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Bizarre and Improbable Ballistics

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Sometimes bullets behave in very, very strange ways.

Usually, this is in regards to their trajectories. Shots from one direction hit from another, for a start. Bullets that make impossible curves (like L-Turns or even U-Turns) are another popular example. On the other hand, you have the bullets that never have their trajectory altered at all, regardless of wind, water, gravity or the multiple obstacles/targets it gets to pierce through on its way.


Might be justified if Depleted Phlebotinum Shells are employed, or maybe the gunman has powers or technology that allow them to control how their bullets behave in mid-air, but most of the time this just serves to show how impossibly skilled the shooter is, reinforcing their badassery.

This trope is not exclusive to bullets. Arrows, darts and even slingshots are included too. Doesn't need to be combat-based either, so marbles, billiards, baseball pitches, etc. are all fair game as well (you can't write "ballistics" without "ball" after all).

A distant cousin to the Macross Missile Massacre and the TV rules governing Energy Weapons. Subtrope of Guns Do Not Work That Way. Compare Murphy's Bullet, and Homing Boulders. Pinball Projectile describes a specific variant, when something ricochets off multiple objects before hitting its target.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Energy/laser weapons in many anime (such as Transformers Armada and Energon) will often curve and even zig-zag at extremely sharp angles on their way to their target. One such extreme example is the lasers of TheEnd from Eureka Seven, which will not only curve and move in sharp angles, but home into their target despite being just energy.
  • In Black Cat, Saya managed to master a technique called the "Reflect Shot" after five years of practice. The technique is pretty much ricocheting bullets to hit the opponent. Train eventually decides to learn the technique too, and uses it a couple times.
  • The impressive amount of laws of physics broken in Grenadier somehow manages to make allowing a normal single shot revolver to shoot all six bullets at once seem plausible. And if you think that was bad, the main character also fires a single bullet at a deluge of Gatling gun bullets, manages to hit one of the bullets dead on with her own bullet so that it splits in half, and the halves both hit other bullets, splitting them in half, which then ricochet and split other bullets in results in this becoming a chain of exploding bullets all the way up into the Gatling gun and causing it to explode. Chaos-Theory be damned.
  • Justified in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure thanks to Stand abilities:
    • Stardust Crusaders: Hol Horse's Stand, The Emperor, is a six-shooter and its bullets, so he can control their trajectory. Once he even curved a bullet neatly around a sword, which would have blocked it otherwise.
    • Diamond is Unbreakable: In the fight between Josuke and Bug-Eaten, they both hide behind cover while Jotaro is out in the open attempting to draw fire from Ratt, which will expose Bug-Eaten's position. However, Bug-Eaten is using what is essentially a rat-sized artillery cannon, while Josuke has Crazy Diamond fire rifle rounds by hand.
    • Golden Wind: Guido Mista's Sex Pistols are six small intelligent and talking dwarves that ride the bullets he fires, and can kick them to change their trajectory.
    • Stone Ocean: Johngalli A. is a blind sniper, however, he is able to hit his targets from afar, and at improbable angles too. This is thanks to his Stand, Manhattan Transfer, which reads air currents and positions itself to ricochet Johngalli's shots accurately.
  • Vampiress Rip Van Vinkle in Hellsing was armed with a vintage musket with magical bullets that "punished all without distinction", zigzagging around at impossible trajectories and hitting several targets in a row or one target several times.
    • Hitting fighter craft from outside their missile range, when the effective aimed range of a flintlock is about 100 yards (meaning that by rights she shouldn't have been able to hit someone on the other side of the flight deck).
    • It seems that she was directing the slug with the force of her will, seeing that it always hit exactly where she wanted it to. She hit Alucard several times over with the same bullet, trying to make him fall in the sea where vampire's powers would be useless.
  • In the One Piece anime, Van Auger can shoot a bullet with a bullet. Which then cuts the bullet in half and hits the gun that fired it through the barrel.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: Firearms, planes and armed vehicles are summoned to behave somewhat differently than their Earth counterparts. Bullets are subject to status magic, which makes their effectiveness scale with the user's level. This has the effect of making them comparatively weaker to magic or plain arrows at the same level, so users need to have a high level to make effective use of a gun.
  • Mana Tatsumiya from Negima! Magister Negi Magi once bounced some bullets off of a building to hit targets that were behind cover from where she was shooting.
  • Some of the more incredible shots of Golgo 13 are this, such as a time when he managed to headshot a man who was hiding inside a bulletproof home, by deflecting a bullet off a wave in a swimming pool so it would go through the open door and kill him. Twice.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Marvel Universe, X-Men mutant Domino has the power to alter probability, and prefers to use that ability in conjunction with firearms. She can thus perform outstandingly improbable trick-shots, including multiple-ricochet bulls-eyes against moving targets.
  • Dreamkeepers uses hyper compressed springs loaded into rifles to fire bullets hard enough to punch through concrete.
  • When the Runaways traveled back in time, they encountered a superpowered gang war. One of the gang members had a gun that could never miss: The bullet would ricochet until it hit its target.
  • Darkseid's "omega beams" (which come from his eyes) are basically what amounts to "death vision". They're depicted as a pair of pinkish-purple rays that obey no known laws of physics, being able to make sudden, sharp turns to go around corners and pursue a fleeing target. Fortunately for the heroes, for something that's repeatedly referred to as instant and certain annihilation, they're remarkably ineffective against non-mooks. Sufficiently fast and clever targets have managed on occasion to curve them around so that they hit Darkseid himself.
