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Shoot Out the Lock

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"Sergeant Colon!" he snapped, his mind still buzzing with universal policemanhood, "shoot the lock off!"
The sergeant hesitated. "What, sir? With a bow and arrow, sir?"
"I mean-" Vimes hesitated. "I mean, open these gates!"

In movies and television, a locked door, or a padlock on a cage is never an impediment so long as the Hero has bullets to spare. One or two shots is generally enough to destroy the lock, allowing the door to open.

Unfortunately, in real life — as shown by the MythBusters — this requires a high powered gun at close range, which causes lots of very dangerous shrapnel. Lesser firearms, especially handguns may harmlessly bury rounds in even standard padlocks to little effect. Only SWAT teams and soldiers ever do this in real life, and it involves a shotgun, Kevlar body armor, specialized ammunition (a powdered metal breaching round, often jokingly referred to as "Avon Calling"), and full face protection. Even then, they don't aim their weapons at the lock; they aim at the surrounding door or the hinges. The old standby "entry tool" (a small battering ram) is a better choice in most situations. The reason breaching shotguns exist at all is that a battering ram requires at least two people to operate, and the shotgun can be used to shoot bad guys too. That, or a good hard kick on an especially flimsy door. (The MythBusters have done that one, too. The only reason it failed was because one lock was installed with a stronger screw than was included with the installation kit, and even that one would have have failed eventually if they'd kept going.)


Attempts to shoot the lock mechanism itself tend to leave the distorted metal jammed in place while the bolt or latch remains closed. In effect, the door is now more locked than if you had left it alone. Although if you decided to shoot the lock with a Rocket Launcher, that's another story.

The Speculative Fiction version is shooting the control panel for the automatic door or force field, or automatic force field door. While there are doors that "fail safe" or "fail open" when power is cut, in fiction this is always coincidentally whichever the shooter and/or plot requires. (Note to villains: The Evil Overlord List recommends rigging yours to reverse this.)

Tested on The Box O'Truth.

Not to be confused with getting shot out of an airlock.

See also "Open!" Says Me, There Was a Door and Axe Before Entering for other violent ways to get throught the doors.



    open/close all folders 

  • Commercials for Weatherby ammunition would show a lock penetrated, but not completely destroyed, by a rifle cartridge.
  • For years, the Master Lock company ran TV commercials during the Super Bowl where they would shoot one of their own padlocks with a gun to demonstrate its durability. This is an interesting application of Reality Is Unrealistic, because its effectiveness is based on viewers' expectations that a lock will break when fired at. (This commercial is referenced in the Stephen King-as-Richard-Bachman novella "Rage", when the narrator/protagonist puts his locker padlock in his shirt pocket, where it later saves him from a sharpshooter bullet in the heart. The narrator mentions later viewing that commercial, with adverse emotional effects.)
    • Spoofed by an advertisement for a high-powered cartridge, which showed it blowing apart the lock with the words, "Sorry, Master Lock".
  • In "The Crunchie Train Robbery," the outlaws shoot the padlock off the strongbox holding the Crunchies.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Gets played with in the first episode of Gosick. We see a maid shooting at a locked door, ostensibly to free her master, who is locked inside. Turns out that the maid is killing the master via a shot to the eye through the keyhole while the master was peeking through the hole.
  • In Highschool of the Dead, Takashi tries to do this, but resident Gun Otaku Kohta quickly stops him, worried that one of the bullets will riccochet and hit one of them.
  • Done in The Fuma Conspiracy, but for the opposite effect most people go for. The lock is an old-fashioned one whose purpose is to disable the booby traps guarding a treasure stash. The person shooting it does so to trash the mechanism after his enemies steal the vase with the key hidden inside.
  • Defied in one episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The Major tries shooting out the lock on an out-of-control tank so she can get inside to stop it, but even though Section 9 uses armor-piercing ammo her handgun doesn't have the power needed to do anything more than put superficial dents into the tank's heavy armor.

    Comic Books 
  • Scrooge McDuck does this in the Carl Barks comic "The Old Castle's Secret".
  • In one of the War Picture Library comics, the heroes are freeing a captured British spy from prison, and one suggests shooting out the lock. The spy responds: "You've been watching too many cowboy movies; the ricochets would kill us all." (As the prison has stone walls and a steel door).
  • Bookhunter's opening scene shows a SWAT team using a shotgun with "shocklock rounds". In the preliminary briefing, Agent Bay points out that the hallway's layout prevents them from using a ram.
  • Mentioned, but averted, in S.H.I.E.L.D. #2 (2014)
    Ms. Marvel: Can you shoot the lock off?
    Coulson: A.K.A. "Fire into a lunchroom full of high school students?" No.
  • Ratchet & Clank Comic One of Artemis Zogg's robots do this to Talwyn to trap her on the ship in the 4th issue much to Ratchet's alarm.
  • The Maze Agency: Lt. Bliss does this in "The Return of Jack the Ripper...?", when she, Jen and Gabe converge on the apartment where the killer is holding their last intended victim.
  • In Tragg and the Sky Gods #6, Fernek shoots the lock off Keera's cell to allow her to escape.
  • The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones: After being locked in the cargo bay of a plane that is ditching into the English Channel in #4, Indy shoots out the lock on the outer door and bails out with an Improvised Parachute.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Death Note fic All You Need Is Love during their raid on the terrorist base this is Light's solution to Matsuda's "door problem."
  • This shows up in Fallout: Equestria - Occupational Hazards with Twintails and his rechambered .45 ACP Luger. Much to his companion and friend Minty's dismay, he does quite enjoy ballistic lockpicking over the standard bobby pin and screwdriver kind.
    • Taken Up to Eleven by the sequel, Fallout: Equestria - Empty Quiver, where Night Strike continues the tradition of ballistic lockpicking with Thumper - a 40mm Grenade Launcher that doubles as a shotgun, and as such can load slug rounds.
      • Not that it works all the time, mind. One instance of failing a terminal hack to gain access to a secure hardened submarine pen led to her attempting a brute force hack with Thumper, only succeeding in obliterating the terminal and keeping the armored blast doors shut. Luckily for the group however, the sub pen was well-defended from both aerial and tank attacks, and as such has a mass of Flak 88 batteries on the roof, along with some decently hard-hitting APHE rounds. Needless to say, they aren't locked out of the place for too long.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Big Trouble in Little China: Jack Burton shoots off a padlock to free the female captives from their cells in Lo Pan's warehouse.
  • The weasels use a machine gun to shoot a hole around the lock on Eddie's door to open it in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
    Eddie: Hey boys. Didn't hear you come in.
  • In No Country for Old Men, the villain (chillingly well-played by Javier Bardem) shoots off locks, but with an air gun that drives a metal spike through the lock and launches it into the next room. As cool as this is, it is sadly impossible.
  • Done surprisingly realistically in Equilibrium, which is otherwise notorious for outrageous Gun Fu. At the beginning of the film, a heavily-armored SWAT-type team raids a building because the residents are enjoying looking at paintings. The residents barricade themselves behind a locked door. The team breaches the door with point-blank shotgun slugs to the hinges and the door frame near the lock. Then Rule of Cool takes over as Preston dodges the residents' fire and singlehandedly kills them all with Gun Kata.
  • Star Wars:
    • In A New Hope, Luke shoots a door to keep shut, cutting off pursuing Storm Troopers. Unfortunately, it also stops the bridge controls from working, making a heroic swing across a chasm (and a kiss that later becomes awkward) necessary.
    • The garbage compactor doesn't have a control panel on the inside (even though the chutes are big enough for a Wookiee to fall into), so Han tries shooting the door itself. That turns out to be a very bad idea.
    • In The Force Awakens, Han resorts to this to open a door panel, after trying and failing to do a proper bypass.
  • Subverted in the film adaptation of Phillip K. Dick's Paycheck. The hero and his girlfriend have sealed themselves inside a room, and she is about to smash the control panel for the door when he stops her and lets her know that will only keep them from opening the door from their side, not the bad guys.
  • Played straight at the end of The Mask of Zorro.
  • Charles Lee Ray in Child's Play did this to the lock on the toy store door.
  • James Bond:
    • Tomorrow Never Dies: Bond first fries a code lock to open a door (toward the Mad Scientist's bureau), then shoots another lock on a ceiling hatch to seal it so the Big Bad's minions can't pursue him. The door was about to lock itself anyway; Bond shot the lock so that the bad guys couldn't open it from their side.
    • The World Is Not Enough:
      • Valentin Zukovsky shoots out the lock to release Bond from Elektra's torture device, even as he suffers some mortal wounds, using a gun disguised as a walking stick.
      • Bond shoots the lock to release M from her cell.
    • Diamonds Are Forever. The door to Willard Whyte's room was secured with a padlock. It was shot off the door with a pistol to free him.
    • In Skyfall, Bond shoots the lock of a jammed door in a subway tunnel in order to force it open.
  • Used in the movie Ghost, as the plot is nearing its climax. Molly and Oda Mae barricade themselves inside their apartment and refuse to let Carl inside. He shoots out the lock with his small handgun, with ridiculous ease. The lock simply falls right out of the door and he is able to open it without any further problems.
  • Terminator:
    • The Terminator: The Terminator shoots out a door lock with his SPAS-12 during the police station assault. Could count as Early Installment Weirdness as in later movies a Terminator can knock steel doors off their hinges. Perhaps it's because he has his hands full at the time.
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day: The T-101 doesn't seem to bother with pistols. An M79 grenade launcher works better, though it's less "shoot the lock" and more "obliterate the door". Earlier in the film, he does this to padlocked fence gates while driving a motorcycle, with a shotgun. Granted, it is designed to be a perfect killing machine, but that kind of precision is still very impressive.
    • In Terminator Genisys, T-101 punches out the panel for the fingerprint recognition, upon which the facility doors open.
  • At the end of The Leech Woman a detective shoots out the lock on the titular character's bedroom door, which at least seems vaguely more plausible since a door handle's locking mechanism probably isn't anything near as sturdy as a combination lock. At any rate, it's more plausible than everything else in the film.
  • In Highlander: The Source, the first non-Duncan Immortal in the movie breaks into a tower and rides the elevator to the top. To prevent the guards from calling the elevator, he stabs the control panel with his scimitar. Stupidly enough, he stabs the control panel outside of the elevator, only preventing him from calling the elevator. Even if he thought of destroying the panel inside the elevator, there was still a perfectly fresh elevator right next to that one!
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The title character throws an object and hits the control box for a door, causing the door to close and prevent pursuing robots from capturing him.
  • In Die Hard, when John McClane is cornered on the rooftop, he shoots out the lock of a door to escape through.
