In movies and television, a locked door, or a padlock on a cage is never an impediment so long as the Hero has bullets to spare. One or two shots is generally enough to destroy the lock, allowing the door to open.
Unfortunately, in real life — as shown by the MythBusters
— this requires a high powered gun (such as a massive .357 Magnum pistol) at close range, which causes lots of very dangerous shrapnel. Only SWAT teams and soldiers ever do this in real life, and it involves a shotgun, Kevlar body armor, specialized ammunition (a powdered metal breaching round, often jokingly referred to as "Avon Calling"), and full face protection. Even then, the goal is not specifically to destroy the lock, but to destroy the surrounding door or the hinges. The old standby "entry tool" (a small battering ram) is a better choice in most situations. That or a good, hard kick on an especially flimsy door. (The MythBusters have done that one, too.)
Attempts to shoot the lock mechanism itself tend to leave the distorted metal jammed in place while the bolt or latch remains closed. In effect, it is actually more
locked than if you had left it alone.
The Speculative Fiction
version is shooting the control panel
for the automatic door or force field, or automatic force field door
. While there are doors that "fail safe" or "fail open" when power is cut, in fiction this is always coincidentally whichever the shooter and/or plot requires. (Note to villains: The Evil Overlord List
recommends rigging yours to reverse this.)
Tested on 'The Box O'Truth
Not to be confused with getting shot out of an airlock.
See also Open Says Me
Anime and Manga
- Gets played with in the first episode of Gosick. We see a maid shooting at a locked door, ostensibly to free her master, who is locked inside. Turns out that the maid is killing the master via a shot to the eye through the keyhole while the master was peeking through the hole.
- Highschool of the Dead. Takashi tries to do this, but resident Gun Otaku Kohta quickly stops him, worried that one of the bullets will riccochet and hit one of them.
- Done in The Fuma Conspiracy, but for the opposite effect most people go for. The lock is an old-fashioned one whose purpose is to disable the booby traps guarding a treasure stash. The person shooting it does so to trash the mechanism after his enemies steal the vase with the key hidden inside.
- Scrooge McDuck does this in the Carl Barks comic "The Old Castle's Secret".
- In one of the War Picture Library comics, the heroes are freeing a captured British spy from prison, and one suggests shooting out the lock. The spy responds: "You've been watching too many cowboy movies; the ricochets would kill us all." (As the prison has stone walls and a steel door).
- Bookhunter's opening scene shows a SWAT team using a shotgun with "shocklock rounds". In the preliminary briefing, Agent Bay points out that the hallway's layout prevents them from using a ram.
- Commercials for Weatherby ammunition would show a lock penetrated, but not completely destroyed, by a rifle cartridge.
- For years, the Master Lock company ran TV commercials during the Super Bowl where they would shoot one of their own padlocks with a gun to demonstrate its durability. This is an interesting application of Reality Is Unrealistic, because its effectiveness is based on viewers' expectations that a lock will break when fired at. (This commercial is referenced in the Stephen King-as-Richard-Bachman novella "Rage", when the narrator/protagonist puts his locker padlock in his shirt pocket, where it later saves him from a sharpshooter bullet in the heart. The narrator mentions later viewing that commercial, with adverse emotional effects.)
- Big Trouble in Little China. Jack Burton shoots off a padlock to free the female captives from their cells in Lo Pan's warehouse.
- The weasels use a machine gun to shoot a hole around the lock on Eddie's door to open it in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
- In No Country for Old Men, the villain (chillingly well-played by Javier Bardem) shoots off locks, but with an air gun that drives a metal spike through the lock and launches it into the next room. As cool as this is, it is sadly impossible.
- Star Wars:
- Luke does this in the first movie to keep a door shut, cutting off pursuing Storm Troopers. Unfortunately, it also stops the bridge controls from working, making a heroic swing across a chasm (and a kiss that later becomes awkward) necessary.
- The garbage compactor doesn't have a control panel on the inside (even though the chutes are big enough for a Wookiee to fall into), so Han tries shooting the door itself. That turns out to be a very bad idea.
- Subverted in the film adaptation of Phillip K. Dick's Paycheck. The hero and his girlfriend have sealed themselves inside a room, and she is about to smash the control panel for the door when he stops her and lets her know that will only keep them from opening the door from their side, not the bad guys.
- Played straight at the end of The Mask of Zorro.
- Charles Lee Ray in Childs Play did this to the lock on the toy store door.
