Short Saturday: Things You Should Know When Writing About Guns

This is probably not a post you would expect from me. I’m not a fan of guns in real life. (And that’s enough said; this column isn’t about politics.) However, I am a fan of learning, a fan of research, and a fan of veracity in fiction so I found this post from author Chuck Wendig funny and fascinating.

(This is where I pause and say Wendig uses strong language that may be offensive, so if you can’t deal, you should bail.)

He’s also hilarious and able to speak intelligently about this topic:

[I grew] up around guns (my father owned and operated a gun store — we were hunters, we had a shooting range at the house, I got my first gun at age 12, etc. etc., plus he was a gunsmith, as well).

As Wendig notes, lots of folks know a lot about guns, so if you get those details wrong, you lose credibility with readers. “You’ll get emails,” he says. He doesn’t mean warm and fuzzy emails praising your novel, either.

There are many points of advice here, but I particularly like the busted myths:

• No, the air did not stink of cordite. This is so common, it hurts me. Besides it being sorta dumb—I mean, it’s so needlessly specific, it’s like saying someone ate a banana and “tasted the potassium”—it’s also wildly inaccurate. Cordite hasn’t been in use pretty much since the middle of last century. Modern gunpowder is, like cordite, a smokeless propellant. (It’s also not very powdery; my father reloaded his own ammo and I was struck that gunpowder is more like little beads, like something a robot might eat atop its ice cream sundae. *crunch crunch crunch*)

• Silencers—aka, suppressors—are basically bullshit, at least in terms of what most fiction thinks. They do not turn the sound of your BIG BANG-BANG into something resembling a mouse fart. It carves off about 20-30 decibels off somewhere between 150-200 decibels. The goal isn’t stealth so much as it is ear protection. They’re frequently illegal in the US.

• Ragdoll physics are super-hilarious in video games, but someone struck by a bullet does not go launching backward ten feet into a car door. The recoil is largely against the user of the gun, not the recipient of the hot lead injection.

• Dropped guns do not discharge.

There’s lots more—and good links too. If you’re writing mysteries, thrillers, or action adventure of any kind, you’ll want to have a look at this post.

Tweet: Some folks know a lot about guns, so if you get those details wrong, you lose reader credibility.
Tweet: I am a fan of learning, a fan of research, & a fan of veracity in fiction, so you’ll love this.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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