  • Die Hard 2 has John shooting a padlock on an access grate to get onto a runway at Dulles Airport.
  • Guns are used to do everything in Ultraviolet, unlocking doors included.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy shoots out the lock on the plane's cockpit so Marion can escape.
  • Jack does this to a door in Speed. It takes him a few tries to nail the lock, and he comes very close to shooting some pedestrians on the other side of the door.
  • The first Resident Evil movie. After Spence leaves the laboratory he shoots out the locking mechanism on the door so the others can't get out.
  • Clue, of all places. When Col Mustard and Miss Scarlet are trapped in the lounge, Yvette recovers the revolver from the cupboard and shoots the lock twice from across the room. At least one of the bullets goes through the lock and Col. Mustard claims it hits him in the shoulder, and if you look closely and you'll see his suit coat is damaged and he was apparently grazed by the bullet. (In general Yvette manages an astounding level of Reckless Gun Usage in about 30 seconds: she manages to accidentally discharge the gun - which damages the rope holding up a chandelier, causing it to later fall - takes aim at the lock to the door despite two people [Professor Plum and Mister Green] being in the way and needing to dive to the ground to clear the space, doesn't hesitate to fire despite both Colonel Mustard and Miss Scarlet being just on the other side of the door, grazes Mustard as mentioned above, and then accidentally points the gun at Plum and Green again, causing them to once again frantically scurry out of the way once more lest she unintentionally shoot them.)
  • Subverted in, surprisingly enough, Skyline. A door lock is shot twice to no effect.
  • Blowing out the hinges with a shotgun also occurs in the 1982 film Who Dares Wins (aka The Final Option), inspired as it was by the SAS tactics in the 1980 Iranian Embassy Siege.
  • Subverted in S.W.A.T. when the Big Bad locks a sewer exit the protagonists were chasing him through. The lock is obviously a high-end, very tough lock, and a couple of shots from an assault rifle barely dent it. They have to resort to blowing the entire grate off with a claymore.
  • DEBS. While the protagonists are secretly meeting with Lucy Diamond at Endgame, Bobby shoots a padlock that's securing a door leading to their location.
  • Done at the end of Kelly's Heroes. Of course, since they shot the lock off with a tank, they also ended up shooting off half the door.
  • In I, Robot, when the protagonists are trying to open a compartment to destroy the Big Bad. The Big Bad locks the compartment with a code. The smart chick tries to break the code... while Will Smith's character just punches the console, preferring Percussive Maintenance to complex code-breaking.
  • Flash Gordon. Prince Barin does this several times while traveling through Ming's fortress after escaping from the dungeon, with a Removable Turret Gun he took away from one of Ming's mooks.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: More like stab the lock. Snake Eyes doesn't think much of M.A.R.S.' security systems.
  • Doubly Subverted in Mulholland Falls. When attempting to get into a restricted military area, a character is taunted for trying to shoot open the gate lock. After lockpicking failed, they returned to use this trope, with success.
  • In Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Brady tries to do this so that he, Rachel, and Jamie can escape Micheal Myers (having padlocked the doors to keep him out, they now have no time to unlock them when he gets in anyway). Unfortunately, Reality Ensues. Having been blasted with a shotgun, the lock is far too hot to touch and as such, they still can't get out.
  • They Call Me Bruce (1982). After escaping police lockup, Bruce still has handcuffs attached to one wrist. Fortunately they come across a friendly cowboy.
    Cowboy: Looks like you got yourself in a heap of trouble there, partner. Or did you just marry a cop?
    Freddy: Excuse me, do you know a blacksmith who can get this handc— err, bracelet off my friend?
    Cowboy: I'll do better than that for ya. Hold your arm out straight there.
    Freddy: Ohhhsh — (flees as the cowboy shoots off the handcuffs)
  • Shoot 'em Up. Smith locks himself in the cargo hold with a hostage, then shoots him. On hearing this The Dragon shoots out the lock, but can't open the door as Smith tied the man to the hatch so his body prevents the hatch from being lifted.
  • An underwater example in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where Harry shoots open the trunk lock of a sinking car in order to free the girl inside.
  • John "Breacher" Wharthon in Sabotage (2014) earns his nickname by breaching doors with his shotgun during DEA raids.
  • Santa does this to a door in Reindeer Games.
  • Don't Breathe. When one of the robbers does this, it wakes up the Blind Man.
  • 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!
  • Dan Brown's Inferno. Langdon is attacked in the hospital by a female assassin, and (due to a head injury) winces in pain from the gunshots as she tries to shoot out the lock to his room and fails. He later realises the fact that a hospital door had locks in the first place meant the whole thing was a set-up and he was meant to escape.
  • In Breakheart Pass, the sergeant shoots out the lock of the troop carriage to get outside and attempt to apply the brake when the carriages become decoupled from the train.
  • After the final battle in The Revengers, Benedict shoots the lock off the tool shed where Tarp is being held prisoner.
  • Savaged: When Zoe's powers cause a door to slam in Wes's face and lock at the mine, Wes responds by blasting the door open with a shotgun.
  • The Gauntlet. "Gus" Mally tries a Bathroom Break-Out after locking the door, so Detective Shockley shoots out the lock, unaware that the house is surrounded by Trigger Happy state troopers who have been given a false message that there is an armed and dangerous man in the house. They proceed to literally shoot the house to pieces.
  • In Weird Science, Chet uses his shotgun to blow open the lock on the door to the room when Wyatt and Hilly are sleeping. This was probably completely unnecessary.
  • Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Thunderbolt earned his name by using a 20mm Oerlikon cannon to blast his way into a safe, which he does again in The Caper. This is based on a real life robbery when Joel Singer shot his way in the vault of the Syracuse, New York branch of the Brinks company on October 24, 1965, earning him $433,580 in cash and a place on the FBI's Most Wanted list.
  • Snuff Movie: When the Armed Response Team arrives, Constable Fred takes a pistol from one of them and uses it to shoot the lock on the French doors. Exactly why he does this this is unclear, as his next action is to smash a pane of glass and reach in and unlock the door.
  • At the end of The Sniper, a patrolman shoots out the lock on Miller's door with a Tommy gun.
  • In the climax of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Benji tries to find a nuclear bomb that he believes to be hidden inside one of the radioactive equipment boxes at the medical camp. At first he tries to pick the padlock but realizes he couldn't get it done fast enough, so he pulls out a gun and prepares to shoot it off. Then he realizes that if the nuke is in the box, firing bullets at it could risk blowing it up. So Benji puts the gun away and grabs a nearby oxygen cylinder to smash the padlock instead. It's not in there anyway.
  • Death Spa: Trying to get back into the computer room after the club catches fire, Michael tells Sgt. Stone that Catherine has used the computer to lock everything down. Stone replies "Fuck all this computer shit!", draws her gun, and shoots the lock out.

