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Glocks Don’t Cock – And Other Unforgivable Weapon Sins In Entertainment #TacticalWritingAdvice

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If you’ve watched any action television show or movie, you’ve seen it. A character, good or bad, is lurking through the scene, trying to be sneaky. They stop to listen to or watch an event unfold somewhere else in the picture. As they sit there, a gun enters the frame from off-camera and is pointed at the character’s head. For emphasis, as the gun enters the scene, you hear the unmistakable sound of a hammer being cocked back. ‘Oh no, I’ve been caught.’

So what’s wrong with this scene? The gun is a Glock, and Glocks don’t cock.

You might be asking yourself, “Why don’t they cock? And what’s the big deal?”

Well, there are a myriad of sound effects and plot props that just don’t belong in entertainment anymore. And while this is generally a film entertainment issue, I have run across these issues in writing as well. Not to mention, everything on film was first written down on a piece of paper or a screen somewhere, and these stage directions and sound effects were penciled down with a total disregard for reality. And no matter what you’re writing, shouldn’t it be as accurate as possible when you’re words are describing something that exists in reality?

As long as we’re in agreement so far, let’s take a look at what some of these issues are.

We first have to understand the basics of how a handgun operates. With the exception of .22 ammunition, most if not all other handgun ammunition is called centerfire rounds. What this means is, in the base of the casing (shell) is a primer that is struck with either a firing pin or a striker. The primer is a small self-contained cap that is shock-sensitive. When struck, the primer sends a small explosion into the casing and ignites the gunpowder inside the casing. The gunpowder burns (deflagrates) and the chemical reaction causes gas expansion which fires the bullet.

If you look at an early model revolver, it has a hammer that is pulled back and cocked into place. On the hammer is the striker, they are a part of the same piece of metal. When the trigger is pulled, the hammer drops forward and pushes the striker into the primer and the gun is fired. This is called a single-action revolver. The hammer can not be moved into the rearward position by the trigger, as some modern handguns can, it has to be manually placed in the cocked position before the trigger can be pulled. That’s why in all of the old cowboy movies you see the gunfighters holding their pistols with one hand while slapping the hammer back with the other. It should also be noted that some revolvers have a hammer and a firing pin. When the heavy spring-loaded hammer falls, it strikes a firing pin which is pushed in to the primer on the bullet and the resulting action is the same.

A double-action handgun is one in which the hammer is moved to the rear by the pulling of the trigger. The trigger moves the hammer backward until it reaches the end of its travel and then it is released forward to allow the striker to hit the primer or the hammer to hit the back end of a firing pin.

Some guns are both single and double action while others are only one or the other.

So which one is a Glock? A Glock is a single-action handgun but with an internal firing pin. This means there is no hammer, the firing pin is spring-loaded and is released forward when the trigger is pulled. After the round fires, the recoil of the weapon moves its slide to the rear which causes the ejection of the spent casing, the resetting of the firing pin within its spring assembly, and the chambering of a new round.

There is no hammer to be cocked back to make that sound that we always hear in these scenes!

So why is that sound there? It’s a product of the older generation of weapons that came along before internal firing pins. Sure, not every person in the world now owns a Glock, but if that’s the gun your character is holding, you can’t write a scene that adds the sound of the hammer being cocked – it just isn’t right. I understand that the sound adds a level to the “oh crap” factor because your character was startled by the unmistakable sound of a gun being cocked right next to their head, but let’s write responsibly please.

Another major handgun sin is when a character is pointing their gun at someone they are giving orders to – “Get down on the ground!” The person doesn’t listen. The character then reaches up to their handgun, puts their hand on the slide, and chambers a round for emphasis. What?! Your gun wasn’t loaded?! I bet that other guy feels like a complete idiot for not trying to fight the guy who wasn’t smart enough to load his gun! No person in their right mind ever, and I do mean EVER, goes into a combat situation without having a round in their chamber. You could argue that on some military installations, the Military Police don’t have rounds in their chambers, only their magazines. However, the moment something bad happened, they would chamber that first round and get to work. They wouldn’t wait to chamber it until they made contact with their target.

This same thing applies to any cop in any scene you ever write. They always show a character about to enter a building to look for a bad guy. They approach the building, remove their gun from their holster, then action the slide to load a round into the chamber. Whew, with that sound effect done, we can now enter the dangerous building. Cops do not walk around without a round in the chamber of their weapon. Unless they are a desk poge who have never worked the street and have absolutely no tactical sense whatsoever and they were dropped on their head as a child – all cops have a round in their chamber. ALWAYS.

You see this a lot with shotgun scenes as well. Every single time the character turns a corner, they rack their shotgun (pumps the charging handle). Then they see the bad guy – rack the gun. Order the bad guy to do something – no compliance – rack the shotgun. By the time they actually pull the trigger, there shouldn’t be any more rounds left in the gun because they keep racking it and emptying out live rounds!

This can happen with rifles also, and just about every kind of weapon that uses a magazine to feed its rounds. The scene is usually a crowded room or warehouse, bad guys abound. Someone says, “Where’s Johnny?” Another replies, “I don’t know. Did you hear that?” A crash sounds from somewhere outside the room. Everyone racks their slide, pulls back their charging handle, racks their shotgun, or otherwise engages their weapon and NOW they’re ready to go! So not a single guy in the room, whose job it is to defend that space or object/person they are with, was ready to do their job and fire their weapon if necessary?

So there you have it, a few of the most prevalent and obvious mistakes that are in almost every action scene involving guns. And please, don’t even get me started on the lack of lights on guns. We’ve had accessory rails and gun-mounted lights for over a decade now and not a single cop in entertainment (movie, TV, books) has one!!!

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Discussion

2 Responses to “Glocks Don’t Cock – And Other Unforgivable Weapon Sins In Entertainment #TacticalWritingAdvice”

  1. Memo to Self:

    When unsure of,

    Weapons, Ask a Veteran
    Trauma Care, Ask a Paramedic
    Guns, Ask a Cop
    Writing, Ask an Author
    Or..
    Contact Jay Korza..
    (Who is All the ABOVE!)

    Posted by Peter A. Roland | June 10, 2014, 07:00
  2. Also when the don’t edit out a live round being expelled for the dramatic loading sound.
    Racking a round with a shotgun 5 times and nothing comes out.
    The movie Taxi, Fallon CONSTANTLY racks the slide to load a round and nothing ejects even though its so constant. And always pulling the hammer back on a semi auto .45 or 9mm. When all they have to do is pull the trigger.

    Posted by Ooooothiliothilio | December 16, 2015, 16:08

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