For most people, what they know about guns comes from films, and sadly a lot of it is not always correct. The writers of Hollywood just don’t seem to fact check when they include guns into their work and that means there are a fair few completely incorrect ideas about how guns operate.
But have no fear, we are here to expose the five most common – and ridiculous – myths about guns that circulate and are often believed, because of films. And if you want to learn more about what guns, rifles and more do in real life – not on the big screen – take a look at what we have available online in our store, with air rifles, airsoft guns and bb guns for sale.
It is a long-running gag that nobody runs out of bullets in action films unless it is convenient to the plot. As such, most people have a ridiculous idea that guns can be fired hundreds of times before the bullets ever run out. As you can’t see bullets in a machine gun, films take the chance to have guns fire repeatedly without changing the magazine.
But in reality, machine guns like the AK-47 or M4 Carbine hold up to 30 or 40 bullets which can all be fired within four seconds. Fully-automatic weapons can fire up to 700 rounds a minute, but only if you are quick enough to change the magazine. And rapid gun fire where it sounds non-stop is generally only used for suppression, to make the bad guys duck their heads while you can move into position.
In films, the spies and assassins know that if you want to take out a bad guy but not alert anyone else, you need to use a silencer. It turns the ‘bang’ into a quiet ‘pew’. And it is not just handguns that can be silenced, but giant shotguns too can be fitted with silencers.
However, exploding gunpowder is very loud. And a little metal tube won’t do much to quieten it. An unsilenced gunshot is measured to be around 150 decibels, with a silencer, it’s down to 120 or 130 decibels. Which is equivalent to the sound of a pneumatic drill. So really, a silencer just makes a large gun sound like a smaller gun.
Silencers are good for using outdoors, however, as they can make it hard to tell where the shot is coming from and exactly how far away it is.
Movies tend to treat the cocking of the gun as a point: When the gun is pointed in the bad guys face, but it looks like the good guy might falter, he will make the gun click to know he is serious about the standoff and the obvious conclusion. Films make the gun cocking sound ominous and like the gun is ready to go.
But that ‘click’ is the sound of the hammer being cocked back, and the gun was already good to be fired. But more often, the guns being used have the trigger cock the hammer for you, saving you the extra step and that precious second. The ‘cocking the gun to show you mean business’ is a film effect that seems to date back to the old Westerns, set at a time when revolvers had to be cocked between each shot. But this was changed on guns over 100 years ago.
But it is not just guns with a hammer to be cocked. Shotguns and assault rifles are pumped or the slide pulled back to get that clicking sound, which again only serves the purpose of ejecting an empty shell and sliding a new bullet into the chamber, something which has already happened. The gun cocking is pointless and only used to look and sound good in films. Check out this video which demonstrates.
In films, body armour and bulletproof vests made from Kevlar will prevent all bullets from touching you and not even knock you back so you can face the battle head on without flinching at all. Even from an assault rifle.
Sadly, bulletproof vests do not act like a magic forcefield. In the real world, body armour that you can conceal under your clothes will provide protection against most handguns but are still ineffective when up against an assault rifle. Armies do have their only body armour, which is more rigid and heavier, but still only effective if they are being fired at a distance further than 14 or 15 metres.
This is something seen in a lot of films, from Casino Royale to Matrix Reloaded. In these films, bullets and anything that could be flammable, especially if it is in a pressurised tank, should not mix. And if a gun is shot into a car's petrol tank or at an oxygen tank in a shark’s mouth, it will lead to a huge explosion, and everyone in the vicinity dying.
But this is not strictly true. Manufacturers of cars and pressurised containers don’t like a liability. If their products could be turned into a fireball, every car accident would look like Bonfire Night and a pile up of a Michael Bay film. In fact, you have to do a few specific things to a car to get it to explode, such as vaporising the gas inside to a point that the tank over-pressurises and then you could light it and cause it to explode.
The bullets exploding everything is also made funnier by the fact bullets can’t pierce anything else in films. Hide behind a car door or a simple wooden table and you are safe!