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Noisy Guns
"Clicker-Clack Effect: The firearm counterpart to the Snicker-Snack Effect. Whenever a character is holding a gun and waves it for emphasis, regardless of whether the character actually cocks the gun, or if the gun even has a hammer to cock, it makes a cocking noise."
Matt Griffin, Ebert's Little Movie Glossary

In real life, guns are carefully designed, well-constructed tools that - provided they are well maintained - can last a lifetime. On TV, they're apparently filled with rusty nails and loose change, and held together with masking tape.

As a result, whenever someone hefts a weapon - particularly if it's a machine gun or submachine gun - it will make a whole load of clicking, clacking and clonking even though all they're doing is rotating it through 90 degrees. This trope is likely the result of the fact that a noisy gun adds drama to the scene. (See: Dramatic Gun Cock and Click Hello)

Media also routinely depicts guns being dry fired more than once when they run out of ammo. The "Click Click Click" sound lets the audience know it's empty. Unfortunately, not all guns in the real world can do this. Pump-action shotguns, single fire rifles, bolt-action rifles, lever-action carbines, and even single-action pistols and revolvers - none of these will repeatedly dry fire without a re-cock.

Double-action pistols and revolvers will fire on every trigger pull, of course. The name refers to the "double action" of the trigger — every pull advances the cylinder, cocks the hammer, and then releases it to fire the weapon. You can dry fire a double action weapon all day without ever touching the hammer. Of course, you still can't get the empty click-click-click from a double-action semi-automatic just by continuing to pull the trigger, since on the vast majority of designs (and on a great many semi-auto and full-auto rifles as well, but this trope is far more common with pistols anyway) the slide will lock back on an empty magazine - but that's neither here nor there. This trope probably originated from the time when double-action revolvers were the most popular handguns in the United States, and a great many movie directors are either unaware or don't care that other guns don't work the same way.

Electrically powered firearms, like gatling-style cannons used on aircraft, will dry fire as long as you hold down the trigger.

May or may not be a side effect of Shur Fine Guns. Related to Bang Bang BANG. Subtrope of Kinetic Clicking. If you're thinking of intentionally making a noise to announce an entrance or punctuate a phrase, see Dramatic Gun Cock, and please don't add examples of it here. For the Sword Counterpart of this, see Audible Sharpness.

Finally, note that guns in real life are very, very noisy when fired, so much so that hearing protection needs to be worn — this trope is about the noises a gun makes when it isn't being fired.

Examples

Anime
  • The first episode of Hellsing has this wonderful (but noisy) montage of Alucard putting his gun together before the first scene. Complete with the ramping up of the volume of every little sound such parts would make for maximum effect.
  • Liberally applied in Monster despite its heavy level of realism.
  • Trigun also has plenty of rattling guns
  • Ghost in the Shell is guilty of this. Made worse by the fact that it's the future and said guns are, as you'd imagine, relatively futuristic.
  • Gundam Wing is also a major offender, punctuating every draw, particularly by Heero, with a bunch of clicking.
  • One Piece commonly exhibits this with guns, possibly justified with them primarily being flintlocks. Zoro's swords however, rattling every time he moves them while they are outside of the scabbard, play this straight.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha uses this trope on magtek weapons, but once the Belkin-Cartridge system comes into play, suddenly *Ka-chunk* or a series of clicks/steam expulsion systems get upgraded... the Anime pretty much codifies this trope among the magical girl genre.

Film
  • The Matrix has a guard draw a Glock, a polymer-framed striker-fired pistol, which immediately produces a chorus of clicks. Being striker-fired, Glock pistols only make that much noise when you move the slide back to chamber a round, a big motion best done with your other hand. He'd have to do that if he wanted to fire it, but you can't do that just by drawing the gun.
  • A very obvious example occurs at the end of the recent The Pink Panther starring Steve Martin. A guard tightens his grip on his Glock, and it makes a cocking noise for no apparent reason.
  • Parodied in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, where a crossbow makes a bunch of clicky-gun-noises like a sniper rifle being assembled.
  • When it's all gone seriously wrong, near the close of Crimson Tide, two groups of submariners are pointing guns at each other. Every move they make seems to result in their guns being cocked, going by the soundtrack.
  • Played straight in V for Vendetta with Creedy, although he was using a revolver so it's justified.
  • Inverted in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly when Tuco is displeased with the loud clicks that a revolver makes as its cylinder is turned, indicating its poor quality. He dismantles several pistols to construct his own from the parts, and then demonstrates to the clerk that the new gun clicks very softly when its cylinder is rotated.
  • Used unabashedly in Star Trek: First Contact, when Lily is shooting at Picard and Data in the silo (with a submachinegun), the weapon clicks no less than five times after running out of ammo.