- James Bond:
- He uses both variants in Tomorrow Never Dies. He first fries a code lock to open a door (toward the Mad Scientist's bureau), then shoots another lock on a ceiling hatch to seal it so the Big Bad's minions can't pursue him. The door was about to lock itself anyway; Bond shot the lock so that the bad guys couldn't open it from their side.
- Also in The World Is Not Enough, Valentin Zukovsky did this to release Bond from Elektra's torture device, even as he suffers some mortal wounds, using a gun disguised as a walking stick. Later, Bond also do this to release M from her cell.
- Diamonds Are Forever. The door to Willard Whyte's room was secured with a padlock. It was shot off the door with a pistol to free him.
- In Skyfall, Bond shoots the lock of a jammed door in a subway tunnel in order to force it open.
- Used in the movie Ghost, as the plot is nearing its climax. Molly and Oda Mae barricade themselves inside their apartment and refuse to let Carl inside. He shoots out the lock with his small handgun, with ridiculous ease. The lock simply falls right out of the door and he is able to open it without any further problems.
- Terminator doesn't seem to bother with pistols. An M79 grenade launcher works better, though it's less "shoot the lock" and more "obliterate the door".
- Earlier in the film, the T-800 does this to padlocked fence gates while driving a motorcycle, with a shotgun. Granted, it is designed to be a perfect killing machine, but that kind of precision is still very impressive.
- At the end of The Leech Woman a detective shoots out the lock on the titular character's bedroom door, which at least seems vaguely more plausible since a door handle's locking mechanism probably isn't anything near as sturdy as a combination lock. At any rate, it's more plausible than everything else in the film.
- Then your pineal gland is safe. For now.
- In Highlander: The Source, the first non-Duncan Immortal in the movie breaks into a tower and rides the elevator to the top. To prevent the guards from calling the elevator, he stabs the control panel with his scimitar. Stupidly enough, he stabs the control panel outside of the elevator, only preventing him from calling the elevator. Even if he thought of destroying the panel inside the elevator, there was still a perfectly fresh elevator right next to that one!
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The title character throws an object and hits the control box for a door, causing the door to close and prevent pursuing robots from capturing him.
- Die Hard 2 has John McLane shooting a padlock on an access grate to get onto a runway at Dulles Airport.
- Guns are used to do everything in Ultraviolet, unlocking doors included.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy shoots out the lock on the plane's cockpit so Marion can escape.
- Keanu Reeves did this to a door in Speed.
- The first Resident Evil movie. After Spence leaves the laboratory he shoots out the locking mechanism on the door so the others can't get out.
- Clue, of all places. When Col Mustard and Miss Scarlet are trapped in the lounge, Yvette recovers the revolver from the cupboard and shoots the lock twice from across the room. At least one of the bullets goes through the lock and Col. Mustard claims it hits him in the shoulder. (We never see any blood, nor anyone bandaging it, so I doubt he really got hit.)
- Averted in, surprisingly enough, Skyline. A door lock is shot twice to no effect.
- Averted in a scene from Michael Mann's Heat, where Wes Studi and Al Pacino's characters stage an entry with Wes Studi blowing out the hinges with a shotgun instead of going for the lock.
- Averted in S.W.A.T. when the Big Bad locks a sewer exit the protagonists were chasing him through. The lock is obviously a high-end, very tough lock, and a couple of shots from an assault rifle barely dent it. They have to resort to blowing the entire grate off with a claymore.
- Averted in Equilibrium, where the Sweepers use the technique of blowing out the hinges of the door to gain entry in the first major action scene.
- DEBS. While the protagonists are secretly meeting with Lucy Diamond at Endgame, Bobby shoots a padlock that's securing a door leading to their location.
- Done at the end of Kelly's Heroes. Of course, since they shot the lock off with a tank, they also ended up shooting off half the door.
- Flash Gordon. Prince Barin does this several times while traveling through Ming's fortress after escaping from the dungeon, with a Removable Turret Gun he took away from one of Ming's mooks.
- G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: More like stab the lock. Snake Eyes doesn't think much of M.A.R.S.' security systems.
- Doubly Subverted in Mulholland Falls. When attempting to get into restricted military area, a character is taunted for trying to shoot open the gate lock. After lockpicking failed, they returned to use this trope, with success.
- In Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Brady tries to do this so that he, Rachel, and Jamie can escape Micheal Myers (having padlocked the doors to keep him out, they now have no time to unlock them when he gets in anyway). Unfortunately, Reality Ensues. Having been blasted with a shotgun, the lock is far too hot to touch.
