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afarnam
12-15-2014, 05:19 AM
My two characters are running out of a building and jumping into a car in a small, mostly deserted parking lot to escape. The baddies have only a few seconds warning that they are escaping. They run out of the building too and see the characters running into the parking lot. They begin firing at them with hand guns. The characters jump into a car (nothing special), start it and drive away as quickly as possible.

Any tips so that I don't put my foot in my mouth. How far behind do the baddies need to be for it to be plausible that the characters escape? How easy or hard is it to stop a regular car with several people on foot with hand guns? If I say they hit the car a couple of times but didn't do any major damage and the characters are able to drive away am I going to look stupid?

Thank you for any advice!

P.S. I don't really know where else to say this, so I'll say it here. I am so grateful for the help of people in this Story Research section. I try to answer questions when I can but my expertise doesn't seem to be in too high of demand. This is the best place I have found to find help with research details. Readers and even journalists have asked me where I get the technical details for stories and I tell them about you guys and gals. You're awesome! Many thanks!

King Neptune
12-15-2014, 05:37 AM
It is very unlikely that someone could stop a car with a handgun. A lucky hit on the driver would be one way. A car can be hit with many bullets without suffering significant damage. On the other hand, a lucky shot could hit a major engine component (the computer for example) and stop the car on the spot. A following car would be most likely to hit the body only. They could try to hit a tire, but many cars can keep going after a blowout. Even a hit on a gas tank would probably just result in a leak.

How far ahead they would have to be to have escaped would depend on the road and what is along it. They would have to be out of sight, and far enolugh that they might have taken any of several turns off. In a rural area with no side roads they would have to keep going for a long time.

The easiest way to lose another car is in heavy traffic. Your people could take a left turn at a busy intersection aned be two miles away before the baddies get around the corner.

Brightdreamer
12-15-2014, 05:47 AM
Make this scene happen at night, and/or in bad weather (rain, snow, fog, wind, etc.) That would make it even harder for the baddies, and possibly help the good guys get away.

There's also a certain amount of storytelling leeway, here. Unless you stack the odds impossibly against the good guys - the bad guys are trained snipers, or they're standing two feet away from the heroes as they climb into the car - the audience is likely to accept the "they got away amid a hail of gunfire" scenario without too much question. Shoot out a window or pick off a side mirror or give one of them a flesh wound if you want to amp things up, but generally speaking it's hard enough to stop a car with a handgun that the reader should be okay with them escaping.

cmhbob
12-15-2014, 06:01 AM
Pretty much anything over 100 feet is going to be a lucky shot, the recent Austin cop's marksmanship notwithstanding. Too many ways to miss the important stuff at anything much past 25 yards. As Brightdreamer suggested, lots of peripheral damage is fine.

afarnam
12-15-2014, 08:17 AM
Oooo... Great suggestions. I forgot to include weather. It can't be night but it can be bad weather. Yes, they're turning onto a major thoroughfare and then running a red light to make a left turn into a grid of urban streets. I really appreciate the reassurance that I'm not a complete idiot on this. :)

cornflake
12-15-2014, 08:37 AM
Unless you hit the driver, or the driver panics because someone is shooting and does something to wreck the thing him or herself, it's neigh impossible to stop a car with a handgun or two. Even if someone hits a tire, you can drive on a blown tire, most people just don't.

There's a scene in a Reese Witherspoon/Chris Pine/Tom Hardy movie I forget the name of. The guys are spies and she's the editor of like Consumer Reports, so knows all about products. An SUV is barreling toward the three of them, and the two guys are shooting at it head on, to no avail.

Reese suddenly shouts to shoot the headlights, because all that car's models past whatever year have automatic airbag deployment if the headlight busts at speed. They do, the driver rolls the thing when the airbags blow and product knowledge saves the day. Unless your character is like that though, the car is just driving off. ;)

Bing Z
12-15-2014, 05:10 PM
There's a scene in a Reese Witherspoon/Chris Pine/Tom Hardy movie I forget the name of. The guys are spies and she's the editor of like Consumer Reports, so knows all about products. An SUV is barreling toward the three of them, and the two guys are shooting at it head on, to no avail.

