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Ballistic Discount

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T-800: [loads gun]
Gun store owner: You can't do that.
T-800: [readies gun] Wrong. [shoots him]

A villain enters a gun store and shows interest in various firearms. The clerk eagerly shows the potential customer every piece he is interested in. The villain picks up one of the guns, loads it with ammunition provided by the clerk, and uses it to rob the clerk who just gave him the gun. He may simply shoot the clerk or only stick him up. Either way, the villain leaves with the guns and whatever else the clerk provided him.

In reality, trying to hold up the one kind of store where you know the clerk has access to guns is generally a bad idea (unless you're either Immune to Bullets or have massively-overwhelming firepower of your own). Gun sellers obviously understand the risks of handing firearms over to strangers and will be on alert for all the signs of shady dealings. In addition, most gun store clerks are armed themselves, and any other customers in the store have a higher-than-average chance of being armed as well. Meanwhile, the display pieces often have their firing pins removed, and clerks are unlikely to let you load a gun in the store. So, if a new would-be robber tries this, you can at least expect them to be killed in a hail of gunfire for their efforts.

This term is sort of the ultimate extension of the Five-Finger Discount. Averting this trope is the cause for Shoplift and Die.


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    Comic Books 
  • In an issue of Fables, three of the Adversary's wooden soldiers come to a gun shop to stock up for their impending assault on Fabletown. While it's a fair bet they weren't going to pay, it doesn't even get that far — they're so outraged by the shopkeeper refusing to hand over the guns until after the waiting period that they leave his dead body pinned to the wall with multiple sharp objects, along with a note telling the "meat" to be more polite to their superiors.
  • Also happens in Léonard le Génie, but in an unusual way. A man comes to ask Léonard to invent a gun for him, and when he has finished building it, the guy immediately threatens him with it.
  • Not a real shop, but close: in a short Lucky Luke story, the Daltons do this to a travelling weapon salesman. He is understandably pissed off and decides to change his business. Only to be robbed repeatedly by the Daltons, again and again and again... Other stories show that gun shops owners usually just give the Daltons what they want even if they are unarmed.
  • In the Marvel Universe, the Tinkerer is smart enough to be ready for this. For instance, he once made upgrades on Killer Shrike's gauntlet weapons and the supervillain uses them to threaten the solo proprietor to get out of paying for them. However, when Shrike tried to fire them, they promptly backfired and immobilized him. With a satisfied cackle, Tinkerer remarks that he always adds that kind of feature in his products to deal with idiots doing that.
  • In one of the Moon Knight books, Carson Knowles, better known as the villain Black Spectre, is buying a crapton of medieval weaponry and armour, and the dealer refuses to hand over anything until he sees payment. Knowles tosses a bag at his feet and begins picking up his weapons, while the dealer opens the bag and complains there's nothing in there. He promptly says "Oh @#$%" when the penny drops.
  • In Robin (1993) some criminals selling guns out of a van have one of their customers turn a bit of their wares on them when he doesn't like the price tag. In this case, the attempted thief ends up dead and one of the "clerks" and a bystander end up injured since the people he pulled the gun on were all armed themselves.
  • In Savage Sword of Conan #75, Captain Bor'Aqh Sharaq has a smith construct him a Swiss-Army Appendage that can be fitted with a sword, an axe, or a spring-powered throwing iron. Naturally, he kills the smith after the job's done.
  • Given the presence of tons of sleazy guys willing to sell large quantities of guns to hostile Indians in the series, Tex Willer has a few examples. Surprisingly, only a few: the gun runners are smart enough to come armed and in force and the Indians know they'll need more guns and ammo in the future, so it takes the gun runner to be really stupid and piss off the buyers for this to happen.
  • An Alan Moore-penned issue of The Vigilante featured a variation on this — a fugitive enters a gun store, tricks the clerk into looking down, then smashes his head into the display case and grabs a gun. More plausible than the typical use of the trope, since the thief deliberately picked a small store with no one but the clerk present, and because he physically overpowered the clerk, rather than trying to use one of the guns on display.

