"You had nothing, but you used it well."The act of threatening someone with a weapon you do not have, or telling others to back off or you will use a hidden weapon when no such weapon exists. A few variants of this trope include:
— Teurac, Farscape ("PK Tech Girl")
- Pressing a cold metal object against someone, convincing them it is a gun or knife.
- Sticking a finger or pen in a pocket or purse against the fabric and pretending it is a gun.
- Convincing someone that a random object is a weapon.
- Claiming that you have a weapon hidden on your person.
- Pretending to have a Secret Weapon in your spaceship.
- Telling someone not to turn around or you'll shoot.
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Anime and Manga
- Vash the Stampede does this in an episode of Trigun. He'd didn't have his gun with him, and so he stuck his finger in his jacket pocket and extended it to make the bad guy of the week think he had a gun. Amusingly, we later find out his "arm" really is a gun.
- In A Certain Scientific Railgun S, Shinobu pretends to have an esper ability that allows her to kill anyone she touches with a thought in order to frighten some thugs into leaving her alone. She pulls this off through the use of a tiny needle of anesthetic on her palm and acting.
- Tintin The Black Island: The exchange is:
Tintin: Hands up! (Two Mooks Tintin is standing behind put their hands up.) Put your guns down on the ground. And don't turn around, or I'll shoot... Come on, I said put your guns down!(Mook 1 puts a gun on the ground.)Mook 2: I... I...haven't got one.(Snowy picks up the gun and walks toward Tintin.)Tintin: Don't try turning round! Make just one move, either of you, and it'll be the last thing you do! (Tintin slips and falls.) Oh!(The two Mooks turn around.)Mook 1: Tintin! (The Mooks run toward him.) And he wasn't even armed!
Tintin:"Hands Up! Put your guns down and slide them behind you"(Gangsters comply. Tintin collects guns.)Tintin:"Much obliged, seeing as I didn't have one of my own."
- He does it again in Tintin - Tintin in America, when two gangsters are seeing if they've actually killed him after throwing a dummy in the lake:
- In Power Girl, Starrware employee Nicholas Cho confronts Karen Starr about her secret identity. In order to force a confession, he levels a device that looks very much like a ray gun at her and counts to three. During the count of three, Karen grabs the gun from him and changes into her costume. She then notices that he was wielding a handheld vacuum cleaner.
- In a classic Stan Lee / Jack Kirby Human Torch story, the Wizard confronted the Torch with photos of him in his civilian guise of Johnny Storm (early in his career, the Human Torch briefly tried to keep a Secret Identity, but it didn't stick). The Torch countered by using his previously unrevealed "telekentic powers" to retrieve the photos from the Wizard's hands. Turns out it was just his sister The Invisible Girl taking the photos while invisible.
- In the Silver Age of comics, Magneto faced off against the Fantastic Four and Mr. Fantastic wound up threatening him with a gun even his magnetic powers couldn't influence. Magneto surrendered, and we all learned it was a gun made of cardboard. This was animated as well.
- Spider-Man combined this trope with Large Ham in one scene, by pretending to have powers he didn't have when a bank robber takes a hostage.
Spider-Man: I'm summoning the spiders...I'm Spider-Man. And you're making me mad. I'm summoning the spiders. They will come to my call. Hundreds of them. Thousands. And all at my command. [Beat] Because I'm SPIDER-MAN!
Thug: I give, dude! I give!
- During the '80s, a recurring Batman character named Joe Potato worked as a private detective in Gotham. Occasionally he would threaten suspects with his Potato Peeler, a six-inch knife with a narrow hole along the blade. Batman once saw him brandishing the Potato Peeler and angrily confronted him. Joe then revealed that the knife was rubber and that he only used it for intimidation.
- Lucky Luke: When the Dalton's brothers want to escape and their usual way is out, Averell shows Joe a perfectly accurate replica of a revolver carved in soap and says that with some shoe polish it will be perfect. When Joe compliment him on how realistic the gun looks Averell says that he had a model to work on that a guard forgot on a table which he snatched a while ago (it's even loaded). Joe makes him eat his soap gun.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- In The Arrival, when Zane suspects that his former boss is an alien, he calls him out into the garden in front of the building, then sticks his hand into his pocket, making something there point threateningly at the guy, saying "Fucking NRA, it's just so easy to get one." After the guy finally admits to his people speeding up the greenhouse effect in order to kill off humanity and prepare the planet for them, Zane take out... a camera remote. Turns out he planted a camera in the tree to record the whole conversation.
- Field of Dreams: Ray, out of desperation, tries to kidnap Terence with a finger in his jacket. Terence isn't fooled for a second.
- In The Phantom of the Opera (1925), when Erik is cornered by the mob, he appears to hold something in the air and brandishes it to hold them back, even turning to make those behind him retreat, then he laughs and shows an empty hand, prompting the mob to move in for the kill.
- In See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Dave breaks into the hotel room of the woman trying to kill him and rifles through her bag, only to find her showering, and blinded by the soap. When he accidentally makes a noise that makes her run out, he sticks his hand in his pocket and pretends that his erection is a gun in order to escape.
- Used by The Three Stooges in the short "Dizzy Detectives", and revealed by Moe poking his finger through a hole in his pocket.
- True Lies: Jamie Lee Curtis' character brandishes a lipstick holder to the head of a wannabee spy, making him pee all over himself.
- Bandits: The first bank they rob is with a highlighter, pressed against the back of the bank guard's neck, in order to steal the guard's actual gun and rob the bank.
- In Batman Begins, Batman sneaks into Gordon's office to introduce himself for the first time. To keep Gordon from turning around and seeing him, he imitates a Dramatic Gun Cock using a stapler pressed to the back of Gordon's head.
- In Armor of God: Operation Condor, a pair of goons approach Jackie with one pointing what looks like his finger through the pocket of his coat. An unfazed Jackie rolls his eyes and returns the threat, claiming to also have a piece. Of course, the goon isn't bluffing. Whoops.
- Sunset features a scene in which a Hollywood actor standing in the shadows cradling some kind of pipe in his arms manages to convince two mobsters that his mop is a shotgun long enough for their hostage to take the only real gun in the room.
- In The Chase, Jack (Charlie Sheen) takes a heiress (Kristy Swanson) hostage in a convenience store and sticks something in her back to force the officers confronting him to drop their guns. Once Jack and his hostage hop in her car, though, he holds up the Butterfinger he used to fool her.
- Natalie: You kidnapped me with a candy bar?
- In The 39 Steps, a tobacco pipe in a coat pocket gets a woman to play along.
- Both played straight and subverted in the Burt Reynold's movie Malone (1987). The villains suspect Malone is a Professional Killer after he beats up local thug Dan Bollard, so to find out they fill up his brother Calvin with beer, give him a gun and sic him on Malone to see what will happen. Malone is having his hair cut, and claims he's got a gun under the barber's gown. Calvin says it's just his finger, but when Malone dares him to find out the hard way, Calvin flees. Malone then reveals to the others in the barber shop that it is his finger after all. Outside the man who gave Calvin the gun taunts him for being a coward, so he charges back inside, gun blazing. Malone however has gotten to his coat that's hanging behind the door and removed the .44 Automag from his shoulder holster which he promptly uses to kill Calvin. The incident becomes a Brick Joke at the end of the movie. Malone has single-handedly destroyed the villains when he comes across a corrupt sheriff, who cowers away in fear when Malone makes a threatening move, only to reveal he's holding a Finger Gun.
- In Godzilla vs. Gigan, a man gets held up with an ear of corn pressed against his back, making him think it's a gun.
- In Vabank, two crooks are robbing stores by threatening their assistants with a silencer, alleging they also have a gun (they don't). Quinto instantly sees through this and counter-"threatens" them with a (detached) nozzle from his trumpet, making it look like a gun muzzle, revealing the bluff when this works to show he's not interested in them.
