Tag Archives: firearms

Hey there love your blog. Quick question I’m trying to write a fanasty book where one of the main characters use both swords & guns. A katana on his left hip & a short katana on his right aswell as carrying a desert eagle on his person but he lives in a world where technology & magic exist except firearms are illegal. Is it possible to write scene’s where this combintaion works?

The “short katana” would be a wakizashi. It’s a distinct
weapon in its own right and was traditionally part of a samurai’s accoutrements,
though this is probably the least significant issue here.

The combination works in so far as you remember that real
people make really horrible decisions in an attempt to seem cool. The Desert
Eagle is a very flashy, somewhat terrible, gun. You carry one as an aesthetic
choice, not because you want to actually kill someone with it. It’s big, bulky,
unreasonably heavy, and stupidly expensive. The only point to owning one is to
say, “look at what a badass I could be.”

The katana is a very flashy, somewhat terrible, sword. Stop
me if this one sounds familiar; this is a sword you carry as an aesthetic
choice, not because you actually want to kill someone with it, but because you
want to say, “look at what a badass I could be.”

In both cases you’re talking about items that present the
concept of a weapon far more valuable, lethal, and cool, than the real articles
offer. With the katana, there’s also all of the associated cultural baggage. The
katana is, literally, a holy symbol in Shinto. If your character is carrying
one for religious reasons, that’s one thing; but, if they’re looking for “the
best sword,” then, it’s a terrible choice.

It’s also probably worth pointing out that both the Desert
Eagle and the katana require two hands to wield properly. Desert Eagles have a “floating
mag,” meaning the magazine remains somewhat loose in the grip, while locked. If
the operator fails to properly stabilize the pistol, this can result in the
pistol failing to feed, meaning it won’t properly load the next round into the
chamber, and forcing the user to cycle the slide manually. This isn’t an issue
if you’re using the pistol as designed, but if you’re trying to fire it one
handed, because your other hand is occupied with a katana, it could easily
result in a dead man’s click long before the magazine is empty.

There’s a similar issue with the katana, the design works
with the idea that the wielder will be using it with both hands. Specifically
you use your index and middle ring and pinky finger on your off-hand to control the blade,
while using your main hand for power. The problem with wielding one single
handed should be immediately obvious; you can flail around with it, but you can’t
really get much value from it that way. At that point, you’d almost be better
off with a machete, simply because it would offer a more comfortable grip, and would
be easier to swing.

While wakizashi are frequently matched with a katana and sold
together, they’re not intended for simultaneous
use. The wakizashi had distinct uses, mostly so the samurai would have a blade
they could actually use in doors, but it wasn’t supposed to be dual wielded
with a katana. Think of it like buying a kitchen knife set, sure there’s eight
knives in there, but you’re not going to be using all of them together at once.

I’ll add, I’ve got nothing against a character that has a
reason to use a katana. If it’s a badge of office, a family heirloom, a sign of
their order or training, that’s fine. It’s the idea that “this is the best
possible sword ever,” which I object to. It’s a two-handed sword. It’s not
particularly great. It has a dedicated martial style, predicated on using very
fragile blades, (and historical katanas are exceedingly fragile).

Finally, if you’ve got a setting where firearms are outlawed,
there’s a few problems specific to the Desert Eagle. I mentioned that they were
large and expensive, so let’s break those down a little. First, these are
massive pistols. A Mark XIX Desert Eagle weighs just under four and a half
pounds. For a pistol that is comically heavy. This is also a gun that is over a
foot long. These are large handguns.
They are difficult to conceal. If you’re living in a setting where owning a gun
is illegal, this is the last thing you want to be carrying on the street. (They’re
pretty terrible carry weapons in the real world as well.)

On the current market, with firearms that are legal to buy, a
used Desert Eagle will set you back at least $1,200 ($1,400 to $1,700 is more
likely, for a gun in decent shape). In contrast, if you’re shopping for a solid
conceal carry pistol you can expect to spend somewhere between $400 and $500.
Even high grade “tactical” pistols rarely break $1k, unless they’re collector’s
items (or SIGs). Most “cool” pistols you see on TV probably cost between $600
and $1k.

