6 Stupid Gun Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies)
Hollywood wants you dead. We said it. We don't know why. We don't know what they could possibly gain from it, but it's true all the same. Hollywood has been teaching you lessons about guns for decades and decades. Hollywood wants you to build your entire understanding of guns based on the gun tropes they parade in all of their movies. Hollywood wants these gun rules ingrained so deeply in you that you apply these lessons in real life. Even though doing so will kill you.
That's right. All of the lessons Hollywood has taught you about guns are wrong.
Dropped Guns Go Off
Most of you probably don't own guns, but you all have a pretty good idea of just how dangerous they can be. A firearm is basically a giant metal tube loaded with explosives, just ready to murder the heck out of everybody at the slightest provocation. Hollywood has taught us that even a light fall turns the average side arm into a pinwheel of death. Take this scene from the "darkest" Community timeline, where a revolver in Alison Brie's bag hits the floor and immediately fires an artery-seeking bullet into Chevy Chase's leg:
Or that famous scene from True Lies where Jamie Lee Curtis drops a MAC-10 down a staircase and murders half a Guantanamo worth of enemy combatants.
The Geneva Conventions don't say shit about unmanned weapons. Probably.
Alas, for the screenwriters of the world, modern firearms do not fire when dropped just a little bit. See, the gun industry is the same as pretty much any other industry. If their products kill people when they aren't supposed to be killing people, the government gets real pissed off and their stock tends to plummet. Which is why the Gun Control Act of 1968 made drop-safety tests mandatory.
And thus the great sport of Gun Toss was born.
If anything, the Hollywood-concocted myth about guns firing on impact inspires us to be even dumber with guns. If you drop a gun, your first instinct will be to try to catch it before it hits the ground, because movies taught you that gun + ground = death. In real life, however, grasping for falling objects is an inherently imprecise act, and you run the risk of accidentally catching the trigger while you fumble around like an idiot trying to catch it. Which is why experts agree: It's much safer to let a gun fall than to try and catch it. Or if you want to avoid dropping the gun altogether, you could always just tape, glue or surgically secure the gun to your hand so you always have it with you. Then you'll have gun hands. How about that?*
"I guess you could say I blew the Johnson account wide open. Ha ha ha ... they're all dead."
*Editor's Note: Cracked.com in no way endorses permanently or temporarily securing a gun to your hand and is not responsible for any injuries caused by idiots hot-gluing pistols to their hands, feet or faces.
Ceramic Guns Are a Thing
Terrorists are at their most terroristy when they bring deadly weapons to places one doesn't generally expect to encounter deadly weapons, like a school, or the airport. So in Die Hard II, when John McClane encounters bad dudes who somehow sneaked handguns past airport security, we know that shit has now officially gone from "mostly not that real" to "real."
We'll quote you the pertinent dialogue: "That punk pulled a Glock 7 on me, you know what that is? It's a porcelain gun made in Germany. It doesn't show up on your airport metal detectors and probably costs more than what you make in a month."
"I'm going to need the names and addresses of every sizable kiln in the tri-state area."
According to our research, the problem isn't that the German porcelain gun is expensive; it's that it's imaginary. First off, there isn't a Glock 7, but more importantly, there's no such thing as an entirely ceramic handgun. It's easy to make the frame or magazine of a gun out of some non-metal polymer, but things like the barrel and the pins are under way too much heat and pressure to be made of anything but good old-fashioned metal.
"Sure" you say, "maybe that gun isn't available to civilians, but surely rich people or the government could build one." That's what we thought, Reader McStrawman, until we read the story of David Byron. He kicked off all this madness about undetectable guns when he was issued a patent for one in 1987. Congress even tried to ban this as-of-yet unbuilt gun. But that didn't stop Byron from hooking up with investors and starting a company focused on making this "plastic gun" a reality.
"I won't stop until we have a thousand plastic guns for every aircraft!" -- David Byron, probably.
But that plastic gun never materialized. And in 1988, Byron stopped making the news ... only to reappear, making the same claims, in 2000. He formed another company, Magnum Technology, and somehow secured $800,000 from the Department of Defense to finally make an airport-proof gun. Because the existence of such a weapon is clearly in America's best interest and could never backfire in any way.
If the Founding Fathers didn't want us to wield guns in planes, they wouldn't have given us guns and planes.
This time, Byron's claim seemed very solid. He stated that his company had successfully fired rounds from a weapon with a machined zirconia tube crossed by carbon fibers. That sounds pretty damn plausible to us non-gunsmiths. But Magnum Technology shut down in 2007 without ever presenting such a weapon. And Byron? He's currently the CTO of another defense company. And he still hasn't proven that there's any such thing as a working metal-detector-proof handgun, though he's happy to keep collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars pretending!
This is basically the unicorn of firearms.
Bullets Make Everything Spark
Quick! Picture a gunfight from one of your favorite action movies. Remember what happened when the bullets hit a car, or a doorframe, or anything metal at all? Sparks, right? Which makes sense, because metal causes sparks when it hits metal real hard. You can verify this fact by slamming a hammer into your neighbor's car very fast. (Editor's Note: Cracked doesn't endorse this either!) Or by watching this scene from Hard Boiled:
And this scene from Terminator 2:
And this scene from Running Scared:
And similar scenes in, like, a trillion other movies. You're probably thinking that, if you were ever in a gunfight, you could follow these sparks and use them to find out how close you are to getting shot. It's a nice little tracking system, like planting a bright flag in every bullet hole. Too bad it's totally bullshit, because bullets don't spark. Almost all bullets are made of copper or a copper alloy. And copper is famous for not causing sparks. Only rifle bullets get hot enough to cause sparks, and even then those sparks are seldom and not nearly as flashy as the movies make them seem. So if someone's shooting you and you're waiting for the sparks to tell you how close you are to death, think again! Also? If someone's shooting you, stop reading this Cracked article.*
Perhaps consider investing in an Official Cracked Murder Tube.
*Editor's Note: Cracked NEVER endorses not reading Cracked articles.
Shotguns Are Room-Clearing Murder Factories
Name a weapon more badass than the shotgun. Wait, what's that? Until our patent for the chainsaw made of piranhas gets approval, you can't? That's because doing so is goddamn impossible (for now). And if you disagree, then Mad Max.
The shotgun earned its badass reputation through being huge, possessing a gigantic barrel and shooting out a spray of hot, deadly lead that requires no accuracy on the part of the shooter. Take this scene, courtesy of John Woo:
The only reason you'd need another gun would be to tape it to your shotgun.
The shotgun works by propelling a handful of lead shot into bad guys so wide that it can hit more than one of them at a time. It's the ideal weapon for killing a bunch of zombies at once or hitting random criminal thugs without aiming. And while all your friends are bragging about their accuracy by shooting tin cans off of logs, you can be all "Fuck your cans, I just blew up the log and all of the surrounding trees." Shotguns are so cool.
But take a look at this image from TheBoxOfTruth.com:
That's the actual spread of a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with .00 buckshot (the type of round you'd use to stop a person or a deer) at a standard combat range. You'll notice it's much wider than the single hole of a handgun bullet. You'll also notice that it's much too small to hit more than one of anything, and since shotgun pellets are small relative to most bullets, you need to ensure a tight grouping to be anywhere near dangerous. Those of you knowledgeable enough to advise us to "adjust the choke" should know that doing that has no noticeable effect on spread at combat ranges.
So no matter what you do, that double-barreled shotgun is only hitting one dude at a time. Or, like, three bees, maybe.
We should probably invest in some counseling for our art department.
Deadly on the Gun Range = Deadly in Real Life
Think back to any movie where an unlikely candidate for Chief Badass had to prove his or her worth on the field by shooting up paper on the gun range. When cops need to show off, a range scene is the simplest way to establish their prowess before the thrilling climax. This holds true whether you're proving the worth of a robot, as in RoboCop ...
... or a pretty lady with incredibly expensive taste in scarves, as in Castle.
Or look at the scenes in Lethal Weapon and Clear and Present Danger, where Danny Glover and Willem Dafoe, respectively, prove themselves with an impressive show during a session of target practice. And, once again, it would seem to make sense. Anyone who can hit a quarter-sized paper circle at 60 feet could surely hit your own heart at 10 feet, right?
99 percent of all gunfights take place in narrow, well-lit hallways.
Well, only if you assume people are emotionless robots who know no fear or doubt. In the real world, people aren't as cool and accurate when shooting something that isn't an unmoving piece of paper. To be specific, after studying more than 200 violent encounters, no connection whatsoever has been found between prowess on the range and effectiveness in combat. None. Hollywood taught you that the pistol-armed guy hitting the bull's-eye at 90 feet at the gun range is a champion badass, but science says that's bullshit (and the military doesn't even recommend practicing long-range pistol shooting in its combat training manuals).
