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The World of Iniquus - Action Adventure Romance

Monday, July 15, 2013

Choosing a Handgun for Your Character


English: Trigger Double Action Italiano: Grill...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
DISCLAIMER - This is a non-political site that is geared to help writers write it right. 
I am presenting information to help develop fictional characters and fictional scenes. In no way am I advocating any position or personal decision.

Decision One - Why is your heroine carrying a gun?

Target Shooting - chose a gun that
    is comfortable to shoot and the
    ammo is inexpensive.
    (.22 is cheapest)
Conceal Carry - strong enough
     bullet to do the job (higher
     caliber), light enough and small
     enough to conceal on the body.

Home Protection, Back Woods, Zombie Apocalypse
     for all 3, she might want a 
     higher caliber
     (bigger bullet - .357, .44) to
     protect against large animals
     such as bear or werewolf.

This is a picture from one of my target practices with a Springfield 9mm XD-S/20 feet/32 bullets.

DECISION TWO: There are two kinds of handguns - the revolver and the semi automatic

English: Enfield No. 2 Mk I* revolver produced...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The revolver gets its name from the barrel that must revolve forward to bring the next bullet into play.

The industry standard is a six-bullet cylinder.

If the villain is using a revolver then your heroine can count bullets and has a window of opportunity when he has to reload.

Now choose:
Single action - your character will have to cock the gun before she can pull the trigger. This slows down her firing ability.
Double Action - every time your character squeezes the trigger it will pull the hammer back and fire


* Extremely simple
* Point and shoot
* They fire every time - if they fail to fire in an emergency situation
   simply continue to pull the trigger and the cylinder will continue
   to rotate and prepare the next round
* Easier to clean and maintain than a semi-
* Can be left loaded without issue


* Smaller capacity than a semi
* No recoil spring to help you with recoil action - the shooter's hand
   takes the recoil. This HURTS so, in my opinion, not a great gun
   for target practice but okay for emergencies.

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A semi-automatic fires the bullet in the chamber, extracts it, ejects it, and loads a new round


* More control than a revolver
* More comfortable to shoot because of the recoil spring
* Higher capacity (holds more rounds)
* Quicker to reload


* Not as simple as a revolver: there are more parts such as the
   magazine release and the slide release.
* Not necessarily as reliable because they can jam occasionally. 
   The character would have to clear the jam before she could
   continue shooting.
* Must take apart to clean and maintain
* If you leave your gun loaded for a long time the magazine springs
   can become compressed so one should not leave it loaded (or just
   replace the magazines every once in a while). But this might 
   be a reason for a complication in your plot.

Semi- automatic video quick study (6:15)

DECISION THREE - What is the gun made from?

This mostly has to do with weight - how carry-able is it? How accurate is it? How much can your heroine handle?

Three Most Common Materials

Steel and Polymer (around 26  oz.)
Steel and Aluminum Framed (around 32 oz)
Full Steel ( around 40 oz.)

DECISION FOUR - Safety or no safety?

With a safety on, even if there is a bullet in the chamber, squeezing the trigger will not produce a shot. This might pose a problem for your character if her adrenaline is flowing, her brain isn't functioning, and she can't figure out why the bad guy is still attacking her.

Without a safety - her shot is quicker. However, accidents can happen. Would this advance your plot?

DECISION FIVE - Is this a good fit for your character?

* How big are her hands? (check grip size on gun)
* How strong is she? (check weight)
* Can she take the recoil? (a revolver might put her on her butt and
   that might be where you want her)
* What capacity (how many bullets does she need to do the job? 
   Or fail at the job?)
* Reloading (How fast? How many times? How successful?)
* What caliber of bullet does she use? Bullet tutorial

I would suggest that after doing some research and making some initial decisions, that you go by the gun store and hold the gun that you think your character would use. I have very small hands and some guns are just too large for me to grip properly. Glocks for example have HUGE grips and are not great for small hands reaching the trigger. Blog entry of me shooting a Glock at a F.A.T.S. demo CLICK HERE

I shoot a Springfield 9mm XD-S for comfort, and accuracy in range shooting and home protection. It fits my small hand, is a good weight and size, and I can use extended clips to increase my capacity. The trigger pull is about 6 lbs. which is easy enough for my strength level. 26 oz. Though pretty difficult for me to field strip (open it up to fix a problem). Small enough for concealed carry. 
Excellent overview of the XD (8:36)

While I write my blogs from the perspective of the heroine, my friend at Confidential Resource thinks you should note:
Hand size is not a gender issue. Handguns are all about the shooter's hand size. Hand strength is also an issue as most people don't work with their hands today. However, hand size is the most critical issue.

The reason it is so important is that the pistol barrel must align with the forearm to enable accurate controlled fire. To line-up with the forearm the tips of the second and third fingers must press on the side of the grip opposite the palm. Without this, you will not be able to acquire or maintain a proper firing grip. For people with small hands, this means a narrow front-strap that is well rounded--think 1911, P220, or perhaps the SR9 pistols. Of course, the reach to the trigger face is also an important consideration.

For concealed I like:
Sig Saur P238 Copperhead (video 1:38) It is easy to conceal (.380ACP caliber). It hurts to shoot. Watch your character's grip - the gun is so tiny she might get her hand over the barrel/slide.

I also like the Ruger LCP and the Kel-Tec P3AT Ruger and Kel-tec (video 8:38) The Ruger LCP is what Kelli carries Women Carrying Concealed blog entry


Did you know?

When you have a magazine in your semi it is not considered loaded. A loaded gun means that you have a round in the chamber. Careful when you're writing. If you write that the gun is loaded and then the character racks the slide, then you have made a mistake.

Should the gun be loaded? Talking to experts, the prevailing wisdom says:
   * If the semi has a safety, yes
   * If the semi has no external (thumb) safety then no (remember
      this just means not having a bullet in the chamber) 
Revolver - yes.
Conceal carry? yes.

Confidential Resource: Sources & Methods for the Investigator  ( @locuscommunis on twitter) explains that:
Experienced shooters always refer to the 'condition' to describe the pistol's state or readiness to fire. A proficient gun handler will usually keep the pistol in Condition One or Four. Institutions that know their people are incompetent will often dictate Condition Three to avoid negligent discharges in administrative handling.
  • Condition Four: Chamber empty, empty magazine, hammer down.
  • Condition Three: Chamber empty, full magazine in place, hammer down (Israeli carry).
  • Condition Two: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer down (extremely dangerous, especially with SA pistol).
  • Condition One: With Single Action: a round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety on. With striker fired pistol: a round chambered, full magazine in place, striker at ready position. With Traditional Double Action (TDA), DAO, or LEM: a round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer at ready.
  • Condition Zero: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety off.

Best video series I have ever seen on guns is:

And before I leave today can I just add this one little bit of information...? A pet peeve is someone who writes a silent shot with a silencer. Shooting with a silencer removes the sound and light to a distance that makes it easier to shoot without flinch (my target paper is always so pretty when I shoot with a silencer) but it IS NOT SILENT! 

LINK Nottoway Shooting Sports

See how this article influenced my plot lines in my novella MINE and my novel CHAOS IS COME AGAIN.

Thank you so much for stopping by. And thank you for your support. When you buy my books, you make it possible for me to continue to bring you helpful articles and keep ThrillWriting free and accessible to all.


  1. "In the home? Semi- No (remember this just means not having a bullet in the chamber) Revolver yes, with a

    Common revolvers DO NOT, repeat DO NOT have safeties. This is perhaps the most repeated of all handgun errors in fiction.
    Yes, at one time, there were revolver models that had safeties. Yes, some are still around. However, you could now go to virtually any gun store in the country and not find one of those revolvers.
    Common revolvers do not have safeties.

    1. Ach! Doug - thank you! That was a BAD piece of editing. I have fixed it to read correctly.

  2. I've wondered before if silencers/suppressors never allow more than a "thump" to be heard specifically because it's been done so long the audience would expect it and wouldn't believe it if there was a more audible noise, in a bit of "realism is unrealistic" situation.

  3. Thanks, Rebel. Always nice when you post :)

  4. A friend e-mailed and asked why Doug said there are no safeties on revolvers; she has one on hers. And she does, and there are safeties on some revolvers - it's just rare. The reason it is rare for a revolver to have a safety is that they are intrinsically safe since you have to cock them before pulling the trigger. Thanks Beth for asking :)

  5. I have a Ruger 9mm SR9C, it's great for concealed carry. It comes with two clips, 14 & 17 rounds. I have small hands and can comfortably fire it with one hand. It's a great gun for combat firing. I know some folks like the bigger calibers, but what good is a cannon if you can't keep it on target? Plus it's not painful to fire repeatedly.

    1. Thank you for your input. Can I just ask if you happen to be male or are you female? (I ask for hand size) - Firing one handed? Paint me impressed!My bullets would be flying all over the place.

  6. Actually Fiona...not all revolvers need to be cocked "before" pulling the trigger.
    SINGLE-action revolvers, yes. DOUBLE action revolvers cock the hammer *when* the trigger is pulled.
    And I need to be more precise about safeties, too. When I said most revolvers don't have safeties, I meant external devices that can be switched on or off. That's what writers mean when they have their character "nervously thumb off the safety." Those sorts of revolvers are rare. But most revolvers today have INTERNAL safeties that prevent accidental discharge if the weapon is dropped.
    Sorry for the second hijack of your blog. I'm at www.everysecretcrime, and you're welcome to take over mine anytime you wish!

