Hollywood Gun Myths Debunked

Hollywood Gun Myths Debunked

By David Hoang  

Because it’s foundational; concepts build on top of each other, in math class, missing a day of learning can completely throw you off your understanding of a concept. For decades, Hollywood has been doing this with gun tropes played out in films miseducating the general public about how firearms work. The film industry has ingrained “rules” and many people take these representations on the big screen as facts—but most of them are just dead wrong.


 Myth 1: Guns Go Off When Dropped

It is often depicted in films that guns go off when dropped; however, since the Gun Control Act of 1968, gun manufacturers perform drop tests, reducing accidental discharge rates 99.99%.
Though there are cases of serious malfunctions, gun do not go off when dropped.


Hollywood has conditioned us to believe that if a gun is dropped, it fires itself. There are plenty of examples in films where a character drops their pistol, and it shreds someone’s leg apart. This myth derives from older firearms like black powder guns with fewer safety features. There is an old saying about guns “going off half-cocked” when the safety device on a flintlock rifle goes off unexpectedly.

A more contemporary example of guns going off involuntarily is during World War II. Servicemen joked about the British Sten submachine gun. Legend has it that the weapon was so notoriously unreliable that you could chuck the Sten into a room full of Germans and let the weapon empty its magazine on its own. However, we have come a far way; modern guns are required to go extensive drop tests after The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed reducing the rate of dropped discharge by 99.99%.

Myth 2: Guns Knock People Over

Bullets are designed to stop people dead in the tracks. They do not knock people back.
Guns do not knock people back.

If you shoot a deer, does it fly back until stopped by a tree, or does it drop dead? Physics are a common law often broken in movies. But any director will tell you that physics don’t sell movie tickets.  We all know that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If we apply this fundamental law of physics to guns, shouldn’t a big gun knock you off your feet?

No. Guns do not knock people off their feet and fly them backward. Bullets are designed to be a streamlined object designed to minimize aerodynamic drag. The benefit of this is, it concentrates a high amount of energy on a small, focused area striking the target with high pressure causing penetration. But, due to its low mass compared to a person, it can’t knock them back.

Myth 3: Shotguns Sweep an Entire Room

Sweeping a room with a shotgun and expecting to hit everything is a myth not just in the movies. You still must aim a shotgun to be effective.
A shotgun must be aimed to be effective.

The typical movie badass will walk into a room full of baddies and with their trusty shotgun, blast every single one away without aiming. Just point it in the general direction of the target and pull without thinking twice. Wrong. Shotguns aren’t the cone of death you may envision; they are very inaccurate if used incorrectly.

These are just a few gun myths we see often in the movies. What Hollywood gun falsehoods annoy you?
Alternatively, what movies get guns right?
Tell us in the comment section.

About David

David is an Arlington, Texas native who is an advocate in the local Vietnamese Community. He strives to promote culture and preserving traditions. Over the years David has gained strong volunteer experience and community involvement. In his free time, he enjoys learning about history and spending time outdoors.

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