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When you fail at a goal it can be a shot to the gut that keeps you stuck in a depressed state for a long time. (https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/brilliantside/shut-up-brain/e/54710334)

(...) but the real shot to the gut is the one delivered at the end of the episode. (https://www.theworkprint.com/true-detective-review-a-shot-to-the-gut/123)

Literally, it may mean "a shot fired to the internal organs", but I wonder if there is any idiom-ish meaning. Does it mean "a critical/deadly shot"?

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    Perhaps in a more casual context, the writer might have used kick in the balls. Or perhaps he intending the very specific "cowboy western trope" allusion to being "gut-shot" (inevitably fatal, but often agonizingly slow). (But that would be a bit too depressing, so maybe not! :) Really, this is "literary interpretation", not something you can look up in dictionaries. Apr 10, 2019 at 16:12

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"A shot to the gut" is a colloquialism that means "a painful and devastating blow that takes a long time to recover from". "Shot" does not necessarily mean from a gun, but can also simply mean a powerful punch that feels like being shot, e.g.

The stumbling boxer caught a hard shot to his jaw that dropped him to the canvas.

As FumbleFingers points out, in a less polite context the author might have used the more direct "kick to the balls".

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