Dec 07 2008
This article lists a few tricky points related to writing about guns. I think its list is pretty good…
- Revolvers generally can’t be silenced.
- When an automatic is out of bullets, it will be plainly visible to the user and anyone looking closely. (The firing mechanism locks back).
- A sniper far from his target has to adjust for gravity, wind direction and velocity, pressure, etc., rather than putting his target’s head in the scope and calling it a day. Also, head-shots at long distance are highly unreliable.
- Don’t use the word “cordite.” It’s badly dated.
- If characters want to go gangsta and hold their guns sideways, that’s fine but it’s not a natural posture. Your hand can adjust for vertical recoil more easily than horizontal recoil. (Also, twisting the wrist to hold the gun out sideways is not comfortable).
- Looking at a gunshot victim, it’s difficult to determine the calibre of the bullets used to shoot him.
I’ll add a few tips for aspiring Tom Clancys.
1) Except for wild cover-fire, only amateurs try to shoot two guns at the same time. The recoil would be atrocious. This is a horrible mistake that suggests that the author’s knowledge has come from video games and Akimbo movies. Holding two pistols and exhausting one before using the other is acceptable, though.
2) Generally, authors overestimate the effectiveness of silencers. High powered rifles, particularly sniper rifles, are just too loud to silence.
3) Most guns are not limited to six bullets. Semiautomatic pistols are the most popular type of gun, and they typically hold 8-10 bullets. However, high-capacity magazines can carry up to 30.
4) Counting the enemy’s bullets is stupid. When someone is firing at you, it would be suicidal to risk your life betting on your ability to guess how large his magazine is, how many rounds it held when he started firing, how many bullets he has fired at you, whether he has a loaded sidearm, etc.
5) Full-auto is not very professional. It forces the user to reload far too quickly and is wildly inaccurate. Also, under many circumstances a wild spray of bullets could endanger bystanders and friendlies.
6) Getting shot will not move a person’s body much. It’s not realistic for gunshots to send someone sprawling backwards. Bullets are too small to have much momentum. As a rule of thumb, the force of impact for the victim will be very similar to the recoil for the shooter. Definitely not enough to send someone shooting through a pane of glass.
7) Guns are really expensive in most developed countries. A handgun will set you back at least several hundred dollars in the United States.
8) It’s hard to fire accurately when you’re moving a lot. If your character is chasing after someone, in a moving car, climbing, running, or dodging fire, etc., he is probably going to miss a lot.