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.
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:
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…