692: Dirty Harry

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Dirty Harry
Sci-fi has energy weapons because otherwise the people like me who watch it get distracted counting shots.
Title text: Sci-fi has energy weapons because otherwise the people like me who watch it get distracted counting shots.


The comic references both Dirty Harry and Rain Man, as the caption suggests.

In Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood's character, Harry Callahan, uses a magnum revolver. His most commonly quoted statement is whether he fired 5 shots or 6. If he fired only five, the next shot would kill his victim. If six, he wouldn't have any more bullets to shoot. It should be noted that revolvers don't actually use the 6th slot for reasons of safety.

In Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman's character, Raymond, is autistic and has an eidetic memory. As such, he can instantly remember any number of objects, such as the number of toothpicks in a box that was spilled, or the number of bullets that came out of a gun.

The comic depicts a scene in Dirty Harry in which Callahan confronts a bank robber, only with Raymond taking the place of the robber. For the record, Raymond is correct; Callahan actually pulls the trigger one more time in the original scene, and the gun proves to be empty.

The title text notes that many sci-fi energy guns do not shoot discrete quantities of bullets, which Randall jokes is because viewers won't get sidetracked counting bullets.


[Detective "Dirty" Harry Callahan stands near a wall, pointing a revolver at another figure, presumably a suspect, reclined on the ground. A shotgun is on the ground next to the reclined figure.]
Harry Callahan: I know what you're thinking--"Did he fire six shots or only five?" In all this excitement, I-
Suspect: Six. Definitely six.
Harry Callahan: Shit.
Dirty Harry Meets Rain Man

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This could be (or share) the inspiration for a running joke in Archer where the title character has this same partial savantism for counting bullets (see S04E08 for an example) -- 21:31, 27 July 2018 (UTC)

There's "instantly" twice in a sentence. Because I'm not a native english speaker, I don't know if this is acceptable, and for the same reason I'll not edit it. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

You were correct, it isn't. Actually that whole sentence bothers me, but I suppose it gets the point across well enough. 07:23, 25 January 2014 (UTC)
  • Technically even directed-energy weapons would run out of shots eventually, since they tend to have batteries, and batteries don't last forever. I suppose you could get around this by using solar power or something, but you would need solar panels larger than the gun itself, most likely. Jake (talk) 15:27, 11 May 2015 (UTC)
It's not that it would have an unlimited amount of shots, it's that they wouldn't be limited in the same way that conventional existing firearms are. Most guns you can find out how many bullets are in them, even with made up firearms you can make an educated guess, based on the size of various things about the gun. With an energy weapon you could hypothetically have a gun with five shots or five hundred shots in the same size battery, depending on whatever factors your sci-fi bothers with (although pretty much all guns in media have [plot] number of shots regardless). -Pennpenn 06:49, 20 July 2015 (UTC)
Plus, rather than firing individual bullets, it would shoot a steady beam. That way there's nothing to count. 17:03, 6 May 2017 (UTC)

Nice try, title text; clearly you have yet to meet The Borg. Bonus points for shields annoying Rainman by adapting to plot velocity instead of total count. Elvenivle (talk) 03:46, 1 December 2015 (UTC)

I removed the sentence, "It should be noted that revolvers don't actually use the 6th slot for reasons of safety" because it's funny but people might think it's true when as far as I can tell it's completely silly. 5 & 7 round capacity revolvers exist, but they're designed that way from the get go-- 18:07, 27 July 2018 (UTC)

People actually do do that. Because many revolvers are not built with a safety, often people carry with the chamber empty, so that any accidents cannot set off the weapon. Some people do this with handguns as well, though this is somewhat less popular. 20:46, 2 February 2022 (UTC)