain corners them. There's nowhere left for the hero to run, and they cower in fear as the villain lines their sights with the hero's head, and pulls the trigger.

(click)

Nothing. Not even a misfire. The villain has run out of ammunition right before they can get the killing shot. This can represent the villain's recklessness, especially if they've been shooting wildly & destroying all sorts of items & scenery in their efforts to kill the hero. However, this is not a case of Reckless Gun Usage as that concerns people unfamiliar with firearms, while this is about characters that are. It goes without saying that this is a nice aversion of Bottomless Magazines. This isn't to be confused with Where's the Kaboom?, as that is for explosive devices, while this is specifically for guns. This also works if the gun jams, but that isn't used as often.

It's not enough for a character's gun to fail at any point for it to count. The gun has to fail when it working would allow the shooter to kill the target with a well placed shot. This is why it's dramatic for them to run out of bullets at the one point they need them most. It's very rare for the audience to know that the weapon won't work, but the characters don't, but it's not unheard of.

The inverse is Counting Bullets, where the hero counts how many shots the villain has fired and specifically analyzes the situation to their advantage. This is different from that trope in regards to the fact that in the heat of the moment, most characters can't be bothered to try to analyze such a hectic situation like that. Even then, if the villain isn't counting, and runs out at the last moment, it's an example of this trope, not Counting Bullets. Because the villain is not counting.

This is more often than not done with villains, but examples of this happening to heroes exist.

A variation of this is It Works Better with Bullets, where another character deliberately invokes this by removing the bullets from the gun beforehand, or takes another step to make the gun inoperable. A Subtrope of Reliably Unreliable Guns. See also Convenient Misfire.

Rolling Updates, No Launching Please.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animation 
  • Ratatouille: When Remi and Emile are discovered by the old lady in the film's opening scene, she goes for the most extreme form of pest control available: a pump action shotgun. She shoots the rats several times but misses, and when Emile is helplessly dangling from the ceiling lamp, she gets a clear shot as he cowers. She pulls the trigger, and nothing happens. However, she remembers to reload.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Deadpool: During a shootout on a highway, one of the bad guys starts shooting at Deadpool with their rifle after he peeks his head out from behind a car. He shoots at him all the way until he runs up to Deadpool afterwards and takes aim, only to discover that he emptied his clip on the car. Deadpool points out his stupidity and promptly shoots him in the head.
    Deadpool: Someone's not counting.
  • Jumanji: The ruthless hunter Van Pelt chases the protagonist out of their home after he is summoned from the game with a large lever action shotgun. After some chasing, and even attacking a police officer, Van Pelt lines up a good shot on the protagonist, but has already used his last shotgun blast.
  • Back to the Future: After one of the Lybian terrorists guns down Doc Brown, they try to shoot Marty next, only for their gun to not fire. It's not clear whether the gun jammed or it was out of ammo, or both.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day has a heroic example. Sarah Connor keeps blasting the T-1000 with a shotgun, pushing it towards the edge of a ledge above a pool of molten metal. However just as the T-1000 is about to fall off, Sarah runs out of ammo. The T-1000 heals up his wounds and starts taunting Sarah, before the T-800 arrives and blows it off the edge using a grenade launcher.

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets plays with this at the beginning of the climax with Ron's wand of all things. Professor Lockhart tries to use Ron's wand to wipe Ron & Harry's memories, completely unaware that the wand is damaged. It backfires, and wipes his memories instead. This is one of the few examples that involves Dramatic Irony.

    Video Games 
  • Heavy Rain: During the fourth trial, the shark, Ethan Mars has to break into a man's home to kill him. Said man turns out to be an armed drug dealer. After he refuses to leave, the drug dealer punches him, pulls out a shotgun, and tries to kill Ethan with it. He chases him around the apartment destroying many of his own valuables, and corners him into a bedroom. He lines up the shot and pulls the trigger, but nothing happens.
  • In Life Is Strange's second episode, there's a scene where Chloe practises with a gun she stole from her step father in the junk yard. She hands the gun to Max to try, when Frank (a drug dealer who Chloe owes a lot of money to) shows up and begins threatening the girls with a knife, causing Max to point the gun at him (giving the player a choice of whether or not to shoot at him). If you decide to shoot, it will turn out that Chloe had already used up all the bullets (but the fact Max was willing to pull the trigger is enough to scare Frank off and impress Chloe).
  • The Last of Us
    • Exploited in the first game: While Joel or Ellie will start panicking if you run out of ammunition, it's possible to make other hunters try to come closer to you if they hear the clicking of an empty gun. Cue Ellie tossing a brick at them and giving you the opportunity to close in for a Finishing Move.
    • In the trailer for The Last of Us Part II, the antagonist has a revolver & pulls it out when she has one of the protagonists cornered. She hears noises coming from the forest & fires a few shots. When the other protagonist tries to attack her, she fires again but misses as the first protagonist grabs her and pins her down. She tries to fire at the first protagonist, but the revolver is out of ammo.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Ocelot's gun jams during a confrontation with Big Boss. Big Boss proceeds to kick his ass and the asses of Ocelot's entire squad. He then explains exactly why Ocelot's gun jammed on him, why his technique is an inefficient way to handle an automatic, and why he'd better off with a revolver. Not only does Ocelot take this advice to heart (by the end of the game, he is carrying three revolvers), in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain he repeats it nearly word-for-word to a group of Diamond Dogs during a training session.
  • Due to the nature of the game, it's entirely possible to have this happen to YOU in Receiver. You don't have a magic link to your gun that tells you how much ammo you have in your magazine. If you don't keep track of your bullets, it's your fault if you cause a flying taser bot to close in on you by shooting it and your clip is suddenly empty. There's also the fact that you possibly didn't cock the hammer, or turned the safety off, or didn't check to see if there was even a round in the chamber at all.