If you’re wondering why SIGs manage to command higher prices,
it’s because (in most cases) they’re remarkably high quality. I’ve had issues
with the American produced SIG Sauer P226s, but in general SIGs are worth the
money.

The Desert Eagle really isn’t worth the money. As I said
earlier, these are guns you buy to show off, not because you’re looking for a
carry weapon.

And, all of this is before you step back and apply the
economics for a setting where getting a handgun is illegal. At that point, you’re
talking about a gun that could easily cost more than an older model car. Those
economics skew against you even harder every time your character pulls the
trigger.

Desert Eagles come chambered in a couple different rounds.
There’s .357 magnum, .44 magnum, and .50AE. (Technically, there’s also .41
magnum and .440 variants as well.) Gun stores aren’t going to stock a lot, but
you can buy them if you’re using something chambered for it. Also worth noting,
if you’re dropping the hammer on a .50AE Desert Eagle, it will set you back
more than a dollar per bullet. (The current, actual cost in the US is ~$1.35
per round.) But, if you’re in a setting where firearms aren’t easily available,
your black market’s going to need to focus on rounds they can actually sell.
They may keep a little bit around
(and would charge way more than the
price I just quoted), but once it’s gone, getting your hands on more could be
very difficult. In this sense, it would be much safer if your character was
using a firearm that matched to the common calibers in their setting. The
reasoning is, that your black market may not keep much .50AE around (if they
keep any at all), but they probably will stock 9mm, .45, or whatever your
setting’s cops use. It’ll cost substantially more than it would in the real
world, but it will be something your character can buy. It also won’t leave
behind freakishly expensive shell casings every time they open fire. A string
of killings involving a .50AE pistol? That will bring the cops down on their
contacts looking for someone who’s been scavenging around the black market for
those 12.7mm rounds far faster than a few people who got plugged with a black
market .45.

To a lesser extent, the katana and wakizashi have a similar
issue. Yeah, sure, they’re cool, I guess, but they’re also memorable. If your
character is using a sword (and that’s common in the setting), having the cops
looking for someone using a guy with a katana will result in a much shorter
search ending at their doorstep than someone with a random non-descript sword
or even something like a machete.

If the katana is enchanted, then sure, your character is kind
of stuck with it (up to a point), but it’s still a weapon they’d need to be
somewhat careful about hiding, and more careful about using.

So, yeah, it’s entirely plausible that you’d have a character
who thought all of these were a good idea. If you have a setting where they
could actually get their hands on them is a different question.

If you’re thinking they could use the weapons together, then
no. They could switch between them, but trying to use them all at once would
result in wild flailing, and a malfunctioning pistol.

I can think of, at least, one legitimate reason why your
character might carry around a Desert Eagle (or a katana) in a setting like you’re
describing, and that’s to scare people. If you’re an enforcer for some shadowy
criminal organization, then being able to shove a 14 inch, chrome, monster gun
up someone’s nose is an effective option (and yes, the Desert Eagle is a model of handgun you can press
into someone without disabling it). But, even then, they’d probably carry
something far more practical for times when they were there to kill someone,
and not just put the fear of Elmer Keith into them.

Depending on the setting (or the organization they work for),
then they might carry and use a katana for that kind of intimidation instead.
For instance: If they were Yakuza, it would make some sense. At that point, you
might reasonably get a character who
used that exact set of weapons for intimidation, and would actually use the
katana or wakizashi when provoked.

In general, though, there’s nothing wrong with a character
thinking this is all a good idea. It’s not. But, if they could afford it, they
might go chasing after that concept anyway.

-Starke

EDIT: As @fox-bright kindly reminded me, it’s the third and fourth fingers on your off hand that you use to control a katana, rather than the first and second. Sorry about that.

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Hello, I have a question about guns. My story is set in a world that recently invented guns, so the designs are flawed. Is it reasonable for a gun (something small like a pistol) to jam when fired and explode in someone’s hand? And how much damage would the explosion cause?

“Yes,” and, having their hand, “turned into something resembling goulash,” comes to mind. Though, “jamming,” is probably the wrong mental image.

