A Bit Of Firearms Myth-Busting

Yes, an unarmed teen could kill you

Police shot and killed a man in Jackson, Mississippi last week. They had no choice but to return fire after the suspect fired a shotgun in a crowded parking lot where the officers were investigating a disturbance.

Still, one person commented that she didn’t understand why the officers didn’t use other tactics to disarm the shooter. Couldn’t they rush him and take away his weapon? She also wondered why the officers didn’t shoot the man in the arm or leg instead of mid torso. Others are now claiming the officers’ motivation was racial, saying they shot the man merely because of the color of his skin.

For starters, incoming bullets and shotgun pellets have no race. They aren’t assigned an ethnic background. They are race neutral. And it doesn’t matter if you are white, black, brown, purple, or green—fire a round at a police officer and you can expect to see another headed back in your direction.

People, please…cops are allowed to shoot back. They’re allowed to defend themselves. And, they’re allowed to defend you. And they do!

As far as shooting the hands or legs, well…

Here’s a bit of firearms myth-busting.

1. Cops DO NOT purposely shoot to wound. Nor do they shoot to kill. They’re not trained to do either, and they don’t. Instead, police officers are taught to shoot center mass of their target, and they’re taught to shoot until the threat ceases to exist. Again, cops do not shoot at arms, hands, guns, legs, and fingers. Not on purpose, anyway. And they certainly don’t shoot guns and knives out of a suspect’s hands. Seriously, some cops are lucky if they’re able to successfully shoot a qualifying score at the range. So to shoot a knife out of someone’s hand…puhleeze.

Besides, and believe it or not, cops are human. They have emotions just like you. They’re frightened at times, and their adrenaline shoots through the roof during tense situations. You know, just like other humans…you included.

So here’s a fun experiment…why don’t you try shooting something the size of a human hand while it’s moving, all while watching other threats and the positions of victims and innocent bystanders, and while your own knees are knocking and your hands are trembling. After all, it’s you the thug is trying to kill. All it takes is bullet to your head and it’s instant bagpipe music. No pressure, right?

2. Revolvers DO NOT automatically eject spent brass (cartridges). A shooter must manually dump/eject the spent rounds from the cylinder. Pistols (semi-automatics) and other semi-and fully-automatic weapons do automatically eject spent brass.

3. Cops always keep a round in the chamber of their weapons. Therefore, they DO NOT pull the slide back on their pistol when they’re about to enter a dangerous situation. To do so would eject a live round (bullet) from their weapon, leaving them one bullet shy of a full magazine. And I already know quite a few cops who are one bullet shy of a full magazine. We don’t need more.

4. Again, cops DO NOT “thumb off” the safety when they’re entering a dangerous situation. Police officers DO NOT carry their weapons with the safeties engaged (on). Their duty weapon must be ready to fire at all times. That extra second it takes to think about flipping off a safety could cost them their life. That’s if they remember to do it at all while under fire. Believe it or not, folks, bullets flying around your head is actually pretty stressful, so you may not be thinking all that clearly at the time. Also, please do a little research about the weapon carried by your protagonist. The one you’ve chosen may not even have a safety (SIG Sauers do not).

Glock semi-auto pistol and two spare magazines

5. Revolvers, as a rule, DO NOT have safeties.

6. Rifles and shotguns. I see these two used interchangeably, and they’re not. Not even close. Yes, they’re both considered long guns, but a rifle has a barrel with interior spiraled grooves that cause the projectile (bullet) to spin (think of a football thrown by a quarterback). The spinning increases accuracy and the distance the round can travel.


Normally, shotgun barrels are not rifled. Instead, a shotgun has a smooth barrel that’s designed to fire a shell containing several small pellets, called shot.


When fired, the shot spread out allowing a greater chance of hitting a target. However, a shotgun is basically accurate only at closer distances, such as 75 yards or less. But, hitting a moving target, or smaller targets, is much easier with a shotgun than with a rifle.

 *Again, cordite is not used in modern ammunition. Your hero will not smell it when he enters a murder scene because it is NOT present. Please don’t try to justify writing it simply because you think it sounds cool to do so. Believe me, it’s not cool. Instead, writing it into a scene merely shows the writer hasn’t done his/her homework.

After all, you don’t use a hammer and chisel to pound out your manuscript on a stone tablet, so why write modern cops using antique ammunition?


*Please remember that not all police department utilize identical rules and regulations.

8 replies
  1. Wes Wood
    Wes Wood says:

    *Again, cordite is not used in modern ammunition. Your hero will not smell it when he enters a murder scene because it is NOT present. Please don’t try to justify writing it simply because you think it sounds cool to do so. Believe me, it’s not cool. Instead, writing it into a scene merely shows the writer hasn’t done his/her homework.

    I’ve seen this other places as well, but nobody ever says what propellant is used in modern ammunition; please advise. Also, I’m and avid hunter and shoot a few rounds each season, and do notice an acrid smell when I shoot. Please comment on any smell originating from modern ammunition. Thanks in advance for your help – I need it for my WIP.
    Wes Wood

  2. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Lee, reading the comments made me think of something I saw on TV and wanted to ask you about. Can you shoot a hollow point round from a shot gun? I thought shotguns only had pellets. Dad was a hunter and I shot skeet as a kid so I only remember big shells with red casing filled with buck shot.

  3. Steve Bobker
    Steve Bobker says:

    What do you think of solid slugs for shotguns? I know about the frangible rounds, but I don’t think I can legally buy them.

    I once watched a wonderful video of someone trying to shoot open locks (both padlocks and regular in the door locks) with a variety of pistols, a rifle, and a shotgun All the locks withstood multiple close range pistol rounds, up to .45 cal and .44 magnum. The rifle bullets just punched neat holes in the locks leaving the doors locked. And the shotgun (OO) just sort of evaporated the locks. Bit messy though the door was open afterward. Very instructive.

    My home defense gun of choice is 410 or 20 ga pump shotgun. With a shell loaded and ready. I’m not about to play “fair” and pump the thing if I need it.

  4. Kate Wyland
    Kate Wyland says:

    The public really does need to be reminded of the realities of shooting under stress. It’s so easy to say “why didn’t they…”

    Even my hubby will say something like “shoot the tires” or “shoot him in the leg” when watching a TV show. The movies have engrained the idea that it’s easy to hit small targets.

  5. Ramona Richards
    Ramona Richards says:

    I heard a reference to cordite on an NCIS rerun Saturday and I actually screeched. The myth persists.

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