This is a guest post by my author friend, William R. Bartlett. It continues his discussion of all things firearms. Part 1, Introduction, was published in late October. Today, Bill continues his introduction to firearms with information on bullet impact and silencers. The next parts will be posted regularly, as Bill prepares them. Enjoy and bookmark! 

A Writer’s Guide to Firearms by William R. Bartlett

Part 1 (cont’d): Bullet Impact and Silencers

Bullet impact

Just a flesh wound | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

Just a flesh wound. Image: Travis J. Hanson – DeviantArt

Bullet impact is rarely a smoothly drilled hole. Depending on the type of projectile used, the bullet cuts, tears and plows its way through flesh, deforming as it goes. In addition, a shock wave is transferred through soft tissue that results in greater trauma. Hydrostatic shock, not unlike the ripples expanding from a rock thrown into a pond, can rupture organs and result in complications that cause death. Bones are broken as a bullet transits through flesh and bone fragments are propelled into other soft tissues, causing more trauma. Nerves do more than signal pain. A limb can be immobilized by nerve damage, not to mention all or part of the body paralyzed by nerve damage along the spine. Major blood vessels can be perforated or severed entirely with obvious negative consequences. For these reasons, a ‘mere flesh wound’ seldom occurs.

Consider a shot in the foot, for example, and let’s stipulate that it was fired from a large caliber revolver, possibly a .45 which was popular during late 19th century in the American West. Depending on the range, it would pass through the foot and break at least one metatarsal, possibly three. If the victim was unlucky enough to have the bullet hit a bone ‘head on,’ the projectile would remove a chunk of bone at least the size of the bullet diameter. In addition, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves going to the extremities would be severed or traumatized. The victim would be unable to walk. Fragments of footwear, possibly contaminated with dirt and other animal products, would be driven into the foot. Bacteria that found a friendly environment within the boot, would also invade. After a few days, tissue may begin to die and rot due to interrupted blood flow. Unless the foot was surgically removed, the foot wound may be fatal. This is hardly what entertainment venues would have us believe, but the reality is that no firearm injury is minor.

Although deadly at close range, shotgun pellets may come the closest at ranges of a hundred yards or more. Since the size of the pellet within the shotgun shell can vary depending on intended use, smaller pellets lose their velocity more rapidly and may not be deadly at longer ranges. Larger shotgun pellets are meant to kill animals up to the size of a deer and will be deadly for a greater distance than smaller shot. As I said at the beginning of this paragraph, a shotgun is deadly at close range and this is regardless of the pellet size. At ultra-close ranges, one meter, give or take, the expanding gasses from the burning powder may be more dangerous than the shot and can carve a substantial hole in an individual.


Silencer | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

Image: SilencerCo

Despite Hollywood claims, silencers do not really exist–at least, not like you see in movies. There is no noise suppressor that will prevent any noise from a firearm discharge. In semi-automatic weapons, the weapon ejects the spent brass and exposes the chamber and barrel along with any sound waves remaining. In a revolver, necessary and microscopic gaps allow sound waves to escape. As mentioned earlier, almost all projectiles exceed the speed of sound, which is to say they travel (initially, at least) at speeds greater than one thousand feet per second. Since they break the sound barrier, they create a sonic boom as they pass a listener.

That being said, there are noise suppressors and they are effective at reducing the sound of a gunshot, but they will not eliminate the noise. They may, however, disguise the direction of the shot and confuse the target.

I hope you found this information useful. In the next installment, I’ll discuss semi-automatic handguns.