If you're in a fair fight, you're using poor tactics.

Spy Truth & Fiction — Automatics, Semi-Automatics, and Revolvers

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

There are basically three types of handguns—the revolver, the semi-automatic, and the automatic. All three are commonly misnamed or misrepresented in fiction.


Gunner's Mate 1st Class Montrell Dorsey with M240B automatic weapon Image by US Navy, public domain

Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Montrell Dorsey with
M240B automatic weapon
Image by US Navy, public domain


With an automatic weapon, the cartridges load into a removable magazine. It’s called automatic because when you pull the trigger, it automatically fires repeated bullets until you take your finger off of the trigger. As the shooter fires, the brass shells of the cartridges are ejected from the weapon.


Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 semi-automatic Image by Avicennasis, wikimedia commons.

Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 semi-automatic
Image by Avicennasis, wikimedia commons.


A semi-automatic also has cartridges that load into a removable magazine, which, in a pistol such as this one, fits into the handle of the gun. However, one trigger pull equals one shot, and the brass shell from each cartridge is automatically ejected. The weapon does not automatically keep firing.

It’s very common for a semi-automatic to be inaccurately referred to throughout media, movies, and TV as an “automatic” weapon. No matter how hot the journalist, movie star, or soap opera star might be, don’t believe it just because they say it.


Piper in the remake of Dirty Harry

Piper in the remake of Dirty Harry


A revolver is so called because the cartirdges reside in a revolving cylinder. Like the semi-automatic, one trigger pull equals one shot. However, the brass shells are not ejected automatically. A shooter must open the cylinder and eject all of the shells simultaneously.

Not to knock one of Piper’s favorites, The Walking Dead, but if you listen closely when Rick fires his Colt Python .357, you will sometimes hear the sound of ejected brass hitting the floor with each shot—something only semi-automatics and automatics do. Total audio fiction.

Now it’s your turn. What Spy Truth & Fiction questions do you have for us?


*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


Limited Time Edition Now Available for Pre-Order!

Bayard & Holmes debut novella, THE SPY BRIDE, in this multi-genre

bestsellers’ collection.

The Spy Bride Risky Brides Boxed Set final Cover

8 Risky Brides — 8 Novels & Novellas

Looking for your next must-read author? You’ll find him or her in this limited-time-only collection. USA Today Bestsellers, (Vicki Hinze, Rita Herron, Donna Fletcher, Peggy Webb, Kathy Carmichael) veteran authors, (Kimberly Llewellyn and Tara Randel) and dynamic newcomers, (Bayard & Holmes)—all share their unique take on what it means to be a risky bride.

10 thoughts on “ Spy Truth & Fiction — Automatics, Semi-Automatics, and Revolvers

  1. on ,
    Dave said:

    Careful that you don’t let Piper get ahold of the M240B. I’ve heard a rumor that she never met a gun she didn’t like, and that one will probably fit her hands perfectly. All of which is OK, but she’ll need to sell a lot of books to cover its operating costs without the US taxpayer picking up the tab…

  2. We’ve already discussed the dismaying lack of spy ‘cars-that-become-submarines’ in the real world…and having seen Mythbusters toast the inside of a Jaguar, I am also pretty sure spies don’t have cars with ejector seats. But I have to ask – is there ever ANY gadgetry in a spy’s car? At all? (I mean ‘spy’ gadgetry, not the usual factory-fitted ‘extra features’ that anyone can have and which break 23 seconds after the warranty’s expired?)

    All the best for the new novella! Very cool!

    • I’ve known a few intelligence types and ridden in their personal vehicles. One had a perfectly normal Datsun 280Z that was extremely cool all on its own back in the early 80s. Another had a minivan. His fanciest gadget was the ear piece he used that beeped when his head would tilt so that he didn’t go to sleep while driving. As for Holmes, he has a decent CD player and the most well-equipped first aid kit outside of an actual Emergency Room. It’s like Harry Potter’s tent. He can pull out anything from anti-itch cream to snake bite treatment to chocolate and ammo.

      As for on-the-job vehicles, I’m curious, too . . . Holmes? Shall we make that a post?

  3. Great information! Here’s another gun question: I’ve heard that silencers don’t really silence; they’re more like mufflers in a car. So the notion that a gunshot would ever be completely quiet is erroneous. Is it? What’s the truth?

    • An excellent question, Julie, and most timely. That will be the topic of our next two Truth & Fiction posts. 🙂

  4. Gotta love a woman who know’s how to protect herself! Great picture Piper 🙂 Also on the subject of silencers, have you or Holmes come across any homemade silencers in books or movies that would really work to suppress sound?

  5. Pingback: Spy Truth & Fiction–Are Silencers Silent? « Bayard & Holmes

Leave a Reply

Return to Top
%d bloggers like this: