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If a character needs some Instant Sedation, one of the most common delivery methods is the Tranquillizer Dart. Simply put, this is a thin, pointed projectile that is shot at, thrown at, blown at, or otherwise flung at the victim from a distance. The sedative is either smeared on the dart or contained in an ampoule or capsule attached to the dart.

This small projectile, usually fired into the neck or buttocks, seems to put the target to sleep with only enough time to pluck out the dart and stare at it in amazement before passing out. If that much.

Like other forms of Instant Sedation, tranquillizer darts are subject to Artistic License Medicine: the same dose will work on everyone, they work exactly as fast as the plot demands, are exactly as effective as the plot demands, the effects last exactly as long as the plot demands, and they generally have little or no after-effects beyond a slight headache or some residual grogginess.

Occasionally the dart will have a non-sedative but related effect, delivering a paralytic or amnesiac drug instead, so the victim is still conscious but either can't move or won't remember what happened.

Subtrope of Instant Sedation. Sister trope to Knockout Gas which works better for area attacks. Compare Stun Gun. Sometimes used as Family-Friendly Firearms.

Examples of Tranquillizer Dart include:

Anime & Manga

  • Detective Conan: Conan's wrist-watch tranquilizer needle gun. The victim barely has time to mumble a few words before keeling over. So far, there have been very characters who have proven resistant to it. Gin shoots himself in the arm to overcome the sedation with a rush of pain and adrenaline and Inspector Zenigata from the crossover with Lupin III goes down quickly, but is so tough that the effect wears off in no time. Both times, this catches Conan completely off-guard.
  • Subverted in Michiko to Hatchin. Michiko appears to be very resilient when hit by a dart from a tranquilizer gun. Twice.
  • Subverted in New Getter Robo, though the writers were probably more concerned with the Rule of Cool than realism. Ryoma gets hit by an animal tranquiliser in the first episode, but it doesn't stop him from running across the street and dropkicking his two attackers before going down. Note that this is after he had just fought a 3-on-1 fight against some Yakuza goons and had gotten a knife buried into his shoulder.
  • In Dragon Half, Rosario shoots Mink with a knockout dart and she instantly falls. Then Rosario puts two more darts into her right away, setting up a gag where he and the king think Mink died from the overdose. Strangely, at first Rosario accidentally inhaled and got the dart stuck in his tongue, but nothing ever came of this.

Comic Books

Films — Animation

  • In Madagascar, Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria are all hit by tranquilizer darts when they are all caught by the animal control while inside New York City's Grand Central Station just right before being locked up into crates and loaded onto a cargo ship that will eventually be hijacked by penguins, causing them to fall out and wash up on the title island.
  • On Open Season, Boog's caretaker has to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart when he apparently goes on a rampage (he's actually fighting with Elliot, who gets several darts to the butt as well).

Films — Live-Action

  • A Lampshaded subversion in The Gods Must Be Crazy explicitly explains that tranquilizer darts don't take effect immediately. That's why they are rigged to be so easily removed that the victim doesn't know they've been tranked (they feel only the sting, that can be attributed to insects).
  • In the opening scene of The Rock, the mercenaries use tranq darts on the soldiers guarding the chemical weapons depot. All of them fall unconscious immediately.
  • The Avengers 1998. Sir August renders Mrs. Peel unconscious with a drug-tipped dart.
  • Goldfinger. While Bond is helplessly strapped to a table, Kisch renders him unconscious with a tranquilizer dart pistol.
  • Never Say Never Again. James uses a sleep-poisoned blowgun dart on a Mook guard during Unwinnable Training Simulation opening.
  • Spies Like Us. Emmett Fitz-Hume and Austin Millbarge knock out five Soviet soldiers instantly with "high-compression tranquilizer pistols".
  • In the short film made of Battleground by Stephen King, The Nameless hitman shoots two security guards using a tranquilizer gun. While one goes down immediately, the second guard (a strong, fit-looking man) just yelps from the dart and reaches for his own gun, but the hitman is prepared for this and quickly knocks him out physically.
  • Discussed in Kangaroo Jack when the protagonists accidentally shoot a dart to their airplane pilot while they are airborne; the pilot experiences the effects in stages as noted by one of them.
  • Frank Drebin's cufflink tranquilizer darts in the first The Naked Gun movie. However, they're not quite instant enough, since the bad guy staggers around long enough to fall over a railing to a Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Serenity subverts this in the climactic battle when Kaylee is tranquilised by Reavers. She takes three darts to the neck. Although she quickly begins to feel shaky, she can still hurry (albeit with Simon's help) into the corridor behind and continues to stand, shielded from Reavers by Simon while Zoe and Jayne struggle to close the blast doors. Only when Simon helps lie her down does she comment she's beginning to lose feeling. Even then, the entire Final Battle between Mal and the Operative has to take place and Mal return for us to spot that Kaylee, while not moving very much at all, is still conscious.
  • In the 1967 comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie the darts work instantly, though the earlier Knockout Gas was not played as straight.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes has Landon use one of these on Rocket, when he's fighting with Caesar.



