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July 12, 2008

Guns & Ammo

[Where would we be without our sources? TLC's own Nancie-the-Gun-Tart has saved my characters from more embarrassing gun errors than I care to think about. Plus, she works for a government agency. Most authors jealously guard sources like these, but we Tarts believe in sharing. Oh: Nancie found groovy photos to accompany this tutorial, but as it's me, Harley, trying to post it, that ain't happening.]

By Nancie-the-Gun-Tart

I am your reader.

And I’m zipping along, turning pages, and you got me, I’m right there with you in the middle of all hell breaking loose; protagonist in danger, bad guy living up to his reputation, and the scene is intense. I just can’t read fast enough to see what happens, and then someone flicks the safety off their Glock.

Uh oh, this is gonna hurt.

You’ve just yanked me right out of the story, dropped me back into reality and the landing wasn’t a soft one either. Why? Glocks do not have manual safeties.

The amount of research writers do for their books and the tremendous effort it must take to get the facts straight, location perfect, and all important parts to fall into the correct slot boggles my mind. The glaring gun error, however, makes me stop reading at that moment and it’s hard to get back into the story.

Firearms. Love’em, hate’em doesn’t matter, if you’re a mystery writer they’re bound to appear somewhere during the journey you want to take me on with you.

You don’t have to be an expert to write about guns, and even a vague reference to a gun is perfectly okay. If you use a specific type of gun, such as Combat Tupperware (Glock) then at least know how it operates.

My favorite error was the protagonist opening the barrel to make sure it was loaded. Well hell, if she can pry open a solid piece of metal with her fingers and seal it closed without any effort or use of machines to fuse the metal back together, she doesn’t need a gun, she needs a cape, a body suit, and stylish ass-kickin’ boots.

The character can be completely clueless about guns, call ammunition bullets, the magazine a clip and assume the Glock has a safety. This is no big deal. But if the hot FBI guy loads his clip with bullets and sets the safety on a Glock, this just tanked your credibility.

The character holding a gun up by her head as she peers around a corner, also known as the Sabrina Pose, is wrong on so many levels I don’t have the space to explain.

A few common whoopsies:

Silencer is incorrect because you can’t completely silence a gun when it discharges. If you need the gun to use an inside voice then you need a suppressor, sound dampener or sound moderator.

You don’t use bullets to load the guns. The bullet is only one of four parts (along with casing, powder and primer) that make up the cartridge, round, ammo, or ammunition you use to load the gun. Think of the bullet as the bow on top of the present.

Revolvers generally don’t have safeties or have the ability to use suppressors; there are a few exceptions to these rules, but they’re rare.

Empty semi-automatic handguns don’t continue to click when you pull the trigger. The slide generally locks open and you know it’s empty.

You can’t check the clip or a magazine on a revolver—the ammo is in the cylinder.

Clips and magazines are two completely separate things. The semi-auto uses magazines, just like the majority of its semi-automatic counterparts.

A shot from a handgun will not blow someone through the window. This is one of those physics things (every action has an equal and opposite reaction), so if the bad guy goes through the window, wall, or door, the good guy is also going to do the same thing.

The smell of Cordite will not be thick in the air unless your gun battle is occurring in the late 1800s to mid 1900s, and the British Army is part of the equation. I’m immune to the smell of gunpowder so I’m completely useless in describing it for you.

If I have managed to completely confuse everyone today, fabulous, my work here is done.


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Okay, but what about the Lone Ranger's silver bullets, huh?

Excellent blog, Nancie!

Okay, but what about the Lone Ranger's silver bullets, huh?

Excellent blog, Nancie!

I loved the use of my Hubby's favorite term for a Glock--I bet someone has been speaking to Lee, he laughed when I told him what Hubby called them.

Great blog Gun Tart!

Nancie, after getting to meet you at RT, I totally want you covering my ass when the bad guys come. Plus, you're fun to have a drink with when it's over!

