Guns & Ammo (continued)…

(Toni here… I have been wanting to have Nancie guest for a long time, and this weekend turned into a fantastic opportunity for our Murderati readers. Huge thanks to Nancie, who is doing her dead level best to keep me from making mistakes in the current work-in-progress.)

by Nancie Hays

Guns & Ammo continued:

Are you asking yourself the following questions–what do you
mean "continued" and who are you anyway?

Allow me to clear up the small bit
o’ confusion I’ve already created before I get into the meaty mystification
portion of this blog. This is a continuation from yesterday’s blog I wrote for
The Lipstick Chronicles
, so you can pop on there for the back-story on today’s
blog. Go head, we’ll wait for you to return and while we’re waiting for you to
come back, we’ll hum a jaunty tune. [note from Toni — that is an extremely informative blog and this one picks up and adds to it — you’ll be glad you read both!]

I am a gun nut, but I make no claims to being an expert on
everything gun related. I do have quite a bit of knowledge about those things
that go bang, as my job requires me to know this info. I do work for a
government agency, as noted in the previous blog, and I’ll leave it at that. My
job is not considered top-secret and my level of security clearance won’t even
get me access to public Government documents.

One common thing I’ve discovered about the numerous writer’s
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting is getting the facts right is a real big deal
to them and their stories. As a reader, I greatly appreciate the effort for my
benefit when it comes to guns. I have no idea what happens to that extensive
research done for other sections of the story, but sometimes, gun information
still gets mangled. While there is a lot to learn, the gun world isn’t a secret
society with complicated handshakes, code words for access or a special tattoo
revealing your membership status. The information is out there and in most
cases easily accessible, so I’m very flummoxed by the basic errors I
continually run across.

The following sentence makes my brain seize and implode
every time I read it:

detective drew his 39 millimeter Desert Eagle automatic revolver, pulled back
the clicker and looked in the nozzle to make sure there were nine deadly
bullets in the wheel.”

If this line were entered into a contest for the most
outrageous inaccuracies crammed into one sentence, we would have our winner.

I’m going to attempt to break this down and decipher the
bizarre code without the special ring:

  • Drew it from where? He couldn’t hide a gun this big on his person anywhere unless he
      was surgically altered with a kangaroo pouch that hung down to his ankles. (Or had a holster. Give your audience some visual help here.)
  • I’m not even sure what the heck the clicker is supposed to be in this scenario.
  • A 39 millimeter round will break the detective’s arm upon firing it once, if not tear it from the socket, leaving him with a useless dangling limb—keep in mind that a small light weight mortar round is 37 millimeters. You could blow the bad guy threw the wall with this round, well, if you didn’t blow him into numerous piles of sticky paste. Oh wait; maybe that’s what the clicker is for, to detonate this atrocity from minimum safe distance and keep that dry-cleaning bill within budget.
  • Desert Eagle automatic revolver… egad. Which one is it? This hybrid goes against all rules of man and nature. The Desert Eagle is a semi automatic, not a revolver. Plus, this is a very large handgun and not easily concealed, so not a good choice for any detective to carry unless the secret hidey spot was installed-see pouch reference above.
  • Nozzle. Uh huh. I’m going to say they meant chamber, but at this point I’m completely speculating cuz I don’t speak this language.
  • Thankfully, they clarified they were using deadly bullets, otherwise I could’ve assumed they loaded the mini howitzer with those life giving bullets and I really would’ve been confused.
  • The bullets are in the wheel and this is a good thing?!? Wait! Eureka, I think I finally figured this out. This is one of those new fangled science fiction guns, right? If the bullets are loaded into the wheel, then you press the clicker and it starts rolling and firing from the wheel at the same time. Never mind, I was wrong. This is a brilliant design!

And here are a few other tasty morsels for ya:

A spent casing and
a spent bullet are two completely
different pieces of the cartridge and mixing them up is bad. Spent means it was
fired, so the casing is empty of powder, the primer is dead and the bullet was
discharged out of the business end of the gun, or muzzle.

A spent casing will
remain in a revolver, unless the shooter manually ejects it, but the casings
will automatically ejected by a semi-automatic for each shot, unless it jams.
(And that’s a whole different set of problems.) The spent casing from a
semi-auto isn’t going very far from the point of ejection and can usually be
found within a yard radius of where the shooter was standing when the shots
were fired. You blew the top of the cartridge’s head off so it doesn’t have any
brains to even think about wandering off.

