Question of the Day: What’s the Worst Gun Mistake You’ve Ever Read?

Don sent us a link to an LA Times feature called The Way of the Gun. The article offers artsy black and white photos with excerpts from gun-toting character in popular novels. Oh dear. Joe Pike: “You don’t need to double-tap with the .45. One shot will knock a big man off his feet.” Karen Sisco: “Her pistol, a Sig Sauer .38, was in the trunk.” Joseph Rizzo: “Any gun you can carry for twenty-six years and never have to fire, that’s a goddamned good gun. A guy keeps a gun that good.” Bob Lee Swagger: “Like the gun [a 1911], he needed little attention, no maintenance and little lubrication.” What’s the worst gun faux pas you’ve encountered in popular fiction?

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

70 Responses to Question of the Day: What’s the Worst Gun Mistake You’ve Ever Read?

  1. avatarjkp says:

    From “The Girl Who Played with Fire”: The murder weapon was described as a “Colt .45 Magnum”.

  2. avatarborekfk says:

    Supressors on revolvers

    • avatarDerek says:

      Nagant M1895 has a gas sealed cylinder and can be fitted with a suppressor. Maybe that was it.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagant_M1895

      • avatarI_Like_Pie says:

        People really love exhibiting their “expertise” on the world of firearms by throwing out that tidbit of information. Biggest piece of crap ever made, but yes it will supress.

        Thank you for telling the world something that nobody knew. I will congratulate you in advance for the next time in a casual conversation you can pull out this interesting bit of knowledge.

        I just got my Monday morning, pre coffee snark out of my system. Will be better now. Not against you in particular derek….just funny how many times you see that here and there.

  3. avatarAaron says:

    A character called the 1911 “ugly” in the book Wildtrack, by Bernard Cornwell.

  4. avatarLongPurple says:

    Some of the worst; “a .38 Special pistol”, “a .12 ga. Shotgun”, “a Bee-Bee gun”, and the neologism “assault weapon”.

  5. avatarDerek says:

    meetthenra.org – “Hornady Ammunition manufactures “FMJ” armor piercing bullets for sale on the civilian market.”

    /facepalm + *sigh*

    • avatarDerek says:

      Every now and then I’ll read a seemingly random combination of “.” “a number” “mm” and “caliber” such as 9mm caliber, .45 mm and recently on the Daily Mail I saw “11.43mm calibre” (sic) regarding a .45 ACP.

    • avatarSam says:

      I don’t think that counts. You’re not going into that website expecting to find reliable information.

  6. avatarIan says:

    Not necessary literary, but the sound of the hammer being drawn back on a striker fired pistol (Glock, etc.) In most movies and TV shows. Or how before any dangerous situation, the slide is racked even though there is/should be a round already chambered

    • avatarBigBeluga says:

      Amen. They went crazy with this in the movie “Haywire”. Like some CIA-trained assassin type would not keep one in the chamber. Also, +1000 for keeping the hand on the slide and sloooooooowly letting the slide go forward to be discreet.

    • avatarMatt in FL says:

      Yeah, and it’s not just cocking sounds. Even simply picking a weapon up or drawing from a holster generates a series of clicks that I have to shake my weapon vigorously to reproduce.

      Unintended humor note: Upon rereading my comment, I realized the clause “I have to shake my weapon vigorously to reproduce” is hilarious when taken out of context.

      • avatarTotenglocke says:

        I have to shake my weapon vigorously to reproduce.

        You know, you might want to see a urologist about that….

    • avatarpair-o-dee says:

      The latter is a recurring error in the otherwise enjoyable “Haywire” with Gina Carano. All these special ops superheros were unholstering and then racking:

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1506999/

    • avatarLongPurple says:

      ROFLMAO — That brought back the memory of one of the scenes from “The Terminator” series: Sarah Connor preparing for battle by racking the slide on a shotgun —- 4 or 5 times over. I guess the drama of the action and sound was just so great it had to be repeated. Hollywood is a wonder to behold.