  • There's a minor Spider-Man villain called the Tracer; his gimmick is that once he's targeted you, his bullets will follow you until you're hit. Thankfully, they seem to move a fair bit slower than your average bullets, but their piercing power doesn't appear to be compromised by this.
  • In Invincible spinoff Guarding the Globe, one of the Guardians of the Globe is a Chinese gunslinger called Best Tiger. Best Tiger is introduced surrounded by enemies with only one bullet to spare, so he shoots it just so that it will incapacitate all of his assailants non-fatally via a series of ricochets. One bullet, five ricochets, about fifteen men taken out. And the bullet clearly retains its shape throughout all this.
  • Happens a lot in Lucky Luke. Luke can shoot everything from every angle faster than his own shadow via ricochet and following pipe direction, mook even points out he blasted four hats with only three bullets (and unlike the Dalton they weren't standing in line). He also threw revolvers in the air than shoot the trigger so it can disarm enemy behind cover during O.K. Corral.

    Fan Works 
  • During the Batter Up! sequence in Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness, one of the pitches that Megas hurls at Yuuka is the below-described knuckleball. Much like plenty of professional batsmen, Yuuka isn't able to get a handle on its trajectory in time.

  • The protagonist of Dolemite is attacked by gun-toting goons. Dolemite returns fire, striking one goon in the gut and killing him, despite Dolemite's gun clearly being pointed at the other goon, implying that the bullet turned in mid-air at about a 75 degree angle.
  • In Fight Club, when the protagonist shoots himself through the cheek, the bullet can be inexplicably seen shooting off at 45 degrees. The director reasons that it might have bounced off his jaw, but the protagonist seems to be able to talk all right in the following scene.
  • In RoboCop 2 the titular cyborg is capable of calculating the angle of a ricochet to hit a criminal using a hostage as human shield.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man, during the scene where a mook fires a handgun at Iron Man only for the shot to bounce off and kill him, it is quite clear that the bullet could not possibly have deflected at that angle. Perhaps this is proof that there was a second gunman... Or because the guy got that close, and was pretty freaked out, the gun's recoil is what clocked him upside the face. Or maybe the bullet ricocheted off Iron Man into the cave wall, and then off the cave wall into the Mook. Or Tony Stark simply caused the man to die with his firey Death Glare.
    • Captain America: Civil War: Cap is able to throw his shield around during combat and have it bounce right back to his arm. Lampshaded by science-minded Peter Parker:
    Spider-Man: That thing doesn't obey the laws of physics at all.
  • In Wanted, bullets can CURVE AFTER THEY ARE FIRED! All you gotta do is get your heart rate up to 4000 beats per minute (which should make it explode) and swing the gun in an arc. This is most notable in the climax, where the female lead does this to take out a circle of mooks along with herself.
  • The Fifth Element has a Swiss Army BFG capable of making all shots go to the same location. All the subsequent bullets arc around to follow the first (sometimes reversing direction entirely).
  • In Runaway, the villain (played by Gene Simmons) has a gun that fires specially made bullets that are essentially miniature heat seeking missiles that can track individual people by locking in on their unique heat signature causing them to make almost 90 degree turns around corners at times.
    "You've heard of a bullet with your name on it? Well this one really does."
  • In Frankenfish a gun lying on the deck of a boat, heated by the burning of said boat, goes off and shoots a character on another boat in the face. Consider that both boats decks are the same distance from the water, the gun was flat and the character standing. Now tell me how that makes sense. Recoil making the gun jump? Waves changing the angle of the barrel just slightly? Bizarre and Improbably yes, Impossible no.
  • In Uwe Boll's Alone in the Dark (2005), one character dies from a bullet that obviously misses her by about two feet. Considering how all the bullet effects were CGI, therefore post-production, one can conclude that they clearly didn't give a damn.
  • In a scene from Scarface (1983), a man has his brains blown out, which makes a big mess in the car in which he is driving. Even though the brains are splattered all over the passenger side window, the window is unharmed.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
    • "Toon bullets": The one fired is an American Indian; he hollers and then produces a large axe and smashes the bottle Eddie has shot at.
    • A little later in the film, Eddie fires three times, but the bullets stop in mid-air and change direction when they lose sight of their intended target. He then lampshades it by turning to Jessica, sighing, and just saying, "Dum Dums." Not as in-use today, the phrase refers to hollow-point and other types of expanding rounds, which they were. The homonym involved should be incredibly obvious.
  • In Clue, a bullet somehow grazes Mr. Boddy's ear and shatters a vase on the mantelpiece, even though the two targets and the shooter were positioned in such a way that the bullet would have had to curve around Mr. Boddy in order to hit the side of the room where the mantelpiece was located.
  • The Three Stooges used this one for (of course) comedy. One of them shot a fleeing Western bad man in the rear. The bandit stopped, turned, clutched his chest, said 'They got me!', and keeled over.
  • The infamous Double-Whammy round from Judge Dredd fires in two different directions at once. How this is supposed to work from a rifled barrel is anybody's guess.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Magneto tries to shoot Mystique, but is interrupted by Beast. He then uses his power to fire the gun, and curve the bullet out of a window and into the leg of a falling Mystique some 20 feet below the window. Justified, somewhat, since he can manipulate ferromagnetic elements.
  • In the 1936 film Reefer Madness, one scene has Bill the main protagonist fighting Ralph while under the influence of marijuana. During the fight, the main antagonist Jack comes out of the kitchen to stop them while brandishing a gun, when Jack runs over, Bill tries to take the gun from Jack, managing to get it to the floor, accidentally firing it, and the bullet somehow manages to hit Bill's love interest Mary Lane while she was lying on top of the couch. Granted it was in the same direction as Mary, but other than that it makes no sense.