    Comic Strips 
  • In B.C., an ant tries to buy a pack of cigarettes but is underage. He asks to buy a gun instead, then points the gun and asks for the cigarettes again.
  • A MAD Magazine strip by Sergio Aragonés has a man witness a robbery and buy a gun so he can walk the streets with confidence. However, a robber sneaks up behind him, sticks a gun concealed in his coat pocket in the man's back, and disarms him. Then the robber sheepishly reveals that it was in fact a banana in his pocket, and he had no gun. But he does now, and robs the man with it.
    • An odder form occurred in a Don Martin comic, where a man is shopping for a bandanna from a store. When he finds the one he likes, he promptly ties it around his face like an outlaw, pulls out a gun, and proceeds to rob the salesman.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Deewaar, Samant questions why he shouldn't kill Vijay to get out of paying him, now that Vijay has delivered what he promised. Vijay counters that Samant would be wasting a demonstrably valuable asset, which convinces Samant to spare and pay him. And then Vijay screws Samant over the next thing he does anyway.
  • Slightly different take in the movie Dirty Harry when Scorpio enters a liquor store, buys some booze, and gets the owner into a conversation about how the owner has shot several people who attempted to rob him. The owner shows him the gun and now knowing where it is, Scorpio smashes him in the face with the bottle of booze he just bought, takes the gun and another bottle, and runs away.
  • Played with in The Fifth Element. Zorg hires the Mangalores to steal a special chest containing four mystical stones, and in return will give them four crates of very powerful guns (guns that are also rocket launchers, flamethrowers, and freezing weapons). When the Mangalores return with the chest, Zorg demonstrates all the fancy special features then takes a look in the chest, only to find the stones aren't there. Angry, Zorg prepares to take all the guns and leave. The Mangalores are equally angry because that means they will have risked their lives for nothing, and pull their own guns to stop Zorg from leaving with the merchandise. Zorg leaves one crate as a goodwill gesture, but explains to his assistant that there was one thing he didn't explain about the guns he gave the Mangalores; he never told them what that little red button does. Sure enough, one Mangalore soldier playing with the guns tries it out, and it turns out that the red button is a high-explosive self-destruct.
  • Free Fire: When Chris grabs one of the assault rifles to test and loads it with live ammunition, Ord pulls out his sidearm and informs the group as a precaution in case Chris tries to pull this.
  • At the end of From Beyond the Grave, a robber enters and persuades the proprietor to hand him two loaded antique pistols. He then tries to rob the proprietor, who refuses to hand him any money and walks toward the thief. The thief shoots but finds bullets cannot stop the proprietor.
  • Done in the 1994 The Remake of The Getaway, though Doc mercifully doesn't shoot the guy and probably wasn't even planning to rob him until he realized the police were nearby and he needed to escape. The jaded store owner practically does everything without Doc ordering him to, indicating that he's been through this many times before.
  • In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, after surviving a trek through the desert, Tuco goes to a gun store, customizes a gun, tries it out on their firing range, then uses it to hold up the store. He doesn't kill the owner, though, and even leaves him a bottle of whiskey to drown his troubles in. The funny part is that Tuco may not have been trying to hold up the store at all, he might have pointed the gun at the owner because he was angry about the high price he was quoted and was telling the owner to set a more reasonable figure for the gun. When the owner panicked and started offering his cash to Tuco (who has been living as an outlaw for decades), even if it wasn't what Tuco originally intended he wasn't going to say no.
  • The Guest. David Collins arranges to buy some pistols from two illicit arms dealers, then calmly announces that he's going to kill them and take their entire stock. One draws a revolver only to be instantly disarmed and shot with his own weapon. Turns out there's only one bullet in the chamber, perhaps as insurance against this trope. The other criminal however decides to run rather than fight. David calmly gets another round from the arms stash and kills him with a single bullet at long range.
  • Initially averted and then played straight in Harry Brown.
  • A variation in the Buster Keaton short subject The High Sign, where Buster is running a shooting gallery and a customer simply uses the rifle he's given to rob Buster.
  • In The Jackal, the eponymous assassin tests his new purchase on the gun dealer who sold it to him (this character is a combination of the maker of false passports and the arms dealer of The Day of the Jackal book and film: the former getting killed because he tried to blackmail the Jackal; the latter is smart enough to leave information as to what happened to him should he be offed by a customer and thus survives. Also, the latter is clearly a pro and may be useful again.)
  • James Bond:
    • In The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond questions the gunsmith Lazar about a custom bullet he made by, in part, threatening to shoot him with a rifle the man is making for a customer who has lost two fingers on his right hand and needs something custom balanced. Apparently, the rifle fires one inch below the target for people with all their fingers. Bond proves this by shooting at, and missing, the gunsmith's wedding tackle.
    • GoldenEye: Subverted in a deleted scene. Russian gangster Valentin Zukovsky is meeting with a sketchy Indian arms dealer to discuss business. He examines a few weapons but quickly discerns that they're Chinese counterfeit. He demonstrates this by taking a Glock, a weapon he greatly admires, and pointing it at the dealer's head. Nothing happens because the Chinese manufacturers made the firing pin too short. He just has the guy thrown out of his club and warns him not to return.
  • Rico picks up the "Lawgiver" and kills the dealer in Judge Dredd. Justified, as someone had to be a judge to use the gun, and the dealer didn't expect Rico to be one.
  • Subverted in Jumanji. It is set up to happen when Van Pelt, hunter of the most dangerous game, visits a gun shop to buy a replacement for his custom hunting rifle (since the ammo hasn't been manufactured for almost a century) and is informed of the waiting period, but instead merely bribes the clerk with a pile of gold coins to bypass everything beyond paying for the gun and walking out with it. The shopkeeper is still dull-witted enough to let Van Pelt have a rifle and ammunition and load it to test on the "OPEN/CLOSED" sign, but Van Pelt, who cannot kill anyone he hasn't been summoned to hunt, just buys the gun, ammo, and a scope and then leaves.
  • In the opening scene of The Last Rites of Ransom Pride, Ransom is selling automatic pistols to gang of Mexican bandits when their leader decides it would easier just to kill Ransom with his own gun. Unfortunately for him, Ransom wasn't foolish enough to hand his a loaded pistol.
  • Lord of War:
    • Subverted when Villain Protagonist Yuri Orlov is making his first weapons deal:
      Yuri: Gentlemen, the new Uzi machine pistol. Big firepower in a small package. This little baby uses 9mm hollow points, 20 to 25 round extendable mags, rear flip adjustable sights, silencer comes standard, excellent recoil reduction, muzzle jump reduced 40 percent, 60 percent improved noise suppression. You could pump a mag into me right now and never wake the guy in the next room.
      (client cocks gun and points it at Yuri)
      Yuri: Of course, that would eliminate your opportunity for repeat business.
      (client puts the gun down)
    • Later in the movie, he adds "The first and most important rule of gun-running is: never get shot with your own merchandise." It happens at one point. A drug kingpin wants to pay Yuri in cocaine, which he initially refuses, but relents after some Aggressive Negotiations.
  • Played with in Missing in Action. Chuck Norris is buying a large raft-like speedboat made from "the same stuff that Bulletproof Vests are made of". The salesman demonstrates this by getting a minion to fire his rifle into the speedboat. He demands $20,000 (including all the weapons and ammo). Chuck loads the M60 on the boat, points it in the arms dealer's direction, and suggests a mere $5000. They go back and forth like this until Chuck gets him down to half price. What the minion with the rifle is doing while Chuck is menacing his boss is not shown.
  • Heroic example in Night of the Creeps. Detective Cameron points a shotgun in the face of the police armory officer and demands a flamethrower. Needless to say, the officer quickly complies.
  • The Public Enemy (1931) may be the Trope Maker for film. The gun shop owner is so dumb he even loads the gun for Tom, while the gun is in Tom's hand.
  • In the English remake of the Danish film Pusher, Frank buys a gun and a box of bullets from the trunk of a man's car, then sticks him up for all the money he's carrying.
  • Something similar happens at the start of RoboCop 2. But in this instance, the criminals were already well into the process of smashing up the store, and the sales clerk was slumped down on the floor, bleeding. He says something to the effect of, "Please... take what you want and go." The criminal replies "Thanks," and shoots him.
  • Played brutally straight by Guy Pearce's character in The Rover when attempting to buy a gun from a dwarf at a now-defunct circus.
  • Been of the movie Strapped is likely aware of this trope, and as such keeps a loaded Uzi on him when he's selling guns to the usual low-lives he does business with, just to make sure they don't try and double-cross him.
  • In an early scene in Sunshine Cleaning, a character does a variation of this. Except he brings his own ammo. And it's a suicide, not a robbery or murder.
  • Shortly after The Terminator arrives in the present, he stops by a local gun store to arm himself. He picks out and loads a shotgun, shoots the clerk dead when he tries to protest, and makes off with several weapons.
  • In Wild Rebels, Linda does this, putting the shop owner off guard by pretending to be unfamiliar with guns.
  • In The Young Offenders, Evil Cripple Ray takes a nail gun from a hardware shop, ostensibly to buy it, but ends up going the Ballistic Discount way instead, except in a non-fatal manner.

  • Subverted in a scene in the BattleTech novel Hearts of Chaos in which three mercenary protagonists are caught away from their unit by a surprise invasion, decide to quickly arm themselves at a conveniently close store, and find themselves confronted by the understandably angry owner and his shotgun. Instead of violence erupting, they quite civilly point out that any guns and ammo he insists on keeping to himself now will most likely be confiscated if the other side is victorious, anyway — and it works.
  • The short story "Business as Usual, During Alterations" has one customer try this with an unloaded pistol, the manager responds by picking up one of their (decommissioned) Sten machine guns and selling it to him at a markup. Shuffling him out of the store before he realizes it doesn't work, with the assumption the police will pick him up soon.
  • The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three has a variant of this as one of Roland's feats. He wants ammo for his gun (back in his world), but the gun store owner won't give it to him. And he has no weapon in our world. So he goes back outside, lies to the police, gets them to follow him back inside, knocks them out, takes their guns, and then pays for the ammo before leaving.
  • Freehold, by Michael Z. Williamson. A thug from a police-state world, where average citizens never carry guns, tries this on Freehold, a libertarian's utopia. He gets the first shot off because the gun store owner wasn't expecting anyone to pull something that stupid, but then the owner (who was wearing a bulletproof vest) and every other customer in the store open up on him with their own weapons, and he never gets a second shot.
  • The Jack Reacher novels feature this sort of transaction more than once. Usually Reacher is robbing a dealer in illicit arms or a drug dealer, which of course makes everything perfectly acceptable. A surprising number of these people do not anticipate being robbed by their criminal clientele, so he gets away with it.
  • The Merchant Princes: Hober Mallow uses a blaster-proof personal shield as a bribe, after allowing the man he's bribing to test it — but once the man has the shield, he asks why he shouldn't now just shoot Mallow instead of giving him his payment. Mallow calmly demonstrates that he has more than one shield — and also warns that he carries a gun specifically designed to pierce it.
  • Parker: The Outfit contains a story about what happened to a young thug who attempted to pull this on an armourer who provides guns to the underworld. He boasted about what was planning so much that word got back to the armourer. He handed the thug a gun that was rigged to blow up in his hand when he fired it.
  • What is perhaps the largest-scale example of this trope occurs in the third volume of A Song of Ice and Fire. Daenerys Targaryen buys an army of slave-warriors who are conditioned to be utterly loyal to their owner, then proceeds to conquer the city that sold it to her with the army and take her payment back. And the payment was one of her dragons, whom she commanded to burn the slaver she bought them from.
  • Defied in Star Wars: Aftermath. When a junk dealer tries to sell a lightsaber to a group called the Acolytes of Beyond, he asks how he knows they won't just use it to kill him.
  • Defied in Voice of the Whirlwind, where the protagonist is allowed to test weapons he bought in the store... but only if he stands in the designated area, while the storekeeper takes refuge behind a protective shield, one foot on the dead man's switch which is the only thing stopping multiple lasers slicing any would-be thief to sushi. The protagonist didn't plan on a Ballistic Discount, but it's nice to know some shopkeepers are smart enough to guard against it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 1000 Ways to Die: A robber accidentally enters a gunshop and gets gunned down by the well-armed store employees and customers (in self-defense).
  • Used in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Enough Rope for Two," but the character who did it claimed it was an accident.
  • Subverted in Breaking Bad. The Salamanca cousins are meeting an arms dealer to buy bulletproof vests. After the arms dealer puts one on and boasts of its high quality, the cousins shoot him in the chest. He gets knocked on his ass, but lives. Having confirmed that the merchandise is indeed high quality, they pay for the vests and leave.
  • Fugitive Jack Druggan guns down a gang of gun dealers with one of their own automatic rifles after they unwisely attempt to rip him off in the Chase (NBC) episode "The Comeback Kid."
  • The UnSub in the Criminal Minds episode "Hanley Waters" already has the ammo and intends on simply purchasing the corresponding gun, but resorts to this trope when she learns that she can't purchase it today. With the gun still sitting on the counter, the clerk gives her the gun license application and walks off to deal with another customer, giving her time to load before he notices what she's doing. The team also mention later on that the alpha male clerks probably let their guards down because the killer was a small and meek (up until the events of the episode, at least) woman.
  • CSI: NY: In "Command + P", a young inventor demonstrates his new process for 3D printing a gun to someone he thinks is an investor. He hands the gun to the investor, along with a bullet so that he can see the gun takes standard rounds. The investor loads the bullet into the gun, shoots the inventor, and steals the computer, printer, and software.
  • Subverted in Daredevil (2015) by the pawn shop owner who made sure to unload the shotgun before giving it and waiting for the payment. Frank kills him with a baseball bat for a completely different reason.
  • The Flash (2014): In "Going Rogue", Snart uses the cold gun to kill the supplier who is attempting to sell it to him.
  • Game of Thrones: Daenerys pulls the equivalent of this in the third season when she insists on purchasing every single slave soldier in Astapor, then immediately orders them to massacre their former owners and recollect her payment. At the same time, she inverts the trope by using her payment, one of her dragons, to breathe fire on the slave merchants and recover himself.
  • A Highlander: The Series episode did this with swords. An Immortal walked into an antiques shop that sold assorted bladed weaponry. He asked the proprietor to show him an authentic sword that could stand up to the stresses of combat. The Immortal tested and took a Toledo sword by stabbing the proprietor with it.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dennis and Dee try this at a gun show when the seller decides to jack up the price. In response, the seller and everyone else points their guns at them.
  • Merlin (2008):
    • The episode "Valiant" begins with the titular character taking delivery of a magic shield bearing an emblem of three snakes, which come to life at the owner's demand and kill whoever they are ordered to. Valiant promptly proves that it works by ordering the snakes to kill the storekeeper who made it for him.
    • In the episode "Gwaine", protection racketeer Dagr uses his new magic sword to reclaim the purchase price by stabbing the seller in the back.
  • A variation was used on Monk when Monk was working undercover at a Wal-Mart-like megastore. In order to capture the fleeing criminals, Monk gets a gun from the store and demands that the employees give him the ammunition as well. When one hesitates, Monk gets his way by threatening him with the gun... only to have the second employee point out after Monk has left the scene, that the gun wasn't loaded.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Wild Rebels" (see Film examples above).
  • Person of Interest. Reese is so badass he just robs some crook who's in the weapons smuggling business whenever he needs More Dakka.
  • Supernatural:
    • In the episode "Simon Said", a man is mind controlled into pulling this off; he finishes by shooting himself.
    • In "The French Mistake," the robber just hits the shopkeeper in the face with the butt of a shotgun, knocking him out (he does, however, shoot the next person to walk into the store).
  • Subverted in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles; when the T-888 goes into a gun store the audience is primed to expect a repeat of the scene from The Terminator, but the T-888 is a more advanced model and doesn't want to draw attention to itself, so it just pays the clerk and leaves.
  • A milder version in an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, where three survivalist brothers come into town to get supplies, merely threatening the gun shop clerk rather than killing him outright.
  • Yonderland has a variant involving Negatus avoiding payment for his various new evil toys by making use of the installers. For instance testing out a new death trap by dropping the engineer into it along with his bill, or using another engineer to level out the bottom of a scrying pool rather than paying him to do it.

