Top 7 Firearm Myths & Misconceptions

The firearms world is full of myths, legends, fudd lore, and fairy tales.

Some of it is based on half truths, some of it is just made up. This is a small collection of some of crap that you might hear, or might believe yourself, that is purely and totally fake. 

fake news baldwin
MFW I read some more fuddy BS

I’ve come across some in history books, some in my time as a Marine, and others from the greater gun culture. 

But today — we’re dispelling them!

Firearm Fairy Tales

1. The Shotgun Net of Death 

I love shotguns, and the shotgun net of death is a firearm fairytale that personally offends me. The reason being is that as a myth its caused a massive counteraction by firearms myth busters.

This created a sub myth that the shotgun doesn’t have any spread at close range. 

Tavor Shotgun shooting!
Tavor Shotgun shooting!

The original myth comes mostly from movies. The idea is that you point a shotgun in the general direction of the bad guy and let loose.

Your single round of buckshot will surely destroy whatever is in front of you. No aiming required. 

Open Range, Shotgun
Blackpowder driven buckshot throwing a man back 5+ feet… NO!

The follow up to the myth that shotguns have no spread has people defending their home with birdshot because, “At close range, it’s basically a slug.” 

John Woo Wand of Death
John Woo Wand of Death

The truth is, of course, somewhere in the middle. The shotgun doesn’t fire a net of death.

Heck, even the old myth of 1 inch per yard is no longer accurate. With modern chokes and different loads, there is no standard way to calculate the spread between different loads. 

Choke ranges chart
VERY rough guide to chokes.

When it comes to shooting, you don’t have to fine-tune your aiming to be effective.

With a handgun, you shoot at the heart and lungs to be effective. With a shotgun in a pinch, you can just aim at the torso and still have a very reasonable chance to stop the threat. 

Shotgun loads like the Federal Flight Control 00 buck sticks together quite closely due to its eight pellet design and excellent shot cup.

ks7 fc
Kel-Tec KS7 shooting Federal Flight Control 00 Buckshot at 15-yards

You won’t get that same pattern in Olin Military-grade buckshot, but you still won’t get a net of death. 

At 10 yards the pattern will be close enough in most guns to stay inside a man-sized torso or even a face shot. It’ll mostly stay in the A zone of an IDPA style target.

Shotguns are still awesome weapons, and immensely powerful, and the little spread it has makes it an excellent choice for close quarter’s use. 

Benelli M4 (10)
The Benelli M4, hell ya

It’s no net of death, but it’s an effective fight stopper. 

2. The Legend of the Undetectable Gun

“That punk pulled a Glock 7 on me, you know what that is? It’s a porcelain gun made in Germany. It doesn’t show up on your airport metal detectors and probably costs more than what you make in a month.”

With that one quote, Die Hard created a myth about Glock pistols that’s still worth mocking today.

The Glock was not made from porcelain but did feature a polymer frame that was somewhat new for the time.

However, the slide, spring in the magazine, barrel, and most of the frame parts were metal. 

PPTG19ten
Glock Gen 5, still not made of porcelain.

Oh, so is the ammunition. There is no undetectable gun, and as far as I know, there never has been.

However, the United States still passed a law prohibiting undetectable firearms. Well, metal-free guns. 

government help
Good thing we solved that whole “ghost gun” problem back in *checks notes* 1988?!

The TSA seems to miss guns all the time, so undetectable is more or less relative. There was a significant uptick in the undetectable guns fairytale when the Liberator premiered as a 3D printable gun. 

These people ignored the need for metal parts and metal ammunition, but hey what do I know. 

429 DE Ammo (1)
(left to right) .45 ACP | .429 DE Soft Nose | .429 DE HP | 9mm

3. Revolvers are Inherently More Reliable 

I’ve had to return or had to have seven guns fixed by the manufacturer.

Five of those were revolvers, one was a semi-auto pistol, and the other was a semi-auto rifle. To me, this thoroughly debunked the idea that revolvers are inherently more reliable. 

Python head to head
A pair of Colt Pythons. (From the collection of Diane Walls). They might look pretty, but they are complex inside!

My numerous broken revolvers included free-spinning cylinders, broke cylinder locks, guns that wouldn’t cock into the single-action mode, stuck cylinder releases, and one K frame that would only fire in single action.

When revolvers fail, they fail big. 

Sure they may not jam, but neither does my Glock, CZs, Walthers, or any other quality handgun. Revolvers are more straightforward and easier to fix when it comes to a failure to fire. 

CZ SP-01
CZ SP-01, reliable!

They aren’t more reliable than quality semi-autos. When a revolver malfunctions, it malfunctions big.

In situations where your revolver encounters a hang fire, you can absolutely destroy a revolver.

Is timing off? 

Well great now your gun might be eating small arts of your projectile.

C and Rsenal revolver action
Amazing look at how a double-action revolver works (image: C&RSenal)

Fixing a revolver at home is nearly impossible, and unlike an automatic, you can’t simply toss in a replacement part. 

Most automatics are relatively easy to fix as long as your frame is still intact. Don’t assume all revolvers are bad but don’t buy one because you think they are more reliable. 

Buy one because you’re a hipster like the rest of us. 

Cobray M11 shooting from the hip
If you want a gun that is reliable, don’t get a Cobray M11. If you want to look like a badass, get a Cobray M11

4. The AR 15 Monopod Magazine Myth 

I first learned this in the Marine Corps during my yearly rifle qualification. Someone asked why they couldn’t rest their rifle on the ground on their magazine.

The Primary Marksmanship Instructor informed us that using the magazine as a monopod would cause it to fail. 

USMC M16a4 with m203
USMC M16A4 with M203

This might have been true decades ago, but magazines have come a very long way since then. Any well-made magazine will no issues being used as a monopod.

There is even a base plate that replaces the stock plate with a set of ‘feet’ that turn your magazine into a very effective monopod. 

MagPod-at-Gunmag-Warehouse
Magpul MagPod (image, GunMag Warehouse)

I’ve confirmed this myself, quite a few times. A magazine can be used as a monopod, but it’s not exactly a great monopod.

The addition of the Magazine Monopod certainly makes it a much better technique to use. 

22
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

You can rest the magazine on the ground or any form of cover, and it will function in your rifle without any kind of issue.

I’ve tried it with P-Mags, Lancers, Daniel Defense magazines, and Okay industries aluminum magazines. They all function flawlessly when used as an improvised monopod. 

5. The Shockwave from a 50 BMG Can Kill! 

I remember sitting criss-cross in Boot Camp, listening to my Senior Drill Instructor tell us all sorts of lore. Eventually, somehow we got onto the .50 caliber machine gun known as the M2.

My SDI proclaimed that the shockwave from a 50 caliber round could kill someone. 

shockwave
What people who have never fired .50 BMG think .50 BMG does when it hits

If the bullet just barely missed it could take a man’s arm off! I believed it, well because the Marine Corps is pretty good at making 18-year-olds believe such foolishness.

I didn’t know my SDI was a Pog who never deployed much less ever shot a 50 cal at anyone. My Machine gun instructor at the School of Infantry quickly corrected this. 

Ya’ Boy with an ACOG equipped M249 Helmand Province Afg 2009
Ya’ Boy with an ACOG equipped M249 Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2009

The myth is utterly ridiculous and how it’s become so mainstream is difficult for me to understand. It leaked out of the military and entered the collective gun consciousness.

A video of a deer “dying” from a 50 cal “miss” certainly didn’t help dispel the myth. 

Thomas
MFW I watched that stupid video.

Of course, this was more likely to be a headshot that entered one eye and left the other. Sure the .50 BMG has a small shockwave, but let’s be real the .50 BMG is big for a bullet but not big compared to nearly anything else in the world. 

Insert that Dr. Who meme about numbers and relativity. 

Hangover Math Gif
Zach Galifianakis as the next Doctor? Yes? No? Comment below!

Jets can create a shockwave powerful enough to break glass, but not powerful enough to rip a person to pieces. 

To full debunk this firearm’s fairytale we go to Demolition Ranch. Matt put the 50 BMG round against a house of cards, some stacked solo cups and they don’t even fall.

This fairy tale is just one of many that have originated from the military. 

Another that originated from the military is one I like to call: 

6. How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Ping

Have you ever shot an M1 Garand? If not, you should try it. At least just once. 

If you haven’t shot one, you are likely familiar with the PING. PING is the noise the gun makes after the last round is fired and the En Bloc clip ejects itself.

That ping has to lead many to believe a popular firearm fairytale from WW2 and Korea. 

The legend has two parts. First, we have the tale of enemy soldiers hearing the ping and knowing that the soldier was now empty.

The baddies would then rush the brave American GI and take him out. 

banzai charge

The second is that GIs learned this and would purposely carry empty En Bloc clips. They could squeeze the clips and then release them to create the ping.

Enemy soldiers would then rush into an onslaught of American semi-automatic superiority. 

Band of brothers m1

Here is the thing. Anyone who’ve ever been in a firefight knows that hearing anything is pretty difficult. Guns are loud, so are grenades, artillery, planes, and everything else that if often on the battlefield.

Hearing an individual ping is going to be near impossible. 

The ping isn’t loud enough to be heard over the gunfire. Also rushing a solider or exposing yourself from cover even if you hear the ping sets you up to get shot in the face.

MG42 WWII
Good luck hearing a single rifle’s PING over the noise of an MG42!

Additionally, even if you hear the ping, how would you isolate it to one solider, target that soldier and shoot them before they reload or get behind cover? 

Plus soldiers don’t fight alone. Just because one guy with an M1 Garand is out of ammo doesn’t mean that all his buddies with their M1s, Tommy guns, 1919s, 1911s, M3, etc. are out of ammo.

It’s a fun one, and it even seems possible that it could be true, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. 

Bloke at the Range made an excellent video on this very subject. 

7. Winter is Coming with the M1 Carbine 

Speaking of M1s, let’s do one of my favorite Firearm’s Fairytales. Not to save the best for last, but I won’t bring one out that combines fudd lore, fantasy, and a military myth.

This final Firearms Fairytale revolves around the M1 and M2 carbines, thick winter jackets, and inaccuracy. 

The AO M1 Carbine is easy to carry due to its lightweight.
Modern M1 Carbine from Auto Ordnance

The M1 Carbine is one of my favorite firearms. It’s such a fun gun and its chamber in the unique .30 Carbine cartridge. The .30 carbine is a handy little cartridge that’s pretty powerful.

It sits between a pistol and rifle round. 

It proved its worth in WW2 and later Korea. However, in the latter, it became a little less beloved. It had a few issues relating to Cold Weather reliability for sure.

However, this wasn’t the only issue related to the .30 Carbine and the cold. 

Reportedly the M1/M2 Carbine failed to penetrate the thick and likely frozen over jackets worn by the Korean and Chinese soldiers.

Feeding polar bears from a tank, 1950
Group of Soviet solders feeding polar bears from a tank, 1950. (image, RareHistoricalPhotos)

The jacket was a Soviet design and I’d reckon those fellas surely know a thing or two about cold weather and war. 

At the time when compared to the .30-06 fired from the M1 Garand, the 30 Carbine would appear to be anemic. In reality, the 30 Carbine was a hot little round when used within 200 yards.

(L to R) 5.56 NATO and .300 BLK compared to the .30 Carbine
(L to R) 5.56 NATO, .300 BLK, and .30 Carbine

The .30 Carbine is equivalent to a standard .357 magnum fired from a rifle. 

Really, the .30 Carbine has no problem punching through frozen winter jackets at the .30 Carbines effective range. 

So… why does this myth exist?

Well, it’s likely because soldiers were missing with entire magazines at 100 yards.

That’s not a slight at our Korean veterans. As a machine gunner, I lit off way more than 15 or 30 rounds in a firefight and hit nothing. 

mcgroober
Take it from a machine gunner, this isn’t how to use full auto.

People miss, they miss a lot in war. Especially when someone else is shooting at you while you’re shooting at them.

The Brothers Colt and Their Firearms Fairytales 

Firearms Fairytales, myths, and lore are quite present. These are the ones I’ve heard most often.

But there are dozens, even hundreds more. Some of them are strange and blatantly wrong, some are closer to the truth than you might think.

With that in mind, what firearm fairy tales have you heard? Let us know below! If you want some study material so might guard against firearm fairy tales, take a look at our Beginner’s Guide to Guns!

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