Guns are weapons. That's why there're various rules for safely handling them. When these rules are not followed, whether it be by experts or untrained John Q Public, there's a chance for an accidental discharge. That's when somebody gets shot. Sometimes in the face. Being named Marvin is rare, however. Either way, it's not funny the same way that Juggling Loaded Guns is, because somebody just got shot. We mean, it can still be funny (hilarious, even!) but on the other hand somebody did just get wounded or killed.
This trope occurs when somebody didn't follow the Gun Safety requirements or simply has a shoddy weapon that goes off, hurting, killing, or destroying a lot of property, and the gunshot is not played for comedy.
It gets better when the accidental shootings that result from this mishandling of weapons are plot points, as these kinds of accidents are precisely why the safety rules are in place.
The precise rules on the safe operation of firearms vary from one organization to another, but the most common points can be read at our Useful Notes on Gun Safety page.
This trope is named after Vincent's line in Pulp Fiction after he exhibits staggering incompetence with basic firearms safety, resulting in things getting worse for him and Jules, and much worse for Marvin. (See the entry in the Film examples for details.)
This is frequently the result of some combination of Reckless Gun Usage, Artistic License - Gun Safety, and Reliably Unreliable Guns. Compare Juggling Loaded Guns for when somebody getting shot by accident is due to Rule of Funny. Make It Look Like an Accident is a common subversion, where it only seems accidental at first glance.
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Anime & Manga
Baccano!, when the celebratory gunshot the head of the Martillo family fires is immediately met with "Oh my God, somebody just killed Isaac!" from the floor above. Judging by a waitresses panicked reaction to finding people in that room, it was well-known among the staff that bullets occasionally come up through that floor. Thankfully, Isaac was actually fine.
In the novel, they were actually seated at the wrong table because some of the Martillo's had moved the liquor barrels normally blocking those tables off during meetings to down stairs for the first party and forgot to inform Lia. Issac was also shot through one of his over-sized shoes and had been distracted looking up at some holes in the ceiling, rather than how it happened in the manga. (they were invited to the first party as compensation for the Martillo's screw-up).
In the second episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Yoko gives Kamina a pistol. He's never held a gun before, so when the fight starts, he tries to use it as a hammer, and almost shoots his balls off.
In Y: The Last Man, an untrained woman is holding a hostage at gunpoint, whom she kills by mistake when her finger slips.
Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: In the beginning of issue 12, Swerve is seen with his face destroyed, and an eye hanging out, the issue eventually reveals that he mishandled an overly large experimental gun, and ended up shooting himself in the face.
Misunderstandings: Averted. Peter owns a gun, but since he is a competitive sharp shooter, he knows how to handle his gun safely.
It is played dramatically straight later on when a Swift Wind, believing Peter was about to shoot Twilight when he was in fact trying to disarm his gun, tackles Peter, causing the gun to discharge. Swift Wind is critically wounded, and Peter is now fearful of what will happen now that he has injured a pony.
Films — Live-Action
Pulp Fiction. The Trope Namer. Vincent Vega, an "experienced hitman," is talking with Marvin, a guy he and Jules picked up in the aftermath of their hit near the beginning of the movie, in the backseat of Jules's car. While speaking with Marvin, Vincent is not only casually waving his handgun in the airnote Vincent's handgun is an Auto-Ordnance M1911A1, which is single-action and has an extremely light trigger pull in comparison to a lot of guns, not only resting his finger on the trigger, but lays his wrist on the back of the seat with the barrel pointed directly at Marvin's headnote One wonders why Marvin didn't freak out when he can easily see all of this. So, when something happens (Vincent claims it was a bump and Jules claims the car "didn't hit no motherfuckin' bump," but it's also probable Vincent just twitched his finger), the gun goes off, the bullet hits Marvin in the face and not only blows his brains all over the rear window, but splatters gore all over the inside of the car, including both Vincent and Jules. Thus it is demonstrated to everyone in the audience just why you should always watch where you're pointing your weapon and, perhaps more importantly, keep your finger away from the trigger unless you intend to shoot wherever the gun points (oh, and let us not forget the safety catch). While the shooting does become a major plot point, Vincent's initially only-mildly perturbed reaction to his mistake is one of the funniest moments of the movie, making the Trope Namer a less strict version of this trope. See the scene in question here.
The Boondock Saints, after deciding to help the McManus brothers, Rocco slams his fists on the table to make his point, but his weapon, a Reliably Unreliable Beretta 92F that the brothers gave him, is lying on said table with the barrel pointed straight at his girlfriend's cat. Needless to say, the gun goes off, and you can pretty much guess what happened tothe kitty. It was mostly shocking until Rocco's dumb-assed question: "Is it dead?!" Then it became hilarious.
Planet Terror (half of the Grindhouse double-feature), in which Dr. Dakota Block gives a gun to her child, when she leaves him alone in a car. He accidentally shoots himself within a few seconds of her leaving the car. And right after she warned him to be careful, no less.
Out of Sight, Jack is at the top of a staircase being held at gunpoint by one of the bad guys, who begins to approach him, still ready to shoot — only to trip on the stairs and shoot himself in the head. Ouch.
Starship Troopers, the film frequently and constantly fails gun safety. During the long-shot of the "Live Fire" exercise, you can see that the range has no walls to the sides and other trainees are doing their thing right next to it. The recruits take the course in teams, with the next sent directly behind the previous! Then, the characters must face off against targets that shoot lasers at their training vests, which give the victim an electric shock. This causes one soldier to clamp down on the trigger and fire wildly in all directions, killing another. Rico is blamed for taking the recruit's helmet off, when the whole scene was a disaster waiting to happen. This was definitely intentional on the part of the director, who was satirizing military culture.
