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Backwards-Firing Gun

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Putting a whole new spin on the Scope Snipe.

"They say that in the army
The guns are mighty fine
But when you pull the trigger
The bullets fly behind!"
— "They Say That In The Army''

This is a comedy weapon trope (although there are dramatic examples) featuring a gun designed or modified to fire backwards, tricking the person who uses it into shooting themselves. A common version seen in cartoons is to bend the barrel back into a "U" shape. Note that this trope may still come into play even if the person who might fire the gun would have to be really stupid not to notice the modification.

These guns tend to show up in cartoons and spy genre pastiches.

Despite the trope title, other projectile weapons, such as a crossbow or hwacha, may be examples of this trope.

Compare Had the Silly Thing in Reverse.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Umineko: When They Cry: Battler suggests this to explain one crime.
  • One Piece: The anime only G8 arc had the Straw Hats (specifically Luffy, Ussop, Zoro and Robin) when the Marines corner them in a storage vault (They had raided it to recover the treasure they had gained from Skypeia). When a Marine Commander named Shepherd pulls out a gigantic gun dubbed the "Eagle Launcher" and goes to aim. But the Marines around him tell him he's pointing it the wrong way. When he doesn't believe them, he fires and predictably ends up hitting the troops behind him. What's more Robin uses her Hana Hana powers to take control of him and the gun to keep firing it, giving the Straw Hats a path to escape.
  • One story in the original Lupin III manga had Lupin himself being shot in the head by a gun that fired backwards, set up by Jigen no less. He gets better.
    • In Lupin III: The Italian Adventure, the Head of MI6 is killed this way near the end of the series when Leonardo Da Vinci tampers with his gun. What makes this worse is that he saw what Da Vinci was doing, and still tried to use the gun on him anyway, prompting death by stupidity.
    • A less fatal variation appeared in the TV Special Lupin III: Episode 0: First Contact where a mob boss tried to shoot Lupin with his own gun...only for a coiled boxing glove to fly out of the other end.
      • This could also be a homage to the very first series of Lupin, which included a variation of the same gag. In this example, the unfortunate "victim" is smacked in the face with a spiky ball rather than a boxing glove.

