Thank Goodness for Hollywood’s Seven Gun Skills

Hollywood is an easy target for the teaching of poor to impossible gun skills. The number of errors and impossibilities in any gun-filled movie gives the general population a wildly distorted understanding of guns, shooting, and expectations of a bullet; all a good thing in my survival book. As long as potential adversaries are living in a fantasy world, there is a direct and severe survival advantage to a confrontation where Hollywood’s magic has taken its toll. The list of humorous gun behavior is long. From the inevitable click whenever a gun is pointed, to the ability to send someone airborne with a well placed hit, to anything and everything sparking when touched by a bullet, we come to expect the fairy tales of film firearms.

But all that comic book action can be a good thing. Here are seven wonderful misconceptions that are sure to take the neophyte gun owner into bad territory when it really Hits the Fan.

  1. The pre-shot pause: Most movies build tension during an armed conflict through dialog and well planned pauses. What that teaches is indecisiveness and introspection at the absolute wrong moment. When a couple of cowboys with antique wheel guns are squaring off fifty feet apart there is a poker-faced dance taking place. Not just draw speed but also hipshot accuracy. But in a true survival situation, Magpul got it right with its unfair advantage catch phrase. No reason level a tilted playing field by a calling time out. Act fast and without discussion.
  1. The lack of aiming: This fallacy hardly needs explanation. It’s misfires on two fronts. First is the wildly skewed probability of a successful hit that Hollywood encourages. And second is the ease at which one can hit a target with a moment or two of actual aiming. Especially moving targets. Aiming a gun takes practice and is a perishable skill so knocking a few cans off a fence post twenty years ago is not of much comfort today. But the opposite is true. Even a little occasional practice can keep your shots in the center of mass rather than in the ceiling.
  1. The bottomless supply of ammo: Usually the easiest criticism of any Hollywood gunplay, the belief in endless ammo is pretty common. Outside of Dirty Harry counting his shots, most shooters have no idea how many bangs went bang and most importantly how many bangs have yet to go bang. Add some stress to the poop salad and who’s counting? Right, nobody. So plan accordingly because they aren’t.
  1. Weightless guns: Anyone who has really carried a long gun around for any length of time knows that the weight and size of the rifle makes a difference on what you can do and where you can go. Not many of the untrained can run through a forest with a rifle, nor tread water let alone swim while carrying a useful firearm even if the stock is made of wood. Walking from pickup to range table is not a workout. Ten hours of stalking during a mountainous hunt is a good start. Even after a couple hours of carrying around your rifle I can guarantee that you will want to set it down no matter how much you think you love it.
  1. Easy long shots: Whether a headshot from 200 yards while standing in a row boat (Bob Lee Swagger) or knocking a helicopter out of the sky with a .380 (James Bond) or bouncing a metal bucket at a quarter mile with a Sharps rifle, (Matthew Quigley), taking time to aim can make an accurate shot possible, but still unlikely. The movie Shooter did put an opposite spin on this theme as well by making a long shot seem superhuman. So illusive in fact that only a few snipers on earth could do it. In reality only a few snipers on earth are ever given the training and opportunity for a verified quarter-mile plus shot, but anyone with a bit of money, time, skill and a wide open space can ding steel at a thousand yards.
  1. Loud but not too loud: It would really a be a downer if the good guys always went deaf during a shootout. In reality there would be very little dialog following gun fire. Just a lot of confused looks and bleeding ears. Now double all that when shooting inside a car. Triple it when shooting next to someone’s head. In real life, guns are absolutely silent until they’re not. And when they are not, gunfire is one of the loudest things anyone ever encounters in life. That fact is hard to portray in the movies, and really is a buzzkill for plot lines. Actual gun loudness is ignored. Perhaps that’s why silencers are so common in movies. It’s a Star Trek fix to an obvious physics problem.
  1. Faith in bad shots: The film vaults in Hollywood are stuffed full of movie footage where thousands of rounds zinged back and forth with not a meat hit in sight. There’s some truth to the accuracy outcomes of spray-and-pray, but the statistics of sustained auto fire in general directions lean heavily towards something bad happening. The happy takeaway here is that the uninitiated might suspect a positive outcome when hiding behind a telephone pole waiting for your reload.

We all owe Hollywood a collective thank you for planting the seeds of misconception in the general population. Tactical advantages are where you find them. Long before Hollywood, about the fifth century BC to be exact, Sun Tzu penned (or penciled, or scratched or whatever the heck they did back then) that letting the enemy believe the world is what it seems is truly an Art of War.

“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”

Written by Doc Montana

Doc honed his survival skills through professional courses, training, and plenty of real-world situations, both intentional and not. Doc lives to mountaineer, rock climb, trail run, hunt, race mountain bikes, ski, hunt, and fish. Doc Montana holds PhD’s in both Science Education and Computer Science and currently teaches at a University in the northern United States. Read his full interview here. Read more of Doc's articles.

6 thoughts on “Thank Goodness for Hollywood’s Seven Gun Skills”

  1. Funny thing. People say I have very good hearing. I can often hear conversations in the next room. I have been accused of “spying” on people because I can here what they are saying across a busy bar.
    I have been shooting since I was 10 years old. (I am 43 now). I now own my fathers 30/30 and 38 special that I learned to shoot with. 4 years ago I moved to a town where I could no longer go out into the woods next to my house and shoot. I had to start going to a range. That is the first time I ever used ear (and eye) protection. I never thought guns were that loud. (of course, I always shot outdoors in wide open spaces)

    • Similar to you. Hit my late 50s though and the right ear (closest to my hunting shotgun all of those years) was probably at 50% hearing. Yet my left ear, aimed towards my loud guitar amps for decades, remains at probably 90%. Moral of the story? Ear protection (eye protection as well of course) is a must any time shooting a firearm. Good luck with your hearing. Don't leave it to chance.

    • .. Hi Dan.. have a hearing test in a few years and you'll be surprised at the results.. i'm 72 and had a test a year ago. it turned out not to be so bad but the loss in hearing, although not too bad, is due to my love of guns… Ken.

  2. Well you hit all the salient points but, people only hear what they want to hear.
    In a bad situation no matter how large the contingent if your not supplied by a nation your going to run out of everything. It takes 7 people in support to supply one front line troop, starting from this premise if a person uses common sense he can limit a few of your well qualified point above.

  3. Speed, decisiveness, and complete firearms awareness rules the day.

    The funny thing is that those three skills are easy to come by through practice and training. But no amount of youtube videos will substitute.

    Regarding hearing loss and gunshot loudness, may I refer you to the Doomsday prepper episode where one luny tune didn't have his hearing protection on straight, or as Jerry Miculek likes to say "Ears On," and felt the wrath of a .223 fired in a confined space. By the way, I met Jerry once and he is a lot taller than he looks.

    In a nutshell, I think one of the shocking things about the John Wick movies is the absolute decisiveness and operational speed of Wick's actions. No hesitation. No dialog. No remorse. No milking the plot. Just get'n the job done and moving on.


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