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Essays 07 August 2021, 16:00

author: Darius Matusiak

6 Myths About Guns Perpetuated by Games

Anyone can shoot, better or worse – especially on a computer screen. But how much of our knowledge of weapons checks out? In this article, we're trying to dispel the most popular myths about firearms in games.

For almost every gamer or at least action movie fan, firearms are something so common that they can almost be counted as everyday items. It is known that the hero always has it somewhere at hand, and it is also known what to expect from different types of guns. In a new game, we almost immediately reach for our favorite model or the right caliber for the situation. However, unless you are a resident of Texas or another U.S. state with a liberal approach to gun ownership, exposure to a real pistol or rifle, even for recreational purposes - e.g. at a shooting range - has only been experienced by a small percentage of "couch shooters."

So why the widespread knowledge of AKs, glocks, shotguns and sniper rifles? Well, mainly from games and movies. And these, as you might guess, treat the actual capabilities of firearms and the realities of their use quite loosely. Everything is tailored to the conventions of the game or movie and the comfort of the viewer. Many of these assumptions appear in most productions, which has effectively perpetuated certain screen myths about firearms seen in both movies and games. Myths that we have chosen to address (or possibly confirm) below. Here are six of perhaps the most popular of them.

Squad may not have the loudest shots in the game, but they sound pretty realistic. - 6 Myths About Guns Perpetuated by Games - dokument - 2021-07-30
Squad may not have the loudest shots in the game, but they sound pretty realistic.

The bang of a gunshot

This is perhaps the most common ignorance among those not familiar with firearmers. In movies and games, the shots are... "louder." They stand out among the sounds, though not so much as to drown out the characters' conversations, for example. Often, they can't even get the attention of other people in the same room while shooting a horde of enemies in some FPS. The muted sound of gunshots is perhaps the most colossal difference between the actual effect and that used in the media.

The reason is simple - the bang is just deafening, completely unbearable! Being in close proximity to a gunshot causes physical pain in the ears. According to the scale, it's a level between 140 and 170 dB, depending on the type of weapon, where 140 dB is the volume of a jet engine when you're standing next to an airplane, and what's known as the "loudness of a jet engine". "pain limit." Prolonged exposure to such noise without any protection is like being physically injured, with guaranteed permanent hearing loss. Soldiers use traditional earplugs, while special forces commandos are equipped with headsets with active "jammers," the military version of ANC (Active Noise Cancelling).

So recreating the real level of gunshot noise will never make it into games (and movies). This is not just a matter of medical or common sense, but also a technical issue - top-of-the-line home hi-fi systems offer at most about 95 decibels of volume. Admittedly, in some titles we'll encounter noticeably louder gunshot sounds, which in games tends to make them feel more powerful to bring down, but this is by no means a level known from the real world.

Escape from Tarkov features an actual working ANC system in the headset - it drowns out rumble and amplifies quiet ambient noises. - 6 Myths About Guns Perpetuated by Games - dokument - 2021-07-30
Escape from Tarkov features an actual working ANC system in the headset - it drowns out rumble and amplifies quiet ambient noises.

The best effects are probably provided by Escape from Tarkov and then Squad, which are PC games focused on fairly authentic gunfights. There are lots of lousy examples, and until recently the leading example was the Call of Duty series on its old engine, where a series of automatic weapons were as loud as the rattling of an ASG electric replica. Since the Modern Warfare reboot, however, you can hear a big improvement.

Does the muffler muffle the sound?

An item directly related to the bang of a gunshot is the silencer and its magical properties in most games. Magical, because it usually mutes gunshots to the level of loudly closing a thick book. This makes stealth possible - taking out guards right under the noses of their buddies, totally ignoring some silent crackling. This is the case with Hitman, Splinter Cell, Sniper Elite, Sniper: Ghost Warrior and many other series. A clever way to add some shooting to the stealth mechanics.

Given the earlier comparison of the volume of a shot to the sound of a jet, there is no doubt that games and movies greatly exaggerate. They try to convince us that a metal cylinder the size of a cucumber can muffle an ear-piercing bang to such a degree that a guard staring out the window will pay no attention to the sound at all. Just another Hollywood nonsense and myth being propagated...

...but wait, wait, are you sure? If they don't silence, why do pictures of the world's best commando formations usually show them with silencers on their rifles? Do they have any better ones?

The suppressor quiets a standard M4A1 carbine or Glock pistol from 160 dB to about 125 dB, which is comparable to going from the level of a jet engine to a jackhammer during street work. Still loud, but already below the pain threshold.

Escape from Tarkov features the most realistic gunshot sounds with a silencer. - 6 Myths About Guns Perpetuated by Games - dokument - 2021-07-30
Escape from Tarkov features the most realistic gunshot sounds with a silencer.

Silencer makes conversations easier

Not really. A suppressor in a certain configuration can actually muffle a shot to almost a "whisper" (compared to a standard bang), but more on that in a moment. Indeed, more relevant is its other role, which games and Hollywood virtually never mention. Meanwhile, it is usually not a matter of facilitating stealthy operations in complete silence, but mainly for more efficient communication between soldiers. Less noise means fewer situations with having to repeat orders, fewer misunderstandings, overhearing, etc. The battle chaos when shooting with a silencer is much smaller, and this greatly affects the effectiveness of the soldiers. The impact on future hearing loss is not insignificant, as damage occurs at noise levels as low as 85 decibels.

In the new Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts 2, a silencer makes shots inaudible to enemies. - 6 Myths About Guns Perpetuated by Games - dokument - 2021-07-30
In the new Sniper: Ghost Warrior Contracts 2, a silencer makes shots inaudible to enemies.

