“The dinosaur lowered its head and charged straight at Marty.”
Er … um … so what happens next in the story? I’m fond of my protagonist, so he better raise a big gun and act fast, but what exactly should he do? How long does it take to slip off the safety? Does he aim for the eyeball? How about that mouth filled with razor-sharp fangs? Are either of those actions feasible? How much is the beast’s head bobbing around? For that matter, if the dinosaur’s brain is the size of a walnut, might it be better to try for the heart? Or perhaps the kneecap? How much ground would the dinosaur cover after a bullet pierced its heart? What caliber projectile would be needed to pierce that tough hide, or bony outer layer?
So much is conjecture. Yet, all too often, I read or hear about authors making rookie mistakes when they write about firing weapons. That’s one reason why I took the opportunity, today, to visit a local shooting range with one of the world’s leading firearms experts, who is also a wilderness survival trainer. For the first time in my life, I fired several weapons, including a 22 revolver and a light hunting rifle. I found out just how loud the discharge is (while wearing ear-protection), as well as what the recoil feels like. Equally important was the chance to get a sense of the distances to various targets, as well as learning how to hold the weapon, aim, and pull the trigger.
What’s more, we discussed hypothetical encounters with dinosaurs in the Mesozoic, how my characters might arm themselves, how they might stay out of trouble, and survival strategies when trouble comes head on. One possibility is bear spray (strong pepper spray), although its effectiveness against a dinosaur of any size is also unknown.
As much as I dislike the grim idea of firing at any beasts of the Cretacean wilderness, I’m not going to drop my characters in a prehistoric jungle without giving them the means to return alive.