So Jamie’s Got a Gun (Part 2 of Weapons in Writing Series)

I know I said I would be posting these on Wednesday, but I couldn’t let this one wait.  I know practically nothing about firearms.  I stick to medieval weaponry in my books, so I’ve never had to research.  TJ Therien was explaining them to me, so I figured it’s better for him to take this part of the series.  Maybe I’ll step up to do something from a non-gun user’s perspective on Wednesday, but this is the BIG post that you have to pay attention to if you want to use firearms in your stories.  When done reading visit TJ’s site for his amazing poetry.

First I would like to thank Charles for suggesting that I write this guest post for his series. Second I am far from an expert on firearms, I do have a couple of years of military training and served in the 48th Highlanders Infantry Regiment of the Royal Canadian Reserves. I did in this time qualify Cross Rifle and Cross Rifle with Crown. (For those that don’t know that makes me a damn good shot.) I am a little over 20 years removed from my days as a weekend warrior and most of the firearms I used have been antiquated. Weapons I have fired include but are not limited to the Lee Enfield, the FNC1-A1 and its fully automatic counterpart the FNC2 (7.62mm rounds,) 22’s, 303’s, 306 caliber rifles, the Browning 9mm handgun and the Sterling SMG (Sub Machine Gun.) I have absolutely no experience with shotguns as these are hunting grade fire arms and not military grade, although the military does employ them in some circumstances.

Okay now we have qualified me to the important stuff.

Know your weapon and know your ammo. Don’t expect your character to be finding ammo, unlike a video game armies use different caliber weapons to prevent this so if your character is carries an M-16 don’t expect to put AK-47 (Kalashnikov) ammo in your M-16. It just doesn’t work. Also know the size of magazine that is common and reload times.

All weapons have a recoil, or kick, this is dependent on the caliber of the weapon the higher caliber the bigger the kick. Weapons (all weapons unless specifically crafted for an individual will be right handed.) Firing a weapon left handed will be awkward, and reloading will be challenging. Recoil or kickback is something all firearms do and as I said this is dependent on caliber. The release of gases from firing pushes the gun back while pulling the barrel up and to the right. Adjustment must be made after every shot.

James Bond

Common fallacy about handguns and machine guns is that you aim. Aim to your heart’s content, these are close range weapons and are designed to point and shoot. These weapons do not have rifling which is the thread inside the barrel which keep the round on target and also gives it added velocity. Think of the way a football spirals. Rifles throw spirals hand guns and machine guns don’t… so again aiming is useless, simply point and pull the trigger.

While on the subject of machine guns, unloading your magazine in one burst is going to do two things, one is you will dirty up your weapon which will cause jams and misfires and your barrel will overheat. Machine guns are meant to be fired in short bursts that last roughly long enough for you to say “sonnofabitch” once a machine gun begins to jam you need to clean it… if you are firing long bursts you will need to clean your weapon after one or two magazines. Spraying a target with a long burst makes for great screen effects but truth is it is a waste of ammo (Remember recoil, your barrel is drifting up and to the right, in an instant you are firing wildly in the air.) Large caliber machine guns require a tripod or bipod and are not shot from the hip like you see Arnie do… even the mighty Schwarzenegger wouldn’t be able to keep the barrel level and would probably find himself knocked flat on his muscle ripped ass so forget the macho crap it’s just not realistic.

You should research the firearms your characters will be using and if possible get yourself to a range and squeeze off a few rounds. For safety’s sake I will not divulge how to convert a semi-automatic to fully automatic with a piece of match pack. Firearms can be modified, but modifications are often dangerous.

A weapon is fired from the following positions; standing kneeling and prone (laying on the ground.) weapons are fired from the shoulder; firing from the hip is very ineffective, inaccurate and should be discouraged. When sniping, or taking a shot the trigger is pulled at the top of your breath so the sequence is inhale hold breath aim pull trigger and then exhale. When a person breathes the barrel rises and falls, the reason you fire at the top of your breath is it is easier to hold breath in than hold it out.

Ok I think that is a beginning on the mechanics now I would like to discuss the psychology of firearms, specifically when it comes to killing people.

