Updated: Jan 30, 2022
By Bob Deakin
I’m doing research the other day for a story that involves guns. There is plenty of info online but I want to see one up close so I find a pawn shop nearby and take a look.
Why do pawn shops always have guns? I didn’t see much else but I did see plenty of jewelry, guitars, sporting goods and odd collectibles. At least criminals are still stealing something besides cash, drugs and identities.
I’m suddenly stopped in my tracks, however, when the man behind the counter openly admits he knows nothing about guns.
What? Did I hear that correctly? A man admitted he knows nothing about guns? In Florida. In a pawn shop.
You can’t find a dude stranded on a piece of driftwood in the Pacific who doesn’t claim to be a gun expert.
“Excuse me sir,” I say to the stranded man. “I found this gun in the water but I'm not sure what it is. Do you know?”
“Are you kidding?” he rolls his eyes with contempt. “That’s a Glock Gen5 polymer-frame, short recoil, locked breech semi-automatic. The hammerless design reduces the likelihood of a snag on your clothes, but the key element is ease of operation, especially in high-stress situations.”
“That’s great,” I respond, impressed with the info. “Whose high-stress gunplay doesn't need improvement?”
That's a real conversation, as it goes with every man over 16 in the United States. Although male, I was born lacking the gene that instinctively makes me a weapons expert. It can be intimidating, but fortunately I make it through most days without a gun battle.
Research is key to any story, and with guns it’s even more important since there are so many experts ready to pounce on an error. Not the same with ballet or shoe repair.
The positive side is not lost on me. It’s good that 99 percent of guys are gun experts. An educated owner is a safe owner, yet no more patient with amateurs. I’ve sought out weapons experts more than a few times in my writing career and am always scoffed at for my lack of knowledge.
A few of my subjects - particularly law enforcement - have been astonished at my lack of knowledge. In fairness, I’ve had the same reaction researching women’s fashion, birdwatching (yeah, I know it’s ‘birding’) and psychology, including the Dunning-Kruger effect.
If you’re going to write a story, fiction or nonfiction, you better get your facts right. As soon as the reader recognizes a mistake, he or she is gone, and you’re irrelevant. You don’t have to be an expert, but you better do your homework and find people who know more than you.
On that note, this story isn’t going to write itself. I need to speak to an expert, particularly concerning automatic weapons and ammunition. There aren’t any other gun shops around so I’ll settle for the next best thing; anyplace that serves alcohol. Something tells me there’s a room full of experts waiting for me right now.