Why Do Characters Blow Away Gun Smoke from the Barrel After They Shoot?

Why do characters in movies, TV shows and (sometimes) books blow smoke from the end of their handguns' barrels after a shootout? The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is because it looks cool. But history shows this trope once served a practical purpose. (Shutterstock image)

Why do characters in movies, TV shows and (sometimes) books blow smoke from the end of their guns’ barrels after a shootout? Also, is this person blowing away the smoke or sucking it in? Is this a hookah by way of a pistol? Is that even possible? Asking for a friend. (Shutterstock image)

TLDR: This trope serves no practical purpose with modern firearms, but it did play an essential role many years ago.

I hate to break it to you, but much of the “cool factor” surrounding guns in fiction is based on what looks cool. Take away the arbitrary cool factor, and firearms are pieces of nerdy metal, square chemistry, dad jean physics and Nickelback designs. On their own, they’re boring. Just try talking to one.

It takes someone or something else to make them “cool.” One way characters in fiction do that is by blowing the gun smoke away from the barrel after an intense volley of gunfire, usually but not always involving a handgun. The website TV Tropes even has a page dedicated to this cliche.

Is there any point to this trope or is it just blowing smoke? Let’s break it down.

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A Handgun with a Built-In Silencer?

The Silencerco Maxim doesn't look like other pistols because it isn't. (Gun Digest photo)

The Silencerco Maxim doesn’t look like other pistols because it isn’t. (Gun Digest photo)

Fiction has a hard time with this whole business of silencers (aka suppressors, if you want to look smart), so I’d like to draw your attention to something that’s going to make everything a helluva lot easier. Continue reading

Do Glocks Have Safeties?

Glock 19

Glock semi-automatic pistols are some of the most popular handguns in the world, which makes them easy picks for assigning to all sorts of characters. Pictured is a Glock Model 19, which can hold 15 rounds of 9mm ammunition. The U.S. Marines Special Operations Command adopted it for use in early 2015. Good news for your characters: You don’t have to be in the military to own a Glock 19. (Photo via GunDigest.com)

TLDR: Glock handguns use three safety mechanisms, but none of them require a character to switch anything off. Disregard Glock safeties entirely when writing fiction.

In keeping with the recent theme of things that may or may not have safeties (knives, revolvers, etc.), let’s talk about Glock handguns. I (and probably some regulars of this blog) can remember reading novels and short stories where a character switched the safety off a Glock semi-automatic pistol. This is a boo-boo. Glocks don’t have safeties that switch off.

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What’s the Difference Between a Pistol and a Revolver?

pistols and revolvers

Don’t use “pistol” and “revolver” interchangeably when writing fiction. Pick one and stick to it. (Photo via Gun Digest)

TLDR: Pistols are handguns with one or more stationary chambers. Revolvers are handguns that use multiple rotating chambers. Don’t use them interchangeably.

Aaaaaand I can already hear my inbox filling up after posting the TLDR up top. But before you fire off a sternly worded letter through the contact form, give me a chance to explain.

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Step-by-Step: How to Load and Accurately Shoot a Pistol

Sue Coletta is a crime author and¬†writer bud of mine with a new book out this November worth your time, Marred. I’m interested in how Coletta approaches the weapons in her work, seeing as how she came up with a primer called 60 Ways to Murder Your Fictional Characters. What follows is her guest post on how she chose the firearms for one of her law enforcement characters, along with a terrific example of how to load and shoot a semi-automatic pistol. Enjoy!


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