005 Joel Persinger, NRA Instructor, talks guns
Guest: Joel Persinger, Co-Founder/COO, KBTN Inc. (Practical Defense Systems-GunGuyTV) is particularly accomplished. A radio personality for 18 years in San Diego California, a columnist, blogger, and hosts his own YouTube channel.
Joel is an NRA certified law enforcement firearms instructor and has taught thousands of people how to shoot. He has also worked on a fugitive recovery team as a bounty hunter. He owns several successful companies.
These are Wikipedia links and, honestly, all the best information about everything we talked about on this show can be found here:
The Writing Monkey, Episode 005
Welcome to the writing monkey. A podcast for writers about everything but writing. Subject matter experts and unique individuals are interviewed for writers by a writer.
LUKE: In this episode of the writing monkey we’re going to talk guns and ammo with Joel Persinger. Joel Persinger is the co-founder and chief operating officer of KBTN Inc. and host of gun guy TV a YouTube channel. He is an NRA certified law enforcement firearms instructor and has taught thousands of people how to shoot. He has also worked on a fugitive recovery team as a bounty hunter. I want to start by saying that this episode is not about Second Amendment rights, gun control or politics. I’m not out to trash any books or movies. I don’t think a writer should be expected to be a gun expert, but it is my belief that authors should avoid glaring errors that could undermine their credibility. You need to write what is appropriate for your audience in a romance novel a pistol can simply be a pistol. But it wouldn’t hurt to make sure you know the basics.
LUKE: How are you doing. I wanted to thank you for being on the show.
JOEL: I’m doing well. It’s a crazy busy time at work and I did an interview earlier this morning with the California Rifle & Pistol Association so it’s just been kind of crazy, but other than that I’m doing very well. I’m grateful to be busy it’s a good problem to have. And business is busy and God loves me, my wife loves me, my kids love me. Everyone once and a while somebody actually likes me
LUKE: I like you and I appreciate your patience getting on the air with me doing this interview.
JOEL: My pleasure. I’m grateful. Thank you very much for the opportunity I’m grateful to be on with you.
LUKE: So, as you know this podcast is about educating writers on weapons and weapon use and that kind of thing. I wanted to start with just personal observation. There seems to be a big fear factor for many people who’ve never fired a weapon before, kind of like jumping into cold water, they’ll hesitate and sometimes they can’t even pull the trigger. They fear the kickback or the unknown. Have you witnessed that before in your training?
JOEL: I have. I don’t witness it a lot but I’ve seen that. I think it’s a combination of things. One would be the impression people get about guns from TV and movies that kind of stuff. And I think part of it too is just some trepidation about having something in your hand that’s going to go bang and make a big noise. A lot of noise. I mean it depends on. You also see the difference depending on which range you’re at. If you’re in an indoor range where it’s kind of like a concrete bunker, then there’s also there’s always the noise or the pressure change in the room. You can actually feel the pressure change when the gun goes back, because there’s a little mini explosion, if you will, going on inside the gun. So, it’s not a huge pressure change but it’s something that you can feel and then of course inside a concrete bunker it’s louder. And if there’s people shooting around you, it’s louder. If you’re on an outdoor range when you have less of that because you don’t have that confined space in which to feel the pressure change, you really don’t feel that.
LUKE: Yeah, it’s interesting.
JOEL: And then you also have the echo chamber that you’re in either. So, if. People seem to have less of a problem, initially, shooting on an outdoor range than they do on indoor ranges and experience.
LUKE: That’s interesting I would have never known that I wanted to first talk about the general terminology of guns and weapons and maybe explain to the audience the basics between a pistol and a revolver, a long gun, a rifle, a machine gun, a shotgun, there’s a lot of different basics. I don’t think a lot of authors even understand that they use them interchangeably and erroneously in many cases.
JOEL: Ok. Which one do you want to cover first?
LUKE: Let’s talk about your standard guns nowadays your standard pistols, rifles, and revolvers that kind of thing. Just an overview.
JOEL: Sure. Well they’re in general, handguns … Amongst handguns there are various different types of handguns. And it’s really based upon the way in which they function mechanically. So for example you have a revolver as opposed to a semiautomatic pistol which is where a pistol and revolver from. A pistol generally refers to a gun that is semiautomatic and it has certain parts that move differently than the parts it would move in a revolver. I’ll work on people shall we just call stuff what it looks like or what it does. So for example on a revolver you have a cylinder and the cylinder it contains the ammunition. It’s called a cylinder because it’s a cylinder, cylindrical. And every time you press the trigger the shoulder rotates or revolves which is why the gun is called a revolver, and it simply moves whatever cartridge you’re just fired out of what we would call out a battery shot out of the way and it replaces it with one that would send batteries and when the hammer falls which by the way is called a hammer because it looks like a hammer strike something or looks like a nail it’s called a firing back, when the hammer falls it fires that round and then when you press the trigger again it rotates just about one out of the way and revolves out of the way and puts another one in its path and that’s what’s called a revolver because a cylinder evolves. Generally they have ammunition for five six or seven rounds. A semiautomatic pistol on the other hand, functions differently. It has a slide and it has a magazine typically. And essentially the slide moves back and forth, forward and back, all that you’re doing is injecting the spent cartridge and then stripping a new one off the top of the magazine and feeding it into the back of the barrel. But the bottom line is that it’s simply a different mechanical approach to achieving the same thing.