    Comic Books 
  • A Franco-Belgian comic book involving a zombie problem features semi-automatic pistols tricked out to fire their sliding barrel backwards, killing the user.
  • Spy vs. Spy: As seen in the page image, this occurs in one strip drawn for a series of paperbacks.
  • An issue of the Impulse comic book guest-starring The Riddler featured said Crown Prince of Conundrums with a revolver rigged to shoot backward.
  • Used seriously in one Torpedo story, where the killer commissions a special one-shot gun for this purpose, replacing a cop's gun with it.
  • In the Stanley and His Monster mini-series, Ambrose Bierce gives Stanley a backwards-firing water pistol that squirts him in the face. (A bit more serious than it sounds — Bierce is trying to figure out who in the house might be a demon in disguise, and so the gun shoots holy water — but since Stanley's just a kid, he's okay if wet. The actual demoness who shows up a bit later to fetch the same demon Bierce is after back into Hell and ends up getting her own hands on the pistol and pulling the trigger is somewhat less amused.)
  • Sin City: The Big Fat Kill had this happen to Jackie Boy. Miho puts a throwing spike into the barrel of Jackie Boy's gun. Despite Dwight's warnings not to fire the thing, he fires the weapon, and the slide flies backwards, impaling him through the head. This doesn't even kill him, just render him blind.
  • Urbanus: In "De dochter van Urbanus", there are three of them.
  • Mortadelo y Filemón:
    • In "El tirano", Mortadelo modifies General Panocho's rifle to be this. However, Filemón demands to try it, not knowing it's been rigged, and inadvertently shoots himself.
    • A variation in "El premio No-Vel": Villain of the Week Ten-Go-Pis infiltrates the TIA's headquarters and tampers with Filemón's gun, making it fire upwards and causing Filemón to shoot himself in the nose.
  • Batman: In "Crime on the Wing" in Batman #33, The Penguin drops one of his gimmicked umbrellas while fighting Batman. Batman picks it up and fires it at the Penguin, only to discover that umbrella is booby-trapped, and fires a dose of gas back in the firer's face.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot did this with a squirt gun in one strip.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Happens with a wrongly assembled cannon in Buster Keaton's The Playhouse.
  • In the 1966 film The Silencers (part of the Matt Helm series starring Dean Martin, a parody of the spy genre), a guard got hold of one of these guns, not knowing it was a trick gun, and pointed it at a woman - as she stoically awaited her fate (she didn't know what it was either). The guard pulled the trigger, shot himself, looked kind of puzzled, and shot himself again. She took the gun and fled. When she was later confronted by another guard, she pointed it at her own chest. The guard, thinking she was about to commit suicide, said "You don't have to do that." She replied "I must" and pulled the trigger, killing him.
  • In Casino Royale (1967), George Raft, who was best known for playing gangsters, is shot with such a gun.
  • In Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever the big bad tricks a lackey into killing himself by giving him a backwards firing pistol. More of a loyalty test with a built in punishment, since he was told to shoot himself with it.
  • In the 1989 Tamil film Apoorva Sagodharargal, the dwarf Appu tricks Sathyamoorthy into killing himself with a circus hand gun that shoots backwards.
  • One of these shows up in The American when George Cloony's character intentionally designs one for an assassin. Why would he do this? Simple: He figured out that the assassin would use the gun to kill him.
  • An alternate ending for Die Hard with a Vengeance has John McClane threatening Simon Gruber with a Chinese rocket launcher with the sights removed, allowing Gruber to point the rocket whichever way he liked. Gruber ultimately points the rocket launcher the wrong way.
  • Law Abiding Citizen. A criminal is about to execute a policeman whose gun he stole, only for the 'cop' to reveal he's actually the man whose family he murdered ten years ago. Pulling the trigger releases needles in the grip injecting the criminal with a paralysing neurotoxin, so he can be tortured to death at leisure.
  • One of the victims on Mindhunters is killed by sabotaging his gun this way after he spends the entire movie complaining that he doesn't want to part with his gun.
  • An improvised version occurs during a Gun Struggle in The Art of War (2000), with the protagonist jamming the barrel of The Dragon's pistol against a marble floor and forcing him to fire, causing part of the slide to fly back into his face from the confined gunshot.
  • The titular pistol in The Mexican killed its first victim this way when it was being test fired. This lead to the persistent rumor that the pistol was cursed.
  • Hulk. The Incredible Hulk bends back a tank's cannon so it's pointing at the wide-eyed crew. It can't fire this way of course, but they get the point.
  • Jigsaw: The final trap in the original version of the Farm Trap sequence is a shotgun that was rigged to fire in reverse. One of the last two survivors grabs it, assuming that killing the other survivor is the only way out of the trap, and is killed when the trigger is pulled. This also destroys the key that would have let both survivors escape, which was hidden inside the shotgun shell.

