Category Archives: Q&A

Q&A: Bayonets

Would it be useful or realistic to attach a knife to a gun? Would it be in anyway helpful in a fight in a smaller space or would it just get in the way and be unhelpful?

Well, that’s called a bayonet. They do exist. These date back to single shot firearms, where you’d be left without a functional weapon while reloading in an era when melee combat was still the norm. As with a lot of elements of military tradition and hardware, bayonets have massively outlived their usefulness.

Modern bayonets are (usually) functional combat knives with attachment points designed to lock onto a rifle. That said, some rifles do include integrated bayonets, which can be collapsed and stored on the gun.

Generally speaking, the only time you’d use a bayonet is when the rifle cannot be fired. Either because it’s out of ammunition, malfunctioning, or you’re in some incredibly specific situation where firing it would be a profoundly bad idea. Otherwise, even in close quarters, you’re better off pumping two or three rounds into someone.

Which leads back to the question about usefulness; not very. Detachable ones can be useful in the sense that you need a knife and just happen to be carrying one, but a well equipped combatant should have a knife or other cutting implement in easy reach regardless. In very rare circumstances, it’s a good augment for your rifle, but that’s more of an, “in theory,” consideration than a practical application.

Sticking a bayonet on a pistol (or revolver) isn’t a great idea. You’ll see these occasionally as novelty items, but you’d be better off simply bringing a separate knife. The one advantage a bayonet has, when it’s mounted on a rifle, is reach. Slapping one on a pistol makes the blade harder to control, without increasing its range.

-Starke

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Q&A: Retired Assassins

How realistic is it for the retired agent/spy/assassin to come back and kick just as much butt as they did years before? Does such training come back to you easily if you haven’t used it in a long while or will you be rusty enough to get killed?

Parts of this are realistic, others not so much.

If you’ve spent enough time training techniques, this stuff gets baked into the way you move. It’s not, “oh, I’ll do this to someone;” it’s just there. Training can also affect how you look at the world; this is true as a general statement on life, but it also applies here. Again, as with muscle memory, this is always there, always affecting how you view your surroundings and the people in them.

So, in that sense, yes. A veteran character coming back after years away from the job will still have their skills and training. Some of that will be rusty, but this stuff sticks with you. Especially if you were maintaining your training for years. That said, they’ll still get their teeth kicked in.

Ironically, one of the more realistic takes I’ve seen on this was in the middle seasons of 24. In the early seasons, the protagonist, Jack Bauer, is a federal counterterrorist agent. After the third season he’s basically on his own, and no longer a part of the agency that trained him. By the fifth season (about 3 years later) he’s at a point where he’s getting his ass handed to him by a security guard.

The problem is something we’ve explained, repeatedly. Hand to hand combat is not static. The training I got 20 years ago doesn’t apply now. It will work against untrained opponents. Basic physiology doesn’t change. However, going up against opponents who’ve been keeping their training up to date, (or are some of the people responsible for updating the techniques in the first place), is not going to end well.

Something I know we haven’t discussed on this subject is how this updating happens. It requires contact with people who are actually using their training practically. Seeing what people are doing isn’t something that you can do sitting on a mountain top. You need to actually be immersed in the community. You look for how people are adapting to the techniques you’re training others in, and look for ways to get around those counters.

In the case of law enforcement, one major source if intelligence to guide updates is watching what criminals are teaching each other in prison. Career criminals will look for ways to counter police hand to hand, and once they have that, will (usually) share it with people they work and/or socialize with.

A veteran coming in after years away may be able to execute their training perfectly, and still get taken down by a rookie who received their training last year, because they were trained to counter the veteran’s approach.

Updating is about looking for the things that are most prevalent, and finding ways to defend against them. It’s very likely your veteran will understand this concept. Whether that affects their behavior is more of a characterization question.

Incidentally, this doesn’t just apply to hand to hand, it’s also a relevant concept when you’re talking about things like tradecraft.

Tradecraft is the shorthand for techniques used in intelligence gathering. It’s (somewhat) all encompassing. So, anything from social engineering to dead drops or even the way you set up surveillance could be lumped in under this header.

Just like hand to hand training, this stuff does go out of date. Usually once someone’s actually exploited a method and gotten caught doing it. Though, sometimes it’s preventative.

The irony is, when it comes to being a spy, the biggest problem is being a veteran, not being out of practice. It’s being a veteran. When a spy starts their career, no one knows who they are, they have no reputation, they’ve never turned up in strange places, they’re just someone walking around, taking in the sights, maybe doing a job for some NGO.

