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Marked Bullet

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If you think this is crazy, you should see the gun.

"It's not the one with your name on it; it's the one addressed "to whom it may concern" you've got to think about."
Murphy's Laws of War, concerning this trope.

We all know that guns are cool, and we all know that customized guns are even cooler. But what really puts the icing on the cake is a Marked Bullet to go with that fancy AMT Silverballer that you're dying to use. A lot of vengeance seeking protagonists tend to use these types of theatrical bullets, usually to make a point that they have a bullet with their enemy's name on it, and it's reserved just for them.

A common variation is a missile or bomb with a message or image painted on its surface, which generally has less impact on the projectile's ballistics.

Favored by The Gunslinger, And is usually used with Gun Fu, and Gun Kata. Also used with Bullet Time. Compare Designated Bullet.

Truth in Television for bombs in WWII. Aircrews painted messages on some bombs.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Train in Black Cat has grenades painted with a cat face.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Calibre: During "Age of Apocalypse", Nightcrawler marked the bullets for his gun with X's (hence the name of the series).
  • One Patriotic War Comic had a plotline where a Rosie the Riveter character writes a message on an artillery shell during WWII. The comic then follows the shell across the Atlantic supply line until it is fired on Berlin. That specific shell lands atop Hitler's bunker, convincing him that the war is lost, so he commits suicide.

    Comic Strips 
  • In a Playboy cartoon during the Vietnam War, a young pilot is painting the word "Love" on a bomb under his plane. A grizzled veteran tells him "You can't have it both ways, kid."

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the 2009 short film .303, a British paratrooper carves his name on a .303 rifle round (presumably for the same reason Ernest did) but the round gets dropped and picked up by a fellow paratrooper. Later that paratrooper is down to One Bullet Left, so uses it to kill a German sniper who has him pinned down. Then he discovers he's actually shot the paratrooper who originally carved the round, after he came up behind and shot the German sniper. So it was a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy!
  • In Brotherhood of the Wolf, Jean-François de Morangias (Vincent Cassel) uses Silver Bullets to "sign" his shots.
  • In A Bullet for the General, a high-profile assassin uses golden bullets for his intended targets so he can claim the kill.
  • In Deadpool, the titular character is on his way to a gunfight only to realize he forgot most of his ammo at home. He decides he'll have to make do with the 12 rounds he did bring, telling the audience "Let's count 'em down!" In a subversion that solves the ballistics issue, each bullet has a number from 1-12 stamped on the bottom of the casing, several of which are shown to the audience as they get used. More of a fourth wall break than anything, but it seems to at least be a partial parody of this trope.
  • Dr. Strangelove: The bombs in the bomb bay of Maj. T.J. "King" Kong's B-52 had "Hi There!" (this is the one Kong rode to his death on) and "Dear John" scrawled on them.
  • Parodied in Ernest in the Army. Ernest had heard the euphemism about a bullet with your name on it and failed to realize it's not literal. He has one of these with his own name on it that he carries around with him, in the belief that it means he can't be shot.
  • In From Dusk Till Dawn, when they figure out they're fighting vampires, they decide to draw crosses on their bullets (see "Holy bullets" in the real life section below).
  • In The Last Jedi, one of the Resistance's bombs has "HAN SAYS HI" written on it. The visual dictionary shows another that reads "HI SNOKE".
  • The Lone Ranger: The Silver Bullet was, itself, the mark and signature of the Lone Ranger, who not only used them to magically aid his marksmanship but would leave one, in cartridge, to indicate he had been about incognito.
  • The Man with the Golden Gun: Bond is sent a golden bullet with the number "007" on it, which leads him and MI-6 to believe that the eponymous assassin has marked him for death. He hasn't; Scaramanga's abused lover sent the bullet in the hope that Bond would kill Scaramanga.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man opens with the protagonist, engineering genius and Arms Dealer Tony Stark, being caught in an ambush in Afghanistan. A delayed-action shell lands in front of him, giving Stark enough time to see the Stark Industries logo painted on the side before it explodes. It takes him half the movie to find out why he was fired on with his own ordnance. The Starscream in his own corporation paid his ambushers with Stark Industries weapons in exchange for killing his boss, so it was literally a shell with his name on it.
    • The scene gets a Call-Back in Avengers: Age of Ultron when Wanda and Pietro Maximoff explain why It's Personal for them.
      Pietro: We were ten years old. Having dinner, the four of us. When the first shell hits, two floors below, it makes a hole in the floor. It's big. Our parents go in — and the whole building starts coming apart. I grab her, roll under the bed, and the second shell hits. But it doesn't go off. It just... sits there in the rubble. Three feet from our faces. And on the side of the shell is painted one word.
      Wanda: "Stark".
      Pietro: We were trapped two days.
      Wanda: Every effort to save us, every shift in the bricks, I think, "This will set it off." We wait for two days for Tony Stark to kill us.
    • Captain America: The First Avenger: The Valkyrie has manned cruise missiles with their designated targets of New York and Chicago painted on their nosecones.
  • In The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, Gilles de Rais (Vincent Cassel) writes "Hello" on a cannonball that is shot into an English fort.
  • In The Patriot (2000), Benjamin Martin has melted down several of his dead son Thomas's painted lead figurines into bullets when he starts fighting against the British. At the final battle, he pulls out the last painted bullet and uses it to shoot Colonel Tavington, the man who killed his son. It doesn't do the job.
  • The eponymous Priest (2011) carves crosses into the tips of bullets intended to be used against vampires. This may just be symbolic, as there are no indications that the vampires in the film are vulnerable to religious iconography. (What it would conceivably do is turn an ordinary bullet into an expanding dum-dum, causing more damage to the target and being less likely to come out the other side.)
  • The Replacement Killers: In this Heroic Bloodshed film, Chow Yun-Fat's character uses a bullet that has the Chinese/Japanese character for 'Death' on its shell casing to kill one of the major bad guys. He sets one down in front of the target as a way to say "Hi. I'm here to shoot you now." Seems sort of counterproductive for a hitman to telegraph his intentions like that, but, hey.note 
  • In Resident Evil (2002), one of the gun shells that are falling in slow motion says "Umbrella Corp". In Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the Umbrella logo was seen on the back of the slug itself. Both were probably to show just how big and diverse of a company Umbrella was.
  • WANTED: In the trailer, Angelina Jolie is shown firing a bullet that says "Good Bye" written on it. Which was more a message to Wesley than to the ones that it hit. In fact, in the same film, there is an invoked aversion to the trope, with a character whose bullets had a break-away outer casing to prevent the gun from leaving any identifying marks at all on them. When one of these bullets fails to separate from the casing it ends up playing the trope straight by making the bullet even easier to trace than a normal one would be.