Excellent blog - informative and entertaining at the same time. Thankfully, I know squat about guns, and I hope it stays that way, so the mistakes blow right by me. It must be extremely frustrating to be as knowledgeable as you are and like mysteries too. :)

Great to see you here today!

This is great, and I completely agree with you that when a writer gets something wrong that I know, it ruins the writer's credibility on everything else. This is more an issue for me in newspaper stories where I've been around longer than the reporter, and I know the history better than the reporter.

This is not such an issue for things like local geography. Sarah can attest that people have complained to her that x road and y street do not intersect in Bethlehem, to which her response is "the book is fiction." Our high school reunion was in the Shriners' Hall that was an activity location in one or more Bubbles books. I think she was writing the book at the time of the reunion. I have no idea, and Sarah probably doesn't either, whether the secret rooms, hallways, and entrances, underground tunnels, etc., actually exist. If she made it up, fine. But if she started to write about how the character couldn't find the right key to the Prius on a whole keychain ring, well, then I would bitch, since our Prius has one of those electronic blue-tooth push button starters.

Wow, there are some early risers today on the blog, of course, most of you are three hours ahead of me.

Karen, we’ll give that one a pass, silver ammo just doesn’t work, does it?

Peg, isn’t that the greatest name? I’m sure several people will completely disagree with me on that, but I’m good with it myself.

Laura, if I ever have to battle bad guys, we’ll need the whole bottle afterwards, possibly several. Still, I’d have your back.

Josh, I agree, location doesn’t have to be perfect for the book to work. I’ve never been driven to pull up a map and pinpoint the exact streets mentioned in any book. Writing fiction does give you a lot of freedoms, but certain factual things do detract from the story for me.

The part I didn’t mention in the blog is the editor. The changes an editor might make based on their knowledge base can completely screw up the research the author did do for their story. I can only imagine how frustrating this could be for any writer.

Sarah can correct me if I’m wrong on the details, but she once told me her editor wanted her to choose another cartridge for her story, she was using a 30.06, or thirty ought six, because is wasn’t a popular cartridge. Really, while I don’t keep up with what hunters prefer to use every year; the 30.06 is the most popular hunting round in the US. If it fell out of the number one spot I imagine it’s probably still in the top three.

Hey FS,

As you know I'm completely clueless on guns and will probably remain so but certainly enjoyed reading the blog. Was no surprise to me you are well informed on the subject and I'm proud to have a pistol packing sis in the family. Look forward to another session in TLC. Love YFS from the Kansas Prairie.

Nancie, you are my hero....:)

Just yesterday, I was reading a new book and ran across the Glock/Safety business; this one had three safeties on it. I paused for a moment, actually thought to myself, "Aw, fuggit", and kept going. Some things one has to let go.

A recent novel by a Famous Mystery Author Who Really Should Know Better had a serial killer using a .38 revolver, but leaving expended cartridges at the scene of the crime.

The "silencer" on a revolver still shows up even today, which is surprising. And I still try not to laugh when I read about a "Luger revolver".

A famous 'profiler' movie makes a VERY specific point about the gun the Hero carries, the exact model I owned at one time. In the final climax with the Bad Guy, somehow, the Hero got SIX shots out of a five shot revolver.

What about the John McClane Beretta 92F, the one with 28 shots in a standard sized clip. (Beretta does make a LE only clip that will hold 30 cartridges, but it sticks way out from the butt of the pistol and adds significant weight to the pistol.)

Then again, we could also discuss the differences between publishing in Real Life and how it's shown in the movies...:)

GREAT blog, Nancie!

FS, glad you enjoyed it, and love you too!

William, I haven’t encountered three safeties as of yet, but I must admit I’m impressed. I seriously doubt I could remember how to operate all of them to get the gun to fire in a critical moment.

Yes, I was very disappointed my Beretta 92F stopped shooting after the 15 round magazine emptied, especially when I specifically requested the John McClaine model.

Ooh, speaking of the Die Hard movies, how about the uproar this line caused from Die Hard 2, “That punk pulled a Glock 7 on me! You know what that is? It's a porcelain gun made in Germany. It doesn't show up on your airport X-ray machines, and it cost more than you make here in a month.” People panicked over this and it’s funny that people still try to buy them to this day when it has never existed. The Glock is made out of polymer and metal, so it will show up on any airport X-ray machine. The movies are notorious for getting it wrong.


What a fabulous treat to see you here today - and a terrific blog , too!


P.S. In a related note, was I the only one who thought Casino Royale blew it by having that international table of high rollers play Texas Hold 'Em?

So, when I load bullets into the clip of my Glock, take off the three safeties, and shoot my bad guy, driving them through the wall into the next apartment, I haven't done good??? LOL

Thanks Nancie. I hooted over some those examples

Thanks Kathy, always good to be here!!

ArkansasCyndi, you've done fabulous, if you’re writing a scene play for Hollywood.

Damn it, I WANTED a porcelain Glock 7 to put in my china cabinet along with the Lennox and Waterford.

There are other people who hate it when the books/films get the details of their profession/hobby wrong (doctors, lawyers & cops spring to mind) but only the gun people throw the book across the room and then shoot it (with their suppressors, of course).

Nancy Nancy Nancy - I (by choice since my name is Deringer)hate guns...but this was like a "guns for dummies" treat.
Also seeing films and TV where, as Harley says, the made up dance stuff bothers me terribly. Either you know what you're talking/writing about or go to someone who does.
There should be a new show and the Tarts should judge. "So you think you can write?"
Just saying.

Speaking of writing, I discovered a very cool (and free) resource the other day. It's a podcast called Grammar Girl, available from iTunes. I intend to listen to them when I walk; each episode is around six minutes long, and they're very entertaining. It can't hurt to have some refresher pointers. English classes for me were a tad more than 40 years ago at this point, and I do forget some things.

Nancie, that's a wonderfully economical summary of The Usual Failures.

It was stunning to find a bizarre error in Lee Child's ECHO BURNING, when Reacher opens a box of ammunition with the firing pins up. That was a new one (firing pins are part of the weapon, not the ammo - the author or editor meant "with the primers up").

Harley, I'm sure Gaston Glock would make a porcelain Model 7 just for you.

Tom, is there really a Mr. Glock and is his first name really Gaston?

Yup, there really is a Mr. Glock, and his first name really is Gaston.

He was born in Austria, in 1929.

Harley, I’ve seen photos of Glocks made out of crystal, maybe this could be the addition to complete the look in your china cabinet.

Xena, guns are not for everyone and it doesn’t bother me people are turned off by them. I like your suggestion for the new TV show, I’d watch it.

Karen, I love the Grammar Girl Podcasts! They don’t seem to stick to me, but great info!

Thanks Tom. I must admit firing pins included with each round of ammo is a new one on me.

Thanks for the blog Nancie!
Maybe if editors were threatened with being shot, they'd leave the facts alone instead of trying to 'dumb down' the language!
Of course, Hollywood never let facts interfere with a plot or special effects! Geez my nephew & I were counting shots fired on a TV show and were ROFL! They never stop to reload!
I have to send today's blog to him!

In my experience, editors and publishers are more interested in facts than Hollywood is. But I also want to say that most every show I worked on with a budget over $5 had a truly caring props person or gun expert who'd work with the actors and really wanted the firearms to be right, look right, and be safe. Of course, nobody's consulting them weeks later in the editing room, throwing in the sound of constantly firing guns.

I vaguely remember that, Nancie, but your memory is beter than mine. Okay, so how is a little old lady supposed to defend herself with a handgun while dialing 9-1-1 with the other hand? Because that's the way Justice Scalia describes it and after your little physics lesson, I'm not sure that's gonna hold water.

You are such a wealth of knowledge in oh so many things! Thanks for gracing our pages.