Even if a spy is never caught, as they work, their name will start ending up on desks, in lists of witnesses, employees, or whatever. Once is not a pattern, but as their name keeps coming up over the years, it becomes easier to identify them. Potential enemies start keeping files, and gradually filling them with what they know. This means it is much harder for a veteran spy to operate in the field undetected, than it is for a rookie.

There’s a similar issue for assassins. Either they’re a complete ghost, no one knows who they are, and may not even believe they ever existed, or (more likely), if they were working for a government (or any other large, overt organization, like a corporation), they’re in the same boat as a veteran spy. People may not know your character is an assassin, but they will know that they worked for someone. Which in turn, will put them on guard, and make your character’s life much harder.

There are concepts a veteran will have internalized, which someone without training won’t understand or grasp. Thing that just don’t go out of style. For example, bullets will blow through most residential walls and furniture. So, if someone’s taking cover behind a couch, kitchen wall, or car door, it’s far more expedient to simply shoot through whatever’s in your way. Another concept is one I’ve mentioned recently, you reload when you have the time, not when you’ve run your gun dry.

Similarly, experience they’ve learned from may still be relevant. Being able to read someone’s intentions, know when they’re about to resort to violence, or simply knowing the value of good intelligence aren’t going to go away because your character spent the last five years pretending to be a well-adjusted human being.

-Starke

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Q&A: Shock

In film often when characters get stabbed/assaulted they can often continue to fight or don’t pass out immediately. How does adrenaline or shock factor into the physical reaction, especially when the character isn’t a cop or military and isn’t accustomed to being in these violent situations. How long would they be able to function before they crash? Is it possible to run away or even fight?

Taking these questions in reverse order: Yeah, kinda, sometimes, and it varies wildly, based on the injuries sustained. Also, it’s not the adrenaline crash that kills you.

Adrenaline rushes mean that you’re often unaware of injuries sustained in the moment. I’ve never been fully certain if adrenaline actually dulls the pain response, or if it simply causes your brain to ignore it. Either way, while you’re under an adrenaline rush you can suffer injuries and be unaware of them. It’s why you’ll sometimes see characters (and, for that matter, real people, with prior experience) checking themselves for injuries after combat (or any other traumatic event). It is entirely possible to be wounded and have no idea it’s happened until you’re trying to figure out where all that blood is coming from.

Depending on what you’ve just been through, coming down off an adrenaline rush can be deeply unpleasant. Your brain is sure something’s fucked up, but it can’t pin down exactly what or where, so it’s going to take that out on you, and everything aches. Adrenaline crashes won’t kill you. (There may be some weird outliers here for people with heart conditions, but, in general.) A crash may make you wish you were dead, or make you want to throw up on people, but it’s not lethal.

In the moment an adrenaline means that you can suffer (fairly severe) injuries and keep on fighting. If the injury doesn’t outright disable a limb, you can keep using it, even if that’s a very bad idea. Getting stabbed or shot is no guarantee that someone will sit down and peacefully bleed to death. Actually, shooting someone is a pretty good way to ensure they won’t sit down and bleed to death without protest.

When you’re trying to figure out how long it will take someone to die, you’re actually asking about how fast someone bleeds out. This relates directly to the injuries sustained. Someone who’s had a knife driven into their neck isn’t going to keep fighting. Someone who had it run through their bicep or buried in their shoulder blade, probably can.

We’ve covered blood loss before (and I strongly recommend you take a look at that tag, if you haven’t), but that’s the real factor here that controls if someone can fight. If they still have enough blood in their body to function. Lose too much, your ability to fight is impaired, and you’ll eventually fall unconscious and die.

Blood loss is why concepts like, “first blood,” are important in duels. Once that happens, the clock is ticking for that character; the longer the fight goes, the more their ability will decay, and unless they find a way to turn it around, they will die. (Even if they manage to prevail, they may still die without medical attention.)

Fighting through a stab wound is a fantastically bad idea. Engaging in any physically strenuous activity that raises your heart rate, (for example: fighting someone, or running away), will speed up blood loss, meaning impairment kicks in sooner. Still, the point of adrenaline is to keep you functional after sustaining an injury, so that you can survive.