It’s probably worth remembering, early guns were little more than a hollow metal tube and (sometimes) a handle, which you’d manually fire by touching off the powder with a burning object (called a match, but it’s not equivalent to modern matches at all.)

If a gun was poorly forged, over loaded with powder, or had something obstructing the barrel, it was possible for a gun to misfire or detonate in the user’s hand or face.

These were strictly single shot weapons. Powder had to be poured, by hand, followed by forcing the bullet down the barrel.

Depending on what evidence you take, the first guns originate in the 12th or 13th century. And, they pretty much stayed that way for a long time. There were numerous technological advances. But, the gun remained (primarily) a single shot weapon for nearly 600 years. If guns are a new technology in your setting, you’re probably not going to be looking at having issues like jamming. (At least not the familiar concept.)

It’s probably worth considering, that self feeding firearms didn’t become a practical option until the transition from black powder to smokeless in the late-19th century.

Put another way; we’ve been shooting people for eight centuries, we’ve had auto-loading firearms for a little over one.

There’s also a terminology hickup that can confuse people. Handgun is not a modern term, however, using it to refer to pistols is far more recent. Early handguns were longarms. The name meant you could carry and fire the gun by hand, not that it was a small compact weapon. As I recall, the first pistols didn’t appear for around a century after the introduction of the handgun. I could be wrong on that number, by the way, it might be as fast as a couple decades. They were roughly contemporary with the development of the matchlock as I recall. (But, this specific era of the timeline is something I’m a little shaky on.)

Based on the actual development of guns, if your setting just developed guns within the last couple decades, you’re looking at something more like a pole arm, that has to be manually loaded, and then the powder is set off using a match.

As you get to the point where guns have been around for 50 years to a century, you’ll start seeing firearms where the match is mounted to the gun, and a trigger mechanism ignites a flashpan of powder by dropping a lit match (usually a piece of slow burning cord at this point. (A fingertip sized, shallow bowl, mounted on the side of the gun, usually with an articulated cover).

At roughly two centuries out, you’ll start seeing rifled barrels, which are far more accurate, but require additional time and effort to load. You’ll also start to see flintlocks.

At five centuries, you’ll start to see the introduction of percussion caps, and something that looks more like what you’d consider a firearm. This would be followed by early revolvers, and pre-sealed center-fire cartridges. This would allow for the first manually cycled repeating firearms, and make rifled firearms practical for combat usage. This would also, roughly, match the introduction of the shotgun.

As you get into the sixth century, you’ll see the first double action firearms (where each pull of the trigger can recock the hammer), and the development of semi-automatic firearms.

I’m skimming over the evolution of how society and the military viewed guns, for instance, most militaries opposed the introduction of repeating firearms because they feared their soldiers would recklessly burn through ammunition, straining their logistical support. But, that’s a lot more open for your worldbuilding. Still, it’s something you might want to look into and research further.

-Starke

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I just learned about “The Big Bang” pistols that were made from the Gibeon meteorite. I don’t know a lot about guns, but it sounds like the creators put a lot of work into making sure that they work properly. Could you foresee any unusual problems that could arise because of the unusual construction/material of these guns? Could there be any additional benefits at all, besides the expensive “cool” factor?

For those of you unfamiliar with these, The Big Bang pistols are a matched set of 1911s who have been (mostly) machined from meteoric iron and have a sticker price of 4.5 million dollars.

These were manufactured by The Cabot Gun Company in Pennsylvania. The best way to describe them is as a “prestige” armory. They manufacture guns, mostly 1911s (from what I’ve seen), though The meteoric pistols are probably the most expensive ones they’ve produced.

If you’re buying a pistol from these guys, you’re probably not intending to use it. Especially their limited production pistols. Even their base model pistols are more for display than use.

There’s two reasons they make a big deal of pointing out that the guns could, theoretically, be fired. First, Cabot Guns has an obsession with over engineering their firearms. They brag about the ridiculously tight tolerances, and the additional engineering that went into “refining the design.” Which is a long way to come around to saying, “yeah, we tightened the screws up a bit.” Second, they’re selling a gun (or a pair, in this case), not a non-functional simulacrum of a gun. To that end, the gun needs to be, “theoretically” operable.

