Tag Archives: guns

I’ve seen you write some really great in-depth things about firearms and most of it goes way over my head. There are words that I recognize as having to do with guns, and I have no idea what they mean. Any chance you could give kind of a brief Guns And Characters That Shoot Them 101 crash course for those of us who might work with characters that use guns and don’t want to sound like idiots while writing them, but aren’t necessarily going into the nitty-gritty details of gunfighting scenes?

Let’s see what I can do. Fair warning, there’s probably going to be a few very minor technical inaccuracies. I’m typing this off the top of my head.

Gun: pretty much any gunpowder based weapon. This includes both hand weapons and artillery. It does not (normally) include weapons that fire self-propelled ordinance, such as a missile launcher.

Gunpowder: This is actually a catch all term. Early gunpowder (now called “black powder) was mixed from saltpeter (potassium nitrate), charcoal, and sulfur. Modern firearms use variations of smokeless powder, originally developed in the late 19th century. Black Powder is still used with some antique and replica weapons.

As an academic distinction, it’s worth pointing out that gunpowder isn’t actually explosive, it just burns very aggressively, which results in the expansion of gas and bushing the bullet into motion. Unburned powder that remains in the gun is a persistent headache in gun design, and why guns need to be cleaned frequently.

A tiny amount of an explosive, called the Primer, is used to get the powder burning. Historically this has included substances such as picric acid and nitroglycerin. I believe modern primers use lead styphnate, but I’m honestly not sure, off the top of my head.

Cartridge: The entire package of a bullet, powder, and primer. In modern weapons, the container itself is referred to as a shell casing. The shell casing can also be referred to as a shell or casing, independent of the other.

Shell casings are sometimes referred to, idiomatically as “brass” because it is the most common material, though aluminum and other soft metals are used.

Idiomatically, shotgun cartridges are referred to as shells. Historically these were frequently made from paper. Modern shells use corrugated plastic, color coded to denote the contents.

After having been fired, a cartridge (or shell) is referred to as “spent.”

Firearms/Small Arms: Firearms, primarily refer to handheld gunpowder weapons. Small Arms refer to guns with a bore diameter (literally the size of the barrel) smaller than an inch.

Bore: This is the literal hole in the center of the barrel, that the projectile(s) travel through.

Chamber/Battery: Both terms are technically correct. This refers to where the bullet resides when the weapon is ready to fire. If a weapon’s chamber is empty, it is impossible to fire it.

Chambered: Both the state of a round being in the chamber, ready to fire, and a term that refers to the cartridge size a firearm has been designed to accept. Examples: “Chambered in .308.” “It has a round chambered.”

Incidentally, “rechambering” a weapon refers to changing the rounds a weapon will accept, removing a round and loading a fresh one is cycling (see below). Rechambering a weapon usually involves replacing the barrel, action, and magazine. Though it can be more involved if alternate parts aren’t available.

Action: The mechanical systems that clear and replace the bullet in the chamber whenever the weapon is fired. We’ll come back to this with a couple varieties in a bit.

Cycle: The actual process of the action functioning. Depending on the firearm, this can either occur automatically with each trigger pull, or it can require a direct user input.

Receiver: The physical housing that holds the action.

Hammer: a physical component behind the pistol which strikes the firing pin. Not all firearms have one.

Bolt: This is the component that actually locks the cartridge in the chamber, when the weapon is ready to fire.

Firing Pin: This is a small metal cylinder pin which (in modern firearms) strikes the back of the cartridge, detonating the primer, igniting the powder. Usually this is a separate articulated component, though some weapons have a simple stud soldered onto the bolt.

Open Bolt/Closed Bolt: This refers to which configuration the weapon fires from. Technically the bolt needs to be closed in order to actually get the bullet moving.

With an open bolt design, the act of dropping the bolt will detonate the primer. This is primarily used with fully automatic weapons (see below). The bolt will fall, igniting the primer, recoil will send the bolt back, and the return spring will cause it to close, firing again.

Magazine: This is where rounds are stored inside of the weapon, before firing. The action will extract a round from the magazine each time it is cycled. Depending on the firearm, this may be removable.

Clip: A device used to load a firearm’s magazine. This is NOT interchangeable terms. Usually these are short metal strips that grip the base of the shell, though speedloaders for revolvers sometimes qualify as clips.

Clips can be used with modern weapons to quickly reload box magazines, but they’re somewhat uncommon.

If the firearm’s reloading process involves loading the rounds and then ejecting the clip, that’s, well, a clip. If the reloading process involves removing an empty container, and loading a fresh one, that’s a magazine.

Few things will irritate someone with firearms training faster than mixing these terms up.