- They Call Me Bruce. After escaping the police lockup, Bruce still has handcuffs attached to one wrist. Fortunately they come across a friendly cowboy.
Cowboy: Looks like you got yourself in a heap of trouble there, partner. Or did you just marry a cop?
Freddy: Excuse me, do you know a blacksmith who can get this handc—-err, bracelet off my friend?
Cowboy: I'll do better than that for ya. Hold your arm out straight there.
Freddy: Ohhhsh—- (flees as the cowboy shoots off the handcuffs)
- Spoofed in the Discworld novel Guards! Guards!, where Captain Vimes orders Sergeant Colon to shoot the lock off a gate...while Colon is armed with a crossbow.
- Detritus later gets a siege crossbow called the 'Piecemaker' which can shoot out the lock...and the door...and the surrounding wall...and just about anything else in a 270-degree arc.
- In the first Artemis Fowl book, Holly shoots the lock of Artemis' study with her Ray Gun, melting it and trapping him inside. When Butler comes to rescue him, he doesn't shoot out the lock— he shoots out the doorframe. He notes that the door, made of reinforced steel, would have sent his bullets bouncing back at him; the doorway, made of the same porous rock as the rest of the manor, crumbles like chalk. He also notes that this is a major security risk that should be fixed as soon as possible.
- Lampshaded and averted in Sharpe - someone suggests shooting open a lock, but Sharpe points out that all it does is mangle the levers and make it worse. He does play it straight once, but in a way that would work. He shoots the door in. With a cannon.
- Played straight in the TV series.
- A character in the Island series of children's books tries this to get out of a locked room after stealing a gun from the guard. It works, but the bullet goes through the door and injures the Big Bad standing on the other side. He's not too happy about this.
- The first Doom novel had the hero, as in the game, looking for many keys. The important thing was, blasting open a locked door was entirely possible, given his sci-fi ammunition, it was just that he preferred to save the bullets for the horrible monsters intending to eat him.
- Averted: When faced with a padlocked gate in The Bourne Supremacy, Jason Bourne noted how useless shooting the lock would be, resulting in only shrapnel and wasted bullets. Instead, he cuts through the fence a discreet distance to the side.
- On the other hand, when the Big Bad is in pursuit, said villain doesn't see how Bourne got past the fence and goes for the gate. He gets one of his minions to try this trope. It fails, and the Big Bad breaks a ceremonial sword in trying to hack at the lock.
- The ultimate version of this trope is when Goldfinger plans to use a stolen tactical nuclear weapon to blast open the vault of Fort Knox. This was fortunately changed for the movie.
- From Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series:
- In Rainbow Six a bad guy tries to do this, rather unsuccessfully. He then shoot-cuts the lock off the door using a Uzi.
- In Clear and Present Danger, the character doesn't even bother aiming at the lock. Instead, he fires five rounds from his revolver to separate the lock from the door and then opens it, "just like in the movies"—an unusual way of invoking the trope, since most movies don't bother with shoot-cutting the lock.
- Monster Hunter Legion: Owen uses Abomination, a fully automatic shotgun based on the AK-47, to shoot out the lock on a fire exit that blocking his path into a building. The ricochet issue is addressed by the narrative, as is that there would normally be a special breacher round to be used for the task that's unfortunately unavailable to Owen at that moment.
- Averted in the After the End book series The Guardians. When asked by a teenager if he was going to shoot out the lock on a locked door, the leader of the Guardians replies that it's a "great way to collect a bullet in the nuts kid and probably wouldn't open the door." He then proceeds to use a crowbar instead.
- Played straight in the Harlan Coben book "Promise Me" where someone shoots out a door lock with a .22.
- Paladin of Shadows:
- Choosers of the Slain has an SPR being placed against the door lock and shot out with a burst.
- Shotguns used by the intruders in the prologue of Unto the Breach serve as the method of destroying the locks in the building they're raiding. Later, in the extraction of Katya, Shota's shotgun is used on the lock for the door to the building they're attacking.
- In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, the Ten Men (thuggish henchmen who work for the Big Bad of the series, Ledroptha Curtain) do a high-tech version of this, using their sophisticated laser pointers to disable locking mechanisms.
- A variation is used in Fight Club by Project Mayhem members; rather than using a gun, however, it involves spraying cans of refrigerant note into a lock before breaking it open with a cold chisel or a cordless drill. Notably in the book, the gun-like appearance of a cordless drill causes a cop to open fire, as he assume a Project Mayhem member is invoking this trope.
