For people who don’t grow up ever learning how to use a gun it seems like some exotic and far away concept. Sure you see them on police officer’s hips, and you know that good guys and bad guys alike pack them in action movies and in the pages of spy thrillers. However, America’s history and mythology is filled with famous guns, gunslingers, sharp shooters and heat packing heroes… so it seems almost a given that most of what you think you know about guns (for those who actually don’t even know how to shoot one) is wrong.
First of all, let’s start simple. Phrases like, “it’s just like a camera, point and shoot,” and characters in film and TV picking up a gun and suddenly becoming an expert marksman have lead to the mis-conception that guns are easy to shoot. This is why whenever someone gets killed, people will ask “why didn’t you shoot to wound?” This statement is probably the dumbest thing you’ve ever uttered, and if you’ve said it, here’s why. First of all, individuals who work in military and law enforcement are trained to fire center mass, which is the target’s torso. They are told explicitly that if deadly force (ie. firearms) are you be used, you’re not messing around anymore, stop the threat. Additionally, there are major veins and arteries in your arms and legs that, if cut by a bullet, will actually result in death a lot faster than many torso shots. There is no wounding with a gun, except by luck or accident. Additionally, between kick, caliber, reaction time, aim, adrenaline and dozens of other factors, you’re lucky to hit an attacker at all if the light isn’t good and your pulse is racing, especially if the target is any distance away. Only the truly, phenomenally skilled like professional sharpshooters can pull this feat off, and even then it’s a hit or miss chance due to the variables.
As an extension of the above myth, there’s the myth that’s been popular ever since the days of cowboy movies that when someone gets shot, no matter where it is, they drop to the ground and stop moving. As famous author Louis Lamour has said in several interviews and in his forwards, if a man is pumped full of adrenaline and coming at you to kill, you need to hit the heart, the brain, or smash a big bone to make him stop dead in his tracks. This was just as true during quick draw matches as it is in modern day gang wars. As a side note, while guns can inflict huge amounts of physical damage, the more powerful the gun, the further through the person the round goes. So unless you’re using a shotgun, and you’re shooting up close, people aren’t likely to move very far even if you do kill them.
Now we’re moving straight into movie territory. For starters, shooting two guns at once is extremely hard, and what you gain in firepower you lose in accuracy. Secondly, gas tanks may once have exploded due to sparks igniting fumes in the tank. However, the days of the Ford Pinto are long behind us, and gas tanks that are made to survive head on collisions, and which are made out of plastic, will likely just drain out gasoline if you shoot them. Lastly, perhaps one of the hardest dying myths, silencers do not turn the sound of a roaring hand cannon into a quiet, whispering pop that can’t be heard over your conversation on a cell phone. Silencers will make a gun quieter, but anyone who’s ever fired a gun knows that even with hearing protection guns are still really, really loud. You might be able to make a forty five caliber shot sound more like a forty caliber or a thirty eight caliber shot, but it will still be loud. Only quiet guns like twenty two calibers, will be made really quiet with a silencer. It also bears stating for debunking purposes that silencers are completely legal to buy and own… you just need to go through the proper paper work to get one (by following instructions found here).
As with anything that really becomes entrenched in creative license, guns and their real and simple functions have gotten buried under a mountain of catchphrases and special effects. Easy to use but hard to master, guns are a simple truth that make for truly elaborate fiction.
“5 Ridiculous Gun Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies),” by Robert Evans at Cracked
“Refutations of Popular Gun Myths,” by Anonymous at TCGC.org