Showing posts with label Gun. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gun. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ballistic Forensics and Firearms Investigations: Was a Gun Used at Your Crime Scene? Information for Writers

Side-by-side comparison of many common pistol ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Your investigator is combing the crime scene and comes up with some cartridges and a bullet. Hmm can her findings help her tie the bullet found in the injured victim to the gun that was in the villain's car? Let's see what you could plot out.

What does a firearms investigator look for on the gun itself?
* What is the overall condition of the weapon?
* Is the gun capable of being fired? Do all of the parts
* Were there any modifications made to the gun? Many are illegal.
* The serial number to see if it can be traced to an

What if the serial number has been removed?
Restoration of a serial number if someone filed it off is possible. A serial number can't really be filed off to completely remove trace information. In the manufacturing process the act of making the number stamp leaves permanent stress marks in the metal below. An investigator will file the area as smooth as possible then use the metal etcher called Fry's Reagent. This will dissolve the metal and expose the numbers. Because the chemical agent continues to etch the metal surface, the window for being able to see/read the number is short lived and must be watched carefully and photographed. The investigators only get one shot (no pun intended) - so better not have someone interrupt the procedure or your plot line could take a turn - they'll never get the chance back.

What if an investigator finds a bullet or casing?
When an investigator finds:
* tool marks
* firearms
* bullets
* cartridge cases
at a crime scene, they are investigated in much the same way and usually by the same experts.
Blog Link - Tool Mark Forensics

By the way, Firearms examination and ballistics are NOT the same thing

Ballistics is a form of physics that studies the way any object travels -  this could be anything from a soccer ball to a paper airplane. In forensics it usually is referring to bullets and shotgun shells. 

Let's start with some basics:

Investigators will first determine which group of firearms was used.

5 Main Groups of Fire Arms
* Pistols/Handguns (Handgun Information Blog Link)
   `revolver cartridge casing of shot bullet remains in the chamber
   and must be emptied.
   `self loading pistols - ejects the casings
* Rifles (Shotgun and Rifle information Blog Link)
   `single shot
   `double shot
* Shotguns
Cartouche (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
   `They DO NOT shoot
     bullets they shoot 
     buckshot, pellets, or 
     slugs (a slug has a single 
     projectile usually a soft 
     metal like lead that is
     loaded into a shotgun
* Machine guns
   `automatic weapons
   `fed ammo from a magazine or a belt
   `powerful recoil
   `get very hot so they need to be mounted on a stand
*Submachine Guns
   `Fully automatic
   `Can be hand held

The Investigators will also look at bullets recovered from a crime scene or a victim's body and/or the casings to see if a bullet came from the barrel of a certain type of gun.

The Gun Barrel
* a barrel of a gun is produced by hollowing out a solid metal bar. 
   The drill that does this will leave random tool marks on the inside.
    After the barrel is hollowed out then a series of 
   grooves are made to the inside these are called rifling.
* The flat places are called lands
* The space between them are called grooves

This is an image of a 35 remington caliber, mi...
This is an image of a 35 remington caliber, microgroove rifled barrel manufactured by the marlin firearms company. it shows a 20 land and groove barrel with a right hand twist. The image was taken with a Nikon DX1 camera using f22 and a 1/30 ss. The bore of the barrel was lighted with a standard bore light. --Rickochet 12:59, 9 July 2006 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, the verb rifling means the spin that is put on a flying object. A baseball player, for example, will rifle the ball to make it spin so that the object stays on a true trajectory. (HINT: Shotgun barrels are NOT rifled they are smooth-bore)

When a bullet is fired through the barrel the bullet takes on the impression of the barrel's rifling. The lands on the barrel will make grooves on the bullet and the grooves will make raised spaces. Think of this like an old-time photographic negative.

Different manufacturers use different rifling specifications. For example: all Smith and Wesson .32 caliber revolvers have 5 lands and 5 grooves that twist right. Maybe the make of the gun twists left or has 9 lands. A firearms investigator can then look at the bullet and narrow down the gun manufacturer.

