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Ever notice how in hostage situations, someone just has to jam the gun into the person's back for them to know you mean business? The victim can't see the weapon, so sometimes a resourceful, desperate, and usually good person takes advantage of that by using some random stick or anything that remotely resembles the shape of a barrel to hold someone at "gunpoint".

Sometimes the deception extends beyond the victim to the audience as well. Until The Reveal, anyway.

It can work with knives too, but guns seem to be the preferred choice when an option. Sub-Trope of Brandishment Bluff.


Anime and Manga

Comic Books


  • Bandits did this with a permanent marker, a bank security guard and Bruce Willis. Great movie.
  • In Batman Begins, Batman used a stapler for the barrel and the clicking noise to simulate a gun cock.
  • Parodied in Field of Dreams, with Ray trying to "kidnap" Terence Mann by faking a gun in his pocket. Terence responded with a crowbar.
  • Done in Out of Sight, also with a highlighter or something.
  • In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, when a malcontent forces Perry along with a gun to his back, Perry calmly explains that "Professionals prefer to have about three feet distance between the gun and the guy. Otherwise, he could just do this." He then grabs the gun out of the guy's hand and turns it on him.
  • The Chase from the movie of the same name starts when Charlie Sheen takes an heiress hostage with a candy bar.
  • Referenced in Ratatouille: one version of what sous chef Horst did to end up in jail is that he "once robbed the second biggest bank in France using only a ball-point pen."
  • Done in pant-wetting fashion in True Lies with a tube of lipstick under the chin.
  • John Dillinger uses an improvised wooden prop gun to escape prison in Public Enemies. Truth in Television too.


  • Done by Anathema Device in Good Omens to get into an American air base. Used with a bit of Exact Words, as she told the soldier to put down his gun or else she will regret what she'll have to do. Her internal monologue continues with, "Because if you don't put down the gun, you'll find out this is a stick and then I will regret having to be shot."

Live Action TV

  • Surely done on 24.
  • MacGyver's done this with a broomstick at least once.
  • In one episode of the original Superman TV series, Clark Kent did this with his finger.

 Clark It's just a finger

Baddie You got a finger made of steel, buddy

  • The First Doctor does this in Doctor Who with a branch. "The Time Meddler", aka the Meddling Monk, finds out... and the Doctor threatens to smack him upside the head if he doesn't behave.
    • Didn't the Fourth Doctor do something similar with his "deadly jelly babies"? (Not a stick-up, of course, but I seem to recall them being passed off as some sort of weapon.)
      • Poison. He claimed they were poisonous, and threatened to force-feed them to his hostage.
  • In an episode of the Scottish murder mystery series Taggart, a police detective used a piece of pipe to get an IRA killer to lower his gun. When he realised he's been fooled the IRA man couldn't help laughing.
  • The Adventures of Lano and Woodley used fingers in the episode Game Show God.
  • White Collar: Neal threatens to shoot a man by jamming a birdhouse against his back.
  • Omar in The Wire does this in season 5. But being Omar, you would expect him to have a real gun.


  • A French radio show had a baddie holding up twins using a real gun and a pipe, after pointing out he was ambidextrous.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television. Just don't press your luck either way.
  • Averted in Britain where guns are incredibly hard to get hold of; you need more permits and licenses than you do in the U.S.A. Most people who have guns in Britain have them for hunting animals or as collectables. Because of this, guncrime (and fake guncrime) is very low although knifecrime is unfortunately high.

Video Games

  • In the original Castle Wolfenstein, the player can surprise guards and hold them at gunpoint, even with an empty gun.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Parodied in Buckaroo Bugs and many other Looney Tunes cartoons.

Web Original

  • In Sarah's debut episode of Lonelygirl15, "Crazy Emo Chick", she introduces herself to Daniel by putting lipstick to his back, announcing that it's a gun, and demanding that he puts his hands in the air, and that Bree and Jonas turn off the camera. It turns out she's just playing a practical joke.
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