Gun Fu: Last Man Standing

Finn: I guess you’ll just have to kill me.

John Smith: It’ll hurt if I do.

Last Man Standing (1996)

Last Man Standing (1996) directed by Walter Hill is one of my favourite films, combining as it does many awesome ingredients: set in 1931 during the Prohibition, a former mob enforcer on the run from Chicago winds up in a Texas burg under the thumbs of two feuding bootlegger gangs and starts playing the two groups against each other – cue lots of mayhem. We get a period setting with top actors including Bruce Willis as “John Smith,” but also Bruce Dern, William Sanderson, and Christopher Walken, cool vintage props including gats, suits, and haircuts, and an ace score by slide guitarist Ry Cooder. The familiar story about a loner playing two parties of bad guys against each other to his own advantage is credited prominently to Ryūzū Kikushima and Akira Kurosawa’s Yōjinbō (1961), which is ironic considering that their screenplay was based heavily on Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest (1929), a novel about a Prohibition-era agency detective who plays several gangs against each other …

SD_GF_Last Man Stannding

Last Man Standing was also one of our inspirations for GURPS Gun Fu. Of the many shootouts in the film, I like to take a closer look at the very first one, to see how it would play out in GURPS terms.

Watch just the scene here (the action starts at 0:48). Stop reading if you want to avoid SPOILERS.

Round per Round

Prelude: John Smith, a Double Trouble stylist (Gun Fu, pp. 31-32), has decided to take advantage of the situation in Jericho, Texas. He now needs to establish his credentials with the gangs, and does so by confronting Finn, lieutenant of the Irish Doyle Gang, in the lobby of the Alamo Hotel where they are headquartered. Finn is armed with a Colt Official Police revolver in .38 Special (GURPS High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 12) in a shoulder holster (GURPS High-Tech, p. 154). Smith takes off his jacket, revealing twin Colt Government pistols in .45 ACP (High-Tech: Pulp Guns 1, p. 17) in a double shoulder holster rig. Both men are in Triggered mode (GURPS Tactical Shooting, pp. 33-34). They stand about 4 m (4.4 yards) apart, which is Close Range (Gun Fu, p. 7) if the GM uses that option.

1st Second: Smith and Finn have taken Wait manoeuvres; both will draw as soon as the other draws. This is a Cascading Waits situation (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 108): In order to find out who acts first, they have to roll a Quick Contest. Smith rolls against Fast-Draw (Pistol); +1 (Combat Reflexes) +Basic Speed +2 (no Move required). Finn rolls against Fast-Draw (Pistol); -2 (distracted) +Basic Speed +2 (no Move required). Smith wins the Quick Contest and acts first. At his turn, Smith takes a Ready manoeuvre to simultaneously draw both his pistols; -1 (shoulder holster) (High-Tech, p. 154) to Fast-Draw (Pistol) skill. Smith is left-handed, which means drawing the pistol with his right hand is at a further -4 (off-hand). From his performance, Smith certainly has either the Ambidexterity advantage or the Off-Hand Weapon Training (Fast-Draw (Pistol)) perk (Gun Fu, pp. 20-21). Smith’s draw is really fast, making the Fastest Gun in the West perk (Gun Fu, p. 18) likely. He succeeds with both rolls, meaning he draws his pistols at this turn and can still perform a combat manoeuvre (p. B194). Smith carries his single-action pistols (High-Tech, p. 82) in Condition Two, “hammer down” (Tactical Shooting, p. 8), and cocking the hammer with the thumb is a free action for a familiar user (High-Tech, p. 80). Smith takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre, executing a Dual-Weapon Attack (Gun Fu, pp. 15-16) on Finn, firing three shots from his left pistol and two from his right; +1 (All-Out Attack) -4 (Dual-Weapon Attack) +2 (Acc due to Gunslinger) -2 (range) = -3 to Guns (Pistol). Without Ambidexterity or the Off-Hand Weapon Training (Guns (Pistol)) perk, the attack with the pistol in his right is at a further -4 (off-hand), for -7 to Guns (Pistol). The Dual-Weapon Attack (Guns (Pistol)) technique (Gun Fu, p. 27) allows him to buy of the -4 penalty, for a total of +1. Smith succeeds making both attacks and Finn fails both defence rolls; -1 (Dual-Weapon Attack) to Dodge. Finn takes five times 2d pi+ damage (average 52 points). Finn is at -1×HP or less but makes his HT roll to avoid dying instantly (p. B419). Finn is shocked (p. B419) and fails one or several HT rolls due to major wounds. He is stunned and stumbles backwards, but does not fall down (despite p. B420).

2nd Second: At his turn, Smith takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre, executing a Dual-Weapon Attack on Finn, firing four shots from either pistol; +1 (All-Out Attack) -4 (Dual-Weapon Attack) +2 (Acc due to Gunslinger) -2 (range) -4 (Fast-Firing) = -7 to Guns (Pistol). With the Dual-Weapon Attack (Guns (Pistol)) technique, this becomes -3. The Gunslinger advantage halves the Fast-Firing penalty to -2. The Fast-Firing (Pistol) technique (Gun Fu, p. 27) allows him to buy of the -2 penalty, for a total of +1. Smith succeeds making both attacks and Finn fails both defence rolls; halved Dodge (shocked) and -1 (Dual-Weapon Attack). Finn takes eight times 2d pi+ damage (average 84 points). Finn is at -5×HP or less and instantly dead (p. B419). Due to the Cinematic Knockback (Pistol) perk (Gun Fu, p. 17), Finn is also knocked back about 5 m (5.5 yards) by the attacks (pp. B417, 378).

3rd Second: At his turn, Smith turns to redecorate the Members Only lounge, but the fight is already over.


Smith carries his pistols in Condition Two instead of Condition One (Tactical Shooting, p. 8). The reason for this is that, since the Colt Government lacks ambidextrous controls, it is easier and therefore faster to cock the hammers with both thumbs than to disengage the manual safety on the left side of his left pistol with his left index finger.

Smith never loads an additional round in the chamber (High-Tech, p. 88). While this would be tactically prudent in a weapon that holds only seven rounds in the magazine, he does not need to think about such matters due to the Infinite Ammunition (Quasi-Realistic Ammo) perk (Gun Fu, pp. 19-20). Immediately after killing Finn with 13 shots, he fires another 22 shots (!) from his two pistols without reloading … In a later scene, we see that Smith prepares 24 magazines for his two pistols, a hefty but not outrageous load of 5.45 kg (12 lbs). However, it is unclear where exactly he carries them all. Since his shoulder rig lacks magazine pouches, he must stuff them in his trouser, vest, and jacket pockets. This practical impossibility is covered by the Infinite Ammunition (Quasi-Realistic Ammo) perk.

Smith’s Cinematic Knockback (Pistol) perk seems to be optional, meaning Smith can switch it on and off for dramatic effect. This does not increase its point cost.