    Web Animation 
  • In Death Battle: Robocop VS Terminator: Terminator starts firing at Robocop with a powerful shotgun repeatedly as he approaches. When he finally aims the killing shot at his head, he's out of shells. Robocop provides the page quote.

    Western Animation 

Community Feedback Replies: 44
  • November 13, 2017
    eroock
    Is this worth splitting off of Counting Bullets?
  • November 13, 2017
    Astaroth
    This might be too similar to It Works Better With Bullets, or at least a subtrope.
  • November 13, 2017
    Kartoonkid95
  • November 13, 2017
    Snowy66
  • November 14, 2017
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
      • Added the word "Examples".
      • Italicized work names as per How To Write An Example - Emphasis For Work Names.
  • November 14, 2017
    Theatre_Maven_3695
    Bombing due to being a violation of No New Stock Phrases.
  • November 14, 2017
    MetroidPeter
    There, I renamed it. Is that better?
  • November 14, 2017
    Bisected8
    Not quite sure if this is an example (since the ammo was used up on something other than the intended target and it involves the protagonist trying to shoot someone), but for your consideration:

    • In Life Is Strange's second episode, there's a scene where Chloe practises with a gun she stole from her step father in the junk yard. She hands the gun to Max to try, when Frank (a drug dealer who Chloe owes a lot of money to) shows up and begins threatening the girls with a knife, causing Max to point the gun at him (giving the player a choice of whether or not to shoot at him). If you decide to shoot, it will turn out that Chloe had already used up all the bullets (but the fact Max was willing to pull the trigger is enough to scare Frank off and impress Chloe).
  • November 29, 2017
    eroock
    I don't understand people throwing bombs around when a working title is still in the form of a quote. This is the easiest thing to fix. Just mention it. If the entire thing was based around a quote that would be different concern.
  • November 14, 2017
    Larkmarn
    A bomb means "this isn't ready for launch." That's all. So even if there's an easy fix, it's genuinely irresponsible not to throw bombs in if there's something to fix.

    Personally, I 100% think there's a trope here, but right now it (and especially the examples) are a bit muddy between "shooter finally lines up the kill shot, only to dramatically not have any bullets" (which I think is a trope), "someone runs out of bullets" (which is just an aversion of Bottomless Magazines which isn't its own trope), and straight up It Works Better With Bullets.
  • November 15, 2017
    MetroidPeter
    Well you can at least provide some feedback on what needs to be fixed.
  • November 15, 2017
    Larkmarn
    ... I did just that.
  • November 16, 2017
    MetroidPeter
    What I meant is instead of saying that a trope isn't ready for launch and why, give me something that can help improve it to be ready, like another example that works or helping clear up what sets it apart from other tropes. You said some of the listed examples don't work. Which ones do you think should be removed?
  • November 25, 2017
    MetroidPeter
    Would "Can't Count Bullets" be a stock phrase? Or am I allowed to use that?
  • November 29, 2017
    Larkmarn
    I'd say that's an even worse title, and the fixation on counting bullets is part of what drags this TLP down. Something like Dramatic Gun Failure (making it a supertrope to It Works Better With Bullets) would be much better and more of a trope than "literally every time someone runs out of bullets."
  • November 29, 2017
    Acebrock
    Number 120 in the Evil Overlord List Cellblock A: "Since nothing is more irritating than a hero defeating you with basic math skills, all of my personal weapons will be modified to fire one more shot than the standard issue."
  • November 29, 2017
    eroock
  • December 2, 2017
    Chabal2
    V For Vendetta: Almond had V cornered and brings up his gun to shoot him... and it's empty. It turns out he forgot to reload it earlier after scaring his wife by acting as though he was going to murder her.