Rifles: The term actually refers to two separate things. Rifling are mildly spiraling lands and grooves cut into the barrel of a gun. This prevents the bullet from tumbling once it leaves the barrel, and massively improves accuracy. Rifles originally referred to any firearm that featured a rifled barrel. However, the term is no longer inclusive, because handguns and other non-rifles include rifled barrels.

Handgun: A smaller version of a firearm that can be operated with one hand. This term is inclusive of several different varieties of firearm. It should be noted: you should not use a handgun one handed, but it is possible.

Pistol: This refers to nearly every handgun, except revolvers.

Revolver: A firearm that rotates to feed rounds into the chamber. Most often this refers to handguns, though some grenade launchers also use a revolver design. Revolver rifles, carbines, and shotguns exist, but are rare. There is a small gap between the cylinder and the barrel, which tends to vent burning powder when fired, which makes revolvers with a fore grip unpleasant to use. That is to say, they’ll try to set your shirt or arm on fire.

Shotgun: This refers to a weapon designed to handle unusually large cartridges, holding multiple projectiles. These are frequently smooth-bore (see below), but rifled shotguns do exist. In modern combat, shotguns are more characterized by their ability to accept a wide variety of projectiles to accommodate different situations. Shotguns can be loaded with everything from water (disruptor shells), to grenades (FRAG-12s).

Smooth-Bore: A barrel without any rifling. Most common with shotguns. This favors projectiles that will somehow self stabilize (such as flechette darts, yes, it’s another shotgun shell variety), or fire multiple simultaneous projectiles (such as a shotgun).

Single Shot: This refers to a weapon that can be fired once, and then must be reloaded. This includes muskets and some shotguns.

Semi-Automatic: A non-revolver firearm that will fire a round with each pull of the trigger until the magazine is depleted. Critically, the weapon must do this automatically as a result of firing. If a weapon needs to be manually cycled, such as a bolt or lever action, it is a repeater, and not semi-automatic. In any case where “automatic” is paired with another word, it can be abbreviated as “auto.”
Automatic: A firearm that will fire multiple rounds with each pull of the trigger. Also sometimes referred to as Fully Automatic. Idiomatically, semi-automatic pistols are sometimes referred to as “Automatics.” This is incorrect on a technical level, but the actual meaning is, usually, understood.

Burst Fire: An automatic firearm that fires a specific number of rounds with each pull of the trigger and then stops. Three round burst settings are the most common, though two round burst weapons have proven popular in some circles.

Select Fire: An automatic firearm that can be switched between multiple fire configurations. Most often this allows switching the weapon between semi-auto and full auto, or semi-auto and a burst fire setting. Select fire almost always includes a semi-auto setting. It can include multiple other settings, including (rarely) both 2 and 3 round burst settings.

Single Action: A firearm where pulling the trigger will not cock the hammer. This is intermittently used as a safety feature on modern handguns. It is also somewhat common among sport revolvers, and antique revolvers.

Single Action firearms often have a much lighter trigger pull (the force needed to draw the trigger and fire the weapon). This allows for greater accuracy. It also allows automatics to be carried with a round in the chamber and the hammer down, without risk of the weapon firing as a result of an errant trigger pull. It’s still shouldn’t happen with safe weapon handling, but it is another safety feature.

Double Action: A firearm where pulling the trigger will cock the hammer. Almost all revolvers intended for practical use include this. It’s inclusion with semi-automatic pistols varies widely.

The complicated issue with single and double action handguns comes from semi-auto pistols. When the slide cycles, it will recock the hammer, this means a single action pistol can be fired repeatedly, without having to manually recock the hammer.

SAO/DAO: Single Action Only/Double Action Only. These terms get applied to pistols because there are pistols designed to switch between single and double action based on a variety of control parameters.

For example: pulling the slide back ~1/4″ on a Walther P99 will switch it from single to double action, and vise versa. Though it also exists in SAO and DAO variants that remove this feature and lock the action in one of the modes.

Bolt Action: A firearm where the bolt must be unlocked and manually cycled by the user. This allows for substantially heavier loads than any other style of firearm. Though it is a popular configuration for hunting and varmint rifles.

Lever Action: A firearm where the action is cycled by use of a lever, usually mounted under the handgrip. Originally these allowed for faster cycling than a bolt action weapon. These are fairly uncommon now.

Pump Action: A firearm that cycles the action by use of an articulated foregrip. This is normally seen on shotguns, though a few pump action rifle models probably exist.

Machine Gun: This refers to a fully automatic weapon. By itself the term is antiquated. Most often, when someone uses the term, they’re incorrectly referring to an Assault Rifle.