  • The Lovejoy novel The Judas Pair featured a pair of duelling pistols designed to fire backwards. The owner would challenge someone to a duel and let them fire first. His opponent would end up shooting himself in the face. This story was also made into an episode of the Lovejoy TV series.
  • Clue: The book Midnight Phone Calls has a chapter titled "The Guest Who Couldn't Shoot Straight". While hunting an escaped rhinoceros, the six guests are armed with revolvers, two that only shoot to the left, two that only shoot to the right, and two that work normally. At the end, one of the first four revolvers is pointed directly at the rhino, but apparently hits one of the other guests instead. (As usual, it turns out the "victim" isn't really dead - the bullet hit his own revolver's handle, and he fainted from fear.)
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ron's wand is damaged and becomes prone to firing spells through the wrong end, the one pointing towards the spellcaster... which is good news when Professor Lockhart steals it and tries to use it to erase Ron's and Harry's memories...
  • The French Cover of Hugh Laurie's The Gun Seller shows an automatic pistol with the barrel clearly pointing backwards.
  • Played with in Starworld, where a pistol has been Booby Trapped to explode when fired. The pistol belonged to Thurgood-Smyth, who realised an underling suspected him of treason, so he has the weapon prepared in advance, knowing the underling couldn't resist confronting him directly with his own weapon. The only problem was putting some distance between them so he wouldn't be killed also.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In "The Girl Who Was Death", a zany spy-spoof episode of The Prisoner (1967) (original), Number 6 modifies some rifles so they'll fire backwards before some guards arrive and attempt to shoot him with them. He also modifies German "potato-masher" grenades so the charges are in the handles instead of the heads.
  • The Wild Wild West:
    • In the season 2 episode "The Night of the Tottering Tontine", the killer substitutes such a gun for the regular revolver of one of his intended victims, one Harry Stimson. Since Stimson was a Trigger Happy Sociopath who enjoyed shooting up saloons for fun... cue him taking the substituted gun and offing himself instead.
    • In another season 2 episode, "The Night of the Bogus Bandits", Miguelito Loveless hands James West such a pistol, but he sees through the ruse.
      • Said gun pulls a Chekhov at the end of the episode, when Loveless pulls a gun on a hostage, only for West to remind him that there were two identical-looking guns in the bag, only one of which shot forwards.
  • Happened in The Benny Hill Show episode "The B-Team", a skit that spoofed The A-Team.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. had in one episode a pistol which fired backwards AND forwards, so that the assassin would take out her target and at the same time inadvertently silence herself for good.
  • In a season 3 episode of the Canadian series The Listener, this turns out to be the payoff for the villain's Evil Plan to wreak revenge on the guy who molested his daughter — he set up a scenario where he knew the guy would get the gun from him, but the gun was rigged to shoot the chamber backwards right into his head. This also allows him to rationalize the guy's death with his personal vow against killing others; technically he didn't pull the trigger.
  • Happens to Kenny in My Name Is Earl, only with mace, while trying to spray Earl with it. Earl helps take the sting out of his eyes afterwards.
    Earl: When you steal a lot of purses, you learn a thing or two about mace.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Time of the Doctor", the Doctor convinces the wooden Cyberman that he has converted its weapon into one of these. When the Cyberman reverses his gun, it winds up shooting itself in the chest.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Worst Case Scenario" Seska has programmed the holodeck to become a Deadly Game involving the Voyager crew; when Holodeck-Janeway fires her compression phaser rifle at Seska, it disintegrates Janeway. Later Seska forces Tuvok to Put Down Your Gun and Step Away, but the same thing happens to her as Tuvok sabotaged his rifle before handing it over.
  • The bent-barrel version of this trope was tested—and confirmed—on MythBusters.
  • Father Brown: In "The Lair of the Libertines", one Victim of the Week is killed when the killer removes the safety catch from his pistol. This causes the firing pin to shoot out backwards when he fires the pistol, hitting him between the eyes.
  • Red Dwarf: In "The Inquisitor", Kryten and Lister steal the Inquisitor's gauntlet and Kryten reprograms it. When the Inquisitor reacquires it and fires it at Lister, it fires backwards and removes the Inquisitor from history.
  • Inspector George Gently: At the end of "Son of a Gun", the skinhead leader Jonjo Burden is blinded when the Sten gun he is aiming at Gently backfires. It turns out the boy he was forcing into modifying it hadn't finished boring out the barrel.
  • The Goodies. In the movies episode, Graham Garden is making The Western. He kicks open a door holding revolvers Guns Akimbo, only for the door to slam back in his face. When he opens the door again, both barrels are bent upwards, causing debris to rain down from the ceiling when he fires.
  • In a Russ Abbot sketch parodying The Godfather, the Oddfather explains that if he suspects someone's trying to kill him, he leaves a backwards-firing gun on the table, so the would-be assassin snatches it up, aims it at him, and shoots themselves. The henchman he's explaining this to grabs the nearest gun, shouts "I'm smarter than da rest! Say goodbye, Oddfather!", points it at himself, and pulls the trigger. Turns out it wasn't a backward-firing gun after all.
  • "Wine, Women and War", the second pilot for The Six Million Dollar Man has Steve Austin crimp the barrel of a mook's gun closed with his bionic fingers. The mook doesn't notice this and, despite Austin warning him not to fire, he shoots and nails himself (though it's unclear whether he actually shoots himself or gets knocked out by backfire).
  • One episode of Running Man had Yoo Jae-suk, acting as Yoomes Bond, searching for an apprentice. He ends up taking in Lee Kwang-soo, whose medical history has a prominent case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Nonetheless, the two working together were able to eliminate the other players with squirt guns until they were the last ones left, whereupon Jae-suk presents Kwang-soo with one last test by handing him a squirt gun and challenging him to either shoot him and take the prize for himself, or put the gun down and they can split it. It becomes a Secret Test of Character, as the gun Jae-suk hands over is a trick gun that fires backwards. Kwang-soo fails the test and pulls the trigger only to shoot himself in the face, to Jae-suk's disappointment but not to his surprise.
  • On Class, the displacement gun is an alien weapon that fires both forwards and backwards, thus killing its wielder as well as its target. It was intentionally designed as a suicide weapon, as it's intended exclusively for use against Shadow-Kin: otherworldly entities that exist inside other beings' shadows, hence can only be killed if the opponent whose shadow they are inhabiting is simultaneously annihilated.

