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Dramatic Ammo Depletion
aka: Cant Count Bullets

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Joel: [aims revolver and pulls trigger] *click* Shit!
Hunter: I know that sound... I've got you now motherfucker!

A character (usually the hero) is being chased by an armed gunman (usually the villain). After some time of chasing, shooting, and loads of property damage, the gunman corners them. There's nowhere left for the character to run, and they cower in fear as the gunman lines their sights with their target's head, and pulls the trigger.

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Nothing. Not even a misfire. The shooter's gun runs out of ammunition right when they can get the killing shot.

This can represent the shooter's recklessness, especially if they've been shooting wildly & destroying all sorts of items & scenery in their efforts to kill the hero without paying any attention to the state of their firearm. However, this is not a case of Reckless Gun Usage as that concerns people unfamiliar with firearms, while this is about characters that are. This is a nice aversion of Bottomless Magazines. This isn't to be confused with Where's the Kaboom?, as that is for explosive devices, while this is specifically for guns.

It's not enough for a character's gun to run out at any point for it to count. The gun has to run out when it having ammo would allow the shooter to kill the target with a well placed shot. This is why it's dramatic for the gun to fail at the one point they need them most. It's very rare for the audience to know that the weapon has no ammo, but the characters don't, but it's not unheard of.

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The inverse is Counting Bullets, where the hero counts how many shots the villain has fired and specifically analyzes the situation to their advantage. This is different from that trope in regards to the fact that in the heat of the moment, most characters can't be bothered to try to analyze such a hectic situation like that. Even then, if the villain isn't counting, and runs out at the last moment, it's an example of this trope, not Counting Bullets. Because the villain is not counting.

This is more often than not done with villains, but examples of this happening to heroes exist.

A variation of this is It Works Better with Bullets, where another character deliberately invokes this by removing the bullets from the gun beforehand, or takes another step to make the gun inoperable. A Subtrope of Reliably Unreliable Guns. See also Convenient Misfire.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The first episode of Sherlock Hound by TMS Entertainment has The Villain attempt to shoot an escaping captive who's trying to clamber around the outside of the villain's hideout. However, the revolver used was taken from a mook who'd shot away the door to the escapee's room, leaving no unused cartridges in the cylinder. The villain conks the mook with the useless firearm in frustration.

    Comic Books 
  • In V for Vendetta, Richard Almond's "hobby" of terrorizing his wife with an unload revolver comes back to bite him in the ass when he runs into V. He pulls his gun, only to realize too late that he forgot to load the bullets into it. V promptly kills him.

    Fan Works 
  • Double-subverted in Azumanga Royale, where Chiyo did make a point of counting how many rounds she fired from her six-shooter. Too bad she didn't check how many it contained in the first place when it was issued to her...

