I’ve been a recreational target shooter and hunter for 4 decades; shooting and reloading for pistol, rifle, and shotgun. I’ve even built and shot a wide range of primitive guns from flintlock pistols to Kentucky long rifles to Hawken-style percussion rifles (all muzzle-loading blackpowder weapons). My reading pleasure centers around thrillers, especially action-thrillers. But if the author really blows it when it comes to firearms facts and reality, it’s a big put-off for me.
Probably the most common error writers make (including screen writers) is to refer to a magazine as a clip. The photo to the right illustrates the difference. Magazines are a big improvement over the clip, which leaves the ammunition exposed and is slower to reload than is the self-contained magazine. Clips fell out of favor following WWII, and pretty much all modern semiautomatic firearms (and some bolt action rifles and shotguns) use magazines.
Another pet peeve I have is ignorance of terminal ballistics–that is, what the bullet does after leaving the gun barrel. Contrary to Hollywood depictions, and some writer’s whimsy, bullets are rarely stopped by the human body. Even common handgun cartridges fire bullets of sufficient mass, at sufficient velocity, that they will pass cleanly through an adult torso and still be lethal. So that image of the good guy holding a bad guy in front of him as a shield is pure bunk. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!
Then there is the magazine that never runs out. Typically, a pistol magazine will hold from 7 to 17 rounds, and up to 30 rounds for a rifle magazine. You’d be surprised at how fast those rounds go when you are shooting, especially if you consider a stressful situation (i.e., your life is in danger) and you are shooting two or three shots at each adversary. If the rifle or submachine gun is fully automatic, it will chew through ammunition at a staggering rate–600 rounds/minute for an Uzi, up to 900 rounds/minute for an MP5, and 650 rounds/minute for an AK74. At these rates of fire that 30 round magazine is empty in 2 to 3 seconds. Yes, changing a magazine does not take long if you know what you’re doing, but it does mean a break in the action, and one has a finite number of spare magazines.
If you are an author, follow these tips to keep it real and your readers will thank you.