Another scene, in a recruitment film, some soldiers were showing children how to shoot an assault rifle. The children start fighting over the weapon. The soldiers then give out the bullets.
Commando. After Arnold Schwarzenegger gets locked up in a police van, Rae Dawn Chong tries to free him with a quad-barrelled missile launcher. Unfortunately, she points the wrong end at the target and blows up the shops behind her. Given that the launcher, the M-202 "Flash", fires rockets tipped with a compound similar to white phosphorus (and would have incinerated the van), someone was getting screwed no matter where it was pointing.
Four Lions: Omar tries to take out a spy plane with a missile launcher in the same way, accidentally destroying the terrorist headquarters directly behind him and killing Osama bin Laden.
Harlem Nights, Quick is being pursued by a group of gangsters following his car. He suddenly hits the brakes, causing their car to hit his. The two guys in the backseat lurch forwards, and their tommy guns both go off, inadvertently killing the front-seat passenger.
Big Jake: when Michael's fancy new semi-automatic pistol goes off accidentally, causing everybody to quickly dive for cover. Unfortunately, Big Jake doesn't realize that the gun's magazine holds eight shots, not the standard six, so he leaves cover rather prematurely.
A Very Long Engagement: One of the soldiers accidentally shoots himself in the hand whilst trying to club a rat with the butt of his automatic... and gets sentenced to death for self-mutilation.
In Get Over It Kelly begins waving a crossbow in front of Berke, believing it to be a prop. It goes off and he gets shot in the arm.
Be Cool: Dabu exhibits a terrifyingly poor grasp of basic gun safety throughout the movie. He always keeps his finger on the trigger, resulting in accidental discharge on more than one occasion. One of those times, it ends up being fatal for a Russian mob lackey. Dabu is at least somewhat self-aware, lampshading his poor gun handling by telling his boss that if he doesn't want this sort of thing to happen, he shouldn't give Dabu a gun in the first place.
In Snatch, a dog jumps up on Avi and grabs the diamond out of his hand, then runs out of the room. Avi responds by firing his gun wildly, trying to hit the dog without being mindful of what (or who) is in the line of fire. One of the shots hits and kills Bullet-Tooth Tony by mistake.
At the end of Strangers on a Train, the cops chasing the clearly unarmed Guy through a carnival break every police firearm procedure there is by firing at him as he runs through a crowd of children. One of the shots hits and apparently kills an innocent bystander, who happened to be operating a merry-go-round, causing it to careen out of control.
In Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil, one of the college kids ends up wildly aiming a gun at Tucker & Dale, when Dale provides the ill-timed advice of needing to turn the safety off. He ends up struggling with the gun, and ends up blowing his own head off.
In In Time, Will and Sylvia have stopped a car, but the driver doesn't want to get out. Sylvia is just randomly pointing her gun at him, but it accidentally goes off. The driver is scared as shit, and proceeds to quickly get out.
In Fierce Creatures, Vince is waving a gun around while he is trying to decide whether he should shoot his father or kill himself. Once he is disarmed, Bugsy picks up the gun, and as he is fiddling with the safety, he accidentally discharges it. The bullet hits Rod straight in the center of the forehead, killing him instantly.
In the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, certain battle droids end up accidentally shooting their companions in a comedic fashion.
Bad Eggs opens with two cops mistaking a Magistrate's corpse for a criminal and riddling it with bullets. Alan Brough's character later averts the trope when he saves the same cops' lives by holding the bad guys at gunpoint. "I'm warning you, I'm a very bad shot!"
Subverted in Bottle Rocket. During the factory heist towards the end, Bob shoots randomly and Apple Jack hits the ground. Dignan yells at Bob, but it turns out Apple Jack is actually having a heart attack.
In Little Laura and Big John, Big John's gang are celebrating a successful robbery in their getaway car, and somebody accidentally shoots Big John in the eye.
In the climax of La Haine, one of the Corrupt Cops from earlier in the film harasses Vinz by waving a gun around in his face, which accidentally goes off and kills him, resulting in his Black Best Friend Hubert coming over with Vinz's gun. Cue Mexican Standoff between Hubert and the Cop.
Dramatic example in Oblivion (2013) . During the fight between Jack-49 and Jack-52, they are struggling for a gun. The gun goes off, hitting Julia on the stomach. This prompts Jack to knock out his opponent which is understandably shocked to have shot the woman he's seen in his dreams and steal his ship to get to the Tower and retrieve medical equipment to save her.
In ¡Three Amigos!, Ned, Lucky, and Dusty have to summon the invisible swordsman who would guide them to El Guapo's hideout. To summon them, they recite a chant and each shoot their gun straight up into the air after chanting. After Lucky and Ned do their parts of the chant and shoot straight up, Dusty does his chant, but shoots towards the side, accidentally shooting the invisible swordsman.
Lucky: You were supposed to fire up. We both fired up! (sighs) It's like living with a 6-year old...
In Iron Man 1 the Ten Rings terrorists waffle between proper trigger discipline while lounging around their base to rather stark disregard for gun safety during their video transmission of their demands.
Master and Commander: "I just shot Maturin in the guts." You would think that the Captain of the Marines would know better. And he was shooting at an albatross. He should make himself familiar with Nautical Folklore, that good man.
A lesson to Joe Chill from Batman Begins: if you're trying to rob someone at gunpoint and just want to get your hands on whatever it is you want from them (e.g. wallets and jewelry), never put your finger on the trigger. There's a good chance your gun will go off at the slightest movement.
