Firearm Terminology: Most common firearm terms

Firearm Terminology: In no particular order

Magazine: A magazine (“mag” for short) is a rectangular enclosed box that holds cartridges and is inserted into either a pistol or rifle.  They are not called a “clip.”

Clip: A clip is used to store ammunition in a unit of generally 5-10. In doing so, making is easier to quickly load ammunition into a firearm. This is different from a magazine, in that a mag has a spring that feeds ammunition directly into the firearm. A clip is not an enclosed box. Rather it’s a simple strip of metal that simply holds ammunition.

Accidental discharge: When the gun fires due to a mechanical failure. This is different from a “negligent discharge” which happens when a person fires a gun when they either didn’t mean to, or thought that it wasn’t loaded. Both cases can be dangerous, but disaster can be avoided by practicing proper firearm safety.

Assault Rifle: A military rifle that can fire in both semi-automatic and full auto. These are not generally available on the civilian market. You need a special license to buy one and fill out an ungodly amount of paperwork and Guntermsbackground checks.

Assault Weapon: Who the hell knows? It’s a political term that was invented for shock value. It doesn’t have any fixed definition. Basically, if it looks scary than it’s an “assault weapon.”

Action: The action is the mechanism that loads, locks, and extract the cartridge. For example a bolt action is different from a lever action. A muzzle loader does not have an “action” since it is loaded by hand.

Bullpup: Refers to the configuration of a rifle where the magazine is located behind the action and the trigger. This shortens the overall length of the rifle.

Dry Firing: Dry firing refers to firing a gun when it doesn’t have any ammunition in it. This is generally done for people who are familiarizing themselves with the gun and how it works. When dry firing it’s important to make sure that the gun is empty. This may sound like common sense, but a lot of people have made this mistake. Some guns are ok to dry fire. However, more most guns it can wear out the hammer and/or firing pin. This is because they were designed to hit against a cartage rather than thin air. However, you can buy something called “snap caps.” They act as ammunition in that they will feed into the gun and cushion the firing pin.(checkout/buy snap caps by clicking here)  It’s important that you buy snap caps that are the right caliber for your firearm.

High Capacity Magazine: Another political term. A standard mag for something such as an AR-15 holds 30 rounds. You can also get 100 round drum magazines. Anyone with remedial shop skills can make a magazine that can hold much more.

Hang fire: A hang fire is when the firing pin strikes but the bullet doesn’t immediately fire. Although hang fires are extremely rare, they are important to be aware of, especially if you are using a revolver. If you experience a hang fire it’s important to keep the gun pointed down range for at least 30 seconds.

Double action: This is a term used for describing a revolver. A double action revolver is one in which you don’t have to pull the hammer back every time you fire. By pulling the trigger the revolver simultaneously cocks the hammer while rotating the cylinder.  A single action revolver is one where the hammer has to physically be pulled back every time before the trigger is pulled. Many “double action” revolvers can also be used in single action making for a much lighter trigger pull.  A “double action only” revolver does not have the option of being used in single action. These are usually referred to as hammerless revolvers since they don’t have an exposed hammer.

Pistol vs. Revolver: There is some debate on whether the term “pistol” includes revolvers. The word “pistol” is usually used when referring to semi-automatic handguns. Whereas revolver refers only to handguns with a revolving cylinder.  If you define all handguns as pistols than all revolvers can be considered pistols, but not all pistols are revolvers.

Caliber: The internal diameter of a bullet. The larger the caliber, the large the bullet. Caliber is often used in conjunction with the size of the cartridge. For example 9mm hand guns are typically hold 9-19 rounds. The 9 represents the diameter of the bullet and the 19 represents the length of the cartridge. However, so 9mm handguns are chambered for a 9-18 round. These guns fire the same bullet but the cartridge is shorter. As such, they can only use a 9-18 round.

Bluing: Bluing is a thing coating used my gun manufacturers and gun smiths to protect the gun from rust and corrosion.

Brass: The empty cartridge case. Also known as a “spent shell.”

Chamber: The portion of the barrel where the bullet rests before being fired. Pistols only have one chamber whereas revolvers will have several.

Shotgun Ammunition: There are several different kinds of ammunition that is used for shotguns. Rock Salt is commonly used of home defense. As the name would suggest it is composed of large chunks of salt. It is commonly not fatal and the salt will dissipate. Although it will undoubtedly hurt like hell. Birdshot is made up of small pellets. Bird shot is commonly used for hunting birds. Buckshot is composed of large pellets. Commonly used for hunting larger game. A “Slug” is composed on one large hunk of metal. Commonly used for large game.

Gauge: The bore size of a shotgun determined by the number of round lead balls of bore diameter that equals a pound. It is used like “Caliber” for the shotgun. The size of the gauge is determent by dividing 1 pound of led. For example, a 12 gauge is a pound of led divided into 12 equal parts and made into a perfect ball. As such, the smaller the gauge number the wider the barrel.

Rifling: Rifling refers to groves inside the barrel. These groves (rifling) cause the bullet to spin. This makes the bullet more stable while it travels to it’s target. The invention of rifling made firearms much more accurate. During the days when dueling with pistols was somewhat common, it was a common rule that the guns used couldn’t have rifling.

Bore: Refers to the hollow area inside the barrel through which the bullet travels. Large and small bore is pretty self explanatory. Smooth  Bore is a bore that doesn’t have any “rifling .”

Kentucky Windage: A bullets trajectory can be altered by wind. Kentucky Windage refers to the practice of altering ones aim to account for wind.

New York Reload: Instead of reloading your gun after firing it, you simply drop it and take about a different gun.

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