Debunking Pop Culture Gun Myths

It is hard to imagine what cinema would be like without the portrayal of guns. They are included in almost every genre from westerns to action movies. However, the use of firearms in movies is not always accurate to how they actually function in real life. The unrealistic portrayal of guns in movies can lead to skewed expectations.

Here are four popular culture myths about guns and their reality:

Myth #1: Getting Shot Will Send You Flying Backward

Perhaps the most popular gun trope in movies is the good guy shooting a large gun and causing the bad guy to fly back when they are hit with the bullet. This can be seen in western and action movies like “Django Unchained,” “The Godfather 2,” and “The Terminator.” However, it is just a cinema trick to add dramatic effect.

Reality

A bullet does not have enough momentum or mass in comparison to a person to send them flying. According to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This means that if a bullet had the force to send its human target flying, then the shooter would also fly backward due to the recoil of the gun. While some guns do have a powerful kick, it is not enough to knock someone down or send them through a wall.

Myth #2: Dropping a Gun Will Cause it to Fire

For many first-time gun owners, accidentally discharging their firearms is a big fear. They may not want to drop their weapon for fear of it firing. While a mechanical failure has the potential to make the gun fire without pulling the trigger, it is nearly impossible to make a firearm go off by dropping it. Mechanical failure is also very rare.

Reality

Modern guns are made drop safe, meaning that they go through testing to ensure that the chances of accidental discharge are very minimal. Older rifles do have different firing mechanisms than newer firearms, including pins that could potentially make the gun go off if dropped. However, that is also very unlikely.

In fact, it’s typically more dangerous to reach for a gun that is falling than to let it hit the ground. This is because you could accidentally pull the trigger in the process.

Myth #3: Every Bullet Causes Sparks When Fired

Another common cinematic effect is bullets creating sparks as they ricochet off objects. This can be seen in almost every action movie, especially during gunfights on the street where the characters are hiding behind vehicles. This does not occur in real life, though.

Reality

Sparks are added in during the movie editing process to help the viewer see what the bullet hit. Bullets will rarely ever spark in real life. Most are made from copper or lead, two safe metals with low thermal conductivity, meaning heat does not pass through them very easily. This makes their chances of sparking next-to none. Steel ammo might spark on occasion, but not often.

Myth #4: You Can Shoot a Rifle Right After Assembling it

An iconic scene from action movies is an assassin opening their sleek case and putting together a sniper rifle. Then, they take aim at their target and eliminate them with one shot. There is just one small problem with this film sequence, though.

Reality

In reality, a gun would need to be sighted after assembly. If not, it will not be nearly as accurate as it needs to be for the work of an assassin. The movie sequence just makes for a more dramatic scene than pulling out a fully assembled and sighted gun.

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