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I have a doubt regarding the first season's first episode of Sherlock.

Towards the end, Sherlock says to the serial killer "I know a real gun when I see one".

The serial killer (i.e, the cab driver), actually shows Sherlock the gun, when they arrive at the destination (where the serial killer intends to kill Sherlock). At this moment,Sherlock asks how the cabbie makes the victims follow him and for that the cabbie shows the gun.

At this point, Sherlock tells the cabbie "you don't take people's lives at gun point"

So, my question is, at this point, doesn't Sherlock know it's not a real gun?

Or, is it just intended for the serial killer to think Sherlock is not as intelligent as himself?

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Since it's not addressed in the show, this is a speculation question. That aside, of course he knew. He's Sherlock Holmes! When you see his other examples of deduction throughout the series, this does not seem like something that would fool him. – Meat Trademark Nov 26 '13 at 2:59
I think he's just saying that the cabbie doesn't take people's life at gun point, while he knows that the gun is fake and thinking that he may have been targeting people who were fooled by a toy gun. – rijul gupta Jan 12 '14 at 20:10

3 Answers 3

I think there is nothing to ponder about this action at that instance you're referring too, however it could be that Sherlock was very much interested in seeing how he killed his victims he didn't refer to the fact that gun is a fake until later, it's just that he must've observed it but didn't want to focus on that because his mind was occupied by what the cabbie was going to show him.

I wish i could write a more descriptive answer but to me it just feels that's all to it.

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It was the same way I felt before asking the question. I wanted to hear atleast from someone that Sherlock had erred but it will never be true – Ramesh Nov 26 '13 at 4:24

As already stated on a comment in the question, this is very much speculation, since there is no canonic evidence to base give a pinpointed answer.

However, with that being said, we are able to use logic and deduction to get to an answer. Which will still be subjective to who's reading it. But it's as close as I think we'll be able to get with this question. But bare with me.

Sherlock is the world's greatest detective (take that batman). As many people before me have already said, of course he knew from the very start that it was not a gun. But he wanted to know the entire process by which the cabbie wen't before "convincing" people to kill themselves. If he pointed out that the gun was not real, two things would happen (although they are linked) which would get in the way of Sherlock's little study.

  1. As you said, the cabbie might feel like he's inferior to Sherlock, which would make him act out of the ordinary, once he always believed himself to be superior to his victims. And with that, Sherlock wouldn't be able to observe how everything really went.
  2. But even if you take the superior/inferior out of the question, pointing the gun out as a fake would still make the cabbie feel like he had lost an upper hand (even if he still felt superior to Sherlock), and that would cause him to act differently (not use the gun to try and force him to play, for example).
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Here is a simpler explanation for a simple question.

The moment Sherlock saw the gun he got to know it was fake, since he's a deduction pro. He then remarks, "you don't take people's lives at gun point", simply because you cannot kill a person with a fake gun. Also, he was curious to know about the cabbie's plan of action(Pills in the Bottles).

Had Sherlock confronted about the fake gun at first, the cabbie wouldn't have shown him how he killed his passengers. And Sherlock hates not knowing. Therefore, he be-musingly watches the cabbie unveil his ploy.

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