NaNoWriMo: Know Your Weapons!

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I’m once again letting Piper hijack my blog to talk about a subject near and dear to me—GUNS. Chances are, many of you are writing thrillers or suspense or knitting books that involve FIREARMS. Piper and I are NOT the people you take with you to an action film unless you believe—like we do—most of these movies should be classified under “Comedy.”

We count rounds. Ooooh, I want THAT GUN. The one that NEVER runs out of ammo EVER! We also cringed in the Sherlock—A Game of Shadows movie. Remember? In the Arms Factory Scene, Col. Moran whips out the c96 Mauser pistol and loads it from the bottom, perhaps because this looked “cooler.” Historical Note: Good luck loading that gun from the BOTTOM. It loaded from the top.

I also love how movies have these LOOOONG shoot-out scenes with thousands and thousands of rounds fired. Afterward? No one is yelling like my 90 year-old Aunt Peggy when her hearing aid lost battery.





Okay, I’ll stop and let Piper take it from here. The point of this blog is that, IF you are going to use firearms in your books? Please let the reader see you did your research. They will love you for it. And, if you (the author) put a safety on your revolver (actually had this happen) we will HURL your book across the room.

Take it away Piper and Holmes!

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

NaNoWriMo is almost here. Whether it’s your first draft or your tenth, the last thing you want to look like on the page is an amateur. Yesterday, we got rid of your backstory. (See Backstory: The More You Know, The Less I Need To.) Now we’re going to take a look at your terminology.

Whether your story is literary fiction, a romance, or a thriller, it might well have a firearm in it. Firearms should always be used properly, whether in person or on a page. So let’s make sure you have your vocabulary straight so that people like us and Kristen don’t throw your book against the wall.

Let’s start by clearing up the most common gun misnomer of all time— the “clip” vs. the “magazine.”

If your story has “clips” in it, you most likely need to be writing historical fiction. There are extremely few modern weapons being manufactured today that use clips unless they are replicas of old weapons. One rare example of a modern weapon using a clip is the Smith & Wesson 9mm revolver, which uses a moon clip. So if your character is using a weapon with an actual “clip,” you need to make it quite clear in your writing that it is either a historical weapon or one of the extremely rare exceptions.

This is one example of a “clip.”

K31 Stripper Clips for Swiss Karabiner Standard issue for Swiss Armed Forces 1933-1958 Image by GaryArgh, wikimedia commons

K31 Stripper Clips for Swiss Karabiner
Standard issue for Swiss Armed Forces 1933-1958
Image by GaryArgh, wikimedia commons


K31 Stripper Clip in Swiss Karabiner Image by GaryArgh, wikimedia commons

K31 Stripper Clip in Swiss Karabiner
Image by GaryArgh, wikimedia commons


These are “magazines” (BELOW). Magazines are widely used in both handguns and rifles.

They hold cartridges and can be quickly and easily reloaded.

Magazines for SigSauer P239 and Smith & Wesson .380 Image by Piper Bayard

Magazines for SigSauer P239 and Smith & Wesson .380
Image by Piper Bayard

These magazines fit into the handles of the pistols. Contrary to popular belief among certain circles of politicians who I shall not name, they can be reused countless times. They don’t magically get used up just because all of the cartridges are fired.

SigSauer P239 and Smith & Wesson .380 with accompanying magazines. Image by Piper Bayard.

SigSauer P239 and Smith & Wesson .380
with accompanying magazines.
Image by Piper Bayard.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the different types of firearms—automatics, semi-automatics, and revolvers.

Gunner's Mate 1st Class Montrell Dorsey with M240B automatic weapon Image by US Navy, public domain

Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Montrell Dorsey with
M240B automatic weapon
Image by US Navy, public domain


With an automatic weapon, the cartridges load into a removable magazine. The weapon is called automatic because when you pull the trigger, it automatically fires repeated bullets until you take your finger off of the trigger. When the shooter fires, the brass shells of the cartridges are ejected from the weapon. Modern automatic weapons are generally illegal for private ownership without special licenses, a ton of paperwork, and a background check so thorough that it would make your personal physician cringe. These licenses are also so expensive that you’d be better off opening a small business instead of pursuing this type of weapon license.

Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 semi-automatic Image by Avicennasis, wikimedia commons.

Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 semi-automatic
Image by Avicennasis, wikimedia commons.

A semi-automatic also has cartridges that load into a removable magazine, which, in a pistol such as this one, fits into the handle of the gun. However, one trigger pull equals one shot, and the brass shell from each cartridge is automatically ejected. The weapon does not automatically keep firing.

Semi-automatics are legal in all states, but only to varying degrees in different places. In a few Western states, they practically come as prizes in the bottom of cereal boxes, while in others, only bodyguards of celebrities and politicians who advocate gun control get to carry them. In fact, if the celebrities and politicians are vocal enough in their opposition to private firearms, their bodyguards are approved to operate drones, drive tanks, and launch thermonuclear devices and other weapons of mass destruction 😀 .

If you live in one of these latter states, such as California, check your laws before you put a pistol in your California character’s hand. California requires certain design modifications. Your readers will know this, and they likely could call you on it.

It’s extremely common for a semi-automatic to be inaccurately referred to throughout media, movies, and TV as an “automatic” weapon. No matter how hot the journalist, movie star, or soap opera star might be, don’t believe it just because they say it.

Piper in the remake of Dirty Harry

Piper in the remake of Dirty Harry

A revolver is so called because the cartridges reside in a revolving cylinder. Like the semi-automatic, one trigger pull equals one shot. However, the brass shells are not ejected automatically. A shooter must open the cylinder and eject all of the shells simultaneously. Again, the legalities of ownership vary from state to state.

Not to knock one of Piper’s favorites, The Walking Dead, but if you listen closely when Rick fires his Colt Python .357 revolver, you will sometimes hear the sound of ejected brass hitting the floor with each shot—something only semi-automatics and automatics do. Total audio fiction.

Speaking of weapons, Holmes and I are calling all bloggers for a contest in which the winner will be determined with a shot.

The Spy Bride Blogger Challenge

To celebrate our debut spy thriller release, THE SPY BRIDE in the RISKY BRIDES Bestsellers’ Collection, we are inviting all bloggers to write a post about absolutely anything espionage or wedding related. Link back to this post at out site to be entered in a contest for a $25 Amazon card and a copy of RISKY BRIDES.

Write about your favorite Bond movie, your favorite historical spook, or how you used to spy on your siblings. Tell us about your wildest bachelor party, you favorite wedding, or your worst bridesmaid’s dress. If you manage to write about both spooks and weddings in the same post, you’ll have your name entered twice.

Be sure to link back to the Spy Bride Challenge post at our site so we see your entry!

Click here to get to the post at our site.

The winner will be chosen on Thanksgiving Day. We will attach the names of all entries to a shooting target. Then we will blindfold Piper’s lovely daughter, DD, and she will shoot the target. The name that she shoots will be the winner of the coveted Amazon gift card.

DD ready to determine the winner.

DD ready to determine the winner.

And for our awesome readers . . .

We have some wonderful prizes for you, as well. Sign up for the Bayard & Holmes Newsletter and be automatically entered to win a Secret Decoder Ring, a stash of Ghirardelli chocolate, or a bottle of sparkling wine from Mumm Napa vineyard.

Bayard & Holmes Newsletter Link–Click Here to Enter

Feel free to enter both contests!

Best of luck to all of you. Can’t wait to see your entries!