A spent bullet is that wondrous thing dug out of whatever
jumped in the flight path used to solve many crimes by matching it to the gun
barrel it was intimate with for a fraction of a second.

Loose ammunition and fire (flames): combining these two for
a scene has the potential of excitement and danger, when the detonation of
thousands of rounds has everyone within a hundred yards running for cover as
bullets whiz everywhere threatening to take out all the good guys…in the movies. Come over to that place I
try not to visit very often, called reality, and see what really happens when
we play with fire and ammunition. Loose ammunition left in a car, building or
even tossed into a fire will not explode or shoot and/or kill everyone in the
area. The barrel–which is the containment factor necessary for the buildup of
pressure when the powder burns—is missing from this picture, so the bullet
can’t get propelled anywhere. The
bullet pops off the cartridge and rolls a few inches; or maybe it’s one of
those overachiever bullets and manages to tumble and hop a couple feet before
it is forced to stop due to lack of momentum and its energy is drained. The
bullet can’t even wander about aimlessly; it has been severed it from its body
and fuel supply so it dies quickly, and in an extremely confused state.

Another place for potential mistakes: If you have two people
in a fight over a semi-auto handgun and one party releases the magazine from
the gun, odds are there is still a round in the chamber, or at least I would
hope so, but that’s not the point. Depending on the specific model of gun
you’re using in your scene the gun may or may not fire without the magazine.
You need to know how each specific gun operates to avoid shooting the
protagonist unintentionally.

Is everything as clear as the Federal Tax Codes?

The best piece of advice I can offer is get yourself a gun
nut or two to decipher the terminology and help with scenarios you want to put
in your story. We’re friendly people, really we are. The biggest challenge
you’ll have is getting us to shut up once we get going on the gun thing.



Gun questions? From readers / writers? Nancie will be here to comment. Or share the mistakes you’ve seen (without humiliating the writers, some of us are delicate flowers).

(Again, big thank you to Nancie for taking her time this weekend!)

37 thoughts on “Guns & Ammo (continued)…

  1. Suzanne

    What would a man look like when hit with a shot in the chest with a .38 bulltet when shooter is about 12 feet away?

  2. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Suzanne, you’d have a small entrance wound to start (diameter of a .38 is .357-.358 of an inch) and the skin swells in reaction to the injury. If you don’t know what caliber was used in the shooting, because the shooter took off, making a visual ID of the caliber size at the scene is impossible due to the body’s immediate reaction to injury, swelling and fluids distort the entrance wound rapidly. There may or may not be an exit wound based upon the ammo used. Target ammo or full metal jackets will leave an exit wound slightly bigger than the entrance wound. Hollow points may not exit, but if it does, it will leave a decent sized wound approximately the size of a golf ball or larger. Hope this helps.

    Lori, way cool! I AM jealous. The last item I shot on my cool list was a full auto MP5. Thanks for the compliment, I do appreciate it!

  3. Pari Noskin Taichert

    Nancie,Great to have you on Murderati today. Thanks so much for this fun and informative post.

    I hope you’re one of those people who thinks there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Otherwise, we’re gonna have a problem . . .

    Set-up: military trained sharp shooter is camped out in a tree some distance from his target.

    Questions:1. How far away could he be and still accurately get someone in the heart?2. What kind of gun(s) would be the best for the job? I’m assuming some kind of rifle with a superb scope — but, boy, I’m out of my league here.3. Would there possibly be any kind of “spent” anything that could be left at the scene — dropped to the ground — that he might forget in the moment?

    When I took the Firearms & Fiction course, the one thing I realized was that I didn’t know squat . . .

    Thanks so much for any advice you might have!

  4. Tom Barclay

    You’ve been long-absent, Nancie, and it’s good to see you out and about again. Should have mentioned that yesterday.

    A note from the genre trenches . . . science fiction is not inherently contra-factual. It speculates on the possible, based on the known. There really is supposed to be a factual foundation to sf.

    Bad writing is bad writing in any genre, and a lazy writer is a plague is the mystery and thriller stacks just as much as elsewhere.

    Bad sf movie scripts, however, are not written; they are scraped out of refrigerators abandoned in Studio City.

  5. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Pari, thanks for the welcome and these are certainly not stupid questions.

