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 their 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.


The term "Russian Roulette" was used 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 case (Pennsylvania, United States)[edit]

In Commonwealth v. Malone, 47 A.2d 445 (1946), a Pennsylvania teenager's conviction for manslaughter as a result of shooting a friend during a game of Russian roulette was upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The court ruled that "When an individual commits an act of gross recklessness without regard to the probability that death to another is likely to result, that individual exhibits the state of mind required to uphold a conviction of manslaughter even if the individual did not intend for death to ensue."[2] It is worth noting, however, that in the Malone case the teenagers involved played a modified version of Russian roulette in which they took turns aiming and pulling the trigger of the revolver at each other, rather than at their own heads. It has not yet been established whether simply participating in a game of Russian roulette in which another participant kills themselves with their own hand would constitute manslaughter or some lesser form of conspiracy or homicide.

Notable incidents[edit]

Numerous incidents have been reported regarding Russian roulette.

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. ^
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  5. ^ GoogleNews: Toledo,Ohio, Sept 10, 1976
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