Bayard & Holmes
~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes
There are basically three types of handguns—the revolver, the semi-automatic, and the automatic. All three are commonly misnamed or misrepresented in fiction.
Before we get to the differences in those three weapons, we need to address the most common gun misnomer of all time — the “clip” vs. the “magazine.”
Time and time again, shooters are reloading their “clips” into their “automatic” pistols, when they are actually loading their “magazines” into “semi-automatics.” 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 unless a character is using a historical weapon or one of the rare modern firearms that take actual “clips,” the terminology is a fiction.
This is one example of a “clip.”
These are “magazines.” Magazines are widely used in both handguns and rifles.
They hold cartridges and can be quickly and easily reloaded.
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.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the different types of firearms–automatics, semi-automatics, and revolvers.
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 one.
A semi-automatic also has cartridges that load into a removable magazine. 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 states, they practically come as prizes in the bottom of cereal boxes, while in others, only bodyguards of celebrities and politicians that 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.
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.
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.
Watch for our upcoming Bayard & Holmes release, SPYCRAFT ESSENTIALS, for more Spy Truth & Fiction.
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‘Jay Holmes’ is a field intelligence veteran of the Cold War and pretty much every war since then. He remains an anonymous senior intelligence operative. Piper Bayard is an author and the public face of their partnership. Together, they are the bestselling authors of The Spy Bride.
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