Tag Archives: gun safety

Magic bullet question again, sorry. Maybe I emphasized the wrong part. What triggers the magic is a separate issue- the important part here is that testing the magic requires a living human to be shot at. The magic might protect them from the bullet, but it might not. What precautions can the testers take to avoid risking permanent damage to the target, while still yielding meaningful results (either bullet-induced injury or the absence thereof)?

No, you didn’t. I thought I answered it in the first paragraph, but going back and looking at what was actually posted, I didn’t. Sorry, that one’s on me.

The problem with the question is, you’re asking me (basically), “how can I safely shoot someone?” The answer is, you can’t.

Ignoring all of the societal elements for a moment; guns are tools. Nothing more. They’re tools designed to deal with one specific problem; “there’s an animal somewhere near me, and I want to make it go someplace else.”

As with most tools, they’re safe when handled properly, and dangerous when mishandled. It doesn’t matter if it’s a handgun, claw hammer, or a band saw. When you screw around with them, ignore safety procedures, and play with them, people get hurt or killed.

One of the basic rules of gun safety is: do not point the gun at anything you do not intend to kill. I’ve stressed this one before, but here we are again, you cannot shoot to wound. It’s a myth. You can survive getting shot, but there is no way for the shooter to plan for that.

And, here’s the major disconnect between us. You seem to be looking at giving your character a way to abbreviate gun safety. You want a character who can open up on a crowd and only hit “the bad guys.” And then you ask me how can he demonstrate that safely? And, what I’m telling you is, he can’t, because there isn’t a safe way to actually shoot someone. At least not one grounded in reality.

In the real world, if you want to make it look good, on film or whatever. You load blanks. And you pack a squib or two under the “victim’s” shirt. You make sure you’ve got at least a couple feet between you, because even a blank can kill under the right (freak) circumstances. And, you “shoot” them, someone else sets off the squibs, they fake dying, set wraps…

And then you remember that this is also how Brandon Lee died. Because a round had accidentally migrated down into the barrel from a dummy cartridge when they were doing shots earlier in the day, and when the blank went off, it sent the live round down range.

All of that said, and I really mean this, it’s not a bad idea. You’ve got a premise that lends itself to some really interesting concept work, and allows you to ask some questions that are surprisingly hard to get at.

I would say, just as a writer, If I had a coworker (effectively) confess that they shoot into crowds indiscriminately, and that some of the people are fine because, they’re “good” people. My first response would probably be to call the cops before the guy snaps and opens up on the cubicle next to me. And, oh, look, he’s asking for volunteers.

I suspect that’s the line of thinking that got into the original, “how can I test this safely?” question. But, at the end of the day, you can’t. Even before you get into the metaphysical questions.

So your character’s option would be to just whip out a gun and shoot someone without warning… which just takes us back to some of those questions in the original answer. Or, you know, the 40k quote that kicked it off to begin with. It’s great that he’s now avenged the unsolved vehicular manslaughter of a drifter in 1998, if only he knew that was why the bullet killed his buddy, he might even be able to explain that to the SWAT team.

I should probably point out, while we’re still on gun safety issues. It’s a very bad idea to wave a firearm around if you can’t fire it. The gun itself escalates any situation, and threatening to shoot someone is a great way to take a bullet from someone in the crowd.

This is actually worse for your character, because he can open fire. But, nothing protects him from the well meaning civilians and law enforcement officers, who are trying to interrupt another mass shooting. The first time he opens up in a crowded space, he’s going to end up either shot, or tackled while reloading.

Because, as Sartre taught us, “hell is other people.”


How strong would recoil be for a relatively experienced user using a pistol at close-range? also, does a gun’s safety actually exist? like, if you hid a gun in a bag for protection purposes, would that be a bad idea?

First off, range has nothing to do with recoil. Recoil is something the gun does every time it’s fired. It can not tell if it’s being fired at something three inches from the barrel or something on the dark side of the moon.

Second, recoil is affected by stance. If you’re holding the gun correctly, and it’s not some massively overpowered weapon, like a S&W .500, recoil is not going to be significant. Recoil tends to be stronger with shorter barrels.

Safeties are real, but they’re specific to an individual firearm. So, if you’re looking at safeties being reported in different places, it’s probably just different guns. I have handled firearms that didn’t have any safeties, but these are something of a rarity.

Manual safeties are physical locks that prevent the gun from firing and are set by the user. When you use the term “safety’s on” or “safety’s off”, this is the kind you’re talking about.

Integral safeties are internal mechanisms designed to prevent the gun from being fired accidentally. These vary wildly, but can include pressure plates or locking mechanisms that engage automatically when it’s held correctly. (There’s actually some inconsistency in the terminology, if you see something called a grip or automatic safety, it’s one of these.)

Finally, single action firearms function as a safety in some firearms. Single and double action refers to behavior with the hammer. In a double action weapon, pulling the trigger will cock the hammer, in a single action, it won’t, and if the hammer isn’t cocked, the gun cannot be fired. With all automatics, the slide will reset the hammer when it cycles. But, a single action automatic cannot be fired if it’s not cocked. With single action automatics, a decocking lever can function as a safety.

Now, as I said earlier, safeties are very specific. The 1911 has all three; a manual safety on the left side of the slide at the rear of the pistol, it has a pressure plate built into the back of the grip, and it’s a single action. But, that’s far from the norm.

I’ve also seen integrated safeties in the trigger itself, (the Glock and S&W Sigma have this, also I think the P99). As I recall, the Springfield XD actually has one on the trigger and a backstrap plate like the 1911.

Finally, carrying a handgun in anything other than a gun case or a holster is a bad idea. It doesn’t stop people from doing it, but, like sticking a gun under a pillow, it’s one of those things that make me shudder.


On Writing: Gun Safety


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). 

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