A Firearms Glossary

Michael Crites


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Firearms Glossary - Cover

This article is part of our ongoing series on Gun Basics

References to firearm condition standards are those that have been established by the National Rifle Association regarding the physical status of antique weapons 

ACP: Abbreviation for automatic colt pistol.

Action: A firearm’s working mechanism (typically the receiver or frame and breech bolt) that facilitates its firing and loading/unloading. There are a variety of types of actions from single to automatic.

Action Shooting: A competitive event where participants draw holstered pistols and fire at various-shaped, small targets. The winner is the most accurate shooter or fastest shooter.

Air-gun: Refers to any gun that fires projectiles (BBs, pellets) by C02 or compressed air.

Ammo: Abbreviated form of ammunition.

Ammunition: A complete assembly consisting of a case, a charge (gunpowder), and a projectile. Also known as fixed ammunition.

Antique: Refers to any firearm, made before 1899, that is not designed to fire fixed ammunition or for which ammunition is unavailable.

Armor-Piercing Ammunition: The U.S. Government defines it as projectiles that are used in handguns and which consist (entirely or primarily) of beryllium copper, brass, bronze, depleted uranium, iron, steel or tungsten alloys.

Arsenal: A government facility that makes, repairs and, stores ammunition and firearms.

Artillery: Typically refers to firearms with bore diameters of 3 or more inches. Generally they fire explosive projectiles and must be operated by a crew.

Assault Rifle: A selective-fire rifle designed to rapidly fire intermediate power cartridges through selective and automatic fire. This type of firearm originated in early 1940s Germany. Their “storm rifle” was made to spray bullets to maximize the weapon’s ability to wound and kill during combat.

Assault Weapon: Technically any weapon used in an assault, but usually refers to firearms that are compatible for efficient attacks. See “Weapon.”

AFTE: The Association of Firearms and Tool Mark Examiners

Auto(matic) Loading
See “Semi-Automatic.”

Automatic: Firearm that continuously feeds cartridges, fires their bullets and ejects their empty cases.

Automatic Pistol: Popular term that is a misnomer. See “Semi-Automatic Pistol.”

Backstrap: The part of a pistol that is exposed at the rear of the grip.

Ball: Typically refers to a cylinder-shaped bullet with either a rounded or pointed nose and is typically used with muzzle-loaded firearms.

Ballistics: The study of projectile motion and effects. In the case of guns, it refers to all factors that affect the bullet, including the velocity, trajectory, size of load, rifling, and more. Each weapon has its own unique “ballistic signature,” which leaves markings on the bullets. This allows police laboratories to determine whether two bullets were fired from the same weapon.

Barrel: The rifled or smooth tube that a projectile travels after it’s been fired.

Barrel Band: A fixed or adjustable band that holds a gun’s barrel and stock together.

Barrel liner: A liner made of special material that is inserted into a bore to either protect the bore, correct bore erosion or alter the bore so that it can fire smaller caliber ammo.

Barrel Locks: Devices inserted into a firearm’s barrel or through the barrel and chamber to prevent discharge.

Barrel Selector: Component that determines the firing order in a double-barrel gun.

Base Wad: A paper filling that is found in the shotgun shell’s powder charge.

Battery: The flintlock component that, when struck, creates sparks that ignites the powder. Also references a cartridge in firing position after recovery from the recoil of a previous discharge.

Bayonet Lug: A mounting on a firearm for attaching a bayonet or accessory.

Bedding: The point to which a firearm’s barrel is fitted.

Beavertail Forend: A wide-styled forend.

Benchrest (Shooting): A competition where participants fire from a fixed shooting position in an attempt to place consecutive shots into the smallest possible grouping on a paper target. Typically it involves groups of at least 10 shots and at different target distances.

Berdan Primer: See “Primer.”

Bird Shot: Refers to shotgun projectiles that have a diameter less than .24″.

Blackpowder: The earliest form of firearm propellant. Except for its use in antique guns, it has been replaced by higher pressure, smokeless powder.

Blank Cartridge: A cartridge containing a charge but no projectile. It is used for starter’s guns or for special uses such as in movies or theatre productions.

Blind box magazine A magazine that is inserted into a firearm handle and has a permanent closed bottom.

Bluing A gun’s blue or black metal finish that is the result of an acid bath. The coloration and protectant applied to barrels and other exposed metal parts on guns.

Brass The generic term for spent cartridges, even though they’re often made of bronze or aluminum. Commonly used in the context of “pick up your brass after you shoot.”