A gun will give your character a feeling of power and maybe even invincibility but this is an illusion. Please know that when it comes to killing people very few of us have what it takes to do it. Proof and point, during live fire exchanges in actual battle it is estimated that only 10 percent actually aim at opposing forces the rest fire into the air, the dirt or into a safe direction. What this means is that 90% of people who have been trained to kill do not have it in them to do it. Soldiers are highly trained in the art of killing but only ten percent have the skill to carry it out. If you were to carry this over to the general population that percentage would go down to possible a point of a percent and those that fall into this category in the general population you will normally find in the ranks of criminals as they are Psychopaths.  Also most snipers are retired after 1 kill. Most people are not capable of dealing with the guilt of killing. If you have heard of the term Post Traumatic Stress and your character has been involved in a fire fight or has killed a person, then unless they are totally mentally unstable from the beginning will be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress.

Ok quick recap:

Ammo- it is not interchangeable. Know your caliber. Know your magazine size. And don’t forget to reload.

Rifle- distance weapon, accurate weapon.

Machine gun- close range, short burst firing, not very accurate.

Pistol, Handgun- close range weapon, not very accurate.

Mechanics- firearms jam misfire and overheat, require regular cleaning oiling and maintenance

Heavy Caliber Firearms- almost always fired with a tripod, bipod from the prone or kneeling position.

Psychology- Illusion of power and guilt accompanied with PTS after a kill has been made.

On a final note don’t forget about ricocheting bullets. Smaller caliber and weapons without rifling are prone to ricochet, (the Sterling SMG will ricochet off of leaves if they hit at the right angle.) Lastly don’t let your character neglect proper firearm safety and storage unless they are totally Psycho.

Again thank you Charles for letting me do this. I hope your readers enjoy this as much as I did writing it. It was a blast…damn forgot all about artillery…not just bigger guns…

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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36 Responses to So Jamie’s Got a Gun (Part 2 of Weapons in Writing Series)

  1. Thank you to Charles and TJ for this post! Very informative and I liked that the pychological aspects were covered as well.


  2. tjtherien says:

    love the graphics you chose for this…ever notice the new James Bond (Daniel Craig) is always throwing away his gun when he runs out of ammo and then starts using the enemies weapons which he also throws away…I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him re load once…


    • tjtherien says:

      I forgot to mention encumbrance of weapon and ammo, that should also be considered by the writer…it is important…ask the Marines I trained with in Petawawa who discarded their FN’s during a route march because of weight, much heavier than an M-16 (which they used back in the day)


    • I never noticed that before. I have to watch those movies again, but I can’t remember him ever reloading. Good catch.

      Re-reading the post, I’m very surprised by some of the facts. The aiming and the retiring after 1 kill really caught me by surprise. People think soldiers are programmed to kill and put the guilt away, but that’s horribly inhuman. Even though my stories are sword & sorcery, it really makes me think about the mentality of my characters.


      • tjtherien says:

        consider also bladed weapons like a hand gun is an up close and personal weapon it is even harder to kill with than a range weapon such as a rifle or a bow…


      • That’s the challenge here. Most fantasy books don’t factor remorse and guilt into characters. ‘They live in a harsh world’, ‘they trained for killing’, and the other reasoning giving. I’m at a point where a character took a non-monster life for the first time. It’s hard to work with because the character was pushed so far that he did it without hesitation and kind of enjoyed it. I’m having to play that out, but nothing else in the book relates to it. I’m going to have to double-check everything when I edit to find places to fit the confusion in.


  3. I have been around guns my entire life – Dad is an avid hunter and reservist – and I learned something with this post. No aiming! I also didn’t know about the sniper retiring. This is great – thank you so much for the info, Charles and TJ. A great deal of violence surrounds my characters, but they do not take part – mostly because of the psychological ramifications – so I’m glad you pointed that out too. Great post!

    Also, will have to point out the Bond thing to the kid – we’re slowly going through the James Bond oeuvre, so it will give us something to look for.


    • I remember the older Bonds reloading or never running out of ammo. I think I’m going to watch Quantum of Silence tonight. If I get my homework done in time.

