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I want to learn about firearms, how to handle them, how to use them and how to talk about them without sounding like a moron for my worldbuilding and writing projects. I've considered options like talking to a professional, for example a hunter, policeman or soldier or going to a shooting range but these are to much effort in the beginning and would most likely be more beneficial once I got the basics down.

So what are great online sources (websites, YouTube channels) for learning about firearms and stuff surrounding them (like tactics, handling of guns,...)? I wouldn't mind books, but free sources would be preferable.

EDIT1: Optimally the sources should be understandable for an uninformed person. Yet if they lead to some higher level discussions of the subject I could read later to gain deeper insights this would be even better.

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    $\begingroup$ @MorrisTheCat Actually asking for resources is a perfectly acceptable form of questions. Hence the worldbuilding-resources tag $\endgroup$ – James Aug 30 at 14:59
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDyingOfLight I would strongly recommend that you add some requirements. My only problem with the question as of now is that any resource would meet your requirements...if you can explain what makes a "great source" that would be helpful and should keep this from getting closed as too broad $\endgroup$ – James Aug 30 at 15:02
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    $\begingroup$ I honestly recommend an hour or two at the shooting range, with instructor. "understandable for an uninformed person" is exactly what you would get there if you will tell them it's your first time. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Aug 30 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ Best way - get into guns, at least go to a range and shoot some, to learn how does it feel, and see for yourself how diferrent they are from Hollywood ones. Also, I recommend Forgotten Weapons channel to find some cool, outlandish weapons for use in your stories. Ah, I see you live in Germany - I recommend taking a trip to Poland, gun ranges here are much cooler than in Germany I believe. You can get chance to shoot full auto guns, and you don't actually need to be in a sport club for it. $\endgroup$ – Mranderson Aug 30 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ As for talking about firearms, one thing I would recommend early, understand the difference between: clip/magazine, automatic/semiautomatic, assault weapon/assault rifle. Just from talking with people who appreciate firearms, those three particular terms seem to act as a sort of test for newbies. You can get a lot of leeway on your other mistakes if you keep those 3 pairs straight. If you get those right, you can also get bonus points for calling a can a "suppressor" rather than the colloquial "silencer." $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Aug 30 at 16:21
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The best possible source is a knowledgeable person. A visit to a range, joining a shooting club, or perhaps going on a hunting trip with a skilled hunter will allow you to see first hand what is being done, and allow you to ask questions right on the spot.

These sorts of people can also direct you to other sources of information, such as books, websites, other groups and so on. Oddly enough, there are lots of military training films on YouTube. If you are looking for historical information, such as how a German infantry squad worked and moved in battle, then study these films. Since they are training films, and not for entertainment, you will lose most of the bizarre stuff that Hollywood movies are notorious for adding.

Finally, in most jurisdictions people who wish to purchase firearms need to take some sort of firearms safety course in order to apply for a licence or permit (depending on the jurisdiction), so you should sign up and get some hands on training with a firearm.

Of course, military weapons like fully automatic assault rifles or belt fed machine guns are not going to be available to you, unless you join the military as an infantryman (most other branches do use automatic rifles, but machine guns, grenade launchers and other weaponry of that nature is most commonly used by infantry soldiers). If you choose to go that route, I'll applaud your dedication to your craft, but point out there won't actually be much time to sit down and write...