Tremors is a notable aversion to this trope: Burt Gummer in particular demonstrates an instinctive understanding of basic gun safety when, after he hands someone an unloaded revolver to stop his panicking long enough to get him to run, the kid hands him back the gun, loudly complaining about it being empty, and Burt immediately pops the cylinder to confirm. This is exactly what you should do whenever you receive or pick up a firearm, even when (as in the film) it was absolutely impossible for any bullets to find their way into the gun.
Happens in Elysium when the black underground operative in panic blindly opens fire at the approaching security droids despite Max and others being in the firing line, and ends up fatally shooting Carlyle.
In the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of Lolita, Charlotte Haze shows Humbert her late husband's revolver, saying that it's not loaded. Humbert comments, "That's what they all say: I didn't know it was loaded." A short time later he has a close look at the gun and finds that it is loaded. He then reloads the weapon while contemplating using this trope to kill Charlotte and Make It Look Like an Accident.
In World War Z the lead character gives a gun to the scientist he's escorting (sole hope for the human race no less), who presumably has no familiarity with guns, gives him a quick brief on the gun and then they get attacked by zombies. Predictably the scientist panics, tries to run, slips, and unceremoniously manages to shoot himself in the head.
In the prologue of Sucker Punch, Babydoll tried to threaten her abusive stepfather with a gun, but missed and killed her sister.
House of Leaves: Holloway accidentally shoots and kills his friends thinking them to be the monster he believes to lurk in the house, and thus is Driven to Suicide.
The Plague Dogs, wherein Snitter encounters one of the men from the hunting party alone who, upon seeing his bandaged head, feels sorry for the little dog and can't shoot him. He calls to Snitter, intending to Pet the Dog. Snitter, overjoyed, rushes over and jumps up on the guy only for his toe to catch on the trigger of the man's rifle which was aimed upwards, at its owner's face, accidentally blowing off the man's head.
Schroedingers Ball begins with the main character having just shot himself in the face, fatally, while cleaning his grandmother's gun. However, he's hardly an expert. In fact, the book goes so far to as to point out his inexperience in handing firearms in the "Dramatis Personae" section at the very beginning.
Used in the Carter DixonLocked Room MysteryThe Ten Teacups, in which the victim is wrongly assumed to have been shot at close range because he had a powder burn from when the killer "accidentally" shot him with a blank cartridge the previous day.
Vorkosigan Saga novel Memory. Miles demonstrates why uncontrolled seizure disorders and charged plasma rifles do not go well together by accidentally kneecapping the hostage he was attempting to rescue.
During a fake general fleet inspection in Warrior's Apprentice, he makes a deliberate demonstration on gun safety by asking a mercenary whether his guns are stored charged or uncharged, then firing the "uncharged" weapon right past the man's ear.
In the Rift War novel Wrath of a Demon King, the Knight-Martial of Krondor is killed by one of his own men when he mishandles a loaded crossbow.
Specifically averted in Starship Troopers as opposed to the film of the book. The incident that causes Rico to be is flogged is that he fails to take adequate precautions with a simulated nuke during a training exercise (he flips the visor of his own helmet up to check visually on the dummy nuke's positioning). Only direct testimony from his drill sergeant that he may be salvageable prevents him from being dismissed from the service.
This causes everything to start falling apart in Things Fall Apart. During a gun salute at funeral, Okonkwo's ancient and shoddy gun explodes and hits a young man in the heart. Though it was an accident, the laws of the Igbo stated that it had to be punished and Okonkwo and his family is temporarily exiled.
In The Nagasaki Vector, the pilot of a Time Machine that accidentally travelled sideways into an alternate history is a trained and experienced pistoleer, and the proud owner of a rare match-grade handgun. That said, when he hands it to another character to show it off, he is berated for failing to clear it properly and for having his finger on the trigger. It turns out that the agency he works for uses brainwashing to make their agents partake in very reckless behavior when at risk of revealing their secrets.
Kurt Vonnegut's novel Deadeye Dick is about a man who, as a boy, fired a rifle in the air and accidentally killed a pregnant woman in her home on the other side of town.
Rumpole of the Bailey: In the episode "Rumpole and the Sporting Life", a defendant claims that she killed her husband by accident when she tripped while holding a shotgun. The episode even includes a nursery rhyme that promotes proper gun-handling. It turns out that he was already dead, and she knew it; she thought her lover had killed him, but in fact the lover was far away in London. The actual culprit was their neighbour, who accidentally killed the victim when a shot intended for a pigeon went astray.
Star Trek: Voyager has an odd ship-to-ship version of this trope in Message In A Bottle when the EMH Mark 2 fires off a torpedo without locking a target, which hits a Federation ship. They shot U.S.S. Marvin in the face. He was trying to launch torpedoes, but at the Romulan ship instead.
EMH Mark 1: You hit the wrong ship!
EMH Mark 2: It wasn't my fault!
EMH Mark 1: Well then whose fault was it, the torpedo's? You're supposed to tell it what to do!
My Name Is Earl: Chubby has a squirt gun full of vodka he uses to top off patrons drinks at his strip club, and an identical looking real gun. He didn't learn from his mistake when he shot a drink with the wrong gun on screen. You can all guess how he died off screen.
