Hollywood has a lot to answer for, and widespread notions about guns are not the least of them.
It is hard to be consistently accurate with a gun without a lot of practice – hundreds of rounds are necessary for mere competence. In the heat of the moment, training and deliberation can be easily eclipsed by excitement. Also, the sights on a firearm are there for a reason; shooting from the hip or in the sideways “Gangsta” style is a waste of ammunition.
However, rifles are much more accurate than handguns and it is easier to aim them.
One should always aim for the centre of mass – the torso. Only highly skilled sharpshooters with very expensive specialized equipment can be expected to routinely hit something else, and even then only if they have the time to wait for a perfect shot.
Few people are instantly killed with one shot unless the brain, spinal cord, or the heart is hit. Usually, most people struck by a bullet can expect to be “incapacitated” within about 30 seconds. This leaves plenty of time for plot developments, loud hysterics, or for an assailant to continue to come after the shooter. Trained shooters may keep shooting even after the target is down.
Bigger, more energetic bullets, and bullets like hollow-points or Black Talon rounds tend to do more damage. A .22 calibre bullet from 50 metres away might not even penetrate the target’s clothing and skin, where a jacketed .303 rifle bullet might zip right through at the same range. Buckshot from a shotgun load, or larger bullets like the .45 ACP might transfer all their energy to the target and knock him or her down with kinetic energy before the other effects start to be felt.
Being shot feels like you have been hit with a sledge hammer, and you might not have immediately grasped that you were shot. Personally, I thought I got hit in the leg with a baseball bat, picked myself up and then noticed the blood on my knee and realized from the uproar around me that an accidental shooting had taken place. All I felt at the time was numbness in my leg, and by the time the pain got sharper I was already drifting into the arms of Morpheus.
There is a wealth of information on various firearms and types of ammunition available via Wikipedia and a few minutes of research can tell you whether you may wish to have your character resort to a Webley Mk IV .455 or a Sig Sauer 226 in 9mm, and may make some suggestions about the particular history of the weapon lurking in your plot.
Ever since watching his first cannon fired at three years of age, John Thompson has been fascinated with weapons; which partly explains his 13 years in the Canadian military and five years with the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies. His interest in people who misuse them partly accounts for over 20 years with the Mackenzie Institute. He has fired a vast array of weapons from .177 calibre airguns to 203mm self-propelled artillery.
According to his parents, he was conceived in a tavern once frequented by the young William Shakespeare in Stratford on Avon; and has kissed the Blarney Stone. These may account for his affinity with the spoken and written word.
John is the author of Spirit Over Steel – A Chronology of the Second World War (Carrick Publishing), which weaves hundreds of individual threads into the tapestry of the whole conflict and yet never loses sight of the overall picture. Beautifully written and unerringly thorough, this resource guide is a “must-reference” for history buffs.
His second book, The Felicity File (Carrick Publishing), is a light-hearted and whimsical look at day-to-day life with a feline friend.