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    $\begingroup$ Two quick points: If OP is in the US, most states don't have any licensing or permits required for rifles or shotguns. You do an electronic background check, which takes two minutes, and then you get your gun. Second, there are many ranges in the US that let you rent machine guns and assault rifles for use on their range. There's even one in Las Vegas that lets you try a rocket propelled grenade launcher. There's another range that lets you fire a machine gun out the side of a moving helicopter. $\endgroup$ – Ryan_L Aug 30 at 21:19
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    $\begingroup$ Also, in the US, it is possible to privately own well, almost anything (save for post-Hughes Amendment MGs), provided you have a clean record, plenty of money, and the time and hoop-jumping-willingness needed to engage with the fairly onerous bureaucracy that is imposed by NFA Title II. $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Aug 31 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ While all true, the OP will need to come into the comments section and let us know if these alternatives are available or reasonable (I imagine renting a machine gun, range time and a qualified instructor plus ammunition would add up very quickly... $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Sep 2 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Ryan_L Where are you buying your firearms? I want to go there if they can run that background check that fast :) Everywhere I go can do it fairly fast, but just the forms to fill out take forever. Thank god we don't have massive permitting requirements out here. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Sep 10 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ Last time I went to a full service range, the fee was $45 plus $10 for rental, plus ammo (you had to buy the ranges ammo) well over $100 for a couple of hours. However, we were able to try various weapons for each of the rounds we bought. Something like 3 different .38's and 4 different 9mm. and 2 .45's $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Sep 10 at 18:15
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Tvtropes has an excellent article in their Useful notes section called "Gun Safety" as well as a write up of every military in the world, usually making an alliterative pun or historical joke in the title, allusion to a trademark weapon, or rhyming (the entry for the U.S. is called "Yanks with Tanks" while the UK's is "Brit's with Battleships").

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/GunSafety

Almost all their discussions on warfare and gun handling in fiction do discuss the good or bad aspects of porting to real life.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't know why TVTropes of all things should be the place for such a resource, but I just skimmed over it and it actually is very thorough and good. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Aug 31 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Peteris: As described on TVTropes' main page, they're "buttloads more informal" and as such, their useful notes sections tend to inject a bit of humor into an otherwise droll subject. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Sep 3 at 12:12
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Forgotten Weapons, run by Ian McCollum, is both a website and youtube channel. He offers apolitical discussion on a huge variety of firearms, often talking about the history, variations, and mechanics of said guns. He is still active, and has done videos ranging from two-shot muskets to anti-aircraft cannon.

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    $\begingroup$ I love Forgotten Weapons, but Ian's videos can go quite in depth in the mechanics of guns; possibly too deep for a beginner. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about firearms and he loses me sometimes. Ian was a mechanical engineer before he started FW and I think it really shows. This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. $\endgroup$ – Ryan_L Aug 30 at 16:14
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    $\begingroup$ He also did some videos on just the different types of actions for guns. $\endgroup$ – Joe P Aug 30 at 16:21
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Here's one, with a free 45-page guide to writing guns in fiction https://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/blog/how-to-write-about-guns-the-art-of-firearms-in-fiction

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    $\begingroup$ David answers that rely on just a link will generally get closed. On a resource question like this its a bit different but you should at least give a brief overview of topics covered and why its a good resource. $\endgroup$ – James Aug 30 at 14:59
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I agree that the chosen answer is probably the very best thing you can do. Go to a range, handle the actual firearms and actually shoot them. Pick up the rounds and feel the weight of a box of them. And so on. At a good range you can learn so much more because there are experienced folks around you can ask. They can tell you about what weapons and rounds are used for what purpose. Feeling the recoil as you shoot is an experience not to be overlooked for realism. Little things like learning how fast you can go through a magazine of 30 rounds will surprise the heck out of you in ways that no video game ever could, especially when you actually have to purchase them.

This leads to some other things you should contemplate. If you are looking to write sci-fi or fantasy, and you want realism, you have to account for a lot of those little things you wouldn't think of unless you get a chance to actually experience firing weapons of various sorts. No Youtube video can tell you exactly how LOUD a 5.56mm rifle really is. This makes a difference where stealthy movements are key. A book can't give you a visceral appreciation of how heavy a box of 500 rounds is. The recoil from a semi automatic rifle feels very different from a bolt action (A bolt action tends to kick more because there is no recoil absorbing mechanism). That recoil will have a small influence on a ship in zero gravity.

It's all of those small details that add up to realism, even if you don't explicitly state them.

You see lots of strange stuff in video games and anime, that when given some very cursory thought becomes ridiculous. Like a guy with a minigun for a prosthetic arm, or a nun with a machine gun in her forearm. where do they store bullets? Why has that guy's forearm not been turned to jelly by recoil? stuff like that.

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