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Pinball Projectile
A variant of Bizarre and Improbable Ballistics, where a bullet, arrow, stone, whatever, ricochets off several objects before finally hitting its target. Can be either accidental or just a sign of the shooter's skill. A sister-trope, Hyper Destructive Bouncing Ball, describes instances when an item ricochets, causing random damage. That is not this trope; this always has a definite target, even if the shot hits the target as a result of pure luck.

To pull this off intentionally means you're either The Gunslinger or archer; pulling it off accidentally makes you incredibly lucky. This is often a characteristic of the Precision-Guided Boomerang, though returning to the wielder is not necessary. You may find one in a Trick Shot Puzzle.

Technically Truth in Television, but with a huge asterisk- see real-life examples. Most treatments in fiction are Artistic License - Physics at its finest, the biggest issues being the number of riccochettes, and the ability to control the angle of deflection.

Compare Reflecting Laser. Also see Bouncing Battler, where a character uses this as a fighting technique.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Rip Van Winkle's bullets go around in zig-zags until they hit their target, giving them a level of precision that shames homing missiles.
  • Both Train Heartnet and Saya Minatsuki of Black Cat are able to do this with a technique known as the Reflect Shot.
  • Mana Tatsumiya of Mahou Sensei Negima!! does this in the intentional variety to gain advantage over the Mahora defenses (having One-Hit Kill proximity bullets helps).
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni - The Seven Stakes of Purgatory are shown as part spike, part homicidal guided missile, and part this.
  • Pokémon Special: Gold always carries a billiard cue with him and frequently uses it to launch his Pokeballs to a tactically advantageous position, often ricocheting them off of surfaces to get there.
  • In Ranma ˝ the detachable blade ring of the Kinjakan is meant to be used like this. When Ranma steals it from the Phoenix people and tries to use it acts like a Hyper Destructive Bouncing Ball, and a Phoenix woman tells him that it takes years of training to use the weapon properly. Then Ranma immediately uses it a second time, the ring bounces exactly where he wants it to go, and Ranma gives a smug smirk.
  • In Sailor Moon, the Amazoness Quartet used this to expose peoples' dream mirrors.

    Comics 
  • Captain America's shield. Due to its unique construction and lots of practice, for the most part - others who have stepped into the role, like John Walker, never really got the hang of it like the original did.
  • Cyclops of the X-Men has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to cause his optic blasts to ricochet or reflect off of objects in a trajectory to his liking. He's reflected a single blast off of over a dozen objects before. How the objects aren't simply destroyed from the force is never explained, but it's one of his niftiest tricks.
    • Predicting ricochets is an intuitive secondary power of his. If you play pool against him, play for fun, not money.
      • One has to wonder who would win in a pool game between him and Cap. Probably whoever went first, as Cyclops at least has shown the ability to clear the entire table in one shot.
    • Fridge Brilliance: if Scott can see a reflection [of a reflection [of a reflection]] of an object, he only needs to aim directly at that reflection, because his beam follows (backwards) the trajectory of the light beams which allowed him to see the object in the first place.
    • On at least one occasion, the objects being reflected off of WERE destroyed. The X-Men were captive in Murderworld (a lethal amusement park),and Cyclops and Nightcrawler were surrounded by maybe a dozen fast-moving bumper cars equipped with buzzsaws. Cyclops took all the bumper cars out with a single blast. Nightcrawler was appropriately impressed.
  • Lucky Luke occasionally demonstrates his Improbable Aiming Skills this way.
  • Judge Dredd's gun has special "ricochet ammo" for this purpose.
  • Bullseye can do this with ANYTHING.
  • Daredevil himself can do it with his billy club on occasion. Most egregiously in one of Kevin Smith's issues, where Daredevil throws it through a glass window where, instead of shattering the window completely, it just leaves a small hole, approximately 1.5 inches in diameter. Then it bounces around, knocking out the mooks and returning through the exact same hole.
  • Wonder Woman has been known to do this with her tiara.
  • Green Arrow does this with arrows.
  • Miho has done this a few times with her manji shuriken.
  • Nightwing has done this with his eskrima sticks, having it hit a couple mooks then return to him, even though they're not meant to be thrown in the first place.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Disney's Robin Hood, Robin pulls this off by shooting an arrow that had gone off course with another arrow, correcting the tragectory of the first arrow and sending it straight into the bullseye, Robin Hooding the one that was already in there.
    • Trigger, one of the Sheriff's vulture lackeys, does the accidental version a couple of times with his crossbow. Apparently even when the safety is on. In the final shot of the movie he attempts to "present arms", it goes off, and the bolt bounces around before hitting one of the hearts on Robin Hood's wedding carriage.
  • In The Thief and the Cobbler, the titular Cobbler Tack sends a tack ricocheting during the final battle. It eventually hits Evil Chancellor Zig-Zag's horse, who launches Zig-zag off its back, which causes his sword to cut a rope, which activates a catapult...

    Films — Live Action 
  • In TRON and its sequel TRON: Legacy, the Identity Discs behave like this, although since the discs are computer programs and not bound by the laws of physics, this is to be expected. Also, they always come back to their owner when thrown.
  • House of Flying Daggers: The daggers, and pretty much every other thrown item.
  • An epic one (it even gets a replay) in the Thai movie Tears Of The Black Tiger
  • This is Happy Gilmore specialty after being trained to use it to his advantage. In his final match against Shooter, a lookout tower gets in the way of the final hole thanks to a flunkie Shooter hired to ruin Happy's shot. Instead of putting around it and going into sudden death. Happy studies the structure and decides to beat Shooter then and there by hitting the ball so that it ricochets and hits a chute where it rolls perfectly into the hole.
  • In Alien: Resurrection, when Christie is held at point range, he puts his hands up as if surrendering, only to just shot the roof. After bouncing two times on the roof, the bullet hit the guy that was behind him and holding a rifle, going through his helmet with ease, and killing him.
  • Captain America does this in his movie with his shield. Somehow, it looks even more improbable in live action. Also, given that the film explains away the unique properties of the shield by saying that it absorbs and deadens vibrations, should be even more impossible to ricochet than a regular disc. And never make any sounds on impact. But whatever, it works.
  • Star Wars has a rather funny example, wherein Han Solo falls into the trash compactor aboard the Death Star, following all of his friends. He decides to blast open the door, and immediately after Luke says, "No, wait!" he fires, causing the bolt to ricochet all over the room for several seconds, inevitably pissing everybody off. The reason this happens with an energy weapon is explained as 'magnetic sealing,' technology which repels particles that try to pass through its electromagnetic field, including blaster bolts, since they are actually particle beam weapons.

    Literature 
  • This was also in Pyramids by Terry Pratchett: a young assassin decides to flunk his exam when he finds out that it will end with killing a live target. He misses the target intentionally, but the arrow ricochets a few times in this manner and ends up hitting the target anyway. The examiner misunderstands and thinks that he was just showing off, and lets him pass. (And, to round up a happy ending, the victim turns out to have been a fake too.)
  • In another Pratchett novel, Reaper Man, Bill Door is very good at pool, but realises that when it comes to a friendly game at the pub, you get more friends by losing entertainingly, and uses his skill to set up shots that "accidentally" send the cue ball flying off the table and ricocheting around the room before landing harmlessly in somebody's pint mug.
  • And of course, there are the trick shots Archchancellor Ridcully sets up on his pool table. Being a Discworld wizard, his "trick shots" involve bouncing the cue ball off of passing seagulls, the back of the Bursar's head (last Tuesday, no less!), and possibly even itself.
  • One of the novels in The History of the Galaxy series mentions that there is special software installed to do exactly that with the Real Robots when the enemy is hiding. Why an explosive projectile blows up only when hitting a target instead of a rock is not explained. Presumably, they're smart bullets or something.
  • The Worst Shots In The West has bullets pinging all over the place, yet still somehow managing to hit targets. All the more ludicrous as it's completely unintentional.

    Live Action TV 
  • Xena's chakram, which bounces off rocks, pillars, and mooks' heads before returning to her hand.
    • Exaggerated in an episode featuring a "Groundhog Day" Loop. To break the loop, Xena had to (among other things) stop a young noblewoman from committing suicide with a vial of poison. However, the distance from where Xena wakes up every morning to where the girl does the deed is too far to reach in the time allowed, in addition to stopping everything else going wrong that day. So she spends at least one day ignoring everything else to take measurements, angles, and distances. So that when she wakes up again, the first thing she does is go outside, gauge the wind, and throw her chakram across, through, above and between several city blocks in order to be exactly where the poison vial will be when it gets there, as well as putting a stop to everything else along the way. And it returns to her hand afterwards.
  • Seen in Red Dwarf. In the famous "Gunmen of the Apocalypse'' episode set in a computer-simulated Western town, The Cat pulls off non-lethal trick shots in this manner.
    • Also done in the episode where lister plays pool with planets by shooting a thermonuclear device into a star to create a solar flare which knocks a planet into another one which then goes on to hit a third one which plugs up the white hole and saves the ship while "potting" all planets in to orbit around another star much to the supprise of the rest of the crew
  • The Doctor pulled this off at one point. He threw a cricket ball, and it bounced around all over the place. Admittedly the effect bordered on a Rube Goldberg device instead of this trope, but it probably still counts. Not only that, but he did it while his Time Lord mind was entirely suppressed and he believed that he was human.
  • Tested by the MythBusters with firearms. For the record, bullets lose a lot of energy when they ricochet. The "three ricochets and kills the firer" myth they were working on was solidly Busted.
  • Pretty much the only possible way Warren Mears could've hit Tara Maclay with that stray shot.
  • In V.I.P., Vallery Irons tried imitating Xena with her headband. Four enemies knocked out despite wearing a helmet. At least she was impressed.
  • Invoked In "Rivals" of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a device has "changed the balance of luck in different rooms": Chief O'Brien demonstrates this by throwing a ball in a completely random direction in the holodeck. It bounces off the walls several times before returning to O'Brien's raised hand.
  • In the pilot of Alphas Hicks is faced with someone using a Human Shield, so he uses his Alpha ability to bounce a bullet off a sign behind them.

    Pinball 
  • One of the animations in Gottlieb's Tee'd Off shows a golf ball careening wildly among a grove of coconut trees.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, you can get a Charm that does this. Some weapons don't even need a Charm.
  • This can be taken as a cinematic skill or special power in GURPS.
    • Plus the frisbee grenades from Ultra-Tech.
  • In both 5th edition and 6th edition Hero System, you can do this with any ranged attack you have Combat Skill Levels for, unless you specifically take a Limitation on the attack that says otherwise.
  • Available via the Ricochet feat in Mutants & Masterminds.

    Toys 
  • In the Inika arc from BIONICLE, Toa Hewkii gained a Mask of Accuracy. One of the things he did with it was shoot a pebble he created (being the Toa of Stone) and ricochet it off a dozen surfaces before hitting his intended target in the back. Crowning Moment Of Awesome, indeed.
  • Cue sports (such as Billiards) calls successful attempts of a pinball projectile to be trick shots. One variation, three-cushion billiards, requires this because a scoring point is awarded by hitting an object ball and three cushions before the second object ball.