Literature
  • Parodied in Artemis Fowl, where the faux-macho LEP squad "coaxed whatever metallic sounds they could out of their weapons".

Live-Action TV
  • Doctor Who
    • Not so much a weapon as a tool (even though many of its uses could be weaponised and it has been used as one), but the Doctor's super-advanced alien tech sonic screwdriver frequently rattles like an old butterfly corkscrew. This only ever seems to happen when the screwdriver is on-screen.
    Craig: Can't you make that thing be quiet?
    The Doctor: No! It's a sonic screwdriver!
    • In The End of Time, every time The Doctor switches between aiming at the Master and aiming at Rassilon, he seems to recock the gun.
      • The Doctor Who universe is one where simply pointing a gun at a person cocks it, sometimes multiple times.
  • Justified in "Babylon 5", since their PPGs (space guns) must charge up capacitors, causing a dramatic zzzz! which rises in pitch, before they can fire.
  • Common in Firefly, though the weapons tend to make futuristic-sounding "zip-click" and "powering up" noises when being pointed.
  • Common in Human Target, for example, about 15 minutes into "Salvage and Reclamation", when essentially everyone in Maria's bar pulls a gun on Chance, with a range of guns all the way from what appears to be an old Colt revolver to an AK represented. Seems to verge into that particular homage/lampshading/Affectionate Parody realm the show is known for when they sort of re-emphasized the brandishing of their guns a few moments later and the exact same sounds are heard.
  • This accompanies almost every episode of Lost. Pistols make mechanical clinking noises whenever they're waved around and a cocking noise whenever pointed at someone. Most annoyingly, shotgun cocking sounds routinely accompany the raising of any bolt action rifle (it's essentially a 'this weapon gesture is threatening!' code for the viewer). Anyone who's ever used a bolt action rifle will find this infuriating.
  • Happens in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel every time someone picks up a crossbow pistol, despite there not being anything to 'click'.
  • A particular example from season 3 of Boardwalk Empire: Right before Richard Harrow kills Manny Horvitz, he hefts his shotgun up to take aim, producing a strange rattling noise. Can be witnessed here [WARNING: gore/adult content]

Toys
  • Nerf Brand blasters can be surprisingly loud for toy guns.
    • The electrically-powered Vulcan LMG produces a surprisingly realistically loud clattering when fired thanks to its repeating bolt action. The Stampede ECS carbine also has an additional motorized whirring as its internals work the repeating bolt.
    • Motorized flywheel blasters like the Barricade, Stockade, Rayven, and Rapidstrike all produce a constant whine as their motors spin furiously.
    • All the bolt-actioned N-Strike blasters can be surprisingly noisy when working their actions because their hollow frames tend to amplify every click, clack, snap, crackle, and pop.

