Debunking Self-Defense Myths: What Hollywood Gets Wrong.


Self-defense on the silver screen. We watch movies, be it in the theater or on our streaming service of choice. We all groan at the inaccuracies when something is just too far out of the realm of possibility. And there’s so, so much they get wrong. We’re going to be diving into the world of self-defense as portrayed by [insert name of action hero here] on the silver screen. Hollywood has a knack for weaving captivating tales of heroics, but not much of it aligns with reality. Get ready to dissect common self-defense myths perpetuated by movies and explore the importance of separating fact from fiction when we destroy six of the most common myths. And believe me, there’s a lot more we could cover.

Now I get it. Movies are supposed to be an escape from reality, allowing us to see worlds and actions that can’t possibly exist. You know, like Alejandro Mayorkas actually doing his job and preventing the mass invasion by illegal aliens. But, at least to me, to make the movie believable certain things have to be true to life. Shooters know what I’m talking about when we point out the inaccuracies of gun handling and weapon performance. Just like gear heads when they watch any of the Fast And Furious movies and the drivers change gears twenty-seven times on a four speed transmission and ruins the vibe.

MYTH #1: Guns Never Run Out of Ammo

Be honest, how many of you identify guns in movies and count the rounds fired in gunfights? And, do you also find it amazing when the guy wielding a Walther PPK fires off forty-seven rounds without ever reloading? This is a trope that could easily be eliminated with the smallest bit of effort but continues to endure. Now, I firmly believe that the reason it’s still around is two-fold; one, the writers are lazy wastes of humanity, and two, they do it deliberately to piss off shooters.

Want to make a movie significantly more believable? Stick to ammo capacities. Have the shooters have to reload when necessary. Maybe follow the lead of the John Wick franchise in this. Yeah, we’ll get to the unbelievable parts of those movies in a bit. But just do it. When a bad guy, and it’s always a bad guy, has an MP-5 with a thirty-round magazine and gets off a seventy-round burst, you lose me. (Talking to you Die Hard.)

I’m not suggesting that the characters count their rounds in a gunfight, because I’ve tried, and it’s damn near impossible with all the other stuff you have to be thinking about. But when the guy’s Beretta 92 has fired the 16th shot, maybe have the slide lock back and have him reload. You know, like you’d have to in real life. Even Dirty Harry couldn’t keep track of how many rounds he fired. “Uh uh. I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself.

Now, I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it, regardless of your gun’s magazine capacity, always carry spare ammo. And practice learning how to reload your gun. The first point of failure on a semiautomatic pistol is your magazine. If it stops working, having a spare to replace it with can save your life in a defensive situation. You don’t want to be stuck with a short, ineffective club in a gunfight. You also don’t know how many rounds you may have to expend to stop, or even hit, the threat. The only time you have too much ammunition on you is when you’re on fire. So carry spares and be proficient in changing magazines.

If you carry a revolver, you really need to carry spare ammo and be very proficient in using your speedloaders or speed strips. Even Dirty Harry carried reloads. In Magnum Force, when Captain Briggs disarms Harry, he knows Callahan carries reloads. Harry starts to hand him a speed loader. “Three. You always carry three … Throw ’em out the window.

MYTH #2: Perfect Accuracy Under Stress

Our next target is the Hollywood portrayal of perfect accuracy under stress. Let’s peel back the layers of cinematic precision, revealing the stark reality of accuracy in high-stress self-defense scenarios. You know the scenes I’m talking about. The good guy is running down the street, and the bad guys are shooting at him from the top of a building. Without breaking stride, the hero gets off a snap shot with his Glock and drills one of the bad guys right between the eyes.

The next time you shoot in an IDPA match, run at full speed between two positions of cover and deliver a perfectly executed head shot. Pretty tough, but I’ve seen it done. Then again, no one was actively trying to kill the guy I saw pull this off. Try a simple experiment the next time you’re at the range. Set your gun on the bench, then do jumping jacks for about three minutes. Get your heart rate and respirations right on up there. Then, immediately stop and deliver a center head shot on a target twenty-five yards away.

See, in a gunfight, especially if you’ve never been in one before, these are the pulse and respiration rates you’re going to be dealing with. This is something few instructors talk about, much less make their students do. So work this into your training schedule. And exercise. Remember, not every fight is a gunfight.

MYTH #3: No Recoil or Muzzle Rise

Let’s just forget about the physics of recoil and its impact on shooting accuracy. But if you’ve ever shot a centerfire handgun, regardless of caliber, that whole equal and opposite reaction thing comes into play, doesn’t it? At least when Dirty Harry shoots his Model 29 the gun recoils, so kudos to that franchise. He even admitted in Magnum Force that he loaded his gun with 44 specials instead of magnum loads. Harry said “I use a light special. With a gun this size and weight it has no more recoil than .38 out of a .357.” So he had the physics thing nailed, sort of. You’re still going to see some movement with a 38. Unlike the movies, recoil is very much a factor to contend with. This isn’t to say that with a proper grip a handgun is uncontrollable, you just need to be aware of it and practice.

MYTH #4: Silent Suppressors

One of my pet peeves about guns in movies is how quiet they are. So many gunfights take place inside enclosed spaces where, at the end, people are talking normally. Ever shot a gun in an enclosed room? Or even at an outdoor range without hearing protection? How long was it until you could hear normally again? Yeah, guns are universally loud. That ringing in your ears is nature’s way of telling you your ears really didn’t like that. I’ve had occasion to shoot guns without hearing protection both inside and outdoors, and really hope I never have to do it again.

The Hollywood answer to loud guns is to put a suppressor on them. This way all you hear is the action cycling and the empty brass hitting the floor, right? Not really. The closest you can come to this is a suppressed 22 pistol shooting shorts. I can guarantee you that a suppressed centerfire pistol is still going to make some noise.

I have nothing against suppressors and would love to have one. But I’m not going to go through the hassle of asking permission from the feds to the tune of hundreds of dollars and reams of paperwork to get one. There’s actually a movement afoot to de-regulate the sale of suppressors. There’s also a movement to completely eliminate the legal ownership of them. Yeah, guess which side of the aisle that one comes from.

The fascist bill, ironically called the HEAR Act calls for a complete ban on suppressors, because, and I quote; “Gun silencers are dangerous devices with one purpose and one purpose only—to muffle the sound of gunfire from unsuspecting victims,” U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez said of the legislation. “The sound of gunshots is what signals you to run, hide, take cover, call the police and help others save themselves; however, this is nearly impossible when a gun silencer is used. That is why we must pass the HEAR Act, commonsense legislation that will prevent armed assailants from using these deadly devices to make it easier to shoot and kill another person.” Yes, this person is a lawmaker and, unfortunately, is able to procreate. Any time they use the term “common sense”, you know it’s anything but, and merely them pandering to their non-critical thinking demographic.

From the American side of the aisle, there’s the SHUSH Act. Specifically, the bill eliminates federal regulation of silencers under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the Gun Control Act (GCA), removing overly burdensome taxes, fees, and registration requirements. The bill removes current restrictions on the right to own, transport, transfer and use a silencer. Because, you know, shall not be infringed. With the majority of the elected officials currently belonging to the idiot sect, this has as much chance of passing as Hunter Biden being convicted of anything.

MYTH #5: Instant Transformation into a Skilled Fighter

Take the novice out back, have him or her shoot at some bottles on a fence, and within 10 rounds they’re able to make hundred-yard shots with ease. Not only are they expert marksmen, but they’re also tactically proficient when it comes to movement and the use of cover and concealment. And most even do this without the cliche training montage!

It takes hours and hours of training and practice to be able to move and shoot. With the proper instructor, you can actually move and shoot just like Keanu Reeves in the John Wick franchise. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly how Keanu got to where he can shoot like he does in the movies. Taran Butler, collector of hot women, owner of Taran Tactical, and instructor to the stars is able to get those kinds of results very quickly. But he puts a lot of time and effort into getting his students to that level. His students put in even more effort.

It’s a common misconception that you’ll rise to the level of your challenge. You know, like the Bad News Bears. You’ll pull it together at the end and come out on top. You won’t. You’ll default to the level of your training or lower. If you aspire to the John Wickian level of ability, start now. Find yourself a good instructor and get after it.

MYTH #6: Perfect Timing and Predicting Attacks

In the movies, the hero always knows when the bad guys are going to strike. It’s like some kind of sixth sense with them. It isn’t often when they’re taken by surprise, and when they are it’s only to further a plot point.

In the real world, attacks are unpredictable. Or so it would seem. If you’ve never heard the term situational awareness, you need to learn it now. There’s a long-winded explanation about what it is, but in short it means being aware of your surroundings. If you’re outside your home, you need to be paying attention to what is going on around you. It’s not the time to be buried in your phone. Keep your head on a swivel so you can identify threats in advance and take actions to mitigate them.

Someone look a little janky walking towards you? Cross the street. Put some reaction time between you and them. Distance is life. Have a plan on what you’re going to do if the possible threat becomes a confirmed one by demonstrating hostile intent. It’s a lot harder to defend yourself on the fly at arms-length with no plan than to execute a plan when you have plenty of standoff distance.

Well, if movies weren’t ruined for you before, and you were able to ignore the stupid, I hope this post didn’t completely mess them up for you.


The Tactical Pirate

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President and lead instructor. Follow me on Twitter, and check out our blog.

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