Recently, mojomonkey12 and I were playing Uncharted 3 and mojo asked me a couple of questions regarding the accuracy of the depiction of firearms in games. It got me thinking just how many inaccuracies gamers pick up from guns as they are shown and utilized in the games we play. Every genre gets something wrong and nearly every gamer walks away with an odd misconception or two, some of which I have seen firsthand as I have instructed new users/owners of firearms.

In an effort to help you, my fellow GIOer’s, avoid those uncomfortable moments of saying something wrong when you thought you were right, I thought I would share a few of these misconceptions, and help direct you to the path of truth on this subject.

Shhhh, Be Quiet!
You’ve seen it plenty of times in movies and games. The spec ops team leader calls for silencers on guns to keep quiet and continue their ops in secrecy. But did you know silencers are not real?

NOT a silencer

The term silencer is one that was coined by our favorite place: Hollywood. Though they have been generally accepted as interchangeable words, and it even shows up in the National Firearms Act of 1934, the actual term is “suppressor”.  Amongst the firearm community, this is one of the terms that will induce the occasional cringe or correction, but is being accepted more and more. However, this will identify you as a newbie to those experienced in firearms.

That Barrett is One Big gun!

No, Not THAT Barrett

THIS Barrett

Although nearly every FPS in the history of the genre that has used a .50 Barrett as an available rifle has shown the player being able to sprint while firing the .50 from the hip, it should be well known that these guns are not as light as the Nerf versions make them out to seem.

In reality, a military grade Barrett .50 sniper rifle weighs a whopping 30 pounds, nearly the weight of a three year old boy. Try running with that it your hands and firing from the hip (if you seriously do this, please record it so I can watch and laugh at the aftermath).

My Arms are Tired…
The concept of weapon weight and running brings me to my next point, fatigue makes shooting extremely difficult. I have shot in long distance competitions that require you to take a 50 pound pack and your rifle and run a mile to your shooting location. Once there, you have a matter of minutes to set up your shooting location, make your calculations and fire. That mile run adds a whole new dimension to shooting.

The running takes energy from your body that you would normally be using to steady your rifle. It also raises your heart rate, which dramatically increases the amount of sway the shooter experiences in their scope. If games depicted this part of shooting a little more accurately, you wouldn't be able to aim so easily, with any weapon, immediately after sprinting or running in the map.

The Laws of Physics Do Not Stop at Gravity

I have talked about this issue before, but I cannot say it enough. If snipers just needed to put a crosshair over their target and pull the trigger, or even raise the rifle up a little bit for the drop of the bullet, the battlefield would be filled with snipers. But there is a harsh reality to shooting, specifically over distances: it isn’t that easy. 

With a long distance shot, a number of factors have to be taken into account and the scope adjusted for. Factors include: distance to the target, spin drift (also known as the Magnus Effect, this is when a bullet does not fly straight because it is spinning, just like baseball pitchers can throw a curve ball by spinning it in a certain way), relative humidity, wind speed/direction at the barrel of the rifle as well as at the location of the target, temperature, the caliber of the bullet, even the number of grains of gunpowder that are in the shell casing. All of this is only the beginning.

Any long distance shooter or sniper that can hit a target is worth their weight in gold. Just don’t pick up a rifle expecting to hit a target at 600 yards because the crosshairs were over it.

You Want to Shoot What?
Frequently, games will change the names of guns in their games from their official names or military designations. Whether this is for legal purposes or to make the world unique, I am not sure.

Recently, in a co-op game of Uncharted 3, mojomonkey12 asked me if a few of the guns in the game were real. Upon consideration, I found that very few of the guns carried real-world names or names that most in the firearms community would be familiar with. Here are a few gun translations from Uncharted 3 to assist you in identifying the true equivalent of the virtual weapons you have fired:

- G-MAL: Most likely this is supposed to relate to the Galil-MAR, an Israeli utilized assault rifle.
.45 Defender: This could be any number of 1911 body-style sidearms, probably named after the Colt Defender.
KAL-7: I believe this is the equivalent of an AK-74u, and has most likely taken its name as a shortened version of the name of the designer of the AK-74u and AK-47: Mikhail Kalashnikov.
- Tau Sniper: I am not entirely sure, but this is most likely a Taurus revolver with a sniper scope attached (by the way, a sniper scope on a pistol will get a lot of laughs at a shooting range).
- Para 9: This could be a large number of pistols, but I would bet it was designed after a weapon made by one of my favorite gun makers, Sig Sauer. This would most likely be the P228 Para model, a 9mm sidearm.
M9: There is really an M9 out there, but unlike the rifle of Uncharted 3, if you ask to shoot one, you will be handed a pistol made by Beretta. The M9 depicted in the game is an HK 416 and I have no clue where they came up with the M9 as its designation.

That's not an M9...

This is an M9

This isn’t every gun in the game with an inaccurate name, but it goes to show that games are not always right and asking to see one of these guns by one of these names will most likely illicit a “what are you talking about?” or a confused look…or both.

Sway With the Music
Quite frequently, I will hear from a first time shooter a quote along the lines of “I just can’t keep it steady, it was so much easier in [insert game title here]”. Guns have weight to them and not everyone can maintain a surgeon’s steadiness while holding one.

The first time you go to shoot a gun, remember that sway is not limited to a sniper scope. Be patient and control your breathing and your trigger squeeze.

Glockin’ It up
Shortly after Modern Warfare 2 was released, I had a student in a beginning pistol course approach me and ask to spend some time on the range with a Glock (for those unaware, Glock is a brand of firearm, well known for their semi-automatic pistols favored by a lot of city police departments). It seemed odd that this young man (about 16 or 17 years old) was so excited to shoot such an ordinary gun.

I took him over to the range and handed him a Glock 17 (a 9mm weapon that is extremely common). The guy was shaking with excitement, and I attributed it to a serious case of beginner’s nerves. He pulled the trigger, firing the single shot (which came nowhere near the target) but did not allow the trigger to return to the forward position. The student got a perplexed look on his face.

He turned to me and exclaimed: “Your gun is broken man, it only fired one bullet!” After a short conversation, I found that the young man had recently played the aforementioned Call of Duty title and was expecting to have a fully automatic pistol in his hands.

In truth, there are a small number of full-auto handguns. Once you shoot a fully automatic weapon for the first time, it becomes clear why they are not very popular. Even with a 9mm weapon, the repeated recoil (or kick, for those of you unfamiliar with the terminology) forces your aim to move up very quickly, even with two hands. So, how effective could a one-handed fully automatic weapon really be?

I would love to see just how bad the target would be after this

In the end, there is only one Glock that is fully automatic out of the box: the Glock 18. Sure, there are ways to convert other handguns to full-auto, but that is a long discussion requiring lots of legal explanations I really don’t want to get into.

Choices, People…Choices!
Nearly every time I offer assault rifle courses, I get a series of students arguing at some point in class on whether X gun is fully automatic, semi-automatic, or fires in three round bursts. Each will cite a different game (generally a variation of Call of Duty). The truth is, none are ever truly correct.

The vast majority of the rifles fired in video games have what is called “select fire” (or the giggle switch, because firing in full auto in real life will make anyone giggle). This means the user can switch the gun between safe, semi-auto, burst, and full auto at the flick of their finger.

Flashlight = Bulls Eye
Battlefield may have gotten their select fire closer to correct than Call of Duty, but they made a massive misstep or two when it came to flashlights and laser sights.

First are the flashlights. Nowadays, very few tactical lights, except for the cheap ones on pistols, use on/off switches. For the most part, they are controlled by pressure switches which are generally connected to the tactical grips mounted on the rail portion of rifles. These switches are sometimes also placed on magazines, or other locations based on the user’s preferences. Yes, the flashlights are used to momentarily blind, but that lasts for only a fraction of a second. These lights are really used to assist in clearing rooms.

If left on for extended periods, flashlights provide an easy vehicle for an enemy locating your position. In fact, we no longer train law enforcement personnel to hold a flashlight cross-armed under their sidearm. Instead, we train them to hold the flashlight about their heads at an angle to prevent injury or death from people firing at the lights.

Laser lights tend to be viewed as only necessary for those who truly cannot use iron sights or other optics on weapons. One might think it takes less time to shoot with a laser light. However, once properly trained, a shooter with iron sights can sight in on a target from a low ready position faster than someone trying to trace a red dot, which is not as easy as it sounds. The red dots are just that: dots. Numerous games have shown these lights as emitting a beam (i.e. Uncharted 3 and Battlefield 3), this is not the case unless the whole environment is filled with smoke.

It is more like a crutch for a cripple: they can't get around without it, but it just isn't the same as a leg

The Most Rage-Inducing Word You Can Ever Say
There is one mistake that can cause silence to fall around a gun club or amongst a group of shooters. Much like attending a Star Wars convention and asking to see Captain Kirk would incite a geek riot, calling a magazine a clip will ensure the firearms community equivalent.

A clip in the firearms world is a device that is used to store multiple rounds of ammunition together as a unit, ready for insertion into the magazine of a repeating firearm. This speeds up the process of loading the firearm as several rounds can be loaded at once, rather than one round being loaded at a time. Several different types of clips exist, most of which are made of inexpensive metal stampings that are designed to be disposable, though they are often re-used.

These are clips...

A magazine (or “mag”) is an ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a firearm. Magazines may be integral to the firearm (fixed) or removable (detachable).

This is a magazine

So websites like Doom, whose wiki page on this subject can be found here, is one of those instances where games do you a horrible disservice when it comes to firearms.

I hope the above helps to dispel some of the myths about firearms video games (and Hollywood) have fostered over the years. If you have questions about guns you see in games, let me know and I will do my best to give you an answer that makes sense. Just promise me you won’t call a magazine a clip, and we’ll be ok.