  • In the BBC radio drama Batman: The Lazarus Syndrome, Ra's al Ghul accidentally shoots himself when he grabs a gun from Batman's trophy room, not realising that it is a booby-trapped weapon rigged to fire backwards.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Grimtooth's Traps Too contains a reverse-firing "Double Crossbow" as a loot trap.
  • One Paranoia mission includes an experimental weapon that needs to be field-tested. When activated, it explodes. This is intentional. The weapon is called the "Traitor Killer"; it's assumed that there'll be a traitor on the team, and that they'll volunteer in hopes of not being targeted.
  • The classic Dungeons & Dragons module Expedition to the Barrier Peaks has a super-science pistol that relies on a player to interpret it being held like a normal gun (something the characters should never have seen before) to apply this effect. It doesn't actually fire backwards - it's designed to fire at what it's aimed at, it's just designed to fool the player using meta-game knowledge instead of figuring out the correct way to hold it.

    Video Games 
  • Cobra Triangle: One of the two forms of the top of the Fire power-up chain fires one bullet from the fore, one from the aft, and one each starboard and port.
  • One of the Tales of Monkey Island chapters has Guybrush insert a glass tube in the shape of the letter 'U' into an antagonist's gun, causing it to fire backwards.
  • The site Epic Mafia, centered around an online version of the parlor game Mafia, has the Fabricator role. While Village-aligned roles such as the Gunsmith, Blacksmith, and Santa can secretly give others gifts every night, this Evil Counterpart can create fake versions of items. This includes a fake gun which backfires and kills the user.
  • Duck Game has one inspired by the Suicide Gun image manipulation. Naturally, using it kills its user and it's often hard to tell from the normal revolver due to the small size of the handle and trigger.
  • The Gun that can Kill the Past in Enter the Gungeon.
  • In War Thunder, damage to the breach of the tank's cannon can cause it to misfire. Attempting to fire with a damaged breach has a fairly high chance of causing the shell to explode in the breach, instantly killing the crew.

    Web Original 
  • In one episode of Bastard Operator from Hell, we find out that the cattle prods have two settings. "Stir Fry" operates normally, while "Stun" causes the high voltage to fry the person brandishing the device. This is then used by the Bastard when he suggests the Boss use the cattle prod to stun the PFY.

