A correspondent recently emailed me links to a couple of YouTube videos from a firm
that trains people in the use of modern weaponry, with the suggestion that it might be more relevant to the discussion of how a stateless society could defend against states than the example of paintball that I offer in a chapter
in the new edition of The Machinery of Freedom
. The first video
included a discussion of a technical point new to me, the distinction between open bolt and closed bolt firearms.
After the video finished, I went downstairs to tell my younger son about it. Bill is unlikely to ever have any use for an open bolt, or even a closed bolt, firearm. He is, however, a would-be novelist, I think likely to be a good one, and almost any information is potentially useful in that profession—which is the point of the title of this post.
For instance ...
Most modern firearms are closed bolt. When the gun is ready to be fired the bolt is closed, holding the cartridge firmly in place. Pulling the trigger releases the firing pin, which strikes the primer, which fires the gun.
In the less common open bolt design, the firing pin is a fixed part of the bolt, not a piece free to move within it. When the gun is ready to fire, the bolt is open, pulled back. Pulling the trigger releases the bolt, which slides forward, closing the breach and driving the firing pin into the primer.
That works fine, provided you are standing still. But with the bolt open, there is nothing holding the cartridge in place. If you are running around with the weapon ready to fire—not a problem with the closed bolt weapons you are used to—the cartridge can come loose, either falling out entirely or jamming the mechanism that is supposed to fire it.
That is what happens in the video to a trainee using a weapon new to him. It could happen easily enough to a fictional character, providing both one more way in which the author can complicate the action and a nice technical detail to help the author pretend to know what he's talking about.
Which is why I thought my son would be interested.