Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oh, shoot!

Ooops! Sometimes we think we know something and we don't. Research is a vital part of novel-writing. When my editor questioned a passage in my work in progress (tentatively entitled SHADOW RIDERS) that referenced a revolver, I began a research race through cyberspace. As anyone who has surfed the net knows, one thing leads to another and I was soon immersed in videos, diagrams, blogs...headlines, anything and everything online that relates to handguns.

Subsequently I had the good fortune of being invited to touch and sniff several restricted weapons and one prohibited weapon that were part of a good friend's legal collection.

Although not all this handgun trivia makes it into the novel, here are some of the more fascinating facts I uncovered:

Although both are handguns, pistols and revolvers are not the same thing. Revolvers have a 'revolving' cylinder for ammo whereas pistols have magazines.

Even though pistols have a safety lever and most revolvers don’t, pistols are considered more dangerous to use. A revolver’s ammunition is loaded into its cylinder while a pistol’s is loaded into its magazine. A revolver’s ammunition stays in the cylinder until fired, whereas a pistol’s cartridge (bullet) moves from the magazine into the chamber in preparation for firing. Thus, removing a pistol’s magazine can make the gun appear harmless when in fact it has a bullet in the chamber and is still loaded. This could also be why pistols have safeties and revolvers generally don’t.

When firing, a shooter should focus on the near sight. To aim a handgun, the gun’s near sight, far sight and the target should be aligned. However, the human eye can only focus on one of those three thing at a time. This FBI instruction video advises its agents to focus on the near sight.

A perfectly steady hand is not possible. Marksmen are advised to ignore the wobble that inevitably occurs when aiming a handgun. It is impossible to control, says this FBI video, and doesn’t affect one’s aim to any great extent.

Though the terms are often used interchangeably, semi-automatic and automatic firearms are significantly different. Weapons that aren’t automatic or semiautomatic must go through a process between each shot. Depending on the firearm, that process could involve such things as ejecting the spent bullet, loading a new bullet and/or cocking the gun. Semi-automatics get rid of all those steps. After firing, one only needs to pull the trigger again to get off the next shot.  Automatics get rid of the need to even pull the trigger again. They will keep firing until the trigger is released…or until they run out of ammo. 

These are just some facts I learned or confirmed on my way to answering my editor's question about how my heroine knew how to determine if the bad guy's revolver was loaded.

I've also done some research on CT Scans for my other work in progress, a thriller novelette. Visit the DID YOU KNOW page on my website for fascinating trivia about this medical procedure.

Oh, shoot! has been brought to you by FIREWALLS Book 3 in the BackTracker series.
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