  • A Russian joke, riffing on the stereotypes of the Russian Army and its rules:
    Student [at a military academy examination]: A shell launched from a cannon will fly in an arc towards Earth.
    Examining officer [with a cunning grin]: And if a cannon lies on its side, will a shell from it fly around the corner?
    Student: Yes sir, it would! But that's against regulations!
  • The Spanish version, riffing on the stereotypical poor academical qualifications of Army NCOs:
    Sergeant: A bullet fired from a rifle will fly in an arc and fall to Earth in application of the law of gravity.
    Conscript: And what if there's no gravity?
    Sergeant: Then... it'll still fall under its own weight.

  • Given a Shout-Out in the BattleTech novel Assumption of Risk during the assassination of Ryan Steiner. The author describes the flight of the sniper's bullet in loving detail, including the way it just happens to tumble while passing through the victim's head in just the right way to later cast suspicion on the latter's assistant, alone with him in the same room at the time.
  • Used almost gratuitously in Strength & Justice - Side: Justice given the protagonist's innate ability to plot out a bullet's path in his mind before firing the gun. So the bullet is completely capable of passing by the intended target, and then turning a 180 without any external influence and returning to hit the target in the back wherever the protagonist chooses.

    Live Action TV 
  • Played with on Almost Human. A man is murdered by a sniper bullet and the initial assessment of the scene suggests that at least three bullets had to have been fired to cause the damage to the surroundings. Since no other bullets are found, a theory is raised that a single bullet caused all the damage by ricocheting at least twice at bizarre angles before killing the victim. Dorian disputes the ricochet theory as being just too improbable and is later proven correct when the "bullet" is revealed to be actually a next-gen miniaturized guided missile. This makes the scenario much more plausible but the missile still performed turns that should not have been possible for it.
  • In the pilot of Alphas Hicks performs a virtually impossible shot in order to kill a witness. He fires the bullet from the roof of a neighboring building, into an air duct that connects to the windowless room where the witness is. The bullet has to pass through a narrow slit in the outside vent cover and then has to graze the vent cover in the room just enough to tumble at the right angle to hit the witness in the forehead. Hicks Alpha power allows him to perfectly plan and then execute shots like that.
  • The Angel episode "The Magic Bullet": Fred breaks Jasmine's spell on Angel by deliberately shooting him with a bullet that first had to pass through Jasmine, since it is exposure to Jasmine's blood that breaks her glamour.
  • In The Bill, when Kerry Young got shot by Gabriel Kent's sniper rifle, the bullet goes through her back and out her front. She slumps to the ground and the camera pans to reveal Gabriel, standing on a rooftop — at a 70 degree plus horizontal angle from where Kerry was hit.
  • Parodied in an episode of the Australian comedy series Bligh. John Macarthur has challenged Governor Bligh to a duel, but plans to shoot him while his back is turned. Macarthur's wife lambastes him for this cowardice, and to demonstrate her own skills shoots a pointing the pistol in the opposite direction and firing. The bullet ricochets all over the room and, of course, ends up smashing the vase.
  • When Tara gets shot in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the bullet apparently makes two right-angle turns in midair in order to get through the window. Given that the shooter was waving a gun in the air and firing at random, it would make more sense if her chest just randomly exploded.
  • A common plot-point in the various incarnations of CSI, although a scientific explanation is always given. CSI: Miami has a gun that can shoot around corners, and CSI: NY has one that can fire two bullets in such rapid succession and with such precision that they not only have the same trajectory, but also pierce the victim through the exact same entrance wound.
  • Doctor Who, Nightmare of Eden: In the scene where Della is shot with an Energy Weapon, the shooter is clearly aiming way over her head, the special effect shows the shot hitting her face, then she clutches her stomach and keels over.
  • In an episode of Hotel Babylon, a man who has taken people hostage fires a bullet. We see the bullet in slo-mo head towards some of the regulars, who get out of the way. The wine guy chucks an urn to one side and then the bullet turns 45 degrees in mid-air to hit the urn, covering the entire room in dead person. (For some reason Anna, in the vent above the room, gets it in Slo Mo).
  • Kamen Rider Wizard's very first fight scene has him firing silvery bullets that dodge the woman being held hostage by the Monster of the Week, and all strike the same point on his horn, despite having been fired at different trajectories.
  • Parodied in Seinfeld, when both Kramer and Newman claimed to have been spat on by Mets player Keith Hernandez at the same time. Jerry's response: "That must have been one magic loogie!" The references here are to the movie JFK.
  • Similar to the Doctor Who example above, the small hand-held phasers in Star Trek: The Next Generation were often pointing at very weird angles when they fired and uniformly hit their targets in the chest. In fact this irritated the staff so much that the tiny phasers were slowly removed in favor of larger weapons.
  • Used in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in an episode involving several people on the station being assassinated in public by unseen projectile weaponry. Justified when O'Brien demonstrates the assassin's trick to Odo and Ezri: a tiny transporter placed on the front of a conventional rifle, which teleports the bullet a short distance as it leaves the barrel (say, to the next room or hallway over) right in front of its intended target.
  • Averted in The State Within, when a forensic detective is called upon by a foreign spy to cover up the shooting of a politician. She pries a bullet out of the hole it made in the wall, crosses in front of the victim, aims for the hole - and then has the spy lift the body up until the prior entry wound lines up. Her bullet ends up in the wall just about where the other one was. Given her occupation, it figures that she'd know a good cover-up from a bad one.
