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Counting Bullets

"I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"
"Dirty Harry" Callahan

The sign of The Gunslinger or Action Hero who's really been through more battles than anyone else, or how an exceptionally smart or otherwise gifted character takes advantage in combat: in a fight, they can count the number of bullets fired by themselves and their opponents, keep track of it all, and use this to their advantage. With proper military experience, they might even be able to identify guns by the sound they make to know what weapon their adversary is using, so they know exactly when they run out.

This trope is more likely to occur with revolvers, which usually have six-round cylinders but some models have seven or eight, and a few experimental ones from the end of the 19th century had as many as twenty. Do note this isn't recommended in Real Life; counting bullets in battle is hard, magazine sizes for models vary wildly so you better be sure you've guessed the correct model of the gun, even then some guns allow you to chamber a bullet meaning the gunman will have an additional round and of course not forgetting the fact they might just switch to a different gun or quickly swap magazines. So if you're in a middle of a fire-fight focus on how many bullets you've fired, that is recommended.

A subtrope of Awesomeness by Analysis. Use of this trope will lead up to It Works Better with Bullets and One Bullet Left. Compare against Bottomless Magazines where guns carry as many bullets as the plot demands.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • Vash the Stampede can do this to know when his opponents are out of bullets.
  • In Asobi ni Iku yo!, Tomboy Gun-Maniac Manami is able to beat a highly-experienced mercenary and assassin in a mock battle thanks to a stroke of luck, and this trope. She notices Aoi dropping her spare magazine when she stumbles over a suddenly-appearing wild animal, and - having counted every shot from her (fully-automatic) assault-rifle up to that point, knows that she's completely out of bullets...
  • In Maiden Rose, Klaus manages to call Berkut's bluff because he knows he's used all his bullets. Unfortunately for Klaus, Berkut has a second gun.

  • Lucky Luke, despite shooting faster than his own shadow, sometimes wins without firing a single shot of his own. Twice he's tricked opponents into using all of their bullets by showing off.
    Hired killer: And now I'll perforate you!
    Lucky Luke: No, your gun is empty. It isn't a seven-shooter.
    • And then subverted in the gunfight at the end of the album Phil Defer, where both the hired killer and the witnessing villagers think Lucky Luke used his last bullet, but it turns out he actually is carrying a specially-built seven-shooter!
  • In Guarding the Globe, Best Tiger is introduced cornered by gangsters and assassins. Their leader counted every shot Best Tiger fired in the fight, until his last remaining round was chambered. Best Tiger, being the world's greatest marksman blindfolded, simply uses that one bullet to incapacitate about 15 bad guys.

