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"That is what happens when you sit behind a desk. You forget things, like the weight in the hand of a gun that's loaded and one that's not."
Bryan Mills, Taken

The victim manages to get hold of his opponent's weapon and points it in his face, but the opponent isn't afraid — he might even egg the victim on. The victim pulls the trigger and... nothing. The opponent has disarmed the weapon while nobody was looking.

Sometimes used as part of a Secret Test of Character for a villain to test how evil the undercover hero really is without risking the possibly-undercover hero simply turning the gun on the villain.

Depending on how this is used, it can be a case of research failure that takes advantage of the audience's inability to conceive of what's not visible on screen, as most handguns without loaded cartridges will have a noticeable imbalance and difference in weight when compared with a fully loaded weapon. (This is lampshaded quite often in most modern-day usages of the trope — a professional who is familiar with the weapon being used can immediately notice the difference.) In addition, the lack of a magazine in a pistol or of rounds in revolver chambers is clearly visible. Additionally, many automatic and semi-automatic weapons pre-load one cartridge into the chamber before firing, so removing the magazine still leaves one live round in the chamber. A few handguns are designed so that removing the magazine disables the trigger, however, most notably the FN Five-SeveN and most versions of the Browning Hi-Power. To be entirely honest, the chambered cartridge may be manually extracted and slide lock disengaged with but a thumb. More accurate works will actually display that. Ironically, the supposedly wacky comedy The Big Lebowski has it right in the single only-10-seconds-long gun scene of the movie, while many action flicks are epitome of research failure here despite having at least one firearm present in each and every frame. A modern variant that avoids the obviously-lacking-ammunition problem is that a character will reveal that they've removed the firing pin from the weapon. This is, of course, a more time-consuming procedure that requires disassembly of the gun. Stories set in the near future might also have guns that lock out anyone except the designated user(s) from firing them; such "smart gun" technology actually exists in real life (sort of), but is not yet commercially available (and may never be that viable of a technology, as it has a number of downsides that all boil down to "one more thing to go wrong").

Compare Not With the Safety On, You Won't, Defensive Failure. Often coupled with Weapon for Intimidation. Also see Counting Bullets where people, er, count the bullets fired. The accidental version of this trope is Dramatic Ammo Depletion.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This happens so often in AKIRA, it borders on being a Running Gag.
  • Black Cat: Train Heartnet pulls a version on himself - in order to test Sven's resolve, he hands Sven his gun, which has one bullet in it, in a random slot. He puts his hand on the table and tells Sven to shoot it. Sven, figuring that it's not loaded, shoots without hesitation. Turns out it is loaded... with a fake, harmless bullet.
  • Black Lagoon: The end of the Nazi arc has Revy toss one of her Cutlasses to the neo-Nazi leader to do with as he likes, and tell Dutch "I bet on black." He agrees. The guy initially points the pistol at his own head, but then screams in rage and levels it at Dutch. Cue Revy laughing her ass off as the pistol clicks on an empty chamber: the bet was on which of them he'd try to shoot first ("black" being the African-American Dutch).
  • Happens in Broken Blade, in an unusually realistic case. The gun-pointer was a) a mech pilot, the wrong type of soldier entirely; b) using an unfamiliar model (and it probably helped that it was a quartz-firing gun, not a lead-firing one); and c) twelve years old. Her hostage (the queen, natch) played along, just to see how far she was willing to go (which happened to be all the way to pulling the trigger at an enemy she recognized).
  • During a bus-jacking incident in Case Closed, Jodie plays up her Funny Foreigner antics to get close to one of the jackers and secretly disabling his gun. When his accomplices are taken care of, he tries to fire it, with predictable results.
  • A magnificent example in Cat's Eye (from the same author as City Hunter): a criminal has just discovered the guys who egged him to brag about his crimes were cops, and to escape he produces his gun... At which point one of the cops produces the gun's magazine he had stolen from him earlier that day.
  • Subverted in a chapter of City Hunter, when Ryo faced a rival sweeper calling himself the Bat. The Bat believed that his early defeat was due Ryo's gun having been improved to become more accurate by a legendary gunsmith, so Ryo, to free the gunsmith's daughter (who was just as good as her father), accepted to duel him with switched guns, with the Bat handing Ryo an unloaded gun... And getting beaned when Ryo outdrew him and threw the gun at him because he had noticed it was unloaded.
  • Happens in the very first scene of The Daughter of Twenty Faces. Chiko herself manages to pull it off by the end of the second episode.
  • Subverted in Eat-Man, when a bad guy gives Bolt a gun belonging to another character. When Bolt pulls it out on him later, he brags about having removed all the bullets first. Bolt shoots him with another bullet he caught in his teeth earlier.
  • The Familiar of Zero: Fouquet steals the Staff of Destruction, a legendary artifact, from the Wizarding School. But she can't figure out how it works. So she arranges for it to be recovered by the main characters and attacks them with a golem. It goes according to her plan: Saito destroys the golem with it, showing her how to use it, then she steals it back and points it at him. He's not especially worried, since the "Staff of Destruction" is really just a LAW — a single-use, disposable rocket launcher — and he had just used its only rocket on the golem.
  • Galilei Donna: The Ferrari family is being threatened by a group of sky pirates. Then there's a lot of rumbling and general chaos brought on by the youngest daughter breaking her goldfish-airship out of the basement and the eldest child manages to grab the leader's gun... which was never loaded in the first place.
  • Ghost in the Shell: In Human Error Processor, Section 9 have removed More Dakka from a suitcase as they're expecting an imminent attack, only to be startled by their former colleague Motoko walking in on them. After they reflexively point their guns at her, Motoko points out that the weapons wouldn't be transported with a round in the chamber.
  • Gunslinger Girl has Henrietta doing this with one of the handlers' guns in order to reenact Elsa's tragic murder/suicide scene, aiming the gun at her eye as Elsa had done before pulling the trigger. This serves to scare the living hell out of her own handler, Giuseppe (and the audience, as the way the scene is intercut leads us to believe that she's trying to kill herself for real), until she opens her eyes and shows him the bullets, revealing that she had unloaded the weapon before pulling this stunt.
  • Subverted in the anime of Gunsmith Cats, when Rally was given a gun to prove her loyalty. Since she was a firearms expert, she could tell the gun was unloaded…and played as if she was going to shoot the cop anyway. But only after angrily asking if they wanted her to club him to death, provoking them to give her a bullet.
  • In The Western Shōjo Demographic manga Miriam, protagonist Douglas is menaced by an enemy who stole his gun. The villain, who isn't particularly familiar with firearms, lets out an Evil Laugh and starts speechifying, before pulling the trigger several times to find an empty gun. When Douglas picks up the other guy's gun and turns the tables on him, he weakly insists that that gun, too, is empty, and Douglas knows he's bluffing because he can feel the difference.
  • During a scene in the second season of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Flay (left in Rau's office after he rescues her from being killed in the Alaska fiasco on a whim) gets a gun out of his desk and tries to attack him when he comes back in. Rau's response is to lecture her that attacking the one person with any interest in keeping her safe is ridiculous, especially when the gun's not even loaded in the first place.
  • Patlabor: In the very first episode, Noa gets into the stolen Ingram's cockpit, and Asuma directs her via radio in order to retrieve it. When she's surrounded, Asuma suggests that she pulls out the revolver to intimidate the criminals, but they don't fall for it since they know the gun wasn't loaded.
  • Trigun:
    • In the beginning of episode 5, "Hard Puncher", a bunch of bandits burst into a cafe and unload on Vash the Stampede. It's only later we learn that the whole scenario turned out to be A-Team Firing and the only thing that got hit was his bottle of tomato juice. He then demonstrates he's very much in control when he headshots all of them...with a suction cup gun. One of the bandits gets ticked and decides to go shooting again. Vash basically says, "Go nuts." He does. *click*
      Vash: I'm afraid you've used up all your bullets already.
      [The bandits leave town in their skivvies.]
    • Vash himself falls victim to this in the first episode, as he pulls out his gun with a Dramatic Gun Cock to try warning off some thugs — only to pull the trigger and realize he hadn't reloaded.

    Comic Books 
  • In Batman: No Man's Land, in an interlude called "The punk and the nomad", a punk threatens to shoot a guy for batteries. But the nomad points out that there's no way the gun's loaded, not because he knows, but because if the punk had a bullet, it would be worth more than the batteries. The nomad walks away unharmed.
  • The Flash does a variation in Batman: Gotham Adventures #25, which opens with a mugger demanding money from his victim. She asks "Weren't you holding a gun just a second ago?" while looking at his empty hand positioned as if he had a gun in his hand — Flash has used his Super-Speed to disarm the mugger without his even realizing it. Batman appears and chastises Flash for interrupting a police sting.
  • In one Daredevil story, Bullseye — who can use anything as a deadly weapon — is hired to kill someone and decides to take no chances whatsoever by using a gun. After he's fired it (and killed his target), Daredevil is so pissed that he grabs the gun and turns it on his foe. The problem? Bullseye only needed one bullet... and only brought one bullet. This happens again with Bullseye in "Guardian Devil" when Karen Page picks up a revolver he had tossed aside and tries to shoot him in the head. "First rule of the 'cleaning' business: Never discard a loaded weapon." However, he does admit that he's impressed that she had the guts to pull the trigger.
  • Doctor Who Magazine: In "Interstellar Overdrive 2", Fluke pulls a raygun on one of his bandmates, only to find that the Doctor had removed the power pack from the gun after detecting a psychosis-inducing agent in the band's curry.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel):
    • In an early comic, expert mercenary Kwinn disarms all of the Joes with his Improbable Aiming Skills except for Snake Eyes. Kwinn isn't scared when Snake Eyes then menaces him with his Uzi, noting that the position of the bolt on the weapon indicates a dry mag.
    • It wasn't the first time Snake Eyes menaced Kwinn with a gun that couldn't shoot — in their first meeting, Kwinn ambushed the Joes and forced them to give him their guns. Later, Snake Eyes managed to grab one while Kwinn was distracted, and even inserted an emergency magazine into the clearly unloaded gun, but depressing the trigger only resulted in "click click click". Turns out Kwinn took out all the firing pins and put them on his necklace to make what he jokingly called "a charm against gunfire."
    • In an issue of G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Roadblock finds the guns that the terrorists have smuggled aboard a plane in order to hijack it. He disassembles the guns, removes the firing pins and reassembles them. When the terrorists attempt the hijack, they discover they have non-functioning guns.
  • In one Hombre story, the hero is asked to prove himself to a young and rather bratty warlord, who gives him a gun and tells him to shoot anyone in the camp. He momentarily points it at the warlord before trying to fire it at some old people (obviously with no effect), and the warlord says a guy with his priorities can be useful. The hero thinks to himself that he can tell perfectly well when a gun's not loaded.
  • The Lawgiver pistol from Judge Dredd will not fire for anyone but its assigned user. Anyone unfortunate enough to try this...
  • In the "Palomar" series within Love and Rockets (the Duck Feet collection, by Gilbert), the trope is doubled: Chelo, the town sheriff, gives Tonantzín a pistol so she can sheriff while Chelo is sick. Tonantzín realizes that Chelo wouldn't trust her with a loaded gun and takes the town's other pistol from Chelo's desk instead. In a later standoff, Chelo reveals she knew this would happen, and had left the pistol in her desk unloaded too.
  • The Punisher: This happens to Frank while attempting to infiltrate a drug cartel. The boss hands him a rifle and orders him to execute a captured DEA agent. Frank turns the gun on the boss only to discover that the gun is unloaded. It was a test of Frank's loyalty.
  • The Sin City story Hell and Back shows the main character sneaking into the house of a corrupt cop. When he reveals himself to the cop, the guy grabs the gun under his chair and squeezes the trigger. The main character then shows him the handful of bullets he had previously removed.
  • During the Grand Finale of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, Lena aims her Arm Cannon at Supergirl, pulls the trigger... and discovers that the ammo has been magically turned into flowers by Mr. Mxyzptlk.
  • A Tarzan comic has a Femme Fatale manipulating a wimpy guy into doing her bidding, but just in case he has any funny ideas, she decides to replace the bullets in his revolver with blanks. This backfires badly when she's dragged off by The Morlocks and he tries to act the hero for once and save her. "It was hopelessit was like I was shooting blanks!"
  • Tintin:
    • In The Blue Lotus, drug baron Mitsuhirato tries to shoot Tintin with an unloaded gun, and then stab him with a tinfoil knife. Before that, he tried to poison him, only the poison had been switched out too.
    • In The Black Island, two goons only remember that the gun that Tintin has turned on them isn't loaded after he ties them up. They start calling for help, thinking that he can no longer threaten them with an empty gun. He simply clubs them silent with the butt.
  • Derek Almond gets caught with a bullet-less revolver against the title character in V for Vendetta. Whether V knew it was loaded or not is debatable.
    Almond: Because you're standing over there with your bloody fancy knives and your bloody fancy karate gimmicks... and I've got a gun. *click*
  • Whiteout: The British spy taunts a killer using a Human Shield into pulling the trigger because she knows the extreme cold will prevent the pistol from firing. At least, she hopes it will.
  • Expecting a double-cross, Robidoux does this to Sasha in Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars. It ends badly for her.
  • In X-Wing Rogue Squadron, this happens twice in one arc. Here, the Sullustan pilot tells the student that it's no use threatening anyone with an empty blaster - see the diode flashing? Here, the Sullustan pilot and the students are on the same side and pull the trick on someone else. Perfectly legitimate in the first case, not so much in the second. Gade may not have been a soldier or anything, but he was a bit more familiar with weapons. But hey, Rule of Funny.

