"Nearby, a squad of ARMY DUDES decide to track down the TWELVE-STOREY-TALL RADIOACTIVE-GUZZLING MUTO and fight it with weapons designed to take out humans their own size. This goes POORLY."
It appears most good guys are Genre Blind
. When military personnel
or the police
encounter the Monster of the Week
, they invariably attack it with small arms fire. Unfortunately, this never works. The monster is always Immune to Bullets
. Thus, our heroes get an opportunity to save the day with some Applied Phlebotinum
or Stock Super Powers
An important part of this trope is that, in almost all cases, the good guys will only ever use small arms fire. Rockets, tanks, air support, artillery — all the things the military is known for — are hardly ever involved (unless the monster is a Kaiju
, or similarly gigantic
). Not only are they more expensive for the producers to incorporate in to the film/show, in most cases, they might actually work, thereby stealing the thunder of the heroes of the story.
If the monster in question is absurdly slow moving, expect the soldiers to remember what their mommy told them about how you Do Not Run with a Gun
. If, after they discover their guns are useless, the good guys still won't stop wasting ammo shooting the baddie, it's I Will Fight Some More Forever
Very often in instances of this trope, a Technical Pacifist
will urge the army/police/whomever to try and understand the monster before trying to kill it. Depending on the attitude
of the series, they may either be considered a naive idiot or a paragon of virtue.
If the army just wants to Nuke 'em
, the heroes' job will be to find a solution with less collateral damage before it's too late.
for a line in the Doctor Who
episode "The Daemons
," where Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
orders a UNIT soldier
to shoot the Monster of the Week five times, quickly
Compare with Shooting Superman
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Preacher, Starr attempts this against The Saint Of Killers, several times. It does not go well, ever, but Starr refuses to learn his lesson and just keeps upping the ante. After waves of the Grail's elite troops have fallen without even slowing the Saint down, Starr commandeers a tank battalion, getting them all killed in the process. When that fails, Starr orders a nuclear bomb dropped. In the heart of the mushroom cloud, the Saint looks around, spits contemptously, and growls "Not enough gun."
Films — Animated
- Subverted in Monsters vs. Aliens. At first it looks like the US military is trying to attack the enormous alien robot with just a few infantrymen with small arms. Then the camera pulls back and you see them throwing everything they've got at it. Tanks, attack helicopters, jet fighters, the works. To cap it off, even after all that, the President fires a few rounds at the robot just for show.
Films — Live-Action
- When he firsts encounters Imhotep in The Mummy, Rick shoots the undead monster with a shotgun, before fleeing the room. Ardeth says it can't be killed by mortal weapons, but Rick insists, "I got him."
- In RoboCop (1987), Robocop launches an assault into a drug warehouse. All of the drug dealers shoot at him with small arms, doing precisely nothing. He simply picks them off one by one as they fire uselessly at him.
- In RoboCop 2, the police have the same problem with the new, evil robot. Robocop must use an inventive solution to defeat it.
- In the Starship Troopers movie, the Mobile Infantry seems to have forgotten everything we've learned about combined arms warfare. The MI's only tactic is to attack in massed numbers using small arms and the occasional nuke. At no point in the movie is there any evidence of artillery or close air support, tanks or armored personnel carriers, special weapons squads with mortars or heavy machine guns. Nor do the ships seem to possess the capability of the orbital equivalent of shore bombardment, despite the fact that one scene has several bombers do a strafing run on the surface (which it's implied they could do at will if they weren't Jerk Asses). We get the barest of a glimpse of such things in a flashforward near the end, where a trooper has what is functionally a grenade launcher.
- Independence Day follows this trope on a larger scale when the human resistance limits itself to air-to-air missiles when firing on the miles-wide alien mothership. The one time they scale up to a nuke, one main character goes on a raging bender sure that using nukes will destroy the world (as opposed to the xenocidal aliens...), and the president gives up after one attempt, when for all they know the shields only barely held and the aliens breathed a sigh of relief at no further attempts.
- Most Godzilla movies and Kaiju movies in general feature at least one scene where the army rolls in with tanks, infantry, bombers, and the kitchen sink, and rarely ever even scratches the monster they're trying to take out. The conventional military arms are just a courtesy before they roll out the special anti-monster laser tanks, giant robot, etc. As part of its Early Installment Weirdness, the original film Godzilla (1954) has Godzilla driven off by an air strike.