Video Games
  • Team Fortress 2 has every gun (And some non-guns, such as the Spy's knife) make distinct noises when you switch weapons. The noisy knife actually makes sense, since it's a butterfly knife. The guns...not so much.
  • Unreal Tournament is also a pretty bad offender. With the background music off, it's entirely possible to track an enemy from the noise of switching weapons and picking up ammo.
  • In Deus Ex, JC's 10mm sidearm apparently has some kind of very loud three-part safety he has to take off when he draws it. Every time.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2. Every time Raiden lifts his pistol, it sounds like he's cocked it.
    • Similar to both this and the Unreal Tournament example above, if you ever play a game of Metal Gear Online, turn the background music off and you can hear everything from the realistic sound of your opponents footsteps and equipment rustling to the unfortunately unrealistic click of his gun being brought to an 'aimed' position.
  • Played straight and justified in Mass Effect, where drawing a weapon causes it to click and clack. Justified in that guns in the Mass Effect universe all fold up when not in use and reassemble when a button is pushed (which is obviously done as the gun is drawn).
  • In Monster Hunter almost every weapon falls into this category or, less frequently, Audible Sharpness (Most weapons are too big to have a sheath). In particular, in Monster Hunter Tri the Bowgun, Switch Axe, and Lance make lots of noise when drawn and are justified due to being folded or otherwise mechanized for portability.
  • Many of the human weapons in the Halo series fit this trope. Every time a weapon is drawn, Master Chief will either: rack the slide on a pistol, pump a shotgun, or clear the bolt-action on a sniper rifle, despite that most of them are fully loaded at the time and doing so would waste a cartridge. The poor bastard will sometimes (depending on the game) do these actions upon drawing an empty weapon.
    • Halo's assault rifle has the loudest safety ever.
  • The various guns available in the Dark Forces Saga all have very pronounced arming sounds when being brought up into view. This includes the numerous blasters and other energy weapons available, all of which make sounds suspiciously similar to a revolver being cocked or a charging lever being drawn back. It's possible these are due to the guns being taken off safe as they're brought up into line, but if that's the case, some of these guns must have had some of the most ludicrous safeties known to fiction to produce the variety of the sounds heard in the games.

Web Comics

Web Original
  • Freddie Wong is particularly guilty of this in his short films, but seems to use it for a full 'action film' effect and for Rule of Cool.

Truth in Television
  • WWII era Thompson submachine guns (AKA "Tommy Guns") made a clacking sound when shaken; a major disadvantage in close quarters fire fights. One of the reasons that the iconic round drums were retired, along with fragility, size and reliability, was because they were too noisy to carry around. The second reason was that the 20- and 30-round box magazines worked much better and the third reason was the introduction of the substantially cheaper M3 and later M3A1.
  • Another WW2 era weapon, the Japanese Type 99 Rifle, was fitted with a bolt cover that would rattle rather noisily, often giving away the position of troops trying to either infiltrate enemy lines or spring an ambush.
    • It was an almost universal practice for soldiers to remove the dust cover on their rifles.
  • Back on the US side, the M1 Garand's en bloc clip made a distinctive pinging noise if it landed on something hard after ejecting. The ping is actually fairly soft and easy to miss, especially if a lot of fire from other guns is drowning it out. Nevertheless, audiences seem to expect it and movies/TV shows almost always add it anyway.
    • There are several accounts of US GIs and Marines putting the Garand's obnoxious "ping" sound to tactical use. As the war wore on, the Axis soldiers came to realize that whenever they heard the ping of the clip hitting the ground, the shooter was out of ammo. The US troops then started carrying an empty (usually damaged) Garand clip, which they would dash against something hard on the ground. The enemy would poke his head up to fire, and would be promptly shot.
  • In "Lad's Army", putting teenagers of today through the National Service of New Zealand of the 1950's - one former serviceman recalled that, in order to make their (unloaded) rifles make louder noises while drilling, they would place a coin in the (empty) magazine.
  • Belt-fed machine guns are another real life example, as the heavy metal belts make quite a bit of clanking. Some models use fabric belts, which don't make remotely as much noise.
    • The FN Minimi (designated the M249 by the US army) originally used plastic drums that clacked when the belt inside shifted position, such as when the gun was fired or moved. These were replaced by canvas pouches for the belt, which reduce the sound because the canvas will move with the belt.
  • M1911 pistols of any brand, from low-end RIA M1911s to never-fired Springfield Armory M1911s fresh out of the case, tend to have a bit (which turns after some wear into a lot) of a rattle when moved. Considering the M1911's ridiculous popularity in the USA, it's probably the Trope Maker.
    • Rattling in a 1911 is akin to a Harley leaking oil: if it doesn't, something's wrong.
  • Rifles used by ceremonial guards tend to have pieces of metal attached to strategic places to make more noise.
  • Some rifles can rattle when a bayonet is fixed.

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