In "Mr. Monk on Wheels," after fighting to grab Sarah Longson's pistol, Natalie turns around, said pistol in hand. She tells Monk, who had already been shot in the leg earlier in the episode and is trying climb down some stairs to assist Natalie, that she was okay... and accidentally shoots Monk in his uninjured leg. Somewhat justified, as depending on your interpretation, either Natalie has not taken any basic firearms training, or, as it was mentioned in the episode "Mr. Monk and the Three Julies", she just hasn't actually fired a gun in at least ten years.
In "Mr. Monk and the Panic Room," a man is found shot dead in his panic room. Also in the panic room is the man's pet monkey, Darwin, with a pistol in its hand. Captain Stottlemeyer is dubious that the monkey could even use a gun, let alone shoot his owner four times, so he tries an experiment — he asks Randy for an unloaded gun, who hands him a pistol that he claims to have unloaded, and Stottlemeyer gives it to the monkey. Neither Disher nor Stottlemeyer verified that the gun was unloaded. Stottlemeyer then tries to agitate the monkey enough so that it fires the gun, while Randy, Monk, and Sharona leave the two in an interrogation room. Only after the fact does Randy realizes that he accidentally gave Stottlemeyer a loaded gun, and try to warn him, but Darwin then fires the gun and shatters the one-way mirror. Stottlemeyer then declares the case closed.
In one case Nick Stokes investigates how a woman got shot with no evidence of a shooter anywhere near. The answer is that there was an idiot who had a gun and made a shooting range in his backyard, which is in the suburbs and within city limits, a big-time city ordinance no-no. A stray bullet went into the air and struck the woman on the decline. When they arrest him, he protests it was an accident and Stokes contemptuously responds, "Well, that's why it's illegal to shoot guns within city limits, genius!"
In another episode, a hunter fails to follow one of the most important rules of shooting things — always positively identify your target. So, when a drunken guy stumbles out of a Furry convention wearing a raccoon suit and wanders out into the desert, the hunter takes him down, thinking the victim was a coyote. The episode is vague on whether or not he'll get prosecuted for it, although it leans towards "no" since it was pretty dark at the time.
Averted in the episode "Better Off Dead", when Greg is sharply scolded by Bobby Dawson, the lab's ballistic expert, for failing to properly clear a gun gathered in evidence. There was a bullet left in the chamber because Greg had mistakenly assumed that all the guns recovered from a broken gunshop counter were unloaded, as required by law. Both Greg and Sara look obviously rattled at this clear breach of gun handling protocol, and no-one in the lab relaxes until Bobby Dawson verifies for himself that the gun is, in fact, now properly unloaded.
CSI: New York had a man accidentally kill another with a blank round. According to the evidence, the suspect fired the gun at point-blank range (singeing the victim's clothes) and it was the discharge, despite the lack of a projectile, that tore a hole in the other man's torso.
Yet another example when a suspect in the murder of an FBI agent accidentally shoots himself in the head in the middle of a crowded arena while trying to show everyone that the gun he had taken from Brass wasn't even loaded. He thought it wasn't loaded because the FBI agent he had killed was really just a crazy guy pretending to be an agent running around with an empty gun, plus he was delirious and on a drip at the time for 'ripping an entire necrotic bicep out of his arm'.
And in yet another example and possibly the most extreme example of this Trope in the series, the CSI Las Vegas Team investigates the case of a young man who was shot fatally with one bullet in a shed that was riddled with hundreds of bullets, thinking at first that it must have been some weird gangland hit. Turns out, it was the inevitable result of a bunch of idiot teenagers playing games with a loaded, automatic MAC-10 by having someone standing on a second story balcony spin the gun down on a rope and the others would try to dodge the shots.
Firefly's characters routinely break all of the basic rules constantly, yet no one gets accidentally shot — except for Kaylee during the pilot, when she startles Dobson. Of course, that wasn't an accident except insofar as he didn't intend to shoot Kaylee specifically. It was a failure to positively ID the target before he fired — he shot with intent to kill, he just wasn't aware what or who he was shooting until he'd pulled the trigger.
The only other accidental shooting is in "Safe" when Book gets caught in a crossfire between Serenity's crew, the guys they're selling the cattle to, and the lawmen coming to arrest them. Again, this is only an accident in the sense that they didn't mean to shoot Book specifically.
Similarly, season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has one of the bad guys try to kill Buffy with a gun. After shooting her, he starts waving his gun around carelessly and accidentally shoots Tara, who was standing near a window on the second floor.
Teen Wolf: Stiles fiddles with Allison's crossbow and narrowly averts shooting Scott's thanks to his Super Reflexes as a werewolf.
Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge: Alan Partridge once accidentally shot an obnoxious food critic in the heart with an antique dueling musket on live television. It is this (coupled with his later punching of a BBC programming executive in the face with a turkey) that ended his TV career.
In Cheers, a jealous man comes into the bar threatening Sam with a revolver. After the man is talked out of the shooting and the gun is taken from him, Sam puts it in his back pocket for storage. Afterward, he goes to sit down, and shoots himself in the butt. None of the regulars had given any hints of having any firearms training.
Any time Roland Pryzbylewski has a gun in his hand, Badness Ensues. He first shows up as a transfer from another unit after he shot his own squad car, and in the same episode proceeds to shoot a hole in the office wall. He later manages to pistol whip a boy, blinding him in one eye, and three seasons later, finally quits the force after he shoots an undercover cop. Becomes a major plot point in season 4. Kima is assigned to a murder of a State's witness in an alley. There's quite a bit of backroom scheming because it's a mayoral election year, so she under pressure from one side to solve the case quickly and from the other to bury it. It turns out, a pair of drunken knuckleheads two blocks away were shooting at beer bottles and hit the guy by accident.
Det Norris: So these idiots are shooting forties two blocks down, and now this Carcetti fuck gets to be mayor? What a town.
In season three, Omar's boyfriend Dante inadvertantly shoots crewmate Tosha in the head while fleeing for cover during a raid, because he was shooting blindly without making sure he knew where he was aiming.
Band of Brothers, episode "The Breaking Point". After hunting for a Luger as a souvenir, Cpl. Donald Hoobler finally finds one - only to accidentally fatally shoot himself in the leg with it. This is Truth in Television as the real Hoobler suffered the same fate.
The Luger does have a notoriously tricky safety, at least according to the book. It makes for a dramatic moment and it helps reinforce that War Is Hell and that Anyone Can Die.
Oz. One of the inmates was sent to prison after brandishing a gun at school which went off, killing a girl on the floor above.
In Star Trek: The Original Series, two involving Time Travel and the not-gun-shaped Type 1 Phaser, which looks an awful lot like a cigarette lighter. In "The City on the Edge of Forever", a 1930s bum gets hold of one and vaporizes himself while playing with it. In "Tomorrow Is Yesterday", Kirk is captured by Air Police in 1969, and cringes (with priceless facial expressions) as they fiddle with his weapon, toss it around, and several times almost press the trigger, conflicted between justifiable fear and the need to not let them know who he is or what they have.
Chuck has an inept criminal take the Buy More hostage, and at one point he confronts Casey and Sarah. Chuck manages to talk him down and convince him to put the safety of the gun back on, which the criminal admits he doesn't know how to do (never mind that the gun is a revolver). Chuck and the criminal then both start messing around with the gun trying to turn the safety on, and accidentally shoot Casey in the foot. Turns into Fridge Brilliance when the criminal turns out to actually be a Fulcrum agent, and probably shot Casey deliberately. In the third season episode "Chuck vs. the American Hero", Chuck demonstrates the problem with his relying on the Intersect's gun-handling subroutine: said subroutine was designed for users who, unlike Chuck, are already familiar enough with gun safety to avoid pointing their gun at people they're not currently killing.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has Olivia telling a story about a fellow cop with asthma staying up for two days straight on a stakeout. After the stakeout ended, he went home and crashed. Later, he woke up because of an asthma attack, reached for his gun instead of his inhaler while half-asleep, and killed himself. Aside from apparently having a gun-shaped inhaler, it seems that the cop forgot to unload his gun when he came home.
In the episode "Penetration" F Bi Agent Dana Lewis is holding her rapist at gun point, with Benson and Stabler close behind her. Deciding to scare him, she shoots at a pipe behind him...and the bullet ricochets off and hits Stabler in the shoulder. It isn't a serious injury, but it does serve to act as a wake up call at what bad gun safety she was displaying; and she later admits that she acted terribly and takes full responsibility. That being said, Stabler being injured whenever she's around is something of a Running Gag so his reaction is mostly one of resigned irritation, and it manages to be rather funny.
Tales from the Crypt, episode "Judy, You're Not Yourself Today". A husband points his rifle at a random solicitor, and pulls the trigger while pointing it at his wife to prove to his wife the gun was unloaded. In the end he ends up trying to physically subdue his wife's body snatcher (a old witch traded bodies with her) while holding the gun, and ends up shooting his wife.
1000 Ways to Die, There are two guys who have been friends since they were in elementary. They do everything together and are generally chummy towards each other, and even decide to live together as roommates in college. Unfortunately, in adulthood one of the two friends gained an addiction to cigarettes and constantly bothers the other for money so he can buy more, or if he has some spares to share them with him. Becoming tired of having to supply cigarettes for his friend, the annoyed friend loads some cigarettes into his muzzle-loader, aims them directly into his roommate's face, and says, "Hey buddy want some cigarettes?" Who, being drunk at the time, didn't seem afraid of having a shotgun pointed at him and nods his head in approval at the idea of cigarettes. The cigarettes fly out of the firearm at supersonic speed and penetrate the guy's skull. He simply wanted to hurt his friend, he didn't think cigarettes would penetrate flesh like bullets do. This just goes to show you that you never point a gun at something or someone you are not intending to kill or destroy, and that anything flying out of that said gun is going to be potentially lethal.
For the record, the MythBusters tested this one and found that cigarette butts, when smoked and fired point blank, will penetrate to the heart. At 7 feet they simply cause inconsequential flesh wounds.
Another episode featured a magician attempting a bullet-catching trick; when tapping the barrel of the gun with his wand, part of the wand's tip fell off and into the barrel, which was then propelled by the blank cartridge with lethal force through a major artery in his neck.
Narrowly subverted in the Stargate Atlantis episode "Common Ground", when during their escape Todd is at one point toying with his loaded gun while having it pointed right at the back of Sheppard's head.
Out-of-story, one of the reasons SG-1 switched their standard-issue weapon from the MP5 to the P90 was due to a scene which called for multiple people firing their weapons while standing side-by-side, which would have ejected hot brass into various faces during filming. They ended up switching to the P90 which, due to ejecting rounds downwards, avoided that problem entirely.
Highway To Heaven episode "The Torch" includes a group of Neo Nazis. Among them is Rolf (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Zach on Saved by the Bell). While handling an Uzi in the Neo Nazi lair, Rolf fires the weapon, hitting his father and another Neo Nazi, killing his father.
MacGyver: In a flashback during the "Blood Brothers" episode, MacGyver accidentally shoots and kills Jesse, a childhood friend.
Body of Proof: The killer in one episode accidentally shoots and kills his own daughter. He confronted both his daughter and her fiance in order to intimidate the man into leaving her alone. When the daughter attempts to reach for the gun, it goes off.
Family Matters: Discussed when Carl is working as a security guard on the set of some TV show, when the main actor (playing a cop) scratches his head with his (prop) gun. This makes Carl laugh and explain that no cop in their right mind would do that because the gun might go off.
Played with on How I Met Your Mother when Robin takes Marshall to the shooting range. She inadvertently points her gun at him while telling him not to tell her boyfriend (a pacifist) about her being a gun nut. While she seems nonchalant, the look on Marshall's face shows how terrified he is.
Engrenages: Forms the basis for an entire plot point in the third season, where during a visit to a drug dealer with an informant, Gilou, when faced with trouble, takes out his gun and fires it up at the ceiling. It hits someone. In the crotch.
Modern Family: Mitchell is pointing a skeet-shooting rifle at everyone in sight within seconds of getting it in his hands, and they all freak out, with his father advising him to try another activity.
On Mad Men Ken Cosgrove is shot in the face while hunting with some Chevrolet executives. While he probably should not have been standing where he was, the executive was target-focused on a bird and did not pay attention to where he was aiming his gun. Fortunately it was only bird shot and Ken survived with some cosmetic damage to the left side of his face. However, to add insult to injury the executives failed to appreciate the seriousness of the situation and decided to stop for lunch on the way to the hospital. Poor Ken already suffered through a broken foot due to a car accident caused by the same bunch of reckless executives and decides not to Tempt Fate and resigns from the Chevrolet account.
Invoked in the Blue Bloods episode "This Way Out" when some gangbangers trick a mentally retarded kid from their housing project into pointing a loaded gun at the mayor and pulling the trigger. They told him it was a toy, but toys don't leave the mayor a paraplegic.
Played with in an episode of The Office (US). Dwight becomes acting manager and brings a gun to work. When it goes off, the bullet goes straight into the carpet but Andy's eardrums burst and he's taken to the emergency room.
The plot of the Doctor Who story "Planet of Fire" revolves around the Master having been shrunk to a few inches tall and trying to find a way to return to normal size. Although he's too embarrassed to explain what happened in detail, it's strongly implied that he accidentally shot himself with his Tissue Compression Eliminator (a usually-lethal Shrink Ray).
In one episode of The Closer, a guy at a gas station fires a warning shot to scare off a couple of gang bangers trying to steal his car, and ends up killing an innocent teenager a couple of blocks over. Since the kid died during the commission of a crime, the gang bangers take the fall for it and the guy who shot him gets off scot free, but he is appropriately horrified when he finds out that he actually killed someone.
"I Hung My Head" by Sting (later covered by Johnny Cash) features a young man pointing a rifle at someone to practice aiming. It doesn't end well.
The music video for "Eighteen and Life" by Skid Row features an example of this.
Peanuts: Charlie Brown accidentally shoots Shermey while showing off his new toy pistol. Subverted in that Charlie Brown actually yells "BANG!"
In one strip of The Far Side, cavemen were sitting around cleaning their clubs when one made the mistake of looking straight at his.
Firearms in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game misfire on a Critical Failure, causing the gun to break. Any character foolish enough to fire a broken gun risks having the expensive firearm blow up in their face, potentially killing themselves and anyone nearby in the blast. The misfire rate also increases by more than five times if loaded by a nonproficient wielder. Overall, gun safety in Pathfinder is serious business and functions as the primary means to deter non-specialists from using guns in a swords and sorcery world.
Assassins: Sarah Jane Moore is written to be played with no regard for the proper operation or storage of her .38 revolver. She accidentally discharges it no less than five times during the course of the show, once while it's still in her hand bag, narrowly missing Squeaky Fromme, once into the air when she's supposed to be clicking the hammer of an unloaded weapon in "The Gun Song", once when startled with her finger prematurely on the trigger, damaging Charles Guiteau's hearing in the process, and twice during two separate scene change blackouts, with the lights coming up on her scene the second time to reveal she's just accidentally shot her own dog.
La Forza Del Destino: In Act 1 of Giuseppe Verdi's opera, Don Alvaro is eloping with Leonora. Her father, the Marquis of Calatrava, interrupts the lovers in mid-elope and threatens the young man with a sword. Don Alvaro decides not to resist, and throws away his pistol... which goes off and kills the Marquis, who dies cursing them. Oops.
Eternal Darkness somewhat invokes this trope during Maxamillion's chapter. If his Sanity Meter is very low he may do something unwise with his flintlock pistols, such as holding one under his arm while loading the other. The results are misfires leading to several gory death scenes. (Though, as normal for that game, all is not really as it seems.)
Bonus points here as closed-in environment of an opera house would be too dangerous for the prop gun's blanks in the first place.
And double bonus points for being darkly ironic — the scene being rehearsed is the final act of Tosca, which has Mario Cavaradossi gunned down by a firing squad who was issued guns with live ammunition instead of the blank firing ones that Scarpia promised Tosca in his namesake ultimatum.
Fallout 2 features a cruel variant — one of the ways to assassinate Orville Wright is to give one of his kids a loaded gun and tell them, "Why don't you wave this in your daddy's face and pull the trigger?"
Empire: Total War features the use of a Gentlemen agent which can steal technology or duel other gentlemen of rival factions. If ordered to duel another gentlemen a cinematic scene plays which shows many different outcomes. One of these outcomes has the two duelists march a few paces turn but not fire. Hilariously, one of them looks down the barrel of the gun then the gun promptly discharges in his face. He loses the duel by the way.