Caliber - the inside diameter measurement of a guns barrel measured between the lands (raised part of the rifling). We see these written as either hundredths of an inch or in mm.

Gauge - the measurement of a shotgun barrel (there's math formula for this that has to do with number of pellets that can fit into a pound)

The size of the bullet that was shot therefore can help determine:
1) Was it a smooth-bore or a rifled gun
2) What size barrel did the gun have? was it a .22? a 9mm? a .45?

Video Quick Study (6:34) Demonstration of a FBI firearm investigation

Type of gun is class evidence. It cannot tie a gun to a specific crime. But microscopic anomalies in production as well as use will make one gun barrel specifically different from another - as different as fingerprints. So when the bullet travels through the barrel the lands and grooves as well as the microscopic anomalies get transferred. Now they can tie a specific bullet to a specific gun. To do this
* The gun in question is examined in the lab
* The same kind of bullet is used (see bullet tutorial for different
   kinds of bullets that could be chosen for a gun such as hollow
   point FMJ Blog Link) from the same manufacturer.
* The bullet is fired into a test tank
* The crime scene evidentiary bullet is compared to the test bullet
    by computers or under high-powered microscopes
* Full metal jacketed bullets tend to be easiest to handle with more
   consistent striated details.

Video Quick Study (1:21) of a bullet being fired.
Video Quick Study (2:28) NCSTL does a quick overview of firearm investigation
Video Quick Study (8:12) Showing a test tank for gathering evidence of the striations of a gun in question

The ATF developed the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS)
IBIS is the computer system that can match the known barrel identification markings and match them to a bullet's markings. In this way various crimes can be linked to a single gun.
Video Quick Study (1:43)

English: Badge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobac...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Video Quick Study (4:29)
Video Quick Study (7:11)

This computer is not the "silver bullet" Once the computer finds a match it still has to be manually examined by an investigator - your investigation team
skipped this step? Might come
out in your court case scene - did
you want the perp to walk?

Video Quick Study (8:57) This shows you the holes that you can use in your plot, including how to change the barrel quickly and easily by just cleaning it with an abrasive cleaning product and thus change the microscopic tool marks. (Fair warning - NRA sponsored so this video does have it's own agenda)

Now on to the spent bullet and shell cases

The cases on a scene often have the manufacturer information stamped right on them. They may also have the markings from the firing pin (the tiny piece that hits the end of the round to send it down the barrel).

If a bullet or casing is found at the scene the investigator has to take great care not to damage any of the microscopic markings on the evidence. This means they may have to cut a section out of a wall if the bullet is embedded to take the whole thing back to the lab for the investigators to work on.

The gun, casings, and bullets will all be checked for fingerprints as well. (fingerprint article Blog Link). They will also look for trace evidence such as lint or hair.

And finally, a look at propellants and primers:
Inside of a round there is the bullet, the propellant and at the bottom a little bit of primer. The firing pin strikes the primer, igniting the propellant and forcing the round down the barrel of the gun. 

7N1 bullet cross sections
7N1 bullet cross sections (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

GSR - Gunshot residue
* Partially burned and unburned powder
* Soot
* Lead
* Vapors

Because GSR comes out in a geometric configuration as it leaves the barrel, if the target was within a yard of the gunshot, then investigators can determine how far away the gun was held.

GSR gets everywhere - on the victim on the shooter and in the environment (lead, barium, and antimony). Can be removed with soap and water.

.40S&W cartridge next to expanded hollow point...
.40S&W cartridge next to expanded hollow point bullet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dynamic Handguns and Shooting in a Structure: Information for Writers Prt 3

Image found on Facebook
Ach! With the tinkling of broken glass on her ceramic floor, your heroine was wide awake and on high alert. She ran to bolt the lock on her new bedroom door, the metal one her dad had insisted on as soon as he heard about his daughter's psycho ex.