  • Discworld:
    • Spoofed in Guards! Guards!, where Captain Vimes orders Sergeant Colon to shoot the lock off a gate, despite the fact that guns don't exist, and Colon doesn't have his bow. Apparently storming the keep to arrest a corrupt official is such a key part of a police man's duty across the multiverse that Vimes was tapping into the general consciousness of coppers everywhere. Including places where they have guns to shoot locks off.
      "I mean—" Vimes hesitated. "I mean, open these gates!"
      "Sir!" Colon saluted. He glared at the gates for a moment. "Right!" he barked. "Lance-constable Carrot, one stepa forwarda, take! Lance-constable Carrot, inna youra owna timer! Open these gatesa!"
      "Yes, sir!" Carrot stepped forward, saluted, folded an enormous hand into a fist and rapped gently on the woodwork.
      "Open up," he said, "in the name of the Law!"
    • Detritus later gets a siege crossbow called the "Piecemaker". Initially it only shoots one arrow, but he modifies it to shoot a whole quarrel at a time, which means the arrows basically turn into a fireball mid-air, which shoots out the lock... and the door... and the surrounding doorframe...
  • In the first Artemis Fowl book, Holly shoots the lock of Artemis' study with her Ray Gun, melting it and trapping him inside. When Butler comes to rescue him, he doesn't shoot out the lock— he shoots out the doorframe. He notes that the door, made of reinforced steel, would have sent his bullets bouncing back at him; the doorway, made of the same porous rock as the rest of the manor, crumbles like chalk. He also notes that this is a major security risk that should be fixed as soon as possible.
  • Defied in Sharpe - someone suggests shooting open a lock, but Sharpe points out that all it does is mangle the levers and make it worse. He does play it straight once, but in a way that would work. He shoots the door in. With a cannon. Played straight in the TV series.
  • A character in the Island series of children's books tries this to get out of a locked room after stealing a gun from the guard. It works, but the bullet goes through the door and injures the Big Bad standing on the other side. He's not too happy about this.
  • The first Doom novel had the hero, as in the game, looking for many keys. The important thing was, blasting open a locked door was entirely possible, given his sci-fi ammunition, it was just that he preferred to save the bullets for the horrible monsters intending to eat him.
  • Defied: When faced with a padlocked gate in The Bourne Supremacy, Jason Bourne noted how useless shooting the lock would be, resulting in only shrapnel and wasted bullets. Instead, he cuts through the fence a discreet distance to the side.
    • On the other hand, when the Big Bad is in pursuit, said villain doesn't see how Bourne got past the fence and goes for the gate. He gets one of his minions to try this trope. It fails, and the Big Bad breaks a ceremonial sword in trying to hack at the lock.
  • The ultimate version of this trope is when Goldfinger in the eponymous James Bond book plans to use a stolen tactical nuclear weapon to blast open the vault of Fort Knox. This was fortunately changed for the movie.
  • From Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series:
    • In Rainbow Six a bad guy tries to do this, rather unsuccessfully. He then shoot-cuts the lock off the door using a Uzi.
    • In Clear and Present Danger, the character doesn't even bother aiming at the lock. Instead, he fires five rounds from his revolver to separate the lock from the door and then opens it, "just like in the movies"—an unusual way of invoking the trope, since most movies don't bother with shoot-cutting the lock.
  • Monster Hunter Legion: Owen uses Abomination, a fully automatic shotgun based on the AK-47, to shoot out the lock on a fire exit that blocking his path into a building. The ricochet issue is addressed by the narrative, as is that there would normally be a special breacher round to be used for the task that's unfortunately unavailable to Owen at that moment.
  • Defied in the After the End book series Literature/The Guardians. When asked by a teenager if he was going to shoot out the lock on a locked door, the leader of the Guardians replies that it's a "great way to collect a bullet in the nuts kid and probably wouldn't open the door." He then proceeds to use a crowbar instead.
  • Played straight in the Harlan Coben book "Promise Me" where someone shoots out a door lock with a .22.
  • Paladin of Shadows:
    • Choosers of the Slain has an SPR being placed against the door lock and shot out with a burst.
    • Shotguns used by the intruders in the prologue of Unto the Breach serve as the method of destroying the locks in the building they're raiding. Later, in the extraction of Katya, Shota's shotgun is used on the lock for the door to the building they're attacking.
  • In The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma, the Ten Men (thuggish henchmen who work for the Big Bad of the series, Ledroptha Curtain) do a high-tech version of this, using their sophisticated laser pointers to disable locking mechanisms.
  • A variation is used in Fight Club by Project Mayhem members; rather than using a gun, however, it involves spraying cans of refrigerant note  into a lock before breaking it open with a cold chisel or a cordless drill. Notably in the book, the gun-like appearance of a cordless drill causes a cop to open fire, as he assume a Project Mayhem member is invoking this trope.
  • In Terminal World, Quillion attempts to shoot a lock open using a pistol, but only succeeds in denting it. Meroka then shoots the lock with her volley-gun, which doesn't so much break the lock as cause it to cease existing.
  • In Room, Ma tells Jack that this is how the police broke her out of the room where they had been imprisoned for seven years.
  • This is discussed in the novelizations of Resident Evil, as a means of justifying why it couldn't be done in the game. The S.T.A.R.S. members only want to do it as an absolute last-ditch resort (Like Jill about to be squashed in a trap) because they are afraid of ricocheting bullets.
  • Mark Delewen and the Space Pirates has Officer Tirt lampshading this: 'Didn't expect that to work...', after he shoots a door panel, making the locked door open.
  • A cop doing this at the beginning of Final Destination: Dead Reckoning sparks a chain reaction that causes a nightclub to collapse.
  • Subverted in Death from a Top Hat: when a police officer tries shooting out a lock all he does is jam it solid, they eventually have to remove the door hinges in order to send the latest corpse off to autopsy. Which really annoyed the murderer, for the record — that murder wasn't supposed to look like a Locked Room Mystery, but the police bullets turned it into one.
  • In the Boojumverse story "Boojum", Space Pirate Black Alice uses a Ray Gun to shoot out the lock of sealed cargo hold. It's actually the only time in the story she uses her gun, since she admittedly has absolutely terrible aim.
  • In the Prince Roger series the titular Prince develops a fondness for using heavy weapons for shooting the lock off (and the door, and part of the wall). In the last book during the climatic assault on the palace the assault team repeatedly uses plasma cannons to destroy the doors in their way. This is justified due to the fact that the doors in question are constructed from star ship armor and plasma cannons are the only thing they have that can destroy them and even they requires Explosive Overclocking to do so.
  • Lampshaded in Unofficial History by Sir William Slim. While a platoon commander in India, he has to search a building and decides to shoot the lock with his revolver just like Bulldog Drummond. The bullet ricochets off the lock without effect.
  • Shadow Police: Costain does this at the squat that is Mora Losley's final hideout in London Falling.
  • The Thinking Machine: In "The Mystery of a Studio", after Hutch and Mallory fail to break down a closet door, Van Dusen takes Mallory's revolver and shoots the lock.
  • There's a spell for this in Harry Potter. Say it with us now: "Alohomora!"

