Sometimes, a question pops into my head that I’m uniquely unqualified to answer. If you need to know something about pizza or cartoon characters or presidential schlongs, I’m your guy, but when it comes to guns, I really don’t know all that much. Also, I’m not a big fan of math. Despite this, the last time I got to watching The Matrix, I started to wonder, “How many fucking bullets are in this movie?” and I decided that I was going to find out.
While I do have an aversion to arithmetic, I do possess the ability to count, and while guns aren’t my thing, there is something called the Internet Movie Firearms Database, where gun, ah… let’s charitably say “enthusiasts,” have catalogued pretty much every gun from every movie ever. I also reached out to John Bowring, the armorer for The Matrix and many other films, who graciously agreed to check my math and some of my reasoning.
So, I did it: Frame-by-frame, I counted all the bullets in The Matrix and, let me tell you, that is far from the ideal way to watch the film.
Gunfight #1: Trinity’s Introduction
The first bullet in the movie is fired by a guy who Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity kicks a chair at. Up to this point, Trinity has kicked a chair and an officer, then she starts running up the walls as another officer starts shooting at her. What’s interesting to me is that, as far as he knows, Trinity is unarmed, and I don’t know that kicking and wall-running constitutes deadly force. Regardless, he lets off 10 shots, then Trinity grabs his hand and lets off six more.
On the following rooftop pursuit, an agent gets off four rounds before Trinity does her iconic big jump. (I don’t count the bullet being fired by the comically large gun on the billboard behind her, because this is tough enough as it is.)
Total Bullets So Far: 21
Gunfight #2: Déjà Vu
The next gunfight occurs about an hour into the film, after Keanu Reeves’ Neo is back in the Matrix for the first time since he took the red pill (wow, that name has not aged well). It starts with the character Mouse, who pulls out two custom automatic shotguns. Counting the shots here isn’t really doable, but the IMFDB puts the fire rate of these at 900 rounds per minute and each gun has 25 rounds, making it safe to assume he got all 50 rounds off before being gunned down. I also count 67 unfired bullets in the box where Mouse retrieved the guns.
The five SWAT team members that gun down Mouse are all carrying Leader Dynamics T2 MK5 assault rifles, which have a rate of fire at 700 rounds per second. Each has a clip that contains 20 bullets and they fire continuously for eight seconds, allowing each of them to empty their clip. None appear to reload, so it’s safe to assume each fired all 20 rounds, which they can do in about two seconds. This adds another 100 rounds just to this scene.
When the good guys are climbing inside the walls, a SWAT team member fires 20 bullets, and Neo returns fire with another 12. Then everyone crashes into the basement, and three more SWAT dudes open fire on the good guys. None of them reload, so it’s fairly safe to assume that each empties their clip. That’s 60 more bullets, and the heroes return fire with nine shots from Switch and 32 from Apoc, which is my guesstimate because he doesn’t reload onscreen and his Cobray MAC-11 has a clip size of 32.
As everyone is scrambling for the exit, more sprays of bullets are heard that are impossible to count, so I assume that it’s a second’s worth of fire from a reloaded Apoc (25 bullets) and a second’s worth of fire from a SWAT dude (12 bullets). Finally, four more rounds are shot at Cypher. All of this adds another 41 bullets.
Okay, so for this scene alone, that totals up to 391 bullets, bringing the running total to 412.
Total Bullets So Far: 412
Gunfight #3: The Lobby
This is where shit gets really complicated. I have to break down this scene pretty much frame-by-frame and gun-by-gun. I double-check a lot here with Bowring, too, and after a bit of revising, I get to a place where I’m fairly comfortable with the number. To start things off, Neo goes through the metal detector and then guns down some guards with a pair of Heckler & Koch MP5Ks. He empties these guns, then tosses them aside, which means he used up the 30 bullets in each. Trinity then fires off a Micro Uzi, spending all 20 rounds, which means our heroes have fired 80 bullets in the first few seconds.
Neo then lets off 10 shots from the handguns, which can actually be counted. After that, he pulls out two Yugoslav Model 61 Skorpions. Bowring says that this would be 60 rounds, as each gun had 30 bullets in the clip. He then explains that, of all of his work on The Matrix, the use of this weapon received the most attention. “The scene where you see Neo’s boots and the shells dropping was filmed on a day that I wasn’t on set, and when I saw the shot, I noticed immediately that they were the wrong caliber blanks and I was horrified. In the years since, I’ve gotten hundreds of emails about this. This kind of thing always happens at the slightest inaccuracy, so I make sure I always get this stuff right.”