LUKE: Yeah. Pistols are generally spring loaded in the clips. Pushing down into the clip in the spring pushes them back up.
JOEL: There is a difference between a clip and a magazine if you want to get technical. A magazine has a spring and a follower, that ammunition is contained in a magazine and the spring pushes up a little device underneath the ammunition called the follower and it keeps pushing up on it until it’s all used up. A clip on the other hand it’s just a piece of metal or plastic, the can be made out of a lot of different things. What it does is it contains the ammunition so that it can be easily and quickly fed into a magazine. But the two are not necessarily interchangeable. A magazine typically has a spring and a follower and it contains ammunition so the gun will fire. A clip is just something that’s used to organize the ammunition sure that can be fed into a magazine and loaded into a magazine officially.
LUKE: I want to let my listeners know in case they’re having trouble visualizing this I’m going to have links, show notes on your episode page so they can go and look at different examples of this pictures and illustrations of these kind of things. Yeah I’ve learned a lot. I thought I knew my stuff but I learned a lot just preparing for this interview. Like I said in the introduction this is not about gun rights or politics. I don’t believe authors should be gun experts or gun nuts but even a romance author who mentions a pistol should just be aware of what a pistol is how much it weighs what it can and can’t do, just to add a little more authenticity to their writing. Glaring errors sometimes will ruin a book for some people. So that’s interesting. I wanted to stay away from politics but there has been a lot of talk about AR 15s and automatic assault weapons. Can you discuss that a little? Just kind of bring us up to speed on what an assault weapon is and what an automatic or semi-automatic weapon is.
JOEL: Sure, well an assault rifle is one thing an assault weapon is a political term. So the assault weapon does not apply to any particular firearm. It’s a political turmoil. It really isn’t a technical term associated with a fire.
An assault rifle on the other hand does refer to a specific type of firearm and they are essentially a game a ‘mid’ caliber. It’s not a not a big heavy caliber and it’s not a pistol caliber, it’s a mid-caliber rifle caliber, that’s easy to shoot because it doesn’t have a lot of recoil and easy to handle and it has what’s called a select fire ability. In other words, it will fire semiautomatic, you could press a trigger and you find your press trigger to fire one rounds, or it can fire fully automatic which means when you hold the trigger down it fires like a machine gun. And that’s what’s called an assault rifle. Some of them also have this selection in the middle so you might be able to fire semi-automatic or something on where the selector is across the trigger one round fires. You might be able to file it fully automatic across and try to hold it and keep shooting if you like or what the trigger runs out of ammunition. Or there might be a first section so some of them might have a 3 round first selection, so every time you shoot on 3 round version every time you press the trigger or fire three rounds an stop.
That’s an assault rifle and there are specific rifles and military use around the world that do those things. An AR-15 is none of those things. It is a semiautomatic civilian look alike basically of a military or firearm which is the M16 or the shorter version of the M4 and it’s essentially the same gun and an M16 and a military M16 or a military M4 is an assault rifle, in the sense that it has those options on how you can use it, how you can whether it fire fully automatic or are three round burst or semi-automatic those options are part of those rifles so the AR15 doesn’t do any of that, all it fires a semi-automatic. It’s essentially just a civilian look alike version of what the military assault rifle would be. And politically we’ve called it as, people have made it an assault weapon for political purposes, but the term assault weapon people should understand really doesn’t apply to anything, it’s just a political term. Assault rifle on the other hand is a real term and it applies to a specific category of firearms like the ones I just run.
LUKE: Obviously there’s a lot more here than we could cover and even two or three hours, just talking about that. But I did want people to know there’s a lot of differences in subtleties between machine guns and submachine guns and rifles and pistols and revolvers and handguns. And like I said I’ll have shown it so people can educate themselves on that to some degree.
I wanted to move into some of the aspects of gun play that I think people in Hollywood totally leave out. And one of them you’ve mentioned earlier is the concussion and the volume of a gunshot. And most television and movies I’ve seen ignore acoustic trauma unless it’s a bomb going off in World War 2 and then there’s the ringing of the ears and that kind of thing. A gunshot is incredibly loud and I have some notes about the decibels of different things that we experience in everyday life’s you know. 60 decibels is a typical conversation, 100 decibels would be listening to your music with your headphones all the way up and that could cause permanent damage after 15 minutes. So I wanted to know if you had any thoughts about it in context of movies and books I’d love to hear your observations there. But do you have any thoughts about the hearing damage, the gun, volume the concussion that that kind of thing with a gunshot?
JOEL: In the context of entertainment, from an entertainment perspective I don’t know how that plays into a bigger story. I think as you know, you’re a novelist. It would depend on, what the novelist was trying to create, but certainly I think having the knowledge that firearms can be, and generally are, very very loud, might change the way you might have a character or behave when the gun goes back.