  • Parodied in the Supernatural episode "Bad Day at Black Rock" where there is a magic rabbit's foot which gives the owner good luck (until they lose it, which they do and then horrible deadly luck follows). There are many examples where people (the holder) dodge bullets or someone else misses hilariously throughout the whole episode. But the best example has to be near the end when Dean gets hold of it and while it technically doesn't involve the firing of a gun, it is bizarre projectile skills involving a gun, ''a pen and a remote''. At 6 minutes into the 5th part of this video is the scene in question.
  • On True Blood, Marianne managed to deflect a bullet from the front with her hand into someone behind her.
  • In the fifth season of 24, Curtis Manning is using an accused terrorist Jack Bauer is protecting as a human shield. When Jack is forced to kill Curtis, his gunshot hits Curtis in the middle of his chest, which would mean it would have to pass through the hostage. Then again, this is Jack Bauer. The laws of ballistics know better than to get in his way.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Table Top Role-Playing Game Exalted, the Sidereals have 2 charms based on this effect, one that lets them shoot around cover, and another that clones an arrow and makes the resulting arrows behave as Reverse Shrapnel.
    • Sidereal Firearms Charms in Shards of the Exalted Dream include one that allows you to shoot one bullet through multiple people or even through the same person multiple times. Sidereals own this trope.
    • Sidereals aren't alone in this; Lunars have Riding The Secret Wind, which enables them to hit any target within range, ignoring any obstacles in the way so long as they can perceive it. They also have charms for instantly claiming territories, and another that makes them aware of everything in their territory...
  • MERP. You shoot someone with a bow from his front and score a perforation Critical Hit. Table result: arrow enters through one ear, exits through the other. Though given that people twist and turn and move and glance around in real life, especially in hazardous situations, this is improbable due to the amount of penetration, not that someone was hit in the ear. See the discussion of the Kennedy assassination, under Real Life.
    • The strange ballistics didn't end with projectiles, either. It's quite common to stab someone in the back and break their leg.
  • One special Ork vessel upgrade in Battlefleet Gothic involves altering their weapons batteries so they teleport the shells immediately after firing, leading to things like armor plates in front of the guns.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Nehekharan archers have arrows magically blessed to twist and turn midair to hit their targets. In game terms they ignore all positive and negative modifiers for enemies in cover.
  • Warhammer 40,000. In the Grey Knights codex, some units have "Astral Aim" that negates even complete cover. Those units usually carry heavy weapons. So keeping with the norm with the 40K 'verse, you now have super-psychic super-soldiers in power armor (that can get into BIGGER power armor) firing mini-RPG-like chainguns around corners.
  • Available for all ranged attacks in Mutants & Masterminds by taking the Ricochet feat for each time you want your attack to be able to bounce. Also sometimes used as a descriptor for powers with the Indirect feat, describing the ability to bypass cover by describing multiple improbable deflections.
  • Hero System: Do you have a ranged attack? Do you have Combat Skill Levels with that attack? Unless you specifically take a limitation on the attack to prevent this, you can use your skill levels to bounce that attack all over the battlemat at whatever angle(s) you feel like (one skill level = one bounce).

    Video Games 
  • In the Double Fine XBLA game Iron Brigade certain Sniper Cannons with the RICOCHET and RICOCHET+ can act like this. The "Rise of the Martian Bear" DLC adds all sorts of oddball weapons, including RICOCHET+ Machine Guns (the "80-UNC3 Indirect MG"), of which the flavor text says, "One would think that years of technological advances were involved in the creation of this weapon. In actuality, we just filled it with spring-loaded bullets, and somehow it worked."
  • The strange nature of hitboxes in Combat Arms can result in a player aiming at another players' lower body and ending up with a headshot. They address this in an update, it seems. Instead of them being random headshots when aimed at a lower body, they now become nut shots. Instant kills on the male character models. (Instant kill on females too so it's fair, but it's not announced)
  • In World of Warcraft, it appears that the program assesses whether or not a ranged attack hits at the time that the attack is started, even if the attack takes time to prepare. So if the target moves during the buildup this can result in bullets and arrows curving around corners to hit. Even if the target stays put, arrows often have terrain-following trajectories.
    • The target moving out of range or line of sight when casting will cancel the ability. However if the target moves only after the ability has been cast but before the projectile hits, the projectile will follow them until it hits.
    • This becomes even more absurd when the projectile is slower than your character. A thrown axe will pursue you over half a zone if that's what it takes.
    • One player flew around a zone for five minutes, trailing half a dozen arcane missiles. He got far enough ahead to land and take a taxi mount to three zones away. He landed and started running in circles yelling 'The end is coming!' then after about two minutes, they nailed him.
    • There is a quest where the character tosses a boot at lazy peons and it boomerangs back. However this can be done while flying an epic mount which is faster than the boots. The scene of an adventurer mounted on a dragon with twenty boots flying after him is hilarious.
    • If projectiles are approaching you, and you die and release spirit, the projectiles will chase your ghost.
    • Something quite similar happens in StarCraft. If a projectile fires, it will hit and do damage. This is usually OK with bullets and missiles; bullets hit instantly and missiles track their targets. Although, missiles will follow a fast target to hit it even if it's already out of its normal range. The Vulture's grenade attack, on the other hand, will go to where the target was at the time of firing. Given the movement speed of some units, this causes the rather slow grenade to miss quite often. The target still takes damage, of course.
    • It's even better in Warcraft (the RTS) if you teleport when a ranged attack is launched a glitch will make the projectile will follow you forever. It can be amusing or annoyingly lethal.
    • Another Blizzard example: arrows in Diablo II move rather slowly, meaning an Amazon with sufficient running speed can outrun her own arrows (which eventually just evaporate). Furthermore, in the early days of the game using the Guided Arrow attack with sufficient Piercing could cause an arrow to pass through a target, make a 90 degree turn and hit it again (and again, and again, and again).