    1. The longest sniper shot for the record is currently held at 1.5 miles, so you’ve got a lot of room to play with here. This shot was made with a .50 BMG round, which is great for long distances, but the rifle is bulky and can be a challenge to carry in and out of rough terrain over several miles. If he’s shooting from 800 yards or less I’d suggest using the .308 round.

    2. One of the standard military sniper rifles is the Remington 700 M24 using the .308 Winchester (7.62 x 51mm Nato in military speak) round. The accuracy range with this combination is approximately 874 yards, so if you’re looking at a distance up to 8oo yards, I’d go with this rifle. Longer distance use the Barrett M82A1 chambered for the .50 BMG (Browning Machine Gun). The actions on these rifles are bolt actions, which means for each shot you have to manually operate the bolt to chamber the next round for another shot. Both of these guns are military issued, but there are civilian models available. The military favors Leupold Scopes, which are also available for civilian use. I suggest a Leupold Mark 4 10 x 40mm.

    3. If the first shot misses, and he takes a second shot the spent casing would eject as soon as he racks the bolt back for shot number two. Normally, he would probably pick up the casing, but if he’s in a hurry he might leave it to make his escape.

    Depending on the distance of the shot his target may or may not be lined up in the crosshairs of the scope. Bullets arc in flight, so the cross hairs might actually be aimed above the heart to place the shot directly into the heart.

    Hope this helps.

  6. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Thanks JT, it’s good to be here today!

    Tom, thanks for that and I agree I’ve been away too long and I definitely miss interacting on the blog. The life thing has been holding me hostage for a while and as soon as I complete a few monster work projects, I think things will ease up.

    Toni, I think of myself as extremely sarcastic, but if you find this humorous I’m not going to complain! Thanks for inviting me over here today. I haven’t had this many interesting questions in quite a while.

  7. Sally

    “Loose ammunition left in a car, building or even tossed into a fire will not explode”

    bullets tossed into a fire certainly do explode and can send something flying hard enough to punch through a car window.

    Trust me.

  8. Ed Lynskey

    I enjoyed reading your blog, Nancie. I read through the postings and didn’t see this question. I use a lady P.I. character in my fiction. I’ve tried for a long time to decide something about her. What caliber of a handgun do you think she would prefer to use in her line of work? Thank you in advance for any thoughts you may have.

    Ed Lynskey

  9. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Sally, we’ll just have to disagree on this one. The physics class I never took, which I understand has laws, is what I believe supports my statement. Plus, numerous tests have been performed to prove what really happens when loose ammo and fire are mixed. Now, any cartridge chambered in a gun exposed to fire will certainly go off and could have deadly results when it fires.

    This is a partial squished together paragraph, but I included the link below for the full text, plus a couple of others with the same test results.

    “Tests have shown that ammunition exposed to a fire…the ammunition is not constrained within the barrel of a gun, the force is dispersed in all directions, and the bullet will do little more than drop out of the case.”

    For the complete paragrpah go to the link below:

  10. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Ed, typically women lean towards the 9 mm or .38 Special, but we’ll also shoot and carry a .40 S & W and the .45 ACP. If she’s a revolver lady, go with a .357 Magnum, and she can still shoot the .38 Special through this gun if the need arises for more stopping power, and she can load the cylinder with both cartridges at the same time.

    If she’s a small woman you should watch the size of the gun, not necessarily the caliber, large guns are difficult for a woman to hold properly and women don’t generally like the recoil of the bigger calibers. And if she’s carrying concealed you want to consider a mid to small sized gun to allow her to hide it on her person easier.

    The smaller the gun the less accurate it is at a distance. For example, a snub nose .38 isn’t very accurate at 15 yards but you’ll still hit your mark generally within a few inches of where you are aiming; a gun with a 5 inch barrel will hit the mark where you are aiming. This all hinges on how good a shot the person is, of course.

    Mr. Typepad is having some crankiness today-he’s giving me posting fits.

  11. June Shaw


    Thanks for the entertainment. How nice to grin while learning. You sound like you could be a character in one of Toni’s delightful novels.

    June Shaw

  12. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Thanks Louise, glad you enjoyed it.

    Well, June, ahem, I don’t think Louisiana would be able to stand the pressure of me and Bobbie Faye together. I’m just a wee bit accident prone and things just see to happen around me, although not on the epic scale as Bobbie Faye’s mishaps. I’d hate to chance upsetting the balance of the universe by placing the two of us in the same county.

