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  1. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    Can a person learn to fire a gun just by watching?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by PeterC, Aug 4, 2011.

    One of the MCs in my story gets kidnapped by a terrorist organization. Of course she escapes. I'm trying to figure out how that escape happens. In one scenario she watches her captors firing their weapons, perhaps as target practice or perhaps to intimidate her. When she finally gets her hands on one of the weapons, already loaded, she is then able to use it against her captors based only on what she learned while watching them earlier. Is that plausible?

    I know almost nothing about guns so I'm definitely out of my element here. The MC is highly intelligent but has no military experience. The weapons are not futuristic. They would be similar to mid-20th century rifles (maybe semi-automatic?). However, the MC has not seen weapons like them before, at least not in person (she is futuristic).

    I'm not sure how I'd research something like this online short of joining a gun forum of some kind and asking people who would know. I suppose I could do that.
     
  2. James Scarborough
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    James Scarborough Member

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    So long as it is loaded and the safety is off (or she's observant enough to have seen her captors release the safety before firing), there's no reason why a person without training couldn't fire a rifle. Just don't try to make her an expert marksman. That does take training and practice.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I love how it's done in the Coen Brothers version of True Grit. The guy being shot tells her how to use the weapon, because he doesn't believe she'd really go through with it. That's good.

    I do think an intelligent and observant person could fire a gun after watching someone else use the same gun. That's not too far-fetched.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Depends on the gun. Your charavter stands a good chance of being able to send one or more bullets thrugh the barrel, if he or she can figure out the safety. A pistol will generally kick upward, probably more than the character will expect. It may even fly out of his or her hand. Some guns require a hammer or bolt to be positioned first (but your character should be able to observe that).

    Rifles don't jump up as badly as handguns, but guns with more fire can slam into the character's shoulder, leaving a bad bruise or even a fracture if the stock is not braced firmly against the shoulder.

    An out of control Uzi can easily kill the person firing it - it happened last year at a local gun club when a ten year old was firing it. Any fully automatic weapon can leave a trail of recoil-driven destruction.

    Just a few things to consider.
     
  5. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Learning how to fire the gun would be relatively easy - the only trick being the safety if she hasn't observed one being used before. Learning how to fire a gun well, so that you don't let the recoil knock you back, or you hit your target, or you aren't shocked by the noise and violence, that takes time and instruction and of course practice.

    Cheers.
     
  6. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Hi, I'm not a gun expert or anything but I do go shooting. The thing that I had to learn my first time was the sequence of steps you go through with putting in the ammo, undoing the safety, etc but those technicalities are super easy to grasp. Holding up a rifle might be a bit of a challenge for her (they're really heavy! Handguns are actually heavy too, after holding one for a long time), but if it's already loaded, pulling the trigger and shooting would be no big deal provided she takes the safety off. Hitting on-target is not hard at all and doesn't require much practice -- hitting the exact bulls' eye is challenging, but hitting a person you're aiming for is not (not that I've ever shot anyone!lol!)
     
  7. westofthemoon
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    westofthemoon Member

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    It sounds like you are exactly in the position that your MC is, which is a good thing if you're trying to relay her initial reactions/thoughts/feelings in your prose. I agree with James and minstrel--that if your MC is reasonable intelligent, she'll be able to figure out how to shoot a gun. And, if you're not totally adverse to the idea, I would try going to a gun range and firing a similar firearm to your MC's; depending on where you live, it'll probably set you back $30-50, but the experience will be rewarding in terms of your character and plot development.

    About two weeks ago I shot a gun for the first time in 10 years with my father. I'm still shaking after knocking off a round with a short-barrel double action .357. And I think Mallory makes a good point from a woman's POV--I'm 5'7", pretty skinny (I'm not sure how your MC compares) and could hardly cock the thing. Guns are powerful things that leave an impression--whether or not your MC knows the precautions and mechanics of firing a gun, she's going to have an opinion about them.

    Good luck...your story sounds like a blast!
     
  8. beard
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    beard New Member

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    Cogito's post is good but I'd like to throw in the issue of a scope as well. A rifle with a scope, when not held properly, can do quite a bit of damage. If the butt is not held firmly against the users should it can (and probably will) leave ugly bruises. Breaking or fracturing bones is a bit unlikely but definitely plausible if the gun is big enough and held improperly. If a user is holding a rifle improperly and looks through the scope while firing (this is unnecessary at close range) the scope will kick back also and can leave serious damage to the eye. I'd check Google for scope to eye injuries and see what you come up with. A pistol is the most likely weapon for a close range encounter but any gun would work if it's one she manages to find lying around. Do a bit of research on the gun you choose and see if there's anything weird that pops up about it in gun forums or wikipedia.

    Also remember, it's your book and you can do anything you want with it. ;)
     
  9. beard
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    beard New Member

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    Cogito's post is good but I'd like to throw in the issue of a scope as well. A rifle with a scope, when not held properly, can do quite a bit of damage. If the butt is not held firmly against the users should it can (and probably will) leave ugly bruises. Breaking or fracturing bones is a bit unlikely but definitely plausible if the gun is big enough and held improperly. If a user is holding a rifle improperly and looks through the scope while firing (this is unnecessary at close range) the scope will kick back also and can leave serious damage to the eye. I'd check Google for scope to eye injuries and see what you come up with. A pistol is the most likely weapon for a close range encounter but any gun would work if it's one she manages to find lying around. Do a bit of research on the gun you choose and see if there's anything weird that pops up about it in gun forums or wikipedia.

    Also remember, it's your book and you can do anything you want with it. ;)
     
  10. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    Thanks for all the comments. It sounds like what I want to do could work, but I hadn't really thought about the issue of the safety so that was good to hear. I've come to the conclusion that a pistol will probably work better for me. Right now I have my MC firing the weapon indoors and it seems like a pistol, being smaller, just fits into the scene a little more cleanly.

    I imagine firing a pistol indoors would make it extremely loud. I think she'll need to be disconcerted by that. Also I like your suggestion, westofthemoon, about actually trying it myself. I think I could do that.

    In my scene the MC has the element of surprise and that allows her to quickly dispatch one of her captors despite their far superior military training. Unfortunately for her, the other captor escapes her initial attack leaving her seriously outclassed from a weapons handling point of view. She'll have to get clever...
     
  11. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    You forget she's a civilian captive fighting for her life. it's very difficult to punch someone for real, and shooting someone is extremely difficult for most sane people. Forget what you see in movies Even if they are her captors, she has to cross a line to be able to shoot them. I would think holding the gun could go two ways. She either barely holds on to it, which means she risk dropping it before she even gets the chance to fire it. The alternative is holding on to it too hard and her brain refusing to let go. Even if she wants to drop it, she can be too scared to let go.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't disagree, Dude, but the question was about whether the captive could reasonably be able to fire the weapon, from a mechanical standpoint. The psychological aspect may very well be the major impediment, as you say.

    So I didn't forget. I just chose to focus on being able to fire and hit a target, without considering that the target is a human being. :)
     
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