  7. avatarbontai Joe says:

    My favorites are the old classic westerns of the 1930′s and ’40′s where six shooters never run out of ammo unless there is a dramatic pause needed. Also westerns about soldiers returning right after the Civil War, but armed with Colts and Winchesters made in the 1870′s and 1880′s.

    • avatarMontesa_VR says:

      Yep. The entire series The Rifleman was about a guy with a model 1892 Winchester about 20 years before it was invented.

  8. avatarold and scarred says:

    one of Lee Child’s early books…………”he pulled out his revolver and checked the clip to make sure it was loaded”………….ugh…………two in one sentence………

    • avatarJeff O. says:

      Maybe it used moon clips?

    • avatarIdahoPete says:

      Lee Child has a bunch of those kinds of idiocies in his earlier books. One of my favorites was the “.44 Magnum Revolver” that was set up for left-handed use, and Reacher (ex-Army MP, firearms “expert”) knew it could be converted to right-handed use quickly by a gunsmith, but he didn’t have time just then. Yeah, it could be easily converted – unscrew the barrel and screw it onto another revolver. Then throw out the “left-handed” frame, crane, cylinder, ….

      I like Child’s books, but he is an Englishman living in Noo Yawk City. Based on his firearms errors in his books, he has probably never held (let alone shot) a gun in his life. And all of his editors are probably NYC residents, with the same problem. Kind of the blind leading the blind.

  9. avatarDarren from MA says:

    The opening animation sequence for “Chuck” has the case coming out of the barrel with the bullet. Also, the movie poster for “Faster” has the bullet and case flying across the title. I am sure there are others.

    • avatarMashashin says:

      The movie sniper has a dramatic scene where the case and bullet exit the muzzle fly down range into somebodies head together and if I remember right he then ejects the case. Don’t k own if the film had any more as I quit watching then

  10. avatarST says:

    Smokin Aces :
    FBI agents randomly shoot pistols outside a window unsighted against a .50 BMG.
    Alicia Keys should teach a CCW course:5 handguns & body armor *very* well hidden without printing.At.All.

    We must remember the #1 gun innacuracy of Hollywood is that people are going to just stand around pointing guns at each other.Once weapons come out of holsters its long past words….

    • avatarDerek says:

      “…people are going to just stand around pointing guns at each other.”

      The scene with Ryan Reynolds, Alicia Keys, and Common in the stairwell…
      The disguised assassin shooting the 300+lbs guy a couple times with handgun and him flying accross the room.
      The wounded bounty hunter landing all 8 rounds from a 1911, one handed, on a hitman 50 feet away, without looking.

      That’s a really entertaining movie and it’s one of my favorites but it’s got a lot of “Yea F#cking Right” moments in it.

    • avatarIdahoPete says:

      Not to mention the Hollywood favorite “hold the Glock sideways and fly through the air while shooting it wih amazing accuracy” trick. The worst part of that one is that it has inspired thousands of gang-bangers to do the same thing – lookin’ cool, man – which has decreased the odds of them shooting their opponents and increased the odds of innocent bystanders being hit.

  11. avatarslowermonkey says:

    Dean Koontz, clicked the safety off on his glock. This happens in alot of books.

  12. avatarKen Watters says:

    The use of “clips” vs “magazines” as in how dangerous all those “high-capacity clips”are…

  13. avatarMartin Albright says:

    Wasn’t it one of Raymond Chandler’s novels where the hero used a “Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver?” And yes, before one of you pedants says it, I know there was such a gun (the barrel and cylinder of the revolver recoiled backwards after firing, forcing the cylinder to turn on a fixed pin on the frame – an awkward an unneccessarily complicated way of doing what a DA revolver does without all that drama) but after Chandler (or whoever it was) used it, the Webley-Fosbery started turning up in other pulp novels, I guess because writers liked the way the description sounded, even though the W-F was in fact an obscure gun that was manufactured in very small numbers and was virtually unheard of until its appearance in the novel.

