What is Magnum Ammunition?


It can be challenging to spot a magnum version of a cartridge just by looking at it. (Shutterstock photo)

TLDR: Magnum ammunition comes with extra propellant (gunpowder) and/or a more generous projectile.

Unlike other firearm terminology, “magnum ammunition” is both specific and vague. This can cause some confusion when you need to give a character a firearm with some extra oomph.

Magnum PI

“Oomph” in this case is measured against Tom Selleck’s righteous mustache. (Image via Amazon)

Magnum Ammo: The Gist

It’s specific because a “magnum” cartridge will contain more propellant (aka gunpowder) and/or a more generous projectile (aka bullet) than a standard cartridge.

However, it’s vague because that increase in oomph isn’t set in stone. It’s up to the manufacturer to determine what qualifies as magnum and what does not.

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Want to Spice Up That Character’s Shotgun? Try Bolo Shells

TLDR: Two metal balls + wire + shotgun x crazy = bolo ammunition

What is Bolo Shotgun Ammunition?

If you’re looking to change things up a bit with your character’s shotgun setup, you might try assigning him/her bolo ammunition. It’s buckshot’s rough and tumble cousin who’s on parole but can’t say no to a bar fight.

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Where Should Characters Store Ammunition When They’re Not Using Their Guns?

Where should these go when a character isn't using them? (Photo by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski via sxc.hu)

Where should these go when a character isn’t using them? (Photo by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski via sxc.hu)

Apparently, there’s some confusion out there about characters storing ammunition when they’re not using their firearms. Over at my guest post at Jane Friedman’s place, Writing About Guns: 10 Errors to Avoid in Your Novel, user marcydyer670919403 (whew) commented on an instance “when a character sticks the bullets in her pocket instead of loading the gun because it might shoot her” in something she read.

Hrmmm, I say. Hrmmm.

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A Key Concept About Self-Guided Bullets

What are self-guided bullets

TLDR: Think of self-guided bullets like smart paper airplanes, not a heat-seeking missile. (Maddy Shernock image via sxc.hu)

DV Berkom is a thriller writer who wrote to me recently with a question about using self-guided bullets in her WIP. Berkom’s question brought up a key concept about self-guided bullets that I think pop culture gets wrong. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

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Smith & Wesson Model 52: An Unusual Pick for a Character’s Pistol

  • Type: Semi-automatic pistol
  • Caliber: .38
  • Ammunition capacity: 5 in a detachable magazine (not clip)
  • Year introduced: 1961
  • Effective range: 25 yards (greater for more experienced shooters)

Harold Courtright picked up a copy of The Writer’s Guide to Weapons and recently wrote to me about the Smith & Wesson Model 52 he selected for a character. This semi-automatic pistol sports a couple features that make it stand out from run-of-the-mill choices that typically pop up in fiction. I figured I’d highlight them here.

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