It might change the response of that character. For you’re for example you see an interesting image for example as you see movies where television shows where you read a book where there’s a big gunfight with the cops or brothers or the good guys running of the bad guys or they’re having a gunfight. And everybody can magically hear just fine in the midst of all of that. They can talk to each other in a normal tone that it can tell each other what to do in a normal conversational level and so on. And that just doesn’t equate to reality because everything is so incredibly loud and your ears are ringing and you know if you’ve ever experienced your ears ringing because of a loud noise you know it’s difficult to hear through that sound. And so in an environment like that it’s really a shouting match to be heard and everybody’s shouting at each other because you have to shout over the damage that’s done to the ears and over the incredible cacophony of noise that’s happening is guns are going all over the place. I would say in a less dramatic setting where you have a police officer or an individual who is defending themselves or criminals somebody was fired one or two rounds of ammunition because or in a fight or they’re doing somebody in and you’ve got some sort of antagonist there murdering somebody in your book or whatever but it sure particularly if they’re in an enclosed space inside a car inside a house inside a building or in an alleyway for example where it’s concrete buildings on the other side on either side of you, yeah that’s incredibly loud.
And everybody & their grandmother is going to hear that go off in the neighborhood because it’s going to reverberate all over the place can be heard around concrete buildings. And if you are the person who is standing there with a gun goes bang or you’re the individual who made it go bang, your hearing is going to be seriously degraded for at least hours, if not a day or two and then you know every time your ears rang most professionals or doctors will tell you on some level of damage to your hearing. As a testimony to that I wear hearing aids to this day because I’ve been carrying a gun for almost 30 years and I’ve been around them and I’m an old guy. I mean you know I can’t call the 50s my own anymore. So I spent a lot of time on ranges and shooting and hunting, and we didn’t use any sort of ear protection when I was a kid. So as a result, it can damage your hearing it for sure. But in an entertainment context, I think it might just be interesting depending on what you’re doing with the story that you’re writing, to keep that in mind a case that might change the scene or change the context a little bit.
LUKE: You know there’s some good points. Yeah it is incredibly loud and most my mind is gone in 100 different directions thinking about hearing and hearing loss. I used to play music as a teenager really loud and or going to a concert or a dance and your ears would ring afterwards and you thought it was funny and then your hearing would come back, well you thought it did, but it probably didn’t come back all the way. And I’ve just been reading up a lot about hearing damage and ringing all the damage.
So that’s one thing you mentioned is when you’re shooting off guns in an enclosed concrete bunker space like a rifle range how incredibly loud that is. You didn’t mention the type of hearing protection you might be wearing. And typically, you wear plugs and muffs, right? Ear muffs and earplugs.
JOEL: I don’t, if you’re smart to do. I just called myself a dummy. I typically don’t to the reason I don’t is because I’ve already got some significant hearing loss already. I wear electronic hearing because I need to be able to hear what my students say and I need to be able to hear the questions that they’re asking me and that kind of stuff on a range. So the electronic stuff I wear you know will allow me to hear the conversation and then it shuts off at the time limit when a gun goes off of and it provides excellent protection. But yeah if you’re there you’re shooting on your own and you don’t have to have a conversation with someone anytime you’re on the range, it’s far better for you to double up on hearing protection because even with earplugs, there’s leakage around the exterior of the ear so some of that sound is still getting in your ear canal through your bone structure and everything else. You want those muffs over the top of your ear and then when you’re wearing shooting glasses there is some leakage around the muffs where the shooting glasses are penetrating, you know where that muffs you’re sitting on top of that you want to have the plugs on as well.
You’ll feel like it’s the most stylish you’ve heard in a while especially if you’ve got kids. I’m not so sure that’s enough, that’s a bad thing, but it will protect your hearing quite a bit, but it’s super important to use hearing protection, or any protection any time you’re shooting. Otherwise you’ll do yourself a lot of damage. If you don’t mind my interjecting something, we talked about pistols versus revolvers. From a story writer’s perspective, you know sometimes they have the bad guy or they have this guy or whatever that he’s got a suppressor which the public calls a silencer.
LUKE: That’s the very next thing is going to talk about it. There’s no such thing as a silencer. They’re actually called suppressor. So they reduce the sound of a gunshot by about 35 decibels from what I can ascertain in my research. And they’re also designed to suppress the muzzle flash which is something we haven’t talked about. But the guns in the movies are really fiction unless you’re shooting a subsonic really a low speed ammunition with a very big suppressor at the end of your gun.
JOEL: That’s exactly correct. And that’s why they’re called, they’re actually technically called suppressors not silencers. They’re not terribly dissimilar and function differently from the muffler on your car. They reduce the sound a lot but you can still hear the engine running, and with guns that’s the same way. And you mentioned something if it’s a round the travels faster than the speed of sound, not only is there the sound of the actual gun going off and then the little explosion going off with a gun, there’s also the sound of the bullet breaking the sound barrier and that cannot be suppressed. So once the bullet leaves the end of the gun, it leaves the muzzle, where it breaks a sound or a sonic crack. And that can do your ears quite a bit of damage as well.
The thing about suppressors is kind of interesting is that it also depends on the kind of gun you attach them to. So for example sometimes the stories in movies and TV shows people will have a suppressor on a revolver. Which really doesn’t do very much. It does a little bit but in the way revolvers function, you have a you have a cylinder, and then you have the back of the barrel on that part of the back of the barrel that’s a little wider than the rest of it. It’s like a funnel, so that the bullet will find its way in there correctly and squishes it down, it’s called a forcing car. But there’s a little gap between the end of the cylinder and the end of the barrel and the bullet has to jump that little gap, with it just the one with the average lot of gases and noise that come out between the cylinder or the barrel, so if you put a suppressor on the end all it does is support this force more of those gases of noise out of that gap. That really doesn’t suppress the gun very well at all and it’s still very loud and you’ll see them in the movies with the revolver and it just makes a tiny little sound and that just doesn’t work. The same can be true only differently from a semiautomatic handguns perspective f you have the top of the gun called the slide which slide back and forth. And obviously I said we’re gun people we’re not very smart we just call it what it says or what it looks like or what it does. That’s why it’s called a slide, it slides back and it throws off the step brass and then it strips a new round off the top with each other the back of the barrel. When it does that, lot of that sound is released out of that ejection part of the top of the slide. So if you have pressure on the front you press the trigger you’re still going to hear the clatter of the slide, and you’re still going to hear a little bit of the explosion when the slide opens up which separates the snap piece of brass from the from the from the back of the barrel.
JOEL: So in every case you’re going to have noise. Sometimes that noise even with the suppressor is sufficient to do you some qualm with your hearing. Sometimes it’s not. But in every case, it’s not silenced in the term that’s been the way that Hollywood would make you think it would be. It simply reduces the sound as you said significantly it doesn’t make it go away.
LUKE: They sometimes show Navy SEALs or these special operations guys using what looks like a rifle but instead of a barrel it’s got a giant thick suppressor that maybe two feet long on it. And those are they portray those as making a clicking sound. Do you know how accurate that is or how quiet those can get?
JOEL: They do two things. They reduce the sound of the gun significantly, and they reduce the muzzle flash out of the front of the gun.
But I’ve never shot a rifle with the pressure on me and so I can’t tell you how much they suppress it. I can tell you what they’re supposed to do and the reason why they’re used but other than that I couldn’t speak to the volume reduction.
LUKE: I’m not sure how accurate is what I have read that they did move over a few decades ago to subsonic ammunition because most of what they do is close up battle and they rely on stealth. So they have shifted over to large suppressors and subsonic ammunition.
JOEL: This is what made 300 Blackout interesting. 300 black not only gets technical but 300 Blackout is a type of ammunition that’s the caliber of ammunition, that was built to fire out of. Using the same rifle, just a different barrel. Same magazine same type of rifle as an m 16 but they changed the upper part of the biosphere allowed the trace the barrel of the upper part of the receiver out. Now you have a 30-caliber bullet instead of a 22-caliber bullet, but it’s subsonic. They use those with suppressors because since the bullet is bigger it hits harder it does more damage, it is more lethal if you want to put it that way. And at the same time because it’s subsonic it doesn’t have to move quite as fast to get the same job done.
And special operators like that can use a round like that. So that was actually an experiment that was done 300 Blackout has become very popular in civilian circles, now for that same reason, but I don’t know that the military is using that particular round anymore, but I do know that the military has experimented with those things just as you said because they want to make sure that they’re keeping things as quiet as possible because these little teams of special operators they really got their fannies hanging out the window a lot because there’s not a lot of you know they’re there and they’re there on their own right back out again.
LUKE: So, I wanted to talk about the penetration of a round like we often see people shooting, hiding behind car doors for protection which may work if the shooter can’t see you so they don’t have a target but they don’t really offer much protection it’s a thin sheet of metal. And it’s wondered if you had any thoughts on the penetration of various bullets.
JOEL: In firearms training parlance, if you want to call it that, there is something called cover and something called concealment and they’re two different things. Concealment just something you can hide behind that will hide you from view but it won’t stop or deflected incoming round it won’t provide you any protection from bullets fired or gunfire. Cover on the other hand is something that you can hide behind and it will conceal you from you but at the same time potentially provide you some level of protection maybe complete protection maybe partial protection but it will stop or deflect. Incoming ammunition
Obviously rifle rounds are much more powerful than handgun rounds. So what will protect you from a handgun bullet may not protect you from a rifle bullet and that’s like police officers can wear light body armor that’s made up of large material that will protect them from pistol rounds but it won’t necessarily protect them from rifle rounds. Different guns penetrate different ways but I mean you’re looking at, if you want to be protected from a if you’re driving your car for example the only part of your car that will protect you from an incoming bullet is the engine compartment, because the engines in there. That’s why you’ll see police officers when they pull up and there’s this one officer in a car. If they pull up behind someone that they are concerned as violent, they’ll tend to angle that car away a little bit so that they can open up their door and work in the V of the door so that in front of them if the engine compartment between them and that part of them just stop and they’ll turn the tire sideways so that down near the ground, the wheel well is turned in such a way that the brake pads and the steel wheel all those things are protecting them underneath in case around skips under the car, so it doesn’t hit them on the ankle and destroy their ankle and the next thing you know the four officers on their fanny and their guns gone skipping across the street because they’re going to hit the ankle and they’ve lost their mobility. So they’ll have to park strategically to protect themselves and you’ll find that in your house or in an office building very little cover. There’s a lot of concealment but very few things that unless they’re really heavy and they’re made out of really strong material, that are going to stop rifle rounds and honestly very few things will stop pistol rounds either unless you’re very heavy. So your couch, your refrigerator, those kind of things. The walls in your house those are not going to stop bullets.
LUKE: Interesting, they will reduce the impact of the bullet.
JOEL: Not sufficiently to protect you if you’re on the other side. Have you seen the movies where they turn the tabletop over and over on the table top? Doesn’t work. You’re going to get shot right away through the tabletop or when they hide behind the door or they hide behind the wall and somehow, they hide behind the exterior wall the house and as long as they’re not standing in front of the window they don’t get shot. It’s going to go right through the wall. I mean if you think classic construction of a wall it’s just 16 inches apart, dry wall on the inside maybe a little installation that stuck on the house, that’s not going stop a bullet.
LUKE: Yeah you can put a pencil through drywall. In one movie they shot a 50 caliber rifle through cinder block walls.
Ricochet and debris, that’s kind of related. A lot of times I think people overlook the damage and the dangers and the likelihood of getting hit with a ricochet bullets or debris flying up. You know like in the movies they often shoot off a lot that always makes me cringe because I just picture that bullet slamming into the guy’s hip or shards of metal going in their eyes. And I just wonder how dangerous shooting like that is in your experience.
JOEL: Well are we talking about bullets that are ricocheting because somebody is shooting at you and they’re ricocheting off objects or are we talking about you shooting at objects and they ricochet and come back.
LUKE: Well a little of everything. But if you’re standing two feet from a metal lock and you shoot at it what’s going to happen.
JOEL: It depends on what you use to shoot at it. There are there are shotgun rounds designed specifically to breach doors. And they’ll be right off a doorknob off or destroy a deadbolt or break a lock. And those shotgun rounds are specific to that purpose, solely so that they don’t have any material that was sprayed back on the officer or the military members body and cause damage. And generally, those shotguns were used as breaching tools have an extension on the end of the barrel, that’s used to make sure that the barrel is not placed too close to the object that you’re trying to destroy. That actually gives you a few inches of distance so when you put it up against an object that can establish distance that I’ve done this would be away from that.
Absent that if you’re using buckshot or slugs or whatever you’re shooting something heavy made of heavy metal, there’s a very significant chance of this you’re going to get splatter or you’re going to get something coming back at you that’s going to cause your damage. So they’re breaching, the breach in doors or specific rounds designed specifically for that tool. And frankly they’re not good for much of anything else, but they do that really, really well and most of breaching have a breaching extension on the hand
LLUKE: You’re talking about guys trying to do it to have face shields on and gloves, I’m talking about some idiot with a 9-millimeter who pointed out a padlock and pulls the trigger.
JOEL: He’s probably going to get a nine-millimeter stuck into him somewhere.
LUKE: Yep. That’s an I thought. Every time I do that, I just look at it and think and the lock is probably not going to come off anyway and you’re going to end up with a slug in your leg. I don’t know that’s always bothered me.
JOEL: Well leg or abdomen or something. Yeah probably so.
LUKE: I’ve had the fortune of being able to fire different weapons in different environments and I just wanted to talk about the recoil of weapons and keep getting back into the what it’s like physically to shoot a weapon because so many people have not done it who are writers and unless you’ve done it, it’s really hard to understand it and write about it and come up with words to describe the explosion and the muzzle flash and the sound and the concussion. And I was wondering if you had any thoughts on recoil. I know that’s kind of a nebulous term but they often don’t portray that accurately in media.
JOEL: The actors don’t pretend that it’s happening. You know they’re shooting a blank that doesn’t have any recoil or they’re shooting what’s called a squib. By the way a squib in Hollywood is different for this with all the range. It’s the same term for two different things. So you want to know what they are I’m happy to say but they’re shooting stuff that doesn’t have any recoils so the actor or actress has to have to simulate the recoil otherwise it doesn’t, it looks like there isn’t any because there isn’t any.
Yeah. I mean if you’re shooting anything that would be considered caliber that law enforcement would use or military would use or a deer hunter or somebody hunting medium sized or large game or a civilian for self-defense purposes would use that’s all going to be fairly large, in the sense that it’s going to be big enough to get the job done which means you’re going to have recoil. Obviously if you’re shooting a 22 or a little gun like that, they don’t have much recoil. So when you’re shooting a 50 caliber Barrett you can be outside of the buildings. And not only will it recoil, make it a little goofy but also just you probably felt it at the time I mentioned that if you’re in an inside area, you have the pressure change with the gun going off you can really feel it in the side of a bunker or inside of an indoor range. But I’ll tell you shooting the Barrett or something like that you feel that outside, you even outside you can still feel. If you’re the spotter next to the guy when it goes off, you really get a blast of it. You feel like pressure going off.