    EDITED TO ADD: Just Googled it and it was indeed in the Maltese Falcon that the W-F appeared. Also it was apparently more used than I thought it was, being a standard cavalry sidearm for the Brits during the Boer War and the early phases of WWI, where its complicated mechanism became easily fouled with the mud of the trenches.

  14. avatarmikeyt95608 says:

    Lee Child has probably never handled a sidearm…
    “…I chose the Beretta 92 over the Glock 17 because it had 10% more fire power…”
    Ludlum, another tool…
    “…snicked the safety off the Mauser semi-automatic revolver..”
    The honorable Senator Carolyn McCarthy…
    “…I don’t know, the shoulder thing that goes up?”
    Just about everything that our resident Troll (mr. bonomo) writes…
    Some of the (hell, most) shotgun slug designs I dream up at the reloading bench…

  15. avatarSam says:

    Any time the phrase “.9mm ammunition” appears…

    I do stand-up comedy. There’s a local comic who has the phrase “Glock 9″ in his material.

  16. avatarSouthernmutt says:

    In the first episode of ‘The walking Dead’, the main character tells another to take the safety of what appears to be a Glock. Also, if I remember correctly, he then draws the slide back a tidbit then nods as though the safety is now off.

    • avatarTotenglocke says:

      It’s been awhile since I saw the first episode, but I think he was checking to make sure he had a round in the chamber.

  17. avatarRobert S. Pierre says:

    Or almost anything in a Mack Bolan book.

  18. avatardin says:

    in the horrible zombie book “Eden” the 40mm S&W is used repeatedly to put down throngs of the undead.

    • avatarIdahoPete says:

      Was that the S&W 40mm M-79 Grenade launcher? Or just the 40mm pistol?

      • avatarMartin Albright says:

        A 40mm Mk 19 AGL (Automatic Grenade Launcher), which the US military calls a GMG or Grenade Machine Gun, would be a pretty effective zombie repellent. Only drawback would be the (trying to remember here) 100m? minimum range due to fragmentation of exploding grenades.

        • avatarIdahoPete says:

          OK, this is from 1968 in Army boot camp, but I think the 40mm grenade round (for the M79) had a lethal burst radius of 5 meters. And I seem to recall that the impact fuse needed to make a certain number of revolutions before it was armed, so you could shoot it through thick vegetation (think jungle) without the grenade shell going off too close to the shooter. Any vets out there with better memories on this one?

      • avatardin says:

        just a pistol. he got his 9mm and .40 S&W mixed up, made me want to pull my hair out.

  19. avatarV.McCann says:

    A character in a crime novel chambering a round in an automatic pistol by pulling the trigger.

  20. avatarJoel says:

    I’ve been around the internet enough that I’ve seen just how little some people know about guns. it’s so horrendously ridiculously stupid, I don’t think I wanna talk about it here.

    well, there was this one fictional story somebody wrote about dragons and crap that stand on two feet. the main character, a dragon, takes a .50 cal muzzleoader to the shoulder and is simply hurt. lol, no. that’s an instantaneous amputation, if you’d remember back in the civil war. In another part of the story was explaining ballistics, and I just laughed. apparently, a 5.56 can’t make it through dragon scales and just bounces off (lolno), but a .308 can, but STOPS AT THE MUSCLE LAYER. this is so sad that i just laughed. even the fuggin’ mythbusters proved that wrong.

  21. avatarbrigo05 says:

    Although I love and have read just about every book by the man…
    Stephan King is not 100% on firearms knowledge…
    In The Dark Tower series he has a gunslinger who wields a Ruger .44 Automag..
    C’mon…

  22. avatarPaul says:

    One of the best was where a good guy was loading a fresh mag into his model 19 357 mag revolver, and let the slide go forward. That is a firearm I would love to see. My 19 takes neither a mag nor does it have a slide.

  23. avatarmacnorfin says:

    Small quibble with Lawrence Sanders “The First Deadly Sin.” The main character clicks the safety off a Colt Detective Special. No such thing. Surprising coming from an author who normally pays a lot of attention to detail.

    Of course there’s also Hershel’s seemingly infinite-capacity shotgun in the final episode of “the Walking Dead” this season.

    • avatarCarlosT says:

      My beef with The Walking Dead is how they leave all those M4s and all that ammo lying around without even trying to scavenge some of them. Even if some of them are broken, you could probably piece together three or four complete military grade rifles and pickup a buttload of 5.56. You don’t even have to using the full auto. Just keep it on semi auto, and you’ve got a nice compact weapon with plenty of ammo.

      • avatarTTACer says:

        That bugs me in almost any action movie. The Hero, using a handgun, will somehow defeat hordes of henchmen using long guns, in some cases even checking the bodies to make sure they are dead without bothering to pick up one rifle or even any ammo. That violates everything the Internet (and Clint Smith, second hand) taught me.

  24. avatarFuzzy says:

    In The Satan Bug, a book written by Alistair MacLean in the early 60′s, our hero carries a Japanese Hanyatti 9-shot automatic with an indicator registering full and scotch tape over the barrel to “protect the highly delicate mechanism”

    • avatarTom says:

      This is dialogue, spoken by the hero. A typical MacLean character brave, tough, wry humour – that’s what this is. If it was meant seriously, as technical data, it would have been as descriptive text, not dialogue. Putting Scotch tape over the barrel mouth would have been exactly what such a character would do, just to avoid cleaning it so often.

  25. avatarCarlosT says:

    On Burn Notice, Fiona is protecting a woman and they both dive into water to avoid being shot. Okay, fair enough, Mythbusters has actually proven this to be a solid tactic. However, in a later scene, Fiona has taken the magazine of her Glock, emptied it, and has the woman drying the cartridges.

    Uh, what is that going to do? A Glock (or pretty much any modern pistol) will fire just fine when wet, and modern ammo will either work or it won’t if it’s gotten wet. Most likely it will. In the space of time of a short dunk, water isn’t going to get in past the primer, and anyway, if it has, drying the surface of the cartridge isn’t gong to do squat for you.

  26. avatarRalph says:

    What’s the Worst Gun Mistake You’ve Ever Read?

    That would have to be the Massachusetts assault weapons law. Hands down, it’s the dumbest piece of sh!t ever written.

    • avatarTotenglocke says:

      I’ll see you that and raise you the Ohio magazine capacity law, which states that if a magazine which can hold more than 30 rounds is placed into a semi-automatic weapon, the weapon becomes a fully automatic weapon.

  27. avatarFrank says:

    Had a misfire with my former semi auto 12 gauge in my apartment. Damn near shot a neighbor standing there. :-( Oops.

  28. avatarTom says:

    What’s the Worst Gun Mistake You’ve Ever Read?

    Most stupid gun laws.

  29. avatarliquidflorian says:

    One thing that gets me, I’m a big fan of the Dresden Files series, they always call Magazines; Clips. Drives me nuts.

    • avatarMatt G. says:

      Not to mention how he always uses revolver because “they are less complicated” and his stupid “Murphy field” won’t mess them up. Even though plenty of semis have fewer moving parts than revolvers.

      • avatarliquidflorian says:

        Yeah, I’m glad Jim Butcher laid off of the “murphy field’s” effect on simple machines.

  30. I read one spy book where the protagonist slipped past a group of guards who were carrying “semi-automatic machine guns.”

  31. avatarjames klinger says:

    45 colt magnum! here take my money
    and obama is the best president ever

  32. avatarThe Lone Rider says:

    Wierdest gun mistake… Let’s see… I love Gillian Anderson but for much of the first season of the X-Files way back when, she was visibly awkward handling her pistol. …. Also in one first season episode they showed the magazine out and you could see the thing had *no* bullets in it. What?

    I also don’t understand why so many authors get simple facts wrong regarding firearms. Not for nothing but you’d think an author would research this same as anything else… unless they don’t think anyone will notice. How long does it take to look something up?

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