  • A staple of covert operations in Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth universe, Instant Sedation darts are most prominently used in Bloodhype, when Kitten Kai-Sung, Mal Hammurabi, and Porsupah are infiltrating the AAnn enclave on Repler. Possibly justified by being in The Future, but it also fails No Biochemical Barriers. Oh, well.
  • Subverted in the novel Jurassic Park, where the big Tyrannosaurus Rex (yes, there are two Tyrannosaurs) takes over an hour to feel it when she's shot with several times the so-called recommended tranq dose. In fact, she nearly eats the kids while everyone's waiting for her to pitch over.
  • In the universe of Steven Perry's Matador series, one of the legal loads for the hand-mounted spetsdod is a round loaded with a tranquilizer, appropriately called "Trank".
  • Dune has this come up when Leto finds the Shadout Mapes dying on the floor in the palace and Doctor Yueh shoots him with a dart (at the start of the Harkonnens' raid on Arrakis). Yueh is the family physician, so he knows the duke's body mass, metabolism, and so on. Some reference to the drugging of Jessica and Paul is also made; the Baron stands over Jessica as she comes to and tells her, "The drug was timed." This admission tells her the traitor has detailed and intimate knowledge of her vital statistics.
  • In Alistair MacLean's The Golden Gate, Agent Revson has a device that fires sleep darts that don't have any side effects, which causes their victims to think they fell asleep naturally.

Live-Action TV

  • Lost
    • Subverted in an episode where Sayid is shot twice with tranquilizing darts. He pulls one dart out and we're led to believe that the trope is playing straight until he surprises the shooter, who approached him to confirm unconsciousness.
    • Pretty much played straight in a lot of other episodes, featuring darts, gas and chloroform. Namely, some episodes in this respective order are: "Live Together, Die Alone", "Left Behind" and "Something Nice Back Home".
  • Stargate SG-1
    • Tranq guns are used in "Hathor" by O'Neill and Carter to neutralize male soldiers enthralled by Hathor without killing them. As usual, sleep is instantaneous.
    • In "In The Line of Duty", when Sam/Jolinar gets tranqued twice, the first case with "enough to knock out an elephant," it takes a minute before she's out.
    • In one episode Daniel shoots Osiris with a tranq dart, and she pulls it out, looks annoyed, goes and activates some transporter rings, then leaves in a spaceship. The last shot of her shows that she's just a tad off balance, and that's about two minutes after getting shot. Note that he's using a Goa'uld-specific sedative.
    • The same Goa'uld-specific sedative proves completely inefficient against Kull warriors, however, even though the trinium-tipped darts can pierce their special armor.
    • In the later seasons, people are using tranq darts all the time and they often knock the victim out in less then a second, and occasionally cause the victim to throw themselves away from the dart.
  • Subverted once on The Red Green Show. Ed Frid once shot himself in the foot with a tranquilizer dart and remained conscious long enough to calculate how long he would sleep, give Red instructions on how to deal with the animal they'd captured and lay down comfortably.
  • Although Dexter consistently uses a syringe up-close, there was one episode involving a tranquilizer dart. The target is an animal control worker who is holding a tranquilizer gun loaded to take down an alligator. Presumably resistant to the effect of tranquilizers from personal experience, he has enough time to shoot Dexter with it before he collapses. Dexter also has a bit of time to pull the dart out before losing consciousness. They both wake up in an ambulance with some really worried EMTs.
  • Eureka equips Taggert, the Crocodile Dundee-esque dogcatcher, with these. Used twice, to take down Fish Out of Water Marshall Jack Carter, and inadvertently, the owner of the town's biggest (and possibly only) café.
  • Subverted in Malcolm in the Middle, where trapped with a pair of lions, Malcolm shoots down the zoo personnel's idea of tranquilizing them on the grounds that the beasts would have just enough time to get angry and tear them apart (the show puts it at three minutes, which is almost certainly selling the lions short, but it's the thought that counts).
  • Chuck
    • Every time tranquilizers are used, unless the victim is Badass Normal Casey. When they have to tranquilize Jeff and Lester, Lester goes down instantly but Jeff takes multiple darts and a few minutes to lose consciousness. Jeff is a bigger guy and his past drug use made him more resistant.
    • The eponymous character himself is more wont to use tranquilizer darts as opposed to actual guns to (temporarily) take out bad guys. They always cause harmless Instant Sedation.
  • Subverted in The Adventures of Pete and Pete's Christmas Episode; Little Pete shoots the Garbage Man with a tranq (actually hitting a major vein!), and it takes a couple minutes of real-time to start taking effect.
  • Subverted in Friends when Phoebe is shot in the backside with a dart. She never passes out, though she does comment that her buttock is asleep (and that the other one has no idea). Of course, the dart was intended for a very small monkey, so there probably wasn't much juice in there anyway.
  • An episode of the documentary series Fatal Attractions gave a good illustration of how these work in Real Life. When a man was discovered keeping a full-grown tiger in a New York City public-housing apartment, a NYPD officer rappelled down from the roof with a tranquilizer gun to shoot the tiger through the window. When he did, the tiger immediately charged, hitting the wall with such force that the entire building shook. Only then did the tranquilizer take effect, enabling officers to safely remove the tiger from the building.
  • In The Incredible Hulk Intrepid Reporter Jack McGee at one point has a tranq gun to use on the Hulk. Sure enough, the Hulk shows up and McGee shoots him, to seemingly no effect even though he uses several darts. After the Hulk grabs & destroys the gun and runs off, he starts being affected.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Just before Willow's boyfriend Oz (Seth Green) first joins the gang, they have to use a tranquilizer dart on him because he's a werewolf. The first time, one of them misses and hits Giles.
    • In a later episode, when he leaves town (and the series), it's shortly after having had to be shot with a dart again.
  • Tranquillizer darts are frequently used in Primeval to stop creature attacks.

Pro Wrestling

  • In one episode of Raw, the Big Show was shot by a tranquilizer dart used to take down dangerous animals. He may be a giant, but a rampaging deer still weighs more than twice his size. They didn't show a concern for him overdosing, but they did have him raging and ready to fight until it kicked in five minutes later so it's up to you to decide if this was played with, played straight, averted, inverted, or subverted.

Tabletop Games

  • Shadowrun has darts filled with Neurostun or Narcoject, which can be fired from pistols and rifles.

Video Games

  • Deus Ex
    • Subverted in the first game. JC's mini-crossbow can be loaded with Tranquilizer Darts which take several seconds to subdue the target. And, furthering the subversion, the victim runs around yelling for help before falling unconscious. Though shooting them in the head plays it straight, earning you an instant knock-out. When the PC is shot with a tranquilizer dart, it causes the screen to darken and sway, but the nanotechnology takes care of the venom fairly rapidly.
    • Adam Jensen continues, or rather set the precedent for JC to follow in Deus Ex Human Revolution, and has access to a tranquillizer rifle.
  • Played straight and subverted in Metal Gear Solid. Hitting somebody in the head or the heart with the tranquilizing weapons (that is, not the stun grenades or the taser-like weapons) knocks out instantly while hitting the belly or the limbs delays the effect. Some of the boss characters are bizarrely resilient to tranquilizer rounds, though, and can take several rounds to the head before passing out, even though Otacon insists that the tranquilizer rounds are potent enough to knock out an elephant. It's worth pointing out that the same bosses can take a similar number of bullets to the head without dying.
  • Played straight in the Ultimate Spider-Man video game when Silver Sable tries to kidnap Peter Parker by knocking him out with a couple of tranquilizer darts... for a few minutes anyway. Then his enhanced metabolism kicks in allowing him to wake up earlier than he was supposed to and resist all subsequent shots. Cue boss battle where he has to fight off both Silver Sable and her mercenaries while trying not to succumb to the effects of the tranquilizers in his system.
  • Second Sight has people staggering around for a few moments after being hit with tranquillizer darts,then reacting like they have been punched in the chest and falling over. Hitting them in the head takes them down instantly. It's worth noting that on the few occasions where you're shot with one yourself, it slowly saps your health rather than knocking you out (although the game treats knocked out enemies more or less the same as dead ones and the cutscenes that play after you're defeated would indicate that you survive whatever takes you down).
  • In The Several Journeys of Reemus: Chapter two, Reemus is shot from offscreen by a dart so loaded with sedative that it actually sprays a considerable amount on Liam when it hits. Liam has just enough time to identify the sedative before he, too, is shot and goes under. Later on, they have to collect a sample of it (it's a type of honey made by a particular bee, which is so potent that even a small amount contains enough sugar to induce a temporary diabetic coma) to exploit it's faux-sedative properties.
  • Used frequently in the Monster Hunter series, with Tranq Bombs, Tranq S bowgun ammo, and even Tranq Throwing Knives, required for monster capture quests. Though, to be fair, first you have to weaken them significantly and catch them in a trap. They have no effect otherwise.
  • Perfect Dark has a tranquillizer gun, but instead of knocking targets out, it blurs their vision, lowering their accuracy. The alternate fire gives the darts a lethal overdose.
  • A stock weapon in the No One Lives Forever series, essential in the levels where "no casualties" is the requirement.
  • In the RuneScape quest "A Clockwork Syringe", if you're spotted during a Stealth Based Mission, a dart will be thrown at you, the screen will turn black, and you'll wake up unharmed in an unguarded jail cell which can be easily escaped.
  • Fallout 3 has the Dart Gun, a makeshift crossbow that fires throwing darts (the kind used in pubs) tipped with radscorpion venom. The damage is pitiful, but it cripples the target's limbs completely, preventing them from moving or fighting effectively. (Note that radscorpion venom administered the natural way — from a radscorpion stinger — causes damage over time, not paralysis.)