    Fan Works 
  • In Azumanga Royale, Chiyo makes a point of counting her shots, only to learn the hard way that the six-shooter she was issued had only been loaded with four bullets.
  • Didn't Expect That: Eleya's first instinct on waking up out of a sound sleep to discover there's a Section 31 agent in her quarters is to try to shoot him. Unfortunately, her phaser was hanging in plain view and he had removed the power pack, which she doesn't discover until she pulls the trigger. So she throws it in his general direction.
  • In a Halloween special for A Game of Cat and Cat, a ghost haunting Mikado Castle gives a small metal object to a group of Samurai-in-training. They later discover, to their horror, that it's the firing pin to their hated teacher's gun, and that she went into combat not knowing that it was sabotaged; had she died, they would have been framed for her death.
  • Solaere ssiun Hnaifv'daenn: In an homage to a scene in the Babylon 5 episode "A Day in the Strife", Tovan tr'Khev quells an incipient riot by handing a gun to the instigator, who had accused him of hiding behind his weapons, and daring him to use it on him. The tough is too scared to try it and things calm down. Only afterward, when his second-in-command asks him if he's lost his mind, does he reveal he removed the gun's power cell before giving it to the other guy.
  • Vale's Underground: After shooting one of his workers in a fit of rage, Taurus goes to shoot Cinder with the same gun. She then lets him know that he should reconsider shooting her with an empty gun. Pulling the trigger only proves that he wasted all his ammo on the worker, but even as she smiles, that doesn't stop him from pistol-whipping her in the face.
  • The Horsewomen Of Las Vegas has a Secret Test of Character version, where Charlotte Flair gave Tessa Blanchard a gun and ordered her to kill her mentor, Magnum TA. Tessa took the gun and fired it straight up in the air. When nothing happened, she handed it back and told Charlotte, "You'd never hand me a loaded gun".
  • This Bites!:
    • In Chapter 27, Cross is running for his life from Mr. 13 through Mock Town. In a quick move, Cross steals another man's pistol and trains it on Mr. 13... only to discover it isn't loaded.
    Gun owner: You Hooligan! Who the hell steals another man's pistol!?
    Cross: Who doesn't load their fucking pistol in a pirate town!?
    • In Chapter 67, Cross realizes this trope and even grabs a gun and pulls the trigger while holding it to his own temple. The context? He's well aware that the Marines are still Slaves to PR, so the last thing that Sengoku would authorize is for their soldiers to load their guns against a mob of civilians that have just been convinced to riot against the Sabaody slave trade.

