There is a trope called Chekhov's Gun that states once someone or something has made an appearance, it must become integral to the story. Another way to think of this is, if a gun makes an appearance, likely someone will be shot with it by the end of the episode or movie.

My question is, are there any examples of guns making an appearance in a TV show arc, or in a movie, but remain unused? This lack of use I imagine would illustrate the character's decision not to come heavy handed.

EDIT: I am interested only in actual guns, whether they be revolvers, rifles, shotguns, etc. Also, the reddit link below features mainly the fantasy genre. I am looking for such an occurrence in a natural world drama or similar.

What I am looking for specifically is a character revealing possession of a gun. This reveal should be shocking to the audience, as if to say, this character is suddenly dangerous, and this gun very well may change the course of action. Then, when faced with the main conflict, the character who knows of the gun implicitly makes a choice to not use the gun. (For semantics, "used" a gun means that it could have been fired or not fired (but instead brandished as a threat) and it resolved the conflict.) Maybe I should further delineate. I might be too picky here, but I'd like it if the gun is not used threateningly. (See the entry below for Marathon Man) I modified the semantics of "used" above.

I used the example below of the movie Friday with Ice Cube where he is talked out of using it. This I suppose qualifies, but fails because he did not implicitly choose on his own to forego using the gun.

  • 4
    Plenty of examples when a gun is introduced simply as a decorative item. But I think there's a huge number of examples where a gun is used simply to threaten people without it being fired as well.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 22:14
  • I agree in some features, guns are wielded almost as casually as wristwatches. For this question, I am considering only when the gun reveal is dramatic unto itself. Commented Nov 8, 2018 at 22:17
  • hmmm...you would think there would be a red hearing like that somewhere. There might be fake outs like it looks like a character is about to use a gun, but then is suddenly injured by someone else, but I can't think of any on the top of my head. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 0:08
  • One example I can think of is Friday with Ice Cube. But that example is used like a sledgehammer. I'm wondering if there are more subtle examples. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 1:01
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    right. There are a lot of examples where a character is emboldened with their gun, and uses it as a blunt instrument, usually to knock another character unconscious. I'm specifically wondering if there is a character who has the option to retrieve a gun which the audience has been shown, but instead uses their courage to face the conflict without going to the previously seen gun. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 19:51

4 Answers 4


This Reddit discussion has quite a few good examples, though my favourite is right near the top:

From Reddit User MrRonok:

In the first Avengers movie, near the beginning, Thor and Iron Man are fighting, and it's shown that when Thor hit Iron Man with lightning, his power jumped up to 400%, and he could do a huge super-powered shot. Similarly, when Thor hits Captain America's shield, it levels the area of the forest around them.

I fully expected this to be showing us how they would use their powers together to be more powerful as a team later in the movie. That never happened.

Though not a gun in the literal sense, it is a powerful weapon at the team's disposal that they discover, and then never use or mention again.

This scene has always bothered me for exactly the reason you were after, it was a massive Chekhov's Gun that never gets fired!

  • I like this too. I do appreciate the liberal sense of a weapon here. I'd like to find an example less based in fantasy. I'll look at the link. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 3:02

If a gun has made an appearance, has it ever gone unused?

Joss Whedon's TV series "Firefly" episode "Trash" contains an example - The Lassiter.

The original hand-held laser pistol. One of only two known to still exist. The forerunner of all modern laser technology.

The backstory is more than a sentence worth of relating, but the gist: A Heist is proposed - to obtain the Lassiter:

A million-square job. The big time. I was going to cut Monty and his crew in, but you screwed that royal.

Mal and crew reluctantly take the job mistrusting Saffron's motives in proposing it.

Long story short, the Lassiter is stolen, Saffron betrays Mal and crew (As expected).

Inara is ready for the betrayal and retrievs the gun befor Saffron can get there:

INARA Looking for this?

(Saffron) looks up to see Inara perched on the wall of some nearby ruins, beautiful as always, in her veil and bare midriff ensemble. She points The Lassiter.

INARA Wonder if it works?

Pulls the trigger. Nothing.

Ah-well. Still worth a fortune. (as she raises a lugar)

Saffron is not shot with the Lassiter - or anything else - it being a wholesome family show and all, but fair to say the gun is central to the plot.

Saffron's immediate fate is to be locked inside a large waste bin:

SAFFRON Wait a minute, wait, you can't -- (SLAM! the lid shuts) -- mmmf mmfff ni ffmm do hmf!

INARA You're not going to die, you big baby. The authorities will be here in a few hours to dig you out.

It's clear that there was no intention to kill her, just leave her for a well deserved dose of justice. The Lassiter is never fired.

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    I like this example. Firefly was a great series. The weapon is used more here as a Macguffin. I'm looking for an example where the character who knows about the weapon makes an implicit choice to not use it. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 1:28
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    Also, the gun was used, it just didn't work. I'm a Browncoat but I have to vote no on this example. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 3:26
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    How is it not an example of Checkov's Gun if someone actually attempted to shoot with it...?
    – jpmc26
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 5:28
  • Please re-read the last quote and following sentence for context. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 12:38

This might be cheating a little, but let's look to the man who invented the trope in the first place: Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.

There have been multiple film and TV adaptations of his play "The Cherry Orchard", written in 1904. At the start of Act Two, the character Charlotta enters the stage carrying a rifle. During the ensuing conversation, another character, Epikhodov, says the following:

I'm an educated man, I read various remarkable books, but I cannot understand the direction I myself want to go--whether to live or to shoot myself, as it were. So, in case, I always carry a revolver about with me. Here it is. [Shows a revolver]

Neither gun is ever fired, or even referred to again outside of that one scene. This is Chekhov's only play in which he breaks his famous rule, and the best demonstration I can think of that violations of Chekhov's Gun have been around as long as Chekhov's Gun itself.

Here's a clip from the 1981 BBC adaptation, showing Epikhodov (played here by Timothy Spall) drawing his never-fired revolver:

  • This is closer to what I'm thinking. I like it. But this character (from my understanding here) does not seem to make a decision to either use the gun at some point or face conflict without it. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 15:43

I could be wrong, given my old memories:

In Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman's character has a gun (his father's Colt Commander) and plenty of reason to use it, but never fires before finally throwing it in the river.

  • Another good one, to be sure. I remember this film somewhat. Does he then go to face Olivier afterward? As if to say, I will settle this conflict, but without the gun? Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 15:44
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    No -- he makes a stronger statement by facing his enemy with the gun, but choosing not to use it. His enemy is killed by his own greed. The disposal of the gun is the final scene, meaning that it was never going to be a solution.
    – amI
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 19:08
  • nice. This could be the very answer. EDIT I read the Wiki synopsis. It seems he did brandish the gun threateningly. I suppose technically this answers the question. I will modify the OP to clarify. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 19:19
  • Hoffman's character does shoot at the nazi, deliberately misses IIRC. But even if a gun is not fired but used to threaten, it is used, right?
    – releseabe
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 9:35

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