  • The song "Saturday Night Special" by Conway Twitty features a variation of this. The narrator buys a pistol and a single bullet from a pawn shop with the intention of using it to kill himself, but as he is about to leave, he witnesses the shop's greedy dealer attempt to take advantage of a desperate woman attempting to hock her wedding ring. Just listen to it to hear how the story plays out.

  • Tony Martin and Mick Molloy did a bit on the Martin/Molloy radio show about how gun store owner is one of the most dangerous occupations in the movies (including a few examples mentioned on this list). It was later included on The Brown Album.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Comedian Sean Meo suggests this trope during a joke about comparing legal ages for buying guns and alcohol in the United States. The hypothetical youth is turned down from buying beer, but then buys a gun from the same clerk and uses it in a hold-up.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in Shadowrun. It's pointed out in multiple sourcebooks that the people who sell weapons to 'Runners are not dumb and have a lot of defenses set up. Trying this will only result in your messy, stupid death.

    Video Games 
  • BattleTech has a close variant in the first mission after the Justified Tutorial. You're hired to stop a Mega-Corp from taking over a mining operation by force, but when it's done, the miners you just helped try to help themselves to your BattleMechs instead of paying. Of course, this verges on Too Dumb to Live given that A) they only have a few turrets and tanks and B) they're attacking the Player Character.
  • Averted in the video game Blade Runner, where the gun store has a robotic gun that tracks the move of every customer. Strangely, it doesn't actually do anything - you can blow the storekeeper away without the turret opening fire (though you can't loot anything from the store afterwards, either), and even when you do provoke an attack (by drawing your gun twice) the storekeeper shoots you himself with a shotgun.
  • In Contact you can attack and kill NPCs and shopkeepers are not an exception. They will invariably drop whatever they sell, making it a good M.O if your cash reserves are running low. There are some precautions to be had, though: the scientist that sells you potions in Ft. Eagle is stronger than all the enemies fought up to that point and can easily dispatch you if you attack him the first time you arrive on the island. The storekeepers in Aegis are behind counters and you will not be able to pick up the loot they drop. Aside from that, there isn't a real penalty other than earning bad karma points, and that only influences the chances of otherwise docile animals attacking you on the spot.
  • Using your own, already loaded gun, does not work in Déjà Vu (1985). The gun salesman is quicker on the draw than you are...with a shotgun from under the table.
  • Averted in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the weapons have to be purchased through a terminal, and killing the shopkeeper and his bodyguard will only net you their weapons, and not the ones they are selling.
  • A failed attempt at this is implied in Diablo III by Kyr, a weaponsmith who will task you with helping him kill some cultists. When you first see him, he's surrounded by corpses and tells you "Those cultists must have been fools to think I wouldn't know how to use my own weapons."
  • Fully averted in Dream Web: try to pull your gun on the illegal weapons dealer after buying the plasma pistol and you will find that he is fully aware of this possibility. His hired muscle will drop you with a Moe Greene Special if you so much as accidentally select 'use' on the gun in your inventory.
  • Party averted in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Store owners are programmed to sell everything in their saleroom (including containers) that matches their store's sortiment, so the player is able to kill them and take their stuff. The only problem is that the actually valuable goods are placed in chests that are stuck inside walls or floors, and thus unreachable for the player.
  • Played reasonably straight in the Fallout series.
    • You can kill pretty much anyone and take their stuff, shopkeeper or not, which includes killing them with a gun they just sold you and taking back your cash. That said, if they have any friends around that see you, odds are that you're about to engage in a gun battle which will gradually increase in size to the entire town against you. Then again, if you do it in the later levels, you're a power-armor-wearing human tank with enough firepower to bring down a battleship, and they are wearing leathers and toting sawed-offs. The end result is more of a slaughter than a battle. This does allow you to ransack the shop (and the city) with impunity but at the cost of never having anyone in that city for the rest of the game.
    • Fallout 3 at least is pretty schizophrenic about the hostility of the rest of the town. As a general rule, if you kill the shopkeeper in one hit with a melee weapon, without witnesses, you can get away with it. A more viable option, and really, a subversion, is to just steal something from the store with only the shopkeeper as the witness. If you have a follower, your follower will gun/beat down the shopkeep with extreme prejudice, in which case nobody will care.
    • Fallout: New Vegas
      • Most shopkeepers and traders have a heavy escort to prevent this. Try doing this in Silver Rush if you are still low level for instance. They are also savvy enough to take away your weapons before letting you into the store.
      • The guard at Silver Rush will invoke this trope if you accept a mission to take a part-time guard job. After taking the job, you're issued some armor and a laser or plasma rifle and are told to give it back after the job's done - adding that while what they've issued is nice gear, it's not worth getting killed over (especially since the armor and weapon have slightly worse stats). You can make a run for it - with predictable results.
      • The Gun Runners are particularly smart about this. Their shopkeeper is a robot sealed in a booth specifically designed to prevent a potential customer from attempting this kind of thing. As well as cargo set to blow when improperly opened.
      • Unlike previous games, you can't loot a dead shopkeeper's inventory. And to top it all off, you cannot buy something from the convoy and then turn the gun on them and take the caps back.
      • In addition, starting with Fallout 2, traders and shopkeepers replenish their goods and money every few game days, so killing a merchant also cuts you off from a steady source of supply for ammo and stims, as well as less place for you to dump your Shop Fodder in.note 
  • Far Cry has consistently avoided this, most commonly by forcing the player character to lower their weapon when in the gun shop itself or the town the shop is in; the owner of the one in Far Cry 3's Badtown even has a shotgun that she points at you whenever you come inside, apparently to discourage people from trying to steal. Far Cry 4 adds wandering Sherpa merchants who can and will die if you shoot them, or if they fall afoul of any of the other myriad dangers of Kyrat, most commonly eagles or the lead-footed civilian drivers, but while you can loot their bodies all you get is an inventory list that can be sold for a couple bucks.
  • In Grand Theft Auto III, you can do this but there is no point. It just allows you to buy from an empty store. Later in the series, the clerks are armed, and quicker on the draw than you. Also, if you survive fighting the clerk (it's possible), you can get his pistols. And that's it — you can't even shop or loot the shelves. Granted, the clerk respawns with no memory of your earlier rampage if you walk out and walk back in.
    Ammu-Nation Advertisement: "We're the only gun store that lets you try before you buy!"
  • Can be attempted in Mafia II, though results vary. Drawing a gun inside a gun store will have the clerk pull out a shotgun, and then it's a race to see who shoots first, though generally the clerk usually gets the first shot off.
    • However, it's possible to stand outside the store, aim at the clerk through the store door, and fire, which allows you to surprise the clerk and kill him, and you can then sample the merchandise at your leisure. Note, however, that firing outside the store increases your chances of police being called in, so you might have a gunfight on your hands by the time you're done robbing the store.
  • Played straight and subverted in Mobsters 2 - Vendetta. One of the Miami missions is to rob a gun store — oddly enough, this is a "low-risk" mission.
    Success: The owner was armed. We were... more armed.
    Failure: Who would have thought that even the 15-year-old stock boy was armed? At least we got out in one piece.
  • NetHack: Shopkeepers are very powerful and will fight you tooth and nail if you try to abscond with their wares. However, a savvy player can use some of these magical items to assist in their heist. You can take a Wand of Death and zap the shopkeeper, grab a magic whistle and summon a strong pet to fight them with, use a Wand of Polymorph that's on sale to turn yourself into something very powerful (or the shopkeeper into something very weak), and so on. With the shopkeeper dead or neutralized, robbing them blind becomes far easier.
  • In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series attacking or stealing from the Kecleon brothers' in-dungeon shops will not only cause the incredibly powerful shopkeeper to attack you, but an infinitely spawning army of them to chase you until you leave the floor. In the earlier games this is the only way to get Kecleon to join your team.
  • This can be done in Postal 2, with not only the gun shop, but any shop- though many of the clerks are armed, and even if they aren't crossing the trigger line will cause them to run for the police, who definitely are armed. The grocery store is run by Al Queda terrorists and even trying to leave without paying will cause the clerk to attack you. And the one actual gun shop in the mall is run by the police department, which are some of the more powerful characters in the game. Even then, shooting all the store clerks might get you the cash in the registers but getting the guns requires shooting/blowing up a circuit breaker box, and attacking this will also alert the authorities. Actually robbing the gun store is possible, but not easy, and usually results in your crime meter going up.
    • A bit easier with the "health pipe" sellers- killing one gets you their inventory and they're usually secluded so there are no police around.
  • In Resident Evil 4 this trope runs in both directions. It works in the sense that Leon is capable of killing the Merchant that sells him weapons but doesn't work in the sense that once you kill the Merchant you don't get to take any of his guns off of his body or from his store. The decision not to kill the Merchant is helped by the fact that once you kill the Merchant he stays dead in that particular area forever, though he re-spawns and meets you in the next available spot in the storyline even if you did kill him in an earlier area. Except in Professional difficulty.
  • You can rob the weapon store owners with relative impunity in Saints Row. In the second game at least they may even comment "I probably shouldn't sell them loaded" when you do so.
    • In the sequel, if you forget to put away your gun when you enter a store, you might accidentally point it at the store clerk and scare them into sounding the alarm and giving you three stars of wanted level. The same happens if you damage the store. However they need a few seconds to set off the alarm, and if you leave during that time or attack from outside the shop you always get away with it. This includes standing on the doorstep shooting missiles at the clerk.
    • In the third game, it's possible to buy various stores and other properties around the city. Hiding in owned property will remove your wanted level. This leads to the bizarre ability to rob a gun store you already own, get a 3-star wanted level, step outside, then step back into the store you just robbed (where the alarm is still going off!) and completely clear your wanted level.
  • The freeware game Spelunky (a sort of dungeon-crawler/platformer hybrid) mostly averts this: all shopkeepers are armed with shotguns and will fire at the slightest hint of a misdeed by the player. However, you pick up items in order to initiate the purchasing dialogue, and several items are indeed firearms. Pick up a shotgun and shoot at point-blank range to play the trope straight. Immobilize him from behind with a webcannon and you can Goomba Stomp him to death. Depending on the level layout, the player may also be able to send a boulder rolling through the shop. Anything else is significantly riskier due to the shopkeeper's vitality and agility. Even if you survive, killing any shopkeeper means they will all shoot you on sight, and any criminal activity except murder will cause shopkeepers to camp the level exit from "just the next level" to "until the end of the game", depending on your actions.