    Films — Animation 
  • Played with in Batman: Assault on Arkham when The Joker pulls a gun on Deadshot. Deadshot calmly says he's out of ammo. Joker protests that he isn't and fires into the ceiling to prove it. Deadshot then uses the opening to punch him.
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: Joker pulls the trigger on a scared mook and a bang flag pops out of the gun. Joker says he was only kidding and the mook relaxes. Then he pulls the trigger again, which shoots the bang flag into the mook's chest. "Oops, no I wasn't."
  • One of the villains in Big Top Scooby-Doo! attempts to shoot Scooby with a tranquilizer gun, only to discover that Shaggy has taken the darts out of the gun.
  • Played with in Castle in the Sky. In the depths of the flying city, the young hero Pazu is facing down the villain Muska. Pazu has his big grenade launcher, had been given two shells, which we know he has already used, so Pazu's bluffing. Muska has his handgun leveled at Pazu, however, he lowers it, apparently falling for the bluff. But why? A real close look will show Miyazaki's attention to the details. The shot is looking over Muska's shoulder and we see his handgun with the hammer pulled down... and it's obvious there's no bullets in the chamber — having run out of bullets too!
  • In Rango, The Mayor holds Beans hostage and orders Rango to surrender his gun. Shortly afterward, he suddenly turns on Rattlesnake Jake, claiming he doesn't need him anymore, and tries to shoot him with Rango's gun. It clicks empty, as Rango reveals he removed the bullet before handing the gun over.
  • During the climax of Zootopia, we learn that Night Howler serum is blue and is encased in a small spherical pellet delivered by an air gun. The pellet happens to be the same size as a blueberry, which Nick and Judy conveniently exploit in the climax by swapping the serum pellet with blueberries before Bellwether gets a hold of the gun.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Abyss: The medic reveals he removed Coffey's ammo clip when Coffey is about to shoot Brigman. Justified because Coffey was suffering from a severe case of High Pressure Nervous Syndrome and most likely would not have noticed.
  • The Art of War: After holding an FBI agent at gunpoint, Shaw calmly hands him back his Glock buttfirst, but presses down the magazine release catch as he does so, so the magazine falls out and bounces under the car. As he drives off, Shaw holds up the chamber round as well.
  • At the beginning of The A-Team, a Mexican drug cartel has captured Hannibal Smith. They go to shoot him with his own gun. Click. Click. Hannibal had removed the firing pin. He uses it to pick his handcuffs, then puts the pin back in place in enough time to shoot his way out.
  • Assault on Precinct 13 (1976): When Wells turns his gun on the others in a bid to escape, Leigh stands in front of him and gives an impassioned speech on why he will fail. She bravely reaches out to take his weapon, then facepalms when she realizes, "I go through all that, and his gun isn't even loaded." Thanks to the gun's Hollywood Silencer, Wells himself didn't know he'd run out of bullets, and had been pulling the trigger on an empty gun in the middle of a shootout.
  • Avengers: Endgame has Tony doing this to Thanos wearing the Infinity Gauntlet with all of the Stones. After flinging Tony away, Thanos does the Snap again, trying to destroy the whole universe, only for nothing to happen. He looks at the gauntlet, emptied of all the Stones. Turns out Tony had used his suit's nanotech to swipe them during the grapple.
  • In Avengers: Infinity War, Star-Lord prepares to perform a Mercy Kill Arrangement on Gamora, but Thanos uses the Reality Stone to turn the blaster fire into bubbles.
  • Twisted gloriously in Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, After Gant's kid is stolen by Sever, the agent who was watching over him was handed a gun and told to blow his brains out. He decides it'd be better used to shoot Gant. It doesn't work because the gun's been modified to shoot backwards, so if he'd actually tried to suicide he would have been okay. Instead he got shot in the face. One of the (very) few good moments in the movie.
  • Battlefield Earth. The humans raided Chief of Security Terl's weapons room. When he shows up, they pull out Terl's guns and start making demands. He laughs at them, lets them fire, then reminds them that he NEVER stores loaded weapons before overpowering them.
  • The Beach. The Thai marijuana farmers pull this trick on Sal — they hand her a gun which they say has a bullet in the chamber and tell her to execute Richard; if she does her community will be allowed to stay. She pulls the trigger and nothing happens, causing her Villainous Breakdown and the instant disintegration of the community, which is what the farmers wanted in the first place.
  • Big Driver: Following a Gun Struggle, Ramona gets hold of Tess's gun, points it at her and pulls the trigger. There is a click as the hammer falls on an empty chamber. Tess stabs Ramona and grabs the gun back:
    Tess: First rule of gun ownership... always keep the first chamber empty... it leads to people accidentally shooting themselves.
  • Big Game uses it as a variation, as the Uzi is loaded, but Moore doesn't know that you should cock it before you pull the trigger. Morris takes the gun out of his hands and point it out. Doubles as Chekhov's Skill.
  • Played with in the film Big Trouble. The bad guys have Tim Allen's son and others held hostage in the living room, and Tim sees a water gun in the sink. He removes the water cartridge, leaving it looking surprisingly realistic, and walks out of the kitchen, pointing it at the second mook's head. He almost has them convinced, too, until the first mook (slightly smarter than his partner, which isn't saying much) sees water dripping from the muzzle of the 'gun'. He then grabs the gun from Tim's hands and squirts the remaining water from it.
  • In Black Patch, Frenchy doctors the shells in the gun he provides Hank by dunking them in champagne to ruin the powder. This guarantees Hank will get shot killed while trying to escape.
  • Blackthorn. Eduardo has Blackthorn at gunpoint until Blackthorn holds up a handful of bullets. Subverted later when it's revealed that those were Blackthorn's bullets and Eduardo's gun was loaded the whole time.
  • Blade (1998) has a "works better with your hand" variant. Blade's katana has a mechanism in the handle that horribly mangles the hand if its timer isn't disabled. It's only used to comedic effect by a vampire mook (who'll regenerate his hand anyway), however.
  • Employed in Bloodfist VI when the hero hands his gun to The Mole and then turns his back to her.
  • The Bodyguard From Beijing has a scene where Charlie tries holding a mook at gunpoint and begins interrogating him, but when he pulls the trigger by accident, he only managed to wet the mook's face due to the gun being swapped with a water pistol. The question of how a supposedly trained bodyguard couldn't tell the difference in weight between a real gun and a toy is never addressed.
  • Boggy Creek 2: And the Legend Continues: Professor Lockhart reveals he removed the ammo from Crenshaw's shotgun.
  • When Dr. Hail suffers his Villainous Breakdown during the Prison Riot in Boot Camp, he draws a gun and attempts to shoot Sophie, Ben and Jack, only to discover that his wife has unloaded the gun.
  • Jason Bourne pulls this on a fellow assassin in The Bourne Supremacy. The victim even mentions that the weapon "felt a little light."
  • Zig-Zagging Trope in Broken Arrow (1996), another John Woo movie. After being forcibly ejected from his plane, Captain Riley Hale finds himself in a standoff with Park Ranger Terri Carmichael, during which he gets ahold of her gun — except she says she doesn't keep it loaded. A minute later, when she reclaims the gun and points it at him, he reminds her that it's not loaded — until she fires a shot in the air and says, "I Lied."
  • Used by guile type III antihero Carlito Brigante in Carlito's Way. His former attorney Dave Kleinfeld has murdered Tony "T" Taglialucci and his son, and tried selling Carlito out to the district attorney, with Carlito also implicated in the crime. Kleinfeld is stabbed by an assassin and hospitalized. Carlito visits Kleinfeld in the hospital, where Kleinfeld clumsily pulls a revolver from under his pillow, fully expecting that the mafia intends to finish the job. He lowers the weapon when he sees it's Carlito. Carlito delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and briefly takes the weapon away, then tells Kleinfeld the weapon should be on his tray, not under his pillow. Carlito leaves. Shortly afterwards, Tony T's other son Vinnie enters, dressed as a police officer, to assassinate Kleinfeld. Kleinfeld lifts his revolver, pulls the trigger first...only to realize that Carlito removed all the bullets. Carlito knew Davey was an academic with no street sense, and the mafia would send someone to finish the job. Vinnie shoots Kleinfeld in the head without much more difficulty.
  • Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers: While fighting Darkie at the auction, Hibiscus falls down some steps and drops her gun. Grabbing it again, she points it at Darkie while saying "Bang!" several times. Bewildered, Darkie grabs the gun from her, points it at her and pulls the trigger, only to discover that she had popped out the clip when she fell down.
  • Circus: When Lily handcuffs Elmo to the door of the bank and leaves him there for the cops, he attempts to shoot her, only to discover that she has unloaded his gun.
  • In Clegg, Harry is held at gunpoint by a Mook in the back of a car:
    I really wasn't worried. The zombie was using my own .38 and I just remembered: I'd forgotten to load it that morning.
  • Clue: In the first ending, after Miss Scarlet is exposed as the killer, they threaten to shoot Wadsworth with The Revolver. Wadsworth, however, claims that the gun is now empty, leading to a somewhat brief debate over how many times the gun's been fired in the movie. Scarlet was right about there being one more bullet.
  • Commando: Cooke has John Matrix at gunpoint after losing a fist brawl, and...
    Cooke: Fuck you, asshole! [attempts to shoot, but the gun has no ammo]
    Matrix: Fuck you, asshole! [punches Cooke]
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), after Villefort, one of the villains, accidentally confesses to murder, the policeman loads him into the wagon with a single shot pistol as "a courtesy for a gentleman". The disgraced villain, facing a lifetime of slow torment in prison, puts it in his mouth and... click. Cue the protagonist's final taunt:
    Dantes: You didn't think I'd make it that easy, did you?
  • During the long cat-and-mouse battle that makes up much of Crackerjack, the hero's gun is wrestled from him by one of the bad guys, who predictably taunts him with "Any last words?" The hero's response: "Only eight bullets per clip, son." Click.
  • During Dr. Ordway's final confrontation with the killer in The Crime Doctor's Strangest Case, the killer attempts to shoot him only to discover that his gun has been unloaded.
  • The Crimson Rivers: Max Kerkerian, cop, dramatically puts down his gun and badge to goad an aggressive skinhead into a fistfight. "There, no more cop." As the fight starts going badly for him, the skinhead tries to threaten Max with his own gun, only to get his face thoroughly broken. Max then shows him the magazine, which was in his pocket the whole time.
  • Morgan does this to a bounty hunter who is after her at the start of Cutthroat Island. After bedding him, she steals the balls from his pistols.
  • The Devil's Rejects: Comes at a crucial junction where hostage Gloria tries to turn the tables on the Ax-Crazy seductress Baby. Baby and Otis were playing Gloria and the Sullivans the whole time, using an unloaded .45 pistol to order them to fulfil their depraved fantasies. Just when Gloria finally thinks she has the upper hand on her captor, Baby gruesomely dispatches her with a knife.
  • Déjà Vu (2006): played with at the climax: agent Carlin takes the magazine out of his gun and when it slide-locks, he sticks a single bullet into the chamber, making his gun look empty to the terrorist and allowing him to get close enough for a single Boom, Headshot!.
  • Die Hard: John McClane loans a gun to an escaped hostage who is really the Big Bad Hans Gruber masquerading with an American accent. When Gruber tries to shoot McClane with the gun and finds it empty, McClane waves the magazine at Gruber and mocks him.
    John: Aw, no bullets? What, you think I'm fucking stupid, Hans?
    (elevator shows up with Hans' subordinates, all armed)
    Hans: You were saying?
  • Harry's infamous line from Dirty Harry uses this to intimidate his opponent. The first guy backs down and lets himself be arrested, though it turns out Harry was out. Scorpio, on the other hand, does feel lucky. He really wasn't.:
    Harry Callahan: I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking "did he fire six shots or only five?" Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow you head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?
  • Dobermann: A self-inflicted version occurs with the transvestite who tries to protect Pitbull from the cops, only to realise the cartridges in her gun contain drugs instead of gunpowder. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
  • Dr. Terror's House of Horrors: In "Werewolf", Dawson shoots the werewolf with no effect. He wonders what happened, explaining that he had six Silver Bullets made from a melted down crucifix, which should have been guaranteed to kill it. Deirdre Biddulph opens her hand and asks him if he means these bullets.
  • Double Subverted with the guard's gun in Exam. It's fully loaded, but only recognizes the guard's fingerprint. That said, the "bullets" are actually pills that heal the wounded.
  • Another instance with Bruce Willis is in The Fifth Element, where he convinces an incredibly jumpy mugger that he first has to press the glowing yellow button on the side of his weapon (otherwise very flashy, including being double-magazined, spike-encrusted, and endowed with an extra wide Muzzle of Doom) to load it. After the mugger does so (which actually disables the mugger's weapon), Korben Dallas draws his own pistol and takes the mugger's weapon away to add it to his collection.
  • Firestorm (1998): While in the truck with Packer and Loomis, Jennifer manages to get hold of one of the guns. She uses it hold them at bay until Packer holds up the magazine, suggesting she might want this.
