Style Matters #30: It’s best to be precise when playing with firearms

blog-keyboard-worked

At some point, many reporters and writers are likely to be describing firearms of all kinds, whether in a crime report, a feature or a fictional account.

Yet many of these writers may never have even touched a firearm, but they will be expected to write as if they have.

Having reported many armed robberies, shootings and other violent crimes, I’ve found a little precision goes a long way to preventing mistakes (and embarrassment) when writing about firearms, so here’s a few tips for the uninitiated:

  • a handgun is a weapon, a hand-held firearm that can fire from (one of) single shot, semi-automatic or automatic mode
  • rifles and shotguns (also referred to as longarms) are fired from the shoulder and, like handguns, can be fired from a single-shot, semi-automatic or automatic mode
  • there are many different handguns, rifles and shotguns
  • firearms of all sizes typically shoot cartridges which each contain a bullet, casing/shell, a propellant (such as gunpowder or cordite) and primer
  • air rifles and air pistols, collectively known as air guns, use compressed air or other gas to propel pellets or birdshot (small balls, usually made of lead)
  • there are no such things as live bullets nor empty bullets, but – after firing – there are such things as spent bullets and spent cartridges
  • some firearms hold multiple cartridges in a magazine
  • a handgun that fires from cartridges contained in a revolving cylinder is called a revolver
  • a non-revolving handgun is referred to as a pistol
  • with the exception of air rifles, which are air- or gas-propelled, longarms rely on cartridges that are made up of projectiles (bullets or lead shot), casings, propellant such as gunpowder, and primer
  • shotguns use a self-contained cartridge known as a shotgun shell that contains lead shot or a slug, propellant such as gunpowder and primer
  • shotguns are most commonly described by the size of the bore or gauge of their shells
  • rifles and handguns are typically described by the calibre of their barrels

It’s also worth noting that, in Australia, during the commission of a crime such as a hold-up, the law considers the production of a replica firearm – or the perceived threat from a concealed replica – is equivalent to brandishing the real item.

If you’re interested in learning more about firearms control and policy in Australia, a report on the Australian Institute of Criminology’s statistical information and analysis is accessible online.

————

If you like what you’ve read here, you can see reporting4work’s similar posts at Style Matters

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s