Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Genuine Bullet Wisdom and Betas

I'm a Soldier and competitive shooter. Aside from a little creative licensing, I'm also a fan of keeping things real. When folks in my writing group ask a question regarding my profession or its tools, I gladly help. Lord knows, I ask them for plenty.

Last week, a friend closed a comment with a question:

On the boom and bang angle, I've seen people with shotguns with the pistol grip. I was thinking of using a "super shorty" and was wondering if it was possible to utilize one handed (if it helps the character is female and its a sort of true grit moment.) Oh, and if there's problems would a lower yield of gunpowder make it possible and what effect would it have on the rounds? IE penetration etc.
I love shotguns. As much as they're a pain to reload under pressure, they're extremely effective in Close Quarter Combat (QCQ), and are great as a breeching tool to remove doors and locks. They have their disadvantages: can't carry that many rounds, limited engagement distance, slow reloads (on average), and the shells are large and you can't carry all that many of them.

If my friend is married to his idea of a shotgun, you could go classic. I recommend the 1901 upgrade of the Winchester Model 1887. You'll remember it as the famous lever action shotgun used by Governor Arnold in Terminator 2. Fires six shells and can be shortened to movie dimensions. It can even be cocked and fired, swung in a circular motion, in 'true' True Grit fashion.

Now, the modified gun in the movie fired slugs, and modern looking ones at that. It should be noted that this is a classic gun made to fire the reduced loads of the late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth century. Getting the right gun/ammo combination into the hands of the heroine could be complicated. For penetration, you want slugs or buckshot, but penetration wanes considerably the further your target. Take a rock and throw it as far as you can, and there you go. For more modern guns, take your pick here. Personally, my fav these days is the Benelli M3 Super 90.

Okay, onto the second half. I'm doing my first beta for a fellow aspiring writer this weekend. For the uninitiated, a 'beta' is a test-reading of a book done for authors. Professional's send their manuscripts to a limited number of confidants who provide their feedback. Generally, us aspiring types go to beta after between completion and submission, with a couple more edits sprinkled in for good measure.

On a humorous note, when I queried my YA manuscript last fall, I had no idea what a beta was. True story. Probably would have saved me a crap-ton of embarrassment over some silly mistakes. Next time, anyway...

It's an intimidating task, critiquing an entire story from cover to cover. My current forays into critiquing are limited to 3500 words at a time, but fortunately, this is a novella, and comes in just under 30,000. I'm about halfway done, and so far, I'm enjoying the experience. For the first time, I can critique not only the writing, but the story as well.

To the contrary of my initial impressions, it's easier to critique the story as a whole when you have the whole thing sitting in front of you. A chapter at a time, month to month, presents a very fragmented picture. With the whole enchilada, I get to see how the writer wove everything together. I'll go through it twice over the next week to make sure I hit everything before sending it back to its anxious master.


Selestial said...

You're going to go through it twice?? At least I know if you're willing to read it twice through, it must not suck too badly LOL.

I'm so coming to you if/when I need real gun expertise (though I have a feeling you're going to get on me about the ones in the novella as it is).

I like beta-reading. I like it so much that I have a tendency to take on too many. Really need to stop that so I have time to do everything else. You know, like edit :P

Anonymous said...

Hey Bullet Wisdom. I'm Unique from Kelley's OWG forums, nice blog. I'm following you now for the gun advice you're offering.

Anyway, I was wondering, do you know anything about percussion revolvers. Specifically pre-1860 Adams Revolvers .5o cal, but really any percussion revolver.

I can't find a single easy to understand description of how to load them anywhere on the net.


Danielle La Paglia said...

I've done two betas so far and I love them. It's so much more fun to get the whole picture in one shot. It's a lot of work, very time consuming to go through and do a thorough job, but I enjoyed both of the ones I've done so far. And I'll be asking for some beta favors to be returned very soon. :)

Angela Addams said...

Thanks for the gun info...now I know who to go to when I need that crucial info for a scene ;)

As for betas...yeah, I have a few who I rely on a lot. They have all saved my butt on numerous occassions by pointing out a lot of silly mistakes. I feel guilty at times because I know how time consuming it is to read manuscripts for others. It always surprises me how generous other writers are with their time. And I would do the same for them if they asked.

Diane Girard said...

fascinating gun info. None of my characters have demanded a gun, well not yet anyway.

I was a beta reader for a friend's novel, but received it in 4 chapter sections, rather than all at once.

michelle said...

I know nothing of guns, but that's why I have hubby. Ex-military and all that.

On betas though - yeah. To me, they're not quite crit partners who do heavy line edits and final scrutiny. But, I vow to have betas go over my current WIP after I finish the 1st draft and do a once-over first.