Campaign of the Month: October 2017
Blood & Bourbon
“One man with a gun can control 100 without one.”
Firearms come in every shape and size imaginable, with a history that goes back centuries to the era of black powder weapons little better (if at all) than a bow and arrow. In the modern era they’re the weapon of choice for nations, criminals, police forces, and private citizens the world over. From the smallest sub-compact pistol that fits in the palm of your hand, all the way up to massive anti-material rifles and light machine guns, the modern firearm’s function is the same: send a projectile at high speed at a target—living or otherwise. Below is a non-comprehensive list of common, popular, or noteworthy firearms that may be of interest to players, broken up by type and general function. As a rule, they all share the following characteristics.
Author’s Note: I’m a bit of a firearms junkie, but I’m by no means a master of all everything firearm. I try not to put out information I don’t have direct experience with, but if you have more knowledge than I do, please, reach out and chat with me about it. I’m always happy to learn new things, and if I’m putting out bad gauge, let me know so I can correct it (or do so yourself).
Gun Use 101
Guns are loud, so much so that without hearing protection you will rapidly permanently damage your hearing. Even suppressed firearms, that is to say weapons fitted with ‘silencers’ are almost always loud enough to be easily distinguished from other noises, especially to a trained ear. Guns smell, and the smell of gunfire is distinct to those familiar with it. They generate residue by function of their ignition of gunpowder and ejection of brass. Guns are hot, especially after regular fire. While a single shot will not turn a gun’s barrel into something that will burn someone, a weapon in steady use (20+ rounds) will typically burn on contact with the muzzle (front) or barrel.
People react differently to gunshot wounds. Some fall over in agony, others are able to fight through it. Some immediately pass out from wounds that others are able to fight through. Generally speaking, physiologically, a gunshot is only physically incapacitating when it destroys the brain, destroys the ability to circulate blood to the brain and/or muscles, causes enough blood loss to cause shock and loss of blood pressure leading to unconsciousness, or damages the spine. You’d think this is common sense, but you’d be amazed at how often people assume otherwise based on media. An opponent shot in the chest is not necessarily a neutralized opponent, and many are capable of continuing to fight for seconds, or even minutes, before unconsciousness or death sets in.
Author’s Note: Gunshot wounds are a weird thing, and despite all the research that’s gone into them, especially with regard to ‘stopping power’, there’s not really a good consensus on why everything works the way it does on the human body. This is further complicated by the way that many different calibers work in function when they hit a target, individual’s own physical tolerances, and what is popularly ascribed to as the ‘Hollywood Effect’, which holds that many people react to getting shot as they believe they should based on media depictions of gunshot wounds. Without going too deeply into detail, bigger is usually better than smaller, faster is usually better than slower, and bigger and faster is always better. Catch me online sometime if you’d like to go more into detail on this for some reason, but for now it’s probably easier to just push the ‘I believe’ button.
Choosing the Right Gun
When it comes to firearm choices, there is rarely a one size fits all answer. Every firearm (or at least every type) brings something to the table, even if it is only for a particular shooter. For some it’s simply the ‘way’ they shoot. For others it’s the position of the safety or the motion of the trigger. Laying aside exactly what makes a firearm appealing to a specific person, there are some general rules for firearm effectiveness against a given target.
• Bigger vs. Smaller: Larger bullets (in caliber, that is to say diameter) are almost always better than smaller bullets, heavier bullets (that is to say the overall projectile weight / density) are better than lighter bullets, and faster bullets are almost always better than slower bullets (except when shooting into / through water). Larger caliber / diameter creates larger holes, while heavier or faster bullets transmit more force. Exactly which is most important in a given circumstance varies depending on a number of factors, especially armor.
• Beating Armor: Keeping in mind that even within a given caliber (such as 9mm, or 5.56mm) you can have varying speed or weight of projectile, larger caliber is more effective against an unarmed target, while faster / shape is the best way to beat armor. Pistol rounds / calibers, including those used in most sub-machine guns, are typically not effective against body armor even at higher speeds (like the 9mm vs. the .45 ACP), though most rifles (including assault rifles) are.
Heat is another method of beating armor, and many ‘armor piercing’ rounds marketed for rifles (especially in 5.56mm) feature ‘incendiary’ tips that deliver a smaller overall projectile through armor, but do pierce it. Such rounds have become increasingly available even on the civilian market, though they are relatively expensive and unlikely to show up in the hands of ordinary individuals doing anything other than trick shooting on a private range.
• Bigger vs. Faster: There’s a matter of some debate about larger calibers vs. faster bullets as a whole among shooters today. Generally speaking, older shooters are more likely to favor larger rounds in each weapon platform (.45 ACP or .44 on hand guns, 7.62mm on rifles) while younger shooters are more willing to embrace smaller calibers (9mm on pistols, 5.56mm on rifles). The latter are faster rounds, but unquestionably do less damage on impact. On the other hand, they are easier to control, more comfortable to shoot, and fit more rounds to a magazine / person. That isn’t a hard rule, but a general observation influenced (especially) by a shift in law enforcement and military use towards those lighter weapons over time, especially in the West. Among today’s elite shooters, special operators, and others, raw power to take down an elephant or a horse is often less desirable than a weapon that carries half again as much ammunition, is more accurate, and is more easily controlled, especially as the prospect in combat zones of fighting professional opposition has faded with the loss of the Soviet Union. Two decades of war in the Middle East against unarmored foes has changed many perspectives.
• Gun Length: The other factor in firearm power, independent of the bullet, is the length of the barrel on the weapon. Generally speaking, to a point, the longer the length of the barrel the faster the projectile will move, and the more power it will carry. The same bullet shot out of a 4", 6" and 12" barrel will produce noticeably different results, with the longer barrel producing faster and more accurate rounds.
Auto-Loader: Somewhat outdated term typically used to describe an ‘auto-loading pistol’, that is to say any pistol other than a revolver fed by a magazine rather than a cylinder. More commonly used years ago when auto-loaders were less common, and more commonly heard from older shooters, especially as a pejorative. Occasionally misconstrued (intentionally or otherwise) by the media when describing a pistol as it relates to automatic weapons (see below).
Automatic: An automatic weapon is one that will continue to fire bullets so long as the trigger is depressed (squeezed). Typically refers only to military grade weapons, as the sale of most automatic weapons in the United States was barred in 1934, and further limited in the 1980s. Automatic weapons tend to be difficult to control, even for experienced shooters, though heavier weapons are often easier to use because the weight helps offset the recoil of the weapon. Known to ‘climb’ when fired in long bursts, and as such typically relegated to 1-2 second blasts.
Brass: Broadly, expended ordinance, and specifically the shell casings typically left behind. Relatively expensive, many professional shooters like to ‘collect’ or ‘police’ their brass, either for reloading or turn in given the relative value of the metals. Immediately upon ejection from a weapon brass is very hot, so much so that it will burn on contact, especially if that persists for an extended time.
Caliber: The internal diameter of a gun’s barrel (or more specifically the diameter of the projectile it fires). Typically caliber refers to rifle and pistol rounds, as shotguns use their own terminology. Generally speaking larger is more powerful, however pistol vs. rifle rounds also interact in shape of the round and the amount of gunpowder used in the projectile, as well as barrel length, and weight of the round, all of which can create disproportionate results.
Clip: A clip is an ammunition storage device used to arrange multiple rounds for insertion into a weapon directly. Most commonly seen on bolt action rifles and hunting rifles. A clip typically has the rounds exposed, and likely strings together less than 10 rounds. Old World War I and II rifles that show someone shoving 5 bullets on a strip of metal into a weapon are examples of clips. A clip should not be confused by an experienced shooter with a magazine. Clips are very uncommon in modern weapons, as magazines are largely perceived as superior in many ways.