- The Punisher has a variant of this, as the titular vigilante interrogating a criminal by using a blowtorch... on a side of meat while jabbing him with an iceepop, telling him that damage an intense flame causes to nerves can feel ice cold.
- Jingle All the Way: Twice, when mailman Myron Larabee finds himself in a pinch, he grabs a random package out of his mail bag and claims its a bomb in order to escape. The second time he does this, the package really does contain a bomb; something that Myron didn't know and is quite surprised to find out.
- In 30 Minutes or Less, Nick gets Dwayne and Travis to surrender by claiming he hired a sniper, then a Laser Sight appears on the two. It's really Nick's friend Chet hidden and using a laser pointer.
- Attempted in Good Omens in order to break into a military base. The plan works. Complete with an Exact Words threat—the person tells the soldier not to move, or she will regret what she will have to do, and her inner monologue continues that what she really means is she'll regret having to be shot.
- Used in For Love of Evil by Satan himself to hold power over the demons of hell.
- In Death Masks, Harry holds up and interrogates a professional thief with a wind-up toy duck in this manner.
- He pulls the same trick on a professional assassin in Small Favor.
- In the first Op Center: Net Force book, an FBI Agent (the Love Interest of one of the main characters) has reason to think that the character's life is in danger, and storms into the room holding a pen to resemble a gun. He is immediately shot dead by the would-be assassin, providing just enough of a distraction for the main character to overpower her.
- In X-Wing: The Bacta War, Rogue Squadron amasses hundreds of proton torpedoes as part of their campaign to take down an enemy with a Super Star Destroyer. The missiles will be launched from support ships using the X-Wings' sensor data, so this leaves the squadron will lots of spare targeting systems, which they install on the space station they're operating from as a deterrent. It works, too - when the enemy fleet shows up and gets painted by three hundred torpedo locks, the Super Star Destroyer cuts and runs, while the remaining Star Destroyer surrenders.
- In The Sheikh and the Dustbin, George MacDonald Fraser tells of a piece of outside-the-box thinking used by an eccentric brother officer to put down a riot in Libya circa 1947: He wired up a plunger to an (empty) crate and parked the crate on a bridge in full view of an angry mob that was about to cross it. As soon as the plunger was raised ready for "blasting", the crowd dispersed with extreme alacrity. He doesn't just rely on this though, as it's implied the same officer is the mysterious sniper who later shoots dead the nationalist leader behind the uprising.
- Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy, everyone remembers the last big war between humans and an alien empire, when humanity brought out a Superweapon Surprise called CIRCE that annihilated an entire enemy fleet so horribly - boiling its crew inside of their untouched spaceships - that the aliens promptly surrendered. Everyone expects the humans to do the same when the Conquerors show up, turning the war into a race to reassemble this Dismantled MacGuffin. Except, as you may guess from this trope page, CIRCE doesn't exist - a freak solar flare took out the alien fleet during that first conflict, and the humans took credit for it in order to convince their enemy to surrender. Which means the human military is trying to find a new weapon against the Conquerors while simultaneously keeping anyone from discovering the secret behind humanity's control of space.
- Doctor Who:
- In "The Time Meddler", the Doctor jabs a branch into the Monk's back and claims it's a Winchester '73. The bluff works till he is interrupted by Vikings.
- In "The Faceless Ones" he threatens to blow an entire airport to smithereens, throws the bouncy ball he was bluffing with at the authorities, and runs off.
- In "The Face of Evil", the Doctor threatens to kill a savage with a jelly baby. To his shock the others say, "Kill him". Determined not to be upstaged, the Doctor eats the jelly baby instead. "I don't take orders from you."
- In "Victory of the Daleks" the Doctor convinces the Daleks that a jammie Dodger (a type of cookie) is a TARDIS self-destruct button.
- In "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS", the Doctor sets a timer on the TARDIS for 30 minutes, and convinces three scavengers that the TARDIS will self-destruct when it goes off unless he deactivates it.
- In Lie to Me, Torres scares the hell out of a man in the rough part of town by walking aggressively, wearing a hefty jacket, and then shoving her hand into her pocket to grab something. She talks to the man, mentions how he's scared that she has a gun (which is intentional on her part), and then stops the charade and pulls out her card.
- In one Star Trek: Voyager episode, the Doctor threatens the bad guys of the week with "The PHOTONIC CANNON!!!!" Naturally there is no such thing, however because he imagined that it existed earlier, and the bad guys' main method of collecting data on Voyager was by examining the Doctor's dreams (thinking them to be memories), it's a very effective one. In addition, the "memory" that they saw showed said cannon destroying a Borg Cube in one shot. When the bad guys say they're not detecting any weapon activation, the Doctor points out that the Borg didn't either, as it was designed to be undetectable.
- Star Trek: The Original Series, "The Corbomite Maneuver:"
Kirk: This is the Captain of the Enterprise. Our respect for other life forms requires that we give you this... warning. One critical item of information that has never been incorporated into the memory banks of any Earth ship. Since the early years of space exploration, Earth vessels have had incorporated into them a substance known as... corbomite. It is a material and a device which prevents attack on us. If any destructive energy touches our vessel, a reverse reaction of equal strength is created, destroying—
Balok [voice]: You now have two minutes.
Kirk: —destroying the attacker. It may interest you to know that since the initial use of corbomite more than two of our centuries ago, no attacking vessel has survived the attempt. Death has... little meaning to us. If it has none to you then attack us now. We grow annoyed at your foolishness.
- Corbomite was apparently a popular choice for Kirk. In a later episode, he successfully bluffs an attacking Romulan fleet into withdrawing by sending a transmission home in a code the Romulans had already broken, detailing the effects of the detonation of the ship's corbomite device for them in the guise of a warning to Starfleet.
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Riker and Geordi pull a version with the "Crimson Forcefield", which supposedly depowers the Pakled ship's weapons. It's actually blowing hydrogen back through the Bussard Collectors. Helps that the Pakleds are, as a species, dumber than a sack of hammers.
- Star Trek loves this one. In the pilot episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the heap of junk space station has zero guns and six photon torpedoes. It's a sitting duck for the Cardassian warships outside. Their captain is missing, and so is another Cardassian ship. It's on not-so-ex terrorist Kira to get the Cardassian warship to stand down. So, she exploits O'Brien's engineering genius to make it look like the station is armed to the teeth, shoots every torpedo they have to make it look like a warning shot. And when they get the Cardassians on the line, Kira dares them to fire back. The Cardassians, who can't tell one way or another if the Bajoran is telling the truth or just plain nuts, decide to stand down.
- Reappears again when another hostile fleet ( Klingon, this time) fails to fall for the same bluff, knowing full well that the station is essentially defenseless. This time, it's not a bluff.
- Subverted in The Muppet Show: in a cowboy sketch, Fozzie has "a loaded pickle". It goes off.
- Ziggy is introduced attempting this on Dillon in Power Rangers RPM. Thanks to his cybernetic enhancements and knowledge of cars, Dillon recognizes that it's a car part merely being held as a gun without even looking at it.
- Firefly: In the beginning of "The Train Job", the crew is being held at gunpoint, when Wash appears in the completely unarmed Serenity: "Every man there go back inside, or we'll blow a new crater in this little moon!" Quoth Jayne, after they all follow orders, "Damn yokels can't even tell a transport ship ain't got no guns on it."
- In an episode of Taggart, a detective bluffs an IRA terrorist into putting down his gun by jamming a metal pipe in his back. When he realises he's been fooled, he just laughs.