RISKY BRIDES is on sale for a limited time at only $.99 and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and Kobo.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes
Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes


Piper Bayard is an author, bellydancer, shooter, SCUBA diver, and a recovering attorney with a college degree or two. She writes spy thrillers with Jay Holmes, a forty-year veteran covert operative and a current senior member of the intelligence community. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email,


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  1. Got to agree, darlin’. My partner, Buck Stienke, and I write military/action/techno, historical fiction western and contemporary SyFy. I’m an inactive jarhead…Marine and Buck is a graduate of the AF Academy, former fighter pilot and 25 years as a pilot for Delta. He’s now retired and is a gunsmith and gun store owner in Gainesville. We both cringe like somebody’s dragging their fingernails down a blackboard at some of the verbiage used with firearms. With the internet, there’s no excuse to be inaccurate regarding weapons in your novel…unless it’s pure laziness. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    1. My sincere thanks to both you and Buck for your service. And I agree with you. It is fingernails on the blackboard of verbiage.

  2. I love this original blogger challenge. I’m sure my creative brain will be mulling over some spy wedding scenarios – none of which actually happened in my mundane life. This is why I read and write!
    I don’t know a fraction of what you do about firearms, but even my short stint in the military has me rolling my eyes at some inconsistencies. Of course…it’s all make-believe anyway, right? Wrong! This is why I write fantasy? (And my research notes for said projects would make the faint-hearted … Faint).

    1. Thank you, Sharon! I’ll look forward to your entry.

      Truth is that I started with dystopian fiction because so many genres have been ruined for me because of associations and education. Thank heaven for fantasy. 🙂

  3. I agree, doing the research is important. I grew up in a gun loving huge family. I have a safe full of guns. I agree with the terminology of this article completely. However; it is like medical terminology.

    Real people say clips, not magazines. I’m talking shooters with a lifetime of experience. (varies by location, and usually military folks always say magazines.) Sometimes the half cock notch on single action revolvers is called the “safety”. They always say automatic when referring to semi-automatic weapons.

    I write about guns using the common language. I wouldn’t say I heard someone had a left hemispherical aneurysm, but I might say they had a stroke. Not completely correct, but it works in common language.

    Like you, I’ve seen way to many programs where the double barreled shotgun is accompanied by a pumping sound effect.

    1. The one time I nearly had an aneurism with someone using “clip” was because it was used by the long-time ex-military gun INSTRUCTOR *twitch, twitch*. But those FINER details are likely what regular people probably won’t notice, but that will make readers who DO know better love the book all the more.

      1. I’ve found that ‘real’ people most often use improper terminology because they just don’t know the difference. I’m going to use ‘clip’ or ‘mag’ and semi-automatic when appropriate. I have been known to use both semi-autos and autos (machine pistols) in the same novel. If I can use the correct terminology, mayhaps the reader will learn something.

      2. See, if I wrote an ex-military gun instructor, he would say magazine. A gang banger wouldn’t. I guess I’m making a conscious POV choice as a writer.

        My stories always have guns in them to one degree or another. When I described S & W Schofield revolvers, the reader had a good idea how they worked. I had a Browning “potato digger” machine gun that failed at the worst time, for the exact reason it earned the nickname. I’m writing a blunderbuss into a story right now. Can you believe spellcheck doesn’t like frizzen?

    2. You bring up an excellent point. People DO commonly misuse terms in real life. As writers, we can be accurate and have the dialog be unnatural, or we can misuse “clip” and other words to reflect the reality of speech. For example, like you said about a gang banger using “clip” instead of “magazine.” The reality of your character is pitted against the reality of correct terminology. I’m thinking that’s a call that every writer will have to make on a case-by-case basis depending on their own experience and the character. However, having an FBI agent putting a “clip” into his .40 S&W is pushing it.

      And don’t even get me started on the shotguns that every 90 lb. woman on TV shoots with no recoil. 🙂

      1. That was my point. You’d likely get a different explanation from Booth than you would from Bones for the same crime scene.

  4. Thanks for the info!!

    1. Most welcome. 🙂

  5. Sigh. I am afraid that the gun focus for this entry has proven to be more than I could stomach. There might have been some important messages amidst the images of weapons, but I guess that being Canadian makes me less able to reconcile their presence at all.
    Don’t think that this will shoo me away from reading future blog entries, but for my part, this one nearly did just that.