If someone suffers an injury which disables them in some way, such as breaking an arm, there’s no powering through that. Adrenaline won’t let you override shattered bones. The biomechanical pulley system of muscles and tendons simply doesn’t work with broken bones.

So, the short answer is, “yeah, kinda.” You can keep fighting after being attacked. So far as it goes, there’s plenty of cases where someone took a stray bullet and kept on fighting, only to bleed to death later.

-Starke

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Q&A: Practical Wear

What makes an outfit practical or impractical to fight in? Would an acrobat’s outfit with some decent shoes be okay to fight in? Any suggestions on how to make an outfit frilly/girly without sacrificing (too much) practicality? (Trying to come up with practical[ish] Magical Girl outfits – know it’s not your genre probably – there are certain expectations for frilliness even for tomboyish characters)

You’re, basically, looking for three things: How well can you move in it, does it give potential foes anything to grab, and does it offer any protection?

If you can’t move freely in your clothes, you can’t fight in them. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about them being tight enough to restrict movement, or if they make it difficult to walk around. Tight skirts, high heels, tailored suits; it doesn’t matter; they’ll all limit your ability to fight.

With footwear, you’re looking primarily at how well you can stand and move in it. Shoes and boots designed to grip the floor are (usually) the best options here. So, things like sneakers or work boots are good options. Rubberized soles will help you keep your footing far better when you’re standing in someone’s blood than a dress shoe or high heels.

Things like long coats, ties, free flowing skirts, scarves, hoodies, or of course capes, won’t usually limit your mobility, but they can give an opponent something to grab. Once that happens, that article of clothing will limit your mobility (some). This is also a factor that’s difficult to completely eliminate. Practiced martial artists can, and do, go for collar or lapel grabs on clothing you might think would pass. That said, there are some special cases here.

If the article of clothing will tear away freely, it’s (kind of) a wash. You’re still talking about losing clothes, which isn’t usually something you want, but it means you’re not getting dragged out of position by an attacker.

If the combatant is ready for it, it’s possible to use something like this as a firing point to retaliate. If you know, roughly, where their hand is, it’s much easier to extrapolate where the rest of them is in relation to you. This still doesn’t make fighting in long flowing garments a good idea.

The final factor, almost by definition, doesn’t really apply with magical girls as a genre, and can get a little weird when you’re talking about any superhuman characters.

Ideally, if you’re planning to get into a fight, you’ll want durable clothing that will take a few hits, and hopefully shield you from harm. Materials like leather and denim hold up much better than lighter fabrics. Insulation in a jacket will take some kinetic force from a strike (not a lot, but still), so it’s better than just jeans and a tee, or even a denim jacket. This also gets into a discussion we’ve had before. Protection is often about making tradeoffs.

An insulated leather jacket will (slightly) reduce your mobility. It will give an opponent something they can grab. But, it will also offer protection from stray hits and while parrying incoming strikes. It won’t protect against gunshots, or against a sword, and if that’s what your character was likely to face, they’d need armor to deal with those threats instead.

Somewhat obviously, exposed skin isn’t offered any protection. Technically, skin itself is protection for your body, and it does function as your first line of defense against infection, but that’s mostly academic in this context.

This is also where, magical girls, and most superhero subgenres, deliberately start straying from reality, without actually being unrealistic (in the literary sense). What matters is if your character has some kind of protection from the threats they’re facing. It doesn’t matter if that’s an ancient alien artifact, a mystical gemstone, or the weaponized power of friendship. That is what protects your character, not her denim vest. You’re also talking about characters where the threats they face are, effectively, impossible to mitigate through mundane means. Again, a leather jacket, no matter how snazzy, won’t do much against a death beam from some snarling murderbeast, or blows from a sword with an enchantment that drains the soul from anyone who touches it. As I’ve said before, you select your armor to deal with the threats you’re likely to face, and when it comes to magical girls, those threats are (almost always) going to be far beyond anything you could physically protect against.

Normally, you wouldn’t want to fight off an arisen god of war in a school girl uniform, but it’s not like a flak vest would offer any more protection against a threat like that.

-Starke

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Q&A: Kicking the Magazine

How feasable and/or effective would it be to eject an empty handgun magazine and kick it (accuratley) towards an opponent from mid-fall during a close quarters fight (say a melee attacker rushing down a corridor towards the kicker)?

No, and no.

So, first thing is that, depending on the handgun, the magazine may not drop freely. This is a preference feature. Some people prefer to release the magazine and pull it free, while others prefer to allow the magazine to drop freely into their hand when ejected. There isn’t really a, “better,” option here. Both positions come down to what the user finds more intuitive and comfortable.