    • This happens in both Mech Commander games as well, with an interesting new twist. A fast 'Mech can run far enough to the side to cause missiles, autocannon bullets, and laser beams to curve sideways and follow the target.
    • League of Legends has many homing-projectile-delivered spells. Most of them follow the target regardless of movement - including instantaneous movement and teleportation.
    • City of Heroes has the same effects. The exception seems to be the Sniper abilities. If the target runs behind something during activation, the power fails.
    • This also applies to projectiles being shot/thrown by enemies; you can take damage seemingly out of nowhere, and then only a few seconds later see the boulder actually impact you thanks to the damage being calculated before the animation finishes. And, yes, they still curve around corners or rise up in midair to meet you if you start flying.
  • Spore: Any projectile in the city or space stage that targets enemies (aka: all except for flak guns) changes direction if the enemy moves. The only possible explanation is that every weapon has built-in homing technology; a bit absurd, considering you can make a race whose greatest creation seems to be wooden planks.
    • Space-faring, faster-than-light enabled wooden planks!
    • Happens in the creature stage too. Those spitter weapons will hit an enemy target no matter where the actual end of the organ is pointing.
  • Ultima Online: Arrows and crossbow bolts move slower than players. Leading to a rather absurd heat seeking arrows. The damage calculates, but the arrow can follow you around forever.
    • The first two just require absurd skill and reaction times.
  • In Resistance: Fall of Man, the main small arm of the Chimera is the bullseye. At first you wouldn't think so with its horrible shot groupings, but its secondary fire allows you to put a "Tag" on an enemy, making all the shots from your Bullseye home in on them.
  • In Devil May Cry, Dante is a prime offender of this. Case 1: Deflecting bullets with other bullets. Case 2: Firing six bullets into the base of a broadsword, in order to make it pierce through a group of Blood-goyles, while running down along the side of a building. Case 3: And of course firing bullets in mid air to keep your self and/or enemies aloft. There's also the description of Dante's 'Trick Shot' ability with the anti-tank rifle Spiral in Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening as it states that he ricochets the bullet so it ends up travelling faster with each rebound, making it an authentic non-conservation-of-momentum gun.
  • Kaptain K. Rool's blunderbuss in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest fired cannonballs in various crazy patterns, such as loops and bounces.
  • Good god, Revolver Ocelot from Metal Gear Solid. How does he manage to ricochet bullets with such ease?!
    • The Metal Gear-verse must have magic revolvers, as once you unlock the Single Action Army in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you can do it, too.
    • More subtle, but the Patriot somehow fires bullets that tumble end-over-end in flight. Bullets actually do that, but only once they fly past their effective range. If the rifling in the barrel was totally wrong for the weapon the bullets would indeed tumble nearly immediately after being fired, but bullets actually doing this would be so inaccurate that it's not even funny. It's eventually revealed that the Boss personally had the Patriot customized from an M16 rifle by cutting its barrel short and other things, turning it into an inaccurate but powerful gun. This shows just how badass the Boss is by being able to hit really accurately with a gun like that (one-handed, no less), but Rule of Cool is still very heavily in effect, especially when it comes to the tumbling bullets out of the short barrel not suffering a major drop in muzzle velocity and (by extension) power, something the individual wielder's badassery has zero control over.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, all bullets fired at Fortune curve and go past her. Where this gets weird is that it happens because she is protected by an electromagnetic barrier doodad... which, if it's strong enough to deflect away a piece of metal the size of a finger joint moving at trans-sonic speeds, should also be so strong she would be incapable of holding or having any metal on her person... and the cause of which is demonstrably turned off in one of the final cutscenes, only for Fortune to continue deflecting shots fired at her anyway. It only gets weirder.
  • Similar to the World of Warcraft example above, the blaster shots in Knights of the Old Republic curve if you try and run around the battlefield. Especially noticeable if the player is a Jedi Guardian, and has the leaping attack ability.
  • In the Baldur's Gate series, throwing knives and darts move very slowly, apparently levitating somehow. They also magically home in on you if you move while they're in flight.
  • The "Bouncing Dart" powerup in Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy does Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a blowpipe dart that bounces. Exactly how it bounces is never explained, though it does make satisfying "pwoing!" sounds on ricochet.
  • Dwarf Fortress: Arrows are capable of piercing both a creature's lungs, heart, and liver in a single shot, causing 3 crippling mortal wounds with one arrow. As well this one arrow is capable of poking out both eyes, injuring an ear, break the nose and poke out the throat of a human in one shot. It appears dwarves forge very very flexible crossbow bolts, but this has been fixed in the latest release, dubbed DF2010 by the community. Piercing attacks like bolts behave more rationally now, and armor protects you much better. Beforehand, arrows and bolts were death rays. Get hit by one and your armor would very rarely protect you, and if it hit anything but a limb you were as good as dead. Unfortunately it seems to have swung to the other end of the spectrum, and bolts are ridiculously weak now if you have armor.
    • It is still possible, however, to shoot a ballista bolt that only hits an enemies' chest and feet, or just their toes. Maybe they splinter in midair?
  • In Jak 3: Wastelander, your Swiss Army Gun has multiple upgrades that fall under this: the Wave Concussor, which fires off a charged shot that spreads out; the Beam Reflexor, which fires off ricocheting shots; the Arc Wielder, a lightning gun; the Needle Lazer, which fires homing bullets; and the Mass Inverter, which creates an anti-gravity field.
  • Justified for Xigbar from Kingdom Hearts. He's a Gravity Master, and can use this ability to make his bullets turn where he wants them to go.