  • Dirty Harry series:
  • The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. During his pursuit of Sigerson Holmes, Professor Moriarty fires his gun multiple times. When he finally confronts Sigerson:
    Sigerson: A Webley's #2, I think, carries only six cartridges.
    Moriarty: [Points the gun at him and pulls the trigger] Click!
    Sigerson: Yes, that's right, six.
  • James Bond
    • Dr. No. Professor Dent sneaks into Bond's room and shoots the figure in the bed. Bond reveals himself and they talk for a while. Then Dent attempts to shoot Bond;
    Bond: That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six. [Shoots Dent] note 
  • Played with in the 1979 film The Villain. Handsome Stranger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has "seven-shot six shooters". It turns out to be a plot point, as his opponent counts shots... and, of course, comes up short.
    Handsome Stranger: "This is a seven-shot six-shooter, and I had it especially made."
    Charming Jones: "Why?"
    Handsome Stranger: "Why?"
    Charming Jones: "Yeah..."
    Handsome Stranger: "I dunno. Nobody ever asked me that before."
  • In the movie Shoot 'em Up, the Big Bad is torturing the lead female by shooting bullets from a Desert Eagle to heat up the barrel when the hero enters. The Big Bad has a brief standoff with the hero when the hero notes that the Big Bad fired all his bullets already, leading to this exchange. This scene is an artifact from an earlier version of the script—Smith calls it a six shooter, but the Desert Eagle has a seven bullet magazine. In the original script, the villain was using a .44 Magnum revolver, in reference to Dirty Harry.
    • And to show the villain is just as awesome...
    Smith: That's a six shooter. I just counted six shots. You've blown your load.
    Hertz: Ahh, what about you? Your 9mm is empty too. Yeah, you fired eight on the rooftop, one in the men's room, and your second magazine was expended at the playground!
  • Subverted in one of the endings in Clue - Wadsworth and Miss Scarlet get into an argument over how many bullets have been fired, and the latter is convinced into surrendering. Turns out there was one shot left.
  • Played with in The Hidan Of Maukbeiangjow (yes, it's a real movie), where a character waits until another has shot off six shots from their revolver before coming out from cover to attack the person with the gun. As it turns out, it's a nine shot revolver, and he gets killed.
  • Played with in The Dark Knight. The Joker and a henchman are wondering if a banker wielding a shotgun was out. Joker nods yes, and the henchman jumps up. The banker wasn't out... until he shot the henchman, at which point the Joker comes out and shoots him.
  • Near the end of The Matrix, Neo and Agent Smith pull this off simultaneously. ("You're empty." "So are you.")
    • That may have had less to do with counting bullets and more with the fact that if either of them still had ammo at this point, they would have shot the other's brains out. Indeed, you (and presumably they) can hear each of their guns click empty.
    • You can see the slides locked back on both guns.
  • Played with in Hollywood Homicide. A convict being escorted through the police station parking lot overpowers his escort, steals his department-issued Beretta 92FS pistol, and begins firing wildly (all while handcuffed). Dectectives Gavilan and Calden take cover behind a car while trying to count the number of shots fired. Eventually Calden jumps out from behind cover and tackles the shooter. Gavilan scolds him for bum-rushing a shooter with a loaded weapon;
    Calden: What do you mean? It's a standard-issue Beretta, 15 shots, I counted!
    Gavilan: *ejects round from the Beretta's chamber* And one in the spout!
  • Django Unchained has this exchange after the hero shoots down a few mooks and Stephen, the Boomerang Bigot house-slave comes out of hiding to confront him:
    Stephen: I count six shots, nigga.
    Django: I count two guns, nigga. (pulls out a second gun)
  • Played With in Last Action Hero: Nobody does this in the Jack Slater films because Bottomless Magazines is in full effect. In the real world, however, the movie characters have to deal with the possibility of running out of bullets.
  • Law Abiding Citizen. A criminal gets a mysterious phone call that the police are about to bust him, grabs a revolver and runs out onto the roof, emptying it at the police cars pulling up on the street. As he's escaping across the rooftops, the mysterious voice on the phone tells him to wipe the gun for prints and toss it.
    Criminal: No, no way!
    Voice: You fired six times, genius. You bring any ammunition? Lose it.
  • Burt, the resident Gun Nut, does this in Tremors 3 helpfully pointing out when the other characters are running empty;
    *Jodi and Jack draw their guns upon hearing another Assblaster incoming*
    Burt: Forget it! You're both empty!
    Jack: What!?
    Jodi: Already!?
    Burt (to Jack): You fired ten, she fired four.

  • An Encyclopedia Brown story has a person prove a person is lying by pointing out that the story involved seven shots being fired from a six-gun.
  • In John Dickson Carr's Fatal Descent, an editor mentions "Now, it distinctly states (page 96) that the hero's gun is a six-shooter. By going back and counting the bangs, I discover that in the excitement of the moment, he has now fired 13 shots without reloading."
  • Invoked a few times by Sam Vimes in Men at Arms.