- Godzilla vs. Megaguirus has an opening scene where soldiers go up against Godzilla with rocket launchers. Essentially, they're using weapons designed to take out tanks against a creature that habitually takes out tanks by the dozens during each of his rampages.
- In Godzilla (2014), when Godzilla makes landfall in Honolulu, SWAT members and soldiers alike attempt to shoot both the MUTO and Godzilla alike. Amusingly, when Godzilla shows up, the SWAT members run dry… then look at each other and decide not to reload, for obvious reasons.
- In the British kaiju film Gorgo the military is particularly bad about this. At the beginning, when the monster is still in the ocean, they actually do use some pretty heavy duty weapons on it (with use of Stock Footage to keep costs down), like battleship cannons, bombs, and rockets. These have no effect. When the monster comes ashore they use tanks and machine guns on it, even though these are far less powerful than the naval and air weapons that had already been proven useless.
- In Iron Man when Iron Monger powers up in the midst of them, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents immediately all start shooting at it with their sidearms. Needless to say, they get owned in short order.
- In Man of Steel, the various soldiers try attacking the Kryptonians with small arms fire, and continue doing so even after they've realized the need to call in heavy artillery. Later on some of them use grenade launchers, to similarly useless effect. But it's not like they had any alternative.
- Averted with the A-10's GAU-8 cannon and Maverick missiles... which stun a Kryptonian warrior and knock Faora unconscious respectively.
- In Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the humans continue using their police and security force armed with rifles and shotguns, bringing these out into the open to face to face with the apes regardless of how dire things get, never choosing to mow down the apes with automatic fire from a distance or pick them off with ranged, out of range of the apes' primarily stone age tactics mixed with untrained use of captured small-arms.
- Peter Jackson delibarately set his remake of King Kong in the thirties to partially avert this trope. He was well aware modern day aircraft are heavily armed enough to kill Kong with one shot while lightly armed biplanes allowed for a drawn out climax with more dramatic tension. The fact thats he's a fan of old planes as well as the original movie probably helped as well.
- Played straight in Sandy Mitchell's Warhammer 40,000: Ciaphas Cain novel The Traitor's Hand, where the sergeant commanding a squad of Valhallan soldiers orders his men to fire on a World Eaters Chaos Space Marine, shouting "Big red thing, five rounds rapid!" It's implied that if the squad had all managed to connect they probably would have killed the Marine, but he's a Marine and thus leaps directly over the two meter tall Cain at a speed the Guardsmen are unprepared for. Other instances of lasgun fire against Marines tend to play it straighter. It will be interesting to see how Cain's laspistol fairs in the upcoming Emperor's Finest when starring opposite bolters.
- John Ringo regularly averts, subverts, and otherwise plays this trope in his books, which probably isn't surprising given that he writes a lot of military fiction, and served in the 82nd Airborne before becoming an author.
- Completely and totally subverted in Everworld: Mystify the Magician, in which a warband of white supremacists (the "Sennites") armed with small arms and hand grenades (not to mention a very healthy dose of ammunition) are brought into Everworld. The Bronze/Iron Age civilizations of Everworld prove little match for the modern weapons and sheer ruthlessness of the Sennites, despite the fact that said civilizations have the assistance of mythological gods, magic, and mystical creatures. The Sennites manage to slay a dragon and a Celtic giant relatively easily. They also succeed in slaughtering an entire troop of the Fianna, an elite order of renowned Celtic warriors before besieging and eventually conquering their fortified town. They then hold that town against Loki's grand army, killing Fenrir in the process. The protagonists in the series fear that even without the guidance and limited magical assistance of their witch leader, the Sennites are still one of the most dangerous forces in all of Everworld, even in the face of aliens and gods.
- In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Grey Knights, Alaric becomes aware that bolter shells, armour-piercing and explosive as they are, aren't going to do much good against the reanimated body of Saint Evisser. Before him, Grand Master Mandulis recognised that bolter shells also wouldn't do any good against the true body of Ghargatuloth.
- Played straight with the Dead in Garth Nix's Old Kingdom books. When firearms even work, they can only damage the bodies of the Dead; it takes Charter Magic to harm their spirits, and a necromancer (or Abhorsen)'s bells to send them back into Death. White phosphorus grenades are about the only conventional weapon that do any real damage, and even those stop working if the wind's blowing too hard from the north.