  • The Comical ball found in some Hot Shots Golf games. Not the most predictable ball in the game.
  • In Enter the Matrix, in keeping with the idea that Agents in The Matrix can dodge bullets, it's impossible to shoot an agent. From a distance this seems pretty reasonable because they can bullet dodge, but close up things start getting weird. When the agents can't dodge far enough, the bullets themselves start curving to avoid them. Firing an assault rifle at point blank range makes the bullets come out of the barrel at 90 degrees, so the walls, the floor and the roof all get sprayed with bullets, but the area directly in front of the gun is fine.
  • In many games with hitscan weapons, an enemy can be aiming the wrong way, or even flinching, and still hit you. Conversely, if the accuracy error is determined by RNG, you or the enemy can be aiming dead-on and miss.
  • Borderlands:
    • Borderlands 1: various weapons can have unusual ballistic patterns. The Eridian Thunder Storm fires 8 balls of electricity like a shotgun. The Eridian (Mega) Cannon fires a massive ball of pure energy. The S&S Orion's bullet can ricochet and split into fragments. Some SMG's can spawn with a barrel whose bullets spin in a spiral fashion.
    • In Borderlands 2: Anarachy Gaige can end up with this at higher stacks, getting into a kind of "low accuracy singularity" where bullets have very odd effects, such as shooting sideways or zigzagging. There is no telling what kind of shot you will produce with your high anarchy stacks. With the "Close Enough" ability, missed bullets can ricochet and hit nearby targets, sometimes at wild angles. Give her a "Practicable Conference Call" Shotgun and it's a hailstorm of bullets.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Modern Warfare 3, players are able to equip the throwing knife which, much like the normal knife for hand-to-hand fighting, kills instantly if another player is hit with it, regardless of where the knife landed on their body (foot and elbow stabbings are as fatal as ones to the head or chest) or how fast it was traveling so long as that's faster than "totally inert" (five ricochets along high walls or off the top of a gunship, lightly bonk a passerby on the shoulder, he drops like a sack of potatoes). Call of Duty: Black Ops takes it to the next level, with both instant-kill tomahawks and ballistic knives being featured.
  • While she shoots bolts out of a crossbow rather than bullets out of a gun, Kai from Heavenly Sword has clearly mastered this trope. When she uses her aftertouch ability, the bolts can curve around obstacles in ways that clearly aren't justified by gravity, and unnatural trajectories are essential to getting full use out of the many explosive barrels you come across, as well as unlocking new bonuses.
  • In Astro Marine Corps, your shots are incapable of hitting the ground, hovering at a minimum altitude instead. This is especially apparent when the ground is sloping upward.
  • And now in Mortal Kombat X we have Erron Black. His X-Ray move makes the JFK Assassination's "magic bullet" look positively normal when it comes to ballistics. It involves him shooting his opponent, the bullet goes from the right side of their hip, circling up to their left shoulder, before exiting the shoulder and breaking in their jaw (with the Brutality variation instead blowing their entire head clean off). His Gunslinger variation can even flip a coin in the the air which he ricochets shots off of. Clearly he's been getting lessons from Ocelot.
  • In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, shooting a car in the gas cap apparently causes the bullet to travel a perfect path down the filler neck and into the gas tank.
  • In Xenosaga, Junior's bullets do this, especially his trick shot where he throws a handful of coons in the air, shoots one, and has it ricochet off all of them.
  • Winnie the Pooh's Home Run Derby: With baseballs, not bullets. Rabbit's and Owl's pitches move in a blatantly physically impossible way, with Rabbit's pitches moving slowly and then speeding up, and Owl's pitches moving in a zigzagging manner. And yet, even they has nothing on Tigger's pitches, which in midflight become invisible.
  • Command & Conquer: Generals:
    • Pathfinders have a One-Hit Kill attack against infantry (and only infantry) even if the target is moving. This still applies if the Pathfinder is in a moving Humvee and the target is also moving.
    • Jarman Kell has a Sniping the Cockpit ability that works no matter the facing or speed of the (ground) vehicle using it.
  • Deep Rock Galactic: The Engineer's LOK-1 Smart Rifle is capable of locking onto enemies, displaying curved trajectories from the barrel to its targets, then firing very fast bullets that take said trajectories. It can hit the weakspots of enemies better if the user adjusts their aim well.
    • The Seeker Rounds overclock guarantees locked-on targets will be hit, even if the barrel of the rifle is pressed against a wall. The downside is that these rounds are complex and need slower firing/reload speed.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Sometimes occurs on Archer in keeping with the Running Gag that Brett constantly gets shot whenever he's in the same vicinity as someone with a loaded gun. Once, Archer fired his gun, only to hear Brett scream from more than a floor below him; he drags Lana and Cyril along to try and see how the bullet bounced off walls and down stairwells to somehow hit him. Malory eventually finds him in a pool of blood and tells him that he better have the spot completely cleaned by Monday.
  • Danger Mouse can shoot a golf ball in all eighteen holes with one shot. He claims to have shot a round in one at Gleneagles.
  • In The Top Cat episode "Rafeefleas," Spook ends a billiards game by shooting all the remaining balls in all the pockets in one shot.
  • The Looney Tunes cartoon "Sport Chumpions" has a pool player taking an opening shot. The fifteen balls simultaneously bounce off sides and lands in one pocket, all while retaining the set's triangular shape.
  • Ricochet Rabbit and Droop-a-Long Coyote has been known for these.
  • Wakfu: Evangelyne's arrows sometimes slide into this, notably her homing frost arrow.

