• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

File:Real clue.jpg


T-800: *loads gun*

Clerk: You can't do that.

T-800: Wrong.

A villain enters a gun store and shows interest in various firearms. The clerk eagerly shows the potential customer every piece he is interested in. The villain picks up one of the guns, examines it and loads it with ammunition provided by the clerk. He then calmly shoots the clerk, collects the guns and ammo and leaves the store.

Decidedly not Truth in Television. For one, you're relying on the dealer to allow you to load the weapon in front of him, and the dealers already know these stories themselves. Anyone who does try to load a weapon in a gun store outside of a shooting range will likely find the dealers and any customers will act more quickly than he will. To top it off, for the most part display guns don't have firing pins installed, so even if you manage to load the weapon and point it at the clerk without being shot, the gun in your hands is harmless.

Even if you bring your own weaponry, well—you're still robbing the one type of store in the entire world where the clerk is guaranteed to have access to firearms and know how they work. Needless to say, in most real life stories the idiot robber gets nothing more for his trouble than a Darwin Awards nomination.

This term is sort of the ultimate extension of the Five-Finger Discount. Averting this trope is the cause for Shoplift and Die.


Comic Books

  • Not a real shop, but close: In a short Lucky Luke story, the Daltons do this to a travelling weapon salesman. He is understandably pissed off and decides to change his business. Only to be robbed repeatedly by the Daltons, again and again and again...
  • Also happens in Leonard Le Genie, but in an unusual way. A man comes ask Léonard to invent a gun for him, and when he has finished building it, the guy immediately threatens him with it.
  • In the Marvel Universe, the Tinkerer is smart enough to be ready for this. For instance, he once made upgrades on Killer Shrike's gauntlet weapons and the supervillain uses them to threaten the solo proprietor to get out of paying for them. However, when Shrike tried to fire them, they promptly backfired and immobilized him. With a satisfied cackle, Tinkerer remarks that he always adds that kind of feature in his products to deal with idiots doing that.
  • An Alan Moore-penned issue of The Vigilante featured a variation on this—a fugitive enters a gun store and says he'd like the one at the bottom of the glass case. When the clerk looks down, he smashes his head into the case and takes the gun.


  • The Terminator in The Terminator. Though the clerk at least protests when the Terminator starts putting shells in the shotgun. It certainly helps that T-800 is Nigh Invulnerable. Also, the Terminator waited until the clerk was looking the other way before starting to load the gun.
  • Rico in Judge Dredd, though to be fair the shopkeeper was somewhat justified in expecting the DNA-locked weapon to just shock the crap out of Rico.
  • In The Jackal, the titular assassin tests his new purchase on the gun dealer who sold it to him (this character is a combination of the maker of false passports and the arms dealer of The Day of the Jackal book and film: the former getting killed because he tried to blackmail the Jackal; the latter is smart enough to leave information as to what happened to him should he be offed by a customer and thus survives. Also, the latter is clearly a pro and may be useful again.)
  • Something similar happens at the start of Robocop 2. But in this instance, the criminals were already well into the process of smashing up the store, and the sales clerk was slumped down on the floor, bleeding. He says something to the effect of, "Please... take what you want and go." The criminal replies "Thanks," and shoots him.
  • In The Good the Bad And The Ugly, after surviving a trek through the desert Tuco goes to a gun store, customizes a gun, tries it out on their firing range, then uses it to hold up the store. At least he didn't kill the clerk though. He also leaves the owner the bottle of whiskey to drown his troubles in. The twist: Tuco wasn't trying to hold up the store, the clerk misunderstood him, and Tuco just rolled with it. He was initially just angry that the price was too high.
  • Slightly different take in the movie Dirty Harry when Scorpio enters a liquor store, buys some booze, and gets the owner into a conversation about how the owner has shot several people who attempted to rob him. The owner shows him the gun and now knowing where it is, Scorpio smashes him in the face with the bottle of booze he just bought, takes the gun and another bottle and runs away.
  • The film Missing in Action features an on-the-run Chuck Norris buying a large raft-like speedboat made from "the same stuff that Bullet Proof Vests are made of". The salesman demonstrates this by getting into his handy-dandy rotating turret machine gun and putting a few hundred rounds into it, not getting a scratch on it. Chuck Norris agrees to buy it, and they start haggling over the price. While asking to pay some measly sum for the boat he casually walks into the handy-dandy rotating turret machine gun and points it at the salesman. The salesman still tries to get him pay a bit more, but in the end he decides not to feed his starving family, just so Chuck Norris can be a badass.
  • The Man with the Golden Gun, James Bond questions a gunsmith about a custom bullet he made by, in part, threatening to shoot him with a rifle the man is making for a customer who has lost 2 fingers on his right hand and needs something custom balanced. Apparently, the rifle fires 2 inches below the target for people with 5 fingers. Bond proves this by shooting at, and missing, the gunsmith's wedding tackle.