  • Foolproof: Sam holds Leo at gunpoint, hinting he should let the heroes quit his service. When he mockingly asks if Sam thinks he'd give her a loaded gun, she reveals that she pickpocketed the ammo clip from him.
  • Fugitive Alien. The Captain never keeps bullets in his gun, which makes it easy for him to overcome Ken when he grabs it out of his holster.
  • In F/X: Murder by Illusion, the Big Bad takes the hero Rollie's SMG, only to discover that Rollie had emptied the gun and applied superglue to the handles. Rollie throws the villain out the door to face a squad of cops, who order him to drop the gun or they'll fire. It doesn't end well.
  • In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, while they're waiting in the small dugout for the soldiers to leave the area where the bridge used to be Blondie, while Tuco is asleep, empties the bandit's gun, so that in the final showdown, he shoots Angel Eyes without Tuco interfering.
  • The Gray Man (2022). Miranda, standing on a hospital ledge, calls for Sierra Six to throw up a shotgun to her. She only realises it's unloaded when she attempts to fire at Lone Wolf. When she calls out Six, he points out that throwing a loaded gun is insanely reckless and questions why she'd assume a highly trained black ops operative such as himself would engage in such a flagrant violation of gun safety. This becomes a Brick Joke when Six—facing a hostage situation—is called to throw away his gun. He unloads it first, saying no-one throws a loaded gun.
  • In Headless Horseman, Nash grabs Sheriff Otis's gun out of his holster and points out the sheriff. When the sheriff draws his back-up piece, Nash pulls the trigger several times only for nothing to happen. Otis then points out that the revolver is a single-action and that it has to be cocked before it will fire.
  • During the final showdown in Headhunters, Clas discovers that Diana has switched the cartridges in gun with blanks.
  • Hopscotch. Miles Kendig takes a revolver off his protégé Joe Cutter, then ties him up at gunpoint so he can escape. He then goes to unload Joe's gun and finds that it's empty.
    Kendig: No bullets. I'm proud of you, Joe.
  • In House on Haunted Hill (1959), Nora is baffled that Frederick is still alive after she shot him. He calmly explains that he had loaded her gun with blanks.
  • In The Immortals, Pete reveals why he isn't scared when he and Jack have guns pointed at each others' heads:
    I counted the holes in the wall. There are six. That gun holds six bullets, and you haven't had time to reload.
  • Subverted in In Bruges. Ray disarms the man trying to rob him and he finds out it's only loaded with blanks. He still manages to blind him by firing a blank into his eye, though.
  • A subversion of this ends badly for a cop in Incident At Ravens Gate when a mysterious government agent pulls a gun on him.
    Cop: You dumb fuck! I unloaded the gun!
    Agent: *shoots him* I guess I must have reloaded it.
  • In the film In the Line of Fire Clint Eastwood's character while working undercover is told to shoot his partner who's been identified as a Secret Service agent. He does so, knowing from the pistol's weight that the gun is empty. Afterwards his partner asks: "What if there'd been a bullet in the chamber?" Clint has no answer to this.
  • Jack's Back: During their fight, Jack grabs Rick's gun and attempts to shoot him with it, only for nothing to happen because the guy who sold it to him didn't sell him any bullets.
  • James Bond:
    • In Casino Royale (2006), the black-and-white opening sequence sees a corrupt MI6 section chief draw a pistol out of his desk drawer. Bond shows him the magazine before terminating him.
      Dryden: Shame. We'd barely gotten to know each other. [click]
      Bond: [holds up magazine] I know where you keep your gun. I suppose that's something.
    • Reversed in Die Another Day, when Bond pulls out his gun, and Miranda comes in, reveals that she has been working with Graves all along and that she had sabotaged the firing pin of Bond's gun after sleeping with him. Otherwise, we would have James Bond not realizing that his gun was empty.
    • In Dr. No, Bond knocks Professor Dent's pistol out of his hand and holds him at gunpoint. As Bond looks away, Dent gets his pistol back and tries to fire, but it's empty, leading Bond to remark "That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six.", and shoots him.
    • In Licence to Kill, Q issues Bond with a signature gun that will only fire when it verifies Bond's palm print on the stock. This saves Bond's life when a ninja snatches it off him and tries to fire it.
    • In Skyfall, Q issues a weapon similar to the one from Licence to Kill. During the fight with Silva's thugs in the Macau casino one of them gets the gun away from him and levels it at him. Bond goes, "Good luck with that," and climbs out of the komodo dragon pit as one of them chomps the thug from behind.
    • In Spectre, Bond discovers too late during a car chase that his car's built in guns are not loaded and must find a different way to win. Much later, M calls out Denbigh on his carelessness, after the latter tries to shoot him without checking if his gun is still loaded (the bullets are all in M's hand).
    • A deleted scene from GoldenEye had a variant between Valentin Zukovsky and an inept Pakistani arms dealer. The dealer tries to sell a Glock pistol, but Zukovsky quickly identifies it as a Chinese knockoff. Things quickly escalate to Zukovsky holding the dealer up with his own merchandise, but when he pulls the trigger nothing happens — the knockoff's firing pin was too short.
  • Jonah Hex: Hooker with a Heart of Gold Lilah keeps a Colt Theur Derringer in her room for protection. She pulls it to get rid of her obsessed client, Grayden Nash, who later sneaks it from its hiding place and fires it at her. Missing once, he puts it to her head and fires again, but she informs him that it is a single-shot weapon.
  • Judas Kiss: When Hornbeck's thugs break into the hideout, Coco grabs one one the guns only to find that someone has removed the magazine.
  • John Woo's The Killer (1989) has the title character doing this to his handler Fung Sei in an awesome scene in which he demands the money he was promised in order to have Jenny's eyes fixed and the name of the guy who had him ambushed at the beach following the job he did to raise that money. Fung Sei has been persuaded by Wong Hoi to kill him rather than give him the money, and the briefcase that was supposed to hold the money has nothing but worthless paper inside. When he puts his weapon down to open it, Fung Sei grabs the gun and points it at him, at which point Ah Jong starts laughing. Fung Sei pulls the trigger, only to have it click on an empty chamber, and Ah Jong reveals that he unloaded it when he shows Fung Sei the bullets, just before pulling his other gun, fully loaded, on him.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy pilfers a mook's rifle and tries to turn it on some other mooks, but the magazine is empty. Fortunately, Merlin's is loaded. When Eggsy does this again later, he makes sure this one is loaded.
  • Knives Out: Ransom grabs a knife from his grandfather's rather extensive collection to kill Marta after being exposed for his crimes. Fortunately, the one he picked happened to be a stage prop with a blunted (and retracting) blade.
    Ransom: ...Shit.
  • Subverted in Last Action Hero when the Big Bad Benedict tries to shoot Jack Slater (Ahnuld), only to hear the familiar *click*. Slater and the Big Bad have had trouble adjusting to the real world; Slater thinks he's forgotten that guns don't have unlimited ammo here, and calls him out on it. Benedict tells him that he simply left one chamber empty and shoots him.
  • 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.
  • Law Abiding Citizen. The gun is not only unloaded, but pulling the trigger releases needles in the grip injecting the firer with a paralysing neurotoxin.
    • The man Clyde was after is convinced to follow his directions running from the police because "you fired six shots genius."
  • In the scifi B-Movie Legion, the protagonist—a soldier awaiting execution—overpowers his guards and bursts into a room waving a pistol, only to find his former commanding officer waiting for him. Unsurprisingly the gun is empty. "Good! I had to see if you still had the edge. Two years hard time can break any man's spirit." The soldier lunges at him only to be disarmed and pistolwhipped by his aide, a female officer played by Terry Farrell.
  • An interesting variation on this trope is in Lock Up. Leone straps Drumgoole into the antiquated electric chair and then straps his own hand to the switch, so that if the guards shoot him, he'll fall and throw it. Since Drumgoole had the chair restored, everyone believes it will work if Leone throws the switch. After Drumgoole confesses to setting Leone up, Leone pulls the switch down anyway. Drumgoole screams like he's being electrocuted, but nothing happens. Then Frank holds up the fuse he'd removed from the fuse box earlier. "Works better with this," he says.
  • In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Nick shows his displeasure with hunting by pulling the bullets from Roland's elephant rifle ammo while he's not around. When Roland attempts to kill the T-Rex that attacks the camp, he finds that his rifle is useless and the dinosaur proceeds to kill a number of men.
  • In Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior the gyro captain is held at shotgun-point for a considerable part of the movie, only to find to his disgust that Max's shotgun was empty all the time. In a further irony, the shotgun cartridge which Max eventually finds turns out to be a dud.
  • The Man Who Came Back: When Kate comes into the bedroom to make sure her husband Caleb is dead, she finds Paxton waiting for her. She grabs Caleb's revolver of the table, points it at Paxton and pulls the trigger. The hammer falls on an empty chamber and Paxton just smiles, saying that he is luckier than her.
  • The Matrix, during the final fight of the original movie between Neo and Agent Smith.
    Agent Smith: You're empty.
    Neo: So are you.
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout: After being exposed as John Lark, August Walker steals Hunley's gun and tries to shoot Ethan's team only to learn the gun isn't loaded.
  • Mitchell. Subverted, in that baddie Walter Deaney claims he randomly keeps guns loaded in the gun locker, trying to disguise the fact none of them were loaded.note 
  • Money Movers: During the final firefight, Eric pulls Leo's pistol out his holster and squeezes the trigger, only to have the hammer repeatedly fall on an empty camber. Before he can work out what is happening, he is shot repeatedly by the just arriving Griffiths. Later Griffiths demands to know why Leo's gun wasn't loaded, as per regulations. Leo explains that he hates guns, so he always takes the shells out and sticks them in his pocket.
  • In Mr. Brooks, Earl pretends he's going to let "Mr. Smith" shoot him. But there's a dry click when Smith pulls the trigger. Earl then informs Smith that earlier he'd bent the firing pin on Smith's pistol, just in case Earl changed his mind about letting Smith kill him.
  • Used in reverse as part of a suicide pact no less in Murder by Numbers (2002). Richie's gun doesn't have any bullets — but Justin's does. He realises the betrayal and... is not happy.
  • Following Poirot's Leave Behind a Pistol moment in Murder on the Orient Express (2017), Mrs Hubbard takes the pistol and attempts to commit suicide, only to discover the gun is not loaded.
  • In The Net, after Jack takes his gun from Angela, yet doesn't realize that it's empty (she removed the magazine) until he tries to shoot it, again, begging the question of why he didn't notice the weight difference.
  • Nevada Smith (1966). Steve McQueen (actor) tries to rob a passing traveler using a rusty abandoned revolver. The man turns out to be a gunsmith, and readily identifies several faults with the gun that makes it unlikely to fire, not least being the chambers are empty.
  • In Nine Dead, Leon manages to wrestle Shooter's automatic off him: discharging a single shot as he does so. Shooter calmly tells him that he chambers a single round in that gun before he enters the cell to execute one of the captives. He draws a revolver and continues that this gun, however, contains six bullets. Leon pulls the trigger and discovers that Shooter was telling the truth.
  • Something like this happens in Ninja Cheerleaders, where it's noted that the crossbow Kinji holds has a single bolt... which is promptly used on Det. Harris. It's unexplained how the eponymous cheerleaders got past Kinji, given their sudden drop in skill later on.
  • Nite Tales: The Movie: In "Storm", James dares the cop to shoo him, knowing that the gun he is carrying is a fake.
  • Happens offscreen in North By Northwest; the villain's housekeeper holds the hero at bay with a gun she's picked up. Unfortunately for her, it's the same gun the heroine used to fake shooting him earlier; it's only loaded with blanks, and he knows it.
  • In Parker, Parker breaks into Melander's hideout and bends the firing pins on all of the gang's hidden guns he can find. This proves a vital precaution during his final confrontation with the gang.
  • In Pet Sematary Two, a kid tries to murder his undead stepdad only to find that the stepdad has removed the bullets from the shotgun.
  • In Petticoat Planet, a Showdown at High Noon between the sheriff and the mayor is averted when both of them discover that they have forgotten to load their gun.
  • Early in Point of No Return, the still rebellious reluctant hero (Bridget Fonda) attacks her handler (Gabriel Byrne) and disarms him. She points the automatic at her unflinching handler, who merely looks at her calmly, and pulls the trigger. After the pointless click, he takes the gun away from the stunned hero, and punches her, causing her to fall down. He then says something like "Lesson one: Never chamber the first round," and shoots her in the leg. Much the same thing happens in Nikita, the movie that Point of No Return is a remake of.
  • Played for laughs in the third Police Academy film. One exercise for the recruits is to kick open a door and shoot the target behind it. Tackleberry's brother-in-law shoots out the doorknob, kicks open the door, and tries to shoot the target. Click.
