Tactical Shooting: Breaking Bad

Glock 22. That’s my daily carry, OK. I mean unless you’re talking, what, +P+ slugs, you forget the 9-mil, alright. Shit, I’ve seen one of those bounce off of a windshield one time … If you’re gonna bring a gun, baby, you gotta bring enough gun.

– “Hank” Schrader in Breaking Bad #1.1 (2008)

 

Breaking Bad (2008-2013) is another one of those recent series that redefined modern television. It centres on Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a chemistry teacher who becomes a meth cook and, eventually, crime lord. The viewer watches with morbid fascination as White gets deeper and deeper into trouble and has to come up with increasingly outlandish ways to extricate himself from problems he created himself, losing his morals, family, and even humanity in the process.

There are a number of well-done altercations throughout the five seasons. The one I want to examine here in GURPS terms is the shootout between DEA Special Agent Henry “Hank” Schrader, White’s brother-in-law, and Juárez Cartel distributor Tuco Salamanca in Breaking Bad #2.2 “Grilled” (2010).

Shooting Dice_Tactical Shooting_Breaking Bad

Watch just the scene here (the action starts at 0:56). Stop reading if you want to avoid SPOILERS.

Round per Round

Prelude: White and his associate Jesse Pinkman have had a fight with their erstwhile ally, Salamanca, out in the New Mexican desert in front of Salamanca’s house. Pinkman has hit Salamanca with a rock on the head and then shot him with Salamanca’s own IMI Jericho 941 semiautomatic pistol in 9×19mm Parabellum (Pyramid #3/31, p. 16) in the gut. However, Salamanca is still not at less than 1/3 HP (p. B419), since he continues to move unimpeded. Just then Schrader arrives in his 2006 Jeep Commander SUV (p. B464). White and Pinkman are in hiding out of sight. Salamanca and Schrader simultaneously realize just who they are. Salamanca is a shooter (GURPS Action 1: Heroes p. 14), while Schrader is an investigator (Action 1, pp. 12-13); like most modern Federal agents, Schrader has been trained in a Modern Pistol shooting style (GURPS Tactical Shooting, pp. 48-49). Salamanca is unarmed but eyes the Colt M4A1 assault carbine in 5.56×45mm NATO (GURPS High-Tech, p. 119) with two jungle-taped (Tactical Shooting, p. 33) 30-round magazines and a sling (High-Tech, p. 154) leaning on the front seat of the 1982 Chevrolet Monte Carlo coupé next to him. Only one of those magazines is full, however, as Salamanca expended a long burst on a hapless cow earlier and then turned the magazines around. Schrader is of course armed with his DEA-issue sidearm, a Glock 22 semiautomatic pistol in .40 S&W (High-Tech, pp. 100-101), loaded with hollow-point rounds (High-Tech, pp. 166-167). They are about 10 m (11 yards) apart. Both are in Triggered mode (Tactical Shooting, p. 34). Schrader says “Easy” and motions placatingly with his left hand, but keeps his right hand near his concealed holster.

1st Second: Salamanca and Schrader have both taken Wait manoeuvres; Salamanca will grab the carbine as soon as he sees an opportunity, and Schrader will draw his pistol as soon as Salamanca moves. 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. Schrader rolls against Fast-Draw (Pistol); +1 (Combat Reflexes) +Basic Speed +2 (no Move required). Salamanca rolls against DX; +1 (Combat Reflexes) +Basic Speed +2 (no Move required). Salamanca wins the Quick Contest and acts first. At his turn, Salamanca takes a Ready manoeuvre to pull the carbine from the seat in the car. He does not need to further ready the carbine, since it has a round chambered and is off safety, having been used earlier and apparently not set on safe, which is not surprising considering that Salamanca is “an insane, degenerate piece of filth” and high on “Blue Sky.” At his turn, Schrader takes a Ready manoeuvre to draw his pistol with his right hand from an undercover retention holster (High-Tech, p. 154) worn on his right side; -1 (undercover holster) to Fast-Draw (Pistol) skill. He succeeds, meaning he draws his pistol at this turn and can still perform a combat manoeuvre (p. B194). Schrader grips his pistol with both hands and immediately assumes a Weaver shooting stance (Tactical Shooting, pp. 11-12). This would ordinarily require another Ready manoeuvre, but Schrader has the Grip Mastery (Pistol) perk (Tactical Shooting, p. 39), which allows him to do this as a free action. Schrader carries his safe-action pistol (High-Tech, p. 82) with a loaded chamber in Condition Zero (Tactical Shooting, p. 8), meaning he can fire immediately. Schrader takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre and fires two two-handed (Tactical Shooting, pp. 11-12) sighted (Tactical Shooting, p. 13) shots; -5 (range) +1 (All-Out Attack) = -4 to Guns (Pistol). He fails his roll and both shots miss.