Web Comics

  • Subverted and Lampshaded in The Last Days of Foxhound. When Liquid is possessed by Big Boss and he is threatening Raven, he is shot in the head with a high dosage tranq dart by Wolf, and it takes him several seconds to fall unconscious, causing Raven to say "That took way too fucking long". Also subverted when the Cyborg Ninja is tranquillized and remains conscious long enough to flee.

 Wolf: I can never get ze dose right vith zese super-humans.


Western Animation

  • In Phineas and Ferb, Doof is mistaken for an orangutang (long story) and shot with a dart. He takes exactly 17 seconds to lose consciousness (as mentioned in the musical line "I'll probably lose consciousness in seventeen secodns...")
  • An episode of The Fairly Odd Parents in which a Drill Sergeant Nasty, Jorgen von Strangle, is quickly rendered insensate using two darts (humorously marked "K" & "O") during a fit of animalistic rage.
  • Jonny Quest TOS episodes:
    • "The Quetong Missile Mystery". In what may be a Lampshade Hanging, Race Bannon makes a note of how fast anaesthetic darts work on enemy guards.
    • "Pirates from Below". Race and Bandit are knocked out by a tranquillizer dart rifle wielded by an enemy operative.
  • Family Guy
    • In an early episode, Peter's boss devises a contest for the company picnic, which involves taking shots at the employees with a tranq rifle and seeing who can last the longest. Most of the employees drop like stones the moment they get shot... except for Peter, who ends up with more than a dozen tranquillizer needles stuck in him, and still manages to stay conscious long enough to win the contest. It would seem that this is either due to his relatively high body mass, which (in theory) would require longer for the chemicals to spread through his body, or due to the increased amount of fatty deposits, which would help isolate the venom from his bloodstream.
  • The Venture Brothers
    • Subverted in the first episode; Brock takes about a dozen butterfly darts, and only goes down when hit with a truck. Of course, it is Brock.
    • The pirate captain has an addiction to tranquillizer darts in the episode "The Lepidopterists."
    • 24's attempt to kill Hank in the episode "Tears of the Sea Cow" are averted because he didn't know his rifle only shot tranquillizer darts.
  • The Simpsons
    • Bart has just been "taken" by a monkey at a local zoo, and Homer tries to save him by putting a tranq-dart into a tube and putting it into his mouth. He then inhales, and it gets self-explanatory after that.
    • Subverted in another episode when Barney is shot with a bear tranquilizer dart. He actually pulls out the dart and drinks the remaining sedative before passing out.
  • Subverted in a The Ren and Stimpy Show cartoon parodying nature shows; Ren is accidentally shot with a tranq dart by Stimpy, and it takes a minute for him to go down. In the meantime, his voice slows down.
  • In Gargoyles, when Brooklyn is hit with one, he goes down almost instantly, but is still blinking groggily when he's dragged away — so it may not have put him out completely at all.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Used in "Operation: Z.O.O." by Mrs. Goodwall (a parody of Jane Goodall) against the KND, to put them in a "Kids Zoo".
  • Used in three episodes of the Total Drama series:
    • In "Wawanakwa Gone Wild!", Izzy uses them in a gun to try and bring down the animal she has to capture, a deer. Unfortunately, Heather is hiding behind a bush wearing deer antlers — Izzy only sees the antlers and shoots her by mistake.
    • In "Search and Do Not Destroy", Owen comes back to the campgrounds sticking out of a bear's mouth. Chris uses the darts to sedate the bear, but he gets Owen, too.
    • In "Dial M for Merger", Duncan gets shot in the neck with a dart when the interns have to drag the remaining contestants to a cave as part of the challenge.