    Real Life 
  • It is an extremely common fallacy to assume that bullets travel in straight lines once they hit a target. In fact nothing could be farther from the truth. Wound ballistics are extremely chaotic, especially for rifles. Rifle bullets have a long pointed tip (for aerodynamics) and a wide base. This means that most of their mass is in the base and only the spin of the bullet keeps it with the point forward. When it hits a target the bullet will usually flip over so that the base is headed forward. The exact result varies enormously. One bullet might keep its orientation while another might tear itself to pieces. Studies in gelatin have shown some truly bizarre behavior.
    • Additionally, many apparent cases of this trope result from assuming the people were standing like statues. Real humans turn their heads, lean, slouch, twist, and do all kinds of movements that lead to unintuitive alignments of various parts of their bodies.
    • In the Discovery Channel's forensic documentary show New Detectives as well as Forensic Files, one episode involved a teenager who died in an indoor shooting range. The bullet someone else (who did not stand in the proper spot) fired hit the suspended ceiling. One would have expected the bullet to go through the foam tiles, but due to the aforementioned unstable configuration of bullets, hitting the softer medium caused the bullet to curve back down and hit its victim on the head, leaving only a long gash in the ceiling tile it had hit.
    • Stephen King used the unpredictable ballistics of point-blank head shots as a metaphor in The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet and discusses his research. When the muzzle is close to the skull, such as in suicide attempts or execution-style shootings, the aim can always be enough off surface normal for the bullet to follow the curvature of the skull and exit out the other side with only minor flesh wounding and minimal to no fracturing. Of course there's still the danger of concussion, so your brain isn't completely dodging the bullet.
    • In Mailed Fist, an autobiographical account of commanding tanks on WW2, Major John Foley of the Royal Tank Regiment recalls the day his Churchill received a direct hit in a Curb-Stomp Battle with a German tank. He took a direct hit from a Tiger tank that killed Foley's co-driver and passed straight through the length of the tank from front to rear to explode in the engine compartment. Foley had been right in its path as it passed through the tank, and when he returned to the wreck to plot its trajectory between the entrance hole and the hole in the engine bulkhead, he realised it should have taken both his legs off. Yet he escaped with a slight scratch on one thigh. A ballistics expert assured him that shells do odd things in flight, especially when part of their impetus has been spent on first contact. Foley concluded it had somehow described a curved path on penetrating the forward armour, deflecting its path and somehow causing it to swerve around him.
  • The most common interpretation of the Magic Bullet Theory of the Kennedy assassination requires one bullet to move like a gymnast doing floor exercises during its trajectory. This is largely due to a misunderstanding of who was where during the shooting — assuming, for example, that everyone was sitting upright and facing straight ahead, rather than twisted around in their seats to talk. Don't even ask about the necessary trajectories for some of the other theories.
    • A Discovery Channel documentary actually took Oswald's rifle as well as ammunition from the same factory lot that was found in the book depository, and duplicated six of the seven wounds. The seventh would have occurred as well had the bullet not expended extra energy striking and breaking two rib bones of Governor Connolly compared to only one in the original incident. Striking all debate about the surroundings of the assassination, the Discovery Channel's accomplishment in catching a single bullet on high-speed cameras striking seven separate targets and doing so within half an inch of the bullseye certainly qualifies for the trope.
      • The same show demonstrated why the "magic bullet" disbelief caught on as well. The show took the injuries to the dummies and used them to produce a fake forensic report (which was supposedly a shooting that occurred in a stadium), with the rough description of the position of the victims, and gave it all to an experienced medical examiner; his opinion was there had to be more than one shooter. When the examiner was told he was actually looking at a JFK assassination recreation, and given the video showing that it had been only one bullet, he was downright stunned.
    • Another interesting hypothesis including Kennedy's assassination says that there had to be a second sniper, shooting from the opposite direction, as Kennedy's head was pulled towards Oswald (i.e. forwards), and should be pushed away from him if he shot (backwards). However, Reality Is Unrealistic (also incredibly gory) as Kennedy's brain absorbed a lot of the bullet's energy and flew forwards out of the exit wound and acted like a... rocket engine, pulling the head backwards.
      • Actually, that's just Newton's 3rd law of motion: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The bullet went very fast one way. His head went slightly slower in the opposite direction.
    • Multiple specials have shown that when everyone sits like a statue, eyes forward, the "magic bullet" angles are very hard to believe. However, the more honest ones show that simple, reasonable, realistic shifts in pose that would represent people talking or ducking in a car can make those angles rather easy to believe.
  • Ricochets off hard surfaces can behave in really unbelievable ways:
    • According to a Reader's Digest article many years ago about a freak shooting accident: A boatman well over a mile offshore fired a .303 at some floating object, missing narrowly. The bullet ricocheted off the surface of the water and sped inland, where it passed through the open quarterlight of a fast-moving car and hit the driver just below her ear, killing her instantly. It had barely enough velocity to penetrate and would have been unlikely to cause damage had it had to smash through the window first.
    • A similar incident involved a poacher attempting to shoot waterfowl using a .22LR rifle with very hard-loaded rounds, approaching the velocity of a .223 round. The bullet, being very quick, very lightweight and very unstable, ricocheted off water and flew to the other side of the lake, striking a hapless fisherman in the forehead and killing him. (To prevent deaths like this, some jurisdictions outlaw any rimfire round in hunting.)
    • This video demonstrates a near-fatal example of this trope with a .50 caliber rifle and a target too distant for the camera to see. Luckily, it only hits the guy's earmuffs.
  • Using the Apex barrel tip, it is possible to make a paintball do anything from have a longer trajectory, to dropping shots over the top of bunkers, to curving them around corners.
