Guns are cool. That's something most people into action movies, video games or books will agree on. But when it comes to representing them properly, in Hollywood, safe and effective weapon usage is as rare as big foot it seems.
This can be due to several factors; ignorance of proper handling by actors and director or just being ignored for the sake of being cool. As few people want to see bits of people being careful and attentive.
There are a handful of rules on how to treat a gun safely, none of them are official and vary from group to group But they generally have these points; In Italic, I'll explain why.
- Always treat a gun as if it was loaded. There are two reasons why do this; one is to get the habbit of handling weapon safely become an automatism regardless of the weapon's state. The second is that someone can always have tampered with your weapon without you knowing; Loading or unloading the weapon or someone can have forgotten to unload the weapon before storing it.
- Point the Weapon somewhere safe when not aiming at a target. In the event of an accidental discharge, you want to minimize the risk of someone being shot by accident. You always aim the barrel at the ground, not the sky as what goes up must come down and a bullet falling at terminal velocity can kill someone.
- Do not point the weapon at anything you do not want to shoot. One of the reason why is legal. In many places, pointing a gun at someone is considered a threat and said person is in the right to defend himself.
- Keep your finger off the Trigger until you are ready to shoot, rest it on the trigger guard. An often ignored rule of trigger discipline, this is observed by sportsman and military alike. Many triggers are sensible and a twitch from surprise can make you fire by accident.
- Keep the Safety on until you are ready to shoot or engage. The safety exist for a reason, to make sure you don't accidentally shoot something you would rather not kill. It is military protocol to keep the weapons with the safety on until the moment a soldier engage combat.
- Unload a gun before putting it in storage AND store ammunition separately. Also, store both under lock. One of the most important rule. Not only is it often legally required but it can avoid accidents, especially if children manage to get their hand on the weapons.
- When you take a new weapon in your hand, check the clip then check the slide for a bullet in the chamber and after that, check the safety make sure it is on. Finally, make sure the cannon is clear, using a cleaning rod, not by pointing it at yourself. Do this without exception, even if you just had it in hand a minute ago.
Some of these might seem redundant, but it is always good not to rely on one of these to ensure your (and your friend's) safety. A safety can fail, and negligence with deadly weapon could end up being Fatal.
Next is a bit of Ethics of how to use gun:
- Don't point at something you are not ready to shoot.
- Don't shoot at something you are not ready to kill.
- Know what your target is and what is beyond it. Over penetration, misfire or a missed shot can hurt or kill those behind.
How to empty a gun correctly
I'll go mostly on weapon that use magazines rather than cylinder as those are a lot more strait forward. An often forgotten factoid is that many weapons such as pistols, rifles, sub-machine guns and et cetera can store an additional bullet in the chamber.
Ejecting a clip is not enough most of the time as the gun will remain loaded with a single bullet, quite enough to kill someone. What one has to do to is to also force eject the last bullet from the chamber by pulling the slide or whatever will cycle to weapon's loading mechanism.
A common misconception is that blank ammunition are safe to use. While it is generally the case, there are two things to take into account.
- The explosion; a blank has several more time the amount of powder that a regular ammunition round has, this is to compensate for the absent sound of the bullet going through the air. Someone close to the cannon can get seriously wounded by the burst of flame.
- Obstruction in the Barrel; if something is stuck in the barrel, the blank has enough strength to launch it at deadly speed. Hence why it is doubly important to check the barrel for foreign object. This is what caused the death of Brandon Lee on the set of the Crow.
Probably the most misrepresented part of guns is the silencer. Everywhere it is used, spy fiction, action movies and etc, a silenced gun will only cause a whispery 'thump' when fired. This is not the case in real life.
A gun when fired are loud, going from 140 to 160 decibel, which is the same as a Jet engine. Silenced firearms on the other hand go to 120 to 130 decibel, a.k.a. the sound of a Jack hammer. This is far from the gentle whisper seen in movies. Explosions are very loud.
Silencers do have their advantage. If you are outdoor or in a very noisy environment, this can mean quite a lot, it also make spotting the direction of the shot or it's distance much, much harder.
Another noise factor is for supersonic ammunition, even if the weapon does not use a chemical propellant, such as Gauss (magnetic accelerated ammunition) the moment the bullet break the sound barrier will create a very noisy boom.
On full automatic fire
You often see characters with assault rifles or sub-machine guns fire wildly at their enemies for half a minute. This is actually impossible. Most rifles have the capacity to fire in a fully automatic manner for about four seconds before running out of ammunition, hence why the feature is often skipped on combat rifles. Especially since the average marine carries with him 200 or so rounds of ammo, at 700 rounds a minute it is not enough for a full minute of automatic fire even without having to reload.
Machine guns are the weapon used for this effect, light machine guns (which despite their names are quite heavy and bulky) are carried by soldiers but not to shoot directly at enemies but rather to force enemies to retreat or to take cover while the rest of the fire team takes position, flank or retreat. Medium and heavy machine guns are generally on vehicles or sometimes put on tripods to defend position.
Last thing I wanted to bring up, was bullet proof vest or jackets. There is this tendency to think of them as magic force fields that nullify the power of bullets. This is obviously not the case. Armor is made of two types of material; flexible fabric such as Kevlar and on stronger armor, trauma plates made of metal, ceramic or other hard material.
Pure fabric armor work by using hyper resistant fabric (such as Kevlar) to stretch the impact over the whole region rather than the nickel sized area. This works only for smaller caliber of weapons such as pistols, shotguns at medium range or low sub-machine guns.
Heavy armor is composed of the same fabric but come with pockets to insert trauma plates, heavy and thick plate of material that when hit will absorb the shock of the bullet. These can soak the shot from heavier weapons such as rifles.
However neither of these will remove the strength of the bullet itself. A 9x19 Parabellum bullet used in small caliber handguns such as the Glock 17 has energy equal to 570 Joules (Comparatively a 5.56x45mm NATO round, used in M4 Carbines has 1,767 J of energy). A punch thrown by an adult will have 100J for a normal person to 300J for heavily trained athlete.
So a bullet will be several times the impact of a punch, hence why most people will; break ribs when taking a bullet. Which is still better than being shredded inside by lead.