Breaking: Some shotguns are designed with a hinge that lets the barrel pivot away from the stock so that you can slide in a shell. Opening it this was is called “breaking” the gun.

Boat-tail: A bullet with a tapered end to improve its long-range efficiency.

Body Armor: Vest type jacket worn by law enforcement or military personnel. It is usually made of light-weight, bullet resistive material such as Kevlar.

Bolt-Action: A firearm with an assembly that requires a user to manually lock a cartridge into firing position in its barrel or chamber.

Bore: The interior of a firearm’s barrel excluding the chamber. The hole through the center of the barrel, through which the bullet travels. The bore may be smooth (shotguns and muskets) or rifled (rifles and handguns).

Box magazine: An ammunition holder where the cartridges are vertically stacked.

Brass: A slang term for a spent case. It’s used because a case is most commonly made out of brass.

Breech: The rear part of a gun’s bore.

Breechblock: A movable piece of metal used to open and close a gun’s breech.

Buck Shot: Refers to shotgun projectiles that have a diameter 24″ or greater.

Buckhorn Sight: An open, metallic rear sight with sides that curl similarly to a buck’s horns.

Bull Barrel: A heavier, thicker than normal barrel with little or no taper.

Bullet: The projectile expelled from a gun, which is distinct from a cartridge. Bullets come in a variety of types and are usually composed of lead or lead that is shielded with a harder metal.

Bullet-Proof Jacket or Vest: A misnomer. See “Body Armor.”

Butt: Describes the bottom part of a pistol grip and the rear or shoulder portion of a rifle or shotgun.

Butt plate: A covering that protects the butt of a firearm. The cover may be metal, plastic, rubber or some other material.

Caliber: The diameter of a projectile for a rifled firearm or the interior diameter of a rifled barrel. In the U.S., the diameter is expressed in hundreds of an inch.

Calibre: See “Caliber.”

Cannelure: A groove around a projectile’s circumference.

Carbine: This name applies to any short-barreled rifle (designed for easier use and concealment).

Cartridge: A single, complete round of ammunition consisting of a case, charge (propellant) and projectile (bullet).

Case, Casing: The material that surrounds and holds the charge (cartridge propellant) and/or projectile. It is typically made of brass.

Caseless Ammunition: Ammo that includes a propellant charge in its base rather than in a separate case.

Center-Fire: A cartridge with a primer placed at the center of its casing’s base.

The area of a firearm that holds a cartridge immediately prior to its being fired.

Charcoal Color Casehardening
A method of strengthening gun metal by subjecting it to high heat and plunging it into cold water.

Charging Handle
A handle that cycles a semi or fully automatic firearm without discharging.

The diamond-shaped tool patterns that are cut into firearm grips.

Cheek Piece
A raised portion on the side of the gun’s stock where a user rests his or her cheek while operating a gun.

A constriction at or near a shotgun muzzle. It is designed to control shot dispersion.

Popularly refers to a container that holds a group of cartridges, which may either be transferred or inserted into a firearm.

The hammer-like device on early firearms that set the weapon into firing position.

Cocking (a gun)
Pulling back a gun’s hammer into its firing position.

Cocking Handle
See “Charging Handle.”

The portion of the stock where a shooter rests his or her cheek.

Combination Gun
Typically refers to a shotgun-style base, supporting both a rifle and a shotgun barrel and capable of using several different calibers of ammo.

See “Muzzle Brake.”

Cop-Killer Bullet
An inflammatory phrase typically used to refer to ammunition capable of piercing body armor (bullet-proof jackets).

A U-shaped yoke that supports and facilitates the operation of a cylinder.

The part of a shotgun shell that’s bent in to hold the shot in place.

The sighting lines in a telescopic sight.

The process of rounding and countersinking a barrel muzzle.

A drum-shaped component of a revolver that houses its ammunition.

Decorating one metal by inlaying or attaching another metal.

Damascus Barrel
A barrel made by welding thin strips of metal that have been twisted around a metal rod (called a mandrel).

An accessory, usually added to a rifle’s stock, to absorb the shock of recoil.

A very short-barreled (one or two shot) pocket pistol named after its inventor, Henry Derringer.

A material used with gun powder to slow its burn rate.

To ignite (initiate) an explosive device.

To fire a weapon.

Travel pattern of bullets fired from a single source.

A firearm that is fired either by manually cocking the weapon and then pulling the trigger or by using trigger action to both cock and fire the weapon.

Double-barreled Shotgun
A shotgun with two separate barrels allowing for two discharges before reloading.

Double-Set Trigger
A device consisting of one trigger which cocks and gun while the partner fires it.

One sixteenth of an ounce (or 1/256 of a pound, or 27.34375 grains).

Dram equivalent
A method for describing the power of a shotgun shell by equating its load of modern smokeless power with an equivalent load of black powder, in drams.

A German term referring to a gun with three-barrels.

Drum magazine
Refers to an ammunition holder where cartridges are stored in a circular fashion.

Dry Firing
Discharging an unloaded firearm in order to become familiar with its operation.

A popular term for a cartridge that fails to fire after its primer is struck by the firearm’s firing pin. See “Hangfire.”

Dum-Dum Bullet
A lead-core, shielded bullet with an open nose that was developed by the British in the late 19th Century. It was outlawed by the 1899 Hague Convention.

English Stock
A straight rifle stock with a slender grip.

A mechanism that throws cases free of a firearm.

(NRA Condition Standard) all original parts: over 80% original finish: sharp lettering, numeral and design on metal and wood: unmarred wood: fine bore.

Expanding Bullet
Any bullet that is designed to expand upon striking. This action increases the bullet’s stopping power (and lethality).

Expert Marksman
A highly-skilled shooter, capable of hitting any target falling within weapon range.

Exploding Bullet
A bullet with an explosive component that explodes under striking (ironically this feature severely reduces its ability to penetrate a target).

A device that pulls (hooks) spent cases out of a chamber.

Extrinsic Safety
An external component that is attached to a gun to avoid unintended discharge, such as a separate trigger lock.

Factory New
(NRA Condition Standard) all original parts: 100% original finish: in perfect condition in every respect, inside and out.

(NRA Condition Standard) some major parts replaced; minor replacement parts may be required; metal rusted, may be lightly pitted all over, vigorously cleaned or reblued; rounded edges of metal and wood; principal lettering, numerals and design on metal partly obliterated; wood scratched, bruised, cracked or repaired where broken; in fair working order or can be easily repaired and placed in working order.

To move a live cartridge from a firearm’s magazine to its chamber.

Field Load
A shot shell load designed for hunting small bird and game.

(NRA Condition Standard) all original parts: over 30% original finish: sharp lettering and numerals on metal and wood, minor marring on wood, good bore.

Technically, any pistol, rifle, or shotgun that uses gunpowder to launch projectiles.

A generic reference to how heavily or seriously armed a party is.

Firing Pin
The breech component that strikes the primer, igniting the cartridge.

Fit And Finish
Refers to a firearm’s over-all workmanship.

Fixed Ammunition
See “Ammunition.”

The light emitted from a weapon’s muzzle when it is discharged.

Flash Hider/Flash Suppressor
An accessory that is attached to a muzzle. It is designed to minimize any visible muzzle flash during discharge.

An antique gun which has a firing mechanism consisting of flint striking steel to create sparks that ignites a primer.

Floor Plate
The bottom plate of a cartridge magazine that’s removable.

Floating Barrel
A barrel bedded to avoid contact with a gun’s stock.

See “Full Metal Jacket.”

Unit of measure of kinetic energy of a bullet.

Forcing Cone
The tapered front section of a revolver or shotgun chamber that reduces in size to match the barrel’s bore (diameter).

The potion of a stock located under a firearm’s barrel.

Fore End
See “Forend.”

The front portion of a rifle or shotgun stock.

Feet per second (in regards to projectile speed)

See “Receiver.”

Frangible bullet
A projectile designed to minimize ricochets by disintegrating when a hard surface is struck.

Free Rifle
A rifle, having to weigh less than 17.6 pounds, that is designed for international-type target shooting.

Front Strap
The forward facing portion of a pistol or revolver that is joined with the trigger guard.

Full choke
A tight constriction in the muzzle of a shotgun, producing a long range and tight pattern.

Full Metal Jacket
A bullet that is fully encased with a layer of hard metal jacket which maximizes its ability to penetrate a target.

Gain Twist
A barrel with an increasing pitch in its rifle grooves, resulting in an accelerated bullet spin.

An automatic or semi-automatic firearm that uses propellant gases to operate its case ejections.

