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writers help blog
Gun Terms for Writers




As someone who writes fics with action sequences and the use of guns, I thought maybe it would be helpful to pass some things on. Even though I’ve done lots of research and talked with family members (I live in WI which is a big hunting state and we have lots of guns), I still catch myself making mistakes with specific terms and their usage. Reading more James Bond fics lately, I catch others making mistakes also. So here is a little guide to help writers. 

  • A ‘clip’ is something that stores multiple rounds of ammunition. It is not what you would insert into a handgun to load it. Clips make loading into a magazine easier because they simply store the rounds. It helps with organization. 
  • A magazine is what feeds the ammunition into the barrel. Magazines vary in capacity. They, unlike clips, are spring-loaded, which helps the ammunition move in the gun. So, when you want a character to reload, they would use a pre-loaded magazine, NOT a clip. 
  • A silencer is really a suppressor. ‘Silencer’ is a word that’s used in media to refer to a suppressor that doesn’t exist in real life. Guns that are suppressed will still be loud and have a sound. This is because compressed air will still leak out of the end of the barrel, you can’t silence a bullet moving extremely fast through the air, and you can’t silence the mechanical parts on a gun. There will be a noise, but it just won’t be as loud or more importantly, alert people in a nearby area that a gun was just fired. SO suppressor is a much more accurate term technically speaking. 
  • There are different kinds of suppressors. One important kind suppresses the muzzle flash. It’s likely a sniper would use this more than they would want to use a sound suppressor, as the muzzle flash more easily enables you to be spotted when you don’t want to be. These are simply referred to as flash suppressors. 
  • After a handgun runs out of ammunition, the slide will lock back into place and you will know that it is out. There is no ‘click’ signifying an empty weapon that is so dramatized in movies and tv. A more likely scenario that would prevent a gun from firing would be a jam. Or programming the gun to recognize certain palm prints. 
  • A great place for writers, in particular fanfic writers, who want information on guns is imfdb. You can find out what guns are used in movies and shows, and what guns characters use. You can also just search for guns. 
  • If you want to get really specific, check out YouTube. There are users who will post reviews of guns on there, which can be really helpful if you want to see how a particular gun looks or how to shoot it. 

So yeah! Here are just a few basic tips if you want to write a fic where a character uses guns. 

I see you’ve got terminology down, now let’s go for a little technicality. 

  • Firstly, let me explain the “kick” of a gun. A “kick” is the feeling of the round leaving the barrel of the gun.  Every gun has one, the impact of the “kick” depends on the caliber, make and type of gun.
  • Another way to describe a kick is the feeling of the gun exploding in your hand.  Of course, the gun doesn’t literally explode, but it is a great burst of power that only lasts a second.
  • For example: A .45 mm hand gun with have a bigger “kick” than a .22 mm hand gun.  If someone is a first time shooter and does not know what to expect, they would most likely drop the gun after firing it once due to the shock of the force being released in their hands.
  • Sniper Rifles are incredibly accurate and mainly used for long distance hits.  They are also ridiculously heavy, as most rifles are, therefore, be prepared for a gigantic “kick”.
  • Sniper Rifles are special because they are so powerful (they need to be in order to have the same impact a .45mm would 10 feet away compared to the shell half a mile away), thus a stand is required to use it.
  • No matter what you will always need a firm holding to place the rifle (besides your grip) in order to prevent the gun from falling over after it is discharged and injury to your person. There are ridiculously powerful guns.
  • General rule of thumb is that you place the butt of the rifle next to your shoulder, just below your clavicle.  I’m not very good at describing this position, so I suggest looking it up.  DO NOT place it anywhere in the armpit area, dislocation is likely to occur.  Depending on how prepare you are and the type of rifle being used (excluding snipers), bruising might occur.
  • You will be standing if you use a normal rifle, so make sure you are steady and prepared for the “kick” that follows after.
  • If you are using a sniper rifle, you will be on the ground or leaning against something.  Some people have special rests for their snipers specifically to fire the gun from any spot.  Point is: do not stand alone while firing this.  You will get hurt.