If you’re wondering, this isn’t something that’s likely to trip up an experienced shooter. Anyone who’s spent time on a variety of firearms should be able to adapt to the gun they’re handling. You can also tell if the magazine will drop away when you load a magazine; based on the amount of friction experienced.

Even with a pistol where the magazine can drop freely, you’re not going to want to literally drop the magazine on the floor, or kick it. Handgun magazines are expensive; Depending on the model of handgun, those could cost anywhere from $10 to over $100 (on some rarer pistols). (I was specifically looking at a Bren Ten magazine for the upper end of the spectrum, if anyone’s wondering.) If anyone’s thinking back to the Desert Eagle post from a couple months ago, those magazines will set you back a little under $50 each. You do not use these once and discard them.

You also don’t, usually, want to eject empty magazines. Much like your car, you never want to run a gun dry. While it’s fairly easy, in a controlled situation, or on a range to keep track of how many times you’ve fired, and to know the exact state of your weapon; this is much more difficult in a real firefight.

You reload when you think you might be getting low, or when you’ve got time and ammo to spare, you put the partial magazine in a different pocket from your fresh mags, and replace it with a fresh one. The last place you ever want to be is in a situation like the one you just described: staring at someone who wants to kill you with an empty gun in your hand.

Fresh mags are heavy. That is to say, depending on the gun, a fully loaded magazine can easily weigh more than a pound. Most of that weight comes from the loaded rounds; the magazine itself is just a thin plastic or metal shell to hold and feed them into the firearm. They’re really not designed to take much abuse, and depending on the magazine, may be somewhat fragile.

Under controlled circumstances, kicking a falling object is something that a practiced martial artist should be able to do easily. Putting it in the rough vicinity of where they want it is also quite doable. Being able to do either of these things in an actual combat situation, not so much.

This is the kind of stunt you’d expect to see in a John Woo film, (I’d be slightly surprised if he hasn’t done some variation of this), and I know I’ve seen it on film before, somewhere. It’s in that range of slightly ludicrous that plays well when you’re working with characters that are (at least) slightly superhuman. But, if you’re dealing with normal, mortal, characters, this is neither feasible nor effective.

-Starke

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Q&A: Unarmed Parry

How realistic is stopping a knife from killing you by grabbing the blade with your hands?

Kind of. It’s realistic in the sense that it can and does happen. At the same time, it probably won’t save your life. Knife wounds to the palms, (called, “defensive wounds,”) are fairly common when someone has been attacked by a knife wielding opponent. Usually, what happens is they’ll attempt to block the knife by putting up their hands, palms out, and their palms and fingers will take the initial assault. That I’m most familiar with the term from autopsies should say a lot about how well this usually works out for the victim.

If you’re dealing with a situation, where someone’s trying to stab you and your only option is to catch the blade with your hand, it is better than dying. However, it is also a very temporary solution, and one you can’t repeat after using. It’s also, probably, not your best option.

When you bleed, your body is trying to do two things; first clean the wound and expel any foreign objects in it, then seal the wound over to allow the tissue to heal. Fresh blood is aggravatingly slick. Once exposed to oxygen, blood becomes tacky and coagulates over the course of a few minutes. (Specific clotting times vary based on a number of factors. For example: if your character is an alcoholic, their blood’s ability to clot will be severely impaired.) It only remains tacky for a few minutes, and will then harden into a solid mass, so the window here is fairly narrow.

When you take a knife to the hand, you’re going to bleed all over your hand. That means your hands will get slick, and have a harder time gripping the blade. This is before you consider the part where your hand is actually getting cut to pieces. Eventually the blood will clot (whether you survive long enough to see this or not), at which point gripping the blade would become easier, but that’s not a realistic consideration because the fight won’t last long enough to get there.

As I’ve said before, your body functions on a kind of pulley system. Your muscles pull on tendons which in turn tense against your skeleton, causing your limbs to move. When you start cutting tendons, the pulley system starts to break down. Some of the most delicate pieces of this system are in your hands and feet. Start carving those apart, and your hand will not work. This isn’t an, “oh, I can force my way through on sheer willpower,” situation. The mechanical components critical to making your hands work will be damaged or destroyed. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh has been turned into butterflyed steak. Catching a knife with your hand will stop that strike, but it means your hand will not work again. Yes, if you survive, it can be repaired surgically, but that’s not going to keep you alive.

The better option, if you have sufficient manual dexterity to catch the blade is to catch your opponent’s wrist instead. Again, this isn’t a great position to be in, and wrist grabs are some of the weakest and riskiest holds, but it is far better than trying to grab their knife. Your arm or hand might get nicked by the blade, but that is vastly preferable to taking a direct blade to the hand. Going for the wrist is a legitimate strategy and a part of some knife fighting doctrine. Granted, your best option would be to maintain distance, and never let a knife wielder get close enough to attack, but that’s not always a practical option.

-Starke

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Q&A: Shot by pets

This might be a strange question, but how likely is it that an animal could accidentally discharge a modern pistol, (such as a Glock) disregarding the horrible gun safety violations it implies, such as the safety being off and the gun being loaded? I’ve heard of animals accidentally discharging firearms by knocking them onto the floor, but would the amount of force required to pull the trigger be too much for, say, a dog or cat? thanks for indulging my odd request.

It’s possible. I remember reading a news story a couple years ago about a hunter who was shot by his dog. He left his rifle propped against something, the dog stepped on the trigger, and the bullet struck him. Though I don’t remember the details.

I can’t find the specific story now, because a websearch shows a number of similar stories. (Though Google does helpfully suggest I may want to limit my search to Floridians being shot by their pets. Statistically, if you’re shot by your dog, it seems there’s a roughly 40% chance you’re in Florida.)

Incidentally, there’s also a few stories of people being shot by their cats, though most of these are cases where the cat knocked a loaded pistol onto the floor.

In case the point was somehow missed. These are all gun safety failures, on the part of their owner. I have absolutely zero sympathy for someone who mishandles their gun and takes a bullet (or shotgun blast) as a result, and as funny as the image is, the animals are not at fault.

As for the specific example, I’ll just have to keep saying this, Glock pistols do not have manual safeties. It’s a specific design feature.

Depending on the firearm, having the safety on won’t necessarily prevent an accidental discharge from something like dropping it. Most modern pistols have some safety mechanisms to prevent this from happening, but there’s no universal rules.

In spite of having similar external characteristics, each firearm model is unique, and it can be impossible to fully determine how one works from an external examination. Idiosyncrasies, like how the safety functions, or what safety features a gun has vary wildly, sometimes even within a single manufacturer’s various product lines.

-Starke

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Q&A: Non-Violent Revolution

I’m writing a story about how four characters react to a clash between the revolutionary movement and military in their society. How could one of the characters prevent all out war while also overthrowing the government?

Not easily. My department chair in college focused on non-violent revolutions when he was getting his doctorate. His comment at the time was that there’s virtually no (scholarly) literature on the subject.

Avoiding violence in a revolution requires two things: You need to convince those in power not to use violence to enforce their authority and you need to convince everyone in the opposition from resorting to violence and deliberately escalating the situation.

The former is very difficult, the latter is nearly impossible.

When you’re looking at the factors that create a revolution, you’re primarily interested in oppression, exclusivity and capacity.

Oppression is fairly self explanatory, but the fact remains, if a government is not mistreating its citizens, or the vast majority of the population considers the system just, then you won’t have people rising up in revolt. People are stirred to action when they feel wronged. Normal bureaucratic malaise doesn’t cut it.

More disturbingly, it can be incredibly difficult to detect oppression, depending on how it is presented. If the population doesn’t feel oppressed, then they’re not going to rise up, even as members of society are being put down brutally and executed in the streets.

Exclusivity is the ability for private citizens to affect the government. An exclusive government is one that does not allow the civilian population to influence policy. It may also be highly nepotistic, with many key positions filled by family members of the head of state, or by close friends.

As with oppression, exclusivity is highly dependent on public perception. A dictator that frequently takes public input under advisement and acts on it wouldn’t be an exclusive system, even if their entire cabinet is made up of family members and close personal friends. Likewise, a state with rigged elections, and no public input wouldn’t be perceived as exclusive, unless the voter fraud is exposed.

It’s also worth pointing out, a state can be oppressive and exclusive, but still be perceived as the protector of its population. In these cases, you won’t see a revolution because people believe the state has their interests in mind. Of course, if the illusion shatters, everything else follows.

Capacity is the ability for a government to enforce its will. In the context of revolutions, we’re normally interested in its ability to inflict violence on the population.

Again, if a government has the capacity to kill everyone involved in ther evolution they’ll hunt them down as a warning to any future rebels. Remember, when we’re talking about what the government can actually do, not what it should hypothetically be capable of if everything goes according to plan.

Capacity rises and declines based on a number of factors. Their available manpower, their financial and material resources, the quality of their intelligence. Prolonged warfare, military dissent, economic unrest, technical obsolescence, counterintelligence, deteriorating public support and espionage (among other possible factors) can all whittle away at a state’s capacity.

What you’re looking for in a revolution is an oppressed population who cannot influence government policy and a weak state. If any of these three elements fail, then your revolution can’t happen, at least not normally.

A non-oppressive totalitarian regime sounds weird. It’s a kind of political philosophy unicorns that keeps coming up in hypothetical discussions on governance. From Plato to Machiavelli, the idea refuses to die.

A powerful and oppressive regime with public access is also, surprisingly, hard to unseat. There have been plenty of examples of these without associated revolutions.

Well funded and equipped, totalitarian regimes are, sadly, something we have plenty of examples of. A number of these did eventually fall to revolutionary forces, but it only came after the state’s capacity was undermined or decayed.

Under normal circumstances, you have a state that’s subjugating it’s population, an isolated elite pulling the strings, and a government that can’t actually wipe out a potential rebellion before it gets rolling, and recruiting real numbers, and engaging in actual combat operations.

In a non-violent revolution, you need to convince the state to sit down and listen to your grievances without resorting to violence. The reason I described this as “very difficult,” is because, you need to sit down with someone and get them to agree with you, when their first impulse is going to be to toss you in prison and wash their hands of the problem.

This can happen. When the threat of violence, and a painful death appears imminent, and your revolutionary is offering a way out that doesn’t end with the city in flames and the roads coated in blood. Managing to actually do this is truly impressive stuff, and most of the people who have attempted this in the real world ended up imprisoned and/or tortured.

Your revolutionary can’t step in earlier, because the state won’t listen,
and once the situation has degenerated into outright warfare, it’s too late.

The second problem is that revolutions are not homogenous entities that operate as a single coherent organization. They’re a coalition of groups who are unified by one common belief, that the state needs to be replaced, and not much else. They can agree that the guy in power needs to go, but not what the shape of the new government will be, after it’s over.

In case you’re wondering, you can’t really skip the coalition building phase of getting a revolution off the ground. Having a single, ideologically unified group to overthrow the government would be ideal, but reality is rarely so accommodating. Finding enough people to actually overthrow the government means making unlikely allies, and working with people you normally wouldn’t want to talk to. They have live bodies, and together you’ve got enough to turn the tide. “Stand together or die alone,” and all that.

Keeping everyone non-violent before the revolution is hard enough. You’ve got a lot of people who have a grudge against the existing government. These are people who feel strongly enough about their grievances to die for them. Finding enough people who are willing to do that is hard enough. Finding enough people who are willing, are smart enough to realize that there might be a way out of this without killing, and are also okay with a non-violent solution to the situation is nearly impossible.

A revolutionary leader who can hold their movement together on sheer force of will, and can inspire people into a unified cause can, potentially knit their revolution together to prevent this. Someone who is very careful in how they bring people in, and how their revolution operates can, potentially, keep this from becoming a problem.

After it’s over is the nearly impossible part. When all of these different factions united by one common goal have achieved that, the only thing they have left is a desire to reshape the state to suit their image of how things should be. Far too often, this translates into purges and civil war.

In a non-violent revolution, overthrowing the government is the easy part. Keeping all of the different political factions, which were oppressed under the previous regime playing nice while you try to build a new state is the hard part.

The most dangerous thing after the revolution is someone more ruthless than you. Revolution is not a pleasant business. It destroys the idealists and rewards the pragmatic and ruthless. The process of running one is a crucible. No one who goes in will come out exactly the same person. After the revolution, if you’re not the most ruthless person in the room, you’re not long for this world.

Keeping a coalition together after a revolution isn’t impossible. There are historical examples, including the United States, but it is an exceedingly difficult bar to hit. It’s far more common for the victors to begin by purging remnants loyal to the old regime, and then work their way through various minor factions who aided them, but are no longer necessary, and have become a potential liability. This can be framed any number of ways. It can be carried out covertly, it can be framed as remnant loyalists, it can be treated as normal criminal arrests.

In cases where the prior regime was supported by a foreign power, these purges are often couched in terms of removing foreign agitators or spies.

In fact, it’s very easy to end up exactly where you started, or worse off.

The best case examples are probably Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Mandela kept South Africa together by instituting policies that kept members of the Dutch government as members of the new integrated government, and pushed hard for a policy of no retribution. This, arguably, did a lot to keep South Africa intact. In contrast, while Gandhi managed to remove the British from India without resorting to violence, he did see his nation break apart into separate states.

Even if your revolution manages to hold themselves together, and don’t turn on each other, they’ve created a serious problem. They’ve destroyed their state’s capacity, creating a power vacuum. Other factions that may not have participated in the revolution are now in a far better position to exploit the current situation. This could include groups like organized crime, or even foreign powers, who aren’t above using the chaos to opportunistically grab a few bits for themselves.

Non-violent revolutions aren’t a panacea against this either. Even simple political instability can open the door for an aggressive foreign power to move in, “in order to ensure the peace” and annex anything that’s not nailed down. It also allows organized criminal enterprise to become more brazen; even under the best circumstances, you’ve removed the checks that were holding them in place, and any less oppressive policies will be viewed as a practical invitation.

A military junta isn’t off the table either. This is especially true if the previous regime kept the military under control because of close personal ties, and the transition to the revolutionary government would diminishes the military’s political influence. They may even view this as an act of self defense. Sadly, the term “military junta” is an established phrase because this exact kind of coup has happened many times before, including cases where there was a democratic regime change, and not an actual revolution.

So, how would someone walk into all of this and keep it from degenerating into a bloodbath? Search me. You’re talking about a very singular kind of character, and they could still end up splattered across the pavement because of a fanatic.

-Starke

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Q&A: Hand Cannons

In this story I’m working on, the protagonist is a security officer working for a shady human augmentation corporation. They routinely come into contact with cybernetically-enhanced criminals and they chose a Desert Eagle .50 in order to actually do damage to any augmented threats. But I was wondering just how practical would that choice be? From what I’ve found, a box of that ammo goes for about $42, but I’m no expert on firearms.

It’s not. As firearms go, the Desert Eagle is sort of ridiculous. It’s a stupidly big and heavy gun. They’re designed more around the idea of looking cool and imposing, rather than actually being a practical combat weapon. Which is part of why Hollywood loves them.

They have a home in the high end sport shooting market. Basically for the same reasons they found a home in films; it’s big, showy, and looks cool. If you view guns as recreational equipment, want to have the biggest toy and are willing to spend, that’s what the Desert Eagle delivers. That’s also pretty much all the Desert Eagle delivers.

The spending part is important, the Desert Eagle itself is not a cheap gun. Aftermarket rates for .50 Desert Eagles range from $1.5k – $3k. It’s not just the gun, as you pointed out, .50 AE run close to $2 a bullet.

Put this in perspective, your character could buy a Remington 870, and keep it loaded it with FRAG-12s for less than a Desert Eagle would cost. (Assuming they could actually buy FRAG-12 rounds to begin with.)

Assuming your character’s gun is actually part of their job, there’s a decent chance the corporation would be the one paying for it, and the ammo. Especially if they actually expect your character to be using it on people. That said, the expenses would still be relevant, if only because accounting wouldn’t want to see the security division snorkeling through cash when cheaper, better, options exist.

Regardless who’s paying, your character would probably be better off with a 10mm pistol. A Glock 20 will run you around $600, and the ammo is around $0.35 a round. That’s still somewhat pricey as handgun ammo goes, but it’s far cheaper than .50 AE.

That said, the entire reason 10mm Auto never caught on in the real world is because it kicks hard. As with the .50 AE, 10mm Auto is an overpowered round. For perspective, it’s muzzle velocity is between the .357 and .41 magnum cartridges.

If your character absolutely needs something with stopping power similar to a Desert Eagle, they’ll be better off getting a rifle or carbine chambered in 5.56mm. For visual aesthetics, you might want to take a look at the H&K G36C or the SIG552.

Realistically, handguns are what you give someone when you don’t expect a problem but they should have something, “just in case.” If your shady cybernetics company is sending their security forces out to deal with criminals, they’re better off with automatic rifles.

FRAG-12s aren’t off the table. These are impact detonation grenades designed to chamber into a 12 gauge shotgun. Basically impossible to obtain on the civilian market, but for a corporation with defense contracts these might an option.

-Starke

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