  7. I see a new blog article in the near future - discussing safeties.

    1. Safeties, whether internal or external, are intended for one single purpose: to prevent it firing, even under the most disastrous conditions. Stick a finger, or some other object, into the trigger guard, and EXPECT it to fire. If it doesn't fire in that particular instance, thank sheer dumb luck, which will eventually run out.

      Revolvers (mostly internal safeties), and autos (internal plus visible or low-profile external safeties) are designed solely to prevent firing in even the most extreme circumstances. A friend watched as an improperly-secured Glock fell out of a helicopter at 250 feet. The plastic frame shattered into three major pieces when it hit the runway, with lots of little plastic fragments. But the round in the chamber was still untouched, and now could not be fired, since the rest of the weapon had disintegrated, while still "failing safe".

      As for concealed-carry, a person should always reevaluate their choices, even in the tiniest detail. Grip size is important, no matter your hand's size, or the weapon's size. There is a strong movement in the industry towards "grip reduction", whether interchangeable grip parts, or custom parts. I know guys with moose-sized mitts who are happy to see various improvements when they thinned their grips a bit. A lot of reasons, and a lot of benefits, in dong this, but the subject is complex, and takes a while to examine all of it.

      My own experience with concealed carry has resulted in major and minor changes to what I carry, based on my last three years of licensed carry. My legal liabilities, and my life, make replacing my carry piece with something else that I now see as a better weapon, simple, but expensive. Depending on holster and carrying choices (more important in concealed carry than even the weapon, IMHO), I can conceal several pounds of a large-frame .45ACP handgun, and about six spare mags. But it quickly becomes a pain, which leads to excuses to NOT carry it, "just this one time".

      My current choice, a Walther PPK in .380ACP in a pocket holster, denies me that excuse. It's also inherently accurate, as all Walthers are, with superb ergonomics. With high-end defensive ammo, it has more punch than what is fired from the current generation of lightweight, super-snubby revolvers, which are good choices for a lot of people. Anything that shoots comfortably, and lets ME keep all the rounds in the black at "social interaction" ranges, has my vote, and MY pocket.

      I did a bit if tweaking, including the plastic grips, replacing with some custom cocobolo checkered ones. Besides a comfortably, secure hold, "printing" and "pointability" are important considerations. I've found that most plastic grips (common on most autos nowadays), start to polish off the "texturing" with use, revealing the slick, hard ABS underneath. Still good for everyday use, but my peace of mind demands that I dot every "I" when I come across one in my carry piece. The checkering also makes for more secure draw from the horsehide pocket holster. That's the subject of yet another article, including how I justify horsehide despite my love of horses. :)

    2. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I especially liked the story about the gun falling. Very interesting.



    3. Sorry for being off-topic, I'm still trying to figure out how to post as someone other than "anonymous"

    4. Thanks, Rick - are you on an Apple per chance - for some reason that seems particularly unhappy with blogger. Glad you got your name up!

      Fiona -

  8. Great post - great info. Doug makes a good point about single vs double action revolvers. Something else that writers should do is actually handle a gun. Know how it feels in your hand. Know how it feels to squeeze (not pull) the trigger. Know what it looks like to line up iron sights. Personally, I have a Walther P22 and a Browning Buck Mark. I'm better with the Browning (longer barrel) but love shooting the Walther. And the Browning is just too big to carry concealed.

    Thanks for the post!

  9. Great article indeed. And I see Doug Commings' point about double-action revolvers and cocking-- but cocking a double-action (or a semi-automatic) still makes the next shot a bit more "hair-trigger" ready to fire. (And of course, the act of cocking it is still good for intimidating the villain, or psyching yourself up.)

    Another difference between revolvers and automatics is that automatics eject their shells when each is fired, and revolvers don't-- an easy mistake for some writers. Plus, criminals have been traced from using automatics, because they left fingerprints on the rounds left behind.

    Definitely enjoying this site!

    1. Ken,

      Thank you! Those are great points. I appreciate you stopping by and helping us to learn. That click of the trigger is def. an adrenaline producer, as is chambering a round in an auto. But in the auto, most people already have the bullet chambered (unlike in the movies) so they don't get the satisfying kachunk to warn the bad guy off.

      Those spent cartridges are important to you detective in identifying the weapon. Dumped in a neat pile? Revolver. Cast far and wide? Auto. None? Could be a revolver, could be that the villain had time to scour the area and clean up. Great part of the author decision making process.


  10. Thanks for the post, these firearms training courses can also be joined to get trained for vocational job training or for jobs as security guard or for personal security. For this you can also take help from the MA Gun License to have the guns and get the gun license for proper use.

  11. Great post Fiona,
    I am looking a good handgun and your post really help me so much.

  12. This is a great primer for writers. Thanks for sharing.