At the beginning of Tango and Cash (1989) Sylvester Stallone pulls ahead of a getaway oil tanker to stop the criminals driving it by shooting at them.

As he preps for this, he pulls out his revolver and dumps all the unfired bullets currently in the gun on the ground only to refill it with more bullets. Why does he do this?

My best guess is he's switching between regular bullets and hollow-points but even if that's the case, I don't understand why he would prefer one or the other in that situation, nor can I tell for sure which one he's switching to.

  • hmmmm, interesting question. He shoots at the windshield of the truck, but the bullets do not penetrate the windshield. Maybe he switched ammunition because he just wanted to scare the perpetrators, which worked. Dec 12, 2015 at 8:53
  • Huh that's not a bad theory. Maybe he switched to rubber slugs or something to make sure he didn't kill them or something...
    – sanpaco
    Dec 12, 2015 at 8:56
  • 1
    The bullets do penetrate the side of the truck at 2:29.
    – WBT
    Dec 12, 2015 at 15:09

4 Answers 4


Detective Ray Tango is armed with a Smith & Wesson Model 36 "Chief's Special" in this particular scene in the movie.

According to imfdb, Tango empties his ammunition and re-loads with blanks.

The reasoning is not explained, but he aims for the perpetrators' driving the oil tanker to try and stop them, but not kill them.

Tango & Cash

Tango aims his 36. It is clearly loaded with blanks since the bullet heads aren't visible in the front of the chambers.

  • Awesome I didn't know that site even existed. Thanks.
    – sanpaco
    Dec 12, 2015 at 9:06
  • @sanpaco it is a very good resource pertaining to the use of firearms in films :) Dec 12, 2015 at 9:07
  • 5
    Er, not that I'm an expert, but don't they mean that they're visibly blanks because it's a prop? Would blanks really make this kind of impact on a windshield from that distance?
    – Walt
    Dec 12, 2015 at 9:33
  • 2
    @Walt Well, it depends on the type of load that the blank has. A blank can be loaded with anything from rubber to wadded up paper. You can load a blank with some sort of dense rubber material and if it is loaded with enough gunpowder, it can put a dent in a car or crack your windshield in this case. Brandon Lee was killed by a blank round on the set of The Crow , so they can still be dangerous. Dec 12, 2015 at 9:49
  • 2
    @steelerfan - I think i've identified the bullet-type. They're "less than lethal" rounds, commonly used by householders and target shooters
    – user7812
    Dec 12, 2015 at 14:45

In-universe, the reasoning seems to be that he's unloaded his normal ammo and replaced it with bullets that will damage the windscreen without actually killing the perps inside. He then stands in the middle of the road and carefully fires at the glass. When he refuses to move, the villains are forced to brake sharply and they fly through the (now-weakened) windshield to land on the road in front of him.

Note the white tips. They appear to be some sort of clear plastic "less than lethal" target round enter image description here

Quite why he's carrying this particular style of bullet is never explained but then again, the film went through three screenwriters (at least one of whom wanted to make the film into a slapstick comedy), two directors, two cinematographers and five(!) editors before it hit the big screen so it's very possible that his reasoning simply got cut out.

  • 1
    I'm assuming he was carrying target-shooting rounds because he was on his way to target practice when the call came in the the drug-smugglers had been spotted.
    – user7812
    Dec 12, 2015 at 14:47
  • 1
    That being said, it's not at all clear why the next shot went clean through the metal wall of the tanker.
    – user7812
    Dec 12, 2015 at 15:32
  • If you're target-shooting, you'll either use regular bullets or flat-fronted wadcutter bullets.
    – Mark
    Dec 12, 2015 at 20:36
  • @Mark - Tell that to the makers of those plastic bullets..."Target and trick shooters will appreciate our true flight technology. Choose target load ammo for your weapon and not only will you be able to shoot safely, but accurately both indoors and out."
    – user7812
    Dec 12, 2015 at 20:44
  • 3
    @Richard a cannonball.
    – user9311
    Dec 12, 2015 at 21:03

He was getting rid of the anti-personnel rounds for armor piercing or long distance heavy hitting rounds. This was homage to the Jackie Chan Movie "Police Story".

  • 2
    This contradicts the other answers, which suggest he was loading in less lethal bullets, not more lethal ones. Can you provide any evidence that those were in fact the kinds of rounds he chambered, and that this was done as a Jackie Chan homage?
    – F1Krazy
    May 21, 2020 at 9:15

If you listen carefully when he emptys the 38.....its shell casings that he dumps out...they sound completely hollow.

  • 3
    Not so...you can see clearly that they are complete shells including bullets as they hit the ground. Why would he carry around a gun with empty shells in it?
    – Paulie_D
    Mar 5, 2017 at 18:58

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