Historically, the value of meteoric iron was that they contained alloys which could not be reproduced by contemporary smiths. Meteoric iron has a higher nickle, lower carbon content than most terrestrial iron available. With the advancement of metallurgy, that’s not nearly as valuable as it once was. In the 21st century, if you’re producing something by carving pieces off a meteorite, it’s for aesthetic reasons.

There’s no practical reason to make a gun out of meteorites. In fact, Cabot Guns didn’t. The frame, and the external components are, but the barrel, and a few other bits are not.

There’s also a big problem with these pistols. Firearms suffer significant wear and tear from prolonged use. With effective maintenance, you can keep one going for over a century. But, there’s no way to replace the components on these pistols. Assuming the meteoric iron holds up, they’re probably good for fifty thousand rounds. But, after that, there’s no way to replace the stuff that starts wearing out. Also, that’s a significant assumption. I don’t think anyone knows how well meteoric iron holds up under heavy mechanical use. I’m not aware of anyone attempting to use it in that way before.

Ultimately, we’re talking about a pair of unique pistols, produced by a company that markets “everyday carry” pistols that cost over three grand. You’re not going to really get any practical value for that money. As art, they’ve got a lot of very striking pieces. But you’re not going to want to fire any of those, ever.

-Starke

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How does pistol-whipping actually work? It seems to me that if the gun is held in the usual way, you’re not left with a reasonable bludgeoning surface. When it happens on TV, it’s never clear enough to show what part is striking, and whether they’ve changed their grip.

With handguns, usually it’s the magazine’s buttplate. It’s not technically the heaviest part of a gun, but if loaded, it’s close. It’s also devoid of operator controls (in most cases), and is unlikely to be damaged if you clock someone with it.

It can be used either while the pistol is in a normal firing grip, by bringing it down onto the target, or while holding the barrel as an improvised grip, and using the actual grip as a strike surface. (Incidentally, I’ve known a few Marines that used to joke about simply using Mk 23s as improvised hammers.) Both approaches also work with most revolvers.

It’s also probably worth remembering, this is one of those things that is basically never useful. (Unless you intend to use your pistol for hammering tent stakes. In which case, don’t, it’s a really terrible idea.) If you have a gun out, and you’re in a situation where you should be shooting someone, you probably shouldn’t simply hit them with the gun. It won’t knock them out, but it will make them angry. At which point, better to have them angry and leaking blood everywhere than angry and trying to beat you to death with your own gun.

-Starke

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First of all, awesome blog. Anyway my character was attacked by two men at the same time. she doesnt have any weapon with her while the men use a machine gun. there are few hiding spots for her to take cover, but i dont know the best way to disarm them

I don’t say this often, but she’s fucked. If you’re wanting to take the
aggressive way out, and she will die in the attempt. There are ways to get a
character out of a situation like this, but with the scenario you’re
presenting, violence is not one of them.

Training is not the power to overcome all fights through superlative skill;
it’s the ability to know there are some fights you cannot win, and assess the
best way to avoid those in the first place, or escape, if it comes to that. 2v1
is already horrifically difficult. Giving them guns makes this (basically)
unwinnable.

You’re not specifying what kind of weapons they’re using, and this is
probably kind of important to know for your own purposes.

Machine gun can refer to (nearly) any automatic firearm. You pull the
trigger, and it will continue firing until you release it, the ammunition is
spent, or the weapon malfunctions (which is fairly rare in most cases).

This can range from fully automatic pistols, up through heavy weapons you’d
mount on a vehicle. You’re probably thinking of assault rifles or submachine
guns, since they’re easily portable. SMGs are chambered to fire pistol rounds,
while assault rifles are simply, fully automatic rifles (using lighter rifle
rounds).

Usually the term is used to refer to heavier automatic weapons, designed to
suppress enemy movement and make returning fire more difficult. The entire idea
is you put a lot of flying lead, and the threat of more following it, in the
general vicinity of your foes, and they cannot move or return fire without
being reduced to goulash.