- In Terminal World, Quillion attempts to shoot a lock open using a pistol, but only succeeds in denting it. Meroka then shoots the lock with her volley-gun, which doesn't so much break the lock as cause it to cease existing.
- In Room, Ma tells Jack that this is how the police broke her out of the room where they had been imprisoned for seven years.
- This is discussed in the novelizations of Resident Evil, as a means of justifying why it couldn't be done in the game. The S.T.A.R.S. members only want to do it as an absolute last-ditch resort (Like Jill about to be squashed in a trap) because they are afraid of ricocheting bullets.
- Done realistically in SWAT 4, you need to use a special breaching shotgun to do this, normal guns won't do the trick.
- In an example of Gameplay and Story Segregation, the original Resident Evil only lets Barry do this in a cutscene to save Jill. At any other time you absolutely need to have a key or lock pick.
- Resident Evil 4 actually has several variations on shooting the lock. Blasting the padlock with a gun works. As does kicking the door itself, although that will generally take several attempts (Leon's strong, but he's not that strong). It's also possible to knife the lock open. In each case, shooting the lock is not strictly necessary; you can shoot the chain instead, if it's visible. And for doors that aren't locked at all, but that you don't want to open, you can blow large holes in them. Even with 9mm handgun rounds.
- RE4 is all over the place with this trope. Some locks can easily be broken while some require considerable firepower, such as the cage fight with the second Garrador and numerous zealots.
- Though not quite the same, several Star Wars games allow you to pop open a door simply by using your lightsaber to slice open an electronic lock. Seriously, just one swing and the doors open on their own. Of course, the movies subvert this, showing not only can you not do this, but it actually takes a while to cut through your standard ship door.
- Hitman Blood Money finally introduced this feature to the series as an alternative to opening locked (or even unlocked) doors quickly, noisily, and with a gun aimed into the room beyond.
- In Golden Eye 1997 for the N64, you must shoot off a lock to open a gate. You can even do this with your hands.
- Considering your signature weapon is a crowbar, this is almost justified in Half-Life. Though a bullet will still work, and regardless you just hit it with the crowbar once rather than actually using it.
- The gamemod They Hunger has a padlock in an early level. Since the weapons are re-skinns of the ones of Half-Life, you can conserve ammunition by breaking it open with a umbrella.
- Don't bother shooting the Combine door locks though. Those can only be opened by people other than you. Or the Combine, who like to make them explode.
- The achievement "The One Free Bullet" is unlocked if you complete the entirety of Half-Life 2: Episode 1, firing exactly one bullet. Take a guess at what you have to use that one bullet for.
- The first game does this a bit differently for a few locked doors, though. If it's locked, you either aren't supposed to go that way, or you are, and you just need to either get someone to unlock it/cut it down, or unlock it yourself on the other side after getting past it through an air vent or something.
- Similarly, padlocks in Bioshock can be broken by bullets, or even the wrench.
- The Metroid series has an interesting variation. This is the only way to open a door, as your energy blasts somehow open doors. Architects must've been insane to build doors like this.
- Prime 2 explains this if you scan a door: It's a low powered force field, meant to keep the native (and not-so-native) critters out/in.
- Lampshaded in Perfect Dark Zero: "The keyhole looks about bullet sized".
- In Deadly Premonition, York does this in a cutscene to free Forrest Kaysen, who is locked in the basement of the art gallery. You can also do it to padlocks in regular gameplay, though hitting them with any other weapon will work just as well.
- In the First Encounter Assault Recon series, padlocks can be shot off or bashed off with a melee attack. Unlocked doors can opened with a rifle butt or grenade in the first game's expansions and later; mysteriously in said expansions they close themselves automatically after a while.
- Dead Space: Despite Isaac's engineering skills several doors are opened by shooting out the exposed high visible fuses next to them.
- Mindjack uses both versions of this in cutscenes. The protagonists find that shooting panels works for either opening or closing doors.
- The only way to open a padlocked door in Uncharted is to shoot the lock.
- Jack Walters does it occasionally.
- In the first act in Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, You have to open a lock to a gate by shooting it.
- The first couple games had a few spots where you had to shoot the padlock off a gate or vent grating.
- Postal 2 allows you to kick open doors if you're in a hurry, though like FEAR above they mysteriously close on their own after a while. The "Apocalypse Weekend" expansion adds a sledgehammer that can just break them down entirely.