- The words, albeit not the spirit, are quoted (almost certainly as a shout out) in the Horus Heresy novel Fallen Angels - faced with an enormous mob of zombies, a squad of Dark Angels loads up their weapons, and beings doing a pattern of 'One step back, Five Rounds Rapid' until they run out of ammunition and are forced to go hand-to-hand.
- Averted in E.E. Cumming's series of novels titled The Vampire Earth. While the reapers are immune to most small arms fire, heavier rounds push them around and fifty caliber bullets can actually pierce their cloaks. Unfortunately the series is set After the End so any weapons heavier than bolt-action rifles are exceptionally rare.
- In The Dresden Files, this is frequently used, though the level of results vary. Many monsters or bad guys (such as Nicodemus) are completely Immune to Bullets, but just as many, particularly the iron-vulnerable fae, find out humanity's come a long way since the Middle Ages. Special mention goes to Gentleman Johnny Marcone at the end of White Night, whose squad of elite mercenaries armed with assault weaponry shoot the regenerating uber-ghouls to shreds (although they do need an explosion to be completely disposed of, since they heal from pretty much anything). In the short story Even Hand, Marcone and his bodyguard Hendricks prove that a pair of illegally modified automatic shotguns beats a small army of Fomor monsters.
- Internally conversed by Peter in My Teacher Flunked the Planet; when the police discover Big Julie in the house, Peter muses that in a bad sci-fi movie, they'd be back in a few minutes with a few men and some guns, following this trope. As the town already knew that aliens existed, though, they were likely going to be coming back with a heck of a lot more firepower than that. The only good news is that it would take the police some time to get that firepower ready, which gives Peter and the other team members enough time to evacuate. Just enough, as it turns out.
- Named after the following Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart quote from Doctor Who, spoken as the Brig reacts cheerfully unfazed to a stone gargoyle which is running around, disintegrating his Redshirts: "Jenkins! Chap with wings, five rounds rapid." (It is also the title of the first autobiography of Nicholas Courtney, who played that role.) This partly avoids the trope, since bazookas and a grenade are also used against the monster, which break it apart. But it reforms.
- A particularly hilarious example was in the second Ice Warriors serial, The Seeds of Death. Despite being set centuries into Earth's future, apparently the only gun used by security forces are turn of the 20th century broomhandle Mauser pistols. Sure, the Ice Warriors are Immune to Bullets, but that's not even trying. In the last episode, one character does suggest arming the guards with flamethrowers instead, but (presumably for reasons of budget) the Doctor saves the day before this happens.
- Lampshaded in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel No Future, in which the villain (who is not Immune to Bullets) is standing next to Paul McCartney. The Brigadier promptly orders "Chap with 'Wings', five rounds rapid!".
- Notably, in the new series episode "Doomsday", British military forces are seen to deploy a rocket launcher against attacking Cybermen after small arms fail.
- UNIT actually destroy several Cybermen with bazookas and grenades in their first encounter with them back in "The Invasion". ("Attack of the Cybermen" went one better by having a Cyberman killed by repeated shots from a handgun.) Another massive subversion is the Zygons, who appear to have no immunity to bullets whatsoever and are killed or injured every time they get shot.
- The Brigadier calls for tank support in Robot, but the titular menace disintegrates the first tank before it can get into firing position.
- Brigadier later tried shooting it with the Robot's disintegrater, but the energy used enabled it to grow into a giant instead. At least the Brigadier is man enough to admit he made a mistake to the Doctor.
- He even lampshades his own trope, naming another trope in the process: "You know just once I'd like to meet an alien menace that wasn't immune to bullets."
- This line is also used in an anime episode based on Doctor Who.
- Double subverted in the Ninth Doctor's final story "The Parting of the Ways", where Captain Jack Harkness gives a group of volunteers under his command "bastic" bullets he is convinced will "blow a Dalek wide open". However, he fails to take into account the Daleks' new bullet-dissipating forcefields, which render the rounds useless. Bitterly lampshaded when a minor character despairingly declares "They're not working!" moments before she gets Exterminated.
- Played straight in the Tenth Doctor episode "The Poison Sky", where the Doctor's frantic pleas to UNIT to listen to him when he says no matter how many troops are deployed, guns will not work against Sontarans (due to their sonic waves that cause copper to expand, jamming traditional bullets in their chambers) fall upon deaf ears and the Doctor and UNIT command wind up being forced to listen to their troops being slaughtered over the comm system. The Doctor is less than impressed.
- Later subverted when UNIT switches out guns for ones that won't be effected by the sonic waves, which allows UNIT to slaughter them.
