Mistakes with Guns

I found an article titled “Stupid Gun Mistakes EVERY Writer Makes” that has a good list of common mistakes when writing about firearm behavior.  Here are a few, but check out his full list.

THE “EMPTY” AUTOMATIC We’ve all seen the scene where on adversary has the drop on another at the end of a gunfight. One guy holds out an automatic to the other guy’s head, says a take away line (“This is where the rubber meets the road, scumbag.) and then…click. The gun’s empty! Well, when an automatic has fired its last cartridge the slide atop the action locks back. They would both know the gun was empty. At the same time the firing mechanism locks back as well so no “click”. If you need to have a scene like this make sure your character’s armed with a revolver.

That one I knew, but think I’ve made myself. In the heat of writing you want the world to support your dramatic need. Doesn’t always work that way for some strange reason.

THE SUPER ACCURATE SNIPER SCOPE This one’s common. I do it myself but only because most audiences don’t understand how bullets track….

A good point here, in that sometimes you write what the audience needs to see, not what you know to be true. As a bit of a computer nerd, I groan and roll my eyes at some of the stupid things computers (or the people using them) do in movies and stories. But most people don’t understand how they really work, or it would be too obscure to show on the screen, so you cheat.

Overall I knew most of the list, and I’m sure at least one other author on this blog knew them all (and will probably add a few more of his own)…

About Jeff Moriarty

A dabbler in many arts, from Ignite Phoenix to Improv, and from Information Security to Screenwriting. Jeff loves creating new things, and tries his hand at many forms of writing from screenplays to prose. He pontificates on his personal blog, and helps authors get their works online.


  1. You know, that’s funny. I have qualified with a rifle at 500 yards so I should know better. I never remember how wind and other variables need to be measured before settling in. And until now, I have never even thought twice about it.

  2. Eric Bahle says

    Oy. Along the lines of the shotgun ker-chak: threatening your opponent with a 1911 style pistol…with the hammer down. The armed fella usually talks tough and then cocks the hammer to let the other guy know he’s really serious now. Unfortunately that type of pistol won’t fire without cocking the hammer.

    Plain old Newtonian physics: if a bullet has the energy to knock an opponent clean off his feet, through the batwing doors, and twenty yards in to the street when it hits, it has the energy to knock Bruce Willis down when he actually fires the weapon.

    One more then I’ll stop. A shotgun will not blow frying pan size hole in a wall. And the ‘spread’ of a shotgun will not hit your opponent without aiming.

  3. Eric, I figured you would have at least two more to add to his list, but had you posted ten I wouldn’t have been shocked. 😀

  4. One more to add to your list (and I’ve seen experienced “gun writers” fall for this one): “snicking off” the safety on a gun that doesn’t have one.

    Here’s a great gun resource: http://world.guns.ru/handguns/pistolbook-e.htm

  5. I like your point about the writer giving the audience what they need to see, not necessarily what they know to be true. That is an important delineation I think and the whole subject fits well with the B.S. article on this site. Very interesting article and response to that article.

  6. Eric Bahle says

    Ah, but what do they need to see? If you’re making a “Desperado” (a movie that breaks almost every mistake on the list) you’re so far into the realm of fantasy that you can make it work. My problem with most of these is that a very small amount of research (or a technical advisor on a movie) would avoid the mistake.

    Example: “The Hunt for Red October”. Jack Ryan goes after the saboteur with a 1911 pistol (the one that must have the hammer cocked before it will fire). He confronts the saboteur and there is a moment of tension. Ryan doesn’t want to fire his pistol if he doesn’t have to and doesn’t want to kill a man if he doesn’t have to. The men’s eyes meet and we know the saboteur is going to try and finish the job. There’s a close up of Ryan’s pistol. The hammer is already cocked but his finger is indexed along the frame. His finger goes to the trigger and he fires. It’s the same beat you would get from cocking the hammer but much more in line with how a trained person would handle the weapon.