Assault Rifle: A select fire weapon chambered in an “intermediate” rifle round. Usually between 5mm and 6mm. Note: these do not always include full auto settings. The modern M16 variants can only be fired in semi-automatic or 3 round burst.

Battle Rifle: A select fire weapon chambered in a high power rifle round (roughly 7.6mm). This includes the M14 and AK47/AKM. Misidentifying a battle rifle as an assault rifle is… eh. It happens.

Carbine: A shortened rifle. Usually assigned for use in tight quarters, or vehicle crews. Historically these were also issued to cavalry. Sometimes issued to support personnel, depending on the military.

Light Machine Gun: Also sometimes referred to as a Squad Support Weapon is an unusually heavy automatic rifle intended for use in suppression. Sometimes abbreviated LMG.

Submachine Gun: An automatic weapon chambered to fire a pistol round. Sometimes abbreviated SMG.

Machine Pistol: A submachine gun that retains an overall pistol design. Informally, these terms can get mixed up pretty heavily.

Caliber: This is the imperial system of measuring bullet diameter. It’s expressed as a period with a two digit number. (EG: .45 or .38) This indicates the size of the cartridge in 100ths of an inch. So .50 is, roughly, half an inch in diameter. Additional digits beyond the first two denote differences in the cartridge, but not significant changes in the cartridge size. (EG: .308, .303, 30.06 are all .30 caliber rounds, roughly.)

Gauge: The imperial system for measuring the size of a shotgun shell. This one’s a little more idiosyncratic. It’s calculated based on the weight of a solid ball of lead, that barrel would accommodate. So 12 gauge will fit a single 1/12th pound ball of lead. This also means, as the gauge goes up, the size shrinks. 20 Gauge shells are significantly smaller than 12 gauge, for example. This is abbreviated as “ga”, so “410ga” would indicate a 410 shell.

Millimeter (mm): The metric system for measuring the size of a bullet. Usually expressed as a simple value. (EG: 9mm or 5.56mm). When multiple cartridges exist that are of similar sizes, other terms will be applied. (Technically, this also occurs with calibers. For example: .357 Magnum, and .357 SIG.) With metric measurements, the length is frequently added to distinguish two similar rounds, (for example: 9x19mm vs 9x18mm) or some other distinguishing characteristic. (for example: 9mm Parabellum vs 9mm Makarov). Usually you do not need to include both together. For example: 9x19mm Parabellum would be redundant, because 9mm Parabellum is a 9x19mm round.

Grain: The amount of powder loaded with a bullet. (Literally, an archaic unit of measurement.) Bullets in a specific caliber are usually available with multiple grain variants. For example: .45 ACP is commercially available anywhere from 185 grain to 230 grain.

Handload: The act of manufacturing your own bullets. Also a term for non-standard rounds produced this way.

Load: A term for the individual characteristics of a round that go beyond the size of the bullet. This includes the grain, and may include the kind of bullets (see below).

Magnum: A term denoting an unusually high grain load. Most commonly associated with the .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum rounds. Though other magnum rounds exist.

Ball: A bullet with a rounded tip. The most common kind of ammunition for handguns.

Hollowpoint: A bullet with a divotted tip. On impact, it causes the bullet to expand flattening. In a human body, this can sometimes sheer apart, and can cause catastrophic internal damage.
While illegal, an individual can add a small high explosive to the tip of a hollowpoint round, converting it into an improvised high explosive round. The most commonly available materials that would react appropriately are primers.

Wadcutter: A bullet with a flat tip. Usually employed in target shooting, to create clean holes in targets.

[Material] Jacketed: Frequently copper, though other soft metals are sometimes used. This is used to partially shield the user from the bullet’s lead, and the associated health risks.

[Material] Core: Most often, the material is steel, though spent uranium (in this case, spent is a nuclear term, not the firearms meaning), is an exotic variant. The core will push through materials that would stop normal bullets. Lead shields the core from the barrel. (Firing a steel slug from a firearm would shred the rifling, so the softer metal contacts the metal.)

Tracer: A pyrotechnic round that ignites on contact with air and shows the shooter exactly where the round went. These are also mildly incendiary, and can start fires if they connect with something flammable on the other end.

I’m not going to give a full list of what you can stick in a shotgun, because it’s a very long list. But, a few quick highlights.

Buckshot: Ball bearings, usually lead or steel.

Slug: A single, solid, bullet.

Flechette: A steel dart, usually with fins to stabilize it in flight. Fired with a plastic sabot system that falls away once the dart is in the air.

FRAG-12: A small, impact detonated grenade, designed to be fired from a 12 gauge shotgun.

Flares: Commercial flare guns fire a low power 12 gauge shotgun shell. While you cannot load normal shotgun shells into a flare gun (it’s not designed for that kind of power, and will explode), 12 gauge flare shells can be loaded into a shotgun and fired. If the shotgun is semi-automatic the flare will probably not provide enough force to cycle the action, so the user will need to do that manually.

Dragon’s Breath: A shell loaded with a mix of oxygen igniting metals. Metallic Sodium and Potassium are most common. This creates the effect of the shotgun blasting flames.

I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface, and I know I’ve missed a few things. I’ll try to remember to revisit this in the near future.

Hope this helps some of you get started.

-Starke

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Is the 21-foot rule a myth? (According to the YouTube channel Node, if you are 21 feet away from someone with a undrawn gun, someone can run at them with a knife and win.)

I’ve heard varying distances on this one, the most common is 2 meters, 8-10 feet which came from Michael Janich when he was discussing using a gun for self-defense. The short answer is: no, it’s not a myth. The length varies, but it is true.

Guns are ranged weapons.

They are very powerful weapons and they are terrifying, but they do not confer automatic victory. If you can’t get the gun out in time, then the gun is worthless and someone can reach you before that happens then it’s over. It does take time to draw, sight, and shoot. Training for precision shooting in close quarters will negate it some and should be necessary for anyone looking to use a gun for self-defense, but one of the major concerns for the self-defense community (particularly when advocating for guns) is that the hand to hand component is neglected along with teaching how to defend and create the time necessary to reach the gun.

Training tends to create a mindset where the student automatically reaches for the gun, but in cases like a mugging or where the altercation happens in very close ranges then that mentality can get a person killed. The aggressor is on them before they have time to pull the gun, the action of reaching for it opens up vulnerable parts of their body, and they get stabbed.

If the weapon is not in your hand or you don’t have time to draw it, then it’s useless. This is true of all weapons, they all come with situational weaknesses. Whether it’s the pepper spray that ended up at the bottom of your purse or the rifle caught on the doorframe or the handgun still in its holster, it doesn’t really matter.

Assuming any person will automatically win because of their weapon is fooling themselves and guns are no different. They’re tools, very dangerous tools, and must be respected for the damage and misery they cause when used inappropriately (or even appropriately) but it’s up to their user to keep them in a position where they keep their advantage.

This is why the answer to every versus question is: probably with a side of “if”. Everything about combat is conditional to the people involved, the situation, and what actually happens. You prepare as best you can, but you can’t prepare for everything and it’s never really very simple.

All combat rules can be subverted. Every weapon advantage can be turned to a disadvantage depending on change of situation and scenery.

The problem that comes in with a lot of writers is the assumption that they give Character X a weapon then they are only conferring X skill set. Which, no.

The person with the knife within the 8 foot range will only win in the bullrush/stab if the person with the gun automatically reaches for their weapon. If they instead choose to go into hand to hand, manage to deflect the knife or draw a knife of their own that they are carrying (and many military types do), then the situation changes. They fight them in hand to hand, create an opening with which they can draw their gun, disengage, get to distance, and then they shoot.

Combatants do not train on just one weapon.

People are limited by what they’ve learned and what kinds of combat they’ve been taught or the situations their prepared for. If the self-defense courses you take only prepare you for the mugger who leaps out of the bushes, then you won’t be ready for the one who politely asks for the time or the uncle/father/brother/sister/mother/cousin/trustworthy friend of the family who takes your wrist. Train only in point shooting for self-defense, then you’re at a loss when they’re already inside hand to hand range.

The key thing here to remember is: people and people are what is usually forgotten when constructing scenarios. A person who wants to hurt you is going to assess the situation and make decisions based on what’s best for them or will lead to the most likely outcome for success.

If you see a person carrying a gun and you only have a knife, you have two choices. You can either walk away (then, the gun has done what it has supposed to and acted as a deterrent) or you can try to figure out how to negate the gun from the scenario.

You (and your characters) need to look at a situation and ask: how can I win?

This is why many characters in fiction end up acting in ways that are unrealistic or make no sense because they’re behaving on either assumed statistical differences or the author is looking at the situation from the outside in. Look at it from the inside out. If one plan doesn’t work, then come up with another one.

You can’t take the gun in a head to head if it’s already in their hands and if you can’t reach them, but if they haven’t realized what’s coming yet? Oh yes.

Mindset. Planning. Psychology.