 Bond: So talk now...or forever hold your piece.


 Yuri: Gentlemen, the new Uzi Machine Pistol. Big firepower in a small package. This little baby uses 9mm hollow points, 20 to 25 round extendable mags, rear flip adjustable sights, silencer comes standard, excellent recoil reduction, muzzle jump reduced 40 percent, 60 percent improved noise suppression. You could pump a mag into me right now and never wake the guy in the next room.

[Client cocks gun and points it at Yuri]

Yuri: Of course that would eliminate your opportunity for repeat business.

[Client puts the gun down]

    • Later in the movie he adds "The first and most important rule of gun running is never get shot with your own merchandise." It happens at some point.
  • Subverted in Jumanji. The shopkeeper is dull-witted enough to let Van Pelt (hunter of the most dangerous game) have a rifle and ammunition and load it to test on the "OPEN/CLOSED" sign, but Van Pelt, who does have his honor, merely buys the gun, ammo, and a scope. Also, the clerk only let him do it in the first place because Pelt gave him gold coins.
  • A variation in the Buster Keaton short subject The High Sign, where Buster is running a shooting gallery and a customer simply uses the rifle he's given to rob Buster.
  • Initially averted and then played straight in Harry Brown.
  • Played with in The Fifth Element. Zorg hires the Mangalores to steal a special chest containing four mystical stones, and in return will give them four crates of very powerful guns. (Guns that are also rocket launchers, flamethrowers, and freezing weapons). When the Mangalores return with the chest, Zorg demonstrates all the fancy special features then takes a look in the chest, only to find the stones aren't there. Angry, Zorg prepares to take all the guns and leave. The Mangalores are equally angry because that means they will have risked their lives for nothing, and pull their own guns to stop Zorg from leaving with the merchandise. Zorg leaves one crate as a goodwill gesture, but explains to his assistant that there was one thing he didn't explain about the guns he gave the Mangalores; he never told them What That Little Red Button Does. Sure enough, one Mangalore soldier playing with the guns tries it out, and it turns out that the red button is a high-explosive self-destruct.
  • In an early scene in Sunshine Cleaning, a character does a variation of this. Except he brings his own ammo. And it's a suicide, not a robbery or murder.
  • In Wild Rebels, Linda does this, putting the shop owner off guard by pretending to be unfamiliar with guns.


  • The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three has a variant of this as one of Roland's many Crowning Moments Of Awesome. He wants ammo for his gun (back in his world), but the gun store owner won't give it to him. And he has no weapon in our world. So he goes back outside, lies to the police, gets them to follow him back inside, knocks them out, takes their guns, and then pays for the ammo before leaving.
  • Subverted in a scene in the BattleTech novel Hearts of Chaos in which three mercenary protagonists are caught away from their unit by a surprise invasion, decide to quickly arm themselves at a conveniently close store, and find themselves confronted by the understandably angry owner and his shotgun. Instead of violence erupting, they quite civilly point out that any guns and ammo he insists on keeping to himself now will most likely be confiscated if the other side is victorious, anyway—and it works.
  • Defied in Voice of the Whirlwind, where the protagonist is allowed to test weapons he bought in the store... but only if he stands in the designated area, while the storekeeper takes refuge behind a protective shield, one foot on the dead man's switch which is the only thing stopping multiple lasers slicing any would-be thief to sushi. The protagonist didn't plan on a Ballistic Discount, but it's nice to know some shopkeepers are Genre Savvy enough to guard against it.
  • Also averted in Freehold, by Michael Z. Williamson. A thug from a police-state world, where average citizens never carry guns, tries this on Freehold, a libertarian's utopia. He gets the first shot off because the gun store owner wasn't expecting anyone to pull something that stupid, but then the owner (who was wearing a bulletproof vest) and every other customer in the store open up on him with their own weapons, and he never gets a second shot.
  • A large-scale example: In A Song of Ice and Fire, Daenerys Targaryen buys an army of slave-warriors who are conditioned to be utterly loyal to their owner, then proceeds to conquer the city that sold it to her with said army, and take her payment back.