Other helpful tips:

  • Earplugs or Ear Protectors are your friends.
  • Safety glasses are also your friend to avoid shells from flying into your face.
  • Keep the safety on until you are ready to fire the gun.
  • If you are NOT currently firing the gun, whether it is loaded or unloaded, and it is in your hand, ALWAYS hold it with two hands and point it at the ground at your feet. DO NOT get distracted.
  • NEVER joke around with someone by pointing the gun at them.  EVEN IF YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE THAT THE GUN IS TOTALLY UNLOADED, MAGAZINE OUT OF PLACE, DO NOT RISK IT.  It is not funny.  Even if the gun is on safety, do NOT do it.  You could accidently switch off the safety or the gun could misfire despite the safety.
  • Lastly TWO HANDS.  One on the side near the trigger and the other underneath.  This is not the movies, do not attempt to fire a gun with one hand.  Not only will your aim be incredibly off if you are inexperienced but you will also endanger yourself as well as others if you lose control of it.
  • Guns can be scary and if you ever feel nervous or uncomfortable about firing one, do not do it. 

A few things I have to add to this:

The caliber of a round is usually measured in either millimeters or in hundredths of an inch. One “unit” of caliber, I guess, is one one-hundredth of an inch. For example, a 45-caliber round has a .45 inch diameter (which is why it’s called a .45).  DO NOT CONFUSE THIS WITH MILLIMETERS. .45 mm is NOT 45-caliber.

Common cartridges measured in millimeters with their respective calibers:


  • 5.56mm = ~.223 caliber
  • 7.62mm = ~.300 caliber
  • 12.7mm = ~.500 caliber


  • 5.64mm = .22 caliber*
  • 9mm* = .354 caliber
  • 10.16mm = .40 caliber*
  • 11.43mm = .45 caliber*

(*the measurement you’re more likely to see for each cartridge.)

In the case of rifles, cartridges meant for civilian use are usually designated as .223, .300, .308, etc. Designations such as 5.56mm, 7.62mm, etc. are usually indicative of military-grade ammunition. This is not always true, but usually that’s how it is.

Military-grade bullets are held to higher standards and typically cause more stress on the internal mechanism, and the guns they’re meant for are built to handle that. They can also handle civilian ammunition. It doesn’t work the other way around, however. Do not attempt to use military-grade ammunition in a civilian-model firearm that hasn’t been modified to handle it.

A few different kinds of cartridges:

- Full metal jacket, which gives increased penetration capabilities but doesn’t do much in the ways of expansion. Risky to use in situations with a lot of innocents around, as often they can over-penetrate and go on to hurt someone behind the target.

- Hollow-points, which expand like crazy when they hit something, causing massive internal damage to their target. Outlawed in warfare under the Hague Convention of 1899, but can be used by civilians.

- Soft-points, which serve as a happy medium between the penetration capabilities of full metal jacket rounds and the expansion of hollow-point rounds.

- Shot, usually rat-shot or snake-shot, which can be fit in bullets and used to kill small vermin at close range without doing a whole lot of damage to the surrounding area.

- Sub-sonic, which have a lower muzzle velocity and effective range, but will decrease the chance of overpenetration. This is also the ideal ammo choice for weapons fitted with suppressors, as subsonic rounds avoid the “crack” of a sonic boom that other bullets can make upon leaving the barrel.

45 ways to avoid using the word 'very'


I’m going to print this on stickers and put them everywhere around my school library.

- Allie

anonymousandrogynous0: My friend is writing a fantasy novel, but she's having trouble making it seem more like a fantasy novel and less like a slice of life. Which is problematic, because now she's having trouble getting the reader to care about the MC. I didn't see anything in the tags, so.. any tips?? 


Hi, I totally love that you are helping your friend write her fantasy novel that is such a great endeavor! So I’m guessing that all these things that you mention are things that you’ve noticed yourself about her novel. Not having read any of it and not knowing specifics I can’t help you a lot, but I do have some suggestions about what you and your friend should think about:

What kind of fantasy setting is this in?

  • Is it a high fantasy novel? This is really going to affect that whole “slice of life” feel. Like I said I don’t know where your friend is going with her story but if it’s high fantasy she needs to stay on track with the epic feel that defines it. High fantasy tends to be a little more somber in tone too and usually has things like elves, fairies, dwarves, dragons, demons, magic and quests. One example of this is The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien. If she is writing something like this then everything should be grand, the main character should be setting out on an epic adventure full of peril and there should be lots and lots of magic/magical creatures of all kinds. This alone would set the tone of the whole book, so even if the characters sat down to have dinner and were exchanging stories of pretty mundane things like their family, you would never forget that you are in a grand world of magic. 