  • Aubrey-Maturin: In O'Brien's series, reference is made to a Royal Navy tradition of the period to mark cannon balls POSTPAID. Why? Because stopping the Royal Mail was a capital offense.
  • Bridget Jones, of all people, gets a named bullet in the mail in the second book.
  • In His Dark Materials a witch does this, marking an arrow to use when she takes her revenge on Mrs Coulter. She never gets to use it, but her breaking the arrow is taken as a sign she is POSITIVE the target is dead.
  • In the Septimus Heap series, there is a magical significance to a named bullet, and sooner or later it will always find its target. The catch, as one assassin finds out, is that this doesn't necessarily mean the target will be shot with it. The way the bullet is named is important too. If the bullet was named 'I.P.', nothing stops it from killing Iona Pot (aka Alice Nettles) instead of the Infant Princess.
  • Mayne Reid's "Headless Horseman". The main antagonist has special bullets, which lead to his demise (no, he's not shot with them).
  • In Something Wicked This Way Comes, this is used to kill the witch, via Charles Halloway carving a "smile" on the bullet as she's weakened by positive emotions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied in Blackadder Goes Forth, in which Baldrick carves his own name on a bullet, the reasoning being that since "there's a bullet out there with your name on it", he is assured that it won't hit him if he owns said bullet.
    Baldrick: Well I thought that if I owned the bullet with my name on it, I'll never get hit by it. Cause I'll never shoot myself.
    Blackadder: Shame.
  • Castle featured a serial killer who carved letters into the bullets he used to kill his victims. They spelled out a message to the detective assigned to the case.
  • An episode of CSI revolves around the murder of a man suffering from Hypertrichosis (aka "Werewolf syndrome"), a condition that causes excessive body hair. To make matters even more bizarre, the guy was shot with a silver bullet. It turns out the guy wasn't murdered due to being confused with a werewolf but because he was engaged to the killer's sister who feared their children would inherit the condition. Why did the guy go through all the trouble of forging a silver bullet with the added risk of the police finding him as it indeed happened? "Seemed appropriate."
  • Two rival Puerto Rican gangs in CSI: NY's episode "Sangre por Sangre" carve their gangs' initials onto their bullets as a way of taking credit for their kills.
  • The Hawaii Five-0 episode "Hookman" has a variant: the sniper inscribes the name of the intended victim on the cartridge, then leaves the spent cartridge at the place he shot from for the police to find.
  • Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans. Hawkeye is nearly executed when one of his own marked bullets is fired at a British officer he had an ongoing rivalry with. It turns out to have been stolen before the battle by another colonist.
  • On Life, Charlie is shot, and when he recovers he asks for the remains of the bullet taken out of him. He then melts it down and molds it into another bullet, and shoots the man who shot him.
  • One episode of Smallville had Deadshot carving the names of several targets into his bullets. One of the targets was Clark, but it turns out he was tagging him with radiation so the Suicide Squad could trace him.
  • Supernatural