Live Action TV

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Wild Rebels"
  • A variation was used on Monk when Monk was working undercover at a Wal-Mart-like megastore. In order to capture the fleeing criminals, Monk gets a gun from the store and demands that the employees give him the ammunition as well. When one hesitates, Monk gets his way by threatening him with the gun... only to have the second employee point out, after Monk has left the scene, that the gun wasn't loaded.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Simon Said", a man is mind controlled into pulling this off; he finishes by shooting himself.
    • In "The French Mistake", the robber just hits the shopkeeper in the face with the butt of a shotgun, knocking him out (he does, however, shoot the next person to walk into the store).
  • Used in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Enough Rope for Two", but the character who did it claimed it was an accident.
  • A Highlander the Series episode did this with swords. An Immortal walked into an antiques shop that sold assorted bladed weaponry. He asked the proprietor to show him an authentic sword that could stand up to the stresses of combat. The Immortal tested and took a Toledo sword by stabbing the proprietor with it.
  • Fugitive Jack Druggan guns down a gang of gun dealers with one of their own automatic rifles after they unwisely attempt to rip him off in the Chase episode "The Comeback Kid".
  • The UnSub in the Criminal Minds episode "Hanley Waters" already has the ammo and intends on simply purchasing the corresponding gun, but resorts to this trope when she learns that she can't purchase it today. With the gun still sitting on the counter, the clerk gives her the gun license application and walks off to deal with another customer, giving her time to load before he notices what she's doing.


  • The song Saturday Night Special by Conway Twitty features a variation of this. The narrator buys a pistol from a pawn shop, but as he is about to leave, he witnesses the shop's greedy dealer attempt to take advantage of a desperate woman attempting to hock her wedding ring. Just listen to it to hear how the story plays out.


  • Tony Martin and Mick Molloy did a bit on the Martin Molloy radio show about how gun store owner is one of the most dangerous occupations in the movies (including a few examples mentioned on this list). It was later included on The Brown Album.

Stand Up Comedy

  • Comedian Sean Meo suggests this trope during a joke about comparing legal ages for buying guns and alcohol in the United States. The hypothetical youth is turned down from buying beer, but then buys a gun from the same clerk and uses it in a hold-up.

Video Games

  • This does not work in Deja Vu. The gun salesman is quicker on the draw than you are.
  • In Grand Theft Auto III, you can do this but there is no point. It just allows you to buy from an empty store. Later in the series, the clerks are armed, and quicker on the draw than you. Also, if you survive fighting the clerk (it's possible), you can get his pistols. And that's it—you can't even shop or loot the shelves. Granted, the clerk respawns with no memory of your earlier rampage if you walk out and walk back in.

 Ammu-Nation Advertisement: "We're the only gun store that lets you try before you buy!"

