As readers of this website know, Detective Karen Yellowtail is up against a very dangerous opponent. Dubbed The Angel Maker by the media, this killer is cutting a terrifying swathe through her territory and mind. Weapons expert Benjamin Sobieck puts something special in his hands. Thanks Ben!   

It’s not a spoiler to say that BJ Wolf’s antagonist in her Karen Yellowtail novels is an ex-military lunatic. And what does every self-respecting “Big Bad,” as Wolf would say, need? Some formidable weaponry.

We already covered some of this at but the firearm angle hasn’t been explored yet. So when Wolf fired a few ideas my way, I was happy to take a proverbial shot (not to be confused with this gentleman, Wolf’s other type of shot).

Identifying the Character Traits

Matching weaponry to a character – Wolf had three requirements in mind:

The firearms should be familiar to someone with a military background

The firearms should be devastating, but not overly complicated to write about

The character prefers sniper rifles

On top of that, there was the character’s background to consider:

A bad childhood; the Army became his family, the only one he really knows; an incident in Afghanistan became his trigger for a very bad memory, and he went a bit crazy over there; the Army sent him home saying he had PTSD and then they let him go. Now it’s all turned to custard: His new family don’t want him either. As Detective Yellowtail would say, “More triggers there than at a Roy Rogers convention”.

Wolf had three specific firearm models in mind, culled from information about the U.S. Marines:

The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS)

The Barrett M107 

The Colt M4 Carbine (basically a smaller version of the iconic M16)

Would these work?

A Quick Note About Firearms for Ex-Military Characters

Keep in mind that with ex-military characters (and I can only speak for the U.S.), they don’t always get to keep the weapons they used in the service as they return to civilian life. That’s especially true for fully automatic firearms, since no U.S. civilian can possess one with that functionality made after May 19, 1986.

Exploring The Options

The Colt AR15A4


 The Colt AR-15 A4 is similar to the iconic M16 used by the military, but there’s one critical difference. The AR-15 A4 can only fire in semi-automatic mode. The M16 can fire in both semi-auto and fully automatic modes. This is important from functional and legal standpoints. (Colt image)

If you wanted to match the M110SASS even more closely for sniper-style work, go with any .308 caliber semi-automatic hunting or tactical rifle, such as this semi-automatic tactical rifle by DPMS.

The military’s Barrett M107 is nearly identical to the Barrett Model 82A1 on the civilian market. So just tweak the name a bit and you’re done. Of course, there are plenty of other options, too. These are the ones that popped into my head initially.

The Verdict: The Barrett Model 82A1


Dang, even in pictures it’s big. (Barrett image)

I think Wolf putting that Barrett Model 82A1 into this character’s hands opens up a whole host of creative carnage. This .50 caliber grizzly bear could take out vehicles, blow apart characters, dissect small aircraft, blow holes in buildings and take on just about anything else from a mile away. It’s not as suited for closer ranges, which is where that AR-15 can help.

However, it is suited for the writer looking to keep things simple. This is a semi-automatic rifle with a 10-round magazine. Point. Shoot. Repeat. If the character can’t get it done in 10 shots, then swap in a fresh magazine and keep going. The downside to any .50 caliber rifle is the expense of the ammunition. This character better have some dough to blow, because it’s like sending a two-dollar bill downrange every time the trigger is pulled.

About Benjamin Sobieck

Benjamin Sobieck is the author of The Writers Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books), as well as several mystery/thriller works. His website is

Instead of money, guns and lawyers, please send reuben sandwiches.

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