Until very recently, I'd never shot a gun. I was rubbish, predictably, but I felt that I ought to have done so, at least once, having written about them so many times in so many books. Guns, knives, swords, weapons of all kinds, have always been a fascination and writing about them has been unavoidable, in the kind of books I write, anyway. My heroines are as likely to wield a sword as a lipstick and researching the kind of weapons they are likely to use is one of the more interesting avenues to pursue.
|Anne Bonney and Mary Dead|
Take these two, for example. Anne Bonney and Mary Read. Notorious pirates both and armed to the teeth. The way they are depicted tells a story in itself, not just that they are dressed as men and sailors (breasts helpfully exposed to reveal their gender), the weapons they are carrying show them to be pirates. They both carry several pistols, to be discharged and discarded for quickness of fire when boarding a vessel (an early version of the revolver - pistols were easily replaced) and short, curving cutlasses - a long straight bladed weapon was useless for close quarter fighting on board ship. They also both carry large axes. Cutting ropes was a very effective way of disabling a sailing ship and handy for opening chests and barrels. All handy information when writing about pirates.
My original impulse for writing pirates came from this picture, Buccaneer of the Caribbean. The term buccaneer derived from the Caribbean Arawak word, buccan, a wooden frame for smoking meat. 'Buccaneer' became the name for the French hunters who used such frames to smoke the meat from feral cattle and pigs they shot on Hispaniola, when they weren't robbing Spanish ships. The long barrelled musket he carries betrays his trade.
|Buccaneer of the Caribbean from Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates|
My interest continues to present day weaponry. Eighteenth Century pirates would have been astonished at the power of modern weapons, from the iconic AK 47 Kalashnikov, chosen by the Baader Meinhof Group for their logo,
My current interest is back in the recent past. The Lee Enfield -303 - again, a sniper's weapon and Christine Granville's .35 Radom pistol. Not her very one, you understand, but one like it.
|Lee Enfield .303|
|Christine Granville's .35 Radom pistol - Imperial War Museum|
Also the German MP 40 machine pistol.
Quite an arsenal, so it was about time I shot a gun myself. You'll be relieved to know that no clay pigeons were harmed.