Reese suddenly shouts to shoot the headlights, because all that car's models past whatever year have automatic airbag deployment if the headlight busts at speed. They do, the driver rolls the thing when the airbags blow and product knowledge saves the day. Unless your character is like that though, the car is just driving off. ;)
Well, cornflake, except that shooting at a speeding car's headlights is a SEAL team 8 thing. Chances are not even Gibbs can pull it off. :tongue

afarnam
12-15-2014, 07:27 PM
That only leaves me to figure out how far away the baddies cars have to be, so that my characters can escape okay. The driver isn't experienced in car chases but a good driver. I know that car chases in the movies are wildly unrealistic, and I have the disadvantage that I can't actually drive at all so driving scenes are always a bit of a challenge. This is fairly standard, nothing out of the ordinary in terms of a car chase. They jump into a car and weave wildly as they leave the parking lot. Hurtle out onto a multi-lane boulevard. Drive a quarter mile and then run a red light to zip through the traffic on the other side in a dangerous left turn. They make a few corners on small streets, look back, see they aren't being followed. Get out and take the covers of the license plates (the driver was actually expecting this to happen so he was prepared). The baddies theoretically jump in their cars and chase them but lose them fairly quickly. I don't have to go into detail because the POV character isn't the driver and isn't looking back.

Once!
12-15-2014, 07:49 PM
It might depend on whether the bad guys are shooting at the car from the front or the back. There is almost nothing that you could shoot out at the back of a car which would disable it - apart from the driver. The door pillars of modern cars are pretty thick to protect against rollovers so that would also provide some protection. Unless you are very unlucky or the bad guys are exceptionally good shots, the good guys will be getting away.

Your car chase sounds fine. It seems realistic for a chase to end with the pursuers losing sight of the escaping car.

Not too sure about the license plates, though. That might help a little, but I would have thought that the bad guys will recognise the car from its make, model, colour and any bullet holes they manage to put into it. The license plate may be one of the last things they are able to see in a chase.

Swapping cars might be a good tactic, though.

Taejang
12-15-2014, 08:37 PM
To emphasize what has already been said, hitting anything at distance with a pistol is extremely difficult. Doing so when under stress (aka adrenaline pumping while chasing someone) makes it much harder. It takes intense training to hit a small stationary target at ranges of 100 feet or more with a pistol while under stress. Even harder if the target is moving, and if the shooter is moving, you can almost forget it. Assuming the characters are 75-100 feet or more away, the baddies need to be expert marksmen with combat experience to even have a chance. At closer distances, there is still a healthy chance the baddies will miss completely and very good chance that if they hit it won't stop the car.

If anyone is using a rifle, that changes the whole scenario.

The nature of the bad guys determines how far away they can be in the chase and still lose the characters. Did they stop running to shoot at the car? If so, once the car is moving, they have to run to their own vehicle, get in, start it, etc. It will give the characters a substantial head start.

Did they shoot while running toward their vehicle, or were there enough bad guys that some stopped to shoot (or ran at the characters) while others got in a car? The head start is going to be negligible.

Are the baddies trained in car chases? Would they risk death to cross a red-light in the midst of heavy traffic? If the answer is yes, then the characters have to be far enough ahead to at least and get around a few cars before the baddies make the corner (or the baddies try but fail to make the corner...).

If the baddies are in cop cars, the sirens will give them significant advantage in making said left-hand turn.