  • The Predator. As soon as she awakens in a hotel room surrounded by (literal) escaped lunatics, Casey Bracket grabs a shotgun and does a Dramatic Gun Cock when Quinn McKenna approaches. When she attempts to fire, turns out they weren't careless enough to leave it loaded, being former military soldiers. And were actually taking bets on if she'd grab the conveniently-placed weapon.
  • The Professionals. After Dolworth shoots Chiquita, who used to be his former lover, he goes over to the dying woman to give her some water. While he's cradling her in his arms, she puts her revolver under his chin and pulls the trigger, but she's used all her ammunition. Neither of them take this personally, with Chiquita just saying it's not her lucky day.
  • Inverrted in Powerful Four. During a staged training exercise, the shooter, a policeman, assumes he's firing blanks in public, only to realize its loaded.
  • Reversed, and combined with You Have Failed Me, in Push. The Big Bad makes one of his minions shoot himself in the soft palate by telepathically convincing him the gun is empty.
  • Played for Drama in Red Sparrow. While torturing Dominika to find out who tipped off the Americans about Charlotte Bouchet, the mole SVR was developing on a senator's staff, the female officer in charge shows her a video of her station chief being asked if he sold out Bouchet and then being shot in back of the head when he denies it. The officer then puts a gun to the back of her head and asks her the same question. She denies it, and her torturer pulls the trigger on an empty chamber. Dominika promptly throws up in shock.
  • Red Sun (1971). The prostitute Cristina pretends to seduce Charles Bronson's character, only to grab his revolver and try to shoot him instead. The revolver is empty because as Bronson quips, "You never know which gun Cristina's going to reach for."
  • In Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Alice and Doc find some guns and arm themselves, but Alice secretly removes the bullets in Doc's gun after deducing he is a traitor. Eventually, Doc tries to shoot her and fails.
  • Revenge (2017): When Demi stops to take a piss, he leaves his rifle propped against a rock. Jen sneaks in and grabs the rifle. However, when she attempts to shoot him, she discovers the rifle is unloaded. Dimi is too experienced a hunter to leave a loaded rifle lying around unattended, and he was actually using the rifle as bait to lure her out of hiding.
  • Rogue (2020): After learning that Pata used to be member of al-Shabaab, Tessa grabs an automatic off the table and points it at his head. Following Pata's tearful confession, Joey reaches over and snatches the gun out of her hand, then tells her that it wasn't loaded; all of the guns having been unloaded earlier when they checking how much ammo they had left.
  • Sands of the Kalahari: When O'Brien attempts to force Grimmelman to walk into the desert at gunpoint, Grimmelman manages to snatch the rifle off him. Holding the gun on O'Brien, Grimmelman tells him that is not necessarily the weak old man O'Brien thinks he is, and tells him a story of what he had to do to survive during WWII. O'Brien then tells him that he unloaded the rifle while Grimmelman wasn't looking. Grimmelman pulls the trigger, but the hammer falls on an empty chamber. O'Brien then snatches the rifle back and beats Grimmelman to death.
  • Seven Ways from Sundown: During the trip back to Texas, Flood manages to trick Seven and garb his six-gun, only to discover that Seven had anticipated this and unloaded the gun.
  • Shaun of the Dead has David, after being decked by Shaun for insulting his Mercy Killed mother, pointing the rifle at Shaun's face and pulling the trigger. The rifle was thankfully out of bullets, but if it was loaded, David would have flat-out murdered Shaun in cold blood. Needless to say, everybody around him treats this as his Moral Event Horizon.
  • In Shooter, Bobby Lee Swagger demonstrates that his rifle couldn't have been used in an assassination by loading it and telling an agent to shoot him with it. It turns out that every time he stored his firearms, he swapped the firing pins for non-functional ones.
  • The final shootout of Slaughter in Xi'an have the hero, Ho Yuen-hsing, having his gun stolen from his belt by Lord Qu, who then tries shooting Yuan-hsing. But said gun is actually empty - Yuen-hsing purposely allows his enemy to steal an emptied weapon so he could get the drop on his opponent.
  • Double subverted in the second Smokey and the Bandit film. Justice tries to stop the Bandit from leaving a shipping yard and the Bandit tricks him into using up all of his bullets. Anticipating this, Justice asks Junior for his gun. However, Junior's gun is also empty. His excuse: "When I put bullets in it, daddy, it gets too heavy."
  • Invoked in Snowpiercer. Curtis believes that Wilford's people have used up all their ammunition, and that the guns the tail-section guards carry are just for show, based on a slip of the tongue from Wilford telling a soldier to "put down that useless gun". It's a logical assumption on the part of Curtis, but there's no way he could know that for sure. Curtis decides to find out for himself when he races to the front of the crowd during a headcount, grabs a guard's assault rifle, puts the barrel of the gun to his own head, and pulls the trigger himself. Click. It's empty. Cue "THEY'VE GOT NO BULLETS!" and the beginning of a massive riot. It's subverted later on, though, when the protagonists learn the hard way that the guards do have ammo. They were just saving it for when it was necessary.
  • The climax of Sleeper features Woody Allen's character holding a gun on the disembodied nose of The Leader and threatening to shoot. When his hand is forced, he shoots, only for the gun to turn out to be one of those gag guns that releases a flag that says Bang! He then drops the gun and runs away.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Chekov is captured by 1980-s US naval officers (who think he is a spy because of his accent), and while they are trying to get him to 'tell the truth' he grabs his phaser, points it at one, and threatens to stun them if they don't let him go. Of course, the phaser doesn't work, and he is forced to use the simple expedient of throwing the phaser at the guy and running.
  • The Suckers: When baxter learns about Vandemmer's plan for Hunting the Most Dangerous Game, and that he is to be included among the prey, he draws his revolver and shoots at Vandemmer. After a series of empty clicks, Vandemeer informs him that he removed the firing pins from his guns the previous night.
  • Lampshaded and averted in Suicide Squad (2016). The first thing Deadshot does upon being issued a .45 pistol is to point it at Griggs, the prison guard he promised to kill earlier. But Deadshot doesn't believe anyone would be stupid enough to give the best sharpshooter in the world a loaded gun, so he assumes it's full of dummy rounds and fires it in the air. To his shock, the pistol goes off. He then joyfully fires the rest downrange (killing Griggs would get him nothing, after all).
  • Played with beautifully in Support Your Local Sheriff. In the jail, the baddie has recovered his revolver, and points it at James Garner's sheriff character. Garner points out that he's long since removed the bullets from the gun. The baddie slumps and hands over the pistol, whereupon Garner opens the cylinder and removes the bullets. Seems he'd neglected to actually do that before trying this stunt.
  • S.W.A.T. (2003): When the hero, Street and the big bad Gamble are fighting over a gun, the magazine falls out. Street gets control and aims it at the villain, who taunts him holding the magazine, and Street remarks "one in the chamber" before racking it to get rid of the bullet and throws it away so he and the Big Bad can continue beating the crap out of each other. While it might count as a subversion for the viewer because the audience would be expecting more typical Hollywood gun rules, it's pretty doubtful that the villain would think the gun is empty given that the pair are both former Special Forces and SWAT. It is likely that the villain was trying to throw off his opponent by convincing him it was empty.
  • Near the end of Tag: The Assassination Game, a doomed security guard shows why it's a good idea to have your gun loaded before you need to use it when the villain shoots him while he's loading his gun.
  • In Taken, Liam Neeson's character Bryan points out to a Face Heel Turner that he's been out of the field too long, since he should have been able to tell the difference in weight between a loaded and an unloaded pistol.
  • In Ten Dead Men, Ryan leaves Axel with a pistol to kill himself. Instead, Axel points the gun at the back of Ryan's head as soon as Ryan turns away. However, the hammer falls on an empty chamber, and Ryan turns around holding a single bullet between his thumb and forefinger. He then draws a machete...
  • In Terminator Salvation, Blair Williams leaves her gun unattended while resting at an abandoned building. A bunch of thugs steal it and threaten her with it. She then tells them it would help if it was loaded, before attacking the guy holding it.
  • In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) remake, the (evil) sheriff gave his gun to one of the good guys in order to demonstrate the suicide they saw in the beginning of the movie. When he stuck the gun in his mouth as a demonstration, the sheriff told him to pull the trigger. The victim instead, not wanting to commit suicide, pointed the gun at the sheriff and pulled the trigger. The gun was unloaded. The sheriff got him for attempted murder.
  • In The Thin Man Goes Home, the doctor who murdered two people whips out the Japanese rifle that was displayed prominently on the table, pointing it at Nick. Oops, "I forgot to tell you, they removed the firing pin from that gun."
    • In Shadow of the Thin Man, after the climactic 'whodunnit' reveal, the Big Bad grabs the gun from Nick's waist holster and threatens to shoot him. Nora jumps on him to keep him from being able to pull the trigger, but when the Lieutenant picks it up he says 'Nick, this gun isn't loaded!' Turns out, Nick had kept it unloaded for the sake of his son to prevent any accidents.
  • This Is the End: When Franco and the other actors offer to throw Danny out of the house for being a nuisance, Danny uses the gun Franco gave him to shoot the rest of the actors, only for Franco to reveal it was just a prop gun with no real bullets. Danny is appalled that Franco would give him a fake gun, but Seth rightfully points out that he tried to shoot them all with said gun.
    Danny: Thank you, James. It means a lot to you and I appreciate that you gave [the gun] to me. You stupid... STUPID MOTHERFUCKERS!!
    (Danny shoots at the gang, but fails to kill them as there were no real bullets)
    Franco: You fucking psychopath, it's a prop gun! You think I put real bullets in here?
    Danny: You were gonna send me out there with a fucking gun filled with blanks?!
    Seth: Oh, fuck you! Don't turn this around us! You tried to shoot us, you fucking dickhead!
  • Tremors. The Not So Crazy Survivalist Burt Gummer refuses to give a gun to Jerkass kid Melvin Plug ("I wouldn't give you a gun if it was World War Three!"). Minutes later when Melvin balks at making a run for safety, Burt apparently relents and hands the kid a revolver, much to Melvin's delight. Melvin is less overjoyed when he pulls the trigger and finds out it's empty. Bonus points — after taking said gun back, Burt checks it again to make sure it is still unloaded, averting Artistic License – Gun Safety as hard as possible.
  • Tommy Lee Jones does it in U.S. Marshals: he checks his villainous partner's gun and gives it back to him. When he comes to use it on him, there's no bullets. Since it wasn't his normal gun, this also addresses the "different weight" issue.
  • Inverted in Utu. Te Wheke tosses the preacher a loaded gun, knowing full well that his victim would hesitate to use it. This gives Te Wheke enough time to decapitate the minister with an axe.
    "Would I give you a loaded gun? Of course I would!"
  • In Vice (2015), Detective Roy Tedeschi arrests a rapist at the resort as he sexually assaults one of the androids. The rapists points a gun at Tedeschi and pulls the trigger only for nothing to happen. Tedeschi then tells that the gun only works on 'residents' and knocks the rapist to the floor and cuffs him.
  • In Weekend at Bernie's the trope is technically played straight and the protagonists avoid death at the hands of a mook because his gun is empty. However, the mook points out immediately afterwards that although his gun is empty, he has dozens more rounds in his jacket, and chases the protagonists as he reloads.
  • In the old Humphrey Bogart movie We're No Angels, three convicts (the main characters, long story) are being threatened by the villain who tries to pull a gun on them - but one of the convicts (a thief and safecracker) hands him the gun, saying "Here, I cleaned it for you." The villain snatches away the gun and crows with victory. The same convict then says "Oh, I'm sorry... I also cleaned the bullets," revealing a handful of same.
  • Smith (Richard Burton) confronts The Mole at the end of Where Eagles Dare, but The Mole has a gun pointed at him. No problem: it was arranged he would have that gun, and the firing pin has been removed.
  • Occurs in the Jackie Chan film Who Am I? (1998) when Jackie's character hands his gun over to the treacherous Big Bad. Upon having it turned on him he says "I may have amnesia, but I'm not stupid!" and knocks his ass to the floor.
  • The Wolfman (2010). Sir John Talbot has a loyal servant with a cache of silver bullets to be used on him if he escapes confinement during the full moon. In the climax, Lawrence Talbot borrows a couple of cartridges to use on his father, only for John Talbot to smile and say that he removed the powder from them years ago.
  • Billy the Kid does this to a bounty hunter in the first Young Guns movie. Pretending to be awestruck by the bounty hunter's boasts, he asks if he can touch the gun with which the hunter plans to kill Billy the Kid. The bounty hunter hands it to him, and Billy secretly unloads it before handing it back. Billy then reveals his true identity. The bounty hunter tries firing several times with the empty gun before Billy shoots him down. As hard it would seem to quickly empty the gun in question without anyone noticing (rounds are loaded and emptied one at a time), this is a trick the real Billy the Kid used to win gunfights.

