Several modern shooters like the "Call of Duty" series, the latest "Medal of Honor," and now "Battlefield 3" market themselves as the real hardcore deal, as immersive experiences reminiscent of cordite-choked sands.

I spent some time at a firing range with real-life weapons to see how they buck up to their video game counterparts in terms of measurable stats.


Yes, for obvious reasons auto-ammo organization is just one of those evils needed for gameplay. Is it as easy to reload an actual weapon under fire? In a nice quiet room? Yes. Under normal combat conditions? No.

Even expecting the report of a blast, I was still flinching a bit, and that was knowing no one was shooting at me. I know rage (or panic) would be imminent in the case of a jam. Under fire is definitely not the time you'd want anything to stop working.

Picking up extra ammo would be pretty exciting. It would be fantastic to be able to run over a corpse and have those extra magazines Velcro onto you automatically. No, this would mean running out into the enemy firing zone (how else did they get hit?), dropping your weapon and rummaging through straps and bags for extra ammo. So, no, it's not as easy.


We really take for granted the multivariable process undertaken by the left trigger (L2 for you PS3 guys). I especially love the "COD" mechanic of aim-and-release, where aiming is pretty automated one target after another. I've taken down whole squads in a matter of seconds using that, and I even kind of feel bad when they're roping down from a helicopter.

On some factors, aiming can be easy in reality as well. Opposite the Garand, firing the AR-15 (M16) and AK-47 Tactical (Kalash) -- the difference between hard plastics versus solid wood and steel -- was a breeze! They're light and the M16 had a red dot sight while the Kalash had an ACOG.

I even had a mildly badass moment when I blew apart two targets with the Kalash. I can imagine, though, that after holding any heavier weapons awhile and factoring in things like combat fatigue, heat and, of course, being shot at, aiming might not be as easy anymore.

Aiming with pistols was also comparatively as easy. With low kickback and considerably less weight, a steady hand can definitely knock some impressive shots. Though hitting the same spot in succession while rapid firing isn't quite as easy, though. And yes, I had the chance to fire a Desert Eagle. No, I did not dual-wield them like "COD" because I like my wrists, and no, they're not practical. It was like shooting the Garand one-handed.


Again, on some points, shooters were actually accurate. Modern weapons have minimal kickback, not like the manhandling Garand. That results in being able to mark another target quickly after a shot. This also means you can still maintain effective fire at increased rates even on burst firing.

But in terms of firing proficiently, that's when the details really start to count. You have to maintain several variables at a constant -- at this point, R2 and L2 start to look attractive. Even with experience, I would imagine maintaining laser-precise aim in full auto would be more than a challenge.

The most egregious inaccuracy that occurs in all shooters, though, involves shotguns. There's a whole generation of gamers who think shotguns are only effective within 10 feet of your target; a weapon only to be used for intimate candlelit moments with the enemy when things get really close and messy.

I've been disappointed several times in "Modern Warfare 2" online when getting a clean mark on a target with my Striker, and having it be as effective as a confetti cannon outside a range of about 10 feet. I know buckshot spreads -- but it doesn't turn into fairy dust, either.

When firing a Mossberg 590 on the range, I was even hitting targets at around 70 feet out. So, yeah, shotguns will hurt and kill at long distances.

The most interesting piece that I came across in researching for this article was a combat firearms report card from a Marine named Jordan stationed in Iraq. (The whole report card is available at The M16 and more recently, the M4, tend to have starring roles in most modern shooters, but they really do lack something, according to the report. The M16's initial jamming problems back in the 1960s are common knowledge now, but it seems those problems have returned with the "talcum powder-like sand" in Iraq. The M4 also suffers from these jamming problems.

Maybe shooters should consider portraying this problem a little more since it is a reality.


The technical aspects of combat, such as the weapons themselves and all their minutiae, were easy enough to research, but when it came down to how actual combat occurs, it was surprisingly difficult to find sources at first.

In games, combat takes place on the invisible linear path chock-full of bad guys in large standoffs. It wasn't until I thought to type in "firefight" in YouTube that I got a real look at honest combat.

Under fire in these videos, troops were always safely in cover and shooting back while calling in support from fly-bys or armor. In video games you see several of your NPC buddies get shot down running from cover to cover. In real-world videos from the front, preserving life seems to be the priority, with everyone safely in cover.

Notable, as well, is the lack of movement. There will be 10-minute spans of video where troops are just hunkered down, safely providing suppressing fire. When have you ever stood in one spot in a FPS for more than two minutes? There is, however, one exceptional video ( where a troop runs out of cover to fire a LAW rocket (Note: This video contains actual war footage and may not be for the faint of heart). With frightening joy, when compared to the majority of video, you'll see this is a very exceptional case, reminiscent more of online antics than actual trained combat.

On the report card, Jordan notes that in the odd large-scale infantry engagement, insurgents always get beaten down. Most combat really occurs in true guerilla tactic, and is the one most responsible for casualties. The most common cause of these is the IED (improvised explosive device).

As opposed to the mass organized engagements we see in "Battlefield" and "COD," actual combat overseas seems to be much more constrained. If anything, what we're presented with echoes more the tradition of large-scale WWII engagements. And no, not once did I see someone jumping onto a helicopter at the last second.


Although I have suggested that developers take some of these realities into consideration, by no means would I want them to try to get every detail of war rendered into 1080p. The core aim of a game is to be a game and provide entertainment, and this will always take priority.

War and combat aren't pretty at all. Shooters sometimes like to play on themes of patriotism to add poignancy to the experience, but from what I've read and seen from troops, their primary goal is to survive. War has been a necessity in the past, but it also involves a lot of kids dying, so, I'm not sure just how real we'd want our games to get.

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