Weigh the consequences of failure versus victory. Is it worth it? Is it not? What do you need to do? The aggressor usually has the advantage over the defender. They have the initiative, the advantage of surprise, and they’ve already made the decision and committed to their course of action. The defender has to play catch up. This is the major reason why good self-defense programs focus on identifying threats and teaching its students how to look unappealing as victims while avoiding common traps. A situation that ends before it begins is a victory all by itself.

-Michi

Any tips for writing guns + gun scenes ?

Guns are ranged weapons.

No, really, people forget this one a lot. A gun, whether it’s a pistol, a rifle, or a gattling gun, is meant to be used at range. If the opposing person is within eight to ten feet from the person with the gun and the gun is still in its holster, they won’t have time to clear it before they’re reached. The advantage of the gun is distance. If your character is using their gun at close range, then they are making a mistake. If your character is pressing a semi-automatic pistol against another character’s body, then they are (usually) going to be disabling the pistol. On most semi-automatics, pressing the slide back will unseat the battery (the chamber that holds the bullet about to be fired), and it will temporarily disable the weapon.

This is actually one of the main issues with the gun as a self-defense weapon. Most self-defense situations happen within the eight foot range, usually within grabbing distance. Reaching for the gun first is a great way to get killed if they’re too close.

The gun is not some ultimate god weapon or instant win button. In all it’s types, they very effective and dangerous. However, like any weapon, they also come with disadvantages and situations where they don’t shine. This is the main reason for training with and carrying different kinds of guns, and also different kinds of weapons such as knives and training in hand to hand.

There are many different kinds of guns and they all come with their own quirks

“Guns” is a very broad term for a very large variety of weapons. When I say it, I usually think of semi-automatic pistols but really if you’re also thinking assault rifle, shotgun, black powder pistol, machine gun, or blunderbuss, you wouldn’t be wrong. This is long before we leave general categories and get into sub categories like compact, sub compact, automatic, semi-automatic, pump action, and different manufacturer. Many writers (including me when I’m lazy) will use terms like “gun”, “pistol”, or “rifle” to convey a general term and, you know, that works with characters how have no idea how to tell a Glock 17 from a Colt 1911 to a Smith & Wesson. However, if you’re writing a character who owns a gun, then they should probably know what it is.

There’s a wide range of variety amongst the different manufacturers. Not all pistols will carry the same amount of ammunition. Different manufacturers are popular in different areas of the country. While the Glocks are very popular amongst law enforcement groups in the United States, for example, each precinct has their own preferred standard. It varies, sometimes wildly.

So, do your homework.

You want to write about characters using guns, then you need to research them. Find out how they work, find out how to care for them, find out different scuttlebutt, research the different pistols you see characters using in movies and television shows. Research the history behind those weapons, see if the production staff has ever offered up any particular information on why they picked those particular ones and not others. You can use a character’s choice in their weapons to communicate character traits and their combat preferences. Source the real world information on it. That way, you can make executive decisions and you sound more like you know what you’re talking about. (You do!)

Besides, you’ll never know if you never look. One part of being a writer is the acceptance of being a student. Go through gun manuals at your library. Learn about the different kinds. Visit a gun range. Take a few lessons. You don’t ever have to like guns or approve of them, but you should make an effort to figure them out. (Yes, some handguns have a safety that’s a button, some have a switch, and some don’t have them at all.)

Never fire until it’s empty

Continuously firing until you run out of ammunition is a Hollywood trope and a mistake made by people who don’t know how guns work. You don’t drive your car until it runs out of gas. Don’t get caught trying to shoot someone with an empty gun. Also, save those magazines for later, don’t just toss them on the ground, bullets, and magazines, are expensive to replace.

Count your bullets

Your characters can’t really keep track of their enemy’s bullets (and if you’re writing from their perspective you shouldn’t either honestly, not having a full picture of what what the enemy is doing keeps them worrying and tension high), but they should try to keep in mind how many they have.

One bullet is not enough

If you’re going to shoot someone, then shoot them several times. This usually means three to five times to center mass, or until they stop moving. A single bullet is not a guarantee that they are out of the fight. People are durable, they can take quite a bit of punishment and keep going. Guns are not magic, neither are bullets. So, don’t get cocky.

The sign of skill is not in how few bullets a character needs to get their job done, it’s in how efficiently they work and how well they cover their ass. Their ability to close off alternate avenues, to lock their opponent into a predictable path, and finish them off at minimal risk to themselves. A character who is ignoring basic procedure because they think the rules don’t apply to them is an idiot. Yes, the rules still apply to them. Yes, they should probably shoot that guy or girl several times to make sure he’s/she’s down. If they aren’t doing that, then there should probably be consequences.

