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Bullet Hole Spelling

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The literal Chicago typewriter.
And then they like shoot "Suggins" into the side of the wall. It's like, what, were bullets free back then?"
John Mulaney, New in Town Special

Getting a message to someone can be done in all different sorts of mediums — paper and ink, electronic data, even your own blood if you have nothing else. But sometimes a person decides to write something into a surface in bullet holes. The reason can vary, from a comedic indication of a rough personality to a blunt threat that the person wants to make deadly clear to their target, but the result is the same: a sentence, a word, a Calling Card or even a letter formed of bullets. One would need Improbable Aiming Skills to make the writing legible.

Compare Sweetie Graffiti, which is a more peaceful form of carving a message into something.

Not to be confused with Calling Card or Zorro Mark, these tropes differ based on who leaves the messages, using what implements, where the message is left, and why:


  • Calling Card
    • Who: Criminals, vigilantes, and even monsters (e.g. vampires leave the telltale pair of puncture marks on their victims' necks).
    • What implements: Lots and lots of choices; pen and paper, playing cards, gamepieces, posed corpses, method of operation, Weapon of Choice, etc.
    • Where: At a crime scene
    • Why: Criminals taunt the police. Vigilantes humiliate the criminals. Monsters, it's part of their M.O.
  • Zorro Mark
    • Who: Anyone with a nemesis
    • What implements: Weapons of any sort leaving a lasting impression (more specific than Calling Card, less specific than Bullet-Hole Spelling)
    • Where: Anywhere where their nemesis is guaranteed to see it (less specific than Calling Card)
    • Why: to intimidate the nemesis
  • Bullet-Hole Spelling
    • Who: Anyone with a gun and a reason (enemy optional)
    • What implements: Guns
    • Where: Anywhere
    • Why: Lots of reasons; taunting, threatening, showing off, testing a gun silencer, etc.


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  • Referenced by John Mulaney on his New in Town Special, where he talks about how old-school gangsters would write their names in the wall with bullets and the absurdity of such a Calling Card.
    "And if anyone asks, you tell 'em it was Golden Joe and the Suggins Gang!" And then they like shoot "Suggins" into the side of the wall. It's like, what, were bullets free back then?"

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the beginning of Dick Tracy, Flattop kills a group of gangsters from a rival gang, then turns towards a wall and begins firing his Tommy gun at it. When Tracy later arrives to inspect the crime scene, he sees that a message saying "Eat lead Tracy" has been spelled out in bullets, and it came out improbably neat and legible considering how the message was made.
  • One scene of Loaded Weapon 1 has Colt and Luger go to a suspect's apartment to interrogate him. When they ask to be let in, he shoots at them through the door. The bullet holes spell "FU".
  • In the sixth Police Academy film City Under Siege, Gun Nut Tackleberry shoots the words "HAVE A NICE DAY" into a backlit wall with an automatic rifle while facing off against an equally gun-crazy bad guy.
  • In Sergeant York, Alvin York shows off his Improbable Aiming Skills by shooting his initials A and Y into a tree from as horseback while under the influence.
  • Sherlock Holmes (2009) has Sherlock testing a gun silencer by "writing" Queen Victoria's royal cypher in a wall with the gun.

  • In Comrade Death, an Arms Dealer for the Circonflex machine gun demonstrates his revolutionary new weapon by drawing the letter "K" in a wall with sustained gunfire. The "K" was meant to be the buyer's initial, but his rival Sarek bribes his band to play during his sales pitch and claims it stands for his Kreiger company.
  • In one of the Sherlock Holmes stories Watson mentions his roommate using his pistol to write the initials 'V.R.' (for Victoria Regina) on the wall of the sitting room of 221B Baker Street in bullet holes. Watson notes that, while undoubtedly patriotic, the addition does little to improve the decor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special, "The Day of the Doctor", the War Doctor borrows a soldier's blaster and shoots out the words "NO MORE" on a wall as a message to the High Council of Gallifrey that he was putting an end to the war.
  • The Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa" has the characters investigate a threat on Stottlemeyer's life. The main suspect is a man whose brother was killed by Stottlemeyer and later shot at him as well. It later turns out that he wasn't intending to kill him, just remind him of his late brother by spelling out his brother's first initial with bullet holes. However, he does such a poor job of that, even the highly deductive Monk can't figure out he was doing that until it's pointed out to him.

    Video Games 
  • In Bayonetta, if Bayonetta shoots at a wall repeatedly, she will eventually make the letter B.
  • In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, if Quiet is still alive and on the Mother Base, on the day of player's birthday a cutscene will play where Quiet shoots holes on several crates of cigars that spell HBD (Happy Birth Day) to help celebrate.
  • Sam & Max Hit the Road on the second screen of the game, the hallway outside of the office, Flint punches some mook through his door's glass window. Flint then follows up by shooting several bullets through the door and wall. They make a smiley face.
  • In Lei's ending in Tekken 2, he uses his gun to write "THE END" on a target at a shooting range.

    Web Animation 
  • In the crossover episode between Death Battle and Red vs. Blue, Boomstick does this upon his and Wizard's introduction.
    Boomstick: And that's how you write your name in buckshot.
    Wizard: Alright. Quit messing around. We have a job to do.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • In Batfink, the opening sequence has the titular character's name being spelled out by gunshots that ricochet off Batfink's steel wings and into a wall.
  • Futurama: An interesting variation occurs in a Flash Forward from "The Late Philip J. Fry". After realizing that Fry abandoned her because he was dragged into a forward-only time-travel experiment, Leela goes to the abandoned Cavern on the Green restaurant and shoots holes into the ceiling with her laser pistol; the water leaking out of the holes drop onto the ground, gradually forming stalactites that form a message for Fry that he reads a billion years later on a dying Earth.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In A Feud There Was, a boy mocks the hillbillies on the other side of the boundary line, prompting them to shoot "DO YA MEAN IT? onto the other side's wall. They shoot back to spell "YAS WE MEAN IT!".
    • In My Favorite Duck, Daffy, after finding out that duck season has opened, tries to make a shotgun-wielding Porky show mercy by holding up a white flag. Porky shoots, instantly putting holes in the flag spelling "START PRAYING DUCK".
    • The title card for the first Bunny & Claude cartoon We Rob Carrot Patches is spelled out with bullet holes.
    • In "An Egg Scramble", bank robber Pretty Boy Bagel looks out the window of his hide out and tells the cops that they can't get him. The cops fire at the window, leaving "Wanna bet?" in bullet holes on the window shade.
    • In Easter Yeggs, Bugs Bunny is fleeing the home of a Bratty Half-Pint whose family is a bunch of shotgun-toting thugs. As they fire at him, they leave "And Stay Out!" spelled on the door.
  • The 1940 MGM Oneshot Cartoon The Lonesome Stranger has one of the Killer Diller Boys writing "Is a Sissy" underneath the Sheriff's door, prompting this exchange:
    Sheriff: Oh yeah?!
    Killer Diller Boy Member: YEAH! [fires large gun bullet at the sheriff]
  • The Itchy and Scratchy cartoon shown in The Simpsons episode The Simpsons S3E4 "Bart the Murderer" has Itchy writing "THE END" in bullets using a Tommy gun.

Statler: You know, I actually paid somebody to shoot the word "Stupid" on something once.
Waldorf: Where did you have them spell it?
Statler: The Muppet's theater stage.
Both: Do-ho-ho-ho-hoh!


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