Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Stalking the Undead with Gun and Camera

Phil Jennings asks:
I am reading "The Historian" and wondering as to the ease of finding silver bullets. (Efficacious for all normal uses and also against vampires.) Our fictional ensemble simply toss off the remark that they're not hard to find. Maybe not, in Istanbul.

Actually, it so happens that *I* have a silver bullet. No particular reason...

If you have the technology to cast lead bullets, you've got the technology to cast silver. The melting point of silver is a bit higher than that of the lead alloys commonly used for bullets, but if you pre-heat the bullet mould and lubricate it properly, everything works just fine.

This does beg some follow-up questions, though. Must it be pure silver, or will sterling or plate do? And if it need not be pure, will a silver-jacketed or silver-tipped bullet be sufficient? (Winchester "Silvertip" bullets actually have aluminum tips.) One serious problem with using silver for bullets is that it's quite a bit lighter than lead, so a pure silver bullet would lose kinetic energy rapidly as it traveled downrange, be very susceptible to crosswinds and deflections, and have very poor penetration characteristics. A pure silver bullet would not be a good proposition for either long-range accuracy or, say, stopping a charging 300-pound werebeast.

Personally, if I were having a problem with the poorly behaved undead, I would forget the silver bullet thing entirely and start loading 12-gauge shotgun shells with silver crucifixes, earrings, garlic cloves, and the like. It would be strictly a short-range solution, but breaking up the family silverware and stuffing it into shotshells would be a whole lot easier than mucking about with casting, sizing, lubing, loading, and sighting-in actual silver bullet loads.

Then again, I think we're laboring under a fundamental misunderstanding here. As I recall, it's silver bullets for werecritters, and *wood* for vampires. This suggests that stuffing a shotshell with round toothpicks -- or better yet, those big cocktail toothpicks with the fluffy plastic bits on one end -- would achieve a sort of flechette effect that might be well worth exploring.

(See? This is why I've never been able to work the vampire trope successfully. After four pages in my heroes invariably start thinking, "Wooden stakes? Screw that! Why not use bows and wooden-shafted arrows? Problem solved!")