  13. Shari Boullion

    Are there any references you’d recommend for writers who have characters carrying guns? A good place for typical terminology and slang?

    Thanks for being here!

  14. Kathy Sweeney

    Hey Nancie!

    Loved Part 2 of the blog. And Toni is dead on – you should do stand up.

    I’ll second Tom – we’ve missed you!

  15. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    OMG Toni, can you imagine the chaos that would ensue as a result of the sane people fleeing, all two of them at once? The traffic back up alone would be sheer hell!

    Shari, well, um, er…no. You would think I would have either, made up one by now, or found at least one source on the Internet as a decent reference because this has been asked of me a number of times by several writers. I can usually just find the answer they want bouncing around in my cranium, and then I start rambling about guns and they’re desperately trying to make that hasty escape at that point.

    I’m going to have to put one of these things together aren’t I?

    Email me: and I’ll see what I can pull together and send to ya!

  16. Jonathan Quist

    Tom wrote:Nancie rocks. (I swear she is missing her calling by not doing stand-up. Funniest damned woman in a room. Any room.)

    Now, Tom, fess up. Would you say that if she wasn’t standing in the room with you and a small arsenal in her handbag? (But yeah, I was noticing a certain air of she-rocks-ness about her posts…)

    Re: Suzanne’s question on entry wounds.Spitz and Fischer’s “Medicolegal Investigation of Death” contains detailed descriptions with photos of various types of fatal wounds, including gunshot. There are probably other textbooks with similar information; this is the one my local coroner recommended to me. It’s pricey for a personal reference shelf, but is available in many university and some public libraries.

  17. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Kathy! Great to see you! Now, this is one funny woman here folks, she always keeps me laughing.

    Thanks for that, and I know I made a promise I haven’t been keeping. I’ve been failing at life lately I’m trying to bring my grades back up so I’m no longer grounded.

  18. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Jonathan, thank you for the comment about my rock status and I received it twice in one day! Thankfully, I go to work tomorrow and those co-workers of mine will make sure to crush any ego you fine folks built up today. This is our primary job function and we’re damn good at it.

    Also, thanks for the Medical Reference Book. My knowledge on wounds and such is very limited so this gives me a place to direct people. I’m filing this title away.

  19. Tammy Cravit

    One possible way to reconcile Sally’s comment with the laws of physics: Depending on how firmly the bullet is seated in the cartridge neck, it is (so I’ve been told) remotely possible that the fire could cause the gunpowder in the cartridge to ignite with enough pressure to rupture the cartridge case. Conceivably a case rupture could propel a brass fragment with enough force to shatter a car window close by.

    In fact, the TV show Mythbusters tested this out,and here’s their result (from episode 85):

    “Myth: Bullets thrown into an open fire can explode with lethal force.

    “The Mythbusters dropped a box of bullets with varying calibers directly into an open fire. While many of the bullets immediately discharged,, it appeared that none of the bullets could be lethal. Like the oven test, most of the damage was being dealt by the shell casings, which could not travel fast enough to be lethal.”

  20. Tammy Cravit

    Now a question, since the nearest gun shop is 45 minutes from me and I haven’t made it over there yet: I have a character who’s a cop, and I’m thinking that her backup/off-duty gun is something like a .40 compact Glock. Would a child of 7 or 8 be able to successfully get off one shot with a pistol like this?

    She only needs to fire one shot from pretty close range, so I’m not concerned much with sighting or with a limp-wrist jam of the pistol after the first shot. I just need to know if a child of that age would have the hand strength to plausibly fire such a weapon. (And, if not, is there another kind of pistol I could credibly have a cop carrying off-duty that a child of that age *could* fire?)

  21. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Tammy, thank you for bringing up the Mythbusters show, I apparently missed that episode. I love that show!

    Yes, in answer to your question, a child of 7 or 8 would be able to easily operate the Glock and discharge the firearm as long as there is already a round in the chamber. If she has to rack the slide to chamber a round, then I’d say no she couldn’t do it. The Glock does have a longer trigger pull at approximately 5 pound pull weight, so it shouldn’t be a problem for a child of that age to pull the trigger.

  22. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Hey ArkansasCyndi, good to see you here! Thank you, glad you enjoyed them both. I didn’t even think to put this in the comments on TLC yesterday, although I did post it a few minutes ago. I’m a little slow that way.