  • Averted in the video game Blade Runner where the gun store has a robotic gun that tracks the move of every customer.
    • Except you can blow the guy away if you like. The robotic gun won't fire. There's no benefit to killing him. No loot.
      • Oddly, if you draw your gun twice, he'll blow you away with a shotgun.
  • When you're playing Nethack, don't try to kill the shopkeeper. In the variant SLASH'EM, they have shotguns. In a medieval setting. Even in vanilla Nethack, they can still slaughter you in seconds.
    • You can play this straight with the right item. One of the ways to reliably kill shopkeepers is with a wand of death. If there is one present, you can pick up a wand of death from the store and zap the shopkeeper with his own wand. Just don't miss (or kill Izchak).
      • Or halfway-straight by summoning your pet Balrog with one of the shopkeeper's magic whistles.
        • Or polymorphing into a dragon.
          • Or polymorphing the shopkeeper into a brown pudding. (This can backfire spectacularly though.)
  • You can rob the weapon store owners with relative impunity in Saints Row.
    • "I probably shouldn't sell them loaded."
    • In the sequel, if you forget to put away your gun when you enter a store, you might accidentally point it at the store clerk and scare them into sounding the alarm and giving you three stars of wanted level. The same happens if you damage the store. However they need a few seconds to set off the alarm, and if you leave during that time or attack from outside the shop you always get away with it. This includes standing on the doorstep shooting missiles at the clerk.
    • Then, in the third game, it's possible to buy various stores and other properties around the city. Hiding in owned property will remove your wanted level. This leads to the bizarre ability to rob a gun store you already own, get a 3-star wanted level, step outside, then step back into the store you just robbed (where the alarm is still going off!) and completely clear your wanted level.
  • Played reasonably straight in the Fallout series. You can kill pretty much anyone and take their stuff, shopkeeper or not, which includes killing them with a gun they just sold you and taking back your cash. That said, if they have any friends around that see you, odds are that you're about to engage in a gun battle which will gradually increase in size to the entire town against you.
    • Then again, if you do it in the later levels, you're a power-armor-wearing human tank with enough firepower to bring down a battleship, and they are wearing leathers and toting sawed-offs. The end result is a slaughter more than a battle. This does allow you to ransack the shop (and the city...) with impunity, but at the cost of never having anyone in that city for the rest of the game.
      • Fallout 3 at least is pretty schizophrenic about the hostility of the rest of the town. As a general rule, if you kill the shopkeeper in one hit with a melee weapon, without witnesses, you can get away with it. A more viable option, and really, a subversion, is to just steal something from the store with only the shopkeeper as the witness. If you have a follower, your follower will gun/beat down the shopkeep with extreme prejudice. And nobody will care.
    • Fallout: New Vegas is where the devs seemingly see the tendency for players to do this, so they give most shopkeepers and traders a heavy escort. Try doing this in Silver Rush if you are still low level for instance. They are also savvy enough to take away your weapons before letting you into the store.
      • Speaking of the Silver Rush, the guard will invoke this trope if you accept a mission to take a part-time guard job. After taking the job, you're issued some armor and a laser or plasma rifle and are told to give it back after the job's done - adding that while what they've issued is nice gear, it's not worth getting killed over (especially since they armor and weapon have slightly worse stats). (You can make a run for it - with predictable results.)
      • Due to the game's programming, the Silver Rush Guard armor mentioned above is flagged as a quest item. If you walk off with it or steal it from the trunk it's stored in, you are unable to drop it or store it. Depending on the patch update you're running, quest items can actually be flagged as weightless and indestructible, however to steal such items you'd be risking failing said quest, removing the flag's advantages.
      • The Gun Runners are particularly Genre Savvy about this. Their shopkeeper is a robot sealed in a booth specifically designed to prevent a potential customer from attempting this kind of thing. As well as cargo set to blow when improperly opened.
      • And to top it all off, you cannot buy something from the convoy and then turn the gun on them and taking the caps.
      • In addition, starting with Fallout 3, traders and shopkeepers replenish their goods and money every few game days, so killing a merchant also cuts you off a steady source of supply of ammo and stims, as well as less place for you to dump your Vendor Trash in.
  • The Freeware game Spelunky (a sort of dungeon-crawler/platformer hybrid) mostly averts this: all shopkeepers are armed with shotguns and will fire at the slightest hint of a misdeed by the player. However, you pick up items in order to initiate the purchasing dialogue, and several items are indeed firearms. Pick up a shotgun and shoot at point blank range to play the trope straight. Immobilize him from behind with a webcannon and you can Goomba Stomp him to death. Depending on the level layout, the player may also be able to send a boulder rolling through the shop. Anything else is significantly riskier due to the shopkeeper's vitality and agility. Even if you survive, killing any shopkeeper means they will all shoot you on sight, and any criminal activity except murder will cause shopkeepers to camp the level exit from "just the next level" to "until the end of the game", depending on your actions.
    • To clarify how easily shop keepers will shoot you:
      • Using any unpaid item, taking any unpaid item out of the shop, or re-rolling a die: "Get back here, thief!" *bang you're dead* Bizarrely, this includes allowing a monkey to throw a damsel out of a kissing booth.
      • Bringing a lit bomb into the shop: "Terrorist!" *bang you're dead*
      • Attacking him in any way: He doesn't even bother yelling at you. *bang you're dead*
      • Damaging the shop in any way: "Die, you vandal!" *bang you're dead*
      • Attacking a kissing booth's damsel in any way: "Hey, only I'm allowed to do that!" *bang you're dead*
      • Approaching a shop while wanted: "You'll pay for your crimes!" *bang you're dead*
  • Played straight and subverted in Mobsters 2 - Vendetta. One of the Miami missions is to rob a gun store - oddly enough, this is a "low-risk" mission.

 Success: "The owner was armed. We were...more armed."

Failure: "Who would have thought that even the 15-year-old stock boy was armed? At least we got out in one piece."

  • In Resident Evil 4 this trope runs in both directions. It works in the sense that Leon is capable of killing the Merchant that sells him weapons but doesn't work in the sense that once you kill the Merchant you don't get to take any of his guns off of his body or from his store. The decision not to kill the Merchant is helped by the fact that once you kill the Merchant he stays dead in that particular area forever, though he re-spawns and meets you in the next available spot in the storyline even if you did kill him in an earlier area.

Web Animation

Web Comics

  • This strip from Penny Arcade depicting Resident Evil 4 as if the trope were to be played straight (though Leon's using the gun he already has to get his way).
  • Played with in Order of the Stick, when Roy is trying to buy a new weapon, and they do a shout-out to Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch in which he tries to guess which weapon they have. It turns out the polearm shop has no weapons there whatsoever, and the man behind the counter was deliberately wasting Roy's time.

 Roy: You realize that if I could actually purchase a weapon, I would stab you with it now?

Store Clerk: The irony is staggering, sir, yes.


 Chelsea: Now we can have all the guns!


Real Life

  • A sign at a gun shop says, "We don't call 911." with a picture of a revolver.
    • Other signs add "...we call .357"
  • There's one well known and mostly true Darwin Awards winner who tried this. The story says the man went into a gun store and waved a gun around firing it into the ceiling and was promptly shot to death by the two armed clerks, the three armed customers, and the cop whose squad car was parked out front. In reality only the cop and one clerk shot him. The part about him walking around the police cruiser to enter the store is true though.
  • Two holdup stories go as follows:
    • In one story the perp brought in his own weapon and held the dealer at gunpoint. The robber demanded the dealer retrieve various pistols from the case; while he was bent over the dealer fired at the perp through the glass. Both men survived, the perp taking the damage.
    • The second story also involves a perp bringing his own weapon into the store. It doesn't end as happily; the perp simply shot the clerk in the head while his back was turned. Then—while the gunman was pilfering the merchandise—the owner who was in the back shoots the gunman.
    • This trope is the big reason why many gun stores will have a policy that if you have a concealed/holstered weapon when you enter the store, it stays that way until you leave the store. You have to have it unholstered, out in the open where they can see it when you walk in if you want to show it to the clerk or gunsmith, or want to use the firing range. This prevents any misunderstandings from you pulling the gun out with honest intentions in front of a Dangerously Genre Savvy gun shop clerk.
      • Walking in with a gun in hand is almost as likely to get you shot. If you have a weapon that needs to be looked at by a clerk or gunsmith, you should really bring it in a case.
  • In one instance, a man with a .22 caliber pistol walked into a bank intending to hold up a banker at his desk to give him access to the vault. When the man pointed the gun at the banker, the banker looked at the gun for a second before reaching under his desk and pulling out a .44 Magnum and pointing it right at the man's head. When the man tried to dive for the magnum, the banker jumped back and cocked the gun, and held it there until the cops came and took the man away.
  • Several years ago in Auckland, New Zealand, a man tried to rob a gun store with a machete. He was less than successful.
  • It should be no surprise that there are many instances of muggings being unsuccessful because the target was trained in martial arts. However, there are a few instances of attempts outside martial arts tournaments.
  • There's a story about a man who tried to rob a gun store with a knife. After being asked the obvious question, he replied, "If I already had a gun, why would I rob a gun store?"