    1. Lots of authors write thrillers. I’m sure you have plenty of popular movies and books in Canada that include weapons. It’s important for thriller writers to know correct terminology.

      My heart goes out to Canada this week.

  6. Great post. I wanted a character to shoot a rocket launcher and during research I discovered information on the backblast and recoil effect and how it deafens not only you but everyone near you. Also aspects like the weight of a rocket launcher that I didn’t want to overlook when I put this character on a two mile hike carrying his weapon of choice. I think it added critical detail to have him whinge about the weight and having him scream and not hear the sound of his voice afterwards. I’ll be storing this post away for future reference. Thanks so much!

    1. Thank you, and thank you for including the sound of a rocket launcher in your work. One of the most common long term effects of combat is to be hard of hearing. Glad you liked the post. 🙂


  7. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

    1. Thank you! 🙂

  8. The scene in “Underworld: Evolution” where Selene takes a muzzle-contact shotgun hit to her torso and doesn’t even flinch has always bugged me.
    The alien vampires in my Vampire Syndrome saga are quite bullet-resistant (to the point where only multi-barrel rapid-fire rotary cannon weapons such as Gatling guns, miniguns, etc.are truly effective against them), but I made sure my readers know that a point-blank shotgun hit will, in fact, knock them flat on their ass. Tough skin does not negate the physical force of a shotgun blast.

    1. The thing that killed me about that moment was that not only did she not flinch or get blown back — her clothing wasn’t even torn. She can be as invulnerable as she wants to be, but that leather outfit would have had a big hole in it.

      1. Seriously. Hollywood needs to share that body armor secret with the Navy.

    2. That is definitely a “precious moment” in movie history. 🙂

      1. I think readers or a movie audience will still find a foe to be very threatening when you hit it with a close-range shotgun blast and it rises to its feet a few seconds later.
        In “Terminator 2”, even the “invulnerable” T-1000 takes a few seconds to restore itself after the impacts of multiple close-range shotgun hits. This was very effective in showing the T-1000’s resilience, yet this also showed it was not immune to the laws of physics.

    • tdmckinnon on October 23, 2014 at 10:02 pm
    • Reply

    The movies are to full of inaccuracies concerning firearms to start naming; however, as you said, in literature it just doesn’t do but even heavyweights like Stephen King get it wrong from time to time; in ‘Doctor Sleep’ he has someone applying the safety catch on his Glock. Glocks do not have safety catches!

    1. LOL. I’m not as familiar with Glocks and didn’t catch that one. Great point!

  9. I was raised a Quaker, so I had no exposure to guns at all, but, as you say, it’s easy enough to do the research. I mostly stay away from guns in my stories — knives and poison and strangulation are much quieter. And I research those, too.

    (I admit I did just do a search to make sure I’ve never used the word “clip” in connection with weapons, and I haven’t. 🙂 )

    I understand the “fingernails on a blackboard” point — I get that way about pretty much any scene with rock bands, particularly offstage and in recording studios. They’re always phony (except for Almost Famous).

    1. I agree about Almost Famous. That was a fantastic movie.

      So glad to hear you’ve avoided the Clip Trap, and that you find multiple options to kill off your characters. One mistake many authors make is to rely too heavily on firearms.

    • steve macdonald on October 24, 2014 at 9:38 am
    • Reply

    I love it 😀 When I was prepping to attend the state police academy (many moons ago) I heard that if you referred to a magazine as a clip at the academy, they made you walk around with a gigantic, pink paper clip on your tie for the rest of the day. To keep this from happening, I absolutely refused to say the “C” word (C-L-I-P). Instead, I always said “magazine” even if “clip” was actually appropriate: “I’m going to get my scissors and ‘magazine’ some coupons”.

