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- Gang member: "Careful, Buford, you ain't got but one bullet with that."
- Buford: "I only need one."
- — Outside the Palace Saloon.
- "Supper time on Monday? Two days to die? But Doc wasn't ready — especially now that he had found Clara. He had been too smug, confident that he could escape this villain with the use of the time machine. But now he realized the fact that he died on Monday didn't mean he had to be shot on Monday. / Doc could feel the sweat run down his forehead. Tannen had his derringer pressed right against Doc's innards. The minute Doc tried to escape, or make any kind of move against him, Tannen would simply pull the trigger. And Doc, in this day before wonder drugs and modern surgery, would slowly bleed to death. / Emmett Brown took a ragged breath. Wasn't there something somebody could do? Or was he already a dead man?"
- —From Back to the Future Part III by Craig Shaw Gardner (quote, page 123)
A derringer was a small pistol meant for close range. Buford Tannen carried a derringer into the Hill Valley Festival on September 5, 1885 without it being detected in his hat. It could only hold a single bullet, which was all Tannen needed. When Tannen found Emmett Brown at the Festival, he held it up to his back and warned him that the last man he shot took two days to slowly die from the bullet wound.
Upon being stomped on the foot by Clara Clayton, Tannen drew his derringer towards Doc and aimed to fire. Marty McFly diverted the blast with a pie plate by throwing it like a frisbee, causing the derringer to go off harmlessly in the air, wasting Buford's only shot and saving Emmett. However, the bullet struck Emmett's hat and knocked it off his head. When Emmett wore the hat later on, a bullet hole was visible.