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It’s Not a Bullet

Today, I am, in the words of that old Simon & Garfunkel song, feeling grumpy. So here’s a grumpy post for you.

Police dramas, westerns, war movies, anything on the screen in which guns appear, they all do it: they all display how little the actors and directors know about firearms. From tough thugs holding their handguns sideways to calling shotguns “rifles,” they loudly announce both their ignorance and the fact that they are too lazy or care too little to do the little research it would take to keep the eyes of firearms aficionados from rolling clean out of their sockets and half-way down the street. I could go on all day about the many ignorant gun gaffs that spill out of Hollywood every day. (Yes, every day, I’m certain of it. Probably more, even.) But I’ll give you just one today.

“I’m out of bullets!” says the cop/cowboy/soldier/spy (which, by the way, would make an excellent title for a novel or movie). Eyes roll all over middle America, where we know that, unless he’s shooting a muzzle loader, he’s actually out of more than bullets. Unless he’s got a slingshot or a blowgun and a mighty powerful set of lungs, all the bullets in the world won’t do him any good. What he needs is cartridges, or, colloquially, shells. to wit:


How it works: A loaded cartridge has four parts: a casing (or case), a projectile (bullet), propellant (powder), and a primer. Pulling the trigger releases your gun’s firing pin, which strikes the primer, which ignites the propellant inside the casing, which produces a rapidly expanding gas that send your bullet flying at anywhere from <1,000 to >4,000 feet per second. So you can see that a bullet alone is nothing but a balanced, aerodynamic rock, if rocks were made of lead and copper.

You could say I’m being pedantic, petty, and picayune. You could say, “Well, that’s what they mean. It’s just common shorthand,” and I could accept that if I’d ever met anyone who actually owns a gun and says that. I’m sure such people exist, but in my entire gun-totin’ life among my gun-totin’ friends and neighbors, I’ve never met any. And even if I had, they’re wrong.

Spread the word.

This is a Bullitt.

Posted 2017·08·08 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Gripes

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