Gauge: In relation to shotguns, gauge (as in, 12-gauge shotgun) refers to the number of lead spheres equal in diameter to the bore are required to weigh one pound. That is to say, the smaller the gauge, the larger the bore (and likely more powerful the weapon). It’s a very old but established unit of measurement.
Hollow Point: Pistol (and sub gun) rounds that literally have a ‘hollow’ point in the center that cause the rounds to deform on hitting targets, expanding and flattening to create larger wounds. Less effective against body armor and less capable of penetrating materials, but more effective against unarmored targets.
Magazine: A magazine is a contained storage area or device for rounds of ammunition. In some weapons this can be internal (typically loaded via clip) but this is relatively uncommon, and most modern firearms use detachable magazines. Typically a magazine is metal (or a on a more modern weapon, hard plastic) and automatically feeds the next round of ammunition into a weapon. Magazines are typically specific to the platform of weapon (e.g. Glock 9mm pistols, AR-15 Rifles) and specific to the type of ammunition (e.g. 9mm, .45 ACP, 5.56). Interchangeability is more common with rifles, but still very uncommon. The average rifle magazine contains approximately 30 rounds, but 20 is possible on some smaller and more compact weapons or those using larger caliber rounds. The average magazine takes 1-2 minutes to reload, but a basically proficient firearms user can swap from one magazine to another in 1-2 seconds.
Magnum: A larger version of a given round than normal, for example the .44 Magnum. Typically reflects both a heavier weight bullet and larger loads of powder.
Rifling: Used on almost all modern firearms of any quality, with the exception of shotguns, rifling is the threading of the weapon’s barrel to create a spin in the bullet when it is fired down it. Doing so accelerates the round and helps keep it on target more effectively than simply shooting it down an rifled tube. The downside of rifling is it is expensive in general terms and requires more cleaning and care than an un-rifled weapon such as a shotgun or a cheaply made die cast pistol. Rifling is also the typical method by which bullets used in one crime are matched to another, though doing so requires two bullets fired from the same weapon, that the bullets be relatively undamaged (e.g. did not strike bone, brick, stone, etc and deform), and a relatively advanced equipment.
Round: A round is a bullet, in simple terms.
Safety: Any internal or external feature of a weapon designed to prevent unintentional or accidental discharge of the weapon. Virtually all modern weapons have at least one safety, and most have several. Some are entirely integrated, for example a feature that offsets the firing pin or blocks the firing pin unless the trigger is squeezed. Others have more visible external features, such as the two-part trigger on many modern polymer pistols that require that the entire trigger be depressed in order for the weapon to fire. Others still have manual safeties that must be disengaged, often levers that must be disengaged or specific parts of the weapon that must have pressure applied (especially the grip) evenly in order for the weapon to be capable of firing. The proliferation of safety features in modern firearms has seen a substantial increase in the safety of most weapon in everyday handling and use.
Semiautomatic: Semiautomatic weapons follow a simple principle of 1 squeeze of the trigger, 1 round fired and include most hunting rifles, many shotguns, almost all assault rifles available to civilians (including AR-15s and civilian knock off AK-47s), and most handguns.
Tap, Rack, Bang: The standard means of clearing a weapon malfunction on a semi-automatic autoloading weapon, particularly a semi-automatic autoloading pistol (usually called a semi-automatic pistol). Sometimes also called ‘Slap, Rack, Bang or simply tap / rack’. One first strikes the magazine of the firearm firmly from below, ensuring it is inserted all the way into a weapon, then racks (pulls back) the slide of the weapon to eject whatever round or expended cartridge may be currently stuck within the weapon, then reevaluates the situation and fires as needed (bang). Taught to almost every pistol shooter and drilled into military and police shooters religiously—when properly executed requires only 1-2 seconds to perform.
Tumble: Tumbling refers to a round of ammunition that, when striking a target, has a tendency to spin or roll, ‘tumbling’ and creating larger and often difficult to treat wounds. Typically applied to assault rifle rounds such as the 5.56 and 7.62.
X+1: Common short hand for the number of rounds available in a given weapon when the weapon has both a fully loaded magazine and a single round in the chamber (accomplished by loading a magazine, chambering a round, then reloading a replacement for the chambered round into the magazine. Particularly common on more compact firearms or those featuring larger caliber ammunition which inherently have fewer rounds available, especially in pistols.
Tried and true, revolvers are firearms that follow a simple principle of a revolving cylinder that contains a number of rounds, revolvers are among the simplest firearms to operate. Contrary to popular belief, not restricted to 6 rounds—some carry as many as 8, while others as few as 4. Typically uses larger caliber rounds among pistol calibers. Likely to be favored by older users, including most Kindred embraced prior to the 80s and 90s, due to the relatively common jamming and feeding issues associated with semi-automatic pistols, and still prized for their reliability by many users. Can be reloaded quickly by skilled user with a speed-loader, with particularly skilled shooters being capable of reloading nearly as quickly as an autoloader.
Colt Anaconda: Hand cannon from the 1990s best known for firing the .44 magnum pistol (though it can be chambered in several different calibers). Produced in several different barrel length, the longest of which (8 inches) makes the weapon more than a foot long. Six chambers.
Ruger LCR Double-Action Revolver: 5 cylinder sub-compact revolver typically chambered in .357, but available in 9mm, and .38 special, the Ruger LCR is a reliable and powerful, if difficult to control concealed carry pistol used by many police officers as an ankle weapon.
Taurus Judge: Rolled out in 2006 with great fanfare, the Taurus Judge was advertised as a pistol that fired shotgun shells. That’s true, in a sense, though at .410 bore (sometimes called .410 gauge) the rounds fired by the Judge are the smallest commercially available shotgun shell (in practice 4-5 000 size buckshot pellets vs. the 8-9 00 size fired by a 12-guage shotgun). Also notable for having only 5 chambers. Hand cannon sized weapon. Regarded as overrated by many firearm enthusiasts, though others swear by it.
Smith & Wesson Bodyguard: Small resolver family produced specifically for concealment, with a shrouded (covered) hammer designed to avoid catches when drawn, a short barrel, and a narrow handle typically chambered in .357 magnum. Either 5 or 6 chambers, depending on the model.
Smith & Wesson Model 10: Common police issue revolver as far back as 1899, the Model 10 is a tried and true six cylinder revolver chambered in the .38 special that saw use by police forces well into the 1960s.
Smith & Wesson Model 19: Revolver chambered in .357 magnum originally produced from the 1950s until the late 1990s, the Model 19 is an iconic six shooting revolver with a steel frame and a wooden hand grip. Powerful handgun that recently saw renewed production. Also well known for is sub-nose variant, which trades out the 4 inch barrel for a much shorter 2.5 inch barrel, making the weapon a very powerful concealed weapon, though the decreased barrel length and weight vastly increases the recoil (3 Strength).
Smith & Wesson Model 29: The.44 magnum of ‘Dirty Harry’ fame, in the 1970s the Model 29 was the most powerful handgun in the world. A traditional 6 shooter, the Model 29 is a cannon that with its maximum length barrel is over a foot long. Originally produced in 1955, the weapon has such fame and success that it is still in production today. Extremely high recoil despite relatively high weight.
Autoloader / Semi-Automatic pistols comprise almost every pistol that is not a revolver. Magazine fed, they are usually (but not always) chambered in smaller caliber (size of bullet) than revolvers but tend to carry far more rounds per magazine, and are far easier to reload at speed for a novice user. They range in size from tiny concealable weapons that fit in the palm of a users hand, all the way up to the massive Desert Eagle. Nominally grouped into three groups: full size, compact, and sub-compact, each with its own purpose, advantages, and disadvantages.
