This article covers some basics about modern firearms – stuff available from the 1930s onward.
As always with Weapons Locker articles, we are interested in *fiction*. There’s an emphasis on comic books – but also on action movies and video games, since those media do the heavy lifting in shaping perception of firearms.
Though the lead writer does happen to have military training, we’re not here to discuss real-world firearms and their use. Furthermore, it is centred on American fiction, since this is the one that floods the world over – and feeds on conventions developed elsewhere, such as Hong Kong action movies of the 1990s.
This article is dual-statted for both DC Heroes 3rd Edition and Mutants & Masterminds 3rd edition. Neither of these systems is oriented toward fine-grained distinctions, and a set of stats can easily cover an entire category of weapons.
We’re not going to draw any distinctions between, say a 9x19mm and .40S&W round, because the game systems simply do not support it. People interested in finer distinctions are better-served by more details-oriented games (my favourite is GURPS 4th edition).
Return of the caveat
As noted above, and as heavily emphasised through the article, this text is about firearms as depicted in comics books, action movies and video games plus some related genres like pulp novels. This is all about fictional things. It’s not meant to cover anything like real world weapons, which behave differently, and makes no claim whatsoever about realism.
The article does provide some useful facts and figure about how these things work, but this is all intended for verisimilitude, not realism. When the common depiction fiction is very different from the real world we’ll mention it, but the goal is not explain how it works in real life.
The tone and content of the article are probably clear enough that this disclaimer isn’t necessary, but many people have a rigid stance on the subject. Better safe than sorry, heh ?
In most fictional worlds, all firearms accessories and ammunition can be used with any firearm – unless the group feels that a particularly combination is too hard on suspension of disbelief in the context of their current campaign.
Many accessories and ammunitions reference special rules — for instance Long Reload or Autofire in DCH, or Armour-Piercing or Shotgun Blast in DCA. See the New Rules File for DCA and the technical articles category for DCH.
There are many ways to modify firearms. Most are just a matter of comfort, looks, personal preferences, maintenance, etc.. Examples of this include blue steel finish, textured pistol grip, “tactical” vertical foregrip, funnelled magazine well, larger iron sights, barrel weight, etc. Others look like they should have an impact on game stats.
However, we will follow two further rules about firearms in fiction when it comes to this second category :
1/ Mine’s bigger
Many such accessories are only there to make the gun look bigger on the screen or page. For instance adding a never-used scope on a pistol (like Han Solo’s blaster), or even a silencer that doesn’t change the performance of the weapon in any way (such as Snake Plissken’s MAC-10 in Escape from New York).
The only impact of such accessories is visual and they can be completely disregarded for stats purposes.
Another common example is laser sights. Having laser beams all over the place looks cool, especially in comic books with modern colouring technology. But in most cases this is purely decorative and just intended to convey a high-tech, tacticool look-and-feel to the page.
2/ It’s not the weapon, it’s the wielder
The “it’s the man, not the weapon” rule. In almost all cases, thugs who brandish impressive weapons bristling with tactical this and tactical that will not hit the heroes anymore than thugs who brandish basic weapons do.
Likewise, even when the uber-gunman with a skull logo on his chest is down to his basic backup pistol with iron sights… Well, he hits his targets just as well as when using a customised, accurised speed-shooting piece with the latest red dot sight and match ammo.
Likewise, sniping scopes do not really provide a bonus. Mook snipers will probably miss just as well as a mook covering the hero at 20 paces with a pistol does.
In this school of thought, the modifiers are largely rolled into character Skills, Advantages, Schticks, Powers (with a Skill descriptor in DCA, or Skilled Powers in DCH), etc.. They’re not usually built into the equipment — unless the equipment clearly fills a function for everybody.
For instance a telescopic sight will allow everybody to reliably see further. But the existence of inept NPC snipers leads to the conclusion that they do not increase accuracy in themselves.
Standard mounting rails
Modern firearms use something called “weapons rails” or “Picatinny rails”. You can fit on those (often by just clipping) all sorts of tactical accessories that are compatible with the standard rail format.
Rails can be put on top of the receiver (usually to mount a sight), on top of the barrel, on the side of the barrel (usually to mount a flashlight), under the barrel (for a laser sight, a grenade launcher, a shotgun, a foregrip…)… In the simplified world of fiction, weapons rails mean that you can mount anything on anything for any reason… or for no reason.
Now for a picture… wait, Angelina says she has a suitable carbine in her truck, she’ll be right back… any moment now… OK, here goes :
See the ladder-like ridges on top of her weapon, from the back of the receiver all the way to the forward iron sight ? That’s a rail. You can see how the scope is mounted on it. Thanks Angelina, that was nice of you.
Extended magazines are, in fiction, available for any weapon fed by ammunition clips. Aftermarket accessories such as “+1” or “+2” magazines appeared early for such classic pistols as the Colt M1911A1. No, it’s not a bonus to the to hit and damage roll , it means 1 or 2 more bullets than the baseline magazine.
This is doubly true in comic books, where artists love drawing oversized magazines or – especially during the 1990s – guns that have multiple magazines. ”Cable guns” (named after a signature Marvel Comics character) routinely have 2, 3 or even 4 visible ammo clips !
DCH In DCU, the ammunition capacity of most clip-fed weapons can be extended as needed – doubling it is a common upper limit with fictional magazines.
M&M In DCA just ignore the matter.
Even repeater shotguns can have extended magazines nowadays. This is notable since, except for some magazine-fed shotguns like the SPAS15, repeater shotguns store their ammunition in a tube that runs under the barrel (like batteries in a long flashlight). The only way to have more ammunitions ready to fire is a longer gun.
Solutions such as XRAIL provide multiple tube magazines that can rotate into place when the previous tube is empty. This looks quite cinematic and makes shotguns look even bigger and more dangerous – plus it vaguely evokes rotating barrels and everybody loves those.
The fictional version would presumably be motorised and rotate at the touch of a button with a whirring noise, also allowing fictional shooters to select from different ammunitions (photo from tactical-life.com ).
For weapons firing bullets, the strongest visual signifier for an extended ammunition capacity is the drum magazine. The Thompson M1928 — or perhaps the Lüger Artillerie — is the gun that had the drum magazine enter popular imagination, though in the real world it was picky, heavy and noisy.
Illustrated below is a M4 replica with a double-drum magazine (and a vertical foregrip).
Another frequent signifier of an extended ammunition capacity is taping two magazines together, one pointing up and the other down. When one runs dry, grab the magazines, flip them upside down and insert the fresh one. This is usually called “jungle-taping”.
In real world, this is a bad idea. This will likely damage the magazines (and result in feeding problem) and it’s not that faster than properly carrying fresh mags on your load-bearing vest.
In fiction, however, it suggests a maverick and worldly fighter who fights all-out and full-auto. Here’s an example of jungle-taped magazines.
There exists a much more sensible approach than jungle taping, the magazine clamp. This is a device that safely holds multiple mags near the magazine well. Just like jungle-taping it’s more of a visual thing and makes no difference in-game.
The best known-example is the mags clamp on the SIG 552 series rifles. In the picture below, it is used by Angelina Jolie in the movie Salt. One magazine is feeding and the other three are ready to be inserted when the previous one runs dry. Thanks, Angelina, you were great.
Semi-automatic pistols can be quickly reloaded by ejecting the spent magazine, slamming in a new one and chambering the first round. Action heroes discard the empty clip, real people prefer to drop them in a convenient pocket for reuse.
However, revolvers are more involved. Models with modern swing-out ejector cylinders are much faster than their ancestors (such as revolvers with a loading gate), but you still need to swing out the cylinder (which will eject empties) and then put 5, 6 or 7 — depending on the revolver — rounds in their respective chambers, then snap the cylinder back in and ready your gun.
This is why the DCH stats for revolvers have Long Reload or worse. In DCA, having to perform a combat reload would be a Complication.
Gadgets exist to compensate for this. These are a circular base with the rounds pre-positioned on it, so they can all be inserted into the cylinder at once. Then press a button, turn a knob or whichever so the base will jettison the bullets.
The first good result that comes up on Google Images today is Mr. Stu Olson demonstrating reloading a S&W Airweight (a common, 5-rounds holdout revolver) with a Safariland speed-loader.
Using a Speedloader is almost as fast as using a removable box ammunition magazine (“clip”). However a loaded speedloader is nearly as big as your revolver’s cylinder – whereas the flat clips can easily be kept stored on a combat vest.
DCH Speedloaders in DCH remove the Reload Time Drawback.
Speedloaders also exist for shotguns, though they are less common. The problem for repeater shotguns is essentially the same. Turn the gun upside-down, then load shells one by one in the tube running below the barrel, then chamber the first (with a vigourous pumping if possible).
Shotgun speedloaders are essentially a tube (usually holding 4 rounds), a handle, and a trigger to eject the shells into the shotgun’s tube magazine. One is pictured below (though it’s not visually interesting).
It is accompanied by a picture of a person manually inserting a fresh shell into a Remington 870 shotgun, for people without any firearms experience who need to visualise how it goes.
As you can see, this person (Kris Kristofferson’s Abraham Whistler in Blade) has thoughtfully added a rack of shell-holders to the side, so shells are right next to the opening of the ammo tube.
Storing extra shells on the body of your shotgun facilitates reloading, and makes the weapon look even more intimidating. For instance Johnny Blaze’s shotgun in 1990s Marvel Comics stories stored extra shells held this way.
Here’s a shot of such a saddle shell holder – a Mesa Tactical carrier mounted on a Benelli M1 (photo from mesatactical.com ).
Holsters and slings are a complex subject. In the real world, they are important for guns users. However, in fiction, all the realities of concealed carry holsters, fast-draw holsters, retention holsters, number of sling attachment points, body armour-compatible holsters, etc. simply do not matter. Everybody carries what they need in an appropriate and efficient way.
One exception are mechanisms keeping a small pistol stored against the forearm — normally under a sleeve — and able to eject it right in the user’s hand. This is usually a sort of metallic brace around the forearm, with the trigger button on the inner side of the elbow.
The user hit their ribs with their elbow, and a small metallic bar bearing the gun spurts forward to deposit the gun in the user’s palm. This can be used with any concealable handgun.
DCH In DCH this is modelled by the Fast-Draw Schtick.
M&M In DCA this is the Fast Draw Advantage.
The best-known example of this was in the movie Taxi Driver. The same mechanism was used by Rally Vincent in Gunsmith Cats and by Lara Croft in Tomb Raider : Craddle of Life. In several John Woo movies the protagonist has a holdout pistol up his sleeve — usually a Walther PPK — presumably held by a similar system.
Ah, I think I can spot Angelina at the coffee machine, let’s see if she got two minutes… great. Here she’s using a sleeve ejector with a North American Arms mini-revolver that is essentially the same as the Black Widow derringer discussed in our Handguns Weapons Locker article.
Note how her gloved hand is positioned so that her thumb can rest on the hammer of her single action revolver. Thanks Angelina, coffee’s on me !
Iron sights are usually small metallic blades mounted atop a gun. There’s usually a set of two parallel ones near the shooter’s end, and a third blade near the shooting end. This helps focus vision along an imaginary line extending from the barrel, and aligning the metal bits verifies that the gun is aimed correctly. There are variants on the concept, such as ghost rings or aperture sights.
If you’re not familiar with how it works, the Wikipedia article on iron sights is just fine and provides the necessary pictures to explain.
Iron sight have been standard on guns for a long while, though they might get removed for handguns meant to be drawn very quickly and used point-blank. Thus, they do not normally have an in-game presence. They’re part of the process of aiming a gun, and if a gun is missing its sights action heroes will not be bothered (or it’ll be noted as a disadvantage of the weapon).
However, in games where harsh distance penalties exist (such as the more realistic Genres in the Range Penalties for DC Heroes Rules), good well-adjusted iron sights could be an asset to help compensate. This usually means Old West and post-apocalyptic games where scopes may not be available.
If they do get written up, superior iron sights will usually feature on rifles and carbines. But some long-barelled precision handguns (usually hunting weapons) and some submachineguns known for their quality and accuracy (such as the H&K MP5) may qualify.
DCH Telescopic vision: 01 (Only to help aiming, FC is 00) would be a typical approach for unusually good and well-calibrated iron sights or aperture sights. Ordinary ones have no stats.
Angled iron sights
These are iron sights mounted on the side rails, that are about a 45° angle away from the body of the gun. Therefore, you have to tilt your weapon a bit to the side so they’ll align with your eyes and help with aiming.
While this is a bit awkward, this means that you can have backup iron sight on a weapon equipped with a telescopic sight or other long-range device. Angled sights allow for immediately transitioning to an aiming assist device appropriate for closer range shooting.
Rapid acquisition sights
A gizmo that displays a dot of light where the bullet’s gonna hit. In real life this is a very useful thing to have. In fiction it doesn’t seem to have much of an impact compared to the skill of the shooter. It *could* be a small positive modifier, but let’s keep it simple and assume no effect.
A laser sight actually fires a low-powered laser to simulate where the bullet will impact. This is the type of rapid acquisition sight that is most often portrayed in fiction. The laser dot is always red (because red is the colour of danger, one assumes), and it’s not uncommon for the laser beam to be actually visible along it’s length.
In real life :
- orange is often preferred (it contrasts better against daylight)
- the beam is barely visible (unless there’s smoke, fog or vapour getting illuminated by the laser)
- the dot itself is not as easy to spot by bystanders as when depicted in movies
Laser sight used to eat through special, expensive batteries like crazy. But technological progress has since solved that problem.
Not only do laser sights fail to provide an appreciable bonus in most fiction, but one of their most common impacts in stories is to… warn the target (or an ally close by) that somebody is about to shoot them, allowing for a last-second dodge.
I call this the “laser glint”. This is a reference to the older cliché of having the target spot a glint of light on the sniper’s scope at the last second. This only ever seems to happen to bad guy snipers, though.
Laser sights may provide a bonus to Intimidation rolls under the right circumstances.
Below is a Glock 19 fitted with an Aimshot laser sight. This very much resembles what the audience expects to see when laser sights are mentioned. Some weapons, such as the SAR-21 mentioned in the small arms article, mount laser sights as standards.
Another type of rapid acquisition sight is the reflex sight, also known as the red dot sight, holosight or the collimating sight. But it is less visually impressive.
Such a sight is often a transparent plate mounted on top of the gun, on which the system projects a dot (much like some modern cars project information on the windshield for the driver to look at while still watching the road). Or it can be a sight much like a sniper sight but shorter, non-magnifying and less-intricate looking.
Both types of red dot sights superimpose a dot where the bullet will hit, visible only by the person looking through the sight. The trick is that this works even if the shooter is not perfectly aligned with the sight. This allows for rapid yet precise acquisition of targets. You just have to more or less look through the sight and you will clearly see the point of aim, in an instinctive manner.
Some militaries (including the US services) now field reflex sights for assault rifles and assault carbines.
Below is a reflex sight mounted on the carrying handle of a M4 assault carbine. It was selected after leafing through the combatoptical.com catalogue as an example of a sight whose appearance makes its function and manner of use pretty obvious.
And here’s a very similar sight mounted on a H&K UMP-45 submachinegun, wielded by the half-eponymous Mrs. Smith played by… hey, it’s Angelina again ! How kind of you to drop by, hun.
Ah well — as long as Angelina is around, she’ll demonstrate a common but less visually distinctive red dot sight. This a Aimpoint M68 mounted on a M14 variant rifle.
As previously noted, most people unfamiliar with firearms would assume that it’s some sort of telescopic sight. But it has zero magnification. Observe how it is much shorter than most telescopic sights, and how the shooter does not need to have her eye close to the sight to use it. Thanks again, Angelina !
Some red dot sights allow for shooting around corners. You can look into your sight from the *side* of the gun and thus expose very little. Since red dot sights are parallax -free, you can use your rifle to look around, over, and under cover. And perhaps even take a shot if the stance isn’t too awkward.
In most action fiction, people don’t bother – they rush into the firefight and caution is for the weak. But if you’re more after a technothriller vibe this sort of sight can make an appearance. Here is a demonstration of an Aimpoint Concealed Engagement Unit periscope used around a concrete pillar. Angelina had to leave before we could set up the shot, unfortunately.
A sniper scope. Normally mounted on a sniper rifle or assault rifle, it magnifies distant scenes for more accurate shooting.
Usually people who want a telescopic sight on their assault rifle will go for a low magnification (1.5x to 3x or so). Sniper rifles will be equipped with more powerful sights (usually the sort adjustable from 3x to 12x, but more specialised sights can be adjustable up to 30x or even beyond that).
Telescopic scopes on a precision rifle allow working at the usual, several-hundreds-of-metres sniping range. It’s often 500 to 800 metres in a military sniping context, though police snipers work at much closer range (and use lower magnifications).
Kills at one kilometre are entirely possible with a typical sniper rifle, and double that for a high-powered rifle. Kills have been recorded at a range of 2.5km using a specialised, high-powered ammunition, the .338 Lapua Magnum round.
Sniping isn’t easy. Peering through a scope is tiring, it reduces the field of vision to nearly nothing, you have to control your breathing so as not to spoil your aim, and there’s plenty of computations to go through.
The main one is determining the exact range for ballistic calculations. If a rangefinding device cannot be used, modern telescopic sights include a system of dots along the reticule that, with training and experience, make it possible to estimate the range to target with an acceptable precision.
Still, in the real world, sniping is best practised with a colleague. They’re the “spotter”, providing the information (range, wind speed, humidity, etc.) while you correct your aim. The spotter can use much more comfortable binoculars with a much wider angle to observe what’s going on and look at the result of the shot (which the sniper quite often cannot do).
In fiction, though, snipers can go at it alone without hindrance.
In both game systems we will assume that the gun, not the scope, is what defines the range. That’s because t’s not uncommon to have marksmen with an extraordinary eyesight (Hawkeye in the Marvel Universe, Gunhawk in the DC Universe, etc.) who can work without a scope in a pinch.
DCH M&M It is thus just a matter of selecting a sight magnification power (Telescopic Vision in DCH, Senses (Extended Visual) in DCA) whose magnification matches the rough guidelines given in this section.
The picture below was filched from the British Forces News website (bfbs.com ). The little scale in the bottom left is used to quickly gauge the distance from a standing person. Assuming that this person is about 1,70m (5’7”), you can match their apparent height to the scale and from there compute the rough distance.
It’s not uncommon — especially in fiction — to encounter telescopic sights with night-time observation capacities. A third-generation light amplification system provides a green, somewhat grainy image, which can be useful at up to 300-400m before the graininess makes the image too indistinct to see more than shapes.
DCH In DCH terms this is Ultra-vision: 07 (Night vision only, -1) added to the scope.
M&M in DCA this is Senses 1 (Low-light vision) added the scope.
Another type of night-time observation and aiming device, which chiefly reads infra-red light (and thus heat – hence the name). These types of sights make hot items (such as persons, unless the air is very hot) appear whiter or blacker than the background, depending on the setting. Thermal sights may include magnification, usually in the 4x to 20x range.
Under ideal conditions or in fiction, this allows to easily pick up persons despite darkness and visual clutter such as smoke, fog, tall grass, foliage, etc.. It can also be useful to gain some intelligence, such as checking whether a vehicle has run recently by looking at the tyres and motor for residual heat.
In fiction, it’s not uncommon for invisibility to be defeated by thermal observation devices, for types of invisibility that only works on visible wavelengths.
DCH In DCH, the thermal part is typically Thermal vision: 06.
M&M In DCA, it would typically be Senses 5 (Infravision, Counter Concealment (Fog/Smoke), Counter Concealment (Light visual cover)).
Here is an ideal example of spotting persons via thermal imaging, from imaging1.com . Depiction of thermal imaging in video games are roughly comparable, so its a good example of what a movie or comic book thermal scope would produce.
This ability to penetrate light visual obstructions has often been exaggerated in fiction. For instance you get super-scopes that can read the heat of a human body through a concrete wall (!). Or they can render real-time false-colours heat maps, where heat levels are rendered in gradients of yellow and red (or green and blue for colder items). For such super-thermal-scopes :
DCH In DCH, use both Thermal vision: 06 and X-Ray vision (taboo material : dense metals). The APs of X-Ray vision go from 03 (to penetrate a modern interior wall), 06 (wooden wall), 08 (brick) or even 10 (concrete) or 12 (load-bearing concrete). Such a sight will likely also have Telescopic vision.
M&M In DCA, it would typically be Senses 8 (Infravision, Counter Concealment (Fog/Smoke), Penetrates Concealment (Visual), Extended (Visual)).
Were this an article about real-world shooting we’d be discussing “sound suppressors”. But in movies, comics, games, etc. there routinely exists something that can be called a “silencer”.
Combat-grade guns are very, very loud. When you see everybody on a shooting range wearing ears protection, it’s not as a fashion statement. The sound effects for guns in movies are toned way down to prevent the public from walking out with a damaged sense of hearing and a migraine.
Nevertheless, fictional silencers will let handguns emit a simple “phut” noise most readers are probably familiar with. Plus, they can be screwed on and used without any hindrance.
Presumably they are filled with little magical gremlins who hungrily devour the burning gas from the gunshot before it can impact against the air. They then wrestle down the shockwave from the sonic boom.
Real-world noise suppressors have to do with wipers system (which wear down as bullets get shot through them), bafflers – or liquid- or gel-based systems, with the explosion from the gunshot being pumped into this inert medium.
A silenced weapon will normally fire ammunition with a purposefully diminished powder charge so it doesn’t break the wall of sound. Bothering to catch the gas only to have the bullet produce a sonic boom wouldn’t be a sound strategy.
This is why handgun-level ammunition are preferred for suppressed weapons, since they can be made subsonic without losing too much of their power. Some shooters even prefer them, considering that a subsonic bullet is more likely to stop in the body of a target without overpenetration or wasted kinetic energy.
In fiction, bullets can be made subsonic willy-nilly without any performance loss, even rifle ammunition that normally travels at Mach 3.
Revolvers cannot normally be silenced, because the burning gas also comes out of the cylinder, not just the barrel. Certain Russian sixguns are built in a way that allows them to be silenced, if a character absolutely needs a silenced revolver.
DCH In DCH, use the Thief (Stealth) (Stealth only to muffle the shot, -1) Subskill and set it at the level of difficulty you want to defeat detection. Thief (Stealth): 03 (Only to muffle the shot) is a common level for cinematic silencers.
M&M In DCA, treat as Concealment 2 (All audial, Partial, Limited 1 to the gunshot report) — or as a Feature since it’s worth one point.
Silencers will commonly be built as an Array. For instance 9mm Semi-Automatic Pistol [Array. The first application is Ranged Ballistic Damage 3 ; the second application is Ranged Ballistic Damage 3 Feature 1 (Silenced) Quirk 1 (Must screw on the silencer first)].
More realistic approaches may include Diminished Range, one less Rank of Damage, etc. – meaning that the Alternate Power representing silenced mode will be worth fewer points than the parent power.
Below are a MP5S (D5 variant), a typical suppressed submachinegun – and a screen shot from a Metal Gear Solid video game showing an archetypal silenced pistol, a Mk22 Hush Puppy.
There even exist rare silenced shotgun rounds, or silenced grenade launchers (built for Spetsnaz troops) and silenced mortars (used by French commandos).
Gunfighting in poor luminosity is very common. It’s also very stressful and requires specialised training to minimise risks.
Most police officers want to bring a flashlight (if only to clearly see who they are shooting at !). Thus, there were decades of experiments as to how best use a flashlight and handgun at once.
Two common schools of thought are :
- holding the flashlight away from your body and either high or low (so somebody shooting at the light will probably not hit you)
- crossing your wrists and holding the light in a specific manner so you could flash the light quickly and illuminate exactly what your gun is pointing at
Here’s an example of the latter, the Harries stance (photo from Surefire.com ), since it looks very cinematic and professional.
Another option was the “shotgun, Maglite and roll of duct tape” solution, which had plenty of advantages. ”Tactical flashlights” — special flashights mounted on guns and with a specialised ergonomy — are evolutions from those.
The operator can manoeuvre and shoot their weapon as usual. Switching on and off a stable, well-aimed, powerful flashlight is done by just pressing a conveniently-placed button.
Tactical flashlights normally have a narrow beam that is only visible if you’re more or less in its axis. That way it doesn’t alert potentially hostile onlookers, and doesn’t ruin the operator’s night vision. Using a light with a reddish tint also helps.
They also have modern long-duration batteries, illuminate a small area so they can efficiently be used as an aiming aid, and are quite powerful.
The later trait is important from the target’s point of view. If you are illuminated by a modern tactical flashlight while your eyes are adapted to the dark, you’ll be blinded by the beam for a good while.
The flashlight practically becomes a compliance beam, with the target unable to see what’s going on. They can also be sure that there’s at least one gun pointed straight in them, for whom they are a clear and well-identified target.
DCH In DCH these have Flash: 06 (Steady illumination only, but will act as normal Flash in nocturnal conditions ; Flash has no AV, use the Weaponry score for the arm it’s mounted on). Flash is on average 2 APs lower on handgun-mounted models.
M&M in DCA it’s a Feature 1 (Flashlight) combined a Ranged Dazzle 8 (Limited 2 – only in nocturnal conditions ; Resistible (Dodge)). Dazzle is on average 2 Ranks lower on handgun-mounted models.
Tactical lights can be quite small but here’s an example of a large, very powerful one since it looks more impressive. This is an ExtremeBeam TAC24, from the manufacturer’s website .
Our entry about breaching shotguns mentioned some of the problems of indoors assault, and how even a small things like turning corners became technical. The normal solution is to do a sort of sideway shuffle to slowly discover what’s beyond the corner – moving much like the hand of a watch.
The Cornershot™ is a gadget meant to improve on that. It’s essentially a cradle for a gun. Under the gun is a video camera, and the cradle is articulated so it can bend toward the right or the left. Angelina mentioned that she’s had a awful night and wouldn’t mind shooting something, so she’ll demonstrate :
Here she’s dropped a silver-coloured .45 handgun into the cradle. Under the big barrel of the .45 is a video camera and a tactical light. If she presses the trigger of the cradle, a mechanism presses the trigger of the .45. Currently the front of the cradle is bent toward her right, but it can swing either way.
There’s a cam-corder-like screen with a video feed, allowing her to see what her gun sees.
Thus, when turning a corner, she could just hold her weapon in front of her and see through it what’s on the other side. She might even shoot something if necessary. And the big advantage is of course that she can do so without exposing herself, though the enemy might try shooting the Cornershot.
DCH In DCH this a Misc. Advantage worth five points.
M&M In DCA it’s a Feature 1 (Cornershot).
Similar gadgets exist that can accept other types of weapons, up to and including rocket launchers. In fiction, characters could almost certainly get a cradle appropriate to any type of gun.
Specialised ammunition – specialised rounds
Specialised bullet types do not play as strong a role in action fiction as they do in some details-oriented RPGs – and neither DCA nor DCH are very detail-oriented. But they are undeniably present – especially with characters such as the Punisher, Deadshot or even the War Machine version of the Iron Man armour.
And people who have played first-generation cyberpunk RPGs such as Shadowrun or Cyberpunk will probably want to have access to those if they play a gun-wielding character.
As usual in these articles, we’re not going to base anything on real data from the real world, and we’re going to stick to broad categories. Real-world designs and terms will only serve as props and technobabble.
Note that in fiction every type of gun can have access to every type of bullet, barring unusual circumstances. Technologies that only make sense in shells fired by tanks can be used as technobabble for handgun rounds (APDSDPU 9mm !), and it is usually possible to procure very specialised ammo in very specialised calibres (Incendiary .458 Magnum African !) without any problem.
The categories are :
Various types of ammunition that are intended to penetrate cover and body armour.
Terms one can wantonly throw around include Armour-Piercing (AP), Armour-Piercing Hard Core (APHC), Depleted Uranium Penetrator (DPU), Saboted rounds (APDS), Semi-Armour Piercing Explosive (SAPHE), Steelcore, Full Metal Jacket (which would be a standard military small-arms round, but sounds scary), Tungsten rod penetrator, Saboted Light Armour Piercing (SLAP), etc.
These bullets generally work by having a very hard, narrow bit at the business end. This is good, because it makes it easier to punch through hard things. But this is also bad, since it makes a smaller hole and the bullet can blow through the target and zip away, having expended very little of its kinetic energy into the target.
These types of bullets are thus often seen as a trade-off between penetration and damage.
Popular imagination has also caught on the fact that some bullets include Teflon in their coating (in an attempt to facilitate gun maintenance). They came up with the idea that this Teflon somehow made it easier to cut through body armour by… hmmm, making the bullet more slippery, I guess. It never made much sense.
This notion gave rise to the “cop-killer bullet” media panic. The idea being that the bad guys could shoot stalwart patrol officers through their body armour wily-nilly.
Thus, in fiction, armour-piercing bullets just punch through body armour without any loss of efficiency. The trade-off between penetration and damage that preoccupies real-world shooters does not exist.
DCH In DCH, use the Sharpness Power (see the DCH new powers document). If the aim is to represent a trade-off round, lower the base damage by a bit. A common armour-piercing round of this kind might thus have one less AP of Projectile weapons and two APs of Sharpness.
If the aim is to represent a super-armour-piercing round, just add the Sharpness to the normal stats.
M&M In DCA use the Armour-Piercing Advantage (see the DCA new rules documents). If the aim is to represent a trade-off round, lower the base damage by a bit. A common armour-piercing round of this kind might thus have one less Rank in Ranged Damage and two Ranks of Armour-Piercing.
If the aim is to represent a super-armour-piercing round, just add the Armour-Piercing to the normal stats.
One AP of Sharpness/one Rank of Armour-Piercing is a common choice for high-quality, high-performance ammunition used by certain sniper rifles, high-powered sniper rifles and anti-materiel rifles.
Two APs/Ranks is your standard cinematic armour-piercing round that ignores common forms of protection.
Three APs/Ranks is getting extraordinary, though it could show up as special rounds used against the normally bulletproof hero, such as Luke Cage or a character wearing power armour .
For highly specialised ammunition with absurd penetrative power, see our Agent Zero profile. In game terms, such rounds are never run-of-the-mill equipment but something you have to pay for as a Gadget (DCH) or Device (DCA).
Handgun-calibre bullets are not that good at killing people – or rather, it is very random. A tiny bullet unable to penetrate large human bones at normal ranges, such as .22 LR, might kill if it hits in the wrong place (say, an eye then the brain).
Conversely it’s not rare for individuals to endure multiple shots by rounds thought to be very powerful (such as .45 ACP) thanks to drug use, insanity or just plain old luck.
Various such incidents (such as a shoot-out between FBI agents and bank robbers in Miami in 1986 , or the Moro Rebellion of the turn of the last century) led shooters to reevaluate rounds in a quest for more “stopping power”. Beyond more powerful bullets, this also led to bullets that would flatten and expand upon impact so as to punch a bigger hole.
Terms one can wantonly throw around include dum-dum, Hollow Point (HP), Advanced energy Transfer (AET), Hydra-Shock, softpoint, Glaser, frangible rounds, high explosive (HE), improved expansion rounds, Thor bullets, etc.
Real-world police officers generally use rounds of this type (so as to avoid accidentally shooting somebody through a wall when they miss), but in fiction they are best treated as firing “generic” bullets most of the time.
Such rounds are almost always presented as a trade-off. If they easily deform and mushroom upon hitting flesh, it doesn’t take an expert to realise that they will go splat against hard surfaces such as body armour.
DCH In DCH, these bullets usually have the High Energy Transfer Advantage and the Low Penetration Drawback.
M&M In DCA, they usually have a higher Damage but also Ranks in the Low Penetration Flaw (see the New Rules documents for both games).
Sometimes, the heroes fire standard firearms, but get a lot of bang out of them. A badass commando fires what is recognisably a MP5 submachinegun and is stated to be a MP5 submachinegun, but his MP5 submachinegun does a lot more damage than MP5s usually do in stories.
In game terms, the simplest approach is to either increase the stats of his weapon, or to consider that he’s using high-performance, hard-to-procure, badass ammunition.
Nearly anything with a scary name can be invoked as being “badass ammunition” — high-velocity or hypervelocity (HV) rounds, armour-piercing explosive (APEX), a fierce name like Black Talon ammunition, a detail like a “black tip bullet” (usually denoting armour-piercing bullets), fantasy metal (like imaginary versions of depleted uranium, or secondary adamantium glazing), explosives (Semtex bullets !), replacing the powder with something with more power (binary propellants being a perennial favourite), a brand name such as Raufoss (who produce a multipurpose .50 BMG bullet with armour-piercing, explosive and incendiary properties), High Explosive Squash Head (HESH), etc.
DCH M&M For badass bullets, simply increase the gun’s APs/Rank by one.
Gun-wielding characters, even the Punisher, used to fire those all the time. These are usually rubber bullets, or “mercy bullets” (which apparently delivered a knockout drug acting instantly upon impact).
They performed exactly like normal bullets – same damage, same range, same efficiency, same everything (except perhaps penetration, but that seldom played a role). But the people getting shot weren’t dead or wounded, just knocked out.
DCH In DCH these beautiful children of the Comics Code Authority simply do Bashing damage.
M&M In DCA the Descriptor usually remains “Ballistic” but might switch to “Blunt” or even “Knockout chemical” in some cases. They are Limited 1 (cannot damage most objects, cannot crit).
As less-than-lethal weaponry became better known to the public (and often depicted as magical stun rays), “mercy bullets” and their ilk became both less credible and less necessary, and weren’t featured as often.
However, they can still be brought in. “Rubber bullets” still works and you can of course go with something that sounds more high-tech, such as “gel rounds”, “baton rounds” or “bean bag ammunition”, for verisimilitude.
Several anime and manga stories (including Appleseed and Trigun) feature ammunition that turn into a large cross or “X” an instant before impact. The force gets distributed over the whole surface to knock the target out. Presumably these projectiles are made of a memory plastic that resumes its base form once heated.
Some less-than-lethal ammunition can also include marking paint – see the description of the FN 303 in the Less-than-Lethal article for similar rounds.
Tracers (bullets with a small chemical reservoir that leaves a glowing streak after them) are chiefly useful in a military context, and not really for action heroes.
They are usually mixed with normal ammunition (“solids”) with a fixed ratio (say, 1 tracers every 10 solids) since their performance is not as good as regular ammunition.
This is useful when firing full auto at long range in poor visibility. For instance to “walk” heavy machinegun fire to the target, or when shooting an autocannon ground-to-air. Modern tracer rounds only ignite a good distance away from the gun, so as not to give away its position.
In a non-military context, it is possible to use tracers to know when you are running low (for instance to have the third-bullet-before-the-magazine’s-end be a tracer so as to have some forewarning) or to indicate where you want your team to direct its fire. Neither is very common, though, even in fiction.
Here’s an example of high visible tracer rounds from a handgun (plus the sensible safety advice) :
Shotguns — buckshot vs. slugs
All shotguns described in these articles are assumed to fire buckshot. hat is, the ammunition contains a number of hard metallic pellets that spread a bit as they fly.
In fiction, this type of ammunition had plenty of advantages (including the paranormal ability to knock targets back by several yards) and essentially no drawback. Lighter loads such as birdshot (which packs far more numerous but much smaller pellets into the shell to hit small fragile things in the air) are unlikely to be featured in fiction.
Something that *is* featured in fiction, however, are slugs. That’s one big solid bullet rather than multiple pellets. The heavier projectile has more range and higher penetration, and its common role in fiction is to make shotguns even more badass.
DCH M&M Buckshot and slugs are both built-in in the Shotgun Blast Power we use in both DCH and DCA — see the respective New Rules Files.
Nowadays, when slugs are used in action fiction they are usually armour-piercing ones – which the character packs to defeat hardened targets such as security cars.
Specialised ammunition – exotic rounds
These are even more special rounds. They carry a specialised payload, which means that they’ll normally be shotgun shells – bullets are generally too small to carry the payload. Exceptions abound, of course.
DCH This type of ammunition is represented by a “rider” Power. Use the Combined With Bonus (see new rules documents).
M&M This type of ammunition is represented by a “rider” Power – use the Linked Extra.
Common categories of specialised ammunition include :
Usually frangible shotgun slugs used to murder locks or hinges. This type of ammunition being so associated with specific weapons, it is covered in our description for breaching shotguns.
Real-world incendiary ammunition is usually limited to large ammunition (say, .50 BMG) and has a modest fire-setting power. Still, when you fire ample bursts at flammable things (wooden houses, dry forest, fuel depots, etc.) it is probably going to catch fire. It is best for the GM to employ good judgement based on the flammability of the target and the volume of fire.
DCH In DCH this kind of incendiary ammunition is a 3pts Advantage.
M&M In DCA it is a one-point Feature.
There exists more comic-book-like incendiary rounds, however — projectiles that will somehow explode into a significant volume of fierce flames when they hit. They might even be called something like “white phosphorus rounds” or “napalm rounds” !
DCH For those use a rider – Flame Project in DCH.
M&M For those use a rider – a Damage with a Flame descriptor in DCA.
One peculiar variant is the “Dragon’s Breath” shotgun round, which essentially turns a shotgun into a mini-flamethrower. It detonates inside the shotgun and spurts a gout of flame from the barrel for a few seconds.
Real-world uses are few beyond entertainment, especially since these rounds damage the barrel. In a fictional setting, however, there are certainly targets against whom such a round would be a boon (vampires !), barrel damage could be handwaved away, etc.
DCH In DCH replace the Projectile Weapons Powers with Flame Project at the same level, same Limitations, etc.
M&M In DCA this round changes the descriptor from “Ballistic” to “Flame”.
Real-world explosive ammunition for small arms is limited, though the notion can be used to justify some properties (like anti-personnel ammunition or badass ammunition, as per above).
In fiction, however, it is not uncommon for the term “explosive bullets” to be interpreted in a very generous and literal way. This means bullets that actually produce a sizeable, powerful explosion on impact.
DCH For those use a rider – Bomb in DCH.
M&M For those use a rider – about half the Ranks in a Linked Burst Area Damage in DCA.
Tear gas ammunition
A bullet that can punch through obstacles (say, walls) and deliver a charge of tear gas behind it. This is based on existing ammunition, such as the barricade-penetrating Ferret 12-gauge round, used by the police to gas up a fortified area.
DCH For those use a rider – Chemical attack in DCH.
M&M For those use a rider – a Cloud Visual Dazzle in DCA.
A similar concept – a small flash-bang grenade shot from a shotgun to distract or incapacitate distant targets. This type of ammunition can also be useful to deliver a flash-bang round through a wall — shoot a hole in the wall with point-blank buckshot, then shoot a flash-bang round through the hole.
DCH Use the stats for a flash-bang grenade, usually with two less APs than the real thing in all Powers.
M&M Use the stats for a flash-bang grenade, usually with two less Ranks than the real thing in all Effects.
Strange ammunition, normally for a shotgun, featuring two weights linked by a length of wire. In a fictional context this could be useful for some really specialised purposes (shooting at a rope, maybe, or at the comparatively fragile antennas of otherwise unstoppable giant ants).
With mono-molecular wire and other futuristic-sounding technology, it could be also a way to have a firearm inflict described as edged or slashing rather than ballistic, which may be important against certain superhuman targets with vulnerabilities.
Or with a big shotgun or sufficiently advanced technology (Pym particles ?), it could be a literal bolo round – multiple super-dense weights linked by stout cables used to entangle a target at a range.
DCH For those replace the normal capabilities of the gun with an appropriate Snare.
M&M For those replace the normal capabilities of the gun with an appropriate Snare.
Usually a hollow-point round where the cavity has been filled with a chemical such as cyanide. Those actually exist in the real world, but are curiously rare in fiction (with the possible exception of Cold War rumours about KGB snipers whose Dragunov rifle shot cyanide-tipped assassination bullets), perhaps because people assume bullets can’t really poisoned.
In a fictional context, other chemicals could be used against supernaturals – holy water, silver sulfate, a wrought iron pellet since “pure iron” is rather difficult to obtain in any quantity, etc.
DCH For those use a rider – Poison touch in DCH. If the projectile is used to deliver a substance the target has a problem with, apply the Attack Vulnerability as appropriate
M&M For those use a rider – presumably an Affliction (or Damage resisted by Fortitude) in DCA. If the projectile is used to deliver a substance the target has a problem with, trigger the Complication as appropriate.
Helper(s): Roy Cowan, Chris Cottingham, Eric Langendorff, Azraelfl, Max, Darci and (allegedly) Angelina Jolie.