This also happens in Mafia II, when Joe is in the bar and Vito has to come pick him up. The bartender goes to lock up the bar and Joe's gun hits the table, discharging and killing the bartender, getting a "What. The. FUCK." moment from Vito.
In a flashback of the first Ace Attorney game, a young Miles Edgeworth ends up throwing a loaded gun to break up a fight between his father and a bailiff, making him think he'd accidentally shot his father and killed him. He did shoot someone, just not his father.
In one cutscene of Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time, Nefarious is rehearsing a play (with his character holding a gun) with a minion when Lawrence comes in with a status report. After the report, Lawrence suggests Nefarious turn the gun's safety on "...So as not to kill any more troops." Nefarious snarls, "It's not even loaded, you moron! Look!" One pull of the trigger later Nefarious has to call in another minion to replace the one that died.
In Oregon Trail II, you can accidentally shoot yourself while hunting.
When VATS targeting an enemy in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, it is not uncommon to accidentally inflict a Sneak Critical Hit on a companion or other NPC, possibly killing them or turning them hostile.
Tales OF Zenith: 5, the manager of the homeless shelter disarms a woman who pulled a rifle, and sets it on the counter, noting that she should have known better, the Remington 20 has a well-known habit of accidental discharge. At this point it goes off, shooting the front-desk clerk in the gut. One of the inmates yells out, "You just shot Marvin in the face!" 5 breaks the fourth wall by pointing out that they're not parodying Pulp Fiction in this cartoon in the strip, and besides, he shot him in the stomach.
The Onion: this article , an 8-year-old boy who accidentally shoots himself in the thigh wins praise from Strawman Politicals for having exercised his constitutional rights.
Collegehumor: In "Very-Mary Kate:Gun", Mary-Kate Olsen does this after holding her bodyguard at gun point. She drops the gun and kills her cat Comet.
Survival of the Fittest: Due to the amount of firearms in the game, this happens fairly often. One example was in v3, where Braunca Braunstein accidentally shoots herself in the face while looking at her gun and pointing the barrel at herself. Carol Burke of version 4 also does something similar to this, as she accidentally shoots Rizzo Vitoria in the leg with a shotgun, leaving Reiko Ishida to Mercy Kill him.
Gaia Online's 2010 Christmas event revolves around preventing Santa from making Too Dumb to Live type decisions regarding basic safety. One of the scenarios revolves around this, where he is shown with a gun, looking into the barrel to clean it. The player has to remove the bullets from the gun, give Santa proper gloves (instead of the oven mitts he had before), make him read a book on gun safety, and give him a proper tool to clean it with.
Loads of examples available at The Darwin Awards, ranging from the blatantly-idiotic (trying to bash in your girlfriend's car windshield with the butt of a loaded shotgun) to the downright bizarre (a napping shepherd shot by his own sheep, which stepped on the rifle he'd left loaded and tilted toward himself).
Happened in the first Heist episode of Let's Play Grand Theft Auto V. After their robbery attempt goes belly up, Jack accidentally gets out of his vehicle and gets caught in the crossfire of Michael's escape. When Geoff wants to know what the hell's going on, Michael pussy foots around the entire thing with Ray giving him hell for it.
Gargoyles. Elisa is at one point seriously injured when Broadway accidentally shoots her while playing with her gun. Broadway is a 1,000-year-old gargoyle who had never handled a gun before, but Elisa, a NYPD detective, falls under this trope by leaving her sidearm, holster and gun belt unattended in another room from where she was (she admits later that she should have known better). Notably, she's much more careful for the rest of the series.
This event is a major part of both characters' development — after this incident, Broadway is a gun-phobic who destroys any gun he comes across on the nightly patrols (this does necessitate dragging them from the startled fingers of an assortment of startled criminals), and Elisa is always careful to lock up her gun, and presumably unload it when not on duty. Elisa spent the next few episodes on crutches while she was recovering from the gunshot, where most shows would have had her back to normal by the next episode. It really hammered home how incredibly dangerous guns can be.
Beavis And Butthead, episode "At the Movies". After the boys cause some destruction in the theater's parking lot, a police officer comes to arrest them. His gun gets caught in the holster, and while pulling it out he accidentally shoots himself in the foot, blowing off all his toes on that foot.
In another, Dale, who by all rights should know better being the president of the local gun club, accidentally discharges his weapon. Should being the keyword. There's the small problem that Dale is a crazy idiot.
Duckman implies that this is how the titular character's father died at his son's hands:
Duckman: Did I ever tell you my dad's last words to me? Cornfed Pig: Mmhmm. 'Careful son, I don't think the safety's on.' Duckman: BEFORE THAT!
In Men In Black episode "The Neuralyzer Syndrome", a variation happens when Jay accidentally neuralyzes Kay, leaving him with his teenage memories.
The Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids episode "The Gunslinger" had Shawn try to impress Albert and the gang with his parents' gun. But it accidentally discharges in his hand—and Shawn's lucky to not get killed from it.
In The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Tao shows Esteban and Zia the things that he stole from Mendoza while he was sleeping, a flintlock is among them. Once Esteban sees it he shows the appropriate amount of wariness, and tells Tao to put it down because it's loaded. Tao says: "Loaded? What does that mean?"; on cue, he accidentally fires it.
Shockingly found in the US Marine Corps despite thorough training on weapons handling. The highly discouraged "Trust" game that some Marines started playing in Iraq involves pointing a weapon at the head of a fellow Marine and asking "Do you trust me?". One Marine was sadly killed by this reckless behavior that goes against their training. The guy that killed him got eight years.