It’s impressive. Exciting and somewhat terrifying all at the same time. So I understand, but yeah recoil is nothing you get used to if you shoot a lot. If you don’t shoot a lot of, you’re new to shooting, it can sometimes be terrifying because you are, you’re not prepared for it. And then if you’re new to shooting, oftentimes new shooters who aren’t prepared for it, tend to not shoot very accurately because they anticipate it coming, and as a result, jerk the gun off target in preparation for the gun going bang, and so it’s hard for us sometimes to get them to just let the gun go off and realize that it’s not going to hurt you when it does. I think you’ve said it very accurately Luke, unless you’ve done it, it’s very hard to describe and it’s very hard to write about. I’ve had a number of authors over the years who have come and taken you know brief courses with me, just to get the experience of shooting and understand how it works and do exactly as you described it precisely for the reason that, they weren’t writing a book about guns per say, and actually that was even a main part of the story is just what happened that somewhere in the story there was a firearm involved, and they wanted to make sure they understood it well enough to at least not look silly in the process of including that of the story. I thought that was very wise.
LUKE: That’s one thing I love about writing actually is doing that type of research talking to all these different people experiencing different things I’ve decided I need to start sharing this with other writers because I think I see that as a big lack and a lot of writing when they start writing and immediately they hit things they just have never experienced and they either try to fake it or they ignore it. And both of those to me are bad approaches. I actually went down into the sewers and walk through the sewer grates for about 30 yards just to get that experience of what it’s like and because until I did it, I didn’t know the smell and the feeling, it’s a whole different feeling when you’re underground and a little dark wet too.
JOEL: It’s absolutely impossible to describe if you haven’t, the experiential data with which to describe it. And I think that applies to anything and everything. The other risk that you take that could be a fake it till you make, it is that the minute somebody picks up the story and start reading it or watches the TV show or the play or the movie, and what you’ve done is so grossly inaccurate because you just know, that it is offensive to them then you’ve got off somebody got a whole group of people whether it’s physicians or nurses or law enforcement people or whatever the subject matter may be that really didn’t enjoy the story as much as they otherwise might have had you taken the time to do a little bit of research into that particular subject whatever it is. That’s from the perspective of a guy who reads books and watches movies and TV shows I’ve never written any of these things so I can’t speak to a position that you can.
LUKE: Well most people I’ve talked to just have a great capacity to suspend disbelief, meaning you know, interview a guy like you expert in weapons but you’re willing to overlook some of the errors because you know it’s drama it’s writing it’s movies it’s TV. But there’s just a point where it becomes so ludicrous it’s best to avoid that if you’re the writer and I guess that’s my goal. One more note on recoil, actually you can go on YouTube, I do find it a little helpful to look at some of the videos of people shooting various weapons and you can see the recoil effect of real weapons whether it’s a 22 or a shotgun and you can even see some idiots firing their weapons and hit him in the head knock him out and that kind of thing.
JOEL: Every time I see that stuff, or every time I see some guy tricking his girlfriend or wife on the shooting a great big gun in a way that doesn’t work so he can laugh at her afterwards that drives me nuts too because that’s just that’s just not right.
LUKE: Makes me angry because it’s so dangerous, but it does give you a good idea of how strong the kickback some of these guns have. So I wanted to ask about scopes have you do an experience of them. In one form I read that in one show a character was using a rifle with a scope indoors and you compared that to trying to use a pair of binoculars to watch a fly buzzing around a room, the magnification makes it nearly impossible to find the target up close. Do you have any thoughts on scopes magnification that kind of thing?
JOEL: Well when I was a boy which was back when we wrote things on stone tablets with chisels, I’m kind of old. When I was a boy a scope was a scope. But you had iron sites and scopes, that’s what you had. Now you have a broader category of things called optics. But you’ve got iron sites which are just made of metal and plastic, now those are the standard things that come on rifles and handguns in the shop. And then you’ve got Pixel Optics give you a range of choices. Some objects fall into the telescopic scope or telescope category with search magnification, and yes if you’re trying to use those close up that’s not what they’re designed to do, and you’re right it’s like looking for a like, using a pair of binoculars looking for a fly in your bathroom and it knows you’re not gonna find it. On the other hand, there are optics which are designed specifically to be used close up and they don’t have any magnification at all but they do provide a very simple way to aim the rifle or shotgun or whatever and you’ll see those in military use, law enforcement use, by security contractors and so on. So when you look at for example a M4 car being, used in the military a lot of times they have iron stripes but they also have one kind of blob in the middle right on the top, and that generally is a tube or a square shaped thing. That’s an optic and all of this is a zero-magnification optic. Then it has a red dot, a red dot optic it has a little holographic sight in it. But it’s basically meant to be able to very quickly. Get on Target and press the trigger and get what you’re shooting at. And those worked really well in low life and almost complete darkness as long as you can see what you’re shooting in close quarters they work great, but if you’re using a telescopic sight which is the long version of scope, telescope, then yeah, I mean that’s not a close-up thing, that’s something you’re using at some distance.
There are some that by the way that are variable power type telescope for you can turn it all the way down to one magnification and all the way up to nine or ten or whatever and you can turn the little knob and it’ll change how much it magnifies and those sure if you saw him all the way back to one you could use those close up and then you dial up to eight or nine or ten or whatever they go to or somewhere in the middle depending on the distance that you’re using.
LUKE: The interesting thing about laser sights are those commonly used as accurate. We see that a lot of the red dot.