The bullets have to end up somewhere

So, where are they? Bullets will continue to travel until they hit something. A responsible shooter tries to ensure they don’t hit someone unintended in the process. Bullets go through walls, car doors, and plenty of other objects. Fire randomly into a crowd and you will hit someone, though probably not the one you wanted. Blow through and overpenetration are real issues. Shoot someone with the big ass hand cannon and you may end up hitting someone in the next room. It could be a friend, family member, or random stranger. Manslaughter is still manslaughter. If your character is going to shoot at a burglar, it’s best if they don’t accidentally murder the neighbor’s cat. (Or their neighbor.)

This is all a really fun way of saying: not only do accidents happen, there’s a element of random chance at play no matter who you are. As the writer try to keep track of ammunition spent and where it landed.

Don’t shoot into the sky

What goes up, must come down. Falling bullets can still kill you, protagonist or not, or anyone close to you. This is a real problem that affect real (stupid) gun owners in real life who have watched too many action movies.

If you must fire a warning shot then, please, aim at the ground. It’s safer. Shrapnel will still be a problem and the bullet could bounce, but at least your character has some idea of which direction it went.

Go to a gun range

I didn’t really become comfortable with writing guns until Starke took me shooting. Not until I actually held one (several, actually) in my hands. Practicing on different ones really hammers in the idea that they don’t all feel the same or fire the same, and how loud they are.

In the end, the best teacher is experience. Now, there may be extenuating circumstances for why you personally can’t do this but it’s something everyone should consider.

The best way to develop skill at writing about anything is to learn about it and go in with an open mind. Make an effort. You will be rewarded with knowledge.

-Michi

Not completely sure if anything like this has been asked before, but I’m writing YA Fantasy and I’d like to involve more sword fighting in it (completely *no guns involved*), even though it’s set in modern-ish times. Can you think of any possible reasons why guns can’t be used/would be useless?

The big one that’s usually pulled out is magic. The idea is that magic and technology don’t play nice together. Dresden Files (and most of the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genre), Shadowrun, and Arcanum, all make use of this concept to varying degrees. It’s not that guns are technically no longer useful, it’s that they don’t work when faced with magic and thus magic users/fantasy monsters have no reason to use them/are incapable of using them. It’s an either/or situation.

Your characters are going dragon hunting or finding a troll in the sewers, then they probably aren’t going to bring guns with them. They’ll take an enchanted sword or any other necessary equipment for dealing with the threat. This will expand out to the mass majority of society. Your police officers will probably still keep their guns for dealing with non-magical threats, but may also carry a silver sword or whatever else they need to subdue the now magical threats their job requires them to deal with. You don’t actually need a special department for that either. It’s just that there are now psychics, telepaths, and magical knights on the Force. The major thread here is that people will adjust, society will adjust, and it will go on.

Also, if you don’t know that the cop you’re character is dealing with is a telepath, then life in general just got a whole lot more interesting.

This one is very common in the genre, though. One of the others is that magic was gone for a long time and society developed without it, then it returned. This skips out on having to explain how society developed without guns but also can lead to a more post-apocalyptic setting environment due to all your comforts (like cars and computers) no longer working.

You have Highlander, where it’s tradition. The sword is also the best way to ensure they get a clean beheading in their duels which allows them to take the other Immortals power. This doesn’t stop non-Immortals (and even some Immortals) from carrying or using guns, but it does mean you’ll most likely always see two Immortals dueling each other instead of using another alternative.

If you were wanting to excise just guns, then you’ve got a bit of a problem. The gun is directly related to technological and societal advancement. This includes the technological benefits that you are enjoying right now such as your computer, the internet, the car, and the socioeconomic changes of the past 400 years. The reason why feudal lords were able to keep control of their populations was because they had a monopoly on violence. The gun disrupts that monopoly. It creates a world where it no longer takes talent, training, or skill to kill a knight.

The British Empire. The United States. Colonialism in South America, Africa, India, the Middle East, and China, would all have looked very different, if it happened at all. Without guns, our modern world just isn’t the same.

I hate the butterfly metaphor from Chaos Theory, but the spirit of it holds weight here. You change one aspect of history and then, consequently, everything that hinged on it also changes. A good example of a narrative which explores this concept is Alan Moore’s Watchmen, if you read while having a solid understanding of American history/the Civil Rights era/the Vietnam War, etc, you can really see how the creation of Doctor Manhattan specifically changed the landscape of history. Starke suggested reading it with Where the Domino Fell by James Stuart Olsen and Randy W. Roberts, which is about Vietnam and American foreign policy after Vietnam. It’s a quick shot from 1945 to 2010. It’s also worth noting that Doctor Manhattan made the gun irrelevant, he also made nuclear weapons irrelevant and that endlessly perpetuated the Cold War.