    Western Animation 
  • Occurs in numerous Looney Tunes shorts.
    • Apparently you can make any gun fire backwards if you stick your finger in the barrel. (As the MythBusters proved, this doesn't work in real life.)
    • In one notable example, Bugs Bunny causes Wile E. Coyote to shoot himself, several times, simply by moving the sight to the other end, or removing it completely so he can't tell which end is which.
    • And in "Hillbilly Hare", he does it by turning the barrel of a long rifle round after the trigger has been pulled.
    • A Farscape episode in which Crichton imagines himself in a Looney Tunes cartoon has him pulling this trick by sliding the sight forwards on D'Argo's shotgun. An angry D'Argo swaps the barrel round, only to shoot himself a second time. Exactly like Wile E Coyote above.
  • Dennis and Gnasher: In "Yard Sale", Walter picks up Dennis's squirt gun and attempts to shoot Dennis with it, only for it to spray him in the face as Dennis says it backfires. He then turns the gun around and attempts to shoot Dennis again, only to soaked again as the water comes out the barrel and Dennis adds "Sometimes".
  • Used in the Futurama episode "Assie Come Home" when making a delivery Leela has Bender bend the barrels of all the guns leading to all the gang members killing themselves.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Mr. Burns moves the power plant to India. When one of Moe's patrons comments that the bar is being powered by imported electricity, Moe sees no problem and points out other imported stuff. When he's asked if he has anything made in America, he shows his shotgun and tries to shoot, causing it to backfire.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: In "An American Benwolf in London", a robot grabs Rook's gun off him and points it at him. Rook says that he knows something about the weapon that the robot does not. As the robot fires and blows a hole in its own chest, Rook says "You're holding it backwards".
  • Men in Black: The Series: When facing off against an escaped alien prisoner in "The Take No Prisoners Syndrome", J grabs an unfamiliar alien weapon from the armory and threatens him with it. The Bug sneeringly informs J that he's grabbed a "Sonar Tube" and is holding it backwards. J turns it around, looking at the brace-like structure on the end he's pointing at himself and the open barrel-like end pointed at the Bug, then puts back the way he had it, points it back at the Bug, and pulls the trigger. A small nozzle promptly pops up and aims a targeting laser at J's forehead, forcing him to jerk the blaster up before it nearly takes his head off.

    Real Life 
  • A poorly-made, incorrectly assembled or worn-out firearm or excessively powerful cartridge loads can cause the bolt, part of the breech or — in the case of semi-automatic pistols — the slide to be blown back into the user's face. The Reliably Unreliable Guns page has a couple of examples.
    • The most notable version is probably the Ross Rifle, a Canadian-designed and built substitute for the excellent Lee-Enfield during World War I. While a fine design, just as powerful and slightly more accurate, it could be disassembled and then reassembled with the bolt head turned in the wrong direction, chambering and firing a round without the bolt securely locked to the receiver, resulting in possible Eye Scream.
    • The US Navy SEALs are among the only members of the US military to use a 9mm pistol that isn't the Beretta M9, partly because of a defect that caused the same sort of issue as the Ross rifle above — a specific part was giving out five times earlier than it should have, causing the slide to fly off and hit the SEAL firing it in the face while training. As the quote went, "you ain't a SEAL until you've eaten Italian steel".
      • Beretta eventually fixed the problem with the M9 (hence the model now called "M9A1", the "A1" bit meaning it went through an alteration) and the only reason the SEALs encountered it was because they train in a month more than most members do in their entire careers. However, the damage was already done.
  • In World War I there were attempts made to mount large caliber cannons onto the flimsy biplanes of the day to shoot down zeppelins, and one method used to mitigate the substantial recoil was to simply weld a second cannon facing backwards to the back of the forward firing cannon, and firing both guns at the same time, the rear one loaded with chain or other such material to cancel out the recoil of the forward firing gun.
  • Recoilless rifles were adopted after World War I to combat tanks. Instead of the weapon itself taking the hit from the cartridge being fired, a lot of the gas is vented from the back. The same principle is used by rocket launchers like the bazooka and RPG-7. Because the blast isn't contained, the weapon itself is much lighter, allowing small vehicles and individual soldiers to carry a weapon that can penetrate tank armor. The backwards firing part comes in when you consider that those same gasses that aren't stopped by the weapon and kill anybody some feet behind it, this also prevents them from being fired indoors, nearby walls would bounce the gasses back to the shooter.
    • During the Korean War, a number of U.S.-built recoilless rifles were captured by Chinese troops, who attempted to use them without being aware of how they operated. They didn't do it twice.
  • Water guns have been made so that there's a rotating exit on the top allowing guns to squirt in any direction and forward at the same time.
  • There is a possibly photoshopped image of a backwards revolver circling the Internet.
  • Extra Credits has used it a few times as one of its B-Roll Rebus-esque images.
  • Backwards-firing Combat Cutlery. "It is difficult to imagine a social gathering where it is appropriate to shoot off your own elbows."
  • One 'dirty trick' of covert warfare is to arrange for your enemy to get hold of ammunition loaded with C4 instead of gunpowder.


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