    Live-Action TV 
  • The above-mentioned MythBusters episode, where they determined that the average handgun would not destroy a lock, and that doing so with higher-powered guns was not particularly safe due to the shrapnel. It was noted however that shooting the deadbolt could be much more effective than shooting the keyhole mechanism, as almost every movie depicts.
  • Called out by MacGyver in "The Wish Child", where Mac, being a Technical Pacifist, explains that shooting a lock won't work. Instead, he empties powder from six revolver cartridges into a lock, stuffs in a shell casing, and hits its primer with the gun butt to set off the powder and destroy the lock.
    • The MythBusters tested this scenario and found it wouldn't work either. They needed over 100 cartridges' worth of powder and an electric igniter to blow the lock open. At the beginning of the test, they tried simply shooting at the lock and were surprised to find that one shot did enough damage to let them open the door.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Sacrifice of Angels," when Quark had to shoot the Jem'Hadar, leaving no one to let Kira and company out of their cell. Ziyal then shot the control panel, and down came the force fields.
  • Shooting the control crystals actually works to take down a futuristic door on Stargate SG-1.
    • And one in Stargate Atlantis by use of Ronon's many hidden throwing knives, but this is something of a subversion as their escape was engineered. It isn't an option in their other appearances.
    • In another episode, Ronon shoots a Wraith door panel with his energy revolver to open it. In the same episode, McKay tries the same thing with a P90 and is annoyed that it doesn't work like it did for Ronon.
      • Or maybe Fridge Brilliance: doors would be designed to open automatically in a fire, which a burst of hot plasma would simulate. And an armor-piercing bullet wouldn't.
    • An earlier SG-1 episode manages to avert this, when an NID agent uses a machine pistol on full auto to shoot around a lock, completely separating it from the rest of the door (and he actually reloads afterward, for bonus verisimilitude).
  • Both subverted and used (almost) correctly in the Firefly episode "Ariel." Jayne attempts to shoot out a lock with a futuristic stun gun, resulting in total indifference on the part of the door (stun rifles aren't really designed to blow out locks anyway). However, Mal's shotgun does a much better job at shooting out the lock, doing substantial damage to the door itself.
  • In the Chuck episode "Chuck Versus the Marlin," Casey shoots open the lock to free Sarah who had been locked in a freezer by an enemy spy.
  • Kate successfully shoots a padlock in the Lost episode "Eggtown."
  • Zigzagged on one episode of In Plain Sight, all within about a minute. The lead, Mary, and another cop are trapped in a burning building. The second cop wants to shoot the lock, but Mary informs him that it won't work; the shrapnel would just bounce back. She tries to find the key for the door on the huge bunch of janitor's keys she used to get into the building, gets impatient, and shoots the lock. No shrapnel, but the dents damage the lock enough for them to get outside. She's surprised that it actually works.
  • Played straight in several episodes of the 60s spy series The Man From Uncle.
  • In an episode of The Green Green Grass, the Driscoll brothers use a pair of AK-47s and destroy every part of the door except the lock.
  • Subverted in an episode of Monk - When the gang are trapped in a bank vault with a limited air supply, Stottlemeyer wraps his hand in his suit jacket and attempts to shoot the padlock off a utility box that might contain a phone line so that they can get help. Multiple shots don't faze the lock.
  • The Goodies. In "UF-Friend or UFO" Bill is being chased by what he thinks is an alien, but Tim won't let him in the door, so he orders Graham's robot to open it. The robot promptly disintegrates the door, so Bill can't lock it after him.
  • Jack Bauer does it in the premiere of the eighth season of 24.
  • Used in the FlashForward (2009) series - to be fair, it was a padlock, and it was shot from point blank range, so it was quite realistic.
  • Doctor Who
    • Done somewhat ridiculously in the new series episode "Partners in Crime". A couple of guards try to chase Donna through a locked door. It should be noted she's well out of the way at this point, so it's definitely the door they're shooting. Armed with high-powered assault rifles, they just unload randomly on the door, perforating the entire middle section. They succeed in managing to shoot the handle off... then the door just falls off like they blasted the hinges.
    • In Classic Who, the Doctor uses a laser pistol to shoot the lock off the Hydromel case at the end of "Terminus".
  • Kojak used a shotgun to blow off the hinges.
  • An early episode of the classic run of Hawaii Five-O uses this trope. Danno shoots out the lock of a cheap apartment, only to accidentally kill a robbery suspect he was pursuing. The rest of the episode deals with the aftermath.
  • In the first episode of Wild Boys, Jack shoots the lock off the strongbox they steal from the stagecoach.
  • Babylon 5 plays this straight and averts it, depending on the episode. When played straight, it is typically done by shooting all round the edge of the (standard sci-fi sliding) door to make it fall in. Averted and discussed at once in an episode where Sheridan warns a group of opponents trapped in an adjoining room that the doors are made from an alloy that will deflect PPG blasts.
    Sheridan: Ricochet's a killer.
  • Subverted in Bones. Bones tries to shoot a lock with a revolver, and the bullet ricochets off the lock hitting Booth in the leg. He even knew it was coming. However, played straight a few minutes earlier when Booth shot out a padlock. Booth has shot out a few locks.
  • Discussed in a Season 4 episode of Top Shot. For one elimination challenge, the players had to breach three locked doors using a specially modified pump shotgun. Their trainer, a former Navy SEAL, took great care to show them how to do the job right: by tilting the barrel down at a 45-degree angle and putting the muzzle between the lock and the doorframe.
  • Linda does this in "The Fourth Hand" on Under the Dome to gain access to the warehouse where the propane is being stored.
  • Played with on Chicago P.D.. The cops shoot out a lock using a proper breaching shotgun but the door still will not open since the suspect barricaded it from the other side. They then shoot out the hinges and shift the door to the side enough that they can push through the obstruction.
  • Subverted in the Scorpion pilot, where a Homeland Security agent tries to do that only to be stopped by Happy (a so-called "mechanical prodigy") to point out that a lock like that will not be affected by the bullet from his sidearm, but the bullet is likely to ricochet and hit one of them. She finds another way in.
  • Leverage: In "The 12 Step Job", Nate shoots out the lock on the window in the rehab facility when attempting to escape from the gangsters.
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hells Breaks Loose, Part Two" (S02, E22), this trope is played with by making the key to the lock actually be a gun.
  • Get Smart. The Chief gets his head stuck inside a portable version of the Cone of Silence, and gets rather alarmed when Max intends this trope. He tells Max to use the butt of his gun to break the lock.
  • Person of Interest.
    • In "Dead Reckoning" the villain shoots the lock on an electronic door to seal Reese and Snow in a room with a bomb. They cut the power, shoot the back-up battery, then push the door open.
    • Subverted in "If-Then-Else", where the Machine is running computer simulations to get them out of their latest crisis. Whenever Team Machine shoots out the lock it alerts the guards inside, causing a shoot-out that draws other Samaritan soldiers. However when Shaw comes up with the keypad combination, they're able to take the guards by surprise, giving Team Machine a chance of survival.
  • At the conclusion of the NCIS episode "Red Cell", Tony does this to break into a room where the killer has barricaded himself and Gibbs, hearing the sounds of a knock-down, drag-out fight. Despite the fact that he was doing this to aid Gibbs (and possibly save his life), it still seems highly dangerous, as he had no way of knowing that those bullets wouldn't hit Gibbs.
  • The Equalizer does this from across the room in the middle of a gunfight in "Torn".
  • Blake's 7.
    • Avon does this for a Dynamic Entry in "Animals", even though the underground base he's entering had earlier been stated to be impregnable. It doesn't help that the actor nearly has a Prat Fall as he charges inside and the main door is shown to be wide open, which makes you wonder why they didn't just enter that way.
    • In "Gold", Avon shoots out the locks on a crate of gold bullion, having been warned that it might be booby-trapped. He stands well back and shields his face from potential shrapnel.
  • The Magician: One of the bad guys does this in "Man on Fire"; somehow managing to shoot out the chair Tony had jammed under the door handle as well.
  • Dark Matter