Full sized pistols are just that, large pistols designed purely to function as weapons without regard to other considerations, such as concealability. That is not to say that they cannot be concealed (especially by larger individuals, or in heavy clothing), but it is to say that such is not explicitly intended or considered. Most police service weapons, military firearms, and home defense pistols are full sized pistols, as are most older firearms, prior to the advent of legalized concealed carry in much of the United States.
Beretta 92: Full sized Italian made pistol that replaced the 1911 pistol for the US military in 1985, the Beretta is cheap, relatively reliable, simple to operate, and equipped with multiple safety features including an external safety. Nominally chambered in 9mm, .40 and 7.65mm, Beretta 92’s in the United States are almost always of the 9mm variety, given its extensive use in the military and many police forces. Not particularly loved by US soldiers for its weight, lack of power relative to the 1911 pistol, and habit of inflicting ‘Berretta bite” on careless users when fired—improper hand placement often causes the slide to tear open the skin on the wielders hand between the thumb and forefinger, in some cases requiring stitches. Defaults to 15 round magazines.
Browning .45 / Colt (1911): The M1911 pistol and its variants were used by the US military from 1911 through 1986, and it is still issued in some cases, especially to special operations forces. Also used by LAPD Swat, FBI HRTs, and Delta Force. Beloved for its .45 caliber round and its famed stopping power, the full sized pistol is heavy and brutal, a blunt instrument that uses its weight to offset the comparatively high recoil of the .45 ACP round. External safety. Typically makes use if a 7 round magazine, leading to most users keeping a round in the chamber giving them 8 available rounds. Particularly beloved by US Marines, which as late as 2012 was still ordering more for use.
1911 Pattern Pistols: The 1911 frame / pattern pistol is among the most popular in the United States today. Variants of the original M1911 produced by Colt and designed in 1911 by John Browning, 1911 pattern pistols come in all sizes and calibers, though 9mm pistols with 17 round magazines are particularly popular. Similar in shape, but often smaller than the original Colt .45.
Desert Eagle: Israeli produced cannon of a handgun that typically fires a .50 caliber round (.50 Action Express). One of the most powerful handguns ever produced, the weapon is iconic in popular culture but is much less well regarded in use due to its extremely high recoil, high weight (4lbs), and limited capacity (only 7 rounds). The Desert Eagle dwarfs even the nominally large M1911 pistol and is also held to have a much less smooth trigger. The weapon is almost impossible to conceal on your person, given its huge size. It is also worth noting that while the Desert Eagle does fire a .50 caliber round, it is not the same round as fired by, for instance, a vehicle mounted .50 caliber weapon—instead it shares only diameter, not weight, powder load, and so forth, and is a significantly weaker round as a whole (though still quite deadly for a pistol round).
FP-45 Liberator—World War II era single shot pistol made out of stamped metal and with an un-rifled barrel, the Liberator as intended for resistance forces and was not intended to be accurate at a distance of more than 10 feet—ideally it was to be used at point blank range. Chambered in .45 ACP, the weapon cost only $2.10 to produce. Not widely distributed despite the more than one million produced, as most generals felt the weapon was a liability for would be resistance fighters. Due to its unrifled barrel, short barrel length, and often shoddy craftsmanship, the Liberator typically produced much lower muzzle velocity on its rounds, resulting in a far less effective round than one would expect for a .45 ACP.
FN 5.7: Niche firearm chambered in the same 5.7mm as the P90. Extremely accurate and high capacity, with almost no recoil. Very comfortable for a female or other smaller shooter to shoot, though the weapon itself is relatively large and not easily concealed. Armor piercing variant of the 5.7mm round not sold to the public, but where available to military is capable of piercing low grade body armor. Despite the small size of the round, it’s tumbling nature inside a target makes it quite dangerous. Bullets look like tiny rifle rounds. Ammunition is relatively difficult to find for casual shooters in the United States (and elsewhere) because of its extremely limited use, low demand, and demonization by some political and police figures as a so called ‘cop killer’ round, though it is not banned or otherwise prohibited.
Glock 17: Relatively inexpensive, highly reliable, and light pistol made in part with a polymer plastic, making it much lighter than a full steel firearm, the Glock 17 is a popular and simple to use Austrian pistol that has been slowly adopted across the world, particularly among police forces and by professional shooters. Features no external safety outside of the trigger, making it as simple as a load, point, and shoot firearm. Legendary in its reliability, the Glock 17 will fire underwater, it’ll fire full of sand, it’ll fire without being cleaned in years, it’ll fire after being thrown out a plane or down stairs, and it’ll do all of that without a single accidental discharge. Standard magazines of 17 9mm rounds.
Glock 20: 10mm variant of the Glock 17. Slightly larger with a standard magazine of 15 rounds.
Glock 21: .45 ACP variant of the Glock 17. Slightly larger with a standard magazine of 13 rounds.
Glock 22: .40 S&W variant of the Glock 17 and standard issue firearm for the New Orleans Police Department. Standard magazine of 15 rounds.
Glock 31: .357 SIG variant of the Glock 17. Standard magazine size of 15 rounds.
H&K Mark 23 (USSOCOM): Large framed .45 ACP pistol adopted by US Special Operations Command in the early 1990s as a replacement for the Beretta 92 (itself a replacement for the much beloved Colt .45), the Mark 23 was intended to be a return to the trusted .45 ACP cartridge with more ammunition per magazine (12 rounds) than the ancient Colt .45 (7). Highly accurate out to 75ft., waterproof, and corrosion resistant.
Luger Pistol: One of the earliest semi-automatic pistols, the Luger fires the still popular 9mm round out of an 8-round detachable box magazine. Now popularly associated with Nazi Germany, the weapon was first put into use as early as 1900 by the Swiss Army, and was only later adopted by the German army. Distinctive in appearance and highly accurate, the weapon is an extremely sought after collectors item and regularly fetches upwards of $2,500 today on the open market, as few survived despite the millions produced. Many exist in unusual places throughout the United States, as the distinctive pistol was a common war trophy during World War II for US soldiers. Two Luger pistols were actually produced in .45 ACP near the turn of the century as prototypes for the US Army in testing against the Model 1911, one of which went missing, the other of which sold in 1989 for over $1,000,000 dollars in an open auction.
Mauser C96: German made pistol that dates to the 1890s, the Mauser C96 was a highly popular firearm that was in use through the 1960s with various nations. Chambered in an array of different calibers, including 9mm and 7.63×25mm, the Mauser contains an internal magazine fed by a clip, and holds up to 10 rounds. Several knockoffs were produced by China and Spain, including a Chinese model chambered in .45 ACP sometimes called the ‘Type 17’ (though the quality of such weapons is quite suspect). Saw heavy use during World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and in the Indochina and Sino-Japanese Wars. Also issued to Luftwaffe pilots. Another common war trophy for US Troops during both World War I and World War II, and as such can turn up in unusual places throughout the country.
Walther P38: Lesser known than the Luger but widely used by the German armed forces, the Walther P38 is a 9mm pistol that was produced during World War II in large numbers. Fed by an 8 round magazine, the weapon was intended as a cheaper version of the Luger, and over a million were produced.
Welrod British made bolt action magazine fed pistol with a built in suppressor produced during World War II and still in use today. Widely regarded as the quietest pistol ever made, the weapon in ideal circumstances is only in the 70 decibel range: no louder than everyday conversation. Chambered in 9mm and .32 ACP, the weapon is fed by 6 and 8 round magazines (respectively) and makes use of subsonic ammunition. Not effective at ranges in excess of 50ft, the Welrod is most often pressed directly against the skin of a would be victim to further muffle the sound of its discharge. The built in silencer must be rebuilt every 12-13 shots, and rapidly degrades—shots at the end of its life cycle are significantly louder than the first few shots. One of the very few weapon discharges not easily recognizable as a firearm. Not intended for shootouts. Only a few thousand were ever produced.
