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Convenient Misfire
Carbon fiber, .28 caliber. Made in China. If you want to kill a public servant, Mr. Maroni, I recommend you buy American.
Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

Guns, like any machines, are prone to malfunctions; the most common, and thus the most likely to pop up in fiction, are jams and misfires. However, since there's no good reason for a gun to jam in the middle of a straightforward firefight, expect any errors to come during a crucial moment.

You can also think of it this way: does this gunshot have the power to end the plotline? If yes, and if the plot isn't at its actual end, it's fairly likely that it won't go off quite right.

Of course, when real guns jam or misfire, it's fairly easy to fix (depending on the gun and the era, of course.) That said, if it comes down to timing, a misfire or jam may make or break a gunfight. It's also much more common in period pieces, as modern weapons are much more reliable than, say, 19th century revolvers.

May overlap with Shur Fine Guns. Similar to My Car Hates Me.

While the title of this trope is misfire-specific, do note that it applies to any type of failure to work on the gun's part.


Anime and Manga
  • In Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid, Xia Yu Lan's gun jams while she's trying to kill Kaname. She quickly and methodically clears the jam and resumes firing, averting some other tropes associated with gun jams, but the momentary reprieve saves Kaname's life.

Comic Books
  • In Le Tueur, the killer's gun misfires right as he's about to kill himself with it. Of course, once he's fixed it, the suicidal urges have evidently passed.
  • In Knights of the Dinner Table, Bob accuses Brian who is GMing of doing this to save BA's and Sarah's characters when Bob's character's gun misfires during a gunfight in a Cattlepunk game. Bob points out that the character's gun is a cheap revolver that's just been submerged in a horse trough.
  • Tintin's life is saved by this several times, including one with a cannon.

  • Aversion: in The Way of the Gun, Longbaugh's shot gun jams in the middle of the shootout. Instead of editing around it Benecio del Toro clears the jam and keeps firing.
  • In Back to the Future, Marty is saved repeatedly from being shot by Libyans because their rifles keep jamming. They are shooting AK-47s, which, in Real Life are famed for their reliability even under the harshest conditions.
    • This is kind of an apple to oranges comparison. AK's are famed for their ability to continue to operate even when their owner/user shows complete disregard for maintaining the weapon such as cleaning and lubrication. Common jams such as stovepipes, and double-feeds (the latter of which is usually the result of a defective or worn-out magazine regardless of the rifle's design) are at least as common in an AK as other conventional automatics. Some would even argue the former is more common in the design.
  • During the Mexican Standoff in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, it turns out that none of the guns work because they all got wet, thus conveniently avoiding having to kill off four main characters at once.
  • Unforgiven. William Munny enters the saloon where Little Bill Daggett and his deputies are celebrating the death of Ned Logan. He confronts Little Bill and prepares to kill him for torturing Ned Logan to death. Watch it here.
    Little Bill: All right, gentlemen. He's got one barrel left. When he fires that, take out your pistols and shoot him down like the mangy scoundrel he is.
    Munny: [Points shotgun at Little Bill and pulls the trigger] Click.
    Little Bill: Misfire! Kill the son of a bitch! [Gunfight begins]
    • Justified as before the scene Munny was out in the pouring rain for an extended period. Older firearms cartridges were much more easily ruined by exposure to water than modern day ammunition. This is especially true of then-era shotgun shells due to the nature of its design versus a rifle or pistol cartridge.
  • Averted in Get Shorty. Ronnie is not intimidated when Bones points a gun at him because he states the model is notorious for always jamming at the wrong times. Bones promptly shoots him four times rapidly.
  • Man on Fire features this when the main character attempts suicide, but the gun misfires. He takes it as a sign and gives up on the idea.
  • The Mexican revolves around this.
  • A scene in Schindler's List in which a Nazi officer attempts to execute a Jew, but his pistol misfires. He calls over another soldier to execute the Jew, but his pistol misfires as well. They give up on the idea. Due to the nature of the story, this was probably based on a real incident.
  • In Two Hands, Pando fails to execute Jimmy because the mook the gun belongs to put it through the wash. Jimmy manages to escape while Pando goes to get another gun.
  • Operation Daybreak. An SOE assassin steps out in front of the car carrying Reinhard Heydrich and pulls the trigger on his Sten submachine gun, only for it to jam. This scene was Truth in Television; Heydrich would have survived if his driver had sped off, but instead the driver pursued the gunman who'd thrown down the Sten and fled, leaving Heydrich to be fatally wounded by a bomb thrown by a second SOE agent. Apparently the jam was caused by the weapon being packed in straw, which got into the weapon (not that the Sten gun was particularly reliable anyway).
  • The Sicilian. A carabinieri corporal draws a hidden gun and tries to shoot Salvatore Guiliano, but it misfires. Guiliano then ejects the faulty cartridge and fires the pistol into the roof. This is regarded as a miracle by his followers, and the corporal joins his band. This becomes Dramatic Irony when Guiliano tries to assassinate boss-of-bosses Don Croce Malo, only for his pistol to misfire too.
  • In The Dark Knight, District Attorney Harvey Dent is questioning a mafia witness who starts changing his story on the stand. When Dent approaches him, the goon pulls out a hidden gun and it misfires in Harvey's face, leading to the page quote.

  • Author J.T. Edson disliked it when guns jammed or misfired for no reason in movies, so whenever it happened in his novels he would give a detailed explanation of what caused the gun to jam. That said, it still happened several times when it was convenient for his heroes. The short story Jubal Branch's Lucky B.A.R. was one example.
  • In Les MisÚrables, policeman Javert is standing facing Thenardier, who is holding a gun. Javert tells him not to shoot, since the gun will misfire. Thenardier shoots at point blank range and the gun, predictably, doesn't go off.
  • In the climactic battle of Sheeps Clothing, Doc is emptying his repeating rifle into master vampire Alexandre Russeau and generally keeping him from rallying any meaningful counterattack—until Doc's gun jams. His moment of inattention allows Russeau to recover and close the distance, nearly killing Doc.

Live-Action TV
  • In CSI: Miami, Speedle's nearly killed when his weapon jams from lack of cleaning. He doesn't learn his lesson and gets Killed Off For Real when it jams again.
  • In Prison Break, a Defector from Decadence has his gun jam on him when he tries to blow his brains out. He tells his sister that the only other time that ever happened was in his army training. Ironically, his Drill Sergeant told him that if that ever happened for real, he'd be dead.

Video Games
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops, in the Khe Sanh mission, has Woods almost getting killed but for the player's intervention when his gun jams right before he kills an NVA soldier. He tries fixing it by whacking it a few times.
    • Also, in the multiplayer, to prevent people from using modded controllers, the semiautomatic rifles will jam if fired too fast.

Western Animation
  • The episode "Harlequinade" of Batman: The Animated Series originally ended with one of these, where Harley Quinn has a machine gun pointed at the Joker (because she was pissed that he was willing to let their pets die in his latest scheme). Joker makes it clear that he doubts she has the guts to shoot him, but she does... only for a flag reading "RAT TAT TAT" to pop out, to her surprise. According to the commentary, originally there was simply going to be a click, but the flag was added to soften the blow.

Real Life
  • President Andrew Jackson survived an assassination attempt when both of the would-be assassin's pistols misfired. Interestingly, both pistols were examined and determined to be in working order. Guess the bullets were just scared of Jackson.
  • As noted above, during the attempted assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the gun jammed, the other culprit being the vegetation that the agent had been gathering in the pocket with the gun. Why all of the greens in his pocket? To feed his pet rabbit.

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