I like guns. I like owning them, holding them, shooting them, learning about them, looking at them, cleaning them... . I like guns a lot.
My two favorite types are the ones I already own and whatever it is I can't wait to buy. Some guys collect sports memorabilia, others cars. Me? Guns.
I also enjoy amassing the gear that revolves around the gun lifestyle. As a thriller author, I could probably justify a lot of my purchases as "research," but I buy what I do because I love it.
Because I write about the special operations, intelligence and law enforcement communities, I try to keep up with the latest and greatest their best and brightest are using. Every year when I sit down to begin a new novel, I feel like a kid in a candy store. There's so much out there, and it's all just so darn good. And because it's so good, I can't wait to get right to it.
In my new thriller, "Act of War," I open with one of my favorite brands of pistols:
The air was thick with humidity. Oppressive. Typical for this time of year. It was monsoon season, and stepping outside was like stepping into a steam room. Within half a block the man was sweating. By the intersection, his clothes were sticking to his body. The Glock tucked behind his right hip was slick with perspiration.
So, why a Glock? Because I own Glocks and think they are fantastic handguns. I know what it feels like to have one tucked behind my right hip and how the sandpaper-like grip feels against my skin, especially when it's hot and humid outside. I know that when the character above reaches for his Glock, how his hand will feel as it closes around the Austrian pistol. I know because that guy is me.
All of the characters in my novels are me (to one degree or another), and I make it my job to be 100 percent familiar with the guns and gear they use. You'll never see me writing about a character fumbling with the safety on a Glock. Not going to happen. Ever.
To make sure I don't screw up, I rely on some very important people. First, I want to know what operators are using. If your job is to go kill bad guys and you're the best in the world at doing it, I want to know what you're using. That was how Mark LaRue and his OBRs popped onto my radar screen.
After being introduced to LaRue at a military base, which shall remain nameless, I could immediately see why operators are so enthralled with his rifles. He is a precision-fanatic, and the rifles he builds are tack-driving works of art. I can break them down and put them back together a hundred times and groups will still be right where I want them on paper. He and his product are engineering marvels. That's why you see LaRue rifles in all of my novels, and that's also why I own so many of them.
Another rifle I own, which appears in the very first shootout in "Act of War," also has its roots in the special operations community and was built for me by Shooting Illustrated's own Steve Adelmann. Adelmann is a retired special operations sergeant major with 21 years of U.S. Army experience, including 10 tours of duty with multiple visits to Iraq and Afghanistan. Simply put, he knows his stuff—if you're a reader of this magazine, you already know that.
Envisioning all sorts of possible situations is what I do as an author. I like to drop my characters into difficult scenarios, equip them with certain tools and watch what happens. One of my favorite situations in "Act of War" comes when the main character, counterterrorism operative Scot Harvath, is dispatched to Reagan National Airport to meet two of his teammates and hop on a private plane in pursuit of a terrorist cell. All Harvath has available to him is what's in the back of his Chevy Tahoe. Once again, I pulled a partial page out of my own playbook when I wrote the scene:
Harvath set an empty Blackhawk load-out bag on top of the Truck Vault and began filling it up. Into the bag went his LaRue 14.5-inch PredatOBR rifle and his Remington 870 Express tactical shotgun. He grabbed his .45-caliber H&K USP compact pistol, a Glock 21, a Glock 17 and a RONI conversion kit that would turn the G17 into a short-barreled rifle.He threw in a Taser X26P, a set of night-vision goggles, flashlights, walkie-talkies and ear pieces, an extra Benchmade folding knife for Sloane and one for Chase, as well as plastic restraints, holsters, ammunition, his Otis cleaning kit and extra magazines.
With his bug-out bag over one shoulder and his overnight bag over the other, he extended the handle of his load-out bag and wheeled it behind him into the building.
Like the LaRue rifles and Glock pistols in my novels, I am also a big fan of TASER and Benchmade Knife products, which I always include in my books. Do I own all of those items Harvath loaded out with? No, but I own most of them. The items I don't own I have spent time with and they're on my "to-buy" list. By the time this article is published, I will have moved myself and my family to the great state of Tennessee, and I will enjoy much broader range of purchase options than I did living in Chicago, IL.
The best e-mails I receive are from men and women who work in harm's way who tell me they enjoy my thrillers not only because I accurately portray what they do, but also because I accurately portray the gear they use. That is some of the highest praise an author can receive, especially someone who strives to get all of the details right. Sometimes, though, getting those details right can take you places you may not want to go.
While at SHOT Show this year, I met with an associate who showed me a fantastic new knife from Columbia River Knife & Tool. Right away, I knew I was going to find a place for it in "Act of War." Here's how I described it:
Hidden beneath his tunic, Tang carried a 4.5-inch-long, razor-sharp CRKT knife called the Otanashi noh Ken, which meant 'Silent Sword' in Japanese. It was a deep-concealment folding-blade that had been created for the Special Operations community by famed knife-maker and close quarter combatives expert, James Williams. Designed for maximum penetration through clothing, it was small enough to be hidden, but long enough to reach critical organs and finish the job.
I asked a friend (who has visited untold violence upon America's enemies) to take a look at the knife, tell me what he thought of it and how he would use it. He was very impressed and described exactly how he would use it. Word for word, I included it in the book and let's just say, I don't ever want to be on the receiving end of what he laid out. Even now, the thought makes my blood run cold. That said, I have an Otanashi noh Ken in my collection, and I love it. It's a work of art, and it can be used for more than violence, of course. Knowing what and for whom it was designed gives it added value in my estimation.
It's pieces like these in my collection I appreciate the most. Including them in my novels is my way not only of getting the details right and keeping my readers on the cutting edge of what's out there, but also paying homage to the men and women who use these tools in pursuit of executing some of this nation's most dangerous business.
While I have only just scratched the surface here, rest assured there's plenty more great guns and gear in "Act of War." From Heckler & Kochs and Berettas, to Springfield Armory XDs and SIG Sauers, I have a reason for every gun and every piece of equipment I chose. I sweat the details because I want readers of my thrillers not only to have a white-knuckle, edge-of-their-seat ride, but also to walk away smarter. With the intelligent, firearms-owning readership I have, the bar is set very high, and that's the way I like it.
The brave men and women I write about don't specialize in easy. They do the impossible and I would be doing them, and you, a disservice if I didn't bring my "A" game every single time—especially when it comes to a subject we all love so dearly: our guns and gear.