    Tabletop Games 
  • Generally averted in GURPS. Because locks, like most machines, have the "Injury Tolerance (Unliving)" trait, all Piercing damage is divided by three after factoring in Damage Reduction. This means that a typical 9x19mm handgun deals a whopping 1 damage per shot to a standard lock. So, you're typically looking at a minimum expenditure of six bullets before a lock potentially fails. Shotgun slugs usually destroy a standard lock in one shot, but that is to be expected: they deal more damage and are of a different damage type (Huge Piercing) altogether.

    Video Games 
  • Done realistically in SWAT 4, you need to use a special breaching shotgun to do this, normal guns won't do the trick. Or you could just use the breaching charge, an explosive made for that exact purpose. SWAT 3 does it less realistically, probably due to limits of what could be done in the engine - you can still open locked doors with breaching shells from a shotgun, but it will work no matter where you shoot.
  • The Modern Warfare series plays with this concept - even though doors can only be opened by other characters or in scripted scenes, they are performed realistically. These involve others blasting both the lock and the hinges of a door with a shotgun, or your character placing a breaching charge that reduces the door to splinters.
  • In an example of Gameplay and Story Segregation, the original Resident Evil only lets Barry do this in a cutscene to save Jill (which only applies to the remake. The original version has him kicking the door in). At any other time you absolutely need to have a key or lock pick.
  • Resident Evil 4 actually has several variations on shooting the lock. Blasting the padlock with a gun works. As does kicking the door itself, although that will generally take several attempts (Leon's strong, but he's not that strong). It's also possible to knife the lock open. In each case, shooting the lock is not strictly necessary; you can shoot the chain instead, if it's visible. And for doors that aren't locked at all, but that you don't want to open, you can blow large holes in them. Even with 9mm handgun rounds.
    • RE4 is all over the place with this trope. Some locks can easily be broken while some require considerable firepower, such as the cage fight with the second Garrador and numerous zealots.
  • Though not quite the same, several Star Wars games allow you to pop open a door simply by using your lightsaber to slice open an electronic lock. Seriously, just one swing and the doors open on their own. Of course, the movies subvert this, showing not only can you not do this, but it actually takes a while to cut through your standard ship door.
  • Hitman: Blood Money finally introduced this feature to the series as an alternative to opening locked (or even unlocked) doors quickly, noisily, and with a gun aimed into the room beyond.
  • In GoldenEye (1997) for the N64, you must shoot off a lock to open a gate. You can even do this with your hands.
  • Considering your signature weapon is a crowbar, this is almost justified in Half-Life. Though a bullet will still work, and regardless you just hit it with the crowbar once rather than actually using it.
    • The gamemod They Hunger has a padlock in an early level. Since the weapons are re-skins of the ones of Half-Life, you can conserve ammunition by breaking it open with an umbrella.
    • Don't bother shooting the Combine door locks though. Those can only be opened by people other than you. Or the Combine, who like to make them explode.
    • The achievement "The One Free Bullet" is unlocked if you complete the entirety of Half-Life 2: Episode 1, firing exactly one bullet. You don't get your crowbar until near the end of the game; take a guess at what you have to use that one bullet for. Design-wise, this is a gate to make sure you pick up the pistol.
    • The first game does this a bit differently for a few locked doors, though. If it's locked, you either aren't supposed to go that way, or you are, and you just need to either get someone to unlock it/cut it down, or unlock it yourself on the other side after getting past it through an air vent or something.
    • Half-Life: Alyx plays it very straight, since you have no crowbar. Locks can be shot off with one shot from any of your weapons, and no shrapnel will (for example) go into the explosive barrel right next to the lock.
  • Similarly, padlocks in Bioshock can be broken by bullets, or even the wrench.
  • In Metroid series, shooting is the only way to open a door, as your energy blasts somehow open doors. Architects must've been insane to build doors like this. Metroid Prime 2 explains this if you scan a door: It's a low powered force field, meant to keep the native (and not-so-native) critters out/in.
  • Lampshaded in Perfect Dark Zero: "The keyhole looks about bullet sized".
  • In Deadly Premonition, York does this in a cutscene to free Forrest Kaysen, who is locked in the basement of the art gallery. You can also do it to padlocks in regular gameplay, though hitting them with any other weapon will work just as well.
  • In the First Encounter Assault Recon series, padlocks can be shot off or bashed off with a melee attack (and, possibly somewhat realistically, regular punches don't work - you need the weight of a gun behind it to actually break the padlock with melee). Unlocked doors can also be opened with a rifle butt or grenade in the first game's expansions and later, though those expansions in particular are very mysterious about it, since not only will doors magically close themselves after a few seconds, but there are also some padlocked doors that you can't shoot open, because the padlocks are part of the door texture rather than an actual physical (and destructible) object.
  • Dead Space: Despite Isaac's engineering skills several doors are opened by shooting out the exposed and highly visible fuses next to them.
  • Mindjack uses both versions of this in cutscenes. The protagonists find that shooting panels works for either opening or closing doors.
