I Could Just Shoot Them!
Murder and mystery – as crime writers, we relish these words. And for many of us, firearms are the weapons of choice for finishing off fictional victims. However, I have a beef about how writers sometimes deal with firearms in their novels, to which I say:
I could just shoot them for not doing their homework!
My own research came early. I grew up on the furthest street up the side of a mountain in West Vancouver. We regularly had bears clawing the wooden front door and cougars roaming through our yard. With the forest mere feet away, we did not venture out into the woods without a rifle.
So – from an early age, I was handling firearms, specifically a 22 with sniper sights, a 30-0-6, and a shotgun. Later, I acquired a Marlin takedown carbine, which fit me perfectly. (Carbines are shorter than rifles; takedown carbines can be disassembled to about half their length.) In my thirties, I became proficient and competitive with a competition 22 handgun.
Which brings me to Things that drive me nuts in novels:
1. Magazines do not fall out of revolvers. Revolvers are called that for a reason: they have a rotating cylinder into which you load rounds of ammunition.
2. Revolvers are very nice for accuracy and reliability. “Six sure shots” are what we used to say. However, they need to be cocked. If you don’t cock a 38 or 45 caliber revolver, then your pull action has to be very, very strong – probably stronger than most women are comfortable doing. And that throws off your aim.
Which brings me to:
3. Don’t just have your character pull a gun and shoot. It drives me crazy when people just spray bullets all over the place. The character should aim. He or she should look down the sights of the firearm to line up with a target.
Example from School for Burglars (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, July/August 2007) “She lifted the gun, lined up the sights and fired.”
4. Two-shot Derringers – the kind you can stick in a silk stocking if you are not worried about shooting your toes off – aren’t accurate worth a damn.
5. Your petite protagonist will not pick up a 12 gauge shotgun, put it to her shoulder, and calmly fire. A shotgun will put not-so-petite me on my butt, if I try to shoot it like a rifle. I shoot from the hip. Even then, one might get bruised and knocked back. Better to give her a rifle, or takedown carbine.
6. About hair triggers: I nearly shot off my foot while holding a heavy crossbow with a hair trigger. Those things are dangerous! You don’t have to pull at all - a mere touch will fire them. You can use this to your advantage when writing, but be aware what it means.
Final words: If you are not completely familiar with firearms, why not stick to the tried and true methods of murder: the rope, the candlestick and the lead pipe.
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Melodie Campbell has a Commerce degree from Queen's University,
but it didn't take well. She has been a bank manager, marketing
director, comedy writer, college instructor and possibly the worst
runway model ever. Melodie has over 200 publications including
over 30 short stories and 100 humour credits. She has won five
awards for fiction.