Thing is, that basic strategy does apply to nearly all fully automatic
weapons. The only difference is how much ammunition they can draw on, how far
it can fire, and how gleefully it can tear apart concealment (we’ll come back
to this in a second).

Put another way, the entire point of this weapon is to force enemies to stay
in cover and not move, while the rest of your forces to better positions, so
they can take them out.

If they stick anything out of cover, your machine gunner is waiting to blow
it off. To a lesser extent, this is how all gunfights work. If you’re not
shooting someone directly, you’re trying to keep their head down, so you, or
your allies, can get into a better position to kill them.

Getting caught outside of cover against a competent gunner is a death
sentence. They’re in position, they’re waiting, out you come, down you go.

For an unarmed character, there is no counter. Keep to cover, keep moving
and get away, are the only real options, but with almost nowhere to take cover,
that option’s gone.

It gets worse. Concealment is not cover. Cover is something that will
protect you from incoming fire. Concealment is something that will hide you
from the enemy. What this means is, TV, movies, and video games have lied to
you. Bullets will easily punch through many objects. Including furniture, walls,
ceilings, floors, cars, self-sacrificial idiots leaping into the path of the
bullet. Taking cover behind a wooden shipping crate will only protect you if
the stuff inside that crate is solid enough to stop a bullet. Ducking behind a
wall, unless that wall is made out of concrete, won’t do much.

And, that’s not even an answer to your question. Gun disarms will get you shot. I’m going to keep saying this. Under
the best circumstances, with excellent training, gun disarms are incredibly dangerous to the
practitioner. You use them because they were going to kill you anyway, and you
didn’t have another option.

Even when you’re dealing with handgun disarms, it’s incredibly easy to take
a bullet mid-disarm, particularly if the shooter is using a stance the martial
artist isn’t prepared for. Rifle disarms are a nightmare to pull off.

Stuntmen can make them look really cool, and when you’ve got two people
cooperating disarms can be very fun to watch. But, that’s entertainment,
actually trying to execute disarms in the field is for the supremely
foolish and those who were already two seconds away from death.

So, back to the beginning, how does your character get out of a situation
like this? Not getting into it in the first place is a good option. Making sure
they have an escape plan is a second.

If your character gets a phone call to take them out to some abandoned
warehouse, or construction site, or farm in upstate New York… maybe they
shouldn’t go. Or at least not alone. There are rare situations where a
character would have a legitimate reason to walk into a trap like that, but
under normal circumstances, situations like that demand your characters come up
with ways that mitigate the risk.

There’s a real habit of having characters doing stupid things because the
power of plot compels them. At some point, the justifications like, “if you bring
anyone with you; the kid dies,” got lost, and we’re left with characters
walking into very bad situations.

Even if, “the kid dies,” that doesn’t mean your character should be
following instructions, or plunging into dangerous situations without setting
up contingencies.

At this point it’s worth considering, with hostages, if the villain is
planning to kill your character, then that’s all they need the hostage for, and
once you’re character’s down they’re going to be next. On reflection, that’s
not a really great reason to be following the rules, is it?

Having a contingency plan doesn’t mean bringing buddies or gearing up. Sometimes
it means finding ways to exploit the restrictions placed on your character.
Armed attackers planning to murder you? Find a crowd. A couple mooks might be
willing to take their chances gunning you down in an alley, but are they really
going to risk opening up in a crowded bar?

Even if your character does need to go into someplace they really shouldn’t.
They need to have an escape plan, if things go wrong. That could be as simple
as making sure they have a way out of the building they’re in, or it could be
more complex, such as having allies who will come in if the situation goes
wrong. In a situation like this, it might be as simple as remaining undetected
until she can escape.

Regardless, saving a character from a situation like this, usually means not
getting into it in the first place. I understand it, you have characters that
need to go someplace for the story to progress. That’s fine. But, your
characters do need to plan ahead, and assess their situation to the best of
their ability.

Someone or something told those guys to drop by. Maybe there were there
ahead of time, in which case she needed to know where they were, and keep track
of them before going in. Maybe she tripped an alarm, and they got called in
behind her, so now she needs to find a way out, without them actually spotting
and killing her. Maybe someone called them in to kill her, in which case,
again, she needs to avoid detection and get away.

