All posts by Michael Schwarz

Q&A: Shot in the Leg

what would happen if a character were shot in the thigh? would they die of blood loss or would it depend on where on the thigh the bullet went? also if the character somehow survived, would they be left with a scar or possibly a limp? eventually how long would they be limp (forever)? sorry for my english, and thank you!

If the bullet severs the femoral artery, death would occur within… I want to say two minutes, but it could be as much as five. If the bullet blows through cleanly, and the blood loss is managed, it shouldn’t result in anything more severe than scar tissue at the entrance and exit wounds. If it damages the bone and that’s not treated, or treated incorrectly, it would permanently impair movement (barring corrective surgery).

If the bullet tears up the muscle tissue, and it doesn’t heal properly, I think that would result in permanent mobility issues, but I’m not 100% certain how that would manifest.

Again, I’m not a medical professional; my familiarity with gunshot wounds is academic. So, I could be wrong here.


EDIT: I’m going to attach this reblog to the main post because it’s actually really useful, and I did drop the ball a bit last night after tumblr ate my first draft of the entry and exit wounds answer. So, with thanks to Disasterintow.


Gunshot wounds vary depending on the type of round used, special attributes to the round (hollow point, armor piercing, etc), the distance from the shooter. A normal sized male (6’ 180lb) shot at close range to the thigh with a simple 9mm round would be in a lot of pain, but risks only moderate damage to bone, and supposing the femoral isn’t stuck, the most you would to be dealing is a hopeful through-and-through. That way, as mentioned before the most to be dealt with is stopping the blood flow and stitching up entry and exit wounds (the latter of which will be significantly larger).

Do. Not. Dig. A. Fragmented. Bullet. Out. Unless you are a skilled surgeon, though even these days, a majority of those professionals choose to leave non-life threatening shards inside. Removing the bullet damages muscle tissue, connective tissue, and tears nerves, all of which are needed to counteract the trauma of the initial wound. And you run the risk of more blood loss.

Now, when it comes to larger caliber bullets and shotgun shells, there is a problem with distance. Up close and personal, a .45 caliber handgun round could shatter bone and leave an exit wound the size of a Granny Smith apple. broken bones (shattered ones, at that) have a very high risk of sepsis, and if not dealt with quickly, could spread to the rest of the body.

AP rounds – Armor Piercing – go straight through flesh and have very little sign of slowing. There is risk to bones, however, as the amount of power (force) they carry with them hits full on if it meets a hard structure. The kinetic energy alone can fracture shoulder blades.

As for buck shot and slug for shotguns, those are trickier. They do need to be a certain distance to be effective, but make no mistake: these rounds will break bones and most certainly leave holes in you. Buckshot is pelleted, but deadly in a closer range.

A safe bet would be to say the person was shot by a .40 caliber or lower handgun, or anything around or lower than a .308 rifle round, and that the meat of the thigh took the bullet. If at a decently close range, that person should survive and most likely walk with a little hitch for most of their lives. Nothing too noticeable, however. There would certainly be scarring, and if nothing happened to bone, and no nerves were injured, there should be no loss in range of motion or use.

Q&A: 19th Century Dueling

Any advice for wiring a 1865 duel scene where someone gets shot in the hand, or for a scene of the same period where someone gets shot in the ear through a window? I really love the blog btw

In both cases, post injury infection is a real risk. And, your characters would run a very real risk of dying.

Not that anyone in your setting would know, but; the bullets themselves are clean, the gunshot generates enough heat to sterilize the bullet. However, the bandages used on the wound wouldn’t, and, historically, these were a common vector for bacterial infection.

Hilariously enough, in both cases, medical treatment would actually be more dangerous than the wounds themselves. But, again, and I can’t stress this enough, your characters would not know this.

Alcohol was viewed as an emergency anesthetic, not an antiseptic.

Also, without access to modern surgical techniques, getting shot through the hand could easily result in a permanent crippling injury.

Now, intentionally shooting someone in the hand, with weapons from that era, wouldn’t be impossible, but it would require an improbable degree of marksmanship.

Even with highly accurate, modern handguns, “disabling shots” like that aren’t really viable in combat. The amount of focus and precision required just aren’t available while someone is fighting through an adrenaline rush.


Q&A: Gun Disarms and Reasonable Force

How would my character disarm the girl who is aiming a handgun at him? She doesn’t intend to shoot (although he doesn’t know that), and he doesn’t want to hurt her, just get the gun away from her. It’s his way of proving to her who he is (because he has the ability to disarm her). Everything I’ve looked up online for it includes hurting the attacker as some kind of defense mechanism.

It’s not a defense mechanism, it’s necessity. This is a culmination of a couple issues that we haven’t really covered in detail.

The first is reasonable force; basically, this is the absolute minimum amount of harm you need to inflict in a given situation to ensure your safety and the safety of others, including the person trying to kill you. Make no mistake, if someone’s pointing a gun at you, they are trying to kill you. (I’ll come back to this in a minute.)

The more training your character has, then under the law, the less harm they’re allowed to legally inflict. This is because restraining your opponent without hurting them is a lot harder, and requires more skill, than simply killing them.

Reasonable force is a bit of a pain because it is very subjective in the moment. It scales upwards based on a lot of factors, including the nature of the threat. If someone is threatening to “beat the shit out of you,” responding by crippling or killing them is (usually) going to be considered excessive.

Guns take that and toss it all out the window. Pointing one at someone is always a threat of lethal force. It doesn’t matter what the person with the gun intends. It is the weapon not the person that escalates the threat.

The second major issue is that gun disarms are really hard, and really, really dangerous. Most martial artists that attempt to use them in actual situations get shot. It’s a ratio close to 9/10, that’s 9 get shot to every one that 1 succeeds. Often, even if the disarm is successful, they get shot anyway during the attempt. An attacker who is already jittery on adrenaline will take the fast movement of the disarm i.e. the person moving towards them as a threatening gesture. They may fire reflexively, even if they didn’t originally intend to. The response evokes “oh my god, they’re attacking me” and that instinctive response will be even stronger and more immediate in someone who is untrained. This may also force a switch over in the attacker themselves from “I don’t want to hurt you” to “I’m going to shoot you because now you’re threatening my life”. It may not seem logical when they’re already holding the gun, but within their mind it is. An attack/disarm will escalate the situation because it shows them that the person they’re pointing the gun at (whom they may trust) is willing to hurt them or even shoot them. The person who is attempting the disarm is taking their power away from them and that is threatening, especially to someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. If the gun is all they have to control the situation then they won’t let it go without a fight.

With most techniques, the consequences for not executing them perfectly are fairly limited, you might take a blow you didn’t want to, or strike with less force than you intended. But, for gun disarms, failing to execute the technique flawlessly can be fatal.

What this means is, when it comes to gun disarms, the priority has been to develop simple techniques that work, and screw everything else. Gun disarms are, as a general rule, easy to learn, but, they also come without any margin for error.

The result is, most gun disarms will wrench joints and break bones. Most disarms can escalate into kills, because they leave the martial artist with the gun in a ready to fire state. The martial artist themselves may accidentally shoot their attacker once they get the gun away from them because they are also jittery with adrenaline and they left their finger on the trigger. Disarms end with the gun pointed at the attacker. Once adrenaline gets factored in, it can be very difficult to not follow through with an execution shot. With the exception of outright shooting the gunman, this is all pretty solidly reasonable force. Many instructors suggest for students who are unused to guns to brace it on their hip, instead of holding it out in a ready to fire state, as this reduces the risk of them accidentally shooting the attacker or their attacker taking it back.

Finally, and this is a general threat assessment issue, but it does affect disarms. Untrained shooters are much more dangerous. Once the shooting starts, a trained shooter is going to be able to kill more efficiently, but an untrained shooter is more likely to shoot someone by accident.

If you have a character pointing a gun at someone they don’t want to hurt (outside of some edge, “I don’t want to hurt you; but, I will kill you,” cases), they’re not going to be trained in firearms safety.

What this means is, and I hate harp on this over and over, but, when you have a character pointing a gun at someone, they’re always threatening to kill the other person. Even if they gun isn’t loaded, even if they don’t want to hurt anyone, even if they just want attention. They’re still threatening to kill someone.

I’d actually argue that a trained shooter is safer to disarm, as well. Proper trigger discipline can work against getting a rapid shot off into the martial artist. Of course a “safer” version of an extremely lethal situation is still quite dangerous.

Now, non-harmful gun disarms do exist. But, they’re not a part of any martial art. Stage fighting includes a lot of techniques that can be practiced safely. The problem is, as a general rule, stage fighting is cooperative choreography between two performers. So the gun disarms you’ll see on TV that leave both combatants with all their fingers in the original sockets aren’t real combat techniques.

If you want to look at getting a gun away from someone safely, I’d recommend watching The Negotiator, it’s not about martial arts, but it is about talking people down.


Q&A: Sci-fi Warfare

Sorry, I didn’t want to be specific because I tried to keep it short and to the point. However, I can think of a lot of reasons why guns might fall out of favor. Mostly, it’d come as armor. Kevlar is fantastic against bullets, but has a weakness stabbing. Just take that to 11. Another might be like Dune, a sort of energy shield that stops high velocity impacts, but doesn’t stop low velocity. Anyways, I’m mostly curious what could be modern sword technology, (nano-tech and cryoforge, apparently).

With the caveat that it’s been a few years since I read Dune, a few things stand out: I wouldn’t call the year 10,000 the near future. Dune is, very much, a post apocalyptic setting; humanity is in the process of recovering from domination by autonomous AIs. I’m not sure if this was a jab at Asimov, but, regardless.

And, personal shields are very rare, very expensive, and extremely fragile pieces of equipment. House Atredies is able to afford a few of them. This is one of the most powerful members of the LANSRAD, and an incredibly wealthy family.

So, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the combat we see might not be completely representative of warfare in the setting. That said, when actual battles occur, the great houses and the Sardukar have no qualms in breaking out lasguns.

The personal shields can’t handle fire from lasguns, so ranged weapons remain preferable on the whole, and really only work against sword strikes. Hence the whole, “a slow blade penetrates,” because a normal blade strike will reflect off. I can’t remember if the shields could survive normal firearms in the setting, but they certainly didn’t change the nature of war in Dune.

The blade fighting in the novels is, almost exclusively, the purview of dueling, and while houses have “swordmasters”, the actual weapon of choice is long knives.

I will say; Warhammer 40k, Dune, and Star Wars all make for fairly reasonable uses of melee weapons in a sci fi context. Lightsabers have ways to stay effective against ranged foes (so long as they’re backed up with superpowers), 40k is loaded to the gills with things that won’t die from sustained bolter fire and ludicrously lethal melee weapons, finally; Dune has a fairly rich dueling tradition. But, I wouldn’t hold any of those up as justifications for a near future setting.

On the subject of Kevlar, it’s actually been improving at a fairly steady pace. Used to be, 9mm rounds posed a serious threat to someone, and now we’ve gotten to the point where a vest can take an intermediate rifle round at medium range.

The problem with Kevlar is one of the basic constants of the universe, entropy. While a modern Kevlar vest will stop a 5.56mm rifle round, at 50m, when you start getting closer, or taking more fire, the vest will fail.

I’ll add a primer on modern body armor, because this one can get a bit complicated, though fair warning, I’ll probably do that after I’ve done most of my firearms primers. If you want to do some research now, I’d recommend looking into Kevlar, and ceramic inserts. Also if you start feeling too cocky about body armor, look up the history of the 10mm handgun round, and steel core ammunition. If you want a setting where you can use a sword in a gunfight and live, I’d suggest Warhammer 40k. It’s comically over the top, but there’s some coherent world building, and it does present you with the kinds of things you’d need to be dealing with to see swords really return to the battlefield.


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