The silencer lets you hide

The second extremely important function of the suppressor is to hide the discharge flame when fired, making it much more difficult to locate the shooter. In addition, in the city, buildings and ambient noise also make it difficult to determine from which side the shot was fired by following the sound. The suppressor also reduces recoil slightly, which improves accuracy and tires the shooter less in the long run. In computer games, mounting this add-on almost always lowers the bullet's exit velocity, thus reducing the damage dealt. In fact, the latest designs can even accelerate the bullet slightly at the exit of the barrel.

The real H&K MP5SD reportedly suppresses shots to just 70 decibels. - 6 Myths About Guns Perpetuated by Games - dokument - 2021-07-30
The real H&K MP5SD reportedly suppresses shots to just 70 decibels.

This suppressor really quiets down

All right, but what about the noise? Can a suppressor really muffle the shots so that someone doesn't realize any were fired? Sort of, but usually paired with special subsonic ammunition with a lower exit velocity. Then you don't have that loud "boom" when crossing the sound barrier that is characteristic of supersonic ammunition. Here the king is the Heckler&Koch MP5 submachine gun loved by commando units in the SD version, i.e. with a factory suppressor. A shot from such a weapon is said to have a level of "only" 70 decibels, equivalent to a loud shout. What's more, the suppressor in the MP5SD can also slow supersonic ammunition to "its" noise standard. That's still loud enough to alert people at least in the same part of the building, but such noises certainly won't carry a mile into the field.

The price for such silence is the projectile's knockdown power, which proves to be noticeably less with subsonic ammunition - and here the games actually have a point. The weapon's accuracy also suffers, which generally precludes the use of subsonic rifle ammunition. Special forces soldiers use only 9mm pistol caliber when it is known that exchanges of fire will be conducted at a distance of only a few meters, but even then the "double/triple tap" tactic of several rapid shots at the same target is used to be more certain of neutralizing it. There is a definite preference for a sure, effective shot rather than the absence of its sound, although the future will probably produce a bullet that is suitably quiet and effective. The U.S. Special Forces Command has already made a request for such an invention.

IN TARKOV THEY SUPPRESS WELL

The game that probably best captures the realism of using a silencer is Escape from Tarkov. Shots fired from AK or M4 with such an accessory are loud enough and can be heard from a long distance. The lack of the flame from the barrel, in turn, can effectively delay finding the enemy, while short flashes without a suppressor immediately reveal the enemy hidden in the bushes.

Bulletproof vest as health bar

Bulletproof vests are only indirectly related to firearms, but in this case their myth probably fits this list well. In movies, they are usually used for the emotional treatment of the resurrection of the main character, who - mourned - stands up suddenly and unbuttons his shirt, showing the cleverly hidden vest underneath. In computer games, on the other hand, it's an extra life bar that doubles our health gauge and allows us to last longer on the battlefield. Armor damage is usually no different from the life bar, sometimes just not causing some bloodstain effect on the screen. Getting hit generally does not prevent you from running dynamically and responding with fire.

Call of Duty: Warzone introduced a rather arcade-like ballistic plate system. - 6 Myths About Guns Perpetuated by Games - dokument - 2021-07-30
Call of Duty: Warzone introduced a rather arcade-like ballistic plate system.

And how is it in reality? It all turns out to be a bit more complicated. Bulletproof vests are primarily divided into so-called Soft cartridges and ballistic plates. The former are lightweight and can actually be tucked under a shirt or jacket. They do not restrict movement, so you can move normally in them. But a vest of this type only protects against 9mm pistol bullets or some shrapnel. A bullet from an AK or M4 carbine will go through it like through butter.

Thus, soldiers on the battlefield protect themselves with the so-called hard ballistic plates. Two separate main plates cover most of the chest and back, places where you usually aim at longer distances to be sure of a hit. Optionally, even smaller side plates are used. Such a set already requires a suitable carrier, i.e. a special vest with a place for plates. You also need to be prepared for the weight of such a set, because one plate is several centimeters thick and weighs more than 3 kilograms.

In exchange for less mobility and comfort, the soldier receives protection from... That's right. There are several levels of protection, ranging from level two, which protects against a 9mm FMJ round flying at 389 m/s, to level four, which should withstand a 30.06 M2 AP FMJ bullet flying at 878 m/s. The biggest problem with the games, however, is not the lumping of different calibers and different vests together, but the reaction to being shot, which has not been shown properly in any game.

The creators of Escape from Tarkov are just planning to introduce a complex ballistic plate system, and I guess they have some interesting ideas. - 6 Myths About Guns Perpetuated by Games - dokument - 2021-07-30
The creators of Escape from Tarkov are just planning to introduce a complex ballistic plate system, and I guess they have some interesting ideas.

For when it comes to actually stopping the bullet on ballistic plates, whether soft or hard, such a bullet will not injure the victim with its penetrating force, but its enormous kinetic energy, which will be taken up by the entire body, will still be dangerous. It's a bit like being hit by a speeding train the size of a bottle cap. It won't pierce the skin, but it will certainly sweep you off your feet.

With soft pads, there are often some indirect injuries - bruises or even broken ribs. Ballistic plate manufacturers boast in their product specifications that the inside is warp-proofed to prevent chest injuries. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, a video shot by Islamic militants was popular online, showing a sniper shooting an American soldier standing next to a Humvee vehicle. After an accurate shot from the Dragunov rifle, the soldier fell as if beheaded, only to pick himself up a few seconds later and instantly hide behind the vehicle. While it's hard to find a better advertisement for ballistic plates, this case proves just how much power a bullet has, even when it doesn't cause any wounds.

Darius Matusiak

Darius Matusiak

A wannabe fighter pilot, racing driver, and a spec-op; an adventurer and a space marine – hence, a gamer. I’ve been playing games since Wing Commander, and writing since Destiny.

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