    1. LOL. That’s great. 🙂

  10. Let’s not forget that some of the Mauser’s later incarnations did have a more conventional drop-out magazine (giving the lunatic full-auto version twenty or even forty shots to scatter above the target). Moot, but not much more so than the presence of that weapon at all in a film set in 1891.

    A fellow Canadian above expresses dismay at the gun-heavy nature of this entry, but the lesson is broadly applicable to any specifics one is writing about. I’d need to do a ton of research before tackling a story set in a hair salon, in the cockpit of a modern airliner, or backstage at a rock concert. It’s a good reminder about the need to know as much as your POV character, so readers with the same background won’t call you names. They may do so publicly.

    For my part, this is an oddly timely entry, as I found myself having to check up on the action of the safety in a Browning Hi-Power for the thing I’m currently working on. The knowledge that many readers won’t catch the possible mistake if I get it wrong brings no comfort; it’s the disembodied howls of the ones who do spot it that will keep me up nights. To the reference books!

    1. “a good reminder about the need to know as much as your POV character… ”

      @ravensmarch, sometimes that goes the other way, too, where you have to leave out things your POV character wouldn’t know (even if you do know them). I wrote a story set in a rock band’s rehearsal space once, and I kept having to remind myself that the POV character wouldn’t know what all the equipment was or what it was called, even though I do. It takes readers right out of the story if characters know things they shouldn’t know (which usually looks like the authors showing off).

    2. LOL on the Mauser. Sheesh!

      I’ll save you the trouble on the Browning Hi-Power. The safety is a small lever at the top of the grip that you operate with your thumb. Push it up with your thumb, and it locks the slide in place. Pull it down with our thumb, and the weapon can fire.

      1. The matter that escapes me– it doesn’t drop the hammer when it engages, does it?

  11. Just finished my book, beta readers and all. It is post apocalyptic with a very slight use of guns. Yup, my guns have clips – damn, what a timely catch.

    1. LOL. Glad I could be of service.

  12. I just finished my first WIP’s first draft. My fantasy story explores Native American – European collisions. Originally, I wanted it to be pre-gunpowder, to make it more fair. But…after writing my battle scenes, where, quite often, leaders cannot see very much, I realized how limiting my narrative options were. So…if I had musket fire as an added sensory input, I could enhance tension.

    So…among my revisions are muskets, probably Seventeenth Century. At least Native American’s will have rate of fire on their side.

    But…I think I’m going to be watching lots of U-tube videos and checking out books on muskets. I wonder if the NSA will notice. Ha.


    1. Firearms would definitely add some reality since they came over with the conquistadors and didn’t go away. However, the flintlocks they brought often misfired and took time to reload. Many historians would say that steel was the real advantage in the early years of European migrations. Native Americans had nothing that could compete with the Spaniard’s steel weapons.

      Don’t worry if the NSA notices. When they do notice anything, they deem it too top secret to share with any other agencies that might actually follow up on it. 🙂

      1. I hadn’t thought of steel. I do have Europeans wearing helmets and breast plates, but hadn’t thought that through well enough to put it into a story.

        In one of my scenes, my FMC gets off four arrows in like 30 seconds, with accuracy, so that seems plausible. I think I read somewhere that musket loaders often took about 30 seconds between shots?


        1. I asked Holmes about this, and he said 30 seconds is about right. 🙂

  13. Great post and very helpful. I have just enough knowledge of guns to be dangerous. If I’m ever going to write any guns in a modern setting, I’m using this post as a starting point in my research. Thanks again.

    1. Glad I could be helpful. 🙂

  14. Reblogged this on Gayle Mullen Pace and commented:
    I’m re-blogging a perfectly delicious post from Kirsten Lamb’s Blog about weapons for anyone who adds them to their stories and anyone who enjoys reading about them. For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it’s National Novel Writing Month, where the brave attempt to write a complete first draft of a novel during the month of November. So far, I’m not that brave. And right now, I’m being treated for extremely painful pinched nerves in my neck that are impeding my ability to type. I can only type a sentence or two at a time–which is an improvement over three weeks ago.