After dialing 911, your heroine yells at the person jiggling her knob, "I have a gun. Leave now!" Then she hears her nephew's voice down the hall screaming her name. She had forgotten in her adrenaline surge, that she had house guests. She has to save them.

Video Quick Study (3:37) Using a safe room.

As an author I'm sure your realize that having a safe room doesn't mean your heroine is safe. Here are two example 911 calls where the callers did the right things, and they ended up pulling the trigger anyway:
Audio Quick Study (0:41) Man shoots intruder after his
               family is beaten and 911 operator accidentally
               puts him on hold.
Audio Quick Study (2:34) Mom is hiding in the closet with her
                two children when she shoots the intruder 5 times in the
                face and neck. He is still able to leave the house and drive
                down the road. The police find him and take him to the
                hospital where he fights for his life.

Shooting in the home or other structure.

Violent encounters statistically
* Occur at very close range (3 yrds or less)
* Often happen in low or no light
* Are over in a matter of seconds (3 seconds)
* Include the firing of three shots

According to NRA Guide to the Basics of Personal Protection in the Home, there are
 5 possible responses to a life-threatening encounter:
* freeze
* submit 
* posture
* flight
* fight

Stress and its accompanying physiologic reactions include 
* Difficulty breathing 
* Loss of fine motor skills
* Racing heart
* Tunnel vision and hearing discrimination issues
*  Shaking hands all create obstacles to defensive shooting and
    following safety rules.

Perceptual changes during a threatening encounter:
* Tunnel Vision - focus almost
    exclusively on the perceived
    threat    (Blog Link)
* Auditory Exclusion - 
   extraneous sounds are 
   inaudible. Your heroine may 
   not be able to hear instructions    being yelled at her by
   the police or other characters
* Time Dilation - slowed time,
   things seem to to be happening
   in slow motions.

Mental Preparation

Video Quick Study (4:49) Mental preparation tips.

* Your heroine must decide in advance that she is willing to be hurt
   and keep going. Once engaged she cannot give up the fight.
   (Aggression/Response Blog Link) If she doesn't have the right 
   mindset she's going to lose. So it's imperative that if you're writing
   a beta heroine that she have some impetus greater than her own
   will to stay alive and fighting - she's protecting her child, she's the
   only one who can replicate the anti-viral that will save humanity...
What should your heroine do? Listen to her limbic system
   Blog Link

Controlling the Encounter 

Strategies for a heroine who finds herself face to face with the villain.

* Both parties are experiencing high adrenaline. The problems of
   tunnel vision and auditory exclusion effect the villain as well. 
   The heroine should yell directives so the villain can hear and
* STAY AWAY - no matter how compliant the villain is acting. 
   Your heroine should keep well out of reach. Villains can have
    hidden weapons. Villains will often talk softly and reasonably as
    they make their slow approach. Your heroine will want to
    believe him and believe that nothing bad is really happening. 
    You're the author; you know what the bad guy is really up to -
    she should get as far away from as she can and not get cornered.
    This blog article discusses different tactics used by villains
    against your poor heroine.

It's bad. Your heroine is standing between the villain and her family. Gun in hand, ready to do whatever is necessary to keep her loved ones safe, she aims...

Found publicly on Facebook

A major safety rule is know your target and what's beyond. 
* Is your heroine sending a warning shot up in the air? What goes
   up must come down. And what if there is someone on an upper
* What if the villain is standing in front of a propane or oil tank, a
   kerosene heater or any other flammable liquid?
* What if she is shooting by a window or interior wall? 


Video Quick Study (4:19) Extreme Close Quarter Shooting

   Your heroine will be shooting in an enclosed space without ear
   protection. She may well not be able to hear anything for several 
   minutes following the blast. 

   If you've never heard gun fire in real life it is LOUD!

   Remember that the military and law enforcement officers use
   flash bang to disorient the individuals in a structure so they have
   time to run in and time to function, taking control of the area. A
   gun shot is loud and can have this stunning effect or a deafening

   Will your heroine be able to shoot a few bullets while standing in
    her bathroom, turn her head and chat with her cohort? Not likely
    unless she can read lips. 

   Couldn't that lead to a complication? What if the
   good guy was shouting instructions, "Get down! Get down!" She
   would never know. 

   If she is an avid shooter she may have silencer and that would
   help immensely as would subsonic bullets. Why do I say avid
   shooter? Legally it takes a very long time (about a year) to obtain
   a license for a silencer. So not something she can just decide on a
   whim to go purchase.

 Brian Coates demonstrating a silencer with 
sonic and subsonic bullets at 
Nottoway Wildlife Association Link

Your heroine will not be wearing protective glasses, though her regular glasses would serve this purpose.

Without eye protection, she could have eye damage from the gases and debris from the blast of the firearm, or a casing could fly back and catch her in the eye. Now your heroine is blinded and deaf. A terrible situation.

Use of Cover and Concealment

As soon as your heroine senses a threat - her limbic system lights up. She needs to immediately seek cover or concealment. She should not wait until someone fires on her or rushes her.

Your heroine is doing her best. She's standing strong. She took a bullet to the shoulder, but she will not give up the fight. Now that she has the injury, she realizes that concealing herself behind the cabinet was not enough. She needs cover, and she needs it now!

When you write a scene make sure you know which term to use. 


She concealed herself behind the sofa, holding her breath, hoping the sound of her beating heart wouldn't give away her position.

Concealment is - 
* Anything that will hide your heroine from observation
* Does not protect her body from incoming fire.
* Could prevent the villain from locating your heroine or being able
   to accurately fire on her.
* Could help her gain the upper hand through surprise.
* Could allow your heroine to avoid or escape from the intruder all

Cover - 

Cover will protect your heroine from incoming fire. A fridge would be cover. A wood burning stove would be cover.
* A regular mattress provides concealment; a water bed provides 
   cover .
* Regular walls provide concealment; brick, stone, or concrete
   provide cover. 
* There's actually very little in a normal house that will provide
   cover - but the villain may not understand this. He could be
   aiming at the tiny piece of your heroine that is exposed instead of 
   shooting through the door or wall.

Techniques for using Cover and Concealment

* Minimize your heroine's exposure - the less seen the better her
   chance of escaping detection.
* When looking around a barrier, have your heroine do a quick
   peek, bobbing her head out to get an image then popping back
   into her place. (much less than a second)
* She should vary the places that she peeks from so that the villain
   isn't just waiting for her like an arcade game.
* The human eye is predisposed to tracking movement. As long as
   your heroine is frozen in place, she will be harder to detect. Once
   she moves, the villain's eyes will be drawn to her. An old Indian
   trick would be to wait very still and then let out a war whoop - the
   sudden noise would make the hidden pioneers flinch thus giving
   up their location.
* If your heroine must fire from her position, she should stand arm's
   distance from the barrier, leaning out just enough to catch the
   villain in her sights.

U.S. Marine Corp., veteran Brian Coates
teaches how to acquire the target from behind barriers.

* In this video, I emptied my clip to time how long it took me to fire
   off all of my bullets. This is a VERY BAD idea in a shooter
   ^ Reloading takes time and attention, leaving your heroine at
      greater risk.
   ^ She doesn't have an endless supply of bullets. Once she's out,
      she's out.
* Your heroine should make sure that her muzzle is clear of the
    barricade. Sights being clear of the barricade does not equal
    muzzle being cleared.
    ^ Firing into cover at close range can cause serious harm to your
       heroine from ricochet or from debris.
    ^ Firing at close range into your own cover can lessen its
* If shooting multiple times (for example, your heroine needs to
   reload) she shouldn't pop out each time from the same spot.
* Your heroine should not rest or brace the firearm on the cover -
   this can cause the gun to malfunction and messes up the aim.

Moving to cover/concealment
* Your heroine should try to keep as much distance between
    herself and her attacker as she can.
* Your heroine should try to move away from villain and toward
* Your heroine should practice moving backward and laterally to
   find cover. If she knows she's in danger
   -rabid ex, crazy stalker, etc - then she has time to practice and
   prepare. How will she move? Where will she go? What protective
   objects are placed strategically around? What if you showed her
   practicing and the villain thwarts all of those plans by attacking
   her elsewhere - where she was vulnerable? By moving
   backwards and laterally she:
   ^ Can keep her eye on the villain
   ^ Keep her firearm in a ready position (NOT aimed NO finger on
      the trigger)
   ^ She maintains her balance

Video Quick Study (3:46) How to move backwards and laterally

When your heroine is choosing her shooting position, the NRA manual indicates that she should consider the following list:
* consistency (she's trained in that position)
* balance
* support
* natural point of aim (versus torquing the body)
* comfort

Here's hoping your heroine does a great job and saves the day!

Image found publicly on Facebook
This blog article is based on my experience at an all-day dynamic gun training class that I took at Nottoway Wildlife Association, LINK  called "Personal Protection in the Home," following NRA curriculum. 

These are the same folks who taught me about rifles in this article: BLOG LINK.

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.

I used the book, NRA Guide to the BAsics of Personal Protection in the Home (2000) to write this article
As always, 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.
Related articles

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dynamic Handguns and Shooting in a Structure: Information for Writers Prt 2 (Ready, Aim, Fire)

graphic found on Facebook

Your heroine stands quivering at the counter. She's decided that the pepper spray she's been carrying in her purse since her dad slipped it in there on her first day of college, ten years ago, is probably not going to be enough to protect her from the PCP dropping crazy guy who's been following her. She reaches a tentative hand out and lifts the Glock. "Yes, I can do this," she says. 

There are three main rules to firearm safety. And while your heroine is willing to protect herself with her weapon if circumstances require her to, she only wants to take down the villain. She doesn't need collateral damage -  especially if that collateral is really a loved one or herself, for that matter.
1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction - that means a
    direction in which, if the gun were to fire, would not cause any
    harm especially to your girl. When she moves her gun around
    she should not have any of her body parts in front of the barrel 
    even for a nano-second. Or do - I don't often see self-inflicted 
    wounds in books, and it might give a fresh spin to your plot line.
2. Finger off the trigger! Flinching comes from a part of the brain
     that your heroine can't control. Even Seal Team 6 can't prevent 
     flinch, and Seal Team 6 would never put their fingers on the 
     trigger unless they had a target in sight and had decided to pull 
     the trigger.

     If you need to make a mistake, this might be a good one: 
     newbie/untrained heroine buys a gun thinking that will make her 
     safe. She walks around her house in a panic with her finger on 
     the trigger and flinches when someone bangs the door in the 
     apartment next to hers. Now she has either alerted the bad guy 
     that she's armed and looking for him, or is now on her way to
     jail for shooting through the wall and hitting the neighbor. 

    * An ACCIDENTAL DISCHARGE - means the gun fired when
       your heroine didn't intend for it to because of a mechanical
    * A NEGLIGENT DISCHARGE - happens when there is user 
       error - like breaking one of the safety rules. 

   Video Quick Study (14:15) man discusses what it feels like to 
   shoot himself. Includes graphic images but there is a warning 
   beforehand, allowing you to skip that section.

3. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. 

Ladies, Get a Grip.

The first thing your heroine has to do properly is put the gun in her hand. I know many of you are writing in countries, such as the UK, where guns are prohibited, and you have probably never seen a real gun let alone put one in your hand. So let me try to break this down for you.
Two handed grip
Pistol M9 (Beretta 92F) in Fist Grip
Pistol M9 (Beretta 92F) in Fist Grip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* The shooting hand reaches
   for the gun, grabbing it 
   high in the back strap 
   area, just under the curve. 
   The webbing between the
    thumb and fingers is
    centered. The fingers curl
    around the grip.
* Trigger finger runs along
   the side of the frame 
   outside of the
    trigger guard.
* The gun is in a straight line with the arm bones.
* The support hand wraps the other side of the grip, making sure
    that it covers the whole space.
* Thumbs lay parallel on the opposite side of the trigger finger.

  Video Quick Study (5:15) Two hand hand grip with special issues 
 for your heroine.

Pistol M9 (Beretta 92F) Palm Supported Grip
Pistol M9 (Beretta 92F) Palm Supported Grip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* If your heroine uses a palm supported grip like the one above, her
   gun will break to the left, and she will have trouble getting her
   bullet where she wants it to go.

One handed grip
Pistol M9 (Beretta 92F) one hand grip
Pistol M9 (Beretta 92F) one hand grip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Thrust your hand
   forward like your pointing 
   your finger at

    Video Quick Study (3:40) 
    Using two different 
    techniques for one handed 
    shots. Note: he says, as do 
    all of the professionals, 
    "practice." Your heroine will
    fail if she is relying on a
    scenario to save her life. You
    have to show that she gained/or
    has skill in order for her to pull off the plot point.

Take a Stance

Shooting stance is also called "platform."
Do not lock your elbows so they act like shock absorbers
There are two basic standing platforms 
   ^ Isosceles - feet shoulder width, parallel, knees slightly bent
   ^ Weaver - the trigger finger side foot is placed to the rear
* One knee high - 
   ^ the knee on the side of the trigger finger is down.
   ^ The foot rests on the toes
   ^ Easy to get up and down from this position - good for speed
* One knee low - 
   ^ Go to one knee high position and sit on back foot
   ^ More stable when low
   ^ Can use the raised knee for stabilizing the gun
   ^ Gives a smaller profile to assailant 
* Supported kneeling position
   ^ Both knees are on the floor and the heroine sits her bottom back
      on her heels if the object is very low
   ^ The arms are supported on an object (not the gun itself)
* Two Knees Down - either high or low
   ^ Hard for inflexible or older people
* Squat - 
   ^ Just bend and go straight down.
   ^ Not very stable
   ^ Use this if your heroine needs to lower herself in a rocky or
      glass strewn area. 

Ready position
* Positioning the muzzle so that there is little movement to put the
   gun on target.
* Keep the muzzle down where it is safe

Video Quick Study (4:22) Choices in how your heroine holds her gun at the ready.

Line Up!  - How to Take Aim

Your heroine has the villain in her sights.
* she had time to use sights
* She made sure that her sights were aimed center mass with the
   forward sight equally placed in the opening of the back sight
* She probably only has time to do a flash sight which means she
   has the sights vaguely lined up with her target

Video Quick Study (6:34) sight alignment and sight picture
Video Quick Study (4:50) sight alignment

Your heroine's hand preference and eye preference may not be the same.
* Not all right handed people
   are right eyed. Your
   character will only discover
   this if she is properly
   trained. If she is left eyed,
   even if she is right handed,
   she should shoot left
   Why is this important? - She
   won't hit her target with
   nearly the same accuracy if
   she is aiming with the wrong
   eye. (Reverse this information
   if your character is
   a lefty). How could you use this
   in your plot? The villain injures
   your heroine's right arm, thinking
   that he has incapacitated
   her  shooting, but she shoots with
   her non-dominant hand so she 
   is still able to prevail. 

Point Shooting
* If your heroine is being attacked quickly or at very close range
   she will not be able to pick her stance or aim with the sights.
* She focuses on center mass and pulls the trigger.

