Hollywood is notorious for getting things wrong for the sake of entertainment. When you’re watching the latest sci-fi flick, it’s not really a big deal to see laser-shooting guns or swords made from powerful energy beams. In action movies that are intended to be more realistic, however, the lack of attention to reality can be a pretty big distraction for any experienced firearm owner. Whether it’s as glaringly obvious as magic guns that never run out of ammo, or details that are a bit more subtle, Hollywood has had a few big gaffes when it comes to guns and their effects. Be sure to check back to part one for even more gun gaffes in pop culture, and read on to learn how Hollywood messes up when it comes to guns, and what you can learn from it.
If you know anything about modern guns, pretty much anything at all, you’re probably well aware that cocking a gun does little more than nothing. Yet, in movies, cocking a gun seems to be used as both exclamation point and warning. The click back of a hammer being cocked is the sound that lets the audience know that serious business is about to happen. But in reality? They’re not doing much of anything but being dramatic. While old revolvers used to need to be cocked between each shot, that technology was improved upon more than a hundred and fifty years ago (yes, 150). Since then, we’ve had the technology that means a pull on the trigger will cock the hammer for you. So, really, cocking the hammer saves you maybe a split second. Otherwise, it’s just showmanship.
That brings us to our next point. Guns that don’t have a hammer to cock back still need a cool factor, right? That’s why you’ll see heroes and villains alike pumping their shotgun multiple times or pulling back the slide on the automatic before taking a shot. Sure, you get that same ‘cool’ clicking sound, but really, it’s just as ridiculous a movie move because the action is intended to eject spent shells and chamber a new round. In real life, pumping multiple times between shots means you’re just dropping perfectly good ammo on the floor.
Bulletproof vests in movies work a bit like a magical bullet forcefield. Yes, that technology exists—but not in the way movies make us think. In the real world, you’d be better off calling it a bullet resistant vest. Kevlar isn’t some magical material that stops all bullets; in fact, a vest thin enough to wear under clothes isn’t going to protect against fire from more than most handguns. And, for body armor of the magnitude our troops wear, you’re looking at something bulky enough that you couldn’t obscure it under clothes. Plus, it’s pretty darn heavy—more than thirty pounds, heavy—and costs thousands of dollars. So, overall, a bullet resistant vest can help, but it’s not the magical forcefield movies make you think. It may slow the speed of a bullet, but you could still end up with internal bleeding.
You’ve seen it time and time again: someone gets hit with a large caliber round that sends them flying several feet back. Maybe protected by that magical bulletproof vest, but maybe not. In real life, the laws of physics don’t work that way. In actuality, if a bullet had enough size and force to knock you backwards, you’d more likely end up with a bullet-sized hole going straight through.
Okay, sure, explosions are cool. They’re one of those Hollywood tropes we can totally get behind, because cinematically, the effect is pretty darn great. Just don’t expect it to work that way in real life. Fortunately for our safety, shooting a car doesn’t make it go boom. In fact, the Mythbusters disproved this one pretty thoroughly. It takes a pretty crazy set of specific circumstances to get a car’s tank to explode. Broadly speaking, most things aren’t going to explode when shot unless they’re explosives. Even then, it will depend.