Russian roulette

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A revolver, specifically a Russian Nagant M1895, said by folklore to be the original gun used in Russian Roulette.

Russian roulette is a potentially lethal game of chance in which a "player" places a single round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against his head, and pulls the trigger. "Russian" refers to the supposed country of origin, and roulette to the element of risk-taking and the spinning of the revolver's cylinder being reminiscent of spinning a roulette wheel.

Because only one chamber is loaded, the player has a one in n chance of hitting the loaded chamber, where n is the number of chambers in the cylinder. So, for instance, for a revolver that holds six rounds, the chance is one in six. That assumes that each chamber is equally likely to come to rest in the "correct" position. However due to gravity, in a properly maintained weapon with a single round inside the cylinder, the full chamber, which weighs more than the empty chambers, will usually end up near the bottom of the cylinder, altering the odds in favour of the "player" - but only if the cylinder is allowed to come to a complete stop before the cylinder is relatched.

Most revolvers actually have "cylinder stops" that would keep the cylinder in place. "Cylinder stops" do not allow the cylinder to rotate out of place.[clarification needed]


The term "Russian Roulette" originated[citation needed] in an eponymous 1937 short story by Georges Surdez:

'Did you ever hear of Russian Roulette?' ... With the Russian army in Romania, around 1917, some officer would suddenly pull out his revolver, put a single bullet in the cylinder, spin the cylinder, snap it back in place, put it to his head and pull the trigger.[1]

Legal status (USA)[edit]

As participating in a game of Russian roulette is considered to be a grossly reckless risk to human life, most common-law jurisdictions in the United States would support a finding of depraved-heart murder (or equivalent) or conspiracy to commit murder for persons who join a game of Russian roulette in which a participant dies. This notably occurred in Commonwealth v. Malone, 47 A.2d 445 (1946), in which a Pennsylvania teenager's conviction for murder as a result of shooting a friend during a game of Russian roulette was upheld.

Notable incidents[edit]

Numerous incidents have been reported regarding Russian roulette.

In magic and mentalism[edit]

Variants on the plot have popularly, but only occasionally, been demonstrated by a handful of famed stage illusionists and mentalists. They include:[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

Russian roulette has been portrayed in many different works of modern culture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Georges Surdez, "Russian Roulette," Collier's Illustrated Weekly 30 Jan. 16, 1937; "Russian roulette n.", Oxford English Dictionary.
  2. ^ "Really Old School", Washington Post, December 25, 1998.
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  4. ^ GoogleNews: Toledo,Ohio, Sept 10, 1976
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  12. ^ BBC1 13 September 2010.
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  15. ^ "Rihanna Released First Single called "Russian Roulette"". October 20, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2013. 
  16. ^ Stuart, Keith (November 9, 2010). "Call of Duty: Black Ops – review". The Guardian. Retrieved May 15, 2013.