- In an episode of Breaking Bad, Walter White warns the people he's threatening that trained snipers are watching and ready to open fire, and on cue, a pair of laser dots appear on their chests. Once Walt's left the house, it's revealed the "snipers" are really a couple of numbskull acquaintances with laser pointers.
- The Flash (2014): In "Going Rogue", Cisco forces Captain Cold to back down by pointing something at him that he claims is a prototype cold gun. It is actually the STAR Labs vacuum cleaner with a bunch of LEDs stuck on it. It's suggested Snart may have suspected Cisco was lying, as he still refuses to give up the diamond has has stolen, telling Cisco not to "push it".
- Person of Interest. As he's about to be shot in an ecstasy lab, Reese holds up his water bottle and says it's hydrochloric acid. "You don't want me to drop this." The criminal accuses him of bluffing, so Reese throws the 'acid' in his face, then kneecaps the crook while he's frantically trying to wipe it off.
- On Perfect Strangers, Balki briefly manages to ward off some criminals who are threatening him and Larry by pretending he has a gun in his pocket.
- In Farscape episode "PK Tech Girl" the crew of Moya, a living ship with no weapons, comes across an old enemy ship lost in space. When confronted by some pirates returned to finish salvaging the ship, Moya crewman D'Argo, who is of a race of fierce warriors, starts yelling in frustration. Zhaan, another crew member, has Moya's Pilot send a transmission of D'Argo to the pirates, which both intimidates and confuses them: Why would a warrior be on a ship with no weapons? During future talks, Zhann would feed D'Argo lines on how to comport himself to maintain the ruse. When the episode ends, the captain of the pirates isn't angry about the deception, accepting it to be a great strategic maneuvering on their part. He provides the page quote.
- Played with in an episode of the Australian anthology series Twisted Tales, in which the presenter Bryan Brown also guest stars as Jack Jackson, a liquor store owner who prides himself on being able to talk his way out of anything. When a knife-wielding junkie tries to rob his store, he grabs a cordless drill and tries to convince the junkie that it's a gun. His employees back him up, but then a man walks in off the street and the junkie asks him what Jackson is holding. After a long beat, the man tells the junkie that it is indeed a gun. After the cops arrive and cuff the junkie, Jackson says to him "just so you don't go out of your mind..." and pulls the trigger. The next thing he knows, he's staring in disbelief at the junkie, who lies dead with a hole in his head. "I thought it was a cordless drill!"
- In the Supergirl episode "Distant Sun", Winn gets an alien bounty hunter to stand down by holding a stapler to his back and threatening to shoot him.
- In Power Rangers in Space, Bulk nearly managed to scare a monster away by pretending a toaster was a weapon. Unfortunately, Professor Phenomenous had to open his mouth and ruin it.
- Blake's 7
- In "Aftermath", Servalan reveals at the end of a Mexican Standoff that her gun was out of ammunition. Avon is impressed.
- In "Volcano", Villa of all people is able to get Servalan to back off by threatening to destroy her with the Liberator, without mentioning the power cells are low so the ship doesn't have enough energy for its weapons.
- In "The Harvest of Kairos", Servalan is able to capture the Liberator, but Avon finds a lifeform that defends itself by projecting a mirror image of any attacker, but in a more powerful form. Servalan's scans show that Avon has somehow got hold of a powerful warship, and she abandons the Liberator in a panic.
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker features several missions where you have to "hold up" every guard in the area and convince them to surrender... armed with nothing but a banana. You have to do so without being seen - should anyone notice what you're really holding it's game over (and Snake is presumably gunned down).
- Halo 3: ODST's intel sub-plot has a moment where Sadie and Mike break into a police station to reactivate the Superintendent AI (specifically, its Vergil subroutine) after Kinsler had it shut-down, and end trying to hold up a desk officer with a stapler. The desk officer knows immediately that it's really a stapler, but plays along because the "hold-up" gives her a plausible excuse to do the right thing and reactivate Vergil.
- In Sinfest, Squigley tries to use a hash pipe.
