Gun Struggle

"And yet we both reached for the gun
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes we both
Oh yes, we both
Oh yes, we both reached for
The gun, the gun, the gun, the gun
Oh yes, we both reached for the gun
For the gun."
Roxie Hart, Chicago

A very simple dramatic scene which involves two characters and a gun. Each one reaches for it and grabs it. They grapple, vying for control, until BANG! A few seconds pass and one of the characters falls down dead.

Variations apply: sometimes the gunshot is a Bait-and-Switch Gunshot. Sometimes it comes from a third character watching the struggle. Sometimes it's non-fatal. Sometimes it's not immediately obvious which of the two was shot. But a gun will always go off. Because that's dramatic.

There is also a variation of this used for melee weapons, usually a knife.

If one party is mortally wounded, this may result in The Dying Walk.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Noir has variations.
  • This is what a murder suspect claims to have happened in Case Closed, but Two Mix accidentally overheard two gunshots (meaning that the murderer shot his victim, then put the gun into the victim's hand and fired again so that the victim would test positive for gun-shot residue).

    Comic Books 

  • Minority Report.
  • This happens between 007 and a mid-level villain in Tomorrow Never Dies. Bond quickly gets control and points the gun at the villain's head, resulting in this exchange:
    Dr. Kaufman: Wait! I'm just a professional doing a job.
    Bond: Me too. (Shoots Kaufman)
  • Die Hard, only they're fighting over the gun, and the issue is to see whose neck gets snapped when they roll down the stairs...
  • At the climax of Urban Legends: Final Cut, the Final Girl, her boyfriend, a friendly cop, and the Ax-Crazy bad guy are all vying for the gun, which happens to have been mixed in with a boxful of prop guns and nobody knows which is the real one.
  • In the 1951 remake of The Racket, the villain kills a policeman after a gun struggle, leaving some ambiguity as to whether he meant to fire the shot. In the 1927 original, he just pulls his gun and shoots the cop In the Back. Note the difference between pre- and -post Production Code standards.
  • Combined with Gun Kata in Equilibrium.
  • An interesting variation occurs in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy and the mook he's struggling with briefly cooperate to shoot another mook that Todt just ordered to "Shoot them both."
  • TV movies, The Perfect Tennant as well as the The Perfect Wife, has this near the end.
  • Juice: This trope occurs between Raheem and Bishop after robbing Quiles' liquor store.
  • This marks the point where things start to go bad in The Crazies (1973). The mayor of the town and his sheriff has arrived at the headquarters the military have set up, and start protesting their actions in rounding up all the townspeople. Colonel Peckham orders his men to go through the town confiscating all weapons — starting with the police who the Mayor orders to resist. There's a tense but silent struggle with each side trying to get the others' firearms, culminating in a gunshot which reveals that the town sheriff has been killed.
  • Arthur and a dream Elite Mook get caught in one in Inception. In a rotating hallway. Followed by a hotel room.
  • The killer in The Prowler dies after he struggles for his sawed-off shotgun with the Final Girl and she manages pull the trigger, blowing his head to bits.
  • The Gold Rush has a variant where Big Jim and Black Larson struggles for a shotgun while Charlie tries to stay out of the conflict, but the gun is constantly pointed at him no matter where he goes.

  • Happens in A Tale of Two Cities, between Miss Pross and Madame Defarge near the end.
  • The knife variation wraps up the Trial by Combat in One Corpse Too Many.
  • In one Judge Dee story, the judge is told a man dead of a knife wound was accidentally stabbed during a knife struggle. He turns to his right-hand man, a very experienced fighter, who admits that it certainly is plausible, though not enough to instantly clear the other person.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Smallville, Hidden, Chloe gets tied up by the bad guy who she used to count as a friend, freed herself and struggled for his gun; a shot is fired and we see their shocked expressions for several moments before it is revealed the bad guy is shot (it is not immediately assumed because the bad guy did manage to shoot Clark and almost killed him, not to mention Chloe has the highest death/severe injury count in the whole show).
    • In Hypnotic, Simone mind controls Clark into attacking Lex, Chloe subdues Clark with green kryptonite and Lex points a gun at Simone, but she instead controls Lex to shoot Chloe. They struggle for a few seconds before the gun is fired and instead killed Simone.
  • One of the infamous season finales of The O.C. had this happening to a breakup song by Imogen Heap.
    • Saturday Night Live and the internet promptly had a field day by parodying it with "Dear Sister", where everyone involved gets shot multiple times.
  • In the school shooting episode of Degrassi The Next Generation, this happened between Rick and Sean.
  • This occurred in the three-way free-for-all fight between Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert, and Jon Stewart on Conan's show. An outtake shows that somehow, all three of them were accidentally shot as a result of the struggle... but Stephen recovers quickly enough to grab the gun for himself.
  • Happens at the climax of the second episode of Wild Boys.
  • Discussed in an episode of NCIS. After wrapping up a case involving this trope, Ziva comments on how after a Gun Struggle takes place, nobody ever admits to actually shooting the other person; the gun always somehow just "goes off" on its own.
  • Deep Space Nine. In "The House of Quark" Quark is attacked in his bar by a drunken Klingon who accidentally gets stabbed with his own knife during the struggle. Quark talks himself up as having defeated him in battle in order to bring in more customers. Hilarity Ensues when the Klingon's relatives make Quark the leader of their house for political reasons.
  • The 2010 Upstairs Downstairs revival has a variation in which a third character is shot, not the shooter.
  • Played for Laughs in M*A*S*H. Hawkeye breaks up an argument between a Turkish patient and his commanding officer, who is convinced the man shot himself in the foot in order to get taken off the front lines (surprisingly, the soldier didn't shoot himself, which is a switch from when it normally comes up). When the argument escalates, the officer pulls out his pistol and is preparing to shoot the patient then and there for cowardice. Hawkeye and Winchester hustle the officer out of the tent, we hear a struggle and a shot. After a tense pause, Hawkeye and Winchester carry the limping officer back into the tent, saying, "Now, see, that's what a self-inflicted gunshot wound looks like..."

  • In Stan Rogers' song Harris and the Mare, there's a bar fight, during which one man pulls a knife and rushes the singer. The aggressor - the one who pulled the knife - is killed in the struggle.

  • In the Star Wars Radio Drama adaptation of A New Hope, Leia struggles to get a blaster off of the Imperial Lord Tion. There's a zap, and Lord Tion is dead.
  • The Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of A Free Soul has Ace, Jan's husband, driven by jealousy to confront Jan's old boyfriend Dwight, who is trying to win Jan back. Dwight pulls a gun, there's a struggle, and Dwight is killed. This was a complete reversal of the movie's plot, in which Dwight kills Ace instead (and which doesn't include a Gun Struggle, as Dwight does it deliberately).


    Web Original 
  • Done in a Freddie Wong video "Whose gun is it anyway?" They simultaneously shoot each other.


    Western Animation 
  • Happens during the Bar Brawl in the Disney movie The Great Mouse Detective. Being a children's movie, the inevitable shot hits the light rather than a person.
  • Two gangster rappers in an episode of The Boondocks each manage to shoot themselves during one of these.
  • The South Park episode "The List" has one between Wendy and Bebe. The gun accidently goes off but neither is shot. The stray bullet hits Kenny while eating his dinner, killing him instantly.

    Real Life 
  • An instructional video for the Modern Army Combatives program demonstrated one alternative for long guns... have the weapon pointed away from you, then punch the other struggler in the face.
  • Firearms retention training (for both hand guns and long guns) is to avert this... or at least the part about the gun going off and the trainee being the one to fall down dead.