- In Star Ocean: The Second Story, Claude uses his Phase Gun to bust open the door to Allen's mansion in Salva in order to rescue Rena from him.
- This is possible in Jagged Alliance 2 v1.13, but really not recommended with regular weapons; you'll see the result "lock hit" if the bullet damages the mechanism, but it generally requires a lot of 5.56 or 7.62x39 to reliably work. On the other hand, specialized "lockbuster" rounds for shotguns are available for the purpose and will generally destroy the lock in a single hit. It is standard practice among JA2 vets to have one merc carry around a sawed-off shotgun or a Super Shorty in a leg holster for that express purpose.
- Parodied in the Borderlands 2 DLC "Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty", where you end one main quest by shooting the lock off a chest containing part of a compass that leads to a buried treasure. Unfortunately, the compass part ends up getting destroyed in the process, and the next quest involves having to scrounge up parts to build a replacement.
- Rainbow Six lets the player blow up doors wholesale to surprise any tangos that happen to be on the other side - breaching charges to disorient them are most common, but at least in the Vegas games a pair of shotgun blasts will do the trick just as well (possibly killing whoever's on the other side before the door goes down, if you're lucky).
- Played straight in Cryostasis in the last flashbacks — the locked door to the bridge is shot around the lock. Immediately backfires as the bullets lethally wound the captain and other officers can't prevent more damage to the ship.
- Played with in an episode of Family Guy, when Peter rescues Lois from Mel Gibson. Mel proceeds to brandish a gun, which he uses to blast open the lock of a safe, inside which a slightly bigger gun lay.
- G.I. Joe: Resolute: Duke shoots the electronic lock on Cobra Commander's emergency bunker. Cobra taunts him for thinking that would get him in. Duke replies that he didn't think it would get him in, just prevent Cobra from getting out, as it's revealed he activated the Self-Destruct Mechanism.
- Used often in Archer... and subverted just as much, as Archer tries shooting out steel locks on bulletproof doors, often resulting in painful ricochets.
- There was an interview with an Israeli sniper instructor in Soldier of Fortune magazine, where he mentioned a building entry technique where three snipers shoot at a lock at once, completely destroying it. Sniper rifles have to be orders of magnitude more powerful than the average squad weapon, however, and the fact that it took three simultaneous shots demonstrates how improbable this trope is with modern lock design.
- Breaching, or Hatton shotgun rounds are designed specifically to do this relatively safely to the firer and anyone in the room behind the door. Though they're fired at the hinges equally, if not more often.
- This is also the primary purpose for the development of shotguns mounted under the barrel of an assault rifle, most famously the Masterkey.
- Real life example of the SF version: In a video shown on Tru TV, an armed robber herded the employees of a store into the back room and attempted to cut telephone lines to prevent the victims from calling for help. Instead, he cut a wire controlling the door to the back room, preventing it from opening and trapping him until police arrived.
- Like the Kojak example above, the Special Air Service found it was more effective to use a shotgun to destroy the door's hinges, rather than the lock. Though these tactics may have been superceded by the invention of Hatton rounds.
- Truth in Television, as far as control panels are concerned: At least in Germany, safety regulations require doors to open when their controls are damaged.
- This trope is apparently fairly old, with the result that one careless commando in a raid on St. Nazaire in WW2 tried to shoot out a lock without thinking about ricochets and shrapnel and ended up wounding himself rather badly.
- In dealing with older buildings, especially buildings in a state of disrepair, law enforcement personnel will sometimes opt to breach a wall, rather than a door, especially if they have solid information that places a criminal near said wall. This can be very effective, and much safer than breaching at a standard entry point, especially in older, poorly maintained buildings.
- This method is incredibly effective in Afghanistan, where most rural buildings are "mud huts"- think adobe. A pattern of detcord could blow through a typical wall, and when Rangers discovered that this created a massive dust cloud inside, meaning they couldn't see during the breach, negating the element of surprise, they just taped IV bags to the wall under the detcord. This also had the effect of focusing the shock, making wall breaches even more effective. Or they stood off and shot a Carl Gustav at it.
- Of course, modern, more effective means are sometimes used.
- During the liberation of the Cabanatuan POW Camp in WW2, S/Sgt Theodore Robinson shot the lock off the main gate using a .45. He actually did this after the .45 was shot out of his hand without injuring him, making this an example of both Shoot Out the Lock and Blasting It out of Their Hands.
- Skip to 1:30 for seeing a shotgun really effective at doorbreaching.