handguns in movies

I have noticed,in fairly recent movies and tv shows, people shooting guns are now holding them sideways! Whatever started this trend? The first movie I can remember showing this is “The Usual Suspects” but I’m curious where in the entertainment media it started and for what reason.

It’s not just an invention of the entertainment industry; a cop friend says it’s common among “gangbangers”. Firing the gun in that manner supposedly makes forensic analysis harder.

When you fire a gun in the normal way-- pointed straight ahead with your arm at your side-- the bullet basically travels along a line from that side of your waist and the target. By examining the angle and location of any bullet wounds, the police can get a very good idea of your height, and whether you’re right- or left-handed.

But if you hold the gun up above your head, and point it downward at the target, the angle is basically random. If you do manage to hit anything that way (which is harder than it looks), the wounds won’t tell the police as much about you.
Holding the gun “sideways”, with a flat side toward the ground, is just a consequence of raising it up into the air. It’s much easier to bend the wrist and aim the gun that way, just because of the way the human forearm functions.

I was reading an article about how Hollywood portrays gun fights. A firearms expert was consulted to discuss some of the stupider things seen in the movies (for example, firing one Uzi in each hand with your arms crossed). I think he said that holding the gun sideways makes it more likely to jam.

Huh? Isn’t the normal method for firing a handgun gun extended at shoulder level with your dominant eye sighting down the gunsight?

I dunno about the “height of suspect” angle, either. 'Twould seem to me gangbangers aren’t thinking about the forensics aspects of their bullet trajectory as much as they are trying to raise the gun above head level so as to avoid hitting their buddy standing in front of them who’s not privy to the fact they are about to unleash hot lead death.

I used to have a target pistol that would stovepipe(casing gets caught halfway out) every other shot if it wasnt held so the casings ejected down. I imaging cheapass 9s or MAC-10 will do the same.
However, My gun, and I’m pretty sure most guns eject to the right this mean holding the opposite as you see in the movies, or shooting left handed.
So I’m quite inclined to believe that holding a gun gansta style makes it more likely to jam.
One other thing. I have NEVER seen anyone hold a revolver sideways, just an automatic.

Speaking of stupid movie gunfights, Remember the big gun in Eraser that doesnt have any kick at all, but knock victims back 20-30 feet.
Vanna tells everyone that the rail guns shoot at “almost the speed of light.”
Just a little while ago I was watching NextStep on the discovery channel and they regurgitated the line from the movie, and then had a “Rail gun engineer” come out a tell viewer that there rail gun are coming close to the speed of light. And he currently is working on one that fire 4600m/s. Sombody check my math, but that seems to me like its off by about a half a million times. By that logic snails move at about the speed of sound.

I’m pretty sure Mickey Rourke fired a handgun sideways in WHITE SANDS, which predates THE USUAL SUSPECTS by several years. I imagine it probably actually started overseas, in Hong Kong or Japanese gangster flicks, which have become a big influence on Hollywood action movies lately.

Whoever started this, I doubt it has anything to do with gangbangers or jamming cartridges. Most likely, someone thought it looked cool and different.

I asked one of my students (an African-American who’s grown up around gang culture) about this. He says that black guys just don’t want to be associated with the ultimate white stereotype; the cowboy.

Better to look like Ice T than John Wayne, I guess. This still doesn’t explain where the actors they’re emmulating picked it up, though.

one of the reasons for rolling an automatic weapon is to resist the natural tendency of a fully aotomatic fire burst to make the weapon “climb”.

With the weapon rolled over and the arm locked against the body you’re creating a steady rest to hold the weapon on target

Nickrz wrote:

You’re right. I think my mental picture was influenced by too many cheezy TV dramas; people in those shows always seem to shoot from the hip.

I should stop posting in the middle of the night-- I screw up more when I’m tired.

There was a bad joke going around as to why gangbangers shott a gun sideways: “Because that’s the way it came out of the box.” But seriously, I use to work with a guy who was in the army and owned lots of guns. He said firing that way makes more sense for this reason: take your dominant hand and point at something, anything and then look at your hand. It should be postioned with the palm facing down. So, supposedly, you get better aim.

How about this type of gunmanship, usually seen in westerns, where the shooter fires a six-shooter by pulling the hammer (is that the proper term?) back with the palm of his hand in rapid succession? Would there be any advantage to this over simply pulling the trigger?

“My hovercraft is full of eels.”

Torgo - The technique you refer to is called “fanning”. By holding down the trigger and palming the hammer you can get 6 bullets out of a revolver a lot faster than you could if you cocked the pistol, pulled the trigger, and repeated the process 6 times.

Hand guns
Chain Mail
Hey is there something I sould know? I’m blowing off this Y2K thing but now you guys are scaring me.

no matter where you go…there you are

I think I know why the real gangstas who started shooting that way did so. In street language, holding the hand up high with the wrist angled down and index/and or middle finger extended is a common gesture and has been for quite a while. The forearm is usually rotated so that the fingers seem to signal the victim. If others are around, it can mean “come listen to this fool.” If no one is around, it means “check yourself before I pull my piece on you” or less severe variations thereof.

I don’t know who first said “everyone’s a critic,” but I think it’s a really stupid saying.

sorry, that should read: forefinger or forefinger AND middle finger. Most often both, never the middle alone.

I don’t know who first said “everyone’s a critic,” but I think it’s a really stupid saying.

I think that the gun angle came first, and the gesture later. You didn’t mention that the thumb is usually extended as well, making an obvious gun shape.

AuraSeer got it right at the end, I think. Police firearm instructors will sometimes teach holding the gun (sidearm) “flat” when using the “weak” hand, since it is easier to hold steadier for longer. Try holding a book out at arm’s length both ways and see for yourself.

Presumably, this advantage applies to holding a heavier weapon, such as a MAC-10 or whatever, whether weak-side or not, a technique one would figure out pretty quick when spending time waving your piece around in idiotic homicidal macho display. (The alternative would be the embarassment you’d suffer as your gang buddies watch your hand - and the muzzle - unsteadily jitter around.

Won’t get into the chicken & egg argument, whether the movies or gangbangers came first, but somewhere is a combination of empirical experience, directors accentuating one technique for visual effect, and the subsequent “look cool” feedback.

BTW, PapaBear’s comment about “fanning” is correct, as long as you’re talking about older-style “double-pull” sidearms. Not true for your garden-variety semiauto.

borgusw1, probably cause guns don’t come with instructions on how to hold it. Like mens baseball caps, they don’t have instructions either thats why a lot face to the back.

The handgun being held sideways up by the head apparently originated from a Jamaican (sp?) gang in Quebec, Canada. Yes, I know it sounds odd, but I have heard this from several people, including a police officer in Quebec. In any event, apparently, after getting involved with in a gang war (or two) with the bike gangs in the Quebec area (all along the Montreal to Ottawa/Hull) they moved on to California where the “technique” got picked up American gangs. I have no documentable proof, just word of mouth from people who could know.

Also, supposedly (and I find this unlikely) the reason why they start to do this was because it was harder to disarm them of their gun. I have been in the martial arts for almost 17 years and having trained with unloaded air guns I can speak to how difficult it is to disarm a person with a gun. I doubt that the reason was because some gangsters were sitting around one day lamenting how much they had been disarmed by martial artists lately. Likely it just looks cool.

I have also tried firing a pistol in this manner. It is very difficult to hit anything with any accuracy, and I often joke around saying the best defense against a person holding a gun like that is to stand still and dare them to empty the pistol at you.


One thing about disarming a gunman: you’d better get it right the first time.

I’ve taken a couple of martial arts classes from different instructors. One of them said that he stopped teaching defenses against guns, on the day that a marksman friend took him out into the woods and showed him what a .357 hollow-point bullet will do to a ham.