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When fighting a duel, fairness requires both combatants to stand at an equal distance from one another...
—Old serial novel

In a Duel to the Death involving guns, two characters stand back to back, walk ten paces and then see who can draw the fastest.

Except it doesn't usually go like that. One of them will a) leg it, b) fall into a pond c) duck or d) prove their cowardice by turning early and trying to shoot their opponent in the back. If it's a comedy, the person counting out the ten paces may just keep going, with the combatants ending up several miles apart.

Actually almost never used in real duels. Most started with combatants at the prescribed distance, with one or two lines in front of them that they were not allowed to cross. Depending on the agreed rules you might be permitted to advance to your "barrier" but once you fired you had to stand still until your opponent fired.

  • Though, under the Irish Code Duello of 1777, either version was allowed and did in fact take place, with the walk-to-your-mark-and-fire version done by the ones who really didn't want to kill the other - it gave both opponents a chance to think it over, and often resulted in the practice of "deloping" - firing to miss, in order to declare satisfaction and end the duel before you drew your opponent's blood. Bystanders and seconds often were the losers here.

Examples of Ten Paces and Turn include:

Anime and Manga

  • One of the few times both combatants carried it through to the end was in the fourth episode of Trigun.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni has Rudolf duel a stake with this trope involved. And then, in the sixth episode during the duels between Shannon and Kanon, later - Beatrice and Erika
  • In the Loguetown arc of One Piece, there's an episode in the anime where Usopp gets into one with a bounty hunter named Daddy Masterson. [1]

Comic Books

  • In the Lucky Luke album The Tenderfoot, Waldo Badminton insists on taking the ten paces, much to the bewilderment of the bad guy "That ain't how it's done! We stand facing each other, and the first one to draw..."


  • The Man with the Golden Gun featured this between Bond and Scaramanga, with Nick Nack shouting out the twenty paces... only for it to turn out that Scaramanga bolted somewhere down the line, turning the thing into a hunt through his lair. Bond wastes a bullet (one out of six in his gun) shooting at nothing.
  • No guns needed, in Disney's The Sword in the Stone, Mad Madam Mim cheats by casting an invisibility spell on herself during the ten paces, so that when Merlin turns, he can't see where she is.
  • Parodied in Ratataa! from 1956. The hero's sidekick tries to help him by strewing banana peels in front of his opponent's feet while he's walking the obligatory ten steps.
  • Subverted in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid where Billy gets in a duel and when they start counting, he simply turns, draws his gun and waits. When his opponent doesn't wait till ten before turning, Billy calmly shoots him.
  • Both types of duel feature in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. There's also a twist in the "stand at your mark" version: the duellists take it in turns to fire, based on a coin toss. There's a memorable scene where one duellist, having missed his shot, throws up in terror realizing that his opponent now has the legal right to shoot him in cold blood.
    • This is actually how most duels of that period worked. Pistols were horribly inaccurate and many duellists deloped anyway; it was also considered very bad form to aim carefully. The point was more to test whether both parties cared enough about the issue to take the risk.
  • Woody Allen's Love and Death featured Woody in a duel. Ten paces, turn, and laugh.
  • The ship's captain played by Gregory Peck and one of the braggarts who frequently calls him a coward end up in one of these near the climax of The Big Country. Guess which one honours the terms of the deal and which one cravenly tries to shoot early. Hint: it's not the one played by Gregory Peck.


  • Pierre and Dolokhov's duel in War and Peace goes swimmingly. Someone gets shot, everyone goes home more emotionally mature.
  • The second Clue mini-mystery novel, The Secret Secret Passage features a duel between Colonel Mustard and Mr. Green in the ballroom which they attempt to open this way with as large steps as possible-so naturally, they both crash into the walls.
  • Variant: Some friends of the participants will see that the guns are loaded with blanks in advance.
    • Ellery Queen's There Was an Old Woman had the bullets replaced with blanks, and then a killer re-replaced with live ammo.
  • One of the usual subversions appears in Weber's Field of Dishonor, in a duel between Honor Harrington and Pavel Young, Earl North Hollow - despite that firing early violates the Code Duello, a code enforced by armed guards. To be fair, Honor had previously won a duel against a professional duelist - the one he hired - so it's not like he had a chance playing it fair.
    • Play fair and get blown away by Honor, cheat and get blown away by the guards. He was screwed either way. But boy did he deserve it.
    • It should also be noted at this juncture that Honor blew him away personally even with his cheating; the enforcers piling on were just icing on the cake.
  • Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood gets into an illegal duel in the novel Ratcatcher by James McGee. His opponent failed to release quite how deadly Hawkwood was with a pistol. After his opponent's bullet grazes his chest, Hawkwood spares his life by deliberately shooting to cripple his gun arm.

