The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The World of Iniquus - Action Adventure Romance

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

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. ...great post, very informative for crime writers like me... LUVVED the bit, "As a general rule,
    hunters can't hit an elephant staked in the yard."

  2. Fascinating post! Lots of great information.

  3. I'm in Orange, VA and love the wild-opened space for hunting and appreciating wildlife. Just got to keep the cat from dragging baby possums in the darn house!

  4. Lean into those guns Fiona. Y0u're leaning back a bit in the top photo. (and yes, I do know what I'm talking about...been shooting for years!) Love uya, lake

    1. Oh, I know you're right. I'm trying hard to correct it. What I need is the ammo prices to come down so I can shoot as often as I like - fix those niggling body alignment issues.

      Thanks for taking the time to help me :) appreciate you!


  5. Fiona, I tried to nominate you but it wouldn't let me because I'm not in the US. :( Hope you get it anyway!

    1. Hi Heather,
      Thanks so much for your support. I appreciate you trying.


  6. Also I didn't know the difference between a shotgun and a rifle. Now I do. I always learn so much from your posts!

    1. Heather,
      Are you in England? There are a lot of people who are writing crime from countries where guns are not part of the culture. I'm wondering if there are places you can go to train/learn that allow you to see and hold even try weapons?

      Here, while I can't actually run C4 and create an explosion, at least I've been in writers' classes where explosive experts can show us, and we can feel the shock waves, etc. Is that allowed for writers where you are?

      Just curious...

  7. Always keeping your gun pointed in a safe direction may mean that up and down are not safe. If I'm in an apartment, for example, I have to be aware that a bullet could to through a floor or a ceiling and injure someone. That said, down is usually better than up. And, yeah, I know what I'm talking about. I grew up in Alaska where there is a huge gun culture and own several myself.

    1. Excellent point, Lela, read more about guns in a structure in these articles under the weapons tab.

      Dynamic Handguns and Shooting in a Structure: Prt 1 Plotting Gems

      Dynamic Handguns and Shooting in a Structure Prt 2 Ready! Aim! Fire!

      Dynamic Handguns and Shooting in a Structure Prt 3

  8. For a long time I've just been looking up weird forums and reviews of guns when I needed to talk about them. I always worried I sounded a bit like someone that had just read a Wikipedia article. This is pretty stuff to make it sound more natural.

    I do find though that some people actually don't want too much realism. They like the fictional portrayal of guns as these really unstable and mysterious things.

  9. I find that if my main character doesn't know anything about guns, and ends up with a gun in their hand (which has happened) it's always fun to play with that ignorance, which probably drives gun nuts crazy.

    In other words, "I had a gun. It was a gun. I don't know what kind of gun. I had no idea how to use it, but I had it just in case."

  10. I really didn't like the "As a general rule,hunters can't hit an elephant staked in the yard." but then I realized, "I resemble that remark." Friends tell me I don't hunt with bullets because I never come home with anything.
    But VERY good post. Very accurate and useful.

  11. I simply love people being associated with the guns as most of the times they are supposed as the killing machines but one must remember that when anything is not used properly then they can be really hazardous. People who are related to gun must deliver proper training and message to their trainees as having guns is always associated with having moral duties associated with it.
    MA Gun License