- In The Order of the Stick, a bounty hunter threatens to blow everything up with a thermal detonator unless he is paid more. General Tarquin immediately sees that he's really holding a can of tomato soup. The bounty hunter sheepishly admits that he really wanted to do a Shout-Out to the thermal detonator scene from Star Wars.
- In the Team Fortress 2 Comic "The Naked And The Dead", Medic prevents the Classic Heavy, who has a life-extender attached to his side, from killing the Modern Heavy by tricking him into thinking that the pen he was holding had been turned into an inductor for the baboon uterus that he'd put in Classic Heavy's body three comics earlier. Medic's actual goal was to distract him long enough for Modern Heavy to tear off the life extender. The trope is also subverted in that Medic actually did put a baboon uterus inside the Classic Heavy three comics earlier, he just couldn't get to the actual inductor in time.
- Happens during The Simpsons episode "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story", as Moe, Mr. Burns and Rich Texan are facing off:
Rich Texan: (taking the gold from Marge) I'll take that gold...
Mr. Burns: No so fast, Shady Bird Johnson!
(Burns steps out from behind a stalactite)
Burns: I'll take that gold...
Moe Szyslak: (enters from the shadows, holding a baseball bat) Yeah, you'll take it, and then you'll give it to me if you know what's good for ya.
(Burns and Rich Texan aim their guns at Moe)
Moe: You guys have guns?! Well, so do I! (steps back into shadows, making gun-cocking noises) Heh? Heh?
- In The Simpsons Movie, Homer tries to scare off the rioters outside by claiming to have a chainsaw, and then making unconvincing chainsaw noises.
- ThunderCats (2011) has the Drifter, a Badass Pacifist, pulling this on an attacker who's an experienced swordsman. The Drifter first parries an attempted In the Back, then continues to mock-attack while relying on his opponent's own startlement and reflexive movements to trip him up. The "weapon" the Drifter uses is a harmless willow reed he usually keeps in his mouth.
- Jonny Quest pulls this off in an episode of Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, convincing a Mook that he had him covered with a gun, allowing Jessie Bannon to disarm him. When Jonny reveals that he was wielding a fire extinguisher, the Mook turns to attack him, only to find that Jessie is now holding his own gun on him, and that she "doesn't have a problem with them."
- Played with in the Generator Rex episode "Badlands": Rex, Noah and Bobo are given the task of transporting a small container of valuable and unstable nanites, which they are told will "go off" if they are handled roughly. When the group is attacked by anarchists who want the nanites for their own purposes, Rex grabs a can of soda (which is the same size and shape as the nanite container) and threatens to intentionally make the nanites go off, and kill all of them in the explosion it will cause. This manages to scare the anarchists off, just long enough for Rex and Noah to steal one of their vehicles. It's only later that Rex and Noah find out that the nanites were not going to "explode" if they were handled roughly, they were going to "go off", as in turn off.
- The Ghost Army during World War 2 (not to be confused with Germany's Ghost Division under Rommel). Composed of artists and armed with inflatable tanks and prop weapons, they have been known to scare the enemy to surrender.
- Similarly, maskirovka on the Eastern Front. For examples, the 1942 attack at the Rzhev-Vychama salient involved over 800 false tanks, vehicles, and logistics systems operating at a railhead over 200 km to threaten a separate area of the salient, distracting the Germans and causing them to redeploy their forces, while preparations for the Soviet counterattack at Stalingrad (Operation Uranus) were facilitated by the construction of 17 false bridges and the development of massive fall-back trench lines never intended to be used.
- Many years ago, two women behind the counter at a liquor store were stuck up by a lone robber doing the "gun in the pocket" routine (actually a banana)...who they proceeded to beat up with whiskey bottles. When the banana was revealed, they just started beating him even harder!
- Following his capture by Japanese forces, American fighter pilot Marcus McDilda told his captors that the U.S. had 100 atomic bombs. Some historians believe was a factor that influenced the surrender of Japan.