  • A line in the Bon Jovi song Love Lies goes, "Scratched a picture of a heart on a bullet and took his life away."
  • "Hollywood the Cracked" by Coheed and Cambria states "She's got a bullet with your name on it, no doubt she's a mental case".
  • In the music video of "Neighborhood Snyper", the rapper Eazy-E is shown etching his moniker on the shell of an AK-47 round.
  • Nickelback's "Side Of A Bullet" mentions one of these, unless they were just using the "bullet with your name on it" metaphor.
  • Nonpoint's "Bullet With a Name On It" is pretty self explanatory... Though they never mention whose name.
  • The "Bullet with my name on it" coming after the protagonist in Stan Ridgway's "Camouflage" is only metaphorically (unless the Vietcong is suddenly fond of this trope).

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Feng Shui supplement "Friends of the Dragon" has rules for these kinds of bullets due to this trope's inclusion in The Replacement Killers and basically fitting the Heroic Bloodshed genre like a glove.
  • In the Iron Kingdoms setting, the Gun Mages are a group of people who have a knack for channeling magic through their guns. Etching mystical runes into the bullets is one technique, making them Depleted Phlebotinum Shells as well.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Orks like to decorate their "rokkits" (rockets) with checkerboard patterns or shark Nose Art.
    • Some especially potent bolt rounds used by Space Marines have blessings inscribed on them.
  • The X-wing miniature game's "Bombardier" crew card depicts said crew member marking a bomb in the Aurabesh alphabet.

    Video Games 
  • Deadshot in Batman: Arkham City uses custom rounds with his moniker on them. It's one of several mistakes that eventually lead the Dark Knight straight to him. However, Deadshot somewhat sensibly applied his moniker to his rounds' casings rather than to the bullets themselves.
  • The trailer for Brink! gives us a grenade with jah lick them with thunder.
  • A mod exists for Fallout: New Vegas called "A Bullet With Benny's Name On It." This mod allows you to take "your trophy bullet" (i.e. the one Benny put in the Courier's head in the intro cutscene) and recast it as a special 9mm round (that optionally does increased damage) which, if you drop it and look at the world model, does indeed have Benny's name on it. Get your hands on Benny's custom 9mm handgun, Maria, for extra payback.
  • Fate/Grand Order: Calamity Jane's bullets are labeled "Bad Luck".
  • Halo:
    • The shotgun shells in the first game, if you zoomed in, had hippos on them.
    • In Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, if you watch a saved film and freeze it, you can see the bullet casings in mid-air. On the back of each of them are the words "Chief EG-X".
  • A sidequest on Kashyyyk in Knights of the Old Republic involves finding a Wookiee gone missing in the Shadowlands. You find what's left of him, some marked casings from a bowcaster (Wookiee hunting weapon), and a slaver's contract. The Wookiee village judge you show them to is quickly able to determine who shot the guy. Showing them what else you found on the corpse can change the outcome.
  • Mass Effect: Invoked by the turian military, according to Garrus. Of course, since the bullets are microscopic chunks of ammo carved off an "ammo block", no message would be visible. The message (the shooter's name) is carved onto the entire block, instead. It's specifically stated to be a symbolic gesture, of "owning your kills".
  • Gauss Rifle slugs in MechWarrior Living Legends have a skull painted on their tip. The tendency for Gauss Rifles to kill pilots through the cockpit canopy means that it'll often be the last thing you see.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Ocelot has one for Snake (no, not like that). It's a blank.
  • For his X-Ray attack in Mortal Kombat X, Erron Black fires a bullet that has his opponent's name etched onto it. It ricochets twice inside his opponent's body before exiting, breaking bones along the way. There are some Easter Eggs: the bullet will be labeled "Me" if he uses his X-Ray attack in a Mirror Match, and "Ugly Mofo" when used against Predator.
  • Nocturne (1999): The opening cutscene showed The Stranger carving crosses into the tips of his bullets, the practical reason no doubt being that this would make a difference against some of the monsters he hunts.
  • Parodied by the Spectre's Stop Poking Me! lines in StarCraft II: after evidently missing with several "bullets with your name on them", he stops to consider:
    No, this one has - hey, what is your name, anyway?
    • Also, if you look closer on the Terran Nuke when it's launched, it has a "TAKE IT!" graffiti on it.
  • The Bullet Bills from the Super Mario Bros. series games have angry eyes on them. Or are they actual faces?
  • All of the Payload bombs in Team Fortress 2 have something written on them, all of them apparently done by the Heavy. The most common Fatman-style bomb has "Cry some more!" scratched onto its side. The Hoodoo cart (a collection of dynamite, timers, and radioactive fuel drums) has "So much blood!" painted on the front (with a little note reading "Bonk!" left on the side by the Scout). The cart on Frontier (a weaponized train with lethal biting steel jaws named Lil' Chew Chew) has "All of you are dead!" painted in front of its smokestack.
  • Unreal Tournament:
    • Flak shells have a smile face painted on the front.
    • The Redeemer has Adios written on the side.
    • In Unreal Tournament 2004, it has Swallow This written instead.
  • Captain Vor from Warframe taunts you with "This one has your name on it!" as he pulls out his gun.
  • In Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, you can see cannon shells with "Mercy is a sign of weakness" written on the back of the casing.

