Films and firearms. Even before movies had sound, directors, producers and studios discovered that a lot of action, a bit of violence, and a whole lotta shootin’ puts bums on seats. Then as now, audiences get an adrenalin rush from the vicarious thrill of watching a bad guy blown to bits, or a hero shooting his way out of trouble (which he didn’t ask for, of course). Hollywood genres may jump the shark, but none have jumped the gun. From Birth of a Nation to Cop Out, from William S. Heart to Walter Bruce Willis, guns get the gold. But in another sense, Willis is the exception that proves the rule: a movie star / gun rights advocate. You can’t swing an AR-15 around a room in Hollywood, period. Or doing so without hitting someone who is vehemently opposed to guns, gun ownership, gun violence and Second Amendment rights.
LA’s liberal elites positively, absolutely HATE guns—unless they’re used in movies. That’s artistic license. Here in the real world (whatever that is), the Hollywood community would have you believe that the only good gun is a prop gun. This stance places them in the awkward position of simultaneously decrying gun violence and promoting it for profit. Did you know that Sylvester Stallone—yes, Rambo—-is an anti-gun activist who fronts Brady Campaign Fundraisers and owns one of California’s rarest pieces of paper (a concealed carry permit)?
This love/hate relationship with guns also lies at the root of an interesting trend in movies and television. Namely, the gunfight and gun play you see on-screen bears little to no resemblance to reality.
Hollywood? Reality? Guns? Well exactly. If Our Hero has to stop to reload after firing eight rounds in his 1911, that would break up the flow of a climactic scene, no? So what’s wrong with giving him a pistol that never needs reloading. (I want one! I want one!)
Do the math. If you see a guy shooting a wheelgun (a.k.a. “six shooter”) it has, you guessed it, six shots. If he keeps firing without reloading, something’s amiss. If the bad guy is shooting something resembling a Glock, he might have (depending on the model/caliber/magazine capacity) as many as 18 rounds. If he keeps runnin’ the gun, we’re off again to La-La-land.
Let’s put capacity aside and consider holsters. Did you know that back in the Wild, Wild, West, cowboys wore their guns on their hips? The strap-on-your-thigh holster was an invention of Hollywood stunt men. They designed it to enable fast-draws and trick shooting. After World War II, the U.S. military adopted the thigh holster. It’s an excellent example of life imitating art.
I love CSI and other shows like it. If nothing else it convinces the American pubic that they can no more get away with a crime than they can lose their own DNA. But to believe CSI’s “science” is to believe that any gun can be identified through ballistics. Find the bullet, find the gun, next! Bull.
When a bullet hits anything other than soft tissue, it’s gonna expand (by design) to do as much damage as possible. CSIs are lucky to be able to identify the caliber of a gun, much less come up with a slug with enough rifling marks to enable an identification with a reference sample. And if the bad guy uses a revolver, you can forget about finding spent brass on the scene. No need to leave evidence behind when you can just as easily take it with you.
Then there’s physics. Ah, physics . . . the most inconvenient of sciences, when it comes to plot devices and moving a story forward. I suppose you can’t blame the writers. If they’re afraid to even hold a gun, how can you expect them to understand things like “effective ranges,” “muzzle velocity” and “entry/exit wound sizes”?
I love/cringe when I see some actor pull out his or her handgun and start blasting away from the other end of a football field, and see the bad guy fall to the ground, dead.
Newsflash, people. I’m a pretty good shot. Not great. Not bad. Just pretty good. When I have the time/money to go to the range once a week month, I can hit a target around 50 feet away, and not miss. That’s a stationary target, with a grouping of about 12 inches. Put that target (again stationary) at 20 feet or closer, and I can give you about a five inch grouping. Guys that shoot a lot can give you five inch centers at 50 feet, and one inch centers at 20 feet or closer.
Is it any wonder that pros will tell you that a handgun is only an effective weapon at around seven yards (21 feet for those of you in Yorba Linda) or closer? Yet Hollywood would have you believe that cops can shoot suspects from across a mall parking lot, and bring them down without missing (or hitting any innocent bystanders). Sheesh.
Hear that? If you’re watching a movie, the sounds you hear coming from the muzzles of handguns, shotguns, rifles and carbines likely bear little resemblance to reality. A buddy of mine works in Hollywood as a sound man. One of his steady gigs is to “sweeten” audio tracks. He takes the frequently wimpy sounds of gunfire in the wild and adds/modifys/equalizes/compresses/limits or simply replaces the sounds to make them more aurally-impressive.
While a .38 Special sounds like a bloody cannon when fired indoors, fire that puppy oustide and it can sound more like a dry stick breaking in the woods. Screw accuracy . . . producers want their guns to sound muy macho! Sound engineers routinely fix it in the mix, with an array of sounds they add to make every gun sound closer to the 21” guns on the Missouri than a real, live handgun.
Don’t get me started on ballistics. Did you catch the Angelina Jolie flick Wanted? She played a professional assassin with a remarkable set of professional skills, including the ability to shoot a gun and force the projectile to travel in an arc, including a 360° circle. Now THAT’S gun control! Granted this movie was presented as fantasy, but still, for every Wanted out there, there are ten more flicks that make the Kennedy assassination’s magic bullet theory look like credible science.
Lastly, there’s the weaponry itself. Some movies (usually historical flicks) hire credible gun experts and historians and go to great lengths to insure that the guns they use accurately reflect the time period they portray. Other movies . . . um . . . not so much.
Then there are the movies that simply ignore reality to make a dramatic point. To wit: there’s a reason that detectives on the job in San Francisco don’t all carry .44 Magnums (which is not now nor has it ever been “the most powerful handgun in the world”). Its bullet blow an impressive size hole through an engine block of a Cummins Diesel-powered pickup—and keep going. Imagine the paperwork Dirty Harry woulda had to fill out, had he blown away a bad guy and six tourists standing behind him.
I’m a sucker for a good action flick. But I happen to think guns are exciting enough as they are in real life. I don’t need some Hollywood producer making things hyper-real or bending the laws of physics to show me a good time. Unfortunately, until savvy gun owners start calling them on their hype, we’ll all have unrealistic expectations of how guns should perform in real life.
So, here’s a challenge. Here at The Truth About Guns, we’re looking for a few good men – and women – that know guns, and like movies. I plan to start reviewing TV shows and movies here, but I’m not equipped or qualified to write about the historical accuracy of guns before, say, the 1980s. Just not my thing. (Give me a movie with a bunch of guys running around shooting 1911s and I’m your man.)
If you know a thing or two about guns, can string nouns and verbs together into coherent sentences, and would like to review some movies or TV shows from a firearms perspective, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The credibility you save may only be your own, but we’ll pay for the popcorn.