Sarah, the answer to your question is simple, call 911 as soon as you’re not in immediate danger. If you are in a situation where your life is at stake, calling 911 isn’t your foremost thought; survival is your focal point at that very moment.

YOU Go Coach!

Attentino Ladies: Please take note, (i know first hand)Nancie is MOST DEFINITELY filled with a wealth of knowledge and she's a wonderful teacher, mentor and coach too!

Nancie has mentored so many women on the shooting range, myself included only 4 years ago.

I never shot a gun in my life, but once with the boys in the desert... Then, I went to this great program that Nancie was a very big part of and learned safety and how the gun works and that "it's really NOT going to jump off the table and shoot itself" She promised!!! And I got out to the range after our safety orientation class and held that gun in my hand again, and the trembling began and the calming voice of MY coach said it's ok Debbie, just take your time, remember your breathing, get your grip comfortable, get ready to sight in and take and then... I did it!!! I shot a damn bullseye. Woweeeeeeeeeeeee, this is fun, I CAN really do this and it's fun and I'm not scared anymore and feel comfortable that Nancie was right there watching me and let me tell you what, that day was the beginning of the end... A Gun-Tart Groupee I am to the highest power! She taught me everything I know about guns and instructing and now I have my very own shooting program just like the one I learned from. Yep, all because of Nancie, I gained my own confidence, followed my dream and followed my passion to shoot guns and teach people safety and how to continue their education in the wide, wide, wide, (did I mention wide?) world of firearms and shooting sports! Jump in people the water is fine. And I still LOVE the smell of gun powder in the morning. Nanc, you better get that nose checked, I can still mell it!

Nancie has been a great inspiration in my life and truly an amazing friend and shooting parter!

So, if you're ever intested in learning how to shoot, see the Queen of Guns, Miss Nancie, ska Gun Tart and MY Favorite (well ok, because I crowned her) the RANGE GODDESS!!! And she is too! You should see her run that range and when Nancie speaks, PEOPLE listen.

Go girl, great article today coach! I'm proud of ya kid!

Miss you tons...

Girlie-Girl (aka Miss Shooting Star!)

I LOL!! Great Stuff! I bet the folks would love to hear about the "interesting" (dumb) things people do at the gun range.
Love your writing style.

Thanks Girlie-Girl!! You are still my favorite student without a doubt. And I miss you tons as well.

Karen of AOSS, great to see you here and thanks for the compliment. I do appreciate it! A range blog could be a possibility in the future.

Do they REALLY want to know what the idiots do on the range, Nancie? Things that make you crap in your pants and Thank God that you got thru the day alive sometimes!
Idiots playing quickdraw, guys that think the gangsta aim is cool.
I waited till the 3rd relay to shoot to get the far right spot and 2 cops came down and told me to move down in the line, they had to qualify and get back on duty. I refused to move so they called the rangemaster over. I told him I intended to get off the range alive that day and I wasn't moving! The cops mumbled several things under their breath, blond bitch being their favorite LOL.
I was vindicated after they scored the targets, I shot 97% that day!!woohoo!

P.S. hope I'll be able to hit the broad side of a barn when the elbow gets healed up! LOL

Yeah Rita, you’re probably right about the not knowing what people really do on gun ranges. The cops I know tell me my job is more dangerous than theirs it does make you stop and think. Thankfully, I’m easily diverted by something shiny and I forget about the apparent danger surrounding me. Ignorance is bliss.

97% That's awesome! You should be back in the game in no time once you’re healed up.

Ammo does make a big difference too.
Our chief got some really crappy reloads for us to qualify with one year. They were tumbling and ripping the targets at 7 yds!
After shooting the first group I went out to the car and got my own (which my Dad reloaded)
Everybody wanted Dad's reloads, but he only did it for hobby and family. Now that he's gone I only shoot factory loads.

This is so groovy -- it's like a foreign language today on the blog!
Loads and reloads and no one's talking about laundry. Yahoooo!

Reloading is not for me. I’ve seen many accidents with reloaded ammo mostly due to hot loads. The tumbling bullets, squibs and explosion possibilities just turn me off, so I’m a factory ammo girl too.

Josh, "But if she started to write about how the character couldn't find the right key to the Prius on a whole keychain ring, well, then I would bitch, since our Prius has one of those electronic blue-tooth push button starters." -- my Prius doesn't have one of those electronic blue-tooth push button starters. It sounds wonderful! Of course, with only one Prius key on my keychain, it's not that hard to find it.

Dad was anal retentive about his reloading. Nobody dared disturb him while he was in his workroom! He measured every grain of powder, double checked every crimp. Even practiced safety by not smoking in the workroom LOL!
His reloads were the only ones I trusted.

This is great. Thanks for all the info, Nancie!

Nancie not only knows her stuff, she is a great writer in her own sense. What she said was right; what she said was so funny that I forgive all unknowledgeable writers. It is fiction.

Joyce, you are welcome!

Hey thanks Sue! You bring up a valid point, it is fiction meant to entertain us. If you haven’t read the ladies on this blog I highly recommend them!

Funny and interesting. Wonderful!

Thanks for the very informative gun post! I love seeing gun info out there for writers, and almost always learn something new from these types of posts.

And regarding the little old lady defending herself with the gun - Did you know that pistols were originally designed to be a one-handed weapon? Not that everyone can shoot every gun safely one-handed, but if at all possible, anyone owning a gun should choose one they can shoot safely one handed, with either hand (your dominant hand may get injured after all) and practice that way. Still not a good idea to call 9-1-1 in the middle of a gun fight, but hey. :)

Jenifer, you bring up a valid point I didn’t even think to mention about handguns. There is a lot of controversy on Justice Scalia’s comment, which I was unaware up until Sarah brought it up, but I don’t quite get the controversy myself. Maybe because I shoot with either hand or use both when I practice?

I did write another blog as a continuation of this one for Murderati today if you’re interested:


I hadn't seen that particular comment, but when reading it, I envision a burglar hunkering down in the corner, hands in the air, with the homeowner keeping the gun trained on him while dialing, just in case.

But yeah, if you haven't shot a gun one-handed, it might seem ludicrous to imagine it.

Today's murderati post is great - I actually read it first, and it brought me here. Is that example sentence you used one you actually read in print somewhere? I'm not asking you to name sources. :) Just curious if you made it up to make a point or what.

Jenifer, while my imagination is a place few dare to tread, I’m not sure I could’ve come up with something as out there as that sentence.

I “borrowed” the sentence from an Internet source, but it didn’t have the author or book listed, so I’m not sure if it is, in fact, a real sentence. There was the implication it was used in a book, but nothing concrete. The whole sentence was just so bizarre I had to use it.

Glad to see you on Lipstick, this is a fun place to hang out!

OMG - I am still laughing. The tears are streaming! Isn't a clip something you wear in your hair to keep it out of your eyes while you are shooting the bad guys?

PS - definitely sign me up for the porcelain gun. Or the crystal one.

Wndrgrl, I know you do have that stylish, yet useful, clip for your hair. I’ll start taking orders for the porcelain or crystal Glocks and maybe we can get a bulk discount if we get enough orders.

Hope to see ya soon, we miss you on Thursday!!

Great post!

Nancie, I have a question -- you said "Empty semi-automatic handguns don’t continue to click when you pull the trigger. The slide generally locks open and you know it’s empty." Does this happen with a Glock? (If it does, I have a potentially embarrassing boo-boo to fix in my MS...!)

Jena, yes this is true with a Glock, once the magazine is empty the slide locks open. If you have a faulty magazine the slide may not lock open, but it will click only once when you pull the trigger after the magazine is empty.

Darn I was on vacation, so I missed this one until now! Nancie you did Great! Since I have known you since you were, what 13? I guess I take it as common knowledge how smart and great you really are. Now all the readers know !!! Proud of ya kiddo !!! SusanCo

*Fixes embarrassing mistake* Thanks! :)

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