    Video Games 
It is worth noting that when an in-game weapon can ricochet off of walls, it may not necessarily hit a useful target — this depends on the actual player using it.
  • In Video Game/Vindictus, the Ricochet Shot skill. Lampshaded in the description, which outright says that it defies the laws of physics and offers no explanation.
  • In the Double Fine XBLA game Iron Brigade certain Sniper Cannons with the RICOCHET and RICOCHET+ can act like this.
    • The "Rise of the Martian Bear" DLC adds all sorts of oddball weapons, including RICOCHET+ Machine Guns (the "80-UNC 3 Indirect MG"), of which the flavor text says, "One would think that years of technological advances were involved in the creation of this weapon. In actuality, we just filled it with spring-loaded bullets, and somehow it worked."
  • The Reflective Shot powerup in Gauntlet games allows players to do this.
  • Moon Knight's X-Treme attack in Marvel Ultimate Alliance takes this Up to Eleven. Basically, it's this trope combined with More Dakka, turning the whole screen into a bouncing, ricocheting Bullet Hell for the enemies. Pretty much an instant boss-killer too, especially if it's used in an enclosed room.
  • Happens with projectiles with the Missile(Bounce) attribute in Warcraft III.
    • In World of Warcraft, during the Warlord Zon'Ozz encounter, the primary encounter mechanic is bouncing an orb between two sets of players; the orb does increasing damage each time it hits a player, divided between all players. After a certain point, you must hit the boss with an orb, putting a damage-increasing debuff on him. If the orb hits the wall of the arena without hitting a player, it will damage all players, and this most often resulted in a wipe when Dragon Soul was current.
    • Also from World of Warcraft, on Heroic, the Iron Juggernaut's sawblade bounces between players.
  • Perfect Dark's grenades are rather humdrum until the secondary mode, "Proximity Pinball," is activated — after which they start bouncing throughout the level until an enemy gets close enough to set off the proximity trigger. Multiplayer matches including them taught players to dread that innocent little "boing" sound...
  • Descent's Phoenix Cannon ricochets twice off surfaces. A skilled player can use it to shoot robots around corridors. A less skilled player is likely to try to use it to open a door (which works fine for other weapons) and get his own shots bounced back in his face for a highly embarrassing death.
  • Jak and Daxter, specifically Jak 3's Reflexor gun. That thing will bounce off anything, forever, and if you spam the screen with bullets its a veritable party of yellow lines. And if you buy the upgrade to make it bounce off things more... hoo boy. Then again, the Jak and Daxter series doesn't seem to pay attention to reality much anyway.
  • Revolver Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid can bounce bullets off the wall to hit the player around corners.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater lets you do this as well once you get your hands on a Colt Single-Action Army, though it's usefulness doesn't go far beyond Rule of Cool since it's 100% reliant on your own ability to use it with no auto-aiming feature.
  • In Project Eden you can use the disc launcher to kill enemies around corners. It looks similar to a certain movie.
  • And speaking of TRON, the game Tron 2.0 gives you the legendary Disc as your primary weapon. Bouncing shots off the floor or walls is one of the best ways to control them over longer distances.
  • In Half-Life 2, the Energy Ball ammo for the pulse rifle (and the energy globes in the Citadel) will ricochet until they hit a target.
  • Jr. from Xenosaga has a few of these attacks. One of his "normal" attacks in the first game involves flipping a coin and shooting it, hitting an enemy with the ricochet. One of his special attacks, however, involves throwing a handful of coins at the enemies and firing a single bullet, bouncing it off all the coins in order to hit multiple enemies.
  • In Space Quest IV, if you die by entering the hatchway of the patrol ship instead of the landing gear, you get this message, "The young shuttle pilot, his seat suddenly humidified by your surprise entry, fires his pulseray. The shot just misses you and then bounces off the reflective surfaces of the cabin... eventually managing to fatally perforate you. Just as you fade from the living organism club you think, in amazement, 'So that's what my spleen looks like!'"
  • The Marksman in Hellgate: London can learn to bounce shots off the environment with 100% effectiveness, and ricochet between multiple targets.