    Now, on to the WEAPONS!

    1. Thanks for the reblog, Gayle. Hope you get to feeling better soon. 🙂

  15. I re-blogged your post. Great information about weapons!

    • Rachel Thompson on October 26, 2014 at 10:09 am
    • Reply

    I knew most of that and a lot more in other related areas. Personally, I’m a black powder girl, I even use Black Powder shotguns– very geeky and unusual I must admit.
    Movies and TV have tainted the reality of guns. The talking heads and news media have ignored the reality of guns and made the topic into a political power game. Most of the public is clueless. When I cite statistics about gun violence, as a journalist, critics pile on. The public isn’t well informed on this. As an informed reader, I’m forced to ignore all this misinformation in fiction and none-fiction alike. People are basically stupid and will buy whatever they’re selling. But yeah, be accurate, it’s our job. But, I would not slave over it–people are used to being lied too. We live in a world where every cop show makes cops look honest, indestructible and indisputable by way of authoritarian BS. It is good that people get at least some sense of reality about guns. It’s a shame that people need to rely on fiction witters for the facts because they won’t find any facts on TV in any sense. Corporate Media is propaganda, nothing more. That’s not politics it’s, “just the facts Ma’am.”

    1. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

  16. Excuse me for a moment while I yawn.

    1. Apparently, you were still awake enough to comment. 🙂

      1. Very clever reply. I like it!

  17. tip top – loved every word – I live in the UK a seriously firearm ‘constipated’ country – Great blog – Many Thanks..Ian

    1. LOL. I had some lovely times in the UK this summer, and I love my friends there. I am amazed, though, that so many perfectly capable adults can be so thoroughly convinced that they are incapable of handling firearms without advanced training and a jedi certification. They really aren’t that complicated, and it’s actually very much against human nature to kill other humans.

      So glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

  18. This one is worth reading just for the paragraph talking about only bodyguards of celebrities and politicians advocating gun control carrying guns. LOL. I know nothing about guns, so it’s good information to have, and it’s always wise to do your research whatever the case.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Michelle. 🙂

  19. I bought Risky Brides but haven’t had the time to start reading yet. I will as soon as I got some free time though. Thank you for introducing this! 🙂

  20. I feel like a kid in a toy shop (or candy store) reading this post. I never been so excited and delighted at the same time and believe you me, I am not excitable person and so hard to please but this one is very much right up my alley. I love action films (no, no, no. not that kind of action films) being a product of the 80’s and a tomboy while growing up. I still love them now (I find Transformers orgasmic) I have to laugh when I read about guns that never runs out of ammo which automatically reminds me of Rambo films. I had so many questions before regarding scenes and guns being used in action movies. No matter how I love long shoot outs scenes, the intellectual in me refuse to accept how it s being presented and done which leads to more questions. Thanks to you guys for clarifying some issues. I am bookmarking this article for future reference. Great post!

    • on May 6, 2016 at 6:28 am
    • Reply

    kristen, just getting ’round to reading this now. a little late, i s’pose. or maybe not… …they’re called ‘clips’ by the people that sell them: magazine speed loader clips… hand gun 6RD round magazine 90333 factory OEM clips… etc., etc., etc… if anybody thinks i’m going to call them that in an action scene, they’re just plain nuts. i come from a military family. i’ve been around firearms all my life. ‘clip’ is short for all of the too-long names that everybody gives these things. even ‘magazine.’ too long a word. when i write action, stand back. i don’t mess around.

    if one doesn’t know guns, then one shouldn’t write about guns. in fact, that rule should apply to all subjects. i read books all the time, where, the author obviously knows no- thing about firearms. these people should be hung out to dry. they’re pretenders.

    look it up. just google ‘magazine clips.’ then you’ll know what i’m talking about. and welcome to the 21st century.

    happy hunting (if you’ll s’cuse the pun).


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