- In what may be a television first, a foe of the Tenth Doctor's attempts to lift off from London without enough power to activate her energy shield defenses—and is taken out by a single round from a British Army tank! Even TV series set in World War II (Combat and Rat Patrol, for example) traditionally avoid spending money on tanks.
- In The Scarifyers: The Nazad Conspiracy, an audio starring Nicholas Courtney, his character Inspector Lionheart utters the line "Sergeant, chap with fangs there, five rounds rapid!"
- And finally averted in the episode Battlefield, where it is revealed UNIT has invested in specialized rounds for different alien threats, which work just fine. The new series adds 'rad-steel' rounds for counteracting anti-bullet fields. It's probably a subversion in the sense that said bullets are only deployed after normal bullets fail. On top of that, guess who gets to put the fatal Five Rounds into the Big Bad?.
- Lampshaded in the Easter special "Planet Of The Dead", when Captain Magambo is heard to shout "I don't believe it! Guns that work!" as rocket launchers tear apart aliens.
- In Star Trek, The Borg shields adapt to normal phasers and other energy weapons, but prove ineffective against bullets. Sometimes it seems the Federation could have quickly ended the Borg threat by replicating a few million tommy-guns, or designing other impact weapons, they instead concentrated on randomized versions of their Zap Gun technology. Though in the live-action works, not only have we never seen Borg being attacked by bullets for more than two drones worth of casualties, which is slightly less than the average number of Borg casualties before Borg adapt, but the bullets themselves were forcefields generated in a holodeck. We have, admittedly, seen Borg drones successfully taken out by simple kinetic impactnote for multiple drones' worth of casualties across multiple seasons, which would support the idea of bullets also continuing to work as they use the same basic damage mechanism (ram physical object into Borg drone really really hard).
- The novels of the Star Trek expanded universe (particularly Star Trek: Destiny) actually give Starfleet guns made around the same concept of Picard's idea. One character even refers to them as 'old technology given new life' as he sprays down a few dozen Borg drones.
- Hand-to-hand combat wavers from work-to-work. In Unimatrix Zero, bat'leths were quite effective, but that was a simulated world. Species 8472 tear apart Borg drones left and right, while Worf and Data in First Contact do quite well, though Data was eventually neutralized when the Borg shunted him behind a forcefield. Meanwhile, earlier in the movie, a random Red Shirt tries to rifle butt a drone, and the drone shrugs off the assault and throws the Red Shirt into a wall. Borg seem to rely on armor in hand-to-hand combat instead of shielding.
- In Power Rangers Time Force, a for-hire defense force called the Silver Guardians often arrives before the Rangers do. Invariably, they are able to dispense with some of the Mecha-Mooks but the Monster of the Week and/or The Dragon (whichever is present) are another story entirely and the Guardians are having the daylights bashed out them by the time the Rangers arrive. And they return again the next week with the same weapons and tactics, still not having learned their lesson.
- Let's not forget that, like much Sentai, Shōnen, and Monster of the Week stuff, ALL Power Rangers shows focus on the rangers going through their own private counterpart to the Sorting Algorithm of Evil. See that monster? Think you can actually just defeat it with a punch? Why not just whip out the combined 'Zord and stomp it into jelly to start with? Because then the show would be over before the first commercial break. A Hand Wave in the first episode of the first Power Rangers series mentions that they're not supposed to fight unless provoked, and not to escalate a confrontation unless absolutely necessary. To be fair, the Power Rangers aren't really a military force in the strictest sense.
- There's a logic to this. First of all, think about the scale of the Rangers' mecha. How long do you think the people of Random City A would put up with the Rangers if they called out a skyscraper-crushing giant robot to step on a human-sized monster like a grape? Secondly, if the villains saw that the Rangers were going to bust out the heavy artillery straight away, they'd feel compelled to escalate their own attacks...
- In the LOST episode "The Shape of Things to Come," at least one of the ex-military mercenaries fires at the monster, which is composed of thick black smoke. Naturally, it doesn't do much except get the guy killed.
- Parodied in Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a supposedly invulnerable demon, who with his final words reminds Buffy that he can not be killed by any weapon forged by man. But that was a thousand years ago and a rocket launcher does the job perfectly fine.note
- Similarly in the Season 3 finale, they take out the recently powered up Big Bad by packing the school library with ANFO.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- A standard tactic for the Eldar Dire Avengers used to be steadily retreating while pouring a hail of small-arms fire into the enemy (primarily because Dire Avengers don't have anything else). It worked very well against most infantry, mostly due to the sheer volume of fire a Dire Avenger squad can get into the air (which would make this more like several billion rounds rapid). And then the new rules came along and made basic infantry fast enough to catch the Dire Avengers, rendering this strategy totally obsolete, only for 6th edition to make it viable again (more so, anyway), by allowing Dire Avengers to shoot and run in the same shooting phase (normally an either/or choice), and a variant of the Rending special rule allowing them to wound even the toughest monstrous creatures.
- Necron gauss weapons are also quite capable of pulling this off. Sure, it might take a squad of warriors 40 shots to bring down a Land Raider, but that's a) 1 round of shooting for a full strength warrior unit within 12", and b) infinitely fewer shots than you're going to need with any other basic weapon.
- This is also the sadly-default strategy whenever heavy weapons/support gets taken out. "You now have forty Imperial Guard soldiers with flashlights and t-shirts against three daemon-possessed main battle tanks." "Welp, let's see how many 6's I can roll out of these eighty shots to try and chip away at them... What do you mean just surrender? I still have soldiers left!"
- A possible character-option purchasable order for soldiers on the 40K Tabletop RPG Only War has the trope name. It does exactly what you would expect.
- In this video, Lindybeige discusses the tendency for players to unthinkingly conform to this trope in fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, using small weapons like swords, axes, maces, etc. (all of which are designed for fighting human opponents) against huge fantasy creatures like dragons. He describes an RPG scenario where the players tried and failed to use this standard method against a house-sized monster, only to be shown up later by a unit of NPCs besting the creature using more effective specialised group tactics.
- Played with, intentionally or not, in Pathfinder. The firearms in the book Ultimate Combat target touch AC, and many iconic monsters, including dragons and giants, have awful touch AC. In other words, guns are extremely effective (or at least extremely accurate) against them where swords, axes, hammers and bows may not be. On the other hand, the guns (old school black powder and flint) are expensive, don't do that much damage, and can blow your hand off if you're unlucky, so there's always that. Even so, for a well trained Gunslinger (lvl 7 or higher) Five Rounds Rapid becomes the tactic of choice against the big, lumbering foes who tend to shrug off more 'conventional' weapons.
- Occurs at the beginning of Sonic Adventure against Chaos 0.
- Justified Trope: There's not time for a SWAT team to come in before Sonic arrives.
- Final Fantasy VII: The Shinra Army attempts this with bazookas and artillery fire when the naval base Junon is attacked by Sapphire Weapon. They succeeded when they fired the second shot of the Mako Cannon (the huge main gun of the base) at the Weapon point-blank range.
- Averted in the Internet novel The Salvation War where human weaponry proves devastatingly effective and it's the demons who are stuck with the pathetically outmoded and virtually useless weapons. Every time the demons try one of their "classic" weapons, it fails miserably and the humans hit back with something unimaginably more lethal. For instance demonic lightning bolts are countered by massed salvoes from multiple-launch rocket batteries, brimstone is countered by Sarin nerve gas. Though early on humanity does find out that standard 5.56mm isn't very good at stopping demons and has to adapt to using larger calibers.
- Averted in the web RP, Insane Cafe: The Curse of the Haunted Hotel. When the characters have to fight a huge demon, they use everything from small arms to Molotov cocktails to anti-tank rockets. And it works.
- Played with in the SCP Foundation. Most of the SCPs are fought with mundane, albeit powerful weapons: for example, SCP-076 is contained with what's heavily implied to be a Phoenix CIWS (basically, a computer-guided 20mm gatling gun used to shoot down antiship missiles), and it's working so far. However, the fact that SCP-096 appears to be immune to everything up to AT4 antitank missiles doesn't stop them from chasing it down and trying to kill it with a sniper rifle when things go wrong.
- In Generator Rex, Providence takes down EVOs by shooting at them with guns from regular Providence grunts. And, sometimes, heavier weaponry. It is implied several times that they are good at what they do. They seem limited when Rex usually has to come in and save everybody.
- Fridge Logic : Maybe sometimes the fact that they can't handle them is the REASON they call him in the first place.
- Captain Fanzone's attempting approach to fighting Professor Sumdac's roach monster in the pilot episode of Transformers Animated. When bullets don't work, he tries rockets. The monster just absorbs them. Luckily, they are soon saved by alien shipwreck survivors — the Autobots.