If your heroine is having trouble at the range learning how to hit a target, here is a graphic that you can use to write the instructor dialogue, helping your girl correct her problem:

If you want to show your heroine practicing you could have her doing this:

Take a Breath

Video Quick Study (4:38) Breathing and how it effects your sight placement. Also discusses eye dominance

Breathing. - In the above video quick study, the instructor indicates that you should not hold your breath when shooting. It is better to use breath control to minimize gun movement. And this is true when shooting on the range or when your heroine has the element of surprise on her side and has an opportunity to use those techniques. In a defensive confrontation on the other hand, your heroine should hold her breath while pulling the trigger.


Your heroine pulls the trigger.
* She places the pad of her index finger on the trigger in such a
   way that the trigger is pulled straight to the rear.

Video Quick Study (5:46) pulling the trigger properly

... and just like that, it's over. Most confrontations last only 3 seconds with an average of 3 shots. Yup. That fast.

Emotions Your Character Will Experience After a Shooting

* Elation - your heroine vanquished the un-dead hoard! Not only is
   your girl thrilled to be alive, but her body is responding with its
   own little endorphin party. While this may later produce a sense 
   of guilt, the reaction is just as natural as the release of adrenaline 
   in your last scene.
* Revulsion - as the feel-good hip-hip-hoorah hormones fade, a
   heroine will often feel revulsion with accompanying 
   vomiting/nausea, or she may even faint. Your heroine might not 
   experience this emotion if she has military training or worked as 
   a first responder.
* Remorse - sadness or sorrow that she was put in the position of 
   having to kill. This doesn't mean she would change her reaction.
* Self-doubt - Remorse leads to the replay of the scene in your
   character's head. Was there another way? Did she have any other 
   options -while you, her author, know that you cornered her with 
   no options, that doesn't mean that your heroine is walking around 
   with a free-conscious.
* Acceptance - Your heroine rightfully concludes that her actions
   were justifiable and necessary given her plot line.
* After a traumatic life-or-death situation, many people experience
    PTSD. Please got to this Blog Link for an explanation.

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This blog article is based on my experience at an all-day dynamic gun training class that I took at Nottoway Wildlife Association, LINK  called "Personal Protection in the Home," following NRA curriculum. 

I used the reference, NRA Guide to the Basics of Personal Protection in the Home (2000) to write this article.
As always, 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.

related articles

Monday, March 17, 2014

Shotguns and Rifles 101 for Writers


Home again after a fabulous time in Nottoway, Virginia where I spent time training at the Nottoway Wildlife Association. LINK Here, I met some of the most experienced, dedicated, kind, and encouraging teachers anyone could ask for.

Ed Rogerville, Range Master
NRA instructor

On my drive there, an ambulance raced up behind me. As it overtook me, another ambulance vaulted off of the ramp - lights flashing, sirens screaming. I was almost to my turn, and I started praying that they would not turn in front of me. My husband and son were already at the club, and I was suddenly afraid that an accident happened at the shooting range. But they barreled ahead, and I turned peacefully left. It was our first time at Nottoway Wildlife Association, and I need not have feared. They've been operating since the 1950's without a single incident. 

If your novel has a scene with your heroine at the range, you're going to need to know some basics about their rules. 
* No one, not even the instructors, walked around with a gun in
   their hand, unless it was their turn to shoot. 
* The guns were stored in a shed, or leaned on a rack. 
* Once it was the shooters turn, they were directed by the instructor
   to a specific place to stand. These were cement squares so there
   was no mistake.
* When the shooters were about to begin, there was a loud
    announcement  that the range was "hot" or "live"
* When someone needed to walk out into the range, all guns were
   put down and everyone stepped away from their firearm.
* Don't make the mistake of writing your experienced shooter
   taking short cuts with the rules. The most experienced shooters
   were the most meticulous about how they handled their firearms.
* The shooters and everyone in the immediate area wore eye and
   ear protection. Most of the people wore plastic ear protection that
   was inserted into the ear canal. I personally prefer to use
   headband style protection like the woman below (do not look at
   her hands and write that as your heroine's grip, it's wrong)

Indoor Shooting Range at Sarasota, Florida, US...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Safety First

* Assume that every weapon is loaded.
* Always point the weapon in a safe direction
   (up or down) to minimize property damage
   and protect everyone from injury.
* A finger is never put on the trigger or even
   inside of the trigger guard unless the target
   has been sighted and a decision has been
   made to shoot.

