You are finishing up that action thriller you bought (or downloaded) to read over vacation. Your hero is bloodied, but about to pull it off. Then, he “snaps the safety off his Glock.”
I am not going to name the best-selling thriller writer who wrote that phrase, but he should get familiarized with the weapons his main character uses to kill bad guys and save good people.
The ignorance out there about guns is astounding. This is true, even among many gun owners. A radio caller aghast at the ability to order ammunition online bragged that he still had the two boxes of ammo he had bought for his bedside pistol long ago. How many things are so wrong about that boast? Even among people who do not want to ban guns completely, ignorance about guns manifests itself as fear, and those fearful of guns and the good people who own them run to politicians, begging the king to impose law to suppress the right to keep and bear arms. But as Say Uncle would put it in his series of posts: I think we are winning.
In a magazine for authors that I take—mostly in the hope that I can find a way to convince Vince Flynn’s literary agent, or Tom Clancy’s literary agent to represent me, too, and skyrocket me to literary fame—I found this sure sign that we are winning the culture debate over the place of the gun among free people. Here it is.
In the October issue of “Writer’s Digest” magazine, the editor includes a concise sidebar piece explaining the differences between the revolver and the semi-automatic pistol. Now, stop right there and think about it: in a magazine written for authors of stories like Twilight and Harry Potter is a gun article called “Getting the Details Right.” I could argue with a few of the article’s details, but mostly, I am delighted to see that the editor did not succumb to perceived political correctness and just avoid even mentioning guns. Which would be pretty silly, considering how the gun features in so many of those stories you like to read and in those movies you like to watch with characters like Bob Lee Swagger, Jack Reacher, and Jason Bourne.
If they are not going to be redeemed, then we like to see bad people get shot. Those of us who know like to see that the shooting was done with the best weapon available, and deployed by the best tactics practical at the moment. We are not looking for a field manual: just common sense and realism.
There is a balance to strike. I have gotten feedback from readers of my books that the reader “didn’t understand all of the gun stuff.” I thought I had moderated my enthusiasm for the right to keep and bear arms, and had presented weapons details where needed, where they added realism, and where they might just a little bit educate the reader who just likes to read about other people shooting—but who does not touch a gun, personally. In my two espionage thrillers, I enhance that realistic tone by carefully selecting and deploying the right firearms, the right way. The guns of Arcturus and Amazon Avenger (each only 99 cents on your Kindle) are likely to smell oily, and the barrel may get hot if fired enough. Magazines run out of ammunition. The main character, Jack McDonald, proceeds with a round (not a “bullet”) already chambered, avoiding the silly rack-the-slide scene so often seen in movies. The safety is engaged where the weapon has a safety and engaging it is called for. When Jack disengages it, the motion required matches the weapon’s mechanics. He does not “flick down the safety switch” on his M-1 rifle. Before he is ready to shoot, his finger is against the frame, outside and above the trigger guard.
Many readers who love the modern action, military, and espionage thriller stories accept firearms in real life, but do not embrace the firearm to the degree that they own one, or have trained with one. So, most authors guard against “getting too into” the guns. Nevertheless, where the gun surfaces more than generically, the author sacrifices credibility where the firearms details are wrong.
I thank the editor of “Writer’s Digest.” The editor even pointed out that Glocks do not have a safety to snap off. The editor’s admonition to get the gun details right implies that the broader culture is embracing the responsibility to defend self and others, and to prepare for that terrifying moment when even the formerly oblivious might need a gun. Because when you need a gun, you really, really, really need a gun, nothing else will do, and then is not the right time to try to figure out what the little thingees all over the gun do.