    Web Animation 

  • In 8-Bit Theater, Black Mage attempts this on an old wizard to steal powerful magic spells from his store. Gilligan Cut to Black Mage reporting on his failure to the other Light Warriors, his front half scorched black.
    Black Mage: What I learned today is that really old wizards don't get that way by being easy to kill.
    Thief: So you didn't get any spells?
    Black Mage: In the sense that getting stabbed gives you a blade, man, I got spells.
  • Brawl in the Family: Ravio learns what happens when you do business with monsters when a Moblin upset at how much bows cost rents the fire rod instead and then uses it to rob the store.
    Ravio: Excellent choice! The fire rod is a potent weapon for any marauder or-
    Moblin: This is a stick-up. Gimme the bow.
    Ravio: ... robber. Touché.
  • The Order of the Stick: Played with when Roy is trying to buy a new polearm (as a replacement for his broken sword) from a weapon shop, in a shout-out to Monty Python's "cheese shop" sketch as he tries to guess what weapons they have. It turns out the polearm shop has no weapons there whatsoever, and the man behind the counter was deliberately wasting Roy's time.
    Roy: You realize that if I could actually purchase a weapon, I would stab you with it now?
    Store Clerk: The irony is staggering, sir, yes.
  • Penny Arcade: This strip depicts Resident Evil 4 as if the trope were to be played straight (though Leon's using the gun he already has to get his way).