Live Action TV

  • Played straight in an episode of CSI... except one of the duelists thought it was a joke, and the one that had set the whole thing up was taking his hobby (American Civil War recreation) a little too seriously.
  • In The Goodies episode "Bunfight at the O.K. Tearooms", Graeme tricks Tim and Bill into one of these only for them to find that the eleven paces he has them take causes them to walk face first into a wall.
  • In the Australian historical comedy Bligh, Dirty Coward John McArthur is rehearsing for his upcoming duel with Governor Bligh, and does the turn early and shoot trick, then rapidly counts off the rest of the paces. The duel becomes moot when Bligh bans private ownership of firearms, leaving them to fight it out via the legal system. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Power Rangers Time Force
  • One occurs in the Castle episode "Punked".
    • Except that one of the duelists knew all about old muzzle-loading pistols and knew their horrible aim. The goal was to pretend to duel to the death and walk away satisfied. The real culprit used a modern weapon loaded with a musket ball.
  • James May demonstrated the proper etiquette for duelling in an episode of Man Lab.
  • Zigzags in an episode of Hornblower. The first duel begins with the two men facing each other, taking aim for a count of three, then firing (cue Bullet Holes and Revelations). In the second, the original winner stands back to back with Our Hero, they each take five paces forward before turning, and then are counted down to firing. Uses the "villain shoots too early" variation, but it's Only a Flesh Wound and Hornblower is permitted to take his shot, but delopes. Then all that's left is for the shamed villain to earn himself a quick Karmic Death (at the hands of a spectator), and job's a good'un.


  • Subverted in Dr. Dre's and Eminem's "Bad Guys Always Die".

 Dre: He was shady; I could tell by the look on his face

He said "Take ten paces"; shit, I took eight

  • Played with in a silly little ditty:

 One fine day in the middle of the night

Two dead men got up to fight

Back to back they faced each other

Drew their swords and shot each other


Newspaper Comics

  • A Far Side cartoon mocks the trope, with the person counting off the steps saying, "Oh, the heck with it! Just turn around and shoot!"
    • Another showed a mortally-wounded duelist laying on the ground muttering "I could have sworn.. you said.. eleven steps.."

Video Games

  • In the Neverwinter Nights 2 mod Dark Waters, you can do this if the NPC flirting with Heather pisses you off. You can also cheat.

Web Animation

  • In the Old-Timey cartoon "Parsnips A-Plenty" from Homestar Runner, Strong Bad challenged The Homestar Runner to a five-pace duel. The Homestar Runner just stood there and said "What?" Somehow (we never find out due to a "missing scene") the duel ends with Strong Bad falling off a cliff.

Web Original

  • Happens in the climax of Survival of the Fittest v1. Interestingly, both combatants cheat, but because of a slope Dodd failed to take into account, it's moot either way.

Web Comics

  • Parodied in Adventurers - two characters attempt this, but because they live in a console RPG, all that happens is that they both lose some Hit Points and end up staring at each other, confused.

Western Animation

  • Magnificently subverted twofold in the Looney Tunes short "Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk". Bugs suggests to the giant a ten-paces battle, thinking that with the giant's long strides, he'll be out of his hair...until he sees the giant coming at him from the other way having walked around the entire globe on those 10 steps and stopping right in front of him on pace number ten.
    • Wild Wooly Hare had Bugs challenging Yosemite Sam to a ten pace duel. Sam agrees, starts to take ten paces, but turns and fires on "two". Bugs, anticipating the dirty play, took his steps backwards so Sam's guns were extended past where Bugs was when he fired.
    • Then there was the time Bugs delayed the count ("...nine, nine and a half, nine and three-quarters, nine and seven-eights...") just to make sure Sam was in the right spot at the right time to get run over by a bus. ("Yep, right on time.")
  • Played with in the Futurama movie Beast with a Billion Backs. Bender, having challenged Calculon to a duel, takes about three of the ten steps then turns and fires his raygun. Of course, since these are incredibly advanced weapons, the shot takes off Calculons arm, cuts a line through a lake, pierces through a skyscraper, and destroys the headquarters of the very club they were dueling over.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle The Weather Lady: During the $50 payment with the Weather Lady fortune telling machine, Bullwinkle slapped a fly on Boris' cheek causing the town judge to force the two to a ten pace duel. Since it was a beautiful day, the others went picnicking with the judge still counting while eating and all forget about the duel.
    • Peabody's Improbable History did this as well. William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon were fighting leading them both in a ten paces and turn duel. The fog was heavy and Peabody's plan was to erect a brick wall at the crossfire blocking both bullets. He managed to erect the wall in nine-tenths of a second.
  • Parodied in Family Guy where Peter imagines what the American forefathers would have done without guns. Cut to a duel scene, where both participants take their ten paces, turn around and start slapping each other.
  • One of the older Tom and Jerry shorts had this taken to increasingly ludicrous levels. Starting with a pistol, then going to swords, it escalated until they were dueling with cannons.
  1. The same plot was at one point planned to be used in the manga, but was dropped due to not having enough time before reaching the Grand Line in chapter 100.