How to Write Guns in Your Books

Sometimes, the bad guy just needs a hole put through them, care of: a bullet. It’s an unavoidable reality in some genres. (Post-apocalyptic/apocalytpic, dystopian, suspense, crime thrillers, etc.)

But if you haven’t been around them, guns can seem like a whole other world.

And they kinda are.

But I have a few tips/things to consider to help you write guns into your books without eliciting eye rolls and groans from people who know about guns.

So let’s start simply.

And also with the disclaimer that this should be used for writing purposes. Not for actual violence in the real world.

You don’t need to get uber specific.

Unless you’re writing military fiction, most readers aren’t going to give a shit what the exact model and history of the gun is. Unless it’s relative to the story, you probably don’t need to talk about the Winchester house and the ghosts it’s meant to confuse. You don’t need the serial number or the production history, either.

In most instances, you can supply the caliber and type of gun and be just fine. (9mm pistol, for example)

If your character is comfortable with guns, setting aside the amount of research you need to do, they’ll probably refer to them by caliber. If they have a couple guns in that caliber, they’ll likely refer to them by brand.

So, “The Beretta,” or “The .45.”

Mobility

Everyone knows the scene in the movies where the quirky character has to disarm themselves and pulls one weapon after another out of pockets and holsters and boots.

But if you’re not going for comedy, if you want any realism at all, you need to consider how mobile your character needs to be.

If they’re going to be stationary, set up within a guard post or something, go ahead and give them an armory if you want.

But.

Carrying a shotgun, a rifle, two pistols, two revolvers, a machete, and a couple other knives is not only overkill, but it’s massively impractical and the weight will add up.

Good luck moving without banging weapons together.

Good luck switching between those weapons quickly.

And good fucking luck reloading (since all your pockets are going to be covered up by guns).

Which brings me to…

Weight of ammo

That shit isn’t weightless. Bullets may be light, but they add up.

So, if you decide to have a character that carries ridiculous amounts of ammo, it will bog them down. Even more so if it’s loaded into a ton of magazines for easy reloading.

Given a reasonable magazine capacity of 10 (more if you get a banana clip or a drum for an assault rifle), those will add up, too.

And who has that many pockets?

Certainly not a female.

For the sake of some realism, here’s an article with ammo weights, easily found with a quick google search.

Certain gun for a certain job

So, let’s say you’re brand new to guns. Some things to consider:

Shotguns are typically better up close. Bird shot and buck shot are comprised of lots of little balls that spread out. The closer the target, the more of those little balls will hit.

Pistols are good up close (up to 25 yards), but headshots are not as easy as movies make them out to be, even less so if the target is moving. Center mass (torso) is much better and just as effective, unless your character is shooting zombies.

Revolvers are also a close range thing, but not as practical as pistols simply because they hold fewer rounds.

Rifles are good for long range, but you should get the scope sighted in. They can be pretty unwieldy in close quarters and have a big ass barrel that can be batted away or grabbed and controlled.

Automatic weapons are hard/next to impossible to come by legally. I don’t know of anywhere off the top of my head that allows civilians to have them, at least not in the United States.

Machine guns are incredibly heavy, not that carrying them is a great option. You can do it in Fallout, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. A submachine gun kinda solves that problem. In either case, they burn through ammo fast. (Obviously.)

Larger caliber bullets hit harder, but typically don’t go as far as fast and will tumble at a distance.

Smaller rounds travel faster, farther, and are typically more accurate. But they don’t have as much stopping power.

So consider the gun and ammo your character needs for the situation you’ve dropped them into.

Recoil

A light gun with a high caliber ammo is going to kick. A lot.

A gun with some weight to it will have less recoil.

A .22 rifle has virtually no recoil.

Higher gauge rifles can and will kick and split the skin on your face if you hold your face too close to the scope.

You need to consider your character’s proficiency with weapons and their upper body strength when choosing their weapon.

How common?

This isn’t so much of a problem if the character has ready access. But in a post-apocalyptic situation, you should probably stick to common rounds.

9mm, .22, LR, 12 gauge, .308, and .223 are the most common.

If you’re wanting to circumvent this by having your character fire reloaded bullets, note that some guns will not fire reloaded rounds. They’ll jam up every time.

Some are even machined to prevent the use of reloaded rounds, ostensibly for quality control and safety, but if you’re into conspiracy theories about capitalism and market manipulation, it could also be to make sure people have to keep buying ammo.

Now, go forth and write your books a little more accurately.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide. As I stated at the outset, firearms are their own world.

If you’re planning to write a character that knows a lot about them or uses them frequently, you should do some serious research.

But I hope this was a good jumping off point.


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