    Web Original 
  • This story from Not Always Right, although the would-be-thief attempted it with a bowie-knife instead of a gun. However, since the clerk DID have a gun, it didn't work out for them.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons had Homer attempt this in "The Cartridge Family" while checking out a gun he wanted to buy, actually pointing it at the clerk and pulling the trigger multiple times - but accomplishing nothing because it wasn't loaded. The clerk seems oddly unfazed by this, as well as by Homer's thinly-veiled threat when the clerk takes the gun back and informs him of a five-day waiting period before he can get the gun.

    Real Life 
  • This trope is the big reason why many gun stores will have a policy that if you have a concealed/holstered weapon when you enter the store, it stays that way until you leave the store. You have to have it unholstered, out in the open where they can see it when you walk in if you want to show it to the clerk or gunsmith, or want to use the firing range. This prevents any misunderstandings from you pulling the gun out with honest intentions in front of a gun shop clerk. That said, walking in with a gun in hand is almost as likely to get you shot - if you have a weapon that needs to be looked at by a clerk or gunsmith, you should really bring it in a case. This sign sums up gun stores' attitudes toward people who try to brandish a firearm in their store.
  • There's one well-known and mostly true Darwin Awards winner who tried this. The story tends to exaggerate the number of times the guy was shot, in reality only the cop and one clerk shot him. The part about him walking around the police cruiser to enter the store is true though. The exaggerations may be partly because the perp accidentally shot a box of ammo on the shelf, causing it to explode, which is yet another danger of a firefight in a gun store.
  • Gun shops generally have a strong control policy where a customer is not left unattended with a gun at any time (which also prevents someone from running off with something they didn't pay for). This is also why they prefer to have multiple clerks, they are all armed and ready to provide leverage if someone pulls a gun on any one of them.
  • In 2017 a man examining an AR-15 at a pawn shop proceeds to load it with his own magazine he prepared beforehand and engages in a firefight with the store employees. Thankfully nobody was harmed and he was arrested after fleeing the scene with the gun in hand.
  • Two holdup stories go as follows:
    • In one story the perp brought in his own weapon and held the dealer at gunpoint. The robber demanded the dealer retrieve various pistols from the case; while he was bent over the dealer fired at the perp through the glass. Both men survived, the perp taking the damage.
    • The second story also involves a perp bringing his own weapon into the store. It doesn't end as happily; the perp simply shot the clerk in the head while his back was turned. Then — while the gunman was pilfering the merchandise — the owner who was in the back shoots the gunman. (This may be loosely inspired by an actual incident in England several years ago.)
  • This trope is the reason for the many laws/store policies not allowing a person to hold both the gun to be sold and the ammo at the same time or allow to load the gun until it is purchased unless you are at the store range.
  • Many larger gun dealerships in the United States, such as Academy Sports & Outdoors, will escort a customer out of the store immediately after the firearm has been purchased.
  • One particularly tragic example wasn't a robbery. It happened in 1989 at a Canadian Tire store in Winnipeg. A man walked up to the gun counter and asked to look at a shotgun. The clerk complied; the man then pulled a shell from his pocket, loaded the gun, and killed himself right in front of the guy who'd just handed him the gun.
    • A similar case happened with the mother of a Columbine victim.
    • The chain Range USA has a rule that new customers cannot rent firearms if they're visiting the range alone. When pressed, they'll admit the rule is prevent suicidal individuals from using their facilities and equipment to do the deed. According to some rumors, they're not the only range with this policy. So suicidal people just started going in pairs.
  • While robberies at gun stores actually have taken place, the trick is the majority of these smash-and-grabs take place when the store is closed and everyone is at home.
  • Gustav Vasa, King of Sweden, pulled this on a national scale. Faced with invading Danes and domestic unrest, he borrowed several times Sweden's GDP from The Hansa, hired mercenaries, and dealt decisively with the threat. He then sailed his army south, laid siege to Lübeck, the Hansa's headquarters, and threatened to let his mercenaries sack the city unless the debt was cancelled.
  • Ed Gein (the inspiration for Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Buffalo Bill) is known to have killed one of his victims this way. He asked hardware store owner Bernice Worden to look at a Marlin Model 20 rifle. While she was distracted, he loaded the gun with ammo he had bought with him and shot her in the back of the head.


Video Example(s):


Terminator - Gun Store

The T-800 pulls a rather infamous version of this, though the clerk at least protests when the robot starts putting shells in the shotgun. It certainly helps that T-800 is a killbot and stopping it was out of the question anyway. Also, the Terminator was smart enough to wait until the clerk was distracted before loading the gun.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / BallisticDiscount

Media sources: