Before we start, I want to highlight a few recent events. The first is that I have changed Writing Wednesday to Writing Toolbox. This is mainly so that I can post writing related tips on days other than Wednesday. The second event is that I would like to announce that my short story, “Eevee,” has been published by The Bird & Dog in their Fall 2015 issue. This is the first piece of my work that has been published, and I would love for you to check it out. You can read it for free by clicking on the either of the links above. Please leave a comment showing your support at the end of the story, and I will gladly go and check out some of your work.
This is the first post that I have done that focuses on a rather minor detail of writing rather than something broad. After reading an overall awesome book, I wanted to talk about an area that it seemed like they did not quite understand, firearms. I have an extensive amount of experience with using this type of equipment due to my military service as an Infantryman. I feel that firearms are a wonderful element to add to fiction because they lend an amazing power to nearly anyone but have some fascinating limitations.
Before we really delve into how you can use firearms into your stories, I am going to list some of the different terminology and tell what each of them means to someone who has moderate amount of experience with the equipment.
Firearm- A general term used for any projectile weapon that utilizes gunpowder to operate.
Gun- This one has two definitions. 1. A term used to refer to any firearm by someone who DOES NOT have much experience or knowledge with the equipment. 2. A shortened term used by experts to informally refer to “machine guns.”
Rifle-A firearm that is used for long distances, fires a single projectile. The barrel contains a spiral grooved bore to improve accuracy and distance of the projectile. There are three major subtypes, bolt-action, semi automatic, and automatic rifles.
Pistol- General Term used for firearms that are intended to be used as handguns. There are two major subtypes of pistols, revolvers (look like firearms in westerns) and semiautomatic (look like most modern police weapons).
Ammunition- the item that is used to operate a firearm. Also called ammo, rounds, or cartridges though each has slightly different connotations.
Magazine- spring-loaded container, which loads ammunition into a firearm. NOT a clip. A clip is a real term used by gun enthusiasts but is not interchangeable with a magazine.
Clip- A metal slide used to hold ammunition. This is obsolete technology and was last widely used during World War 2 as a way to feed some bolt-action rifles.
This is a brief list of some general terms, but it is necessary to effectively discuss the subject of firearms in fiction.
One of the first things that I want to point out is that firearms are loud. Not like yelling loud, but will rupture your eardrum if you are not careful loud. Whenever you fire any kind of weapon without hearing protection you WILL have a slight ringing in your ears. If you are around extended gunfire, you ears will adjust so you have to yell to hear yourself even when the gunfire has ceased. The problem is that when you do this enough, your ears will become permanently damaged. There is a twenty year old in my unit who has to wearing hearing aids because he has damaged his hearing from using firearms.
There is no such thing as unlimited ammo. Research the weapon you are using to figure out its capacity. In literary settings, it is fair more interesting to run out of ammo. In real life it’s awful. Using these two pieces of information, it becomes incredibly easy to create tense situations.
Weapons jam, but not anywhere near as much if they are properly maintained. An expert in firearms will spend between 2-3 hours cleaning a firearm after they have shot it. Those who are new to firearms may not even know how to take one apart.
Learn realistic ranges. You can hit a man size target from about a max of 100 meters with a pistol and that is going to be an incredibly hard shot. The range is about the same with a shotgun as it is with a pistol. Rifles can reach out to around 500 meters with iron sights, and high velocity rifles with proper optics can go to about a mile in the hands of an expert. The point is, the battlefield for firearms is huge. The only situation that this is not really the case is in urban operations.
Urban operations, is the term for fighting within a city. It relies heavily on team and squad level tactics in regards to room clearing. The best shooter in the world doesn’t mean much because the distance is so close and engagements are so quick that it doesn’t really matter your skill level. A kid can shoot a grizzled veteran as they walk through a door, despite the fact that the child may not know how to reload his weapon. Firearms level the playing field for all involved in combat. Without magic, there is no way to dodge a bullet once it has left the barrel. By the time that hero reacts, they would already be shot. Don’t make the mistake in thinking that a Special Forces operative can weave their way through a lead filled battlefield and come out unscathed.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s post. There is so much more in regards to firearms in fiction, and I will make sure to do follow up posts on this topic. Please comment any questions or support below. If you are not currently following my blog please hit the appropriate button. I hope everyone had a wonderful new years and I can’t wait to see what 2016 has to offer.