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Monday, October 24, 2011

That’ll Teach You to Watch the Movies

It’s not as if I write the kind of suspense novels that involve guns. I confess to having really enjoyed clay pigeon shooting whenever I’ve done it, but I've never fired at anything else in my life. I abhor violence, I'm scared by loud noises, my testosterone levels are waaaaaaay below my gentle feminine ways...

So how come I enjoy the gun-toting, action-packed thrillers at the movies?

I'm a late follower to the blog Cracked - when I scooped up its feed, I found loads of other online friends already following! Some of its articles - or are they just lists? - are fun, some of them are bizarre, and all of it fascinating. So as I'm currently winging my way over the Atlantic on my way home from an extended trip to New Orleans and San Francisco (yes, maybe I'll tell you all about it in my *next* blog post *g*) and I'm time-challenged AND jet-lagged, I'm going to borrow shamelessly today for our entertainment from one of Cracked's posts, called:

5 Ridiculous Gun Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies)
(I've only posted brief excerpts here, scroll down to find the link to the full article)

#5. Silencers Turn Gunfire Into a Gentle Whisper

Where You've Seen It: In The Line Of Fire, Die Hard 2, No Country For Old Men, Shooter, practically every James Bond movie.

The Myth: Cautious spies and assassins know that if you're going to take out a bad guy in an office or a library, be sure to use a silencer. It turns the concussive "bang" into a neutered "ptew." Itty-bitty handguns aren't the only things you can silence. Giant freaking shotguns can even be fitted with a special silencer that renders them inaudible in quiet suburban neighborhoods.

The Problem: Exploding gunpowder is loud. Really loud. A little metal tube won't do a whole lot to stop that. It does not make a soft phut that you could mistake for a kitten landing on a pillow. An unsilenced gunshot is around 140 to 160 decibels--that's in the range where hearing it once can permanently damage your ears. If you've never had a gun go off next to you, trust us when we say it's loud enough that your whole body will flinch at the sound of it. So a silencer really just makes a large gun sound like a smaller gun. If you're James Bond and are sneaking into the enemy's compound with a silenced pistol, you're basically hoping the guards will decide your gun is too small and wimpy to be a serious threat, and leave you be.

#4. Machine Guns are Magical Death Machines

Where You've Seen It: Starship Troopers, The Mummy, Max Payne, Commando, every John Woo movie, Scarface.

The Myth: It's an old joke by now that nobody runs out of bullets in action movies (unless it's suddenly convenient to the plot, that is). So much so that that most of us have wound up with an utterly ridiculous concept of how those guns work. They're seriously depicting these things firing a hundred times more bullets than they can actually hold.

The Problem: Full-auto is only really used for suppression, that is, to make the bad guys duck their heads and hunker down while your people maneuver into position. In fact, virtually all bullets are used for this. For each insurgent killed, 250,000 shots are fired that hit absolutely nothing. About three tons of ammunition for every one dude killed.

#3. Bulletproof Vests Are Magical Force Fields

The Myth:  In movies, body armor (made from a material called Kevlar) turns most guns from magical death-wands to hilariously overbuilt Airsoft rifles. A burst of fire from an AK-47 at point-blank range would turn most men's torsos into gooey paste suitable for spreading on crackers, but add a slab of Kevlar and you might as well have a Gandalf's magic protection bubble glowing around your torso.

The Problem: In the real world, the type of bulletproof vest you can actually conceal under your clothes provides exceptional protection against most handguns. But against an assault rifle like the terrorists use? It's only slightly more effective than body paint and prayers to Khorne. When police wear body armor they don't tend to wear full military body armor. Probably because it weighs 33 freaking pounds and costs thousands of dollars. Since less than one percent of gun crimes involve military-style rifles, this is generally a pretty safe trade-off.

#2. Gratuitous Cocking

Where You've Seen It: Boondock Saints, Die Hard, Reservoir Dogs.

The Myth: Movies treat the cocking of a gun like an exclamation point. When Hardass McBadCop interrogates the lone surviving henchman, you can safely assume that, at some point, he's going to make his gun go "clickety-clack" to let the poor schmuck know he means business.

The Problem: That "click" is the sound of a hammer being cocked back, but it doesn't mean anything. The gun was already good to go. Guns are made so that pulling the trigger also cocks the hammer for you, to save you the extra step and the extra two seconds during which you could get shot. The "cocking the gun to show you mean business" must date back to Westerns, back when those old revolvers forced you to cock them between each shot. When movies show somebody with a gun that doesn't have a hammer back there to be cocked (like a shotgun or assault rifle) they substitute either the pumping of the shotgun or pulling back the slide on the automatic. It's the only way to get a cool clicking sound for dramatic effect.

(am I worried this is my favourite picture?! LOL)

#1. Bullets Explode Everything

Where You've Seen It: Jaws, Casino Royale, Matrix Reloaded.

The Myth: In the movies, bullets and anything mildly flammable have a matter/anti-matter relationship. The second hot lead touches a car's gas tank, it and everyone inside are going up in flames.

The Problem: The manufacturers of automobiles and pressurized containers really don't like liability lawsuits. If their products could be turned into a fireball the size of a city block with nothing more than a sudden impact or puncture, every car accident would look like the Fourth of July, every pile-up would look like a Michael Bay movie. The Mythbusters famously demonstrated the falsehood of both the "shoot the gas tank" myth and a ton of other gun myths in two of their episodes. As it turns out, you actually have to coax a car into exploding by doing things in a very particular way. If you can punch a small hole in the tank, light a fire outside of it, and vaporize the gas inside to the point that the tank over-pressurizes, then you could probably get it to light. Assuming you use special tracer bullets.


And here's the link to the original post at Cracked, penned by Robert Evans. 

So how many of these were a surprise to you? How many of these scurrilously misleading movies have you watched and loved (like me) - and will you ever be able to watch the re-runs of Die Hard with quite the same wide-eyed innocence again?


Tam said...

I adore Mythbusters because they busted #5 and #1. A silencer is not all that silence. Quieter yes, but your neighbour in the next apartment is still going to hear you take out your cheating ex. Ummm, not that I WOULD do that. Noooo.

I'm kind of surprised by how many bullets are used to take out one man, however I suppose when you have an unlimited supply you kind of go a bit crazy. If you only had 6 bullets you'd have to be more judicious where you aim and fire.

I know our police always wear vests but I've always though wouldn't the criminal just aim at your head then? Unless it's a military quality helmet, your head is just sitting there like a giant melon waiting to be poofed. If I was a bad guy, I'd be screw the chest, go for the groin or the head.

I grew up on a farm with rifles and shot guns (certainly no handguns which you rarely find in Canada). My Grandfather and uncles (and some of my female cousins) still hunt deer and other game to this day (which I slightly conscientiously object to). I'm not afraid of a gun per se, I just never had cause to shoot one, nor did I ask to try it. I sometimes think I'd like to try a handgun just to know what it's like, but I'm not so interested as to actually pursue it. As a typical Canadian, I would NEVER keep a handgun in my house. Accident waiting to happen.

Doris J said...

Great Post!

I have to say I tend to pick apart movies and t.v. shows these days. I volunteer in law enforcement ( not as a cop) and I have learned SO much about how things happen or are done.
I have to remind myself it is only for fun :-)

Anne Marie Becker said...

Fascinating and informative post! I confess I learned some things today. (*sheepish grin*) But I'm happy to say I've never used any of those things in my books, precisely because I don't know that much about them. If I did use them, I'd have to do more research for sure! :)

I did learn something about handguns when my brother (an ex-police officer) taught me how to shoot. So I can *safely* use handguns in my books. LOL

Chris said...

What?! John Woo movies aren't completely accurate?! I am AGHAST that you would DARE to say that!!

Next you'll be telling me they wear wires in kung fu movies.


Wynter Daniels said...

Good post. My DH is in law enforcement and on a special response team (badass commando sort of team). He debunks lots of movie ridiculousness for me, which does tend to take a bit away from the action!

Wendy Soliman said...

Gratuitous cocking. Well, I would pick up on that, wouldn't I! Interesting post. I love fictional violence too. Not sure how I'd react if face with the real thing. But I DID run round our terrace in Spain, large knife in hand, when we'd been burgled. I was so angry and upset that I really do think I could have used that knife. Lucky for the burglars, they'd already legged it.

MaureenAMiller said...

I too picked up on gratuitous cocking, Wendy. :)

I can act big and bad as a writer, but if someone placed a gun on the dining room table, I would most likely curl up in the fetal position at the sight of it. LOL

MaureenAMiller said...

I too picked up on gratuitous cocking, Wendy. :)

I can act big and bad as a writer, but if someone placed a gun on the dining room table, I would most likely curl up in the fetal position at the sight of it. LOL

Rita said...

I lose it when these things happen in movies. On full auto machine gun magazines are done in seconds. or they hid behind a car door and bullets don't penetrate. UGG! Some silencers are better than others. Custom made ones in particular. They also reduce velocity and should be used at close range as accuracy can go out the window. The empty two liter plastic soda bottle with a towel wrapped around it does pretty good.

Ann Bruce said...

Although I'm pro-gun control and generally a wuss, I know a lot about firearms and none of the points are new to me.

However, I can still watch Die Hard and its three sequels and enjoy them because John McClane has the best one-liners of any Hollywood character. And I do so love Alan Rickman and the way he says "detonators."

Ann Bruce said...

And nothing says Christmas to me like "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker." (I know I need help.)

Clare London said...

Great comments, everyone! My education continues apace... and I'm even MORE nervous of including any guns in my fiction now :).

Thanks to Rita for the info on how to make my silencer, kudos to Wendy for a role model on dealing with burglars - I did run after a bag snatcher once, so maybe I'm not beyond help - and sorry to Chris for destroying all her illusions LOL.

I admit I love the scenes where bullets rain down everywhere, but miraculously miss the hero. Then his head pops up and he fires off one round, and ZAP! gets the bad guy first time LOL.

I'm still sniggering like a schoolboy at gratuitous cocking...

And in solidarity with Ann, in the immortal words of Bruce Willis in a similar gun-waving role in "Fifth Element" - "anyone else wanna negotiate?"

(PS sorry for late replies, I'm struggling with jetlag after 10 days away in the US)

Toni Anderson said...

Clare--I meant to comment but couldn't stop grinning long enough to get over the 'gratuitous cocking'.

Shirley Wells said...

I seriously need help because I can't stop giggling about gratuitous cocking now. :)

I'd be a total waste of space if anyone came at me with a gun or a knife but I love to see the bullets flying in the movies. And I love that the slightest bump has a car bursting into flames. As I said, I need help... :)

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