The average British bobby does not carry a gun, except in Northern Ireland and certain parts of Nottingham and London. Only about 7% of coppers are licensed to use firearms.
This means that when they encounter a criminal who does have a gun (which may either be a replica gun or real), they are often in rather serious trouble, because a stab vest (body armour designed to stop knife attacks) cannot stop bullets.
In most cases, the coppers know that there are likely to be guns involved and will send the Armed Response Units (police officers complete with Bulletproof Vests, helmets and Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine guns) in first. However, sometimes they get it wrong and a gun ends up being produced.
The copper ends up with a villain pointing a gun at them. The situation can go many ways from here:
- It turns into a Perp and Weapon situation.
- The Armed Response Units turn up and interrupt things, occasionally fatally, for the villain.
- The copper actually gets shot during an escape attempt.
- They get taken hostage for a varying period of time.
The latter has four outcomes:
- The copper talks down the gunman and arrests him.
- The gunman admits to the crime and shoots himself.
- The gunman pretends to attack the copper, thus successfully attempting Suicide by Cop.
- The gunman opens up his heart to the copper and, after making himself sympathetic to the audience, gets tragically shot by a trigger-happy sniper.
Such situations, fortunately, happen far more often in fiction than in real life.
- The 1972 film All Coppers Are... ends with Joe (the policeman) getting shot in the stomach by Barry (the criminal who's also Joe's love rival) when trying to stop him from driving off with a lorry-load of stolen goods following the robbery of a warehouse. Due to the film's Ambiguous Ending, it's unclear whether Joe survives, or whether Barry gets away.
- The classic British Bobby film The Blue Lamp shows loveable cop PC George Dixon getting killed while trying to talk a young "cosh boy" into handing over his gun.
- Hot Fuzz: The source of much of Danny Butterman's annoyance is that he's never handled a gun in a real situation - he gets to in the final act of the film, and this trope happens at least four times - the last time with his father.
- Happens in The Bill at least once a month. At least twice, a gun has been produced inside Sun Hill nick.
- A running joke among fans of the show is that Smithy, having been in the army and in the CO19 armed police unit (and naturally, therefore, involved in most plotlines involving firearms) is something of a bullet magnet.
- In the fifth season of Murphy's Law this trope gets fulfilled to its maximum level. A police officer, who ended up being gang-raped after an undercover operation went wrong, enters the police station with a gun (having already killed the head of the people trafficking ring responsible) and takes the Chief Superintendent (who she blamed for him getting off) hostage. In the process she shoots a detective in the arm, the Chief Superintendent in the leg and then herself in the head.
- Played tragically in The Inspector Lynley Mysteries when Barbara Havers gets shot in the line of duty at the end of series 3. Since there are 2.5 subsequent series, she quite obviously gets better. This does not stop Lynley from flipping his shit over it.
- Happens in at least one episode of Jonathan Creek. Surprisingly, Jonathan ends the standoff - guess how. Go on. He throws a palmed playing card in the guy's face. Yeah.