      I didn’t grow up around guns, so this was all new to me. I think that’s another reason I steer clear of putting them in my books. I don’t trust myself to use them correctly.


  4. sknicholls says:

    Those aren’t squirrel guns. Good research though 🙂


  5. Jae says:

    Can you explain what you mean by “not aiming” when it comes to handguns. I’ve certainly had more luck hitting my zombie targets by “aiming” at them (lining up the dots on my sights) than just looking at shooting. Maybe you’re referring to the term in another way? Just curious.


    • tjtherien says:

      a gun does not have rifling it is designed for close quarter combat and is not a distance weapon, or an accuracy weapon by pointing directly at your target you will be as effective as if you aimed and remember unless you have the drop on someone a hand gun in most cases is a last resort weapon. Aiming is simply a waste of time…again go back to that football throw a ball at a target when throwing a spiral…try again now but this time don’t throw a spiral tell me if you hit the same mark on the target…so the effort it takes for you to aim to get a little closer to a bull’s-eye just got you killed if those zombies targets were real and coming at you…if you have time to aim you are at a distance and you should be using a rifle…using the proper tool for the job… Time spent on a range firing rounds will improve your accuracy with a hand gun far more than your sights will… if you have noticed an improvement in your scores it is probably through repetition more than your sites… as for laser sights their object is to aim for you. also sights need to be adjusted for range…Sorry targets don’t stand still and say shoot me in real life fire fights…


    • tjtherien says:

      also if you are aiming properly you are using the breathing technique I described…you do not have time to breathe like that in close quarter combat…


  6. Wait … so are you saying that scene in the new Star Trek movie where Benedict Cumberbatch has a giant cannon-thing resting against his hip and is taking down Klingon ships with perfect accuracy and not knocking himself over from the recoil is unrealistic? 😀


  7. Don’t forget that the protagonist can fire 75 bullets at their enemy and still miss, even when they’re looking at them.


  8. lwk2431 says:

    “Common fallacy about handguns and machine guns is that you aim. Aim to your heart’s content, these are close range weapons and are designed to point and shoot. These weapons do not have rifling …”

    You were right in the first place. You don’t know much about guns technically. I clean my handguns and look inside the barrel and they most certainly do have rifling. I have yet to see a handgun that does not have rifling. I imagine some could exist, but I know of no common handgun manufactured today that does not.

    Maybe that single shot stamped handgun made by GM in WWII to drop behind enemy lines? Idea was a partisan could use that one shot to kill a German and get a real gun (with rifling). I understand they never went through with it because the then European governments in exile objected – thinking people might have guns when they returned after we kicked the Germans out.

    As for “machine guns,” the AK-47 and M-16 most certainly have rifling. The Thompson sub-machine gun most certainly has rifling. I know this from personal experience. The M240B my son fires in the Marine Corps has rifling as does the American 50 caliber machine gun he also sometimes shoots. Carlos Hathcock, the American Vietnam sniper is credited with using a 50 caliber machine converted to single fire with a scope to make a kill at 1,000 yards or so (impossible without good rifling).

    So do us a favor if you get a chance. Go look at some examples of some machine guns you’ve shot. Look in the barrel with a good light and report back if you found any that really don’t have rifling. Maybe the Brits or Canucks do make such atrocities? 🙂



  9. lwk2431 says:

    “Pistol, Handgun- close range weapon, not very accurate.”

    Go to youtube and look up some videos of hickok45. Watch a few videos where he shoots handguns and tell me they are not accurate. Elmer Keith, the late distinguished writer and gun nut in the U.S., is documented hitting targets (and not big huge targets) and over 300 yards with a 44 Magnum revolver. In fact he won a “Texas size” cowboy hat in a bet that way by proving he could put a hole in it at about that range.

    You are right though in one respect. A lot of people are not very accurate with handguns. It takes a lot of practice, and if using iron sights (the majority except for some hunters who mounts scopes on some handguns) it takes pretty good eyesight (my downfall at longer ranges any longer).