  • The EXACTO Project aims to achieve this by using fin-stabilization with actuators to create a "fire and forget" .50 BMG cartridge. Using laser guidance, the bullet basically homes in on the target. Testing footage shows the predicted bullet trajectory (without EXACTO ammunition), and the highlighted laser-designated target. The bullet swerves towards the target, over-corrects, then goes back on target.
  • Certain lower-quality Airsoft guns, due to flaws in the barrels, cause shots to curve or list when fired.
    • Hop-up in higher-quality airsoft guns can also cause shots to curve off and miss, depending on the distance from the target and how the user is holding the gun. Experienced/silly airsofters sometimes use this on purpose, flipping rifles upside down to curve BBs behind objects or sideways around cover.
  • The Mythbusters encountered this in December of 2011, when they fired a cannon at a bunch of water barrels. The cannonball missed the water barrels, hit a safety berm, bounced off a street, flew through a house, bounced off the roof of another house, and landed inside of a minivan, having traveled 3300 feet. No one was hurt in the incident.
    • An episode handled a few myths like these. Such as if a bullet can be fired, ricochet off a few walls, and come back at the shooter with lethal force (answer: no). And in good ol' Mythbusters fashion, they bent a tube into a 180-degree bend and found you can shoot a bullet down it and retain lethal force
  • The things snipers can do by taking into account multiple physics factors—sniping is a known real-life application of Awesome by Analysis—can sound like this trope, and often result in disbelief when heard by most people. Some have been known to use the wind speed to curve their bullets into targets behind obstacles in angles that would result in cries of "bullshit" were it ever shown in a movie.
    • A notable example is Matt Hughes. His target was outside of the range of his rifle with a heavy wind blowing and behind a fortification. With his partner, Sam, they calculated based on the heat haze and dust the trajectory they would have to fire in order to successfully hit the target - fifty-six feet to the left of the target, and thirty-eight feet high. He fired, and gravity and the wind guided the bullet directly into the target's chest. Hawkeye, eat your heart out.
    • It potentially gets even more counter-intuitive if you're firing from a moving vehicle, because the projectile will inherit the velocity vector of the platform it was fired from. Of course, proper sniping generally isn't possible from a moving vehicle, so any hits on targets behind walls or such will probably be based more on luck, but still...
  • As well as bullets, similar things can happen with balls.
    • The knuckleball in baseball can sometimes produce very unusual and unpredictable flight patterns, as did the now banned Spitball. Due to the glob of spit on the ball, air currents create some rather odd flight patterns... such as changing speed, changing direction as much as 90 degrees mid-flight and rebounding when it hits a solid object, like a glove or a bat.
    • Any time that a baseball bat is recalled, it's most likely due to this. Based on some strange and ridiculous physics, some bats have a disproportionate tendency to throw balls right back to the pitcher. On a normal bat there's maybe a 10% chance of turning the ball a perfect 180 degrees. On some recalled bats, that goes up to about 80% on a fastball, almost regardless of where on the bat you hit it.
    • In cricket, a skilled bowler can make the ball do any number of improbable things.
      • Spin bowlers adjust their bowling action to make the ball spin, which makes it bounce in strange ways. If they're good enough they can make it bounce in almost any direction, though the degree depends on a whole host of other factors such as the weather, the pitch, the time of day, the state of the ball, and how closely the umpires are paying attention - a particular delivery known as a doosra is nigh-impossible to bowl legally, and some of the bowlers who can pull one off have a reputation for questionable bowling actions. That's not even getting into googlies, which are deliveries in which a bowler can twist his wrist in one direction while releasing the ball and make it spin in the opposite direction to confuse the batsman ....
      • Seam bowlers make the ball bounce unpredictably using the orientation of the seam.
      • Swing is when the ball curves in mid-air because one, and only one, side is polished on the fielders' trousers until greater friction on the rough side causes the ball to swing that way. Whether it occurs, and how much, depends on factors like the weather and how old the ball is. Reverse swing is where it instead swings towards the polished side, and depends on the alignment of the heavens and whether the laws of physics are paying attention.
    • In tennis (and table tennis) common tactics are to apply spin to the ball so that not only does it behave oddly while flying, but also bounces in wildly unpredictable ways.
    • Trick shots in billiards, snooker, and pool often invoke this trope.
    • American footballs, thanks to their oblong shape, have a habit of bouncing in all sorts of wild, unpredictable ways when hitting the ground. These bounces are the bane of special teams: a kickoff or punt that's not caught could predictably roll forward - or it could bounce backward ten yards for no apparent reason.
  • It's "Common Knowledge", referenced in many films and in literature like The Zombie Survival Guide, that .22 bullets are very effective because they ricochet around inside a skull or ribcage and do extra damage. The misconception stems from two things that are sometimes true: a round fired point-blank at a victim's head can —but not necessarily will— veer off course at an odd angle (see above), and a .223 rifle round can —again, not guaranteed— start to keyhole (i.e. tumble) when it hits soft tissue and cause nastier wounds. Neither of these things are remotely close to popular and very false idea that .22 bullets will repeatedly pinball around inside a human body with no immediate loss of momentum.
  • Normally, when a bullet falls short of its target that's the end of things. However, heavy naval armor-piercing shells, with their thick casings, massive momentum, and delayed fuses, could and did go underwater and keep going to strike a ship. This worried quite a lot of naval designers during the 1930s, and the Japanese even tried to take advantage of this phenomenon with specially-designed shells. Unfortunately, those shells only ended up being used once in their intended function and they performed worse against armor during normal hits.

Alternative Title(s): Improbable Ballistics