2nd Second: At his turn, Salamanca takes an Attack manoeuvre and hip-shoots (Tactical Shooting, pp. 12-13) a two-handed unsighted (Tactical Shooting, p. 13) 10-round burst at Schrader; -5 (range) +2 (rapid fire) = -3 to Guns (Rifle). He fails his roll and the burst misses, most of the shots going visibly low and short into the ground. At his turn, Schrader takes an Attack manoeuvre and fires two two-handed (Tactical Shooting, pp. 11-12) unsighted (Tactical Shooting, p. 13) shots while retreating four steps backwards and to his right behind the open car door; -5 (range) = -5 to Guns (Pistol). He fails his roll and both shots miss.

3rd Second: At his turn, Salamanca takes an Attack manoeuvre and fires a two-handed unsighted 10-round burst at Schrader while retreating three steps backwards; -5 (range) +2 (rapid fire) = -3 to Guns (Rifle). [Salamanca has now drawn the carbine into his shoulder, but is still not properly using the sights.] He fails his roll and the burst misses Schrader, hitting the car instead. At his turn, Schrader takes a Change Posture manoeuvre and goes prone behind and below the open car door.

4th Second: Salamanca takes an Attack manoeuvre and fires a two-handed unsighted 10-round burst at Schrader; -5 (range) +2 (rapid fire) = -3 to Guns (Rifle). He fails his roll and the burst misses Schrader, hitting the car instead. Schrader takes an Attack manoeuvre and fast-fires (Tactical Shooting, p. 14) six two-handed unsighted shots; -5 (range) +1 (rapid fire) -6 (Fast-Firing) = -10 to Guns (Pistol). He fails his roll and all six shots miss. [This is an Attack manoeuvre, not only because Schrader does not use the sights, but also because he keeps his head down, clearly wishing to enjoy the defensive options of the Attack manoeuvre that a more dedicated All-Out Attack manoeuvre does not allow. The Fast-Firing (Pistol) technique (Tactical Shooting, p. 44) would allow him to reduce the penalty, but considering how wild his shots go, he probably does not have it. Anyone can squeeze the trigger fast and wild, the technique is for hitting while doing it.]

5th Second: Salamanca takes an Attack manoeuvre and fires a two-handed unsighted 10-round burst at Schrader while retreating four steps sideways behind the car, which gives him light cover (Tactical Shooting, p. 28); -5 (range) +2 (rapid fire) = -3 to Guns (Rifle). He fails his roll and the burst misses Schrader, hitting the car instead. [By now, Salamanca should be out of ammunition, having expended more than the 30+1 rounds the carbine could hold. The fact that he is not is almost certainly a result of Bad Continuity rather than evidence for the Infinite Ammunition perk (GURPS Gun Fu, pp. 19-20).] Schrader takes an Attack manoeuvre and fast-fires six two-handed unsighted shots; -5 (range) +1 (rapid fire) -6 (Fast-Firing) -2 (light cover) = -12 to Guns (Pistol). He fails his roll and all six shots miss.

6th Second: Salamanca takes an Attack manoeuvre and fires a two-handed unsighted 10-round burst at Schrader; -5 (range) +2 (rapid fire) = -3 to Guns (Rifle). He fails his roll and the burst misses Schrader, hitting the car instead. He notices he is out of ammunition and crouches (p. B368) behind the car. Schrader takes an Attack manoeuvre and fires three two-handed unsighted shots; -5 (range) -2 (light cover) = -7 to Guns (Pistol). He fails his roll and all three shots miss. The slide of his pistol locks back and he notices he is out of ammunition. [A bit late, realistically, as he has fired 19 shots from a pistol that holds 15+1 … Again, Bad Continuity.]

7th Second: Salamanca takes a Ready manoeuvre to reload his carbine, starting by ejecting the magazine. He makes a Fast-Draw (Ammo) roll; +1 (Combat Reflexes). He fails the roll and the GM rules that instead of losing one round of ammunition (p. B195), Salamanca takes one more second for each point by which he missed the roll. Ordinary magazine reloads take three seconds, but jungle-taped magazines take only two (Tactical Shooting, p. 33). Salamanca has missed his roll by 3, meaning he takes five seconds. Schrader takes a Change Posture manoeuvre to get up from lying prone to kneeling.

8th Second: Salamanca takes a Ready manoeuvre and turns the jungle-taped magazines. Schrader takes a Change Posture manoeuvre to get up from kneeling to standing. He combines this with a Ready manoeuvre and tries to speedload; +1 (Combat Reflexes) -1 (undercover pouch) (compare High-Tech, p. 154) = +0 to Fast-Draw (Ammo). He makes his roll, which reduces the normal reload time from three seconds to two (pp. B194-195). He ejects the empty magazine from his pistol and grabs a new one from the concealed magazine pouch on his left side.

9th Second: Salamanca takes a Ready manoeuvre and still turns the jungle-taped magazines. Schrader takes a Ready manoeuvre and inserts a new magazine into his pistol and hits the slide release to close the pistol and chamber a round.

10th Second: Salamanca takes a Ready manoeuvre and inserts the backup magazine. [Which, again, is actually empty.] Schrader takes a Wait and Aim manoeuvre (p. B390) and aims his pistol at the point where he expects Salamanca to re-emerge.

11th Second:  Salamanca takes a Ready manoeuvre and pulls back the charging handle of his carbine to chamber a round. [This is probably an indication that he is not a trained shooter at least with this weapon, as hitting the bolt release over the magazine well is much quicker. It might also be a result of the failed Fast-Draw (Ammo) roll, as fumbles like this often result in unnecessary mistakes.] Schrader takes a Wait and Aim manoeuvre and aims his pistol at the point where he expects Salamanca to re-emerge.

12th Second: Salamanca takes an Attack manoeuvre and gets up from his crouch. This is the trigger for Schrader’s Wait manoeuvre. Schrader takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre and fires one two-handed sighted shot; -5 (range) +1 (All-Out Attack) +3 (Aim = Acc +1) +1 (braced) -7 (skull hit location) = -7 to Guns (Pistol). [The Targeted Attack (Pistol/Skull) technique (Tactical Shooting, p. 45) would considerably improve his chances, but it is doubtful that he has such a specialized technique.] Schrader makes his roll and Salamanca fails his Dodge. Salamanca takes four times (p. B399) 2d+2 pi++ damage after penetration (average 28 points). He is at -1×HP or less (p. B419) . This major wound to the skull forces an immediate HT-10 roll to avoid knockdown and another immediate HT roll to avoid dying. Salamanca fails either or both of these and collapses. The fight is over.

 

In the show, the scene is 54 seconds long, as it cuts between showing the different characters, including White and Pinkman, who are not involved.

Conclusion

Judging from the eloquent waxing about his pistol, Schrader definitely has Connoisseur (Guns) (Tactical Shooting, p. 41) …

The .40 S&W (10×22mm) cartridge hits a sweet spot in GURPS that gives it the penetration of a 9×19mm Parabellum and the wounding capability of a .45 ACP (11.43×23mm). While it does have advantages over both in real-life, the granularity of the rules, especially the wounding modifier (pi+), probably oversells this a bit.

Both Salamanca and Schrader seem to panic at least in the 4th and 5th Second, spraying their fire wildly. Firing unsighted, firing too fast, and being surprised by an empty weapon because the shooter lost track of his ammo (Tactical Shooting, p. 20) are classic indicators for having lost your cool. This would be best modelled as a failed Fright Check after coming under close fire (Tactical Shooting, p. 34), despite the fact that the Fright Check Table (pp. B360-361) does not offer such a result. The GM should consider this effect as an alternative to being briefly Stunned. Schrader obviously manages to snap out of it as soon as there is a lull in the fight.

Both Salamanca and Schrader show excellent tactical use of cover (Tactical Shooting, pp. 28-29), retreating behind cover even while firing. Schrader prudently drops prone rather than trying to use the flimsy car door (Tactical Shooting, pp. 30-31) as protection. However, do note that the bullet impacts show only on the exterior, not the interior of the door …

GURPS is overly generous in allowing anybody to reload a weapon with detachable magazine in three seconds. That is fast! A mandatory Fast-Draw (Ammo) or DX roll whenever a speedy reload is attempted ‒ faster than, say, double the normally required time ‒ would make a lot of sense to model all those little things that can go wrong: stuck magazine release buttons, sticky magazines that will not fall free, fresh magazines that will not come out of the magazine pouch, not hitting the magazine well on the first try, the magazine not properly engaging the magazine catch, etc.

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10 comments

  1. Always interesting to read, even if my GURPS rules memories have sat long dormant.

    Have you ever considered modeling the same scene in more than one RPG system to compare how they handle the same mechanical events differently? I’d be curious to compare, say, GURPS, Delta Green, and maybe Nights Black Agents since they are all likely to include shootouts with modern firearms.

    I’m curious if you’ve ever seen the US tv series “Person of Interest”. There was a fair amount of gun play on the show; I’m wondering if they handled that with the same attention to (relative for the medium) detail they had for information technology and tradecraft.

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  2. Andrew · July 27

    Feng shui too. That has built in ambiguous ammunition reloads.

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  3. mcthag · July 27

    I put a stop-watch on the scene. He blows a whole 30 rounds on that cow. He does flip his jungle mags right afterwards, so it’s likely he’s got a full magazine when he starts shooting at Hank.

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    • Good to know, I’ll adjust accordingly.

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      • mcthag · July 28

        It also occurs to me that since Tuco is fumbling to flip the mag again at the end that he was out of ammo!

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      • Of course. I’ve already changed the writeup accordingly. He switched to the backup but that was already empty.

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  4. I. Dyson · July 27

    Salutations, Hans!

    There is a movie with a scene which I feel perfectly exemplifies GURPS’ default level of tactics in combat. Basically, I would love to see you give it a nod with one of your “Shooting Dice” articles. The work in question is “A History of Violence” and it’s first scene where the guns come out to play. The event which transpires is quick, brutal…and starkly realistic compared to the plethora of action films created by Hollywood.

    Anyhow…I hope I provided some food for thought (meager as it was). Otherwise? Your future projects will be under my somewhat watchful eye 8-).

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  5. Pingback: Link to back up the word-of-mouth | Don't Forget Your Boots
  6. Pingback: Fight Analysis: Conan the Barbarian – dice and lives

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