I would read the comic before watching the movie because there’s a lot of little details that get lost, but if you really want to change history then I’d label Watchmen as required reading.

This is all me leading into to saying that whatever you do with your setting, it would be a good idea to start thinking about consequences. Not big consequences, the small every day consequences that lead into your sense of safety and security. Think about aspects of your life where instead of imagining “what would it be like if I had magic”, ask yourself “what would it be like if that person over there had magic and I didn’t”. What would life be like if we didn’t have a police force, or a fire department, or hospitals. Do you still go to the dentist when you have a toothache? Or do you visit the faith healer up the street instead? What proofing did the supermarket put in to keep the technomancers from screwing the barcode readers? Did the Department of Justice establish a special magic division? How does one keep telepaths and clairvoyants from cheating on their exams?

It’s questions about quality of life that usually result in the best worldbuilding. It’s not “what do I want it to be like”, it’s “if I changed this, what would be different?”, “what would the possible outcomes be?”, “how would people try to abuse the new systems?”, “how would other people stop them?”. The more questions you ask, the more answers you’ll find, then you can establish a sense of daily life in your setting which feels normal.

-Michi

If both guns and swords existed in a country, what would be a reason for people to mainly use swords?

Well, it depends on what kinds of guns you’re asking about. There’s the historical reason. While powerful, black power muskets and pistols (and the other variants from the 1700s-1800s) were slow to load and you only had one shot each. This made the gun useful as a battlefield weapon but impractical for use as a primary weapon as the slow loading times at close range meant you couldn’t reload in the heat of battle. In this scenario, the sword, the bow, and the crossbow remained preferable. But, this scenario requires guns that are in the early stages of development. If you’re asking: “why would someone choose to carry a rapier over a Colt 1911”, my answer is “Uh…? Can’t we have both?”.

Japan was one of the first countries to develop guns. However, they outlawed the gun because it threatened (the samurai) their social structure and disrupted their way of life. It’s important to note the Emperor’s decree did not stop other countries from developing guns and when ships from Europe and, eventually, America arrived in their harbor, they faced a distinct technological disadvantage.

Limited access to ammunition and the inability to replace it is one reason. Dystopian settings like Jack McDevitt’s Eternity Road, where the society is still using past technology but have lost the means to replicate it and have fallen back on older types of combat and weaponry they can fabricate.

The characters are facing monsters (alien, supernatural) that a gun cannot reliably put down is another. Warhammer 40k Marines and Imperial Guard often go into battle wielding both a bolt pistol and a chainsword because the bolt pistol cannot reliably put the monster down.

I hope that answers you’re question.

-Michi

forensicasks:

whiskey-wolf:

Cross Sections Of Various Ammunition

It’s what on the inside that counts

Let us number the ones which are illegal, and learn their names.

Note, there is a potential that I’ve got some of the names wrong. I’m not exactly the best person to ask about guns…nor do I particularly like them.

Hauge Conventions are the international legislations which dictate what form of ammunition/weaponry is allowed to be used during warfare. Most hollow point, soft point, and deliberately fragmentary rounds are illegal for warfare…but are allowed to be used in the civilian market, especially by police forces.

HOWEVER, higher velocity bullets (such as those common for usage in NATO country rifles) have a nasty tendency to fragment ‘by accident’ when they make impact.

Bottom row, left to right: Lead (not jacketed)- legal to own and allowed under the Hauge Conventions. The one pictured is likely for a revolver, such as the .455 British Service Webley.
I want to say the second one is a wadcutter (a form of revolver ammuntion used mostly for target shooting, as it punches really big ‘neat’ holes in things)

Next up from bottom, left to right: Glaser Safety Shot- US police forces use them, illegal under Hauge Conventions. The one pictured is copper jacketed. They’re essentially a marble capped container filled with buckshot.
Copper jacketed- Not entirely certain if it’s a hollow point or not.

Third row from bottom, left to right: Both forms of ammo seen on this row are banned under the Hauge Conventions. The one of the left appears both to be developed to be a hollow nose AND fragment…where as the other is a fragmentary round.
I’m actually interested, in the one on the right, given that you more commonly see ‘buckshot’ within shotgun rounds.

Fourth row from bottom: Rifle rounds, the lot of them. Other than that, I’m not certain on identifying them. One on the right is, once again, developed specifically to fragment, making it illegal under the Hauge Conventions.

