In fiction, a bullet is a very simple thing. A bullet is a device that has some percentage chance of causing damage to a specific target. This chance can be reduced by interposing solid objects -- like cars, or walls, or random bad guys
-- between the shooter and the target, but otherwise a bullet either hits the target or misses entirely.
And "misses entirely" means no longer exists
. Unlike actual supersonic pieces of metal, a fictional bullet doesn't hit whatever lies along its trajectory in the mile or more that it should retain lethal power -- it just vanishes, as if every target had something behind it to catch stray rounds (what recreational shooters refer to as a "backstop"). Even if hundreds of bullets are fired during a fight scene
, there will be no casualties we don't see on screen.
And, of course, this applies to far more than just bullets -- Macross Missile Massacres
and Frickin' Laser Beams
are equally vulnerable. And, of course, it applies to more contexts than simple gunfights -- first, that which is Fired In The Air A Lot
must come down, and second, except when by pure coincidence they intersect some larger celestial body, missed shots fired during a Space Battle
could keep travelling with the same energy for millennia.
This trope tends to go hand-in-hand
with Arbitrary Maximum Range
for that very reason.
Another consequence of the Rule of Perception
. See also Bullets Do Not Work That Way
and Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy
. Because this trope is so common
, only lampshades and aversions shall be listed.
- In the first Queen And Country story, Tara Chace is ambushed by two goons with guns while unarmed. She rushes one, makes it within hand-to-hand range before he can hit her, and takes him down. After which she discovers that one of his shots hit the other one.
- In The Mexican, the man from whom Jerry picks up the eponymous gun is killed by a falling bullet from people Firing in the Air a Lot elsewhere in the town.
- In Snatch, when Avi is trying to shoot the dog with the diamond in him, he ends up accidentally killing Bullet-Tooth Tony.
- In Doc Sidhe, at the summoning circle in Central Park, Harris Greene intentionally shoots at the ground rather than at the oncoming goons because any misses would be raining down on the museum.
- There was an episode of CSI where a man fired a handgun into the air and accidentally killed a woman who lived miles away.
- As with all tropes concerning violence in Tabletop Games, Greg Costikyan's Violence RPG has its vicious way with this little trope in the section of Combat marked "Innocent Bystanders," and points out the consequences of a gun battle (if it can really be called such) between a violent scumbag with an Uzi (your typical Violence PC) and a little old lady with a revolver in her apartment.
- The old lady got two shots off before getting cut down, and neither one of them hit Uzi guy, but they did go through the wall (made of cheap modern wallboard which can't stop bullets worth crap), and now some poor immigrant in another apartment packed full of them is now without much of her lower arm.
- Meanwhile, Uzi guy got off twenty shots of which maybe three hit the old lady. The prewar brick wall behind her absorbed the impact of most of the bullets, but the rest went through a window, shattering it and resulting in casualty number two, a bike messenger who was riding below the window when it shattered and is now bleeding on the sidewalk and screaming bloody murder. Meanwhile, whatever bullets didn't go halfway through the bricks of a building across the street went through another window along the way, grazing the head of the kitty sleeping on the windowsill and possibly hitting the personal trainer who lives there, who is now prone on the floor and calling 911 on his cellphone. Needless to say, there's a reason that the law frowns upon firing weapons in city limits.