  • Subverted in the following well-known classic: A man wants to join the CIA. The recruiter: "You fulfill the physical demands, but we have to do a character test too. Here is a loaded gun. Go into room 23B and shoot the person inside, and ask no questions." The man goes into 23B...just to find his wife gagged and bound to a chair. beat After ten minutes he comes out again, bangs the gun angrily on the recruiter's desk and shouts: "It was loaded with blanks, you idiot! I had to break off a leg of the chair and club her to death!"


By Author:

  • Iain M. Banks:
    • In The Culture novel Use of Weapons, an assassin arrives at a king's house, while he's being taunted, the king pulls a gun and tries to fire. The assassin off handedly shows him the bullets and says "It works better with these."
    • Played with in Against a Dark Background. The villain steals Sharrow's gun and spare ammo, removes the magazine and gives it back. Sharrow realizes that gun has been unloaded, however, she doesn't know if he remembered to check the chamber until she tries to fire. He didn't.

By Work:

  • The Alchemist by Ken Goddard. A criminal abducts a rival, who wakes up in the back of a police car in Mexico, with a dead police officer in the front seat, surrounded by horrified Mexican police. Knowing he's facing a Fate Worse than Death, the man grabs the dead officer's revolver and puts it to his head, only to find all the rounds have been fired. It's implied this was done as a final Mind Screw by the criminal who set him up.
  • A variation happens in Area 7. The resident Dumb Muscle ambushed Book and Juliette; but he stopped for a one liner, which gave Book enough time to eject the magazine. He still didn't notice.
  • Artemis Fowl: In the third book, when Loafers McGuire has Artemis at gunpoint, Juliet disarms him by removing the slide from his pistol.
  • The BattleTech novel Dark Destiny features an example at the end of Phelan's last Bloodname duel. Having shot his archrival out of his 'Mech, he dismounts himself to settle things mano a mano and even drops his gun...which Vlad goes for at the first opportunity, of course. Too bad that earlier supply problems had made Phelan decide that he, as primarily a 'Mechjock, needed the bullets less than one of his friends in the infantry...
  • In The Cow Thieves by J.T. Edson, Ella manages to wrestle Calamity Jane's gun away from her and attempts to shoot her with it, only to discover that Calamity had not had time to fit the percussion caps to the nipples.
  • Discworld:
    • Played with in The Truth. After successfully threatening Smug Snake Ronnie Carney with a springgonne (a crossbow reduced to a powerful spring in a gun-shaped body), Sacharissa fires straight at him. She knows it's unloaded, but he doesn't.
      "I must have forgotten to put the pointy arrow bit in" she said as Carney fainted dead away. "What a silly girl I am."
    • In Snuff, Vimes gives the river rat Brassbound a crossbow, after assuring all others present that "I know a killer when I see one." He was right, since "Brassbound" is really Stratford, and the crossbow Vimes gave him doesn't have a working trigger.
  • In S.M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time, Walker breaks into the town arsenal and steals all the firearms when he makes his run for Europe. But when he gets out to sea, he finds out that Alston had removed all the firing pins and stored them separately.
  • Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan: Executive Orders subverts this: The Secret Service agents guarding the President want a sleeper agent to try and kill him, but don't replace the bullets with blanks, as he'd notice the difference in weight. They switch out the magazine in his weapon for one loaded with real bullets that have had the gunpowder removed. They explain it, and even mock him by pointing out the cute little noise the primer makes.note 
  • Subverted (?) in the Man-Kzin Wars novel Cathouse, by Dean Ing (a collection of earlier MKW short stories). The human protagonist has acquired a Kzinti rifle and had been using it enough for the "insufficient charge" indicator to light up. A while after covering the light with some blood to make it look unlit, he confronts the Big Bad, pointing out specifically the indicator is off. Later, after the Big Bad has surrendered, Rocklear points out that he had just covered the light up, and goes to fire what he thinks is an empty weapon at the ceiling of the hut they were in to demonstrate. As the Kzinti commander points out after the characters present gets out of the hut set on fire by a partially charged shot, "insufficient charge" isn't the same thing as "no charge".
  • Happens in Simon R. Green's Nightside a lot. The main character, John Taylor has a gift that enables him to find anything: an often neat trick is to find the bullets of a loaded gun in his hand. Whilst the mook is pointing said gun at him. When confronted by multiple mooks carrying assault rifles, his hands literally pour bullets. On occasion, he has threatened to do the same trick; but with their internal organs.
    • He does this with a couple of guys' filling and bridgework while investigating the loss of the Hawkwind.
  • In John Scalzi's Old Man's War series, the standard weapon of the Colonial Defence Forces - the MP35 - will only fire if held by the soldier it's been programmed to be used by as discovered by an unfortunate recruit and an even more unfortunate Rraey.
  • Parker:
    • In Comeback, the Properly Paranoid Parker unloads the shotguns of his partners while they are sleeping after the heist. This proves to be a sensible precaution when Liss attempts to shoot him and steal the loot.
    • In Flashfire, Parker breakers into Melander's hideout and misaligns all the firing pins in the gang's automatics, and drains all of the powder from their shotgun shells. This comes in handy later when Melander takes him prisoner.
  • In the climax of the Sarah Kelling And Max Bittersohn Mysteries book The Silver Ghost, the killer pulls a concealed weapon, leading to a frantic struggle to overpower said killer and take the gun away. One of Sarah's cousins then reveals that this was entirely unnecessary, as he'd found the gun earlier and removed the bullets as an innocent safety precaution.
  • Played with in one of the SERRAted Edge novels by Mercedes Lackey. During the final fight scene, an evil elf casts a spell on one of the heroes that deactivates the ammo in his gun. She then ignores that hero, because his only weapon is the gun, and, well, see the trope name. Too bad she'd never learned about speedloaders.
  • Many Star Trek novels have used a depleted phaser for the same effect. For example in the Double Helix novel featuring Picard and Calhoun, Picard steals' the Big Bad's energy weapon and points it at him; the Big Bad goads him to shoot...and the blaster has no power. Cue jailing sequence.
    • Often, phasers or disruptors can be deactivated by remote, as a security precaution in case the wrong person ends up with them.
    • In the novel The Case of the Colonist's Corpse, Daniel Latham's wife pulls a phaser on him, he hesitates for a moment before laughing in her face and during her confusion, he snatches the phaser out of her hand. He then proceeds to insult her as he says that the phaser isn't charged and never has been charged.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In Allegiance, four Hand of Judgment stormtroopers have been told that Governor Choard is guilty of high treason, and have been authorized to kill him. Choard happens to be the uncle of one of them, and none of the others have any desire to kill in cold blood, so they try to arrest him. Then Choard's nephew threatens the other three troopers with his E-11, reveals who he is, and forces them to put their blasters down before handing his to Choard. Choard then incriminates himself, and when his nephew protests, threatens to shoot him, but the trooper says, "No, uncle. Because you made one final mistake. You think that blaster is loaded." He'd taken out the power pack, and while it turned out there is one shot left, it doesn't do Choard any good.
    • Happens twice in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. Han Solo sort of rescues a band of armed guerrillas he doesn't know or trust, and tells them to stow their weapons in a compartment before he comes to talk to him. When he does, he finds that their leader is very impressed with him, wants to see his blaster, and shows him hers. Then she decides to trade. Moments later, Han finds out about their plan to kill him and take his ship, and when he aimed at the leader he finds that she'd removed the power pack. However, as she finds out a page or two later, he had also removed his. Unfortunately for Han, her friends have hold-out blasters.
  • A 1945 story by Frank Herbert "The Survival of the Cunning", has a Japanese soldier in the Arctic marching his captives outside his heated hut so he can shoot them. One of them is an Eskimo; knowing the Japanese's gun will jam when brought out into the cold, he then kills him with a knife.
  • The "removed the firing pin" variant is used in Lisa Gardner's The Third Victim, but it fails. The killer checks the gun before his confrontation with Rainie. He, on the other hand, did not remove the firing pin because he knew she would catch it. Instead, he filed the pin back just enough that the gun would be useless for shooting.
  • In Mickey Spillane's The Twisted Thing a murderer pulls this trick on Mike Hammer by slipping out the magazine of his Colt .45 when giving him a "welcome back" hug. Mike didn't have the chamber loaded for safety reasons (though this is contradicted by his Quick Draw in other books).
  • At the climax of Desmond Bagley's thriller The Vivero Letter, the hero faces a mob boss armed with a revolver at close range, and notices there are no bullets in the chambers on either side of the barrel. Though not experienced with firearms, he thinks that the cylinder turns when the trigger is pulled and bets his life on there not being a variety of revolver in which this doesn't happen. He ignores the mobster's gun, and attacks him with a machete, leading to a hand-to-hand duel in which his training in sabre fencing gives him the edge.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Wes Maggs, under the influence of Blood Magic, first tries to shoot "the old dam"; when he turns his gun on the prisoner, he tries to fire it, but he had spent all his ammunition. When the witch realizes it, she has him go for strangulation instead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A Small Light: The gun the Resistance gives Jan to assassinate the Nazi officer wasn't even loaded, a fact that the inexperienced Jan doesn't notice. This was done on purpose, since the point of the mission was a test to see if Jan could really kill, as his target was just a resistance member posing as the aforementioned officer.
  • Near the end of Season 5 of 24, Jack gives Christopher Henderson an unloaded gun when they work together to take down Vladimir Bierko because he knows Henderson will betray him once Bierko's dead. Sure enough, this ends up saving Jack's life when Henderson does turn on him.
    • Something similar happens at the end of Season 8, when Jack gets Cole Ortiz to defect and assist him in saving The Mole. After agreeing, Cole demands a weapon, which Jack provides him. Then, upon preparing to Storm The Warehouse, Cole goes to chamber a round, and... Jack does actually give him bullets though.
    • In Season 4, Dina Araz agrees to work with CTU to bring down Imho Terrorist Habib Marwan by pretending to hold Jack Bauer prisoner so that Marwan will bring her (and Jack) to him. Marwan gives Dina Araz a gun to shoot Jack Bauer with. Dina turns the gun on Marwan and—click, click. One of Marwan's men shoots her offscreen.
    • Season 3: The Salazars order Jack to kill his partner, Chase (who has no idea what's going on). Jack pulls the trigger, but the gun is empty. Jack never reveals if he could tell the gun was empty or not.
  • In the climax of 5ive Days to Midnight, JT's would-be murderer says JT doesn't have the balls to shoot him, but when he's Instantly Proven Wrong he adds, "Or the bullets, in case you do have the balls." However there's an unfired bullet in the crime scene evidence in the suitcase sent to JT from the future, so he loads it into the gun. After a couple of pulls of the trigger, the fifty-year old bullet fires.
  • Double Subverted in a scene at the end of an Adam-12 episode. Malloy and Reed get separated responding to a warehouse robbery, and Malloy gets the robbers they haven't shot cornered at gunpoint with an intimidating expression. Reed catches up, and Malloy asks him to take over covering the suspects while he reloads his revolver.
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a Brainwashed and Crazy Ward tries to shoot May in the head, only to discover that she removed the magazine during their hand-to-hand fight. This one is ridiculous in retrospect given that Ward is a combat specialist, and has been specifically established as the kind of person who would notice the missing weight (such as telling Fitz "You removed the ounce!" when he tried the new version of the tranquilizer pistols)
    • May shows her savviness towards this trope when Gonzales, one of the leaders of the "real" S.H.I.E.L.D., hands her a gun and tells her to shoot him if she thinks it's really necessary. They talk a bit, and she hands the gun back, telling him she's not stupid enough to believe he'd hand her a loaded gun. He then picks it up, ejects the magazine, and clears the slide to show that he was telling the truth.
  • Andromeda: At the end of the pilot episode, Big Bad Gerontex shoots at Captain Hunt and... click. Turns out that Harper had nicked the power cell from Gerontex's blaster during an earlier encounter. Hunt commences to knock Gerontex into the middle of next week with his Combat Staff.
  • The Andy Griffith Show.
    • Barney Fife never keeps bullets in his gun. Because Andy won't let him as every time he has a loaded gun Barney accidentally discharges it. Barney is allowed to keep one bullet in his pocket in case of emergencies.
    • In one episode, Andy and Barney have an infamous crook in their jail cell. Andy orders Barney to keep the gun unloaded, but Barney, worried the criminal will escape, loads his one bullet into the gun. Barney then goes into the crook's cell with his gun to place chess with the criminal. Needless to say, the criminal manages to get Barney's gun and hold him hostage. Andy comes back to find the Criminal with the gun. Andy, realizing that it is Barney's gun, believes that the gun is unloaded and is harmless. The criminal points at Andy, and pulls the trigger five times, without firing a shot. The criminal surrenders and gives the seemingly empty gun to Andy. Then Andy fires into the ceiling to prove that there was not any danager. Then the gun fires the bullet.
  • On Angel, Faith took this trope to the next level. She tricked Angel into shooting her with a revolver, but the gun was loaded with a blank. Then she took the gun back and shot Angel, gloating that the bullets weren't all blanks.
  • Arrowverse
    • In "Salvation", Thea Queen is shocked when her boyfriend Roy Harper receives a gun he's supposed to use in a robbery. To reassure her he unloads the weapon, saying he's only going to use it as a Weapon for Intimidation. Then he's attacked by a murderous vigilante and tries to shoot in self defense, only he never reloaded it.
    • In "Sara", Laurel Lance takes a gun from the Arrowcave intending to avenge her sister, but Oliver Queen had taken the precaution of unloading it first so Laurel would not have a murder on her hands.
    • In "Corto Maltese", John Diggle is handed a gun by an A.R.G.U.S. agent. Unlike most examples of this trope, Diggle works out the gun is unloaded without having to fire it, having realised from other clues the agent has gone rogue.
    • In Crisis on Earth-X, Oliver Queen infiltrates the Earth-X Nazis by impersonating his Nazi Evil Counterpart. Eventually, he is handed a gun and urged to execute the counterpart of his love interest Felicity Smoak. Enraged, he turns around and tries to shoot them, but it clicks empty as they gloat that they now know who he really is. Oliver then proves he doesn't need the gun to kill them all and rescue her.
  • In a tv comedy sketch called Ashes to Midsomer Murders, Gene Hunt pulls a gun on the suspect and fires. The gun does not go off because, as the suspect says. "I've taken the trouble to fill your gun with cake." But that's okay. Gene filled his cake with bullets!
  • Babylon 5: During some heated negotiations with the Transport Association in "A Day in the Strife", a heckler challenges Captain Sheridan, calling him a coward for hiding behind his security. Sheridan takes a PPG from one of his security men and shoves it in the heckler's pocket, telling him to go ahead and shoot. The heckler doesn't reach for the gun and backs down. Sheridan retrieves the gun and returns to his table, where Commander Ivanova slams him for doing something so stupid. He just smirks and produces a small object from his pocket: the PPG's energy cap, without which it's just an expensive paperweight. He removed it before he gave the PPG to the heckler.
    Ivanova: You are going to give me an ulcer.
  • Better Call Saul: In Mike's flashback in "Five-O", he sets himself up like a dead-drunk depressive mourning his son's murder, blabbing about how he knows his son's former police partners, Fensky and Hoffman, were the ones who did it. The two decide to drive Mike out to a remote alley and kill Mike to prevent him from revealing the truth, but not before taking his pistol away so there's no way he can defend himself. Only when they get there does Mike reveal himself to being completely sober and concealing a second pistol in his coat, he had set the pair up for the perfect opportunity to exact bloody vengeance. Fenske attempts to kill Mike with the pistol he took, only to find it's unloaded; Mike had anticipated they would take his gun and try and use it to kill him. Mike then shoots and kills both of them.
  • Boardwalk Empire: In "Gimcrack & Bunkum," Margaret breaks up a fight between Nucky and Eli by putting a gun to Eli's head, then frog-marching him out of the house. It's after Eli leaves that a rather agitated Nucky shows her that the gun was unloaded.
  • Burn Notice:
    • Sam Axe does this to an enemy with his own gun, working under the (correct) assumption that the enemy would steal his gun and turn it on him. This is also why Sam brought two guns.
    • The series also did the tampered-firing-pin version when Michael handed a gun to a mark to convince the mark to kill the hitman he'd hired to kill Michael's client-of-the-week. Mike had damaged the firing pin with liquid nitrogen and the gun fails to fire, prompting the two to turn on each other.
    • And yet a third time, a variant was done to Michael in "False Flag". Explained in Michael's voiceover:
      "Remove the trigger bar spring from a Sig Sauer P228, and you get a nine-millimeter semiautomatic doorstop."note 
    • Another time Michael simply gave the villain a gun loaded with blanks and tricked him into trying to kill the client, with their ex-Gang Banger boss listening from the next room.
  • In the first episode of By Any Means, the villain the team are trying to put away levels a shotgun at two of them and pulls the trigger. The gun clicks empty and the undercover man they had placed in the gang holds up the shells he had removed from the gun.
  • Caprica: Daniel Graystone attemps to force Zoey to reveal that her avatar is currently occupying the Cylon chassis in his lab by handing the Cylon a gun and ordering it to fire on the family dog. He explains that Zoey loved the dog and wouldn't want to hurt him but a Cylon would follow the order without question. Zoey chooses to fire, but the dog is fine as Daniel filled the gun with blanks. She later confides in her best friend that she could tell the weight of the gun was off but firing convinced Daniel he was wrong about her being in the Cylon.
  • A Castle episode plays the Secret Test of Character version pretty straight: mob boss tells Ryan to shoot his ex-girlfriend, hands him a gun. Ryan says he can't shoot her, but has no problem shooting him instead. Gun was jiggered so it wouldn't fire.
  • Cheers. An upset Frasier Crane confronts Sam in his office with a revolver. Sam is quick to point out that "...there are no bullets in those little holes there" because he could see light shining through the revolver's cylinder.
  • Colonel March of Scotland Yard: When March exposes the mysterious 'Monsieur Z' in "The Headless Hat", Z tells March that he is very clever and then pulls a gun. March tells Z that the gun won't help him because it is empty. Z pulls the trigger only to discover that March is telling the truth.
  • Community
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). In "Venus Pop", the Elders of The Syndicate discover Vicious has been dealing Red Eye behind their backs, so give him a Desert Eagle and order him to shoot his wife Julia, even though he begs to sacrifice a finger or a hand instead. The pistol turns out to be empty. Vicious claims afterwards that he knew that due to its weight, but Julia doesn't believe him and tells him to make sure it's loaded next time. Julia gets her payback in the Season One finale when she has Vicious chained up in her basement, loads a single bullet into her revolver and fires...only for the firing pin to click on an empty chamber.
  • CSI: In "Forget Me Not", Ronald Basderic attempts to shoot Sara only to find that Detective Crawford had swapped the clip from his gun for one loaded with blanks when he searched him earlier.
  • CSI: Cyber: In "Ghost in the Machine", Viper75 pulls the gun he had stashed, points it at Avery and squeezes the trigger. However, Avery and Elijah had got there first and unloaded the gun. They now have him on attempted murder of a federal agent as well as the other charges.