King Neptune
12-15-2014, 11:02 PM
Think of how long it takes to get into a car, start it, and drive off. It can take less than half a minute, even though it usually takes a couple of minutes. The lead time should be enough for your heroes to get onto the boulevard, and that should turn out to be far enough, because they would be around the left turn and into the side street by the time the baddies get to the intersection. Picture the baddies in the second car in line to take the left, and a semi goes by in the opposite direction just in time to bock their last view of the heroes driving away, and the frustrated shooter uncocks his 9mm and puts it out of sight.

afarnam
12-16-2014, 09:19 AM
There are about six baddies, probably enough that some stop to fire while others run toward a vehicle or two. No they aren't cop cars (though they are in league with the police, so that is why the license plate is an issue in the long run). No one has a rifle because no one among the baddies expected this to happen. They expected their prey to be unaware and unresisting. The fact that some of them had hand guns could conceivably be a stretch although the larger context makes it believable. One is a security guard but the others are best described as involved in a high-stakes scientific experiment. They are not as desperate as those they are chasing, so the idea that they might hesitate to roar through traffic quite as recklessly is conceivable.

All very helpful! Many thanks for the help.

cornflake
12-16-2014, 03:42 PM
Well, cornflake, except that shooting at a speeding car's headlights is a SEAL team 8 thing. Chances are not even Gibbs can pull it off. :tongue

I dunno who Gibbs is, but in the movie, the guys were stationary, crouched on level ground, with the car coming at them straight, in broad daylight, so it seems pretty plausible.

Taejang
12-16-2014, 07:03 PM
I dunno who Gibbs is, but in the movie, the guys were stationary, crouched on level ground, with the car coming at them straight, in broad daylight, so it seems pretty plausible.
Gibbs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leroy_Jethro_Gibbs).

Various studies have been done showing that, on average, trained officers only hit with 18-61% of their shots. These studies are for human-sized targets at between 6 and 20 feet, which is the standard engagement range for US police officers. (I'm not citing individual studies because they vary so much; you'll have to do your own research.)

Point being, a headlight is smaller than a human chest. While under stress, even trained shooters will have a difficult time making that kind of shot, particularly with a pistol. I'm going to guess the car in the movie was much farther away than 20 feet, since the momentum at that range would mean the shooter was run over.

This is not to say the shot is impossible, particularly for military or police veterans used to high-stress situations. Luck is always a possibility as well, and it is more likely with every shot fired. The car coming straight at them does help, as does the light and their steady position (stopped and crouching). But that is still an amazing shot to make, and comparing it to a SEAL team or trained sniper is justified.

jimmymc
12-16-2014, 07:43 PM
Wouldn't be a problem for 'Dirty Harry' and his Smith & Wesson model 29 .44 magnum.

Any shot with a magnum handgun to the upper left front of the vehicle would likely go through the firewall and penetrate the passenger compartment, if it didn't hit the engine.

Engines on front wheel drive cars normally set over to the right side, with the transmission on the left... the area above the transmission is fairly open.

afarnam
12-16-2014, 07:53 PM
Okay, I'll make sure they're shooting at the back of the car. That was the idea anyway but this is a good discussion for anyone else with this problem. This isn't even the first time I've asked a question about stopping a car with a gun on AW. The last time the gunner was in a moving car and using a submachine gun. So, it was a bit of a different question. I didn't actually want the car to stop that time either though. :)

waylander
12-16-2014, 08:04 PM
If the bad guys are not highly trained then they could easily make mistakes. Imagine one of them dropping the car keys or stalling the car trying to get going in a hurry.

King Neptune
12-16-2014, 10:54 PM
What Waylander suggested could also happen to the heroes, if you want it. You'll have an easy time keeping them alive.




BTW, free will is illusory. Everything is determined.

afarnam
12-17-2014, 02:16 AM
That's nice that they can survive, considering that it's the first chapter! :D

King Neptune
12-17-2014, 03:33 AM
That's nice that they can survive, considering that it's the first chapter! :D

If you want to, then you could kill them off. It would change the story, but. . . ;)

Okelly65
12-17-2014, 06:18 AM
Gibbs could do it blindfolded while slapping Tony on the back of the head.:D

afarnam
12-17-2014, 09:07 AM
Well, in one book I did make five characters and then kill off all but one of them before chapter four but that was a special case. :D