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Nailing it

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There’s a gimmick so overused in movies and TV that it’s become a cliché: the good guy using a nail gun to shoot the bad guy.

I think the first time I saw it was in a James Bond movie from the ’70s where Bond was disarmed for some reason on a construction site, and cool-as-a-cucumber grabbed a nail gun and made the pursuing bad guy look like a pincushion. He also said something cool like, “I guess he got the point.” Schwarzenegger did it at least once, and so did Mel Gibson in one of the Lethal Weapon movies. And, yes, it was lethal.

The bad guys also get in on the action. There was a terrible movie called “Toolbox Murders” that used one, and I rather suspect “The Nail Gun Massacre” featured one prominently. They’re not limited to film, either, as one popped up in one of the “Grand Theft Auto” video games.

Whenever they’re featured, the nails shoot straight and true, drive deep into the target and are always deadly. However, in Real Life, none of this is possible. Bullets shoot at about 2,500 feet per second, while nail guns shoot at about 100 fps or a bit more, and probably wouldn’t even reach the target. Bullets have a lot of mass, meaning they’ll go right through stuff at a distance; nails don’t, meaning they’d bounce off a decent pair of jeans. Bullets are aerodynamic; nails aren’t, and start tumbling as soon as fired. Heck, just getting one to hit point-first would be a stroke of luck.

Finally, there’s that pesky need for power. No nail gun I’ve seen in a movie ever seems to need an air hose, and yet the guns being used are not (to this trained woodworker’s eye) cordless models. The one Christian Bale brandished in “American Psycho” had the compressed air nipple visible – the director made no attempt to even hide it. The one the vampire hunter on TV’s “The Strain” has can fire all day long, mowing down vampires by the dozen, and it just keeps on going. Of course, he uses special pure-silver nails so maybe that makes a difference. Wonder which woodworking supplier makes strips of those?

I always suspend belief when watching TV or going to the movies, and I understand the things we see aren’t real. (Except on Star Trek; that’s all real.) But there comes a point when a gimmick is so worn that its time has come to be retired.

Except for James Bond, of course. He can make anything look good.



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