Fifth row from the bottom, left to right: Copper jacketed- allowed under the Hauge Conventions. Likely for a 9mm pistol.
Hollow point- though given how deep the hollow is, I’m wondering if there’s not something specific to why it’s such a deep point.
Soft point- The metal at the top is thinner than the remainder of the body, the yellow ‘dot’ at the top is probably silicone. On impact, the tip of the bullet will expand out, increasing the caliber of the bullet drastically. Illegal under the Hauge Conventions

Top row, left to right: Again, this row is all rifle rounds of some variation or another.
I have no idea what the one on the far left is. It looks like a tracer round of some variation, but I’m not certain enough to say.
Fully jacketed (likely steel) bullet- legal to use under the Hauge Conventions.A wooden…rifle round….I’m mildly confused and can’t make comment on legality, not knowing caliber and bullet velocity

Fourth row, center looks like a flichette to me. Basically a steel dart. But, I’ve never heard of these being used in a rifle round without a sabot system.

-Starke

How Gun Silencers Really Work

How Gun Silencers Really Work

On Writing: Gun Safety

readingwithavengeance:

Few things will tick me off faster than improper gun safety in fiction.  Unfortunately, many authors fail to properly research guns, gun usage, and gun safety.  Guns are so ubiquitous in our culture that many people think that they already know all they need in order to write gun usage into a story, but what one picks up from cultural osmosis is even less accurate than your average summer blockbuster.

Deaths and injuries from gun accidents are distressingly high, and most of them could be prevented by following the three basic rules that every gun user is taught (assuming they go to a professional class). 

Read More

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.

-Starke

If in the near future, guns were not preferable for some reason, what would a sword made with modern technology and practices look like and what would it be capable of?

I’m sorry, if you really want an answer to this, “for some reason” will have to be a lot more specific. The short version is; I don’t see swords coming back into use anytime in the near future.

The only situation I can think of, in a modern setting, where a sword would be preferable, is if you were dealing with things that could take an inhuman amount of damage without being affected, and where lopping body pieces off is the way to go. I’m thinking classic horror monsters, here. Even then, there are shotgun loads, and anti-materiel rounds for that kind of situation.

If you want a crash course in using firearms to hunt the supernatural, I’d recommend Ultraviolet, (the TV Series, not the film), about modern day vampire hunters, who’ve adapted modern technology to deal with vampires. They strap cameras to the ends of their guns, in order to quickly identify vampires (the whole, no reflections thing), load their weapon with pressed carbon fragmentation rounds (to effect the wooden stake through the heart), use gas grenades designed to respond to the chemical weakness in the old garlic folklore. In short, it’s a very inventive (and at six episodes, very short), look at how one can adapt modern technology to hunt monsters.

If you’re thinking of some kind of apocalyptic event, I’d refer you to Eternity Road by Jack McDevitt. It’s a post apocalyptic novel about a group that sets off from St. Louis into Canada in search of a lost archive of pre-plague books. The main thrust of the setting is that the printing press is lost technology, but firearms remain in frequent use.

The problem being; guns are incredibly easy to manufacture, and basic gunsmithing is common enough, and useful enough, that it’s unlikely to be lost.

On top of that, an apocalyptic event like that would snuff out most of the interesting things we’re seeing in modern forging technology.

If it’s a technology marches on, kind of situation, then there isn’t much that could really negate the bullet without making a sword equally useless.

On what we can actually do right now, the only thing that comes to mind is cryoforging; I suspect that’s a trade name. From what I understand it’s just a tempering process involving liquid nitrogen to quench the blade. It supposedly results in an improbably durable weapon that will keep its edge through almost any abuse you can throw at it. I’d take this with a grain of salt; the only material I’ve seen on it was from a company that was selling cryoforged katanas back around 2002.

On the “in the year 2000” side, it depends on what your setting has, nanotechnology might be an option. Pick your poison on what you want a nanotech blade to do. But it’s worth pointing out that in the real world, nanotech research has gotten mired pretty heavily in patent conflicts, and the entire field is at risk of stalling out.

Carbon Fiber Weave swords are another possibility, basically this is a plastic, but it’s fairly durable stuff. I don’t know if the current iteration of the technology can hold an edge in combat, but edgeless training swords have been around for years.

If you really want to play in that range, I’d say dig up all the William Gibson and Neil Stephenson you can stomach. They’re the architects of modern cyberpunk, and really almost required reading if you want to push the envelope of what can be done with technology. For Stephenson, I’d recommend Snow Crash, and Cryptonomicon. With Gibson, I think Neuromancer is the place to start. If I recall correctly, Snow Crash is the only one of those which really talks about a character using a sword. Still, if you haven’t read them yet, and this is the genre you’re looking at writing in, they’re all worth your time.

-Starke