  • Your main weapon in D/Generation is a laser that can bounce off walls up to three times per shot.
  • The aptly-named Ricochet Stone subweapon that appears in a few games of the Castlevania series.
  • GDI Grenadiers throw Disc Grenades in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, which bounce a few times before detonating. This can be used to your advantage if you force attack the ground in front of them, causing their discs to bounce and allow them to effectively out-range lower tier defenses such as laser turrets.
  • Mario's Fireballs in the Super Smash Bros. series bounce off walls and floors.
  • In Devil May Cry 3, main character Dante in a cutscene hurls a pool table into the air, then shoots the white ball. This causes the white ball to rebound off every single other ball, which then hit and kill a Mook each.
  • In Xexyz, the 45B Ball weapon fires balls that bounce at 45-degree angles.
  • The Ripper from Unreal and Unreal Tournament fires ricocheting discs capable of decapitating everyone if they hit the neck, and the Flak Cannon is a BFG-sized shotgun which fires red-hot ricocheting shrapnel.
  • One of the bots in Shatterhand.
  • In Wii Play's subgame Tank, you can shoot bullets that ricochet on walls twice. Not only that, but a some of the enemies' shots can also ricochet off walls.
  • Wipeout's non locked-on missile and shuriken (The latter is eliminator mode only).
  • Ricochet Bombs in the Twisted Metal series.
    • In earlier incarnations (Pre Twisted Metal:Black) the bombs would last forever until hitting a vehicle, and each undetonated bounce would increase the power of the overall bomb. With the unlimited ammo cheat....
  • The original Atari home system came with a game simply called "Tank", where two players control tanks that fire missiles at each other. On some levels the missiles bounce, and intricate trick shots are possible.
  • The Harrier attack in P.N.03 shoots multiple ricocheting projectiles.
  • During the final chapter of Sierra's Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist, when Freddy accuses a villainous poker player of cheating locals out of their homes and businesses in card games, the guy pulls a gun on him, leading to a standoff in the saloon where the player must find something to ricochet their gun off of while taking cover behind a table. Aim wrong, and the bullet bounces all over the place and eventually kill an innocent bystander - but instead of issuing a Game Over for this (as one would normally expect from a Sierra adventure game), it rewinds the scene (ricochets and all) so the player can try again.
  • Demonstrated to a hilariously impossible extent in this video of a Source mod by Jimbomcb, wherein the bullet ricochets off the ceiling and floor repeatedly, losing no momentum from the impacts, resulting in bullet impact decals in a pattern not unlike a spirograph.
  • Prevalent in the Touhou series. Mai and Reimu Hakurei in the PC-98 games, for instance, both have projectiles that pinball everywhere. One of the possible Stage 4 bosses in Mystic Square, some of Mai's attacks have bouncing ice spheres that shatters into pieces. She uses this attack pattern at least twice in her battle. However, in Lotus Land Story, the stage 4 boss in Marisa's playthrough, Reimu's yin-yang orbs bounces everywhere in her battle. Which makes it even harder for Marisa to dodge them because there's so many of them.
  • Mega Man 10: Strike Man's Rebound Striker qualifies for this- on the third bounce, it heads directly for Mega Man.
  • Dragon's Dogma has the Ricochet Seeker/Hunter skill used by the Magick Archer, in which they fire off bolts of lightning magic that bounce around walls and actually get stronger the more they ricochet. As a skill, it is extremely useful in tight indoor environments such as dungeons and caverns and can make short work of enemies (especially those with a weakness to lightning).
  • The Juggler gun frame from the Boktai series has laughably weak stats (C Damage, C Stun) but fires shots that ricochet for a very long while. Given the game's emphasis on stealth and puzzles that involve shooting switches, it's one of the best frames in the game if given the chance.
  • In Tower Fall, laser arrows can bounce off walls and ceilings. After several bounces, the arrow loses its power, and unlike regular arrows, disappears if left alone for more than a second.
  • The Mutalisk in StarCraft and it's sequel has an attack that bounces 3 times, each time doing less damage.
    • By the same token, the attacks of Huntresses in WarCraft 3 (also made by Blizzard) bounce twice normally and can be upgraded to do so once more.
  • In Turok 2 an upgrade to the shotgun, the Shredder does this.