  • Subverted in CSI: NY.
    • A Serial Rapist has captured Jo, and makes a show of pushing each bullet out of the magazine of her gun before tossing it to her. She then says, "They always forget the one in the chamber," and shoots him. He gets back up, and she picks a second bullet up off the floor, chambers it, and puts him down for good.
    • Used when Mac catches up to the gangsters who kidnapped Christine. He wounds one and plays a game of Russian roulette to get the other to talk. We find out at the end that the gun was empty and that he'd used sleight of hand to make the gangster, and us, think he was loading it. As he tells Jo later, "Not much of a game when the gun's empty".
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • John Healy, a hitman working for Wilson Fisk, goes to a bowling alley to assassinate a target. After physically overpowering the target's bodyguards, he pulls out a gun he freshly bought from Turk Barrett, and it jams (in spite of Turk's promise that it wouldn't). Turk is established throughout Daredevil and Luke Cage (2016) to be very shady, so it's likely he sold Healy a knockoff gun that had a missing or faulty firing pin.
    • James Wesley kidnaps Karen Page and threatens her into backing off in her pursuit of Fisk. He leaves a gun which he procured from Fisk's head of security on the table within reach to scare her. When his phone picks up an incoming call from Fisk, Karen takes the opportunity to grab the gun and point it at him, much like she tried to do with Bullseye in the comics (the cinematography even being very similarly staged). But unlike in "Guardian Devil", where Bullseye meant it when he said the gun was empty, here, the gun is loaded. Wesley still bold-facedly tries to bluff her into think it isn't, but there is something he hadn't counted on...
      James Wesley: Come on. Do you really think I would put a loaded gun on the table where you could reach it?
      Karen Page: I don't know. [cocks it] Do you really think this is the first time I've shot someone?
      James Wesley: Miss Page— [Karen shoots him in the right shoulder. As he stares at her in shock, she puts six more rounds into his chest, killing him instantly]
  • In the Grand Finale of Dark (2017), Adam confronts Eve and she eagerly pulls the trigger of the gun he is pointing at her. However, for the first time there are no bullets in the gun and she doesn't die which confirms the fact that the link between the two worlds has been broken.
  • Dark Matter (2015): Three (who has Guns Akimbo) and Four are in a Mexican Standoff with the rest of the crew, but Five says that Three's guns are both empty because she slipped into his room and stole all his bullets (it's made even funnier by Three's non-verbal realization that he really should've noticed the difference in weight). Everyone just points their weapons at Four who then surrenders.
  • Subverted in Deadliest Warrior. Pistol-whipping was chosen as Jesse James's "special weapon", and it ended giving the edge to him as it was proven to be deadlier than his rival Al Capone's brass knuckles.
  • Dead Man's Gun: The Evil Nephew in "Next of Kin" attempts to gun down his uncle after being given the gun instead of any money, only to find the bullets have been removed, causing him to leave in disgrace with his jinxed inheritance, having provided additional proof of his unworthiness.
  • Doctor Who: In "Let's Kill Hitler", Melody attempts to shoot the Doctor several times, only to find he took the trouble to disarm all the guns in the room. Or swap them with a banana. Not that she needs a gun to kill him, though...
  • In Dollhouse's 13th episode, "Epitaph One", Iris has an unknown other person inside her head - she sees the machine as the way to get out into Mag's body, and pulls the gun that she was given earlier by Zone, trying to kill him. Turns out the gun was empty, and since she's in the body of an 11- or 12-year-old, Zone and Mag have a pretty easy time restraining her and wiping her.
  • In the pilot film for Due South, Constable Fraser mentions early on that due to legal complications (Canadian law enforcement officer working in Chicago, with no authority or jurisdiction in the city outside of the Canadian Consulate), he carries a sidearm, but no bullets. During a fight with a hitman later on, the bad guy grabs Fraser's gun and immediately tries to shoot him with it, only for the hammer to click down on an empty cylinder.
  • Subverted on Dynasty (2017) when the insane Claudia who weilds a gun she took from one of the mansion's display cases. Fallon stands up to Claudia and goads her on. She tells father Blake there's nothing to worry about as the gun belonged to her mother and "the firing pin hasn't worked in years." Claudia responds by putting a bullet through the table. Blake explains that he had Anders clean and fix the gun and Fallon gives him a priceless "now you tell me?!" look.
  • Eye Candy: In the series finale when Jack's cornered and draws a gun, he finds its empty because Lindy had removed all the bullets beforehand.
  • Farscape
    • In "Bone To Be Wild", Br'Nee gets the drop on Crichton with his own pulse , but when she threatens to shoot him, but John reveals he had already removed the ammo cartridge.
    • In "I Shrink Therefore I Am", John Crichton John returns to Moya to find it's been seized by bounty hunters and Scorpius is the only one who can help him save the day. So, John sets up an ambush on one of the pirates with Scorpius and gives him a huge rifle to do so. Scorpius discovers the rifle isn't loaded, and before Scorpius gets shot he gives a sardonic: "Thank you, John."
  • Father Brown:
    • In "The Sins of Others", the murderer snatches Sid's gun off him and attempts to shoot him with it. Father Brown then hold out his hand, showing a handful of bullets. Father Brown had unloaded the gun when he took it off Sid earlier in the episode, and no one had ever checked if it had been reloaded.
    • In "The Final Devotion", Father Brown gets hold of the killer's gun when he drops it in his haste to get to the treasure. Father Brown points the gun at the killer, who correctly deduces that the priest will not shoot him and snatches it back from him. Later he attempts to shoot Flambeau, only for the hammer to fall on empty chamber. Father Brown holds out his hand opens it to reveal and handful of bullets: having unloaded it in the short time he had it in his possession.
  • Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond. Ian Fleming keeps badgering his boss Admiral Godfrey about being sent to command a frontline commando unit. To prove he has what it takes Fleming agrees to do the K Protocol, which turns out to be: go to a room and kill a man. "Now you know what the K stands for." Fleming hesitates at the moment of firing and is disarmed by his intended victim, who pulls the trigger on Fleming's revolver...of course, the bullets are duds. Admiral Godfrey tells Fleming not to feel too bothered, as he didn't pass the K Protocol either.
  • Frontier Circus: In "The Balloon Girl", Katie points her rifle at Ben when he catches up with her to try and return her to the circus, only to discover that he had taken the precaution of removing the shells from it the night before.
  • Gotham:
    • Maroni pulls this on Penguin in "The Fearsome Dr. Crane". Penguin pulls a gun he stole from Maroni on the crime boss. Maroni tells him the gun is loaded with blanks. Penguin doesn't believe him and pulls the trigger. Maroni wasn't lying.
    • Taking a leaf from Maroni's book, in "The Anvil or the Hammer" Penguin sends a group of assassins to hit Maroni. However, he has removed the firing pins from the guns he supplied them, so that the hit will fail and spark a mob war between Maroni and Falcone.
  • Hack: In "Pilot", Mike buys a gun for a distraught father when they go looking for his daughter (Mike can't carry a gun because he's under felony indictment). When they find the pimps who holding the girl, one of them takes the gun off the father and points it at Mike. Mike calmly walks up to the gunman, daring him to shoot him. When he pulls the trigger, the gun goes 'click', and Mike slugs him with it. The father looks at Mike in disbelief, and Mike replies:
    "Like I was going to leave you with a loaded gun."
  • Harper's Island: Henry removes the bullets from Sully's shotgun before revealing that he's the killer, then taunts him to get him to pull the trigger. He then stabs Sully to death. It's a very cruel moment.
  • On Human Target, Chance and a Russian spy are holding each-other at gunpoint. Previously, they both bumped into each-other before Chance revealed he knew she was a spy.
    The Spy: —why don't you just go ahead and shoot me?
    Chance: Because I don't like to shoot unarmed women. Company policy. Feeling a little light there by the way?
    The Spy: [checks her gun] Took my clip but put my gun back. Impressive. Didn't even notice. Did you?
    Chance: [checks his gun] Nicely done.
  • Inspector Morse. In "The Day of the Devil", a vicious serial rapist has his psychiatrist hostage, claiming the house is wired with explosives and demanding to speak to Morse. When Morse appears, he draws a pistol only for it to be empty, and is shot dead by police. The psychiatrist then walks out of the house and calmly hands over the bullets. Turns out she was one of his former victims, and had arranged the whole thing to get revenge.
  • Gloriously defied in the Taiwanese drama, The Kid from Heaven. Da-Gui, the friend of protagonist Xing-he, decide to confront the loan shark who's making their lives hell with a Briefcase Full of Money meant to pay off their debts. The loan shark agrees to meet Da-Gui alone in his penthouse, but had a gun with him; when the villain puts down his gun to open the case, Da-Gui then snatches it and point it at the loan shark, only for the latter to take out a magazine and gloat to Da-Gui that the gun is empty. After a moment of disbelief, Da-Gui instead pulls out a switchblade and stab the loan shark.
    Da-Gui: So you think you're going for Story A, is that it? Well, alright... [drops the empty gun and suddenly pulls out a knife, stabbing the loan shark on the spot] new flash, I can try going for Story C instead! How about that?
  • On Law & Order: Criminal Intent, the normally-infallible Detective Goren informed a murderer that her gun was empty. She responded by firing a shot into the air. Unfortunately for her that one in the chamber was the only one left.
    • In a Season 1 episode, a killer targets an abortion clinic doctor with a sniper rifle from a rooftop across the street. He sights in and pulls the trigger, but nothing happens - and then Goren arrives to tell him that his firing pin has been removed.
  • In the Leonardo episode "Dogs of War", Piero aims the cannon of Leo's tank at Leo, Mac and Rocco, presses the trigger, and nothing happens. At which point Tom casually wanders up carrying the flint (the Renaissance equivalent of removing the firing pin).
  • On Leverage Parker does this fairly often by taking out the magazines, which given her extremely proficient skills as a pickpocket makes sense, though it generally ignores the problem of the bullet in the chamber or the weight issue.
    • Parker and Hardison manage to switch out an entire crate of AK-47s for blank-firing movie props not only allowing them to escape the scene, but to make the would-be buyer of those guns very angry at the supplier.
    • In the Season 4 finale, Victor Dubenich shoots at Nate several times and wounds him. Nate has to point out to him that not only is Victor now out of bullets because Nate was counting, but Nate has more than enough bullets in his gun to kill both Dubenich and Latimer with bullets to spare.
  • In the series 1 finale of the British version of Life on Mars, Sam Tyler gives Vic (his father) his gun back after Vic promises that he will stay with his family. Vic then tries to shoot Sam, only for him to reveal that he took the bullets out of the gun.
  • Lois & Clark episode "Stop The Presses" - bad guy Ethan has kidnapped his brother Eric to make him help kill Superman. At one point Eric fights back and grabs the weapon they stole from the Pentagon and points it in Ethan's face. Ethan keeps telling Eric he's not man enough to do it. Eric pulls the trigger and, as in the description, nothing happens. Ethan gloats, "I disarmed it" and shows Eric the part he removed.
  • Lost has done this a couple of times: once, Sayid stole Rousseau's gun, unaware she'd removed the firing pin. When the gun failed to fire she revealed she pulled the same trick on her lover so he couldn't shoot her after becoming infected by the island. Another time, Jack took a gun from Locke and attempted to shoot him, to which Locke replied, "It's not loaded."
    • Subverted in another episode. A lackey encourages Michael to go through with committing suicide by gun. It doesn't work, multiple times; the lackey claims because the island wants Michael alive.
  • In an episode of MacGyver (1985) Murdoc removes the shells from a shotgun and takes the person who later tries to use it on him hostage.
  • The Magician: In "Shattered Image", a mobster attempts to threaten Tony only to find that Tony had lifted his automatic off him earlier. When Tony hands it back, he points it at Tony. Tony then says that to fire one of those, you need one of these and holds up the clip. The mobster grabs the clip and leaves. As he does so, Tony opens his hand and lets the bullets spill out on the bar.
  • Major Crimes: In "Hindsight, Part 5", the killer, when confronted with evidence of their guilt, grabs a pistol and attempts to commit suicide, only to discover that Sanchez has swapped their pistol with an unloaded one.
  • The Mentalist:
    • Subverted in the first episode. Jane has confronted the killer, outlined how he's proved his guilt, and the killer pulls a gun. Jane just smiles and says "Oh, please, did you really think I'd set up such a brilliant trap only to leave you a loaded gun?" Then he pats his pocket, and you can hear the bullets clicking. The killer goes to check the mag...and Jane throws something at him and runs away, since he did not manage to empty the gun before the killer got to it.
    • In another episode Jane has given the killer a weapon, the killer turns the weapon on Jane and... click. No bullets. The killer smiles and pulls out a knife instead. Thankfully the rest of the team burst in and arrest him.
    • In one incident Jane provokes a man he suspects is going to go on a rampage into starting early. And he'd had the team replace all the guy's ammunition with blanks.
      Agent Cho: Hey. How you doin'? You're under arrest for the attempted murder of— [gestures around at the terrified guests] —everybody.
  • Monk:
    • A variant in "Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum". Dr. Lancaster, who Monk has just determined had killed the asylum's director to get the job six years ago, has recovered the murder weapon (which he threw down a chimney so the cops couldn't find it) and is preparing to shoot Monk with it, but it doesn't fire. Monk tells him that the firing pin and the metal components in the weapon have been completely oxidized over the years that have passed since the murder, rendering the weapon useless.
    • In "Mr. Monk is the Best Man", Monk, Stottlemeyer, and Stottlemeyer's fiancee held at gunpoint by TK's bridesmaid, who turns out to be an ecoterrorist hiding out under an assumed name. Stottlemeyer tricks her into firing a shot into the air, then reveals he took the bullet magazine. The shot she fired was the one in the chamber.
    • In one episode when Monk is working at a Walmart-like store, Monk needs to get a gun to stop the bad guy from leaving. The two idiots working the gun section give him a gun, but not the bullets. Monk then points the (unloaded!) gun at them and orders them to give him the bullets. Fearing getting shot (again, what idiots!), they give him the bullets.
  • Murder, She Wrote: Dennis Stanton pulls this trick in "Suspicion of Murder". He comes up with a theory of how the murder could have been committed, but it hinges on proving the suspect could have fired a gun. Stanton pulls a Bluffing the Murderer moment by pretending to have more information than he has, and attempts to blackmail him. When the murderer pulls a gun and fires it, Stanton then reveals that he broke in the night before and switched the shells for blanks.
  • The Punisher (2017)
    • In "Two Dead Men", Frank Castle is torturing Carson Wolf for information, but Carson is able to escape his bonds and snatch the pistol tucked in the front of Frank's pants. After gloating over Frank's reversal of fortune, and in the process revealing a lot more than he had under torture, Carson goes to shoot Frank...
      Frank: Gun's empty, asshole.
    • In "Trouble the Water", Marlena is rescued from the police station where she was locked up after failing to kill Frank Castle, but she insists on leading a team back in to kill him, demanding the right of killing Frank personally. Her boss hands her his pistol and invites Marlena to go through the attack plan, only to grab her in a lethal chokehold. She tries to shoot him while being choked, but the pistol he gave her was unloaded.
  • In an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, the villain of the week gives Sam Hanna a gun and tells him to shoot a captured Saudi prince to prove his loyalty to the villain's cause. Sam handles the gun briefly before handing it back, telling the villain that a loaded gun would work better.
    • In another episode, a Dirty Cop tries to shoot Sam with a revolver. Sam drops the bullets he removed from the gun and punches the guy.
  • The New Avengers: In "The Tale of the Big Why", The Mole draws a gun on Steed, Gambit and Purdey and plans to shoot them so they cannot reveal his secret. Steed orders Gambit to disarm him and Gambit moves forward. The Mole fires but his gun merely clicks as the hammer falls on empty chamber. Steed had spotted the gun in The Mole's pocket and - suspicious of why an undersecretary would be carrying a loaded pistol - had removed the clip.
  • In Person of Interest
    • The mastermind of a series of robberies avoids the inevitable falling-out-of-thieves by killing off his gang, then recruiting new members. Once they have outlived their usefulness, he sabotages the firing pins on their weapons so he can pick them off during their final robbery.
    • Super-hacker Root pulls off a Batman Gambit against a government lawyer while she's tied him up and interrogating him about the Machine. The lawyer talks Harold Finch into helping him free himself, gets the drop on Root, reveals what he knows to Harold and tries to shoot Harold with Root's gun. After the customary 'click, click', Root hits him with a taser.
    • A mobster forces the main characters to play Russian Roulette. However, the PoI is a Card Sharp and he managed to secretly remove the last bullet from the gun.
  • Rizzoli & Isles: In "What Doesn't Kill You", a Dirty Cop attempts to shoot Jane with a pistol that had been taken from evidence storage. It doesn't work because, knowing that someone was taking guns from the evidence, Jane had removed the firing pins from all the guns.
  • Unusually for this trope Shadow, a South African vigilante series, shows the gun being unloaded beforehand. In the Batman Cold Open of the pilot episode, Shadow enters a drug den and finds a Beretta which he unloads and then leaves in place as Schmuck Bait before waking up the drugged-up hoods it belongs to.
  • Played with on Sleepy Hollow as Ichabod, freshly awakened from the late 18th century, fires a single round from a modern pistol, then drops it aside as he thinks it's now empty.
    Abbie: Why didn't you just shoot him more?!
    Ichabod: You mean it holds more than one?
  • In the Smallville episode "Roulette", Roulette, or rather, Chloe Sullivan, tries to get Oliver to shoot her, only to reveal that it is Lois dressed up as her and later Chloe reassures Oliver that the gun was loaded with blanks.
  • In one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a bad guy kidnaps Major Kira, taking her along with him by threatening her with a disruptor. Once she's had enough of playing along, she points out that he can't actually shoot her with it because the disruptor's power cell is cracked, and proceeds to beat him up.
  • In Supernatural, the Demon Crowley trades the Colt, an Immortal Breaker pistol, to the Winchesters in exchange for their promise to use it on his Bad Boss Lucifer. As soon as they get the Colt, they try to shoot him with it, whereupon he asks if they'd like the bullets from him too.
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "What's Cookin'", Gaston tries to eliminate Fred and Erma with the gun he filched from Erma's purse, only to find out Erma doesn't keep it loaded because Fred won't let her.
  • In the first season finale of True Blood, the killer does this with Sookie's shotgun. Sookie manages to get some use out of the gun, hitting him in the head with it.
  • UFO (1970): In the episode "Survival", while on the surface of the Moon, Paul Foster is captured by an alien. He manages to grab his gun back from the alien, only for the alien to open his hand to display the weapon's ammo clip.
  • In Wallander, the eponymous character pulls this on himself: after the trauma of shooting a dangerous suspect dead, Wallander removes the bullets from his magazine. Then a psycho suspect takes his daughter Linda hostage at gunpoint.
  • Subverted in White Collar. Neal tries this by pickpocketing the magazine from the suspect's gun, but she points out that there's still one bullet already in the chamber.
  • Conrad does it to Mad Dog Morgan in an episode of Wild Boys. Morgan has another pistol, but it does buy Conrad enough time to make a bolt for it.