    Films — Animation 
  • Big Hero 6 has a variation. The climax has Yokai angrily lashing out at Hiro and Baymax with arms of microbots, he finally gets ahold of them, prepares for the final strike... and fails because he hasn't noticed the stray microbots getting sucked up into his own Portal Door, leaving him with barely enough to stay in the air.
  • Ratatouille: When Remi and Emile are discovered by the old lady in the film's opening scene, she goes for the most extreme form of pest control available: a pump action shotgun. She shoots the rats several times but misses, and when Emile is helplessly dangling from the ceiling lamp, she gets a clear shot as he cowers. She pulls the trigger, and nothing happens. However, she remembers to reload.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Commando, during a fight Duke (the big black Green Beret) has Matrix dead to rights with a revolver aimed directly at his head and after a Pre-Mortem One-Liner pulls the trigger only for a loud "click" to occur and he realizes he's out of rounds. Matrix promptly finishes him by impaling him on a handy bit of broken furniture.
  • Deadpool (2016): During a shootout on a highway, one of the bad guys starts shooting at Deadpool with their rifle after he peeks his head out from behind a car. He shoots at him all the way until he runs up to Deadpool afterwards and takes aim, only to discover that he emptied his clip on the car. Deadpool points out his stupidity and promptly shoots him in the head. Played for Laughs, as Deadpool's healing factor means that having any bullets wouldn't make much of a difference.
    Deadpool: Someone's not counting.
  • Defied in Django Unchained. In the finale, Django shoots miss Candie & her entourage with his revolver, and Stephen then points out that he fired all 6 shots. Django promptly pulls out a second revolver.
  • Early in Hard Boiled, Inspector Yuen runs out of bullets just as he tries to shoot the mob hitman Alan. This proves to be very convenient later when he discovers that Alan has actually been an undercover cop all along.
  • The famous "do you feel lucky?" scene from Dirty Harry has Callahan telling the punk in front of him that, at that moment, the main thought going through his head was "did he fire six shots or only five" from his .44 Magnum revolver, and sarcastically telling him that he'd lost track himself in all the excitement. He had, in fact, fired all six. At the end of the film, he repeats the speech to the Scorpio Killer, who isn't so lucky.
  • Judge Dredd: Dredd's Evil Twin manages to line a point-blank shot on Dredd himself, only for the stolen Lawgiver to announce it's out of lethal ammo. Dredd wrestles the guns out of him and switches to signal flares before shooting back.
  • Jumanji: The ruthless hunter Van Pelt chases the protagonist out of their home after he is summoned from the game with a large lever action shotgun. After some chasing, and even attacking a police officer, Van Pelt lines up a good shot on the protagonist, but has already used his last shotgun blast.
  • Back to the Future: After one of the Lybian terrorists guns down Doc Brown, they try to shoot Marty next, only for their gun to not fire. It's not clear whether the gun jammed or it was out of ammo, or both.
  • In The Matrix, Agent Smith and Neo have a shootout in a subway. They eventually end up on the ground with each of them holding their pistols at the other's head. They in turn point out that the other's gun is empty. They switch to Good Old Fisticuffs.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day has a heroic example. Sarah Connor keeps blasting the T-1000 with a shotgun, pushing it towards the edge of a ledge above a pool of molten metal. However just as the T-1000 is about to fall off, Sarah runs out of ammo. The T-1000 heals up his wounds and starts taunting Sarah, before the T-800 arrives and blows it off the edge using a grenade launcher.
  • Full Metal Jacket: In the climax at 'Nam, James "Joker" Davis searches for a Viet Cong sniper that killed several of his squad members. After some sneaking through a burning building, he finds the sniper, and points his rifle at their head. He realizes far too late that his gun is jammed when it clicks and alerts the sniper to his presence.
  • In Reefer Madness: The Musical, after Ralph completely loses it and Jack has to kill him, Mae realizes she can't put up with Jack anymore and turns on him. He tries to shoot her, only he'd emptied his gun into Ralph, so he can't defend himself as Mae bashes his head in.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: When being chased by the newly empowered Steve Rogers, the Hydra spy Heinz Kruger keeps firing his gun but Rogers dodges every shot. Eventually, Kruger resorts to taking a boy hostage to force Rogers to stand still long enough so he can get a clear shot, but just as he does, his gun clicks empty.
  • Subverted in The Hard Way. Nick gets lucky in a shootout where a man firing at him seems to run out of bullets. The cop knocks the gun against a newstand, and shoots into it, demonstrating it had merely been jammed.

    Literature 
  • Black House: Near the end of the book, during the press conference to honor the four heroes that stopped the Fisherman, Wanda Kinderling (a woman whose husband, Thornberg, went to prison for murder thanks to protagonist Jack Sawyer) decides to use this opportunity to kill Jack (since she firmly believes her husband was innocent and Jack framed him). While Jack and his friends are on the stage, she draws a gun and shoots Jack Sawyer multiple times, then shouts "See you in hell Hollywood", and aims the gun at her head... only to realize that, in her eagerness, she emptied the gun, leaving no bullet for herself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ash vs. Evil Dead: Pablo confronts Kelly (who's possessed by a demon) at the high school dance, but can't bring himself to shoot her. She steals his gun and has no problem firing several shots at Pablo instead that all miss. Just when she has him cornered, the gun has run out of bullets.
  • In Altered Carbon episode "The Wrong Man", during the Elevator Action Sequence the Ghostwalker shoots at Ortega but Abboud manages to dive into the line of fire to save Ortega. First it looks like Ortega's death is only delayed but the subsequent clicking of the Ghostwalker's gun makes it clear that he used his last bullet for the shot, allowing Ortega to survive the attack. Watch the scene here.
  • The Good Cop: Subverted when Tony is in a shootout with a Dirty Cop, who hears Tony's gun click empty. He goes for the kill, only for Tony to shoot him in the shoulder and reveal that he faked the noise with a pen.
  • Daredevil (2015): In the season 3 finale "A New Napkin", this happens to Dex during his killing spree at Fisks' wedding reception. He aims his gun at a woman, who begs him to spare her, but his gun clicks empty when he pulls the trigger. So he throws the gun at her instead.
  • The Umbrella Academy (2019): In the season 1 episode "The Day that Wasn't", the Handler tries to shoot Five to stop him from changing the past, but Five uses his powers to dodge every shot. When the Handler can finally get a clear shot at him, it turns out she already used up her last bullet.

    Radio 
  • Invoked in The Goon Show episode "Six Charlies in Search of an Author":
    Seagoon: [typing] "Moriarty's finger squeezed the trigger, but there was only a hollow -"
    Grams: clank
    Moriarty: Sapristi! He's written in an empty gun for me!