Shooting Stance

* The shooter is comfortable, and balanced
* The choice of which hand pulls the trigger is based on
   eye-dominance not handedness
* The legs are hip distance apart one foot slightly ahead of the the
* The body is aligned with the target
* The shooter rotates at the waist not with the legs
* Knees should be slightly bent
* Lean forward
* The butt of the stock goes against the shoulder
* The cheeks lays against the stock.
* One hand supports the barrel. Elbow points downward and the
   upper arm braces against the chest. 
* The trigger finger rests along side the trigger guard.

Video Quick Study (3:19) covers standing and prone as well as movement. Great info if you are writing a combat scene or your heroine is military trained.

Shotguns v. Rifles

*Authors please note * Ed Rogerville explained that the proper term is firearm. "We never refer to firearms as weapons. I realize this is a widely used term but we, as instructors, don't use it. We always use the term firearm. We're not teaching or coaching, especially kids, to use force. We're teaching them how to hit a target. I know it's kind of politically correct, but that's the term we prefer to use." 

Photograph of 12 gauge shotgun shell
12 gauge shotgun shell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* Has a smooth barrel
* Uses shells - shells hold lead pellets the
   number reflecting the gauge tells the size of the
   pellets inside.
* Once the shotgun has been fired the pellets
   expand in a circumference, making hitting the
   target more likely than with a bullet.
* Devastating at close range for personal
   protection because of the number of holes it will put in
* Used for trap and skeet sport shooting.

 This is Ed loading up for trap shooting. The picture to the right is what the clays look like. Believe me, they look muuuuuch smaller when they're flying through the air.

* The shooter does not look down the barrel and sight the target.
   The shooters eyes are both open and focused on the target. 
   The gun follows the focus. Even after the trigger has been pulled
    the shooter should follow through by remaining focused on the
    target and moving the gun along the trajectory.
* Beginner issues include: hesitation, aiming, and stopping the
   movement after the trigger was pulled.
* Note that weather conditions like the strong winds we were
   experiencing will effect the shot.
* Don't assume that because your character is a hunter that they are
   a good shot. According to Darrell Garber, "As a general rule,
   hunters can't hit an elephant staked in the yard."

Darrell Garber and Fiona Quinn

   * The shotguns we were using had various weights. I asked
       Darrell why this would matter. He explained to me that it is
       simple physics. For every action there is an equal but opposite
       reaction.  If there is thirty pounds of energy coming back up,
       the shooter will feel more of the recoil with a four pound gun
       where a ten pound gun would absorb much of that energy.

Shooting range near Pittsburgh, PA.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Has a rifled barrel which means that it has
   spirals inside that rotates the bullet like a 
   football to make it fly straight.
* Uses bullets
* The higher the caliber the more recoil the
   shooter will experience. 
* I was shooting .22s and I found it much
   easier than my 9mm handgun because the
   sound and light were at a distance, much
   quieter, and there was almost nothing in the
   way of recoil.
*There are different kinds of rifles such as:
   `Single action
   `Bolt action
* Deadly to 500 yards

Darrell was kind enough to let me shoot his AR15. Yes, I should be leaning forward. This was my first time shooting an AR and frankly, I was afraid of the kick. But there was less than my 9mm. It was very smooth, and a whole lot of fun.

As a side note, If you are near Nottoway, Virginia, the Nottoway Shooting Sport at Nottoway Wildlife Association offers classes to non-members. They have a beginners class as well as personal protection in the home (That one my husband and I are signing up for) at very reasonable prices. So check them out. LINK

See this article in action in my novella: MINE

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