  • The only way to open a padlocked door in Uncharted is to shoot the lock. While it's still used occasionally in the sequels, Nate will tell his partners to stand back, presumably as a precaution against the debris.
    • The player can also invoke this trope more realistically: shooting the deadbolt of the lock works just as well as the keyhole mechanism.
  • Jack Walters does it occasionally.
  • In the first act in Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, you have to open a lock to a gate by shooting it.
    • The first couple games had a few spots where you had to shoot the padlock off a gate or vent grating.
  • Postal 2 allows you to kick open doors if you're in a hurry, though like FEAR above they mysteriously close on their own after a while. The "Apocalypse Weekend" expansion adds a sledgehammer that can just break them down entirely, even at a distance if you throw it, except when the plot dictates that it's an indestructible door.
  • In Star Ocean: The Second Story, Claude uses his Phase Gun to bust open the door to Allen's mansion in Salva in order to rescue Rena from him.
  • This is possible in Jagged Alliance 2 v1.13, but really not recommended with regular weapons; you'll see the result "lock hit" if the bullet damages the mechanism, but it generally requires a lot of 5.56 or 7.62x39 to reliably work. On the other hand, specialized "lockbuster" rounds for shotguns are available for the purpose and will generally destroy the lock in a single hit; it is standard practice among JA2 vets to have one merc carry around a short-barreled shotgun of some variety in a leg holster, loaded up with lockbuster shells for that express purpose.
  • Parodied in the Borderlands 2 DLC "Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty", where you end one main quest by shooting the lock off a chest containing part of a compass that leads to a buried treasure. Unfortunately, the compass part ends up getting destroyed in the process, and the next quest involves having to scrounge up parts to build a replacement.
  • Rainbow Six lets the player blow up doors wholesale to surprise any tangos that happen to be on the other side - breaching charges to disorient them are most common, but at least in the Vegas games a block of C4 or a pair of shotgun blasts will do the trick just as well, generally killing whoever's on the other side (sometimes before the door is destroyed, if you use a shotgun). Siege makes this a more expansive element to the game by allowing just about anything to be shot through or blown out for quick creation of sightlines and doorways.
  • Played straight in Cryostasis in the last flashbacks — the locked door to the bridge is shot around the lock. Immediately backfires as the bullets lethally wound the captain and other officers can't prevent more damage to the ship.
  • PAYDAY 2 has wooden doors and standard metal and glass doors whose locks can be shot out with any weapon. Shooting out the lock can help bypass the time needed to pick the lock and if you want to go for the more flashy route, using explosive weapons or a shotgun with explosive ammo can completely blow the door to pieces. However, reinforced steel doors or doors attached to a security system can't have their locks shot out at all and explosive weapons won't work either. You'll have to either use a saw, a drill, or C4 to pop the lock. You can also use an ECM jammer to hack the door open if applicable and using a key card also works.
  • In a few missions of Mass Effect 3, you shoot the lock off of control panel door to get to the controls inside.
    • Hilariously subverted in the Citadel DLC, however. At one point, Shepard prepares to shoot the lock out of a door, only to be stopped by their partner, who politely knocks on the door and asks the merchant inside to open it.
    • Also in the Citadel, Shepard will be confronted by an angry Traynor who just got thrown off the Normandy by Shepard's clone. If Shepard is in a romance with her, when she kisses her to prove it's really her, the squadmembers can be seen in the background opening the door. Almost everyone uses their omni-tools to hack it open...except for Wrex who opts to just shoot the door's conduit, which works perfectly.
  • The Sega Genesis version of Shadowrun had three ways to open a Mag-Lock security door - use an expensive and illegal Mag-Lock key, attempt to re-wire the door (which may set off an alarm if your electronics skill isn't up to par), or blow the door open with a Frag Grenade (which always trips the alarm).
  • Hopkins FBI requires the title character to shoot out a door lock with his revolver to progress the plot. For some reason, it's the lock to his fiancée's bathroom door.
  • Spec Ops: The Line has one member of your trio, Adams, open locked doors using his shotgun.
  • Until Dawn has one of the characters run around and shoot at padlocks, first with a pistol, then a sawed off shotgun. It always works on first try, with relative distance to the lock and with the character wearing nothing even closely protective.
  • It's possible to shoot locked chests to open them in Enter the Gungeon, though doing this means that you're more likely to get either a consumable or just junk rather than the item itself. That is, unless you're using the AKEY-47, a gun that shoots keys; the description states that this is what it is made to do.
  • In FTL: Faster Than Light, player and enemy characters alike will shoot at any door that blocks their way. The better the doors system, the longer it takes to open them.
  • I Am Alive allows you to shoot out padlocks with a single bullet. These usually guard areas with decent loot.
  • At one point in Evil Dead: Hail to the King, Ash comes upon a locked door guarded by what seems to the worst puzzle in the game yet. The game changes perspective to the standard, pre-rendered "puzzle screen" and the instructions tell you to find seven rare earth elements and then balance them against each other by their specific weight to open the door. Then Ash suddenly jumps in, aims his trusty shotgun at the wall-mounted puzzle and simply shoots the door open instead.