  • Is it low fantasy? If your friend is writing in the realm of low fantasy than she is in our world, where magic and monsters don’t exist and things can get a little more tricky. You might also know low fantasy as urban fantasy which include works like: Harry Potter, The Mortal Instruments, Twilight, The Hollows Series and Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. When you’re writing in that realm it can be easy to get lost in the mundane aspects of your world. What would help her to not get trapped in the realm of the real is to outline where her story is going. If she plans out where conversations and main events are going she can determine where to bring the magic element in. She doesn’t have to beat her audience over the head with the fact that they are reading a fantasy novel but there better be some goddamn magic, vampires, werewolves or fairies running around causing tension and mischief in the book. A lot of this is going to come from the set up of your story, once you’ve established who the main characters are, what their abilities are and the rules of the world, the reader won’t forget it’s a fantasy novel. Of course, unless she only mentions that her main character is a wizard once and then fails to bring it up again through exposition and character development for the next ten chapters.

  • For more information on creating a fantasy world please check out the Fantasy tag and specifically this post. 

Creating a sympathetic main character for fantasy:

  • This is a completely different issue from trying to create a fantasy world. Again, not having any specifics about where your friend is going with the story, I’m going to say that when it comes to fantasy as a whole what she needs to keep in mind is that her character needs to go on a journey, said journey should help the character grow and evil should be defeated in the end. Both high and low fantasy more or less follow this formula, although of course there are exceptions and in some cases the endings aren’t always happy. However, fantasy is based on folklore and myth, stories which were meant to explain the world to our ancestors when science didn’t exist, but they were also meant to have hopeful overtones of heroics we can all aspire to. I’m thinking for example Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Both series in the end show that their characters all have the potential to be heroes after much growth, change and effort. In short, her main character needs to be going through a struggle, they need to fight some evil and become a hero by the end of the novel. Growth is what will be key in creating a relatable main character. I personally don’t think you have to make your character likeable to be relatable. The world is filled with anti-heroes who are dicks, but who in the end turn out to be the saviors of the world. Just remember that they can’t be the same person at the end of the book as they were at the beginning of it.

- Karla

Anonymous: Can you please help me? I'm trying to write a character that is secretly a drug addict who is trying to over come his addiction and I need help for when he starts to crave the drugs. 


If anyone is interested in Regency Era finances here are some links I found helpful: 

Currency Converter: Will convert any amount in yeas between 1270-1970 to 2005 BPS. 

Pride and Prejudice Economics: Explains exactly how much Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are worth, as well as provides a charge of Jane Austin’s (and some of her characters’) yearly expenses and incomes in 1810 BPS and 2008 Spending Power. 

Cost of Living: Similar to the above link, explains how much one would have to make yearly to live comfortably. 

Master Post

Sense and Sensibility pdf: Chapter 2 is where Fanny and John Dashwood talk about how much money they aren’t going to give his step-family. (Suggested by the wonderful notsomolly).

"5 Golden Rules for Submitting Your Work to Agents or Publishers" (from the Scottish Book Trust)


1. Read the submission guidelines carefully
Make sure your submission meets the publisher’s requirements. Each publisher will have different preferences so don’t assume that one approach will fit all. Make them aware that you’ve paid attention to their requirements and backlist. Sending irrelevant work not only wastes your time but it may hamper your chances of success.

2. Do your research
Don’t rely on sending your manuscript out on a whim. Research prospective agents or publishers carefully and decide where your work will sit best. Research the backlist of titles or authors they’ve represented and demonstrate this in your cover letter. If you don’t know where to start, research the publication history of an author whose writing you would compare your own to. Find out who their agent is and continue your research from there.

3. Don’t turn up unannounced
Never be tempted to ‘drop in’ to see if a publisher or agent has read your manuscript yet. Not only is it invasive, but it’ll also make them far less likely to pick up your submission from the pile.

4. Don’t rely on one submission
If you pin all your hopes on a single submission, you will be disappointed. Instead, research the market carefully and submit your work to as many relevant places as possible. Keep track of your submissions to avoid confusion or repeat submissions.

5. Be patient
Publishers are very busy and receive so many manuscripts each week that it will take time to respond to your submission, if at all. Some publishers may give you an idea of how long it will take to respond, while others may specify that they only reply to the submissions they want to follow up on.

Read more here.




We discussed the issue of describing People of Color by means of food in Part I of this guide, which brought rise to even more questions, mostly along the lines of “So, if food’s not an option, what can I use?” Well, I was just getting to that!

This final portion…



Here’s a grand masterlist of crime-related resources. This list is organized into categories, so it is recommended that you take advantage of the CTRL+F function on your keyboard. Let me know if something is amiss, if you have a crime-related post and want it added to this list, or if you want a category added.

WARNING: Links under the cut are not labeled with trigger warnings for images, titles, or mentions of triggering subjects. Please be careful.

This will be updated every time I hoard more links. Last Update: 6/5/14.

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