    Puppet Shows 

  • Comedy pair Hudson and Landry had a skit with a pair of old prospectors. One assumes he caught his partner cheating him and draws his revolver. The partner is unimpressed as they ran out of bullets decades ago.
  • Earthsearch. Elka uses her Mind-Control Eyes on Sharna to make her hand over her PD gun, but she's able to shake off the effects and grab it back as she never loaded the power pack into the gun in the first place.

  • In William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes play, after Billy takes Moriarty's concealed revolver and places it on the table, Moriarty watches the boy leave, and Holmes takes advantage of Moriarty's distraction to surreptitiously remove the cartridges from his revolver. This prepares Holmes for the moment where Moriarty suddenly grabs the revolver and quickly fires it at Holmes's head. Holmes is unperturbed for a moment, then takes the cartridges out of his pocket.
  • Subverted at the end of The Bat. The Bat, with Handy Cuffs on, grabs a revolver from another character and tells everyone to put their hands up. Cornelia refuses to do so and says that she took the bullets out of it. The Bat throws the revolver down, and is quickly covered with a different revolver while Cornelia picks it up, breaks it and lets the loaded shells fall on the floor. "The first lie of an otherwise stainless life!"
  • Ira Levin's Deathtrap. One of the two protagonists has announced his intention to kill his co-conspirator, pulls the trigger and gets a loud BANG! Turns out the other guy had already anticipated his betrayal and loaded the gun with blanks. The movie adaptation leaves out the blank and has Michael Caine's character clicking the revolver's trigger with a dumbfounded expression on his face.

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Ocelot fires his gun multiple times and apprehends Eva. Hearing this, Snake approached, and Ocelot then points the gun at him. Snake tells him "You don't have what it takes to kill me." Ocelot pulls the trigger, but finds that his gun was already empty; he had recently switched to a six-shot revolver when he had been used to his eight-shot service pistol.
    • In Subsistence, they included an out-take reel where Snake says the same thing in one scene. Turns out, yes, he did have what it takes.
    • There's also a scene where The Boss and Snake quickly begin CQC fighting each other, and just as quickly The Boss knocks Snake down. When Snake sits back up and aims his pistol at her, he finds out The Boss stole the entire upper half of it.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and every game in the series, since you can point your gun at a guard to shake them down for items. It works just as well whether you're fully loaded or out of ammo for the gun, but if you try to pull the trigger in the latter case, shit quickly hits the fan.
  • Variation in one Paragon version of Conrad Verner's appearance in Mass Effect 3. An assassin turns up and tries to kill Shepard, only to have Conrad dive in front of the bullet. Then it turns out a quick-thinking bystander you helped in Mass Effect sabotaged the assassin's heat sink with her omni-tool, and the "gunshot" was really the sink bursting.
  • A random encounter in Fallout 3 can have you end up being held up by a nervous, stuttering man named Mel armed with a sawed-off shotgun. In a parody of the Mad Max 2 example, one of your options for getting away from him is, with a high enough Perception, to note that his shotgun is unloaded.
  • Sure, you can hold a cashier at gunpoint in Grand Theft Auto Online even if you don't have any ammunition, but if you happen to pull the trigger, the gun clicking on an empty chamber may cause the cashier to pull a gun of his own and return fire.
  • According to Sean MacGuire's backstory in Red Dead Redemption II, Sean's first meeting with Dutch Van der Linde and Hosea Matthews had him trying to mug Dutch at gunpoint for his pocket watch. Dutch refused to hand it over and goaded him into shooting, so Sean pulled the trigger... and was told that Dutch and Hosea had clocked him as a potential threat and taken the bullets from his revolver with sleight-of-hand a few minutes earlier.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the first arc of Umineko: When They Cry, when Natsuhi challenges the Golden Witch Beatrice to a Duel to the Death and loses, we're at first led to believe that it's because Beatrice is Immune to Bullets. However, the manga reveals that Natsuhi lost because Sayo Yasuda (Beatrice's true identity) removed the bullets from her gun beforehand, and Natsuhi didn't think to check due to her limited knowledge of guns.
    • This is contradicted by a glaring Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole in the anime adaptation, where Battler—who isn't supposed to be exposed to fabricated events within the story—uses the fully loaded gun normally when it should be empty.

  • In one scene of MegaTokyo, Miho repeatedly disarms Dom first by stealing his gun from his hand, then by stealing the bullets. From the gun in his hand.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Gordito's father is believed to have died during a shooting performance because his guns were unloaded. Gordito feels responsible for this, thinking he should have checked to see if they were loaded. In a subversion at the end of the plot arc, Dark Smoke Puncher reveals the actual cause of his death was jammed guns (intentionally so by PETA), and notes that an experienced gunslinger would be able to tell the difference between a loaded and unloaded gun.
  • In Homestuck, Andrew Hussie remembers far too late that Doc Scratch only ever loaded one bullet in his deadly gun. Unfortunately for Hussie, Lord English's super-deadly machine gun has plenty of bullets.
  • In Rhapsodies Fedya gives a boarder guard pointing an AK 47 at him some friendly advice.
  • In Leftover Soup, after Cheryl and Jamie return a stolen gun to its owner, are held up by the said owner, and Jamie bluffs him into letting them just leave, Cheryl reveals that she swiped the firing pin.

    Web Video 
  • In a round of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Soviet Womble swaps out his P90 and picks up a dropped AK-47 as he's the last one on his team alive and wanted a gun with better range. His clanmates are giggling and go silent; Womble figures out why 23 seconds later when he attempts to fire on the enemy:
    Womble: (click click click) Oh God, THE GUN'S GOT NO AMMO! (sniped as the chat explodes into laughter)

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: In "Arrival/Departure", Lana tries to shoot Archer in the face when he refuses to get her morphine while she's in labor. The gun clicks empty because she used up all the bullets shooting the rebels that took them hostage. Luckily Archer has a sense of humor about it.
    Archer: You were really gonna shoot me in the face?
    Lana: [sobbing] Is that so much to ask?
  • Variation in Avatar: The Last Airbender. When Iroh is held at knife-point, he points out that the would-be mugger has a sloppy technique, which he uses to quickly disarm him. He then corrects the man's stance, to make him a more effective mugger, but also shares a cup of tea and convinces him not to be a mugger at all.
    Iroh: *sighs* What are you doing?
    Mugger: I- I'm robbing you!
    Iroh: Not with that stance, you're not.
  • In an episode of Batman: The Animated Series the Joker goads Harley Quinn into attempting to shoot him, but it turns out the gun is of the stick-with-a-'bang'-flag variety. The Joker is still impressed that she pulled the trigger. (It should be noted though that the Joker didn't know the gun was a fake, either.)
  • Family Guy:
    • Subverted in "Turkey Guys", when Peter and Brian, attempting to return home with a new turkey for Thanksgiving, are mugged by a man in a car in the same dilemma. Brian is understandably shocked, but Peter tries to bluff him, claiming "I bet that thing's not even loaded!" He takes a bullet to the foot for the trouble. He continues anyway, now assuming "you just used your last bullet!", and takes another one to the other foot. When he tries to bluff a third time and takes a third bullet to the arm for it, is when he finally gives up and tells Brian to hand over the turkey.
    • In "Quagmire's Quagmire", Peter and Joe try to save Quagmire from his new girlfriend, who has kidnapped him and is keeping him for her sex slave. During the confrontation, she gets a hold of Joe's gun and tries to shoot them, but it wasn't loaded because the force barred him from having bullets following a mental breakdown.
  • A variant of this trope happens in Justice League when the Flash uses his Super-Speed to take the power supply off the Ultra-Humanite's Death Ray while he wasn't looking. Since The Flash enjoys being a dick to villains, he'll find a way to use this when there's no actual ammo. In an early episode, he super-speed pats on Gorilla Grodd's mind-control helmet, then goads Grodd into using it. Fortunately for Flash, and unfortunately for Grodd, he reversed the polarity while he was tapping on it. A predictable fate ensues for Grodd. A similar thing happens in Justice League: The New Frontier with Captain Cold. Flash had rewired Captain Cold's ice gun whilst falling into a fountain after Flash snatched him out of a helicopter.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Daffy Duck Hunting", Daffy Duck empties the buckshot out of Porky Pig's shotgun shells, then allows Porky to blast away at him to no effect.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer is holding Snake at gunpoint. He looks away to apologize to Marge for not getting rid of the gun, at which point Snake snags it out of Homer's hand and takes aim. Homer then holds up a box of bullets and taunts Snake with the knowledge of the gun being unloaded. Snake then aims again and demands that Homer hand over the bullets. Homer promptly forgets his taunt and surrenders the ammo…. also saying "Okay! Don't shoot!"
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "The Hidden Enemy", Cody and Rex are looking for a traitor. Cody leaves a blaster on a table, and the traitor grabs it and points it at Cody — only for Cody to hold up the charge pack, revealing the weapon to be unloaded.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Vision of Hope", Hera gives Senator Trayvis her pistol and asks him to "watch [their] backs" while she and Ezra try to find a way to shut off a giant rotating fan in their way. Trayvis turns out to be The Mole, and holds them at gunpoint — only for Hera to reveal she'd figured him out and had removed the charge pack beforehand.
    "A true rebel would know if he's holding a charged blaster."
  • Young Justice: In "Drop Zone", Bane attempts to set of a series of explosives planted around the team, only to find that Kid Flash is now holding the detonator that had been in his hand a second earlier.

    Real Life 
  • It is the standard operating procedure when dropping prisoners at a jail for patrol officers to leave their guns unloaded for this very reason (for the reason that they are generally alone). Corrections officers that are involved in transport, however, have numbers and shotguns on their side, as well as the fact that the prisoners are better secured than with standard handcuffs.
  • There's a kind of gun with a grip that senses how you hold it and can recognize its owner. If anyone else pulls the trigger, it won't fire. Biometric-based safeties are a long way from being practical yet, but there are pistols made by Armatix that will only fire if the pistol is being held by someone wearing a wristwatch that is paired to the firearm. They have partnered with Anschutz to release a line of target rifles that use this technology as well.
    • Heckler & Koch used to market a variant of their P7 pistol that had a manual safety catch operated by a small key, but it wasn't a great success. Taurus uses a similar key-operated safety on all their handguns that blocks the trigger mainspring, which most owners usually ignore in favor of a standard trigger lock.
    • There's also a ring that disengages a magnetic safety on a revolver. Without the ring, the revolver won't fire.
  • The Life Embellished book My Family and Other Animals; Gerry's oldest brother Larry, a bossy writer, insists to the next-oldest brother Leslie, a keen hunter, that Larry can hunt just as well as Leslie can. They go hunting together, and when the birds appear, Larry enthusiastically pulls the triggers, proving that he forgot to load the gun.
  • Display guns at stores generally don't have firing pins in them, so they can't be used against the owners even when fully loaded.
  • Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme learned this the hard way during her assassination attempt on Gerald Ford. She attempted to kill the president with a Colt M1911, but she did not know that she needed to rack the slide to chamber a round after loading the magazine.
  • The whole reason for the "Israeli Draw" technique was that a soldier might be using an unfamiliar firearm, so when drawing their own or picking up another's sidearm to cock the weapon immediately. Then again, if there's only One Bullet Left, this will unload the gun entirely.
  • A particularly spectacular example happened at the Battle Of Lissa (1866) between the Austrian and Italian Navies. After several successful rams the Austrian flagship Erzherzog Ferdinand Max was caught at point blank range by the Italian ironclad Ancona which fired a full broadside, only to discover that the Italian gunners had forgotten to load any shot into the guns. Unsurprisingly this meant the broadside had no effect on the Austrian flagship.
  • The British military's Enfield L85A1 assault rifle became notorious for this, among other problems before and during the Persian Gulf War. As detailed by Forgotten Weapons, it was discovered that it was easy to accidentally eject the magazine while walking with the weapon unslung across the chest, as the bullpup configuration put the release button on the left side of the rifle against the soldier's web gear. This of course left many an unaware British soldier with only the one round in the chamber to use. Heckler & Koch's rework of the rifle as the L85A2 included adding a partial cover over the mag release to fix the problem.


Video Example(s):


Korben and the Thief

Attempted, but very quickly subverted for laughs: A thief attempts to rob Korben Dallas at gunpoint when he tricks him into opening his apartment's front door. However, the thief seems too hopped-up on drugs to think straight...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / PushyGunTotingVillain

Media sources: