Fightin’ Fiction: 5 Melee Myths

A terrific post from Aeryn Rudel about melee weapons.

Aeryn Rudel's Rejectomancy

One of my many hobbies is HEMA, or historical European martial arts, wherein folks study various fighting manuals from the medieval and renaissance periods and attempt to recreate these martial disciplines as accurately as possible. Once you swing a sword the way it’s meant to be swung and then do a little historical research, you quickly find popular media presents combat with swords, axes, maces, and other crushy, stabby, pointy things . . . well, uh, incorrectly would the nicest way to put it.

So, from the author’s perspective, if you wanted to portray your melee combat more realistically, how would you go about doing it? Well, research is always the best answer, and it couldn’t hurt to at least watch some HEMA sparring to get an idea of what certain types of sword fighting probably looked like (or even take a few classes yourself). That said, I think the five “myths”…

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Is It Possible to Shoot Out a Lock with a Gun?

movie trope locks guns doors shoot out myth

This is good time to remind you to not try anything at home. Leave the risk to professionals who are duly compensated for their poor choices. (Image by Paige Foster via

TLDR: It’s possible, but it doesn’t work the way you think. 

Do me a favor. The next time you get the itch to write in a scene where the character “shoots out a lock,” go grab the firearm you keep in a hidden safe in the wall and a big, fat rock. Stand as close as you can to the rock, then aim at it and pull the trigger. (Or don’t. Please don’t.)

Does this sound like a good idea to you? Does the risk of catching a mouthful of shrapnel or a ricocheted bullet for no good reason sound appealing? Congratulations. You have excellent health insurance.

The rest of us plebs would probably pass, but that’s exactly what you’re putting your characters through when you use the “shooting out the locks” trope. Your characters may be fictional, but they deserve better. Continue reading

The Myth of the Hierarchy of Weapons

myth of hierarchy of weapons writing fiction

When you need to pound a nail, there is no better tool than a hammer. That doesn’t mean a hammer is the best tool for every job. It’s the same way with weapons. (Shutterstock photo)

There’s an idea out there in fiction that a gun always trumps a knife, a knife always trumps a more mundane object, and all of that trumps knuckles. I call this the Myth of the Hierarchy of Weapons and, as the name suggests, it’s BS.

I elaborate more about this over at Jennifer Chase’s blog. Check it out here.

How Easy is It to Find Fingerprints on a Gun?

Fingerprints: The criminal defense attorney's best friend. (Photo by A. Hulme via

Fingerprints: The criminal defense attorney’s best friend. (Photo by A. Hulme via

TLDR: As it relates to firearms, fingerprinting isn’t infallible.

When I encounter a topic I’m not familiar with, I turn to people like criminologist/crime writer Jennifer Chase to fill in the gaps. This typically happens in the forensics department, and I’m happy to say she’s a terrific resource. The latest example is the issue of fingerprints and firearms. Specifically, how easy (or difficult) is it to find usable fingerprints on a gun? Continue reading