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Disclaimer: This series of blogs will deal with the issue of handguns, shotguns and rifles. The information is to help writers write more accurately about them. It is in no way a statement for or against guns and should not be misconstrued to be such.
The characters in our novels have jobs and interests. Sometimes those jobs and interests will require that they have and use guns. For example, if one of our characters is a police officer, it is likely that on and off duty he may carry a semi-automatic handgun. Or if one of our characters hunts, he may use a rifle or a shotgun or a bow and arrow, depending on his prey. It is our responsibility as writers to write realistically about them. There is nothing worse than referring to a character as a “quick draw” and then giving him a .44 Magnum with an 8-inch barrel as his weapon. There is no way anyone is going to quickly draw an 8-inch barrel from a holster. And seriously, never, ever say “she emptied the magazine of her revolver.” No she didn’t. And you cannot shoot eight bullets from a 5-shot revolver as is so often seen in the movies. Ugh.
For the general public, there are two categories of guns: handguns and long guns. The two most used of handguns are semi-automatic and revolvers. Long guns are shotguns and rifles. Each has its own carry method and set of accessories. I’ll start this series with handguns because they really are the most common.
To begin, I will talk about revolvers. The revolver, like many handguns, have many different variations: barrel length, type of grip, type of sight, laser sights (or not), number of shots in the cylinder (4 + shots), caliber, metals, and with or without hammers. Longer barrels are more accurate but harder to conceal. Snub-nose revolvers are easy to conceal but are only accurate up close and personal. The most common revolvers carried are .357 Magnum and .38 Special.
The .357 Magnum is most common with a longer barrel although it can be snub-nosed. The shorter the barrel the greater the recoil. And the recoil is painful. Sometimes this is eased by loading the revolver with .38 Special shells. Either way, there will be recoil and this should be noted. The .38 Special revolver commonly comes with a shorter barrel and cannot fire the .357 Magnum shell..
The metal the guns are made from will be something to make note of too. The older generation revolvers would be made from blued-steel. In modern times, there is stainless steel for durability , the light-weight alloys are preferred for concealed carry including a few models that are made from polymers. This can add a dimension to your character all by itself. Is he a grumpy old man who likes his revolver “Old Blue?” Or is she hip and fresh and carries an alloy J-frame in her purse?
Grips can run the gamut from rubber, wood, ivory, bejeweled, etc. It is the bling of the gun. Or not. Sometimes it’s all about pure function. A character who has rubber grips is all business. The character who has the mother of pearl grips to match her cigarette case is all bling.
Be sure to fact check on the number of shots in the cylinder for the model revolver you choose to have your character carry. The number of shots can vary greatly from 5 for a .38 Special to 12 in a .22 target pistol. The best place to find specific information is from the gun manufacturers.
How the character chooses to tote his weapon around is to be considered too. Does he carry it in an outside-the-waste holster, inside-the-waste holster, pocket holster, shoulder holster, or ankle holster? Or does she toss it in her purse with her lipstick? Is your character in a state that allows open carry? Does he need a permit? Does he care? This list will help you.
It can be important to know how the gun is shot. Yes, your character would have to pull the trigger. But is it a single-action where he has to cock the hammer first before pulling the trigger or a double-action where the pull on the trigger does both – cock the hammer and release it? Most modern revolvers are double action but your character may like collector pistols or have an old one. Does it even have a hammer? Many of the smaller revolvers designed for concealed carry purposes don’t even have protruding hammers.
This is just some basic information on revolvers that may add a little interesting detail and insight into a character who may have one or use one.