    Web Comics 
  • Parodied in this Bigger Than Cheeses strip.
  • Problem Sleuth - a constant Running Gag is that the game you're playing keeps confusing guns with keys anyway.
  • Played with by Spacetrawler. Dmitri shoots the control panel; when this fails to open the door, he comments, "This always works in movies."
  • Reynardine takes a direct approach in Gunnerkrigg Court.
  • Parodied in Bigger Than Cheeses making fun of this trope's heavy presence in action movies. A scientist is tells the action hero she can hack through a door panel but it will take some time. He responds that "there's no time" and shoots the panel. She tells him now they have PLENTY of time since there is no other way of opening the door.

    Western Animation 
  • Played with in an episode of Family Guy, when Peter rescues Lois from Mel Gibson. Mel proceeds to brandish a gun, which he uses to blast open the lock of a safe, inside which a slightly bigger gun lay.
  • G.I. Joe: Resolute: Duke shoots the electronic lock on Cobra Commander's emergency bunker. Cobra taunts him for thinking that would get him in. Duke replies that he didn't think it would get him in, just prevent Cobra from getting out, as it's revealed he activated the Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • Used often in Archer... and subverted just as much, as Archer tries shooting out steel locks on bulletproof doors, often resulting in painful ricochets.
  • Nearly every time a locked door and keypad appears in The Secret Show, there is a request to enter a complicated and time consuming code or input, to which the heroes usually respond by blowing up the keypad, which always inexplicably opens the door.

    Real Life 
  • There was an interview with an Israeli sniper instructor in Soldier of Fortune magazine, where he mentioned a building entry technique where three snipers fire on a lock simultaneously to destroy it. The fact that it took three simultaneous shots demonstrates how improbable this trope is with modern lock design.
  • Real life example of the SF version: In a video shown on TruTV, an armed robber herded the employees of a store into the back room and attempted to cut telephone lines to prevent the victims from calling for help. Instead, he cut a wire controlling the door to the back room, preventing it from opening and trapping him until police arrived. Oops.
  • Like the Kojak example above, the Special Air Service found it was more effective to use a shotgun to destroy the door's hinges, rather than the lock. Breaching rounds are designed specifically to make this more relatively safe for the firer and anyone in the room behind the door, but they're still used in the same way by shooting the hinges at least as often as the lock. This is also the primary purpose for the development of shotguns mounted under the barrel of an assault rifle, most famously the Masterkey.
  • Truth in Television, as far as control panels are concerned: At least in Germany, safety regulations require doors to open when their controls are damaged.
  • This trope is apparently fairly old, with the result that one careless commando in a raid on St. Nazaire in World War II tried to shoot out a lock without thinking about ricochets and shrapnel and ended up wounding himself rather badly.
  • In dealing with older buildings, especially buildings in a state of disrepair, law enforcement personnel will sometimes opt to breach a wall, rather than a door, especially if they have solid information that places a criminal near said wall. This can be very effective, and much safer than breaching at a standard entry point, especially in older, poorly maintained buildings.
    • This method is incredibly effective in Afghanistan, where most rural buildings are "mud huts" - think adobe. A pattern of detcord could blow through a typical wall, and when Rangers discovered that this created a massive dust cloud inside, meaning they couldn't see during the breach, negating the element of surprise, they just taped IV bags to the wall under the detcord. This also had the effect of focusing the shock, making wall breaches even more effective. Or they stood off and shot a Carl Gustav at it.
    • This was a major reason why the Panzerfaust was as popular among the Soviets as it was with the Germans who made it during urban combat in World War II. Going outside to move between buildings could put you in the sights of snipers, tanks, aircraft and various other nasty things - blowing a hole in the wall between buildings to move between them without ever actually going outside was simpler, quicker and safer.
  • Of course, modern, more effective means are sometimes used.
  • During the liberation of the Cabanatuan POW Camp in WWII, S/Sgt Theodore Robinson shot the lock off the main gate using a Colt 1911. He actually did this after it was shot out of his hand without injuring him, making this an example of both this trope and Blasting It Out of Their Hands.
  • Skip to 1:30 for seeing a shotgun really effective at doorbreaching.
  • David Bellavia, who fought as a Squad Leader in the Battle of Fallujah, describes one incident where he and his squad tried to blow open the front gate of a mosque, each unsuccessful until they finally used a Bradley as a battering ram. One of the attempts had a soldier shoot an AT4 (an 84mm antitank rocket) at the locking mechanism - the rocket scored a direct hit on the lock, but actually went straight through the keyhole (leaving a rocket sized hole, of course) without damaging the actual lock.


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