Compacts are shaved down full size firearms largely intended for protective details that need a degree of subtly. They are relatively easy to conceal without sacrificing significant functionality and accuracy, and are increasingly popular among civilians as concealed carry has become more popular. They feature stubby barrels relative to their full sized counterparts, and often carry slightly fewer rounds as well. Some smaller shooters, especially those with small hands, find compacts to be more comfortable to shoot than full sized pistols, and they have become specially popular among female shooters who find their mix of ease of concealment, more comfortable fit in their hands, and often smaller calibers more enjoyable than conventional full sized firearms. Typically have more recoil than a full sized pistol in equal caliber (though some advances in modern compacts offset this relative to older full sized guns) given their lesser weight.
Glock 19: Scaled down baseline Glock compact firearm, the Glock 19 features a shorter barrel handle that reduces it magazine size to 15 rounds (though all smaller Glocks in the same chambering will accept larger magazines). One of the most common and popular Glock pistols in production, and even used by many as a standard carry pistol, including by some police forces.
Glock 32: Scaled down baseline Glock 31 chambered in .357 SIG with a magazine capacity of 13 rounds.
Heckler & Koch USP Compact: Variant of the H&K USP (Universal Self-Loading Pistol) scaled down for better concealment, the USP Compact is a high quality firearm chambered in .40, 9mm, or .45 ACP (in 12, 13, and 8 round magazines respectively), though the .45 ACP is the default. It features a shorter barrel relative to the USP pistol and narrower frame, but a relatively large and comfortable grip, especially with the option for extended grip on the magazines. Noticeably less recoil than many other handguns, and often favored by women or younger or weaker shooters.
Sig Saur P229: Compact Sig Saur pistol chambered in the .357 Sig round and adopted by the Secret Service and a number of other federal agencies years ago. Expensive firearm with an external safety and a great deal of power relative to its size. The weapon’s trademark .357 Sig round is quite expensive by the standards of conventional pistol ammunition, but has been shown to perform exceptionally in ballistic tests, especially in single object penetration—e.g. shooting through a car door, or a drywall wall—without showcasing the kinds of ‘shooting through a house’ problem common to many faster pistol calibers.
Subcompact pistols are highly concealable and fundamentally short range weapons with limited magazine capacity designed primarily for self defense in a pinch or as backup to backup weapons in ankle holsters. While many self defense advocates swear by sub-compacts, especially as they can even be concealed in hot weather when wearing limited clothing, there’s a darker side to such weapons. Sub-compact pistols, especially cheap ones from companies like Lorcin Engineering Company (now defunct but still with millions of weapons in circulation), Davis Industries (also defunct), Raven Arms (also defunct), and Phoenix Arms are typically among the most commonly used weapons in criminal activities due to both their ease of concealment and low price relative to many high quality weapons. Often produced in mass, stamped or molded, and sold for under $200, they are commonly known as “Saturday Night Specials” on police forces for their habit of showing up at the scene of violent crime and low cost.
Glock 26: Sub-compact 9mm Glock polymer pistol sometimes called the “baby Glock” that holds 10+1 rounds to a magazine and can accept magazines intended for larger Glock pistols in a pinch.
HP22: Cheap “Saturday Night Special” firearm produced by Phoenix Arms, the HP22 is a .22 LR pistol with a 10 round magazine made out of stamped and modeled zinc alloy and typically covered in chrome. The weapons are popular with thugs and gang-bangers, but are not particularly effective. Frequently found at crime scenes, HP22s can often be bought for as little as $100 and are frequently sold direct to pawn shops.
Makarov Pistol: Soviet standard issue firearm for more than 50 years for both military and police use, the Makarov is still in production today. Typically chambered in 9mm, the weapon is iconic in Eastern Europe and also well liked by western collectors. Notable for its heavy trigger pressure, the standard magazine contains 8 rounds.
MP-25: One of the most commonly used “Saturday Night Special” firearms, originally produced by Raven Arms and now produced by Phoenix Arms, the MP-25 is a piece of junk, a .25 ACP sub-compact pistol with a 7 round magazine, very little power, and poor workmanship made out of a zinc alloy and often finished in chrome. The cheap garbage weapon is often found at crime scenes or in the possession of low income criminals. Only the most carefully placed shots are likely to be fatal, but the weapon is still useful as an intimidation tool. Often available for as little as $100 and sold directly to pawn shops and other low income / high volume dealers.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield: Thin and light polymer pistol in the style of Glocks, the M&P Shield is explicitly marketed to police forces as an off duty weapon. A single stack 9mm (7+1 to a magazine), the weapon is narrow enough that it is remarkably easy to conceal, even compared to weapons like the Glock 26. High recoil (typical given its low weight and size) and relatively low cost (~$450). Also chambered in .40 (6+1 rounds to a magazine).
Rare, expensive, illegal in the United States, and of limited use for all but very experienced shooters, automatic pistols tend to be used for distinct purposes, especially by elite police and military units. Primarily used in very close quarters or to produce high volume of fire from concealment.
Beretta 93R: Italian made variant of the Beretta designed with the ability to fire 3 round bursts and a larger 20 round box magazine. Chambered in 9mm and uses compatible magazines with any other Beretta. Externally virtually identical to a standard Beretta.
Glock 18: Austrian made 9mm pistol with select fire between semi-automatic and fully automatic often offered with 30 round magazines and a shoulder stock. Very difficult to control without the shoulder stock on full auto but highly concealable.
H&K VP70: 9mm German made pistol with variable 3 round burst or single shot capability. The first polymer framed pistol (predating glock by more than a decade). Has a manual safety as well as a heavy trigger pull. 18 round box magazines. Produced from the 1970s until the late 1980s.
Stechkin Automatic Pistol: Soviet-era select fire (automatic or single shot) pistol still in use today by many Russian Special Operations units that fires 9mm rounds out of a 20 round magazine. Well regarded and frequently used by soviet special ops in Afghanistan, especially with an integrated suppressor in a latter model of the weapon produced specifically for Afghanistan.
Sub guns comprise the broad field if firearms that are larger in size than a pistol and typically intended for two handed operation, but smaller than a true rifle. Most fire pistol caliber rounds with a high rate of fire, and are intended as substitutes for heavier automatic weapons in close quarters. Often relatively concealable, they are favorites of high level protective details for their suppression capabilities, but are not intended for use at longer ranges or against dedicated attackers armed with assault rifles, body armor, or light machine guns (LMGs). Popular among criminals for many of the same reasons they are popular among protective details (concealability), they are more controllable than automatic pistols. Like most automatic weapons they are extremely difficult to gain legally in the United States. Many automatic sub guns are also produced in civilian semi automatic variants. These weapons are visually identical, or nearly so, but in practice have little to offer shooters beyond novelty.
AR-57: Modern reimagining of the AR-15 rifle, the AR-57 chambered in the FN 5.7mm round that is a massively shortened version of the rifle with a collapsible stock. Both fully automatic and semi-automatic, with 50 round box magazines fully interchangeable with the FN P90. Very low recoil and much more compact than the AR-15.
ARES FMG 1980s era ‘folding’ sub-gun that collapses into a small square unrecognizable as a firearm. Fires 9mm cartridges out of a 20 round magazine by default, though it can also accept a 32 round magazine once unfolded. Not particularly accurate, with marginal ‘sights’, and designed primarily to be deployed quickly in very close quarters, relying on the high volume of fire available to overcome its deficiencies.
FN P90: Designed in the 1980s by Belgian FN Herstal, the FN P90 is readily identifiable by hits bizarre shape and popular use in popular culture. Selective fire (automatic or semi automatic) for military uses, but limited to semi-automatic for civilians, the P90 was designed for the ground up around the 5.7mm ammunition also developed by FN Herstal as a replacement to 9mm rounds, with a smaller size but much higher velocity that makes it more accurate, gives it less recoil, and allows it to penetrate body armor more readily. Fully ambidextrous (a rarity) and extremely compact, the weapon was frequently issued to tank crews as a personal defense weapon. Loaded with extremely unusual 50 round box magazines that feed from the top of the weapon. Very well regarded in tight spaces and not uncommon on swat teams.
H&K MP5: German produced firearm form the 1960s chambered in 9mm, the MP-5 is an iconic automatic submachine gun. Exported worldwide, the weapon is used in almost every country or has been used in the past. Relatively compact, but with an expandable stock, the weapon is still in production today despite the existence of several successors. Typically used with 30 or 40 round magazines, through 100 round drum magazines do exist (though they largely defeat the purpose of the weapon). Over its more than 50 year run dozens of varients have been produced, including those with integrated silencers, forward grips, 3 round burst capability, and larger calibers (10mm, .40). Several countries produce their own knock off version of the MP5.
H&K UMP: Successor to the MP5, the UMP is a modern reimaging of the weapon that sought to address concerns that the 9mm round of the MP5 lacked stopping power by upgrading to the enormously popular .45 ACP round. Typically shipped with a 25 round extended magazine, the weapon can be chambered in 9mm or .40 if desired, though these are atypical as most users prefer the greater stopping power over the 5 additional rounds the smaller rounds offer. Features a folding stock for accurate shoulder fire and forward grip for greater control. Makes heavy use of polymers to reduce weight relative to the MP5. Relatively slow firing by sub gun standards, the weapon still spits out 10 rounds a second on full auto.
KRISS Vector: High performing modern sub gun designed with a folding stock that lends itself to high conceal-ability. Nominally chambered in .4 ACP, the Vector uses an advanced blowback system and design intended to reduce perceived recoil and allow the weapon to be fired more effectively and accurately even on automatic. High rate of fire (1,200 rounds per minute, with customized models going up to 1,500), typically firing out of a 25 or 30 round magazine. Quite light and compact.
M3 Submachine Gun: The M3, more commonly known as the ‘Grease Gun’ or simply ‘the Greaser’ is a World War II era mass produced submachine gun chambered in .45 ACP and produced for the US Army starting in 1942. Over 700,000 were built, but the weapons were not well loved. Despite propaganda films depicting it as an accurate weapon, it was far less accurate (though lighter and much cheaper) weapon than many of its contemporaries such as the Thompson. Fed by a straight 30 round magazine that doubled as a forward handle, the weapon was less than two feet long when used in its collapsible state and primarily intended for use in urban combat.
MAC-10: Iconic weapon heavily used by gangs, cartels, and Central American nations, the MAC-10 is a bullet spewing .45 or 9mm sub gun that hasn’t been produced in almost four decades but still has a disturbing tendency to show up at crime scenes. Fed by a 30 (.45) or 32 (9mm) magazine and typically equipped with a silence to increase the control of the weapon and fight recoil. Often ‘sprayed’ by gang bangers at drive by shootings, the weapons are not particularly accurate, especially in untrained hands.
Magpul FMG9 Prototype folding weapon developed by Mapgul in the late 2000s, the Magpul FMG9 has seen only a very limited production run. Firing the 9mm pistol out of a 32 round magazine, the weapon is designed to fold up small enough to fit in a back pocket and is intended for use specifically by personal protective details that may need a high volume of firepower but which cannot carry more obvious weapons. In its folded condition does not resemble a firearm in any way.
Skorpion (Skorpion vz. 61): Czechoslovakian made weapon originating in the 1960s, the Skorpion is a compact automatic pistol chambered in the unusual 7.65mm round that is very similar to the 9mm in function. Unusual weapon that is rarely found in the United States but which is well respected for its ruggedness and folding stock that makes it passably accurate by the standard of highly compact automatic weapons. 20 round magazines.
STEN: The STEN, or Sten Gun, is a World War II era British made submachine gun mass produced for simplicity of use and often delivered to resistance forces. Fed by a side inserted 32 round 9mm magazine, the weapon was widely used and widely hated for its cheap production value, inaccuracy, and tendency to jam. Not accurate at ranges in excess of 100 feet, and typically only used at very close range (under 20ft.). Air dropped to resistance forces throughout Europe.
Steyr TMP: Straddling the line between automatic pistol and sub gun, the Steyr TMP is a compact weapon approximately 11 inches long with a pistol grip and forward mounted grip for additional control. Select fire, it can alternate between fully automatic fire or semi-automatic and is fed by a standard 15 round magazine or an extended 30 round magazine.
Thompson Submachine Gun: Originally created in 1918, the Thompson Submachine gun is the iconic “Tommy Gun” of the 20s and 30s popular with police, criminals, and military all. Over two million were made, and many still remain as one of the very few automatic weapons that can be found legally in the United States. Firing the heavy .45 ACP cartridge in contrast to the more common 9mm often found on sub guns, and packing magazines that range from 20-rounds all the way up to the famous (but unwieldy and heavy) 100-round drum magazine. Designed with a detachable stock that greatly increases the accuracy of the weapon when used. Produced into the 40s, many variants of the weapon were produced, with earlier weapons possessing far higher rates of fire and many later weapons having selectable fire between semi-automatic and automatic. Very heavy compared to modern weapons, and requires frequent cleaning for optimal performance.
Uzi: Israeli-produced submachine gun that can be chambered in 9mm, .22, or .45 ACP. Originally designed in the 1940s, the weapon is heavy by modern standards. Designed with varying magazine sizes between 20 and 50 rounds in 9mm, though the .45 ACP was under utilized and only officially produced with 16 round magazines. Used by the secret service for many years, several collapsible or tear away briefcases built around uzi’s—some of which many have entered the civilian sector.
A word on shotguns: Shotguns are arguably the most diverse and versatile weapons because of the huge array of possible ammunition types they can fire. Because of their relative simplicity as weapons, people have been experimenting with different types of things they can pack into a shotgun shell for years. In truth, you can shoot just about anything you can pack into a shotgun cartridge, at least for a single shot through a pump shotgun. I’ve seen gummy bears, frozen Vienna sausages, seven .22 caliber rounds, copper wire, legos, and bubblegum all fired through a shotgun as a one-off with varying degrees of success at close range (10-25 feet). Below is a non-comprehensive list of different types of shotgun shells one might find, and their (general) purpose.
Armor-Piercing Incendiary: Relatively new and extremely exotic shotgun loadout that fires a sabot slug coated in magnesium under high pressure. Reportedly capable of shooting through steel doors and burning at over 3000 degrees.
Bean Bag Rounds: Theoretically “less lethal” variant of rubber bullets, bean bag rounds are low pressure weapons designed to incapacitate or inflict pain, bruising, or broken bones but not kill. Typically fired at limbs to reduce the chance of death, the rounds are inaccurate past 20 feet and ineffective past 60 feet. Typically police and others that make use of bean bag rounds specifically mark weapons intended for use with non-lethal ordinance with orange, green, or yellow neon markers to ensure that such weapons are not mistakenly loaded with lethal ammunition. Low pressure rounds not suitable for use in semi-automatic or automatic shotguns, as they will not cycle properly.
Birdshot: Birdshot is a shotgun shell filled with tiny pellets akin to bb pellets. It varies in size by a wide margin, but the average is approximately 70 pellets on a 12 gauge shotgun (though you can get very small indeed). Birdshot is used for hunting (as it sounds like) small birds and other elusive game and skeet shooting, but it can be used as a less lethal self-defense loadout. Birdshot is not effective at anything other than close range (typically under 50 feet).
Buckshot: Larger than birdshot, and the most common type of shotgun ammunition used for hunting and self-defense both. Buckshot is a number of small pellets carefully packed into the shell. Can vary in size as with bird shot, though the most common buckshot shell is for the 12 gauge shotgun, 00 size, which fires 9 pellets, though the size of each pellet can be reduced such that you can fit almost 30 buckshot pellets in before the category swaps to birdshot. Very popular for self defense for its reliability, lethality, simplicity, and reduced inclination to go through walls relative to a rifle or pistol round.
Dragons Breath: Shotgun shell loaded with a magnesium alloy that produces a massive blast of short lived but extremely hot fire. Capable of setting targets on fire, but very low on penetrating power. Low pressure rounds not suitable for use in semi-automatic or automatic shotguns, as they will not cycle properly.
Flares: You can actually shoot a functioning round that functions as a flare from a shotgun, though the range is limited to 200 to 300 feet. Typically used with shorter barrels, as they otherwise expend too much energy in the barrel. Very quiet relative to normal firearm use when fired, and not recognizable as a firearm. Low pressure rounds not suitable for use in semi-automatic or automatic shotguns, as they will not cycle properly.
Flash Thunder Grenade: These exotic shotgun rounds create a deafeningly loud (up to 180 decibels) bang and a blindingly bright flash. Low pressure rounds not suitable for use in semi-automatic or automatic shotguns, as they will not cycle properly.
Flechette Sabots: Flechette Sabot rounds contain between ten and twenty metal pins in a jacket accurate to approximately 20 yards. High penetration power, but very small wound channels mean they are almost certainly fatal when delivered to the chest, but may take a very long time for the injured party to die.
Rock Salt: Non-lethal round unlikely to break the skin at ranges greater than 20ft, and nominally only effective at less than 10 feet of actually causing harm. Low pressure rounds not suitable for use in semi-automatic or automatic shotguns, as they will not cycle properly.
Rubber Bullets: As used in shotguns, rubber bullets are typically rubber (or more often in recent years plastic) buckshot with a low pressure loadout designed as a nonlethal alternative and (particularly) for crowd control. Originally used in the 1970s against rioters in Northern Ireland, they’ve since spread to the United States and worldwide. Intended use is not shooting at individuals, which can still readily cause death or severe injury, but instead shooting at the ground in front of them to cause rounds to ‘bounce’ into rioters. Low pressure rounds not suitable for use in semi-automatic or automatic shotguns, as they will not cycle properly.
Slug: As it sounds, a shotgun slug is a single large hunk of metal that is absolutely devastating to anything it hits. Equivalent in size on a 12-gauge shotgun to a .73 caliber rifle (that’s almost half again as large as a .50 machine gun), at ranges up to 100 yards this is a show stopping weapon capable of dropping even big game.
Tear Gas Rounds: Specialized low pressure round used by corrections officials and some riot control police where tear gas grenades are not available, practicable, or usable, tear gas, OC, or pepper rounds for shotguns create 10-20ft. clouds of choking and blinding smoke or powder that mimic the effects of the afore mentioned substances.
Shotguns are simple to operate, highly reliable, cheap weapons renown for their power. Smooth bore weapons (that is to say that the barrel is literally smooth, without the grooves cut inside the barrel seen on rifles and pistols which cause bullets to spin and increase accuracy), shotguns are often (inaccurately) described as weapons that simple require they be pointed in the right direction because of ‘spread’, the tendency of buckshot (see below) to hit a wider area when fired, in truth the spread on the average legal shotgun is no more than 3 feet even at distances of 100 yards, though sawed off shotguns (those with greatly shortened, often illegal) barrels can achieve greater spread even at short distance (such weapons are usually categorized as Weapons of Mass Destruction under criminal codes). Feature an array of loading mechanisms that are usually used to define specific types of shotguns, including breech loading, single / double barrel (break action), pump action, semi-automatic, or auto-feeding fully automatic. Often used in close quarters and for home defense for their sheer power, especially when equipped with shorter barrels.
AA-12: Unusually shapped fully automatic 12 gauge shotgun with mild recoil capable of firing 300 rounds a minute. Fed by a box magazine or a drum, rather than the more common tube of most shotguns. In production in limited quantities since 1972, the weapon has never quite caught on and is quite rare, but was a precursor to many other automatic shotguns.
Benelli M4: Italian made semi-automatic (no action required to cycle a new round into the chamber) 12 gauge shotgun still in production with room for 5+1 or 7+1 (military) rounds and a collapsible stock for easier storage, carrying, or use in extremely close quarters. Highly reliable and relatively light, the weapon is used by the Marine Corps as their standard issue shotgun under the designation M1014.
Capable of extremely rapid fire in the hands of a skilled user (8 rounds in 1-2 seconds), the weapon is beloved by Marines in close quarters and acquired a fantastic reputation during its use in the Iraq War, particularly in house to house, block to block fighting in Fallujah. Readily configurable with an array of rail attachments, including laser sights, flashlights, and strobes.
Colt Defender Eight barreled (you read that right) 20 gauge shotgun designed to be used at close range, the Defender was marketed to police departments in the 1960s but never caught on or saw wide production. Short and stubby, the weapon is extremely simple in function and production, though it is relatively inaccurate given the offset barrels. Ideal for close or point blank range in urban or indoor environments. A few prototypes were created in 12 gauge as well, though they were deemed too difficult to control. Some later models were produced with a tear gas grenade launcher nested between the barrels.
Fanchi SPAS-12: Italian made 12-guage dual-mode shotgun that allows for either pump action or semi-automatic operation. 5-8+1 rounds available. Highly recognizable due to its many features in movies, TV shows, and video games, the weapon’s distinctive folding stock is more well known than it’s dual function (most assume it’s a pump action shotgun). In fact, the weapon is primarily used as a semi-automatic auto-feeder that offers pump action primarily so it can be used with less than lethal options such as bean bag rounds, tear gas rounds, or other specialized low pressure shot types. In production from the late 1970s until the early 2000s, tens of thousands were exported. Banned by the Assault Weapons Ban through the late 1990s due to, among other things, it’s pistol grip existing weapons are highly prized, especially by those that often make use of non-lethal options.
Kel-Tec KSG: Unusual 12 gauge pump action shotgun that feeds from two separate tube magazines, allowing it to store up to 14+1 rounds at a time. Very short length and designed with a pistol grip explicitly for tactical circumstances. Unusual and expensive weapon advertised as “as compact as legally possible.”
Mossberg 500: Pump action 12 gauge shotgun with 5-8+ 1 rounds per magazine used by many police forces as well as the US Army.
Remington Model 870: Pump action 12 gauge shotgun with 4-10(+1) round storage. Often moutned with flashlights and highly customizable. In production for more than 65 years, literally tens of millions of Remington 870s have been produced. Popular in police forces and with federal agencies, seeing use by the Los Angeles Police Department, New Orleans Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, and US military.
Stoeger Coach Gun: Model double barrel shotgun (a design that dates to the 1870s and has seen little revision), the Stoeger is a break action 12 gauge firearm typical of many similar weapons. Approximately 3 feet long. Extremely simple to operate and load.
Winchester Liberator Low cost, easy to produce, easy to operate molded iron firearm designed in the 1960s for insurgents and other revolutionaries. 20 gauge four barreled shotgun capable of rapidly unleashing a great deal of fire at close range, but not accurate at range (or even particularly accurate at close range) and slow to reload. Essentially a quad-barreled shotgun with a break action reload. Designed to be used with virtually no training and to be produced extremely cheaply.
High powered semi-automatic rifles, typically fitted with powerful scopes, hunting rifles are typically used for big game hunting, but their relatively high power makes them far more lethal to human beings than most ‘assault’ rifles or pistols, and they are in function difficult to distinguish from many ‘sniper’ rifles. Typically single shot, clip fed, or fed from magazines of less than 10 rounds. Capable of easily punching through most conventional body armor.
.577 Nitro Express: Round that dates to the turn of the century typically used in elephant hunting in Africa, the .577 Ntrio Express is a 3 inch round typically fired out of custom built single shot or double shot break breach rifles, very similar in function to a shotgun (though without the smooth bore). Each weapon that fires this unique, and thus there is no established brand, though Holland & Holland, a prominent private British firearm manufacturing company is well known for producing high quality rifles, while Ruger is known for producing more commercial and affordable weapons.
Holland & Holland .700 Nitro Express: One of the most powerful rifles in the world in the tradition of turn of the century elephant guns, the .700 Nitro Express fires the cartridge that shares its namesake out of a single or double barreled custom British made rifle. Capable of readily dropping elephants and other huge game, the effects of such a round on a human being would be truly unholy. Price for such custom rifles is in excess of $10,000, and each round runs over $100 and is more than 3.5 inches long. Designed in the late 1980s, with one double barreled rifle selling for over $250,000 to a collector.
Remington Model 700: One of the most successful rifles ever made, the Model 700 Remington is a bolt action rifle fed by a 5 round internal magazine that typically fires a powerful .308 Win round and has been in production more than 50 years. So popular it was adopted by many police forces and some military units as the M24 Sniper Rifle, the weapon is accurate, reliable, and trusted by game hunters.
Winchester Model 70: Bolt action internally fed hunting rifle that has seen use for almost a century, the Model 70 is among the most popular hunting rifles ever produced. Chambered in almost every conceivable rifle cartridge, but is best known in .270 Winchester, 30-06, and .308. Popular deer hunting rifle with 3-5 internal round capacity. Sometimes used as a sniper rifle by police units.
Anti-Personnel / Material Rifles
Category of rifles outside of hunting rifles intended specifically for military use. Often designed for extremely long range shooting and work as anti-vehicle weapons, just as often military ‘sniper’ rifles are simply adopted hunting rifles. In the hands of skilled shooters the very best of these rifles are capable of making shots in excess of a mile, but they tend to be relatively temperamental or fragile.
Barrett M82A1 .50: Infamous rifle that fires a 50 caliber rifle round intended for use against unarmored or lightly armored vehicles, particularly as a plane, radar vehicle and truck killing weapon, the effects of this weapon on human beings are indescribable. Capable of shooting through car doors, cinder block walls, and multiple human targets at once. Not actually especially ideal for very long range target shooting, because the heavy round loses its velocity relatively quickly and has a tendency to get knocked off target (by enough) by the supersonic shockwave created by its firing on long distance shots. Typically fired from a prone position. Extremely heavy (30+lbs) and expensive. Typically fed by 10 round box magazines. In production for nearly 40 years the weapon is still highly functional but is beginning to show its age relative to more modern weapons using more specialized and highly developed rounds.
Boys Anti-Tank Rifle: World War II era precursor to the Barrett M82A1, the Boys Anti-tank Rifle is a massive over 5ft. long weapon used against light armor and vehicles in the early days of World War II by the British Army. Firing a specialized .55 caliber round (the Kynoch & RG .55 Boys) that is heavier and wider, but shorter than the modern .50 caliber round, the standard Boys round is capable of penetrating almost an inch of armor at distances up to 300 feet. A more advanced armor piercing round made out of Tungsten was tested late in the war but never used or mass produced due to the vastly increased armor of German Tanks by that period, though in testing it was capable of reliably penetrating nearly an inch and a half of armor. Fed by detachable 5 round magazines the size and recoil of the weapon means it is almost always fired from a stationary position.
Dragunov: Soviet Bloc rifle mass produced going back to the 1960s, the Dragunov is one of the most produced marksmen rifles in existence. Intended for use at ranges of under 500 yards, the rifle uses 7.62×54mm round that was originally used in the Mosin-Nagant rifle and is a semi-automatic rifle that typically fires from 10 round box magazines. Capable of fire from standing or kneeling positions, the rifle’s doctrinal use was as a support rifle for infantry advances, and as such it is designed to relatively mobile, weighing only 9.5lbs. Still in production and use today it is not particularly powerful but is more than adequate as an anti-personnel weapon.
CheyTac Intervention: Advanced rifle produced in the 2000s, the Intervention fires a custom .408 CheyTac cartridge specifically designed for long range shooting specifically intended for effective shooting at ranges in excess of 1 mile. Not as powerful as the .50 BMG used in the Barrett, the round is considered to be much more effective than the .50 at long ranges because its flight path is not negative affected by the sonic boom ‘catching’ the round as occurs with the Barrett. Uses a 7 round detachable box magazine. 30lb rifle typically used from a prone position.
M14 Rifle: Standard issue weapon to the US Army in the early 1960s, the selective fire automatic or semi-automatic M14 rifle is still in use today as a designated marksman weapon. More powerful than the M16 or M4, the M14 fires a 7.62.51mm round with significantly greater round than the 5.56mm modern NATO standard, and as such has seen significant reissue in Afghanistan, where combat occurring at over 300 yards has become more common. Highly mobile, it’s particularly useful as a moderate range marksman weapon in urban environments where more powerful or longer ranged but less mobile weapons such as the Barrett or bolt action rifles are less appropriate. Fed by a 20 round detachable box magazine. Also used in many ceremonial uses, by honor guards, color guards, and drill teams, as well as by the US Navy to shoot lines between ships. Basis for many other rifle systems, including the M21.
Assault Rifles (Semi-Auto)
Knock-offs of true military-grade hardware, most civilian ‘assault weapons’ share most of the qualities of their military counterparts with one important exception: they are not capable of automatic (burst) fire, and instead function in principle much as most hunting rifles: each squeeze of the trigger fires a single round. Akin to civilian-brand sub-guns in that regard, though arguably more valuable as rifles have greater accuracy at range and often more power, such weapons are popular among paramilitary and militia groups, as well as former military members who are familiar with the shape and firing characteristics of their military clones. Contrary to popular belief, the 1990s era Assault Weapons Ban only prohibited the creation of new such weapons, and millions remained in circulation even during the ban’s ten-year duration. Millions more have been produced since the ban expired, despite efforts in states like California, New Jersey, Colorado, and New York to limit additional production. Rarely used in criminal cases (less than 3% of all shootings are done with any kind of rifle, much less assault weapons) and almost universally less powerful by a large margin than traditional hunting rifles.
AK-47– A huge number of ‘knock off’ semi-automatic versions of the AK-47 exist, and in practice many of these weapons are largely identical. Fires the 7.62mm cartridge, typically from 20 or 30 round magazines.
AR-15: The knockoff of the M16, the AR-15 is a semi-automatic firearm that by default fires the 5.56mm round from a 30 round magazine and is produced by nearly every major American firearm manufacturer under their own brand name. Not well known for power, but typically well regarded for its accuracy and the easy of (and sheer number of) attachments available, including laser sights, extended magazines, scopes, and so forth.
Beretta Cx4 Storm Semi-automatic civilian rifle produced by Italian firearm manufacturer Beretta that (unusually) fires the 9mm pistol round, and actually accepts the same magazines as the Beretta 92 pistol. Not particularly powerful or attachment friendly, but marketed as allowing individuals to carry only one type of magazine for both pistols and rifles. Also makes use of 30 round magazines. Clone of the fully automatic Beretta Mx4 Storm. Lesser produced variants available in .40 and.45 ACP.
Bushmaster XM-15: Standard issue rifle in the New Orleans Police Department, the Bushmaster XM-15 is an AR-15 apttern semi-automatic rifle with 30 round magazines chambered in 5.56mm, a smaller and less powerful round than the 7.62 round used in the AK-47, but also a round known for its tumbling on impact and high accuracy. Weapon of choice at Sandy Hook attack as well as the 2002 DC Sniper attacks.
CMMG MKW-15 The CMMG MKW-15 is a standard pattern AR-15, built with heavier grade materials to resist the higher pressures of its powerful round. A semi-automatic firearm developed by CMMG around the heavy .458 SOCOM round it’s visually distinguishable for a standard AR-15 frame only to a very practiced eye, and even then at close inspection. The .458 SOCOM round, developed after US military intervention in Somalia in response to claims that the AR-15/M16’s 5.56mm round lacked the power to reliably stop attackers with single shots, is built around the same case as the .50 Action Express used in the Desert Eagle and is seven times larger than the 5.56mm. The massive, heavy, fast moving bullet’s power in modern rifles is almost unmatched, though it’s relative rarity makes it expensive, recoil makes it unpractical for automatic fire, and size means most box magazines only hold between ten and eleven rounds. Most commonly found on high profile, high accuracy shooters, including experienced special operations individuals.
Assault Rifles (Automatic)
Fully automatic rifles (assault rifles) are typically military-grade hardware not available in the United States, even with special permits. Typically fired in 1-2 second bursts of 5-10 rounds, they tend to be relatively difficult to control and are not ideal weapons for a novice shooter. Many have selectors for automatic, burst, and semiautomatic fire. Assault rifles are ideal multi-purpose weapons at anything other than close quarters, possessing both rate of fire, accuracy at distance, and power. Typically effective at ranges up to 300 yards.
Adaptive Combat Rifle (ACR): Designed by up and coming Magpul Industries (based out of Texas), the Adaptive Combat Rifle is produced by Bushmaster and has seen an array of problems under the production of Bushmaster. Intended as a replacement for the AR-15/M16 Platform, the weapon fires the same 5.56×45mm round as the M16 or AR-15 out of a 30 round magazine. Designed to be readily capable of interchanging various parts for individual users, outside of the military additional parts have been slow in reaching the civilian market. More reliable than the M16A4 or M4, the rifle has seen some success with those who want a less temperamental weapon, but is not particularly well loved and is regarded by many as over priced.
AK-47: The ubiquitous firearm of choice for the former Soviet Bloc, freedom fighters, and third world tyrants the world over. Astonishingly simple and easy to use for even relative novices, the AK-47 has developed an unrivaled reputation for reliability and stopping power with its 7.62mm round and rugged construction. Typically fed by 30 round box magazines the weapon will shoot when dirty, when uncleaned for years, when covered in mud and when wet. Short of obstructions to the barrel itself, it simply functions.
AK-74: The replacement for the AK-47 designed in the 70s, the AK-74 boasts better accuracy and lighter weight, but trades that for a much smaller cartridge (5.45×39mm) designed to tumble. Model S (AK-74S) features a fold-able stock that can make the AK-74 more effective in close quarters. 20 or 30 round box magazines.
Beretta Mx4 Storm Fully automatic military rifle produced by Italian firearm manufacturer Beretta that fires the 9mm pistol round. Occasionally classified as a sub-gun because of its small caliber, the Storm is billed as a rifle despite its relative lack of power and range. Can make use of the same magazines as the Beretta 92 pistol, but also shipped with a 30 round magazine.
M16A4: Standard issue assault rifle to the US army for decades, the M16 initially had a reputation as a temperamental and unreliable weapon without a great deal of stopping power. In truth it functions best under controlled circumstances rather than in the field, and does love being ‘treated well’, but quite accurate when properly cared for. Equipped with automatic, semi-automatic, and 3 round burst selector for fire mods, typically the weapon is only fired on semi-automatic or burst to conserve ammunition and improve control, and some have even been modified to remove the automatic option. Fires the 5.56mm NATO standard round, in the modern era utilizing a 30 round magazine. Frequently slung with a grenade launcher underneath the weapon.
M4: Essentially a shorter, lighter, version of the M16 chambered in 5.56mm. Regularly customized with a forward mounted grip, the weapon is much beloved relative to the M16, though it is difficult to distinguish from an M16 for the uninitiated. 30 round box magazines. Relatively unreliable relative to more rugged weapons, the M-4 is a high performance weapon when clean and well maintained but has a reputation for malfunctions when abused. Sliding shoulder stock that makes it more comfortable for many shooters relative to the more bulky M16.
SR-47: Highly covert weapon produced by Knight’s Armament Company, the SR-47 is essentially a high performance AR-15 that fires the 7.62×39mm AK-47 round and which as a near universal receiver that fits almost any AK-47 magazine. Designed for Special Operations, the weapon is only fielded to elite special forces: officially only 7 rifles have been produced, though it’s universally acknowledged that many more exist.
StG 44: Sturmgewehr 44, or simply the Assault Rifle 44, the StG 44 was arguably the first true assault rifle ever produced. Developed towards the end of World War II in Nazi Germany, the weapon was likely the most successful individual weapon on a pound for pound basis of the war. Firing the 7.92×33mm cartridge from a 30 round magazine, the weapon was both controllable, powerful, and accurate, though it was never introduced in numbers sufficient to turn the tide of the war. Particularly hated by the allies where encountered, the weapons are thought to have been a major inspiration in the development of the AK-47, and have been hailed by some as the most important advancement in firearms since the development of smokeless powder.
Light Machine Guns (Automatic)
Highly illegal in the United States, except in rare older weapons that are grandfathered in prior to the Federal Firearms Act and subsequent legislation, Light machine guns are the highest-end weapons normally employed by an individual soldier. They are heavy, often beltlfed firearms that are best fired from a fixed position and (typically) prone and often deployed one to a squad in the army or marines as suppression weapons. These weapons are almost never seen in civilian hands, and are even more rarely seen in criminal cases. Also rarely seen in police hands.
M60 Machine Gun: The “Rambo” gun, the M60 is a monster 20lb hunk of steel that spits out 7.62×51 mm rounds also used in marksman rifles at 500-600 rounds per minute. Typically belt fed from belts of 100 rounds, the weapon was developed in the 1950s and still sees use today in the US Army. Typically fired from a prone or mounted position, the M60 can be used from a standing position by a skilled user (though it is not fired from the hip, contrary to what Hollywood might have you believe).
M249 Light Machine Gun: Also known as the Squad Automatic Weapon (or SAW), the M249 is a nearly 20lb belt fed weapon in use with the US Army for more than 40 years. Fires the same 5.56 round as the M16, and can even accept M16 magazine in a pinch, though with its maximum rate of fire at over 800 round per minute, it blows through them in seconds. Typically fed by 200 round belts of ammunition and fired in bursts.
There are as many different ways to modify a weapon as one can imagine. Everything from modified triggers for less or more pressure or double or single action, to extended or shortened barrels, to different and collapsible stocks, to different barrels in different calibers, to specialized attachments exist in mass, and a skilled gun smith can virtually transform one weapon into an entirely new creation. Attachments are perhaps the most common change, especially on pistols, sub guns, and rifles and include flashlights, sights, red sot sights, ACOG sights, laser illuminators, strobe lights, extended magazines, extended grips, grenade launchers or clip on shotguns (for rifles), and suppressors (sometimes inaccurately called silencers). Such modifications and attachments are far more popular for gun enthusiasts than for most criminals.
Flashlights Seemingly mundane, most modern tactical flashlights (typically mounted under pistol barrels, on sub-guns, or on assault style rifles), are a grade above conventional flashlights, both in brightness and overall intensity. They are intended not only to illuminate at distance, but to disorient, blind, or cause those they are pointed at to look away, especially in small tactical scenarios such as in small buildings. Variable battery life, though often much shorter than others given their extreme brightness. Nominally with under-slung toggle switches, often including a strobe feature to further disorient or blind an attacker in close quarters.