Refers to a shotgun barrels bore size. The larger the number the smaller the bore. The gauge actually describes the number of lead balls the diameter of the bore that it would take to make a pound (e.g., a lead ball that would exactly fit the barrel of a 20-gauge shotgun would weigh 1/20 pound).

Geneva Convention(s)
A set of international agreements regarding the behavior of warring nations. It is frequently noted for its ban on the use of ammunition designed to expand upon impact.

Ghost Ring Sight
A sight with a large opening and a thin rim that is positioned on the rear of a rifle or a shotgun. It is used in conjunction with a front-mounted sight and results in the ability to quickly find a target.

(NRA Condition Standard) some minor replacement parts; metal smoothly rusted or slightly pitted in places, cleaned or reblued (metal re-colored); principal lettering, numerals and design on metal legible; wood refinished. Scratched, bruised, or minor cracks repaired; in good working order.

A unit of measure used for bullets or powder. One grain is equal to 1/7000 pound; equals a troy gain or 64.799 milligrams. A grain is not the same as a “granule” or piece of powder.

The part of the gun’s handle held by the hand that works the trigger.

Grip Safety
A locking device located on the grip, which unless depressed, prevents a discharge.

See “Rifling.”

In the U.S., term may be applied to airguns, cannons, pistols, rifles and shotguns.

Gun Control
Typically refers to either existing or proposed laws involving firearm sales and ownership.

The art/practice of building and operating large bore guns.

Gun Lock
The firearm mechanism responsible for exploding the primer (charge).

Gun Powder
Any powdered substance that can be ignited and is suited for propelling projectiles.

Gun Safe
See “Lock Box.”

Gun Smith
A person skilled in making and repairing guns.

The firearm component that causes the firing pin to ignite a cartridge primer.

Hammer block
A safety device that separates the hammer from the firing pin until discharged.

A firearm with a frame design that conceals its firing pin and hammer.

See “Pistol.”

A cartridge that has a delayed discharge due either to defective primer or a defective blow from a firing pin.

See “Base.”

The base of a bullet or firearm stock.

High-Capacity Magazine
An informal reference to a magazine holding a high number of cartridges.

High Intensity
Projectiles that fire at a very high velocity, resulting in longer range shots.

Hinged Frame Action
A firearm design where the action may be opened to pivot down, sideways or up to allow for loading and unloading.

Hollow-Point Bullet
A bullet with a concave nose that maximizes its ability to expand after it penetrates a target.

A fairly recently coined term for persons with an irrational fear of weapons. Apparently pejorative, it comes from the Greek words for tool or weapon and fear.

Abbreviation for a hollow point bullet.

Igniting Charge
See “Primer.”

Improved cylinder choke
A minimal amount of barrel constriction that permits a wide shot pattern.

International Ballistics
See “Ballistics.”

Intrinsic Safety Device
Any permanently installed firearm component that is designed to minimize the chance of an unintended discharge.

Iron Sights
A non-telescopic firearm sight.

A layer of material, metal or synthetic, which encloses the (typically lead) core of a bullet.

Abbreviation for a (Jacketed) Hollowpoint bullet.

Abbreviation for a Jacketed Soft Point bullet.

Refers to the change in bore diameter as a bullet travels from a chamber to the muzzle.

Kentucky Rifle
A type of flintlock firearm, characterized by a short stock and a long barrel.

A lightweight bullet resistive material.

Kevlar Vest
See “Body armor.”

The elongated hole caused when an unstable projectile strikes a target sideways.

See “Recoil.”

Laminated Stock
A warp-resistant stock that is made layers of wood that have been glued together under pressure.

Land And Groove Impression
The rifling marks left on a discharged bullet.

See “Rifling.”

(Pronounced with a long “e”) Aiming in front of a moving target to compensate for the distance it will travel while the bullet or shot are on the way.

Remnants in a firearm bore that is left by fired bullets.

A gun mechanism that is operated (loaded, fired, unloaded) by a lever, typically located below the receiver.

A firearm with a cartridge in its firing chamber.

Loading Gate
A hinged or spring loaded cover that, when opened, allows a firearm to be loaded or inloaded.

Loading Port
A receiver opening that facilitates a cartridge.

Typically refers to securing the bolt of a firearm before firing it.
Lock Box
A heavy, metal storage box with either a key or combination lock that is used for a pistol, ammunition and accessories storage.

Locking Lugs
Firearm bolt projections that fit into a receiver so that, when the bolt is closed, the action is locked into firing position.

Abbreviation for long rifle.

Machine Pistol
See “Submachine