A similar event occurred when two Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were playing quick draw with loaded sidearms. One ended up dead and the other got convicted on manslaughter charges.
Incidents of this nature have figured in at least one Darwin Award.
Happens often in Libya, as former rebels coming home with their guns aren't careful enough. The random, full-auto firing in the air of cities doesn't help: Hospitals have hundreds of patients because of celebratory gunfire. What goes up must come down, after all.
Actor Jon-Erik Hexum killed himself by demonstrating a gun filled with blanks by shooting himself in the head, unaware that at such close range, a blank round is just as deadly as a real bullet.
For clarification if you put the barrel directly against your head you create a tight enough seal the the force of the hot gas is enough to break off a piece of your skull and that then acts as a projectile. Especially at the temple as that is the weakest part of the skull and has a major artery right underneath it.
According to Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith in their 2011 biography Van Gogh: The Life, Vincent van Gogh's gunshot death was likely not a suicide as generally accepted, but an accidental homicide by two teenaged acquaintances of Van Gogh who had a malfunctioning gun. Due to his status as a Death Seeker, due to his mental illness, he didn't rat out the boys and even welcomed his death.
Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, died during the filming of The Crow because a fake cartridge came apart in a revolver and was not found before loading in blanks.
This is also known as a squib load. What happened was that a piece of the catridge got stuck in the barrel. Small enough to go unnotice but large enough that when flew out due to the hot air of the blank it directly pierced his heart.
Lawyer (and former Congressman) Clement Vallandigham was preparing to defend a client accused of murder by arguing that the deceased had, in fact, accidentally shot himself with his own gun. While conferring with the rest of the defense team, he demonstrated his theory by reenacting the actions of the deceased... with a gun he thought was unloaded. The reenactment was more realistic than intended; Vallandigham fatally shot himself. The client was acquitted.
Video taken during a wedding celebration in Chechnya. Drunken guest brings an automatic pistol, fools with it to show that it is not dangerous, and another guest ends up taking a bullet to the head. See it here.
One of the Horrible Histories books tells the story of a Home Guard soldier in World War II who was cleaning his rifle at the dinner table and forgot that there was a round in the chamber. He accidentally pulled the trigger and shot dead his own wife.
His Excellency Don Felipe, the 13-year-old (at the time) grandson of King Juan Carlos I of Spain and fifth in line to the Spanish throne, accidentally shot himself in the foot in April 2012, to the amusement of the Spanish and world press.
Juan Carlos himself was infamously involved in the accidental death of his younger brother Alfonso while in exile as a young prince in Estoril, Portugal, in 1956. While details are sketchy even to this day the official version states that the young Juan Carlos was cleaning a revolver in presence of his younger brother when a shot happened, hitting the 14-year-old Infante in the forehead and killing him within a few minutes.
Former US VP Dick Cheney's infamous hunting accident where he shot attorney Harry Whittington in the face. Though this wasn't entirely Cheney's fault, by the by, because Whittington wasn't supposed to be standing in Cheney's line of fire in the first place.
The notorious incident where famous Hungarian singer Jimmy Zámbó accidentally shot himself in the head while drunk and fooling around with his gun during a New Year's celebration. He even removed the magazine to show it was safe - forgetting that it was semi-automatic and already had a bullet chambered.
A widespread (and quite amusing) urban legend says he was trying to kill the neighbor's rooster due to its crowing being annoying, explaining how the bullet got into the chamber in the first place.
Plaxico Burress, then a wide receiver with the New York Giants, accidentally shot himself in the leg while showing a gun he did not have a permit to carry to a teammate at a New York City nightclub. The incident earned him a short prison sentence and a lot of embarrassment, given that part of his job involves manual deftness.
Terry Kath, the original guitarist for the band Chicago, shot himself fatally in front of friends and family when a gun he was playing around with went off in his headright after he said "Don't worry, guys, it isn't even loaded. See?"
William S. Burroughs, American novelist, played the "William Tell" game while drinking at a party in Mexico in 1951. He missed the glass on his wife's head, but didn't miss her forehead.
One of the only-moderately-insane JFK assassination theories claims that Oswald missed Kennedy, but one of the President's own bodyguards accidentally discharged his weapon from the car behind the convertible when its driver, startled by the rifle shots, braked too suddenly. Any subsequent cover-up efforts were to conceal this fatal incompetence, rather than an intentional plot against Kennedy's life.
A similar example applies to Huey Long: One theory of his assassination is that his guards, in shooting the assassin dozens of times hit him with one shot. According to the theory, some of Long's last words indicated that he was going to cover for his guards by blaming the alleged shooter.
Paul Rieckoff, a former National Guardsman who served in the Iraq War, recounts in his memoir Chasing Ghosts how an Iraqi man who worked on the base was struck in the torso on his way to work by a stray bullet from celebratory gunfire. Fortunately the man lived.
Differences in training and doctrine, combined with old-fashioned Interservice Rivalry, can be cause for quite a bit of mutual annoyance whenever US Army and US Air Force personnel are deployed together while carrying handguns. Army personnel are trained to holster their sidearm with the safety on, while the Air Force trains their personnel to holster the weapon with the safety off. Cue many nosey soldiers annoying the Air Force personnel by constantly pointing out that their weapon happens to be holstered in exactly the way they are required and trained to holster it.
Marshal André Masséna had managed to avoid major injuries for most of his career. Then he lost an eye in 1808 when Napoleon accidentally shot him during a hunt - and blamed it on another Marshal, Louis-Alexandre Berthier.