Ideally you need a way for them to overcome their foes. Note, “overcome,”
not, “defeat.” In a situation like this, the best solution to overcome a hit
squad sent after your character is going to be to escape, not to fight them
head on and die. Find an opening, make an escape. Don’t get tied up in hand to
hand with someone using an automatic rifle, only for his buddy to drill your
hero.

-Starke

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watching an episode of Criminal Minds, and one of the characters shots a gun underwater, and sends the bullets into the unsub’s head. Could this actually happen? Wouldn’t the water mess up the gun dynamics?

Probably not, and yes.

Water plays havoc with ballistic physics. It’s possible to actually fire most firearms under water, but you can’t really use one. The problem isn’t the firearm, it’s the bullets.

Like I said, most guns can be fired under water. The bullet itself will (usually) expel the fluid in the barrel, and the water shouldn’t prevent the weapon from cycling. Most gas cycling systems vent gasses released from the bullet, so those should work properly.

I’m couching this because I kind of expect there are some firearms that won’t work properly underwater, and usually you’re cautioned strongly against firing guns underwater or if they have water inside the mechanism. This might be overcautious, but it’s still good practice. Catastrophic mechanical failures are not something you want to personally experience with a gun. (That is to say, “the gun blew up in my hands,” is a bad thing.)

The real problem is the bullets. Conventional ammunition isn’t stable underwater. It will start tumbling almost as soon as it leaves the barrel, and will quickly lose all momentum. This will cut the gun’s lethal range down to a few feet at most.

If you have a character literally putting a gun to someone’s head, it will probably work. (Just remember, pressing some semi-automatic pistols hard against someone will unseat the chamber preventing the pistol from firing, water or no.) Simply trying to shoot someone at range will not.

Without watching the episode in question, probably not. But if the gun was pulled during a struggle, then it’s possible.

If you want a slightly more detailed explanation of some of the physics involved, this video from SmarterEveryDay might be worth taking a look at.

-Starke

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Assuming you live in a country like Canada where firearms aren’t very widespread, what would be the most useful weapon after a nuclear event and societal breakdown? Would it still be a firearm, given limited ammunition availability? Or would a throwback like the sling or European longsword be more practical? (I’m preparing for a Trump presidency…)

It’s firearms. Military grade firearms are the most useful. Though, simple availability means you’re going to be seeing some far more improvised designs.

Regardless where you live, your nation’s military uses guns. This means they will have, or had, more weapons than they needed. The advantage with these isn’t that they’re more accurate or powerful than commercially available firearms (usually), it’s that they’re far more durable, and easier to maintain.

Depending on your nation’s laws, law enforcement, and other specific groups of individuals will have had access to firearms pre-collapse. In some nations, like the UK, police don’t actually carry firearms as part of their normal duties, but they do have access to them. The guns do exist.

In a post-collapse failed state, the regulation and control of those weapons will no longer be in effect. This doesn’t mean they’ll get spread around indiscriminately, or that there will be enough guns for everyone (statistically there are more people on the planet than firearms). Most people still will not have them, but guns, and the threat of guns, will remain.

Once a couple things happen, the firearm ecosystem will change significantly. The first you mentioned is ammo, the second is the lifecycle of a gun.

Firearms are designed to handle enormous mechanical stresses, and for the most part they do a pretty good job. But, every shot causes permanent wear and tear on the gun. This varies by the gun, but even with proper maintenance, you’re going to want to replace (or rebuild) your gun somewhere around the 50k round range, with individual pieces needing replacement far more frequently. With improper handling, poor quality ammunition, or irregular maintenance, that number can drop dramatically.

Even from light usage, some parts will simply wear out over time. In the modern world, you can order replacement parts and perform the necessary maintenance on your own. But, without access to fresh parts, a firearm can easily wear out long before its official life cycle is up.

Once you’re more than 5-15 years from the collapse, you’re going to see surviving firearms wearing out. This will affect more mechanically complex firearms, and ones with extremely tight tolerances first. So, modern pistols like the H&K USP, or SIG P220 series pistols will fail long before 1911s or revolvers. This is one of the rare moments when all of that, “AKs are indestructible,” stuff pays off. While you won’t find many in North America, the overall design is incredibly resilient to abuse, with some notable exceptions.

The further you get from the collapse of civilization, the fewer pre-collapse firearms and ammunition you’ll find. That does not mean you’ll stop seeing guns.

At a basic level, the mechanical concept of the gun is fairly simple. Modern firearms add many useful features which are more mechanically complex, and very useful. But they aren’t necessary for producing a functional firearm.

Anyone with access to a high school shop room, and some skill in metalworking can assemble a crude, but functional, firearm. In an emergency, you could even rig up a zip gun with an appropriate diameter pipe, nail, and rubber band. Compared to commercially produced guns, these would be dangerous to operate, inaccurate, and unreliable. But, it is a gun. For someone with a basic mechanical understanding of firearms, revolvers, simple blowback semi-auto designs, and open bolt fully automatic configurations should be easy enough to build.

This doesn’t address the availability of ammunition, but let’s talk about what ammo starvation and depletion means for a weapon first.

Remember, the metric you asked about was “useful.” So long as you have ammunition for a gun it is useful. A character who begins the story with a .44 magnum and 5 rounds, with no ability to replace them, still has a useful weapon. They just need to be more careful about how they use those bullets than someone with a 9mm, 120 rounds, and the ability to replace them every time they go to their car.

With that in mind, post-collapse weapons will be less useful than commercially produced ones. They’ll be less accurate and reliable. The same thing applies for ammunition.

Just like guns, bullets age. It’s not something that comes up very often, but the chemical propellants break down over time. Most of the time, you’ll never even need to think about it. If you buy a box of bullets, you’re probably planning to use them (eventually), not stick them on a shelf for 20 to 30 years.

Properly stored ammunition can last for close to a century, but in a hot and humid environment with poorly stored rounds, you could start seeing issues with the primers in as little as a decade.

In a post-collapse environment, where the entire ammunition ecosystem is gradually aging out, this is a consideration. Especially as you move further from the collapse. Your characters can’t simply dig up a cache of bullets from a survivalist’s root cellar and expect them to work.

You’ll note, I’m not even talking about the possibility of running out, there’s a reason for that. Ammunition is fairly easy to make on your own. Handloading (the practice of making your own bullets) is fairly simple and straightforward, with the right equipment. Getting powder and primer in sufficient quantities could pose an issue. Shell casings and suitable material for the bullets would also be, but the former are technically reusable, and the latter can be substituted in if nothing better was available.

So long as a character has the technical understanding, and access to raw materials, they should have the ability to make their own ammunition.

All of this favors characters who have an established base of operations, and specialize. Someone fabricating guns, and another loading brass, could reasonably equip a fortified settlement, but the tools and equipment necessary for this aren’t portable.

As you move further from the collapse (from decades to centuries), you’re more likely to see new settlements and factions rebuilding. Which, in turn means you’d probably see newer firearms approaching, or reaching, modern standards.

The examples that comes to mind quickly are Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt, and the Metro series by
Dmitry Glukhovsky. That said, there is a lot of post-apocalyptic literature, out there. It was a persistent sub-genre for much of the cold war, for somewhat obvious reasons. So there is a lot of material to choose from.

-Starke

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Hello, so, for a story I want to write, I want one of the characters to use a “shotgun gauntlet” where the barrel is placed on the back of the hand, and it’s fired by closing the fist. My question is, how plausible/effective would that be?

I’m not sure about shotguns, but a couple hundred .38 caliber, glove-mounted, punch guns were issued by the US Navy in World War II. As far as I know, none of them ever saw use in combat. The design expected you to actually throw a punch, the force of the impact would depress the trigger and fire.

Because of how short the barrel would be, you’d basically be restricted to putting barrel close to, or direct contact with, the victim. To be fair, shotgun shells are (comparatively) low power, so it’s not any less viable than a .38 cartridge.

The big downside with these things was, you couldn’t use them at range and they were single shot (with a cumbersome reloading process).

So, no, these are real, they’re just not very useful. They are an interesting historical curiosity, though.

-Starke

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Is the use of airguns in the original Sherlock Holmes novels realistic for that time period, if you wanted to write something set around that time? It’s Colonal Moran’s weapon of choice in a couple of the stories.

The only one I remember is The Adventure of the Empty House, but it’s been awhile. I’d say it’s not accurate, but the only real issue is a minor nitpick. My impression is that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never actually saw one being used, and was using a third party account for how they sounded.

Pneumatic rifles date back to the late sixteenth century, and saw use as an alternative to black powder weapons into the early 20th century. Prior to the mid-19th century, they were extremely rare, but somewhere around the 1840s, they started to catch on.

Actually researching early air rifles is a bit of a pain. Because of the rarity, and because they don’t tend to survive the way black powder weapons have, and surviving documentation is vanishingly rare. As a result, I’m honestly not certain of their entire history when it comes to actual military use.

They made an excellent weapon for
clandestine snipers. They’re not completely silent, but they make far
less noise and lack a muzzle flash to betray the shooter’s location.

Moran’s background actually dovetails into exactly the kind of person who would have been trained, and had experience in their use. He saw action along the border between India and Afghanistan serving as a marksman.

I’m actually going to step back and explain this, Moran would have served in what’s now Pakistan (and Afghanistan), however the nation of Pakistan was founded in 1947. When the books were written that territory was still part of India. So, if you’ve been reading the stories and wondered why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle seemed to think Kabul was in India… well, it was.

The individual military actions he was involved in were historically accurate. I’m guessing this would have been more recognizable, and lent the character additional credibility when the story was published. A century later, and I need to check the internet to figure out where he served.

It’s also probably worth saying, we’re not talking about a BB gun. While I don’t know what Moran’s rifle was specifically, and Doyle never seemed to specify, it’s entirely possible he was firing a .70 bullet at somewhere around 300m/s. (It’s slightly more likely it was somewhere in the .40 to .50 range, but still, a substantial bullet that can easily kill someone. For reference, a .45 ACP round has a muzzle velocity of around 260m/s.)

Moran’s rifle was firing bullets, but dart and bolt firing air guns did (and do) exist. Dart guns are still frequently used when attempting to tranquilize an animal from range.

These days, large bore air rifles still exist, and are still rare. They have a niche market as emergency survival tools, for people who are afraid they’ll live through the end of the world. As sniper tools, the advent of modern suppressors and subsonic ammunition have rendered them mostly obsolete.

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was writing, rifles like the one he described did exist. They were used like that. Moran has the correct background to select the air rifle as the right tool for the job at hand. They were odd and a little exotic, but it does all fit together.

They’re just going to make an audible snap, not a whirring noise.

Something that never comes up in the material is that air rifles that operate from a reservoir lose power as they’re fired. It doesn’t matter if it’s feeding from a CO2 tank, or being pumped by hand. Your first shot will be more powerful than your subsequent ones. This is because you’re relying on the pressure in the reservoir to propel your bullets. Each shot vents some of that gas, lowering the pressure, and with it the force behind your next shot. This isn’t an issue with rifles that use a spring mechanism to propel the bullet. Those will be consistent between shots, but require the user to manually charge the weapon before each shot.

-Starke

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About how heavy is the heaviest gun a person would still be able to carry around and use by hand?

My off hand estimate would be around 20lbs. This one’s actually going to vary pretty wildly because the weight limit has more to do with how much you can lift and carry comfortably, than some hard limit. Also, there are plenty of firearms that are man portable, but require setup. The .50 Barret comes to mind, and that’s a 32lb gun.

Ideally, you want your rifle to weigh less than 10lbs, and your pistol to weigh less than 3lbs. This isn’t so much a human limit as what’s comfortable for most people to use easily.

Something that’s actually worth remembering is that the weight of the weapon actually works in your favor for controlling recoil. A heavier gun will have more mass, meaning perceived recoil will be lower. It’s a detail that can be difficult to appreciate until you’ve fired a variety of weapons.

-Starke

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