    • I believe the aiming and accuracy referred to how movies and books always seem to give the character enough time to calmly aim. Even if the character is a civilian with a few hours on a range. The magical aiming and accuracy of an untrained character is something writers get called out on a lot, so it’s good that somebody pointed things out. Not every situation allows you to aim and I would assume most non-firing range and non-first strike would be like that.

      Thank you for your information as it has added to our knowledge on the subject. It seems people of different countries and experiences work with different weapons and mentalities. As writers, that’s something important to know.


    • tjtherien says:

      what you are referring to as rifling in a hand gun or machine gun is not try rifling. it is similar but it is only meant to keep the bullet from tumbling end over end, Rifling is a large percentage of the barrel length than the small twist in guns, there is a difference. The more distance between target and shooter the less accurate. hand guns are generally meant to be fired in close proximity. If you are taking time to aim and your opponent is armed you have just been shot. Point. It is a time issue. As for your mention of the M16 and the Kalashnikov these are not machine guns as you so aptly said but assault rifles, hence as for the 50 cal you mention as you yourself said it was a modified weapon which means they probably tool and died the barrel of the weapon to give it true rifling for accuracy.


      • lwk2431 says:

        “what you are referring to as rifling in a hand gun or machine gun is not try rifling”

        I have been a professional gunsmith and have barreled and chambered rifles on a lathe. I have cast chambers and _measured_ the twist of rifle on numerous guns. I know what rifling is and what it does. You do not.

        “The more distance between target and shooter the less accurate”

        Depends on what you understand the term “accuracy” to mean. Real accuracy of a rifled weapon (just about everything since the Civil War in America) is measured in MOA (minute of angle). So if my rifle will keep shots in about an inch at 100 yards it is roughly one MOA capable. At 200 yards that will expand to 2 inches. 300 yards it will be 3 inches (roughly as an inch is not exactly on MOA, but for most purposes the difference doesn’t make any practical difference). That doesn’t take into account any other external factors like wind or operator skill.

        So If I can keep my rounds in an inch at 100 yards then I have accuracy = 1 MOA. If at 500 yards it will stay in 5 inches then I still have 1 MOA of accuracy. Accuracy is essentially a measure the capability of a firearm to keep shots within a certain angular measurement.

        “hence as for the 50 cal you mention as you yourself said it was a modified weapon which means they probably tool and died the barrel of the weapon to give it true rifling for accuracy.”

        Also not true. Carlos Hathcock used an issue .50 caliber machine gun that only had two alterations: it only fired in semi-automatic mode (one shot at a time) and a sniper scope had been mounted on it. That was it. There was no special barrel made for it.

        “M16 and the Kalashnikov these are not machine guns …”

        Tell that to the BATFE. They will have a good laugh. A “machine gun” is any weapon capable of firing in fully automatic mode.



      • lwk2431 says:

        See this page:

        The M2 is a 50 caliber machine still used by the U.S. military.

        Cartridge: 12.74X99mm (0.50 M2 Ball)
        Operation: short recoil
        Locking: projecting lug
        Feed: disintegrating link belt
        Weight: 38 kg
        Length: 1.651 m
        Barrel: 1.143 m
        Rifling: 8 grooves, rh, 1 turn in 381 mm
        Sights: fore, blade; rear, leaf aperture
        Muzzle velocity: 930 m/s
        Rate of fire: cyclic, 450-600 rds/min
        Max range: 6,800 m; effective, 1,500 m

        Note: Rifling: 8 grooves, right hand (rh) twist, 1 turn in 381 mm (1 turn in 15 inches, a relatively slow twist – the original M16-A1 had, if memory serves, a twist of 1 in 14 inches).


      • tjtherien says:

        if what you say is true about rifling the round from a 22 caliber hand gun would travel as far as a 22 caliber rifle with equal accuracy using iron sights… and that is the end of argument because anyone that has done this knows it is not true… but you will probably dispute this too as you appear to know it all and are such an expert…funny in your first couple of responses you failed to mention your qualifications as a professional gunsmith yet you mention your sons military experience…that is some quick training you got there four days to become a professional gunsmith…failing to mention such an important detail and qualification when you are acting as an authority only shows how full of crap you are… not everything you see on TV or the internet is true…you have your own blog to post your beliefs please use it and leave this post and blog alone… your original comments were somewhat appreciated but at this point you are just being a troll and this is not my blog…spread your ignorance elsewhere…


      • lwk2431 says:

        “… if what you say is true about rifling the round from a 22 caliber hand gun would travel as far as a 22 caliber rifle with equal accuracy using iron sights… ”

        There are two factors you are not taking into account.

        1. The barrel of the rifle will be much longer than the handgun. Therefore the bullet will get a little more impetus from the barrel as it has more time to have powder burning and expanding behind it than the handgun. If you measure with a chronograph you will most likely see the bullet will have more velocity from the rife (mileage can vary depending on other factors like rate of twist, cleanliness of the barrel, and whether the barrel is cut exactly correctly to the respective groove and bore diameters).

        For example, I have a handgun that fires a 38 Special from a barrel shorter than 2 inches. I have another handgun that fires the same thing from a 4 inch barrel. There is a significant different in velocity using identical cartridges. Some of the powder in the under 2 inch barrel is essentially wasted as it hasn’t fully burned and expanded to propel the bullet before the bullet leaves the barrel. Now if fire the exact same 38 Special from a Marlin lever gun, for example, you will usually have more velocity (can depend also factors like the burning rate of the powder.

        When I handload for the 38 Special with the snub nose barrel I use the fastest burning powders I can find (something like Bullseye or W231).

        2. There is the accuracy a gun can achieve without human error, and the likely accuracy taking into account human error.

        The distance between front and rear sights is critical. If you do some basic geometry you will see that the shorter the distance between the sights the more than any sighting error will be magnified.

        So shooting my snub nose the least error in alignment can cause the bullet to go far from where I aimed. With my 4″ the effect is less, and with a rifle with maybe 18-20″ between the sights much less.

        But if you could take two theoretical firearms built to the highest standards of workmanship and put them in a device that held them without human error you are not likely to see much difference in accuracy between the short and long barrel. People with exceptional sight can shoot the snubnose with great accuracy. For myself, I have a laser on my S&W 642 which does wonders for old eyes! 🙂

        “in your first couple of responses you failed to mention your qualifications as a professional gunsmith”

        I rarely mention them. I just wanted to tell you that I don’t my knowledge from reading comic books (what some professionals call magazines like “Guns And Ammo.” I graduated from the Colorado School of Trades in Lakeview, Colorado back in 1976. Did this work for a while, then realized there were more profitable ways to make a living (like computers).

        Look, I really do think you know something about shooting guns. You reasons for claiming certain things may not be 100% technically accurate all the time, but in general your advice sounds ok to me. Most people will not use a handgun at long range and shorter barrels contribute to less accuracy for most people, but it is not the guns, it is the people and their eyes. A gun fight is not like going to the shooting range and shooting at a bullseye, etc.

        But most modern weapons do have rifling, if for nothing else but to impart stability. I think there may be some modern large caliber weapons, maybe used on airplanes that don’t, but that is way beyond my expertise. The Abrams M1 tank does not use rifling (it does something with a sabot that is not entirely clear to me).

        Anyway, apologies if I came off a little short. Guns – from the technical side – have occupied a lot of my attention for over 50 years.




    • tjtherien says:

      the accuracy of hand guns is greatly misunderstood. You hit on the point in your last paragraph, it comes down to experience with every round you squeeze off you become more familiar with the weapon and its tendencies when fired this has nothing to do with aiming and everything to do with repetition…practice in other words. Sights need to be adjusted for distance, quite frankly it is all about time…Hunters and civilians might not realize this but unlike deer people you shoot at are also normally armed. If you are using a close proximity weapon time is the biggest factor… So as I said aim all you want if you are engaged in a conflict with people that shoot back I will attend your funeral… In battle unless you are sniping it is merely about hitting a target, to slow and halt an advance. Also I don’t think you are taking in the psychological aspects of firing at a living human being which is much more difficult than you might think.
      As for the Canadian Military we may be under armed and over matched, but stats from Milcon (an annual war-game between Canadian reservists and regular forces of NATO aligned countries, including US Forces) show a ten to one kill ratio in favour of Canadian Reservists and that isn’t even our regular forces. Our special forces trains American special forces and are cadets (kids below the age of 18) receive more training that does a corporal in the US Marines. We train are cadets in every aspect of military including field burials…you don’t cover field burials until after the rank of corporal.


      • spoplawski says:

        It does not make sense that in Canadian society where the guns are strictly controlled more kids and reservists (surely per capita) “receive more training that does a corporal in the US Marines”. It means that the lobby of gun instructors is very strong in Canada where possession of guns sounds exotic for the majority.


      • tjtherien says:

        in Canada we permit hunting weapons for civilians, the training that cadets receive is under strict military supervision by reservists and reservists train with the regular forces on occasion and all follow the same curriculum and are required to pass the same technical qualification exams to be promoted (Reservist and Regs). Training as I described is not lobbied by the gun industry. Cadets is a recruitment tool of the armed forces…weapons are kept secure in an armory and the kids receive proper training in safety. Weapons do not leave the base. Every cadet corps has an affiliated reserve regiment. It is not a civilian organization such as boy scouts. The Canadian army though small and ill equipped is one of the best trained armies in the world. In the time that I served we were ranked number 1…


  10. spoplawski says:

    I knew almost nothing about guns, but now thanks to your post and printed above 24 responses I feel inspired as ready to use well chosen guns for different circumstances. Only needed now is a list of good targets and definitions/descriptions of the worst enemies among humans that should be terminated as blocking creation of a better world. Officially we are supposed to know them very well after hard work of our mainstream media indoctrinating our minds with supported by them politicians. Such enemies are precisely named as terrorists. The problem is that that they were never precisely identified and everything is done not to hear their testimonies in the court rooms. So far thousand times more innocent and poorest people are killed for each victim of the alleged terrorists’ attacks. On top of that the cost of this questionable war with terrorism initiated after an extremely spectacular provocation (in Hollywood style with many unanswered questions) is astronomical and involves suspension of too many basic human liberties. At the same time we do not see people truly controlling this constantly escalating ‘war with terrorism’ as our politicians represent controlled puppets of invisible economical forces. Yes, they listen voters very carefully, but only one day at the election time when over 1000 days they read leaps and minds of true bishops in our dominating now Religion Of Money/Influence. Their work is more complicated in comparison to tasks of politicians seen in Germany over 70 year ago who were only focused on realizing/fulfilling orders that were coming from above.

    Yes, I am luring you into dangerous ‘politico’ waters what is risky, but can be also extremely profitable for the young author like you.

    My point is that in one of your series some of the top heroes can land on our planet and as the outsiders recognize more clearly the real source of problems causing never ending wars. It would be interesting to read/recognize in your book their list of targets for the mentioned above ‘terminations’ – haha!
    Charles, you are not Orwell, but in your fantasy books can be easier introduced many political aspects that will attract the readers’ attention.
    The driving forces behind now blooming conspiracy theories are very strong. It creates big waves and you can use such elevated ‘platforms’ for the “writer’s surfing” that is faster as requires less energy in comparison to swimming.


    • True. My characters could cross over to Earth and I had that for a while. Then I dropped it because I didn’t like the idea. My focus in writing is to entertain and make people happy with some escapism. I’m not the author to draw politics and social commentary out with my writing. Not intentionally anyway. It’s simply not how I’m wired.

      In the words of Billy Joel, “I am the Entertainer.”


  11. spoplawski says:

    I am a little bit disappointed because Billy Joel is a musician and for writers are other ‘idols’. It will be nothing wrong if I will name you as Dostoyevsky of fantasies what will definitely better promote your name. Much more entertaining are ‘products’ with more layers and among them this sociological including politics can be quite catchy. Mentioning only entertainment a priori narrows your intellectual potential. Do not take it seriously as I am just teasing you. 🙂


    • Entertainment isn’t the only priority. It’s just the main one. Again, if I happen to stumble onto a political or social commentary then so be it. I’m relatively laid back in both arenas, so I don’t pursue too much.

      Not sure I understand the Billy Joel disappointment.


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