August 13, 2008

Firearms, Fiction, and Fallacies

This is not one of the many busy gun blogs -- if you want to read them, check this aggregator or work your way through Tamara's links.

My complaint -- and it's not new -- is with novelists who are clueless about firearms.

By analogy, imagine reading, "All six tires on my Ford Mustang smoked as I slammed on the brakes in front of Rocky's Bar." You might think that the writer never saw a Ford Mustang.

For instance, I just finished Robert Littell's The Once and Future Spy. Littell is praised as a master describer of "tradecraft," the nuts and bolts of espionage.

Since the book came out in 2004, perhaps someone has told him, however, that you cannot put a silencer on a Smith & Wesson .357 handgun. That is a revolver cartridge, and revolvers cannot be silenced (or "suppressed) -- with a few very rare exceptions. It has to do with their design -- if you don't know why, ask a shooter friend to explain. (If you lack a shooter friend, get one.)

Just today, checking the new fiction at the Rawlings Library in Pueblo, I flipped through a thriller in which a character was shot dead by police snipers before he could "cock his Glock."

Carried away, no doubt, by his wonderful rhyme, the writer forgot -- did not know -- did not bother to learn -- that Glock's entire line of semiautomatic pistols do not need to be cocked. Hence their popularity.

The snipers, meanwhile, take him out with .30-06 rifles. Now the .30-06 cartridge was the U.S. military's standard cartridge from 1906 until the early 1960s, but it gets little military or police use today. Police SWAT teams generally use whatever cartridges are used by military snipers, so I would expect to see even fictional examples firing rifles chambered for the .308 or 5.56mm rounds, most likely.

I put all these errors down to sheer laziness -- or perhaps to a visceral distaste for firearms, an odd quirk for someone writing espionage or crime fiction.

Now back to your regularly scheduled of bloggage about dogs, mushrooms, etc.


mdmnm said...

This is why I almost have to watch action movies by myself. With books, it breaks the reader's trance and you spend the rest of the novel wondering what else the author is screwing up.

Anonymous said...

After nodding and giggling my way through your post, I had to read it to Dan. Being my gun buddy, he then laughed all the way to the gun safe to retrieve two guns and show me just why you don't silence a revolver.

Inaccuracies in literature make me wonder just what do editors do? Are they so focused on grammar and spelling that they miss the contents?

Chas S. Clifton said...

There is no end, actually. Now I'm reading Daniel Silva's A Death in Vienna, in which he consistently refers to a pistol magazine as its "cartridge."

Perhaps all the editors are English majors from small liberal-arts colleges (like me), but ones who did not grow up around firearms.

Steve Bodio said...

And a so may refer to cartridges as "bullets".

Honorable exceptions: Michael Gruber and especially Steve Hunter. His "Pale Horse" is a suspense story but also an affectionate send- up of the great gun writers of the fifties-- Jack O'Connor, Elmer Keith et al.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Steve, I agree on Gruber, and I will have to check out the other guy.

I read another book of Robert Littell's, Legends, in which he is hopelessly confused about muzzle-loading firearms.

A Civil War-era Whitworth rifle plays a big part in the plot, yet he think,s for instance, that a percussion cap creates the same jet of flame from the touch hole that you get with a flintlock.