    Web Animation 
  • In Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, Church's usually horrible aim with his signature sniper rifle takes a momentary lapse as he lands an impossible ricochet shot on the Meta.
    • That was an accident, and it ricocheted nine times before hitting the Meta in the foot. Hardly an ideal shot, even if he meant to do it, though it did prove to be helpful...by providing the heroes with a trail of blood to follow.
      • It doesn't count anyway. He didn't call it first.
    • Played with and subverted when Agent Washington picks up a gun in Project Freelancer that fires ricocheting energy pellets. He declares it the worst gun ever. Of all time.
  • Haloid has this as one two of its many (many) awesome moments.

    Web Comics 
  • The lucky shot variety is subverted in this strip of The Order of the Stick, where a stray poisoned arrow nearly hits several things, including Vaarsuvius.
  • Vallant, of Teh Gladiators, takes Accidental Aiming Skills to a new level of insanity when his shots ricochet around the Arena like buzzing flies until they finally hit something — never what he was aiming at but always something that helps Teh Gladiators win.
  • Magick Chicks had Cerise summoning a venomous stinger-shooting giant bee during a fight with Skye and Tiffany seeking revenge. Tiffany being a Badass Normal type, she paddled the thing away. Because the stinger on its way out accidentally hit her previous summon, Cerise instead of a deserved beating receives praise, as the other girls thought she planned this. Melissa comments this with "You are the luckiest bitch alive".

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of Family Guy has Brian and Stewie trapped in a bank vault where they accidentally fire a gun and the bullet ricochets all over the place while Brian and Stewie hide under a table. The episode cuts to commercials before the bullet stops.
  • Happens in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Flash and Substance": Batman fires a flare into the air, seemingly aiming for Mirror Master, but it ricochets off various objects before falling into a mirror. Mirror Master jeers, "You missed me!", not realizing Batman launched it in the mirror so the Flash, trapped in a mirror dimension, could find his way back and kick butt.
  • On Phineas and Ferb, Isabella does this in a foosball match, after saying that the next shot would go in.
  • Exaggerated in the Bugs Bunny short, The Wild and Wooly Hare. After explaining to Yosemite Sam how his next shot was going to bounce off about half the town's buildings before coming back into the room and part Sam's hair right down the middle, Bugs fires. It does exactly what he said it would, including splitting Sam's hat in half during the parting of his hair.
    Real Life 
  • The hollywood image of intentionally hitting a target by deflecting a bullet off of dozens of randomly angled surfaces after mere seconds of observation with a random firearm is generally deemed impossible.
    • Here's why:
      • Ballistic projectiles lose energy when ricocheting (the same way a bouncing ball never goes as high as its first bounce) and eventually will drop to non-lethal speed before ultimately succumbing to air resistance and gravity.
      • With each deflection, the spin of a projectile is altered; this can have varying effects depending on how and by how much the spin changes and the type of projectile. This is not entirely unpredictable-for instance, professional pool players often use backspin and sidespin to control how balls deflect and the curve of their path by striking them at the proper angle- but it is extremely difficult to learn even in this example.
      • In addition, for metal projectiles like bullets, each deflection further deforms the projectile. This alters the aerodynamics of the projectile, and the angle of future deflections.
      • All of which means one or two deflections is theoretically possible for someone with absurd levels of skill, and if a geometry wiz with plenty of time and an extremely steady hand pulled the trigger a three or four bounce lethal shot may be plausible, depending on how extreme the curve is note  After more ricochets than that, a bullet's flight path can be considered essentially random, and it probably won't have enough energy left to be lethal.
    • Of course this all goes out the window if there's even a little Applied Phlebotinum or Unobtanium involved- physics just passes the remote to its brother and grabs the popcorn.

Now that the physics majors are (hopefully) appeased:
  • a handful of professional trick shooters have successfully performed stunts involving hitting a target by ricocheting a bullet off of one or more metal plates. It is one of the most difficult and dangerous trick shots, requiring years of practice, precise preparation, extreme levels of skill, and a well maintained firearm to successfully perform.
    • For comparison, throwing a coin into the air and shooting it before it lands is a stunt which many professional exhibition shooters master early in their careers. To repeat: people who consider shooting coins out of the air an entry level trick, consider a one or two deflection shot an impressive display of skill.
  • The Francisca, a medieval throwing axe, was actually designed to allow it to be used in this manner. The hatchet-like weapon features an long, thin, extremely heavy head, and a relatively short handle. When thrown properly, this odd design caused the axe to tumble and bounce upon impact- allowing them to strike foes carrying heavy shields from below or behind after bouncing off of other shields or the ground.


Pinball GagPinball TropesPinball Protagonist
Perpetual Motion MachineJustForFun/Tropes Examined by the Myth BustersPin-Pulling Teeth
Phlebotinum-Handling RequirementsWeapons and Wielding TropesPoint Defenseless
Pillow PregnancyAdded Alliterative AppealPinball Protagonist

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