  • December 2, 2017
    Prime32
    Does the backfiring wand in Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets count here?
  • December 2, 2017
    WaterBlap
    Note that this was pre-maturely launched as Cant Count Bullets. I've brought it up in the crash rescue thread, but I'm not really sure what happened or how Cant Count Bullets was launched without being tied to this draft or why this draft is not on the launch list...
  • December 2, 2017
    MetroidPeter
    I don't know how it was launched either. I was going to make improvements on it.
  • December 2, 2017
    oneuglybunny
    Actually, this is a misfire (wet primer), but it's still a firearm failure at a dramatic moment, so :

    Film
    • Notorious gunslinger Bill Munny from Unforgiven has Sheriff Daggett squarely in front of a shotgun in the Big Whiskey saloon, and has recovered his health after the Sheriff curb-stomped him several days prior. However, when Munny pulls the trigger, his firearm sputters because the primer is soaked with rainwater. The Sheriff instantly identifies the problem, and orders his posse to open fire on Munny. Munny survives despite being badly outnumbered because he's an experienced gunfighter while the posse is mostly nervous noobs and sloppy amateurs.
  • December 3, 2017
    Dravencour
    Home Alone 2 has Kevin about to be killed by Harry with his revolver, only to be interrupted by the Pigeon Lady. He tries to turn the gun on her, only for the gun to not work because the varnish that Kevin used in one of his Booby Traps has gummed up the inner workings.
  • December 3, 2017
    eroock
    ^^^ Since it was launched by you outside TLP, do we have to assume a case of Criminal Amnesiac here?
  • December 3, 2017
    eroock
    ^^ Wrong trope? I believe the name Dramatic Gun Failure (and the current laconic) make this trope appear broader than it was initially meant, as in any dramatic moment where the gun doesn't work, not explicitly for oblivious gun users running out of countable bullets in crucial moments. Or has this trope now evolved to a broader scope? If so the description needs updating.
  • December 3, 2017
    MetroidPeter
    I did consider launching it, but I cancelled the process. Not sure it if was a bug.
  • December 3, 2017
    eroock
    I see. Btw, Bottomless Magazines seems to encapsulate this trope nicely in two sentences at the beginning of the second paragraph.
  • December 3, 2017
    Omeganian
    In Batman Returns, the Penguin attempts to shoot Batman in the back with his last breath, only to pick the wrong umbrella.
  • December 4, 2017
    KTera
    In Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, Ocelot's gun jams during a confrontation with Big Boss. Big Boss proceeds to kick his ass and the asses of Ocelot's entire squad. He then explains exactly why Ocelot's gun jammed on him, why his technique is an inefficient way to handle an automatic, and why he'd better off with a revolver. Not only does Ocelot take this advice to heart (by the end of the game, he is carrying three revolvers), in Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain he repeats it nearly word-for-word to a group of Diamond Dogs during a training session.
  • December 4, 2017
    AestheticallyFunny
    Is there a reason this has to be villain-specific?
  • December 4, 2017
    CrypticMirror
    In the Endeavour episode "Prey", when hunting an escaped maneating tiger (It Makes Sense In Context) Lord Mortmaigne suffers a repeated misfire with his shotgun as the tiger steadily advances on him down the narrow corridor of the maze.
  • December 5, 2017
    MetroidPeter
    ^^ Not entirely, it's just that this is one of those tropes that's more likely to happen with villains than heroes. Heroes falling victim to this isn't unheard of though.
  • December 6, 2017
    Stolen_Moment
    • In the Payday 2 'Deathwish' trailer, an elite Bulldozer has gunned down 3 of the 4 heisters and was caught in the middle of reloading by Chains. Chains nods and slowly takes aim at the Bulldozer, only to hear that his gun is empty too, before the two race to reload their weapons first.
  • December 6, 2017
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • In V For Vendetta, Richard Almond's"hobby" of terrorizing his wife with an unload revolver comes back to bite him in the ass when he runs into V. He pulls his gun, only to realize too late that he forgot to load the bullets into it. V promptly kills him.
  • December 26, 2017
    Exxolon
    In Commando during a fight Duke (the big black Green Beret) has Matrix dead to rights with a revolver aimed directly at his head and after a Pre Mortem One Liner pulls the trigger only for a loud "click" to occur and an Oh Crap moment as he realises he's out of rounds. Matrix promptly finishes him by impaling him on a handy bit of broken furniture.
  • December 26, 2017
    foxley
    Isn't this Convenient Misfire?
  • December 26, 2017
    eroock
    ^ Good find. This draft seems to be about lack of bullets instead of jammed weapons at dramatic moments but narratively both scenarios cover the same ground and could be merged.
  • January 2, 2018
    MetroidPeter
    Happy new year everyone! Finally back! I agree there are similarities eroock, but I'm not sure how merging this trope with that one will work.
  • January 14, 2018
    MetroidPeter
    I'll be adding all of the examples that people have suggested here later, but do you guys think this is launch worthy now?
  • January 14, 2018
    Malady
    Cant Count Bullets still exists... That's gonna redirect to this, or what?
  • January 14, 2018
    FRizer
    "The gun has to fail when it working would allow the villain to kill the hero with a well placed shot."

    Why not hero-to-villain?
  • January 14, 2018
    MetroidPeter
    ^^ I suppose we can have it redirect. ^ There, I mentioned that heroic examples are possible.
  • January 14, 2018
    eroock
    Draft needs improved contrast against Convenient Misfire which is basically the same trope for guns jamming during crucial moments. Adjustments (to avoid misuse) would include:
    • A different title to emphasize that it's the lack of bullets and not the gun mechanics causing the failure
    • Not using the generic "gun failure" throughout the paragraphs but phrases like "running out of bullets".
  • January 14, 2018
    FRizer
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=8v0q48eeksjj6qnrfulec90m