Next, Neo gets an M16 from a dead guard and he fires it while doing a cartwheel. Now, I like this movie, but, of everything in the film, this strikes me as the single most ridiculous moment. Seriously, a fucking cartwheel? I don’t buy it (and neither does Bowring, by the way). Anyway, he lets off 14 rounds during his gymnastics exercise.
Neo then pulls out two micro uzis and spends all 40 rounds between them while Trinity fires off three rounds of a shotgun she stole from a guard. Added up, Neo and Trinity have fired off 207 bullets between them.
As for the guards, it’s hard enough to determine exactly how many of them there were, but after rewinding a few dozen times, I decide — and Bowring agrees — that there are eight, three of whom have shotguns and five who have M16 assault rifles. The shotgun dudes were easy: None of them have time to reload, so it’s safe to assume two get off all eight rounds in their guns and the third fires off five before Trinity takes his gun and uses it on him.
The M16 dudes are much trickier. Since there’s no human way to count this, I have to use some assumptions involving mathematics (which were then double-checked by Bowring). So, there are five guards with assault rifles and their clips are all 20 rounds each. In the film, they fire for about 100 seconds continuously, but the scene jumps back and forth between slow motion and regular speed. Given that, I estimate that one minute of time actually passes. During this time, each guard dies off one at a time. Thus, in that one minute, I decide that one guard dies about every 10 seconds, starting at 10 seconds in. On top of this, Bowring tells me that it would take about 10 seconds for each guard to fire off all 20 rounds and then reload. This means that one guard got off one clip, the next got off two, the third got off three, the fourth got off four clips and the last guy managed five clips, pretty much all of which were reloaded offscreen. All told, this would come to 300 rounds.
When you add up all the bullets here, that’s a total of 528 bullets just in the lobby scene.
Total Bullets So Far: 940
Gunfight #4: The Roof
Before getting to the roof, Neo shoots two rounds to cut the elevator from the cable. When the roof shootout starts, one SWAT dude shoots two rounds as he gets shot by Neo, who lets off 17 shots. Neo then whips out two handguns and fires 22 shots at the agent, who gets all blurry and dodges the bullets. Finally, I get to the only bullets that anyone really cares about in the whole fucking movie — the ones that Neo dodges. I count eight there. The scene ends with Trinity firing one bullet point-blank at an agent.
Total Bullets So Far: 992
Gunfight #5: Morpheus’ Rescue
The minigun is a doozy, but given that Bowring explains that it has a 3,000-round-per-minute rate of fire, I’m able to make an assumption that he concurs with. This is another scene that goes in and out of slow motion and it lasts a total of 40 seconds. Within the context of the film, I’d say 20 seconds pass, which means Neo fires about 1,000 rounds, while somehow managing to never hit Morpheus.
During this, the bad guys return fire with nine bullets, and then Agent Smith fires six shots through the wall and another two at the helicopter.
Total Bullets So Far: 2,009
Gunfight #6: The Subway
Smith fires a shot at Trinity before the payphone zaps her away. Neo and Smith then face off, shooting off 10 rounds between them at normal speed, and another seven in slow motion. Needless to say, I’m happy as fuck when all that kung-fu shit started because it meant I didn’t have to count anymore.
Total Bullets So Far: 2,027
Gunfight #7: The Marketplace and Beyond
I almost completely forget about the marketplace shootout. Anyway, the agents fire off 26 rounds at Neo while they’re in pursuit.
After that, Agent Smith shoots Neo 10 times at point-blank range. Then, after Neo stands back up, he stops 23 bullets in the air fired from the agents. These, to my absolute relief, are the very last bullets fired in the film.
Altogether, I calculate that The Matrix featured a total of 2,086 bullets that were either seen or heard onscreen. Is this exactly accurate? Of course not, but it’s a pretty good number that Bowring endorses the logic behind, which ain’t bad for a guy who (as of a few days ago) knew dick about guns. During filming, Bowring tells me that 100,000 blanks were ordered and about 80,000 were used, but on screen, only 2,086 of them actually appear (y’know, give or take a few hundred).
Now I’m off to watch a good film about knife fights.