  • In Spinnerette, superheroine Mecha Maid has missiles with things like "Mine is bigger!", and "From MM with <3!" written on them.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Beast Wars: Scorponok had missiles with the Maximals' logo painted on. Unfortunately, this confused viewers as Transformers usually put their own team's logo on equipment (even weapons) rather than the logo of the team that's going to be shot with them, so the idea was dropped.
  • An episode of Huckleberry Hound had our hero in the Old West facing against an outlaw who threatened him with a bullet with his name on it. Huckleberry defeats him by hanging a sign with his name on the Outlaw, causing him to shoot himself.
  • ReBoot: In the fourth season, Matrix has one with Daemon's name on it. Daemon stops it midair, then gingerly holds it between two fingers and lets it explode, not harming her in the slightest.
  • One Peabody's Improbable History short features a character who signed bullets with his own name. Naturally, when he tries to shoot someone else, the bullet curves back to hit him.
  • During the rejection scene of the first episode in City Hunters, the missile and activation button are both labeled "I'm Seeing Someone Else".
  • The Simpsons. Spoofed in "Bart the General".
    Herman: When he leaves the Kwik-E-Mart, we start the saturation bombing. You got the water balloons?
    Bart: Two hundred rounds, sir. Is it okay if they say "Happy Birthday" on the side?
    Herman: Well, I'd rather they say, "Death From Above," but I guess we're stuck.
  • Ultramarines features not a marked bullet but a marked casing instead. An Ultramarine is seen carving "Kill the Heretic" into one of his bolt rounds and later during a firefight as dozens of rounds are pouring out of his heavy bolter we get a slow-motion shot of his carved shell ejecting.

    Real Life 
  • Older Than Feudalism: Archaeologists have found ancient Greek sling shots with "ΔΕΞΑΙ" ("take that") written on them. The ones on The Other Wiki are dated to the 4th century BC.
  • In Afghanistan a sailor got in trouble for writing "Highjack [sic] this, Fags!" on a bomb to be dropped. The sailor got in trouble because an AP photographer was standing there. This kind of thing was very common during World War II.
    • This kind of thing is still common today. What got the sailor in trouble was using the word "Fags" for that purpose.
    • A famous World War II picture has two artillerymen holding up their shells labelled "Easter Eggs for Hitler."
  • In a similar case, Israeli children writing on shells meant for Lebanon resulted in some bad press.
  • Jimmy Doolittle put a Japanese medal on one of the bombs that would be dropped in his famous raid. Many American soldiers had received medals from the Japanese government for their service in WWI, and after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the majority sent those medals to the Air Force with the instructions "return to sender.". It was reenacted in the film Pearl Harbor.
  • Joe Strummer of The Clash wept when he learned the phrase "Rock the Casbah" was being written on bombs in the first Gulf War.
  • "Holy" bullets were actually used by witch hunters and similar sorts for a short time. This typically involved carving a cross onto a silver musket ball. The result (when tested in modern times) was that the weapons became even less accurate than usual.
  • Dum dum bullets were used before the creation of purpose built hollow-point rounds. They were banned under the Hague Conventions.
    • Although there have been documented cases of soldiers of various militaries, especially in Africa for some reason, carving lines into their bullets with knives in an attempt to create frangible rounds. Whether or not this actually works or simply makes the bullet less accurate is debatable.
  • A bullet with markings that might have been initials was recovered by British police in the as-yet unsolved murder of Jill Dando, co-presenter of Crimewatch. They appeared on the base of the bullet, suggesting a variation; whoever hand-loaded the cartridges, presumably an Arms Dealer to the London criminal underworld, was signing their work.
  • On German U-boats, torpedoes would be covered in grease when loaded into the tubes. The crew would often write messages in the grease before loading them.
  • For forty dollars, Ukrainian soldiers will put a message of your choice on an artillery shell to be used in their war with Russia.


Video Example(s):


Edmund Blackadder

Captain Edmund Blackadder, like his identically named ancestors before him, is very much prone to delivering snarky comments and sarcastic remarks in almost any conversation.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeadpanSnarker

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