  23. Jake Nantz

    Ms. Hays, thank you so much for coming over here! I’ve really enjoyed everything you’ve written. As a fellow gun nut (with nowhere near as much info in my head as you obviously have), I can at least appreciate what you mean when people get it wrong. Of course saying that ensures I will at some point get it wrong now…. One of the things a friend of mine who is retired DEA told me about Glocks is that, unlike many older semi-autos, the pull pressure is the same for each round. That’s why (I think) the pull is longer. It prevents the accidental boom-BOOM that some guns cause when the operator unintentionally gets two pulls for the price of one. Is that still the case (was originally told this 10+ years ago)?

    I also noticed you said Hollywood often rankles you. Did you happen to see HITMAN? Love the video game, enjoyed the movie, but found it funny that he fired two accurate headshots from over four kilometers away with what looked like a normal bolt-action along the lines of the Remington 700. A much better sniper film is SHOOTER, though a slug from a .50 from as far away as the one famous shot in the film would probably have taken the mark’s head and shoulders clean off instead of just a little spray…

    I’m curious if you know, did the military ever use Unertl scopes exclusively, and has Leupold become the new standard, or is it just a preference?

  24. wndrgrl

    Okay. You are missing your calling by continuing to work for said “Government Agency” (it actually took me a little time to figure that one out! Can’t believe it qualifies!). Just a clarification, a “clicker” is a lot like a “little black thingie”, and we all know guns have them. 🙂

    Also, I am not sure it is EVER a good idea to look in the “nozzle” of your gun, especially after “pulling back the clicker”.

    Just a tip, if you choose to use your magazine tube guide rod as a javelin while on a hot range, you might be able to do some damage to someone or something!

  25. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Mr. Nantz, you are very welcome and I’ve had a great time today at Murderati! The trigger pull on the Glock is a little longer and heavier for the reason you mentioned and to hopefully prevent an AD (accidental discharge), since the Glock does not have a manual safety.

    I haven’t seen Hitman yet, but I will. I enjoyed Shooter and I do think the mark would’ve suffered different entrance and exit wounds if that had been a real shooting. I’ve seen a head shot (entrance only) made with a .50 BMG and it was gory and very bizarre-looked like a deflated mask.

    The military seems to be leaning towards Leupold, but to be honest I’m not all that versed in all things military, so I don’t know about the Unertl Scopes and if they’re still in use or if they’ve phased them out.

  26. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Wndrgrl, you had to think that one through did ya? Yep, it is a Government Agency.

    Oh, (head slap) I forgot all about the “little black thingie” now I completely understand what and where the clicker is, not to mention the purpose of the clicker.

    Javelin practice on a gun range is certainly unique and you’re the only person I know, so far, that has perfected the technique of firing and then launching said rod onto a hot range. Now that takes skill!!

    Great to see you here!

  27. Jake Nantz

    Please call me Jake. Even my students just call me ‘Nantz.’

    They apparently used a real ex-Marine Scout/Sniper as a consultant to make sure things were realistic in SHOOTER. I’m not sure I buy what he said in the DVD extra, but the consultant claimed that because of the distance the shot supposedly came from, the round would literally have to be fired uphill to carry the full distance, and the arc (azimuth?) would almost drop the round on top of the mark’s head, almost splitting him in half. Like I said, I just figured it would blow most of the top half off, but I’m no sniper (dammit) so I wouldn’t know.

    So cool of you to come by today! Thanks again, and I suppose if I were to buy a R700 (if they never make a consumer model of that new M107, I think it is), I guess I’ll just have to go with the Leupold!

  28. Nancie aka Gun Tart

    Jake, I’m with you on the ex-sniper’s comments regarding the arc of the bullet, but like you, I’m not a sniper either, so…

    I’m going to have to figure this one out. I do know an ex-police sniper and several military guys I can pester for info.

    Leupold’s are great scopes, pricey but worth the money.

  29. Dana King

    Excellent post. My personal pet peeve–which I have seen several times–is when a gun is referred to as .9 mm, which I suspect would be like being shot with a hypodermic needle.

    Your post shows two valuable things for writers to remember: provide the details that are necessary, unless you’re Tom Clancy or Brad Thor. Most readers will be happy to know its a 9 mm (not .9 mm), or it’s a Sig Sauer, or whatever, if all you’re going to do is shoot someone with it.

    Item Two: if you need more detail, get it right. If you can’t be bothered to get it right, leave out the detail.


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