But then how can you establish a badass in a movie? Well, according to that source we linked, and almost all gun trainers, "The element reported as the single most important factor in the officer's survival during an armed confrontation was cover." Hiding. Or, not just hiding, but actually having the proper training to recognize what exactly would provide the best form of cover. If you've got two guys at a gun range, the one who can recognize what to hide behind is going to be almost 60 percent more effective in an actual gunfight than the guy who gets a bull's-eye 10 times out of 10. Under movie law, being able to shoot a paper target from 50 yards away is important, and taking cover is treated so casually that most characters protect themselves by diving behind a couch or a table or any other damn thing that clearly won't stop bullets.
"Surely these glass windows will protect me!"
It's like Hollywood is specifically training you to die in a gunfight.
Bullets Turn People into Pulp
To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When we apply this basic law of physics to guns, we end up with the idea that really big guns should blow people away. Something like a Desert Eagle would surely knock its victim back, while a shotgun is powerful enough to send bad guys flying through plate glass windows. Based on the three or four paragraphs of physics lessons we weren't asleep for in high school, getting shot with a bigger bullet should rocket your body back farther. The infamous Barrett .50 caliber rifle in Smoking Aces illustrates:
This is perhaps Hollywood's earliest gun trope. And it also violates the laws of physics so badly that we suspect the last few decades of baffling movie gun physics are the result of severe PTSD. It's true that, when suddenly stopped, a moving object hands a good deal of its kinetic energy over to whatever blocked it. But think back to your Newton, and watch this cute girl fire a handgun:
If you look closely, you can see that equal, opposite reaction. The slide moves back, and the gun bucks slightly in her hand. You might notice that her body hardly moves at all, even though the total force of that recoil must be equal to the force of that firing bullet. And in case you don't consider the website that specializes in dick jokes a trustworthy source on ballistics, here's the goddamn FBI Academy's firearms training unit:
"The impact of the bullet upon the body is no more than the recoil of the weapon. The ratio of bullet mass to target mass is too extreme."
"No gas ... but a few rounds could get me to work."
See, the need for movie directors to kill off huge masses of extras very rapidly has given people the mistaken impression that any bullet is basically the equivalent of water in a video game: If it touches you, even a little, you die dramatically. And if the film's protagonist should manage to shrug off a couple of bullets without really slowing down? We just suspend our disbelief a little and take it as a mark of how badass John McClane is.
But in a real gunfight, anyone can be John McClane. Or the dude who dies immediately. It's kind of a crapshoot. We've already noted that gunshots are only fatal around 5 percent of the time. But you probably assumed the other 95 percent of gunshot victims were still out of the fight as soon as they felt an impact. That assumption isn't borne out in the facts of real gunfights, like this shootout in Miami, where eight FBI agents emptied their side arms (and a shotgun) into a pair of unarmored bank robbers for four minutes.
"Yep, this is it. I definitely have carpal tunnel syndrome."
"Even in the end, it took multiple shots from a shotgun and six additional rounds from a handgun to end the fight ... some of the shotgun pellets hit the assailants in the head, but did not stop them immediately. The toxicology report showed no drugs or alcohol in either system. Handguns (guns in general) are not the powerful one-shot stop instruments of immediate death portrayed by television, movies and the media."
Assailants have been documented fighting on after being hit more than 100 times. At least one bank robber has received upwards of 60 bullet wounds from authorities and lived to tell about it. We mentioned that Roy P. Benavidez fought on for six hours despite receiving 37 serious bullet, shrapnel and bayonet wounds. But we didn't mention that he also completed an 80-yard run after taking a rifle bullet to the knee. In the real world, the power of a bullet doesn't have shit on the power of adrenaline and sheer cussedness.
Although the smart money is always on Killephants.
Robert Evans oversees the article captions here at Cracked, and in his spare time writes about illegal immigrants, drilling for oil and drug dealers for his blog. If you'd like to hire or contact him, he can be reached here.
For more ideas Tinsel Town is woefully wrong on, check out Hollywood's 6 Favorite Offensive Stereotypes and 8 Scenes That Prove Hollywood Doesn't Get Technology.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn how to twirl a gun as fast as you can.
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