JOEL: They’re commonly used but not in the way that you would think. Lasers are commonly used by civilians are commonly used by military or commonly used by law enforcement but they’re used differently by each. So for example I carry a gun every day and I have a laser sight from a company that makes them, that are actually part of the grips on the gun that I carry. And so if I draw the firearm my grip squeezes on a little button automatically the laser comes on. And that’s used for specific types of shooting. So let’s say for example it’s an instance in which someone a civilian might use a laser. If you’re in a confined building you’re in a meeting or you’re in a place where you maybe you’re out a parking garage and now somebody’s trying to hurt you and you’ve found a place to hide or you’ve found a place where you’ve got some of that covered that’s protecting you. You don’t want to stick your head or body around the corner to be able to point to the firearm at the bad guy and actually get on target what you can do is can peek around the corner and enough to be able to see and then stick your hand around the corner and put the laser dot him and when you press the trigger you’re on target. So they’re used sometimes for that in a civilian context.
Sometimes folks are older it’s night and you can’t see the sights and you want to get shot. You know you’re scared and you want to be able to put the dot on the guy and press the trigger bang. Now here’s what they’re not used. They are used by military as laser designator. They have what’s called an IR Laser, an infrared laser, that you can’t see unless you have the right optical equipment on your head. So the naked eye can’t see it. And you know the soldier or Marine or sailor might use that to indicate which group of people are the good guys which are the bad guys who’s going to take on which guy and that kind of stuff because the enemy cannot see the fact that they’re being, they’re using it like a fighter like you would use a little laser pointer in a presentation or they’re just pointing out where they saw people that they’re concerned about. Usually is a designator there like that. Sometimes in very close quarters they’ll use it but a lot of times they just use what they call reflective shooting, and we can talk about that if you’d like. They sometimes use at close quarters of their clearing a building but most times not. It’s just more time to use for what I just described. I have never seen a laser used as a sniper tool and yet that’s done in movies and books and TV shows constantly. Where you’ve got the guy which 300 yards away and he’s using the laser to lock on to his target that he’s trying to shoot at and by virtue of seeing a laser they know they’ve dive out of the way and then the bullet comes and misses them whatever. A laser is generally used as a real close up and personal, point and shoot type tool to get the gun on target without having to shoot the sites because you don’t have time or to shoot around you have to reach over the top of something and still be able to get it on, because you can’t you know want to risk put your hand up there or as a designator to point things out at the distance. But as far as a sniper tool it’s not used for that.
LUKE: I’ve read that they do that to scare people away to chase them off because they see that red dot and they think there’s a gun pointed at them.
JOEL: I’ve never heard of anybody actually doing that. But I suppose it certainly would, you know if you’ve watched it on television and seen little red dots. People know what follows on the TV show, that they would get made a move. I wouldn’t be standing there.
LUKE: Yeah me too and I’m not sure if that’s accurate or legal. It was just one of the forum things that I read. It’s always an interesting tactic that they used to break up crowds.
JOEL: Yeah I can’t imagine law enforcement using it. I mean military maybe. Can you imagine how that would come back on a law enforcement agency if people thought at least were pointing guns at get them to break them up. I’m not sure that would work in a law enforcement context or in any kind of civilian context but it might work in a military context. I don’t know.
LUKE: Yeah you’re right. I was reading a lot about overwatch in Afghanistan and things like that. That’s probably what I read.
Did you have some thought the accuracy in the range of pistols I know sometimes we see in the movies like Lethal Weapon he shot a helicopter out of the air with a handgun from 100 yards and it was just ludicrous because I don’t think it could be done.
JOEL: First of all, hitting a moving aircraft with a rifle or handgun or shotgun not a simple proposition and not easy, the likelihood of you actually doing it and doing it reliably is pretty small. But no, you get into the difference between the effectiveness of the actual cartridge, in other words how far will the bullet travel, and will it do any damage if it hits something, and the actual ability to reliably and accurately hit a specific target over a given distance are the two things you’re dramatically different. I mean for example when I was a kid my dad who was a deputy sheriff was walking down the street and a kid about two miles away was shooting at that bridge with his 22 and the bullet went up and traveled about two miles and hit my dad in his lower back, right above his right hip. Didn’t kill him or to cause him any serious damage, he went to the hospital and they never took it out. In fact, my dad used to joke about never getting the led out of his but the rest of his life. But it’s the effectiveness of that round in the sense that it traveled two miles and actually broke the skin and stayed inside of his body for the ensuing 30 years, is one thing. The ability to actually hit anybody two miles away is a whole different conversation and that’s the case with handguns as well. I would say that the average, even the above average pistol shooter, can accurately and consistently hit targets out to 50 yards. Most times most people can use a practice they can do it at 25 yards. I can solidly hit targets all day long at 50 yards with the hand guns. Give me a little bitty one. Maybe not so much a hundred yards. Yeah, I think I could do it. And there are guys and ladies that could do it but it’s pretty rare. And I do know that in some military circles some of the military guys actually practice that. And they’re very, very good at it because their training is specific to that from the standpoint that they’re in a war zone and if the rifle breaks all they have is their side arm and if the enemy is hundred yards away you better be able. Yeah and then they can do it. But you know the average cop or the average criminal or the average civilian. Or even the average soldier, sailor, Air Force member, or Marine is not going to be able to do that with a handgun. It’s an extraordinary skill and only a rare group of people can actually do that.
LUKE: 100 yards you said? About 300 feet?
JOEL: That’s the length of a football field. I mean I know that there are guys who can do it. I have a friend who was actually attended to some of that training who has done it. Not as well as the guys who do it, but he has done it with a 9-millimeter. I’ve never attempted at the farthest I’ve ever shot with a handgun accurately was 50 yards and I can keep all the rounds on in a decent size group at 50 yards standing with a handgun, but the best half a football field and that’s more than most people on the planet with a handgun would be able to do. When they say don’t try this at home, I’m what they call an expert.
LUKE: That’s amazing. So yeah. I wish I had more information on that because that’s one thing I think is misrepresented grossly is the range of bullets. And the damage to.
I mean bullets can be deadly in one hand and then you can have guys who get shot with like five or six different bullets and still keep going depending where they’re hit and what kind of round hit them.
JOEL: Well now I mean we know that in the movie you hit the guy on the fingernail and he goes flying through the wall and it just doesn’t work that way. Handguns in particular are terrible guns to fight with because they’re not nearly so lethal as a rifle or a shotgun and largely because I’m talking about, a larger type of guns, not 22. But you’re talking about handguns or simply you know so much by law enforcement and so on because they’re small and you can put them on your hip and turn with you in and they’re handy to have around, but they’re not necessarily the best gun to fight with. In fact, the old joke of law enforcement when they used to have just nothing but shotguns in the car was that the handgun, the sidearm, was to get them to the car so they could get to the shotgun and a lot of military members will tell you that their sidearm is for no other purpose and they get them to their rifle. It’s because they understand that long gun that shotgun or that rifle is a lot more effective than that little short one.
LUKE: Makes me think about the weight of ammunition too and how people will load up on ammunition in the movies and or they’ll mysteriously produce a lot of ammunition, but you add all that up it gets pretty heavy. There’s no way you’re going to lug that stuff around easily.
JOEL: That’s the reason the military went from 308 and 386 to 556 which is what they shoot now. In world war two, the primary fighting rifle for the United States military was M1 Garand. I know everybody calls it a grand. But John Garand pronounced his name that way so, yeah, I’m showing deference to him, I’ll pronounce it the way he pronounced it. The M1 Garand was the main fighting rifle and in addition to the Springfield Oats 1903 bolt action rifle they shot 36 which is a great big honking thing and one guy you can only carry so much of that around had it. And then they went on to lighter and lighter bullets primarily because it allows the soldiers to be able to carry more ammunition, it’s lighter the gun itself is lighter. You know I’ve heard many veterans say every and this was their quote not mine, every little battle rattle has to have a purpose because it starts weighing them down and they have to move with it.
LUKE: I’ve just read recently they’re experimenting with cartridges less bullets so when they explode in a barrel the barrel acts like the what the brass would normally have done which was to confine the explosion. So there’s no brass left behind that reduces the amount of material used in the weight that they carry. So we’re getting really close to the end here. I was wondering if you have any last thoughts about weapon etiquette or safety. Anything you’ve observed in basic handling, beginner mistakes, or Hollywood blunders, things like that.
JOEL: If you don’t mind just a comment on the Hollywood blunders and it’s not to pick on Hollywood by any stretch of the imagination, Hollywood is the entertainment industry. Just as novelists are part of the entertainment industry, their goal is to entertain us and I think in many respects also to comment on things going on in our society that they are somebodies’ comment. Honestly and that’s not new to Hollywood. People are doing that with theater and so on for hundreds and hundreds of years, that part of the role. But at the same time certain things that are used in Hollywood or used in books and novels, are dangerous pieces of equipment if they’re not handled properly. And I will tell you that it’s very common for me to have students who do not understand that Hollywood and novels are not part of the Education Ministry. They’re part of the entertainment business that makes sense. And so as a result they think that it’s okay to handle that firearms the way it’s handled in the movies or on TV or the way that they saw their favorite character in a movie or in a book handle it. So I think, to some degree, and I think to a limited degree but I think to some degree it is incumbent upon novelists and screenwriters and so on to research those items which could harm people if used improperly and make sure that their stories at least know enough, to make certain that they’re not accidentally and unintentionally educating people when they mean to entertain them. And if we’re going to educate them then let’s educate them properly.
LUKE: I agree with that. Yeah, the whole intention of our podcast isn’t to make everything completely realistic, mostly it’s to help writers become more credible, have more food for thought, more creativity to aid in their creative writing. One of my missions is to help educate people, if I can, about the kinds of things you’re talking about, misinformation that can be dangerous.
JOEL: Frankly as a consumer of entertainment, I don’t want to be 100 percent realistic. Who wants that? I’ve got to deal with all that already. If I wanted realism, I wouldn’t go to the movies right or I wouldn’t read a book. That takes away the entertainment value for certain, I’m just saying that you kind of want to be careful that you’re not teaching people to do things that they might actually emulate, and then you would wish that they didn’t.
LUKE: Think you’ve answered all my questions, we’ve discussed all the topics that I wanted to go over as a writer and I really appreciate all of your time and your input was absolutely my pleasure.
LUKE: All right. Thank you so much. Joel I’ll talk to you later.
JOEL: All right. Sure. Have a wonderful day and be safe.
LUKE: Bye, bye.
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