    Live Action TV 
  • There was a fun scene with this trope in Due South in which four police officers (Fraser, Kowalski, Thatcher and Welsh) are involved in a firefight with a suspect (Maigot).
    Maigot: You don't think I'll shoot?
    Fraser: Oh, I think you'll shoot, but I think you'll discover you've spent all your ammunition.
    Welsh: It's a standard, nine rounds.
    Kowalski: I counted eight rounds.
    Thatcher: I heard seven.
    Welsh: It was six.
    Thatcher: Seven.
    Kowalski: Eight.
    Thatcher: Seven.
    Kowalski: Eight.
    (brief dialogue between Fraser and Maigot concludes with...)
    Maigot: Are you sure it's empty?
    Fraser: Are you sure it's not?
    (Maigot fires, but he's out of ammo)
  • This is done in the Adam West Batman where he counts bullets from a machine gun.
    • And again in the episode "It's the Way You Play the Game". Shame and his accomplices fire off their revolvers at Batman and Robin.
    Batman: Let's see, nine guns with six shots each, how many shots is that?
    Robin: Fifty four.
    Batman: I counted fifty three. [Bang!] They're out of bullets!
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: Brisco tests a Young Gun's skills by having him shoot some bottles, with the Brisco tossing the last one in the air for him to shoot. After that Brisco tests his Quick Draw skill, shooting the Young Gun's gunbelt off before he can draw. The Young Gun says that Brisco is lucky he was able to pull that off or else he'd be dead by now (because the YG would've shot him); Brisco counters no, he had already shot his six.
  • On Arrow, the protagonist is almost beaten when he faces a would-be mob boss, who saw in news footage that he had 24 arrows and flechettes, and just arranged to have 25 guys in his mansion.
  • In Community Evil Troy does this, badly.
    Evil Troy: I'm counting bullets. And one of us is out.
    Troy: Is it you?
    Evil Troy: ...yes.
    Troy: Why would you tell me that?
    Evil Troy: To sound intimidating.
  • In "Leverage" during the 4th season finale, Nate is being chased by the episode's mark, who's been firing a pistol at Nate as he runs. Eventually Nate stops running and we get the following exchange:
    Nate: You know, Victor, the thing about you is, you know, you get so angry that you forget about the little details.
    Dubenich: No, I'm good. (pulls trigger on empty gun)
    Nate: Like counting bullets. Hard to do that when you're so angry. This one here — (pulls gun from his pants pocket) my father's gun — this has five bullets. (points it at Dubenich) I'm quite certain of it.
  • The Blue Bloods episode "Ties That Bind" has Danny get pinned down behind his SUV. He starts counting the remaining mook's shots aloud, then pops out and tells him to drop it. The mook's gun clicks on an empty chamber, he throws it aside and goes for a backup piece, and Danny puts two in his chest.
  • In Get Smart, Max miscounts the enemy's bullets. Fortunately, his resulting confidence leads only to the enemy's death.

    Video Games 

     Web Original 
  • This xkcd strip is a parody of the monologue from Magnum Force. "Six. Definitely six."
  • The Evil Overlord List addresses this in item 120 from Cellblock A:
    120: 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.
  • Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG:
    1528: I can't ask the bad guy if I fired 40,000 rounds or just 39,999.
  • This strip of Chain Saw Suit has Two Cops quoting Dirty Harry before being covered in oil.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of American Dad!, Steve, his friends and his Principal take cover from a volley of bullets. Steve's friend Barry, who was featured in the episode as a Rain Man analogue, counts all of them, determining every gun used to do so. He informs the principal that all 86 possible shots were fired, when in fact only 85 were, so that the principal could get shot in the shoulder and the boys could enact revenge on him.
  • On Ducktales Fenton is annoying Scrooge. The world's richest duck has a blunderbuss mounted above the fireplace, which he pulls down to fire at Fenton. Fenton proceeds to count the shot that is fired (465, in case you're wondering). This amazes Scrooge.
  • Archer has a talent for accurately counting the number of rounds fired during a firefight. Frequently lampshaded for laughs by the rest of the cast.
    Archer: Holy shit, maybe I am autistic.
    • As of season five Archer has outright stated he has this ability, uses it at all times and is surprised to find out no one else is counting shots when the (very frequent) gunfights ensue. He even goes as far as to to apologise (a rare move for Archer) when someone tricks the gang with an empty gun that had previously been fired in his earshot.

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