From this movie clip, from 3:04 ~ 3:07, a police officer shoots a single round that kills a robber.

We can see the weapon this police officer uses is a fully automatical assault rifle, so why would he need to manually pull back the charging handle to release a spent shell?

  • 2
    Looks like it has less to do with the weapon and more to do with the edit of the scene. Originally I thought it was the usual issue of movie blanks causing cycling issues, but they make a point of it, so I think its an edit decision - on the part of the movie makers - and nothing to do with what the weapon itself can or cannot do. Deleted my answer because of this. Feb 13 at 23:52
  • 2
    "why would he need to manually pull back the charging handle" : last round or it failed are 2 options too.
    – OldPadawan
    Feb 14 at 12:31
  • 2
    This seems related to a trope I see all the time that bugs me… when someone is pointing a gun at someone, and then when threatening them they cock the hammer; even with guns where the at would happen automatically when pulling the trigger.
    – GendoIkari
    Feb 14 at 14:18
  • @GendoIkari pulling the trigger doesn't automatically cock the hammer. Pulling the trigger releases a cocked hammer - the recoil on a semi-automatic pistol then causes the slide mechanism back and re-cocks the pistol. But pulling a trigger on an uncocked weapon went do a damned thing.
    – HorusKol
    Feb 14 at 14:54
  • 1
    What Gendolkari says is a common problem with films - the cocking, re-cocking, reloading, and finally if it is not seen, the sound is added. I modified the spring on a pistol to stop the damned talent constantly re-cocking in every take because it 'sounded cool' and 'thats what they do in movies'. Feb 14 at 19:30

2 Answers 2


OP asks:

so why would he need to manually pull back the charging handle to release a spent shell?

In this scene I don't think he does, per se:

Just looked at the scene again - it looks like it is a plot point to make a loud noise.

For some reason.

Looks like it has less to do with the weapon and more to do with the edit of the scene.

The guy is applying so much pressure on the foregrip that he has activated his light - is that intentional?

Really looks like the director told him to make a loud noise for reasons of story.

enter image description here

You do not get a chance to see the casing extracted so it is not the point of the shot. If you go frame by frame you see the brass glint in the light but the ordinary viewer is not going to see that. So that is not the point.

The layman would have no idea what he is doing and even less that the casing flying is not even shown.



Regarding his possible activity, if not for the story:

Not necessarily the right answer, but could give a clue:

Its very brief, but pulling back is one way to clear a jam.

It does vary greatly in the industry, but firearms used in filming are not firing live rounds - usually.

Because the weapon itself might be modified in some way (many ways, springs, buffer, slide, barrel, etc), or the rounds used are for stage use or might be practice rounds - ie. blanks, and that there are variations in the blanks themselves - some are low power, low noise for example - anything less than a full load round inside a weapon capable of more than single action are prone to suffer from feed issues, ie. the cycle does not perform fully, the case might not eject, it might partially eject, double feed, etc.

I am not wording it in the best possible way here, others will do better, but the gist of this is that:

  • the background person in this scene might be experiencing their weapon suffering a jam and is carrying out remedial action to correct it.

  • and the cause of that malfunction is likely to be the items that he is using with which to perform that action for the scene.

  • and this is not live fire, so do not expect the same actions to occur as in real life. (ie. use of blanks providing insufficient pressure to cycle the action)

  • and, as ever, there are similarities and there will be things that happen that might be unexpected.

  • I have also seen extras who are given weapons and do not really know how to use them and just do what they saw on tv (cue: endless racking back of slides and bolts on set) - or ignore the instructions and advice they have been given.

With regards to the real thing I have done such action to clear the weapon, and I used to own prop guns that were sometimes used in films, and they suffered from jams and inconsistent cycling terribly, and I have been on sets recently where they have low noise blanks that have jammed and failed to cycle repeatedly.

But there are better people out there who will write a much clearer and better answer than i have.


I originally deleted this because I think it is story/edit issue, nothing to do with the guy and his weapon.


The only reasons to pull the charge handle on a semi-automatic rifle after firing would be:

  • The previous shell didn't eject properly, causing a jam. You remove the cartridge and recock/recharge. It can happen more often with certain rifles - especially if firing blank ammunition without adequate adaptors fitted to force enough back-pressure to cycle the weapon.

  • You've just emptied your magazine. The chamber is now empty, and you need to recharge with a new round after loading a fresh magazine.

  • You're done firing, have ejected the magazine and need to eject the currently loaded round.

The shooter seems to be flubbing the recharge, which could indicate a jam, though we don't see the fouling shell.

  • 1
    I agree, but in a movie, all actions should present themselves as relevant to the movie plot, how does a police officer unjam his weapon fit into the plot?
    – Yu Zhang
    Feb 14 at 19:23
  • It doesn't. Looks like he was asked to make a noise instead (other than firing his weapon) - the scene is after i think a stun or smoke device went off and so the senses of the bad guys are shaken, indicated by the sound edit. Feb 14 at 19:27
  • 2
    @YuZhang: From what I can tell, the reason the director added it was to show the audience specifically who it was that fired the shot. One could argue whether or not that was necessary considering the context of the scene, but it does make the point that it was specifically that policeman that fired the shot. It removes all ambiguity.
    – DeeV
    Feb 14 at 21:19
  • @DeeV, yeah, I agree. It is similar to a scene where after a revovler duel, the winner would be shown holstering the resolver back.
    – Yu Zhang
    Feb 14 at 22:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .