I have been a Marvel comics fan since I was a kid. When Hollywood brought my old comic book heroes to life on the big screen, I looked forward to it with great anticipation. When the first Thor installment hit the theaters I was excited to see it. All was going well and then Kat Dennings (Darcy) had to go and hit Chris Hemsworth (Thor) with a Taser. Out went the lights and the crew had to pick up the unconscious Thor and put him in the van. This is certainly not the only misuse/misunderstanding as to how the Taser device works, but it is one of the most famous.
Having gone through the official Taser Law Enforcement training course; I gave and received the 5-second ride, when I see such a blatantly stupid depiction of the Taser on screen it makes me want to fly out to Los Angeles and start tasing screenwriters. “Who cares?” you say. “It’s just a movie and everyone knows movies aren’t real.” Yes, you say that, but like it or not, movies are where a huge percentage of Americans get information that they equate with reality. Various women’s advocacy groups have called for the banning of the Taser and before it the “stun gun” claiming that they would be used as tools by rapists. Yes, having received their information and training from television, these ladies decided that the Taser and stun guns knock you unconscious, therefore they are somehow the preferred tool of rapists.
To give you the Reader’s Digest version or Cliff Notes about ECD (Electronic Control Devices), the Taser delivers an electrical pulse that interrupts the suspect’s nervous control system. The average police Taser delivers a 5 second pulse, the citizen version gives 15 seconds. The person being tased DOES NOT lose consciousness from what we call “the ride”. The old, black handheld “stun guns” are far less effective than an genuine Taser. The stun gun gives an painful electric shock (non-lethal) and it is a pain compliance tool. Once more, the blue sparks from a stun gun do not render you unconscious. This is the case, despite what you have seen on TV or in the movies.
Hollywood and Silencers
Whether through deliberate or negligent ignorance, Hollywood screenwriters, for the most part, seem to have absolutely no idea how the century old device that we call a “silencer” or a “suppressor” works. “Hang on, did you say century old?” Yes, Hiram Percy Maxim, the son of the famous machine gun inventor, designed and patented the “Silent Firearm”. The original patent application was filed in 1908 and granted in 1910. That, kids, is over 100 years ago.
Hiram Maxim understood that the noise produced by a firearm came from the gun powder instantly changing from a solid to a burning gas thanks to the introduction of a spark. The rapidly expanding gas pushes the bullet out in a fraction of a second and creates the noise of the gun shot. Maxim invented a tubular device that captured (temporarily), slowed, and cooled the hot expanding gas by using a series of baffles and chambers. Yes, that is the basic principle behind the automobile muffler.
It is impossible for a suppressor or silencer to trap and cool all of the gas, because there has to be a hole to allow the bullet to pass through. Therefore, some of the noisy gas always gets out. However, the silencer reduces that gas, thus making the noise less shocking and generally hearing-safe. Also, and this is where screenwriters go off the rails. When a bullet exceeds the speed of sound or goes “super-sonic”, as many hand gun and, essentially all, rifle bullets do, there is a definite super-sonic crack. A suppressor or silencer cannot stop that sound as it occurs as the bullet breaks free from the gun into the air.
Of course, there has been other rampant idiocy on television and in the movies where shooters place a revolver into a pillow and the shot magically becomes silent. When I was a young man, I can recall watching a TV show where an assassin shoved a large potato over the muzzle end of a rifle and then proceeded to shoot someone silently from a second story window. Yes, a Hollywood writer wrote that scene. If you ever want to cause a catastrophic barrel failure and blow your rifle up in your hands, just perform the potato trick.
Again, you say “Who cares?” Folks, self-deluded and deliberately ignorant politicians have attempted to outlaw firearm silencers and suppressors claiming that they make the gun “completely silent” and a preferred choice of criminals. Where do you supposed these politicians get such opinions?
Other honorable mentions in the Tactical Hollywood Errors category would be lasers on firearms. A laser aiming device provides a rapid confirmation to the person holding the gun that the muzzle is indexed on the target. The laser sight is not an absolute because is it mounted outside of the bore (the inside of the barrel). A laser sight on a handgun, rifle, shotgun, etc. is zeroed so that the red or green dot is point of aim, point of impact at a specific distance. Generally this is 25 to 50 yards. Outside of that specific distance the laser is only a close indicator. Lasers don’t guide the bullets to the target. You might laugh, but that is what people in Hollywood think or as least they write that way.
Additionally, unless you are shooting into fog or smoke, the entire beam of the laser is not visible to the shooter, only the dot as it reflects off of the target. The laser beam does not reflect off of normal air. A fifty yard long, red laser beam leading from the gun to the target is Hollywood trickery. I once overhead a man say, “What you need is a laser sight on your gun. It’s impossible to miss with a laser.” Where do you suppose that man came up with such an idea?