    Tabletop Games 
  • d20 Modern's Cinematic Ammo Rules did not have you track individual bullets. Instead, whenever you rolled a "1" on your die, you missed because you were out of ammo and needed to use your next action to reload.
  • In New Hong Kong Story, which is based heavily on the Heroic Bloodshed movies, nobody ever runs out of ammo unless they roll a Critical Miss. However, players can also reload their guns at any time for dramatic and gameplay effect before an important shot, as doing so voluntarily gives a small bonus to the next attack roll.

    Video Games 
  • Heavy Rain: During the fourth trial, the shark, Ethan Mars has to break into a man's home to kill him. Said man turns out to be an armed drug dealer. After he refuses to leave, the drug dealer punches him, pulls out a shotgun, and tries to kill Ethan with it. He chases him around the apartment destroying many of his own valuables, and corners him into a bedroom. He lines up the shot and pulls the trigger, but nothing happens.
  • In Life Is Strange's second episode, there's a scene where Chloe practises with a gun she stole from her step father in the junk yard. She hands the gun to Max to try, when Frank (a drug dealer who Chloe owes a lot of money to) shows up and begins threatening the girls with a knife, causing Max to point the gun at him (giving the player a choice of whether or not to shoot at him). If you decide to shoot, it will turn out that Chloe had already used up all the bullets (but the fact Max was willing to pull the trigger is enough to scare Frank off and impress Chloe).
  • The Last of Us:
    • Exploited in the first game: While Joel or Ellie will start panicking if you run out of ammunition, it's possible to make other hunters try to come closer to you if they hear the clicking of an empty gun. Cue Ellie tossing a brick at them and giving you the opportunity to close in for a Finishing Move.
    • In the trailer for The Last of Us Part II, the antagonist has a revolver & pulls it out when she has one of the protagonists cornered. She hears noises coming from the forest & fires a few shots. When the other protagonist tries to attack her, she fires again but misses as the first protagonist grabs her and pins her down. She tries to fire at the first protagonist, but the revolver is out of ammo.
  • In the Payday 2 "Deathwish" trailer, an elite Bulldozer has gunned down 3 of the 4 heisters and was caught in the middle of reloading by Chains. Chains nods and slowly takes aim at the Bulldozer, only to hear that his gun is empty too, before the two race to reload their weapons first.
  • A heroic version happens at the opening cutscene for Quake III: Arena: Sarge is blasting monsters with his Chaingun, until he runs out of bullets ("Fuel Cell: Empty"), then he has no option but to hide behind a pillar.
  • Due to the nature of the game, it's entirely possible to have this happen to YOU in Receiver. You don't have a magic link to your gun that tells you how much ammo you have in your magazine. If you don't keep track of your bullets, it's your fault if you cause a flying taser bot to close in on you by shooting it and your clip is suddenly empty. The game models actual fire arm mechanics to the point where the semi-auto pistols will also fail to fire if you left the safety on or didn't chamber the rounds in your magazine.

    Web Animation 
  • In Death Battle: "Robocop VS Terminator": Terminator starts firing at Robocop with a powerful shotgun repeatedly as he approaches. When he finally aims the killing shot at his head, he's out of shells. Robocop responds with this.
    Robocop: 9 shots: you're out.
  • Nomad of Nowhere: In the 4th episode, the Nomad is cornered by the travelling circus' cow girl. She fires several shots at him from her revolvers while he distracts her with cream pies. Once he runs out, he's cornered and she aims both of her pistols at him, and pulls the triggers...only to find out her revolvers are out of ammo. Nomad then uses his magic to cause the rest of her bullets to run away.

    Web Comics 
  • Homestuck: Andrew Hussie tries to shoot the Big Bad Lord English when the latter shows up to kill him, only to realize that he didn't think to reload the "deudly magnum" he lifted off Doc Scratch's body.
    Andrew Hussie: Think it over... WHILE YOU DIE SHIT SHIT SHIT, OH SHIT. FUCK. SHIT SHIT FUCK, I FORGOT.
  • Maggot Boy: The Enfant Terrible Serial Killer Owen decides that it's Better to Die than Be Killed, grabs a gun from their erstwhile captor, and tries to shoot themself in the head, only to realize that the gun is out of bullets. Their absolute rage at the situation implies that it's happened before.
  • Sam & Fuzzy: It's shuriken instead of bullets, but this happens to Mr. Blank just as he's cornered Sam during the climax of the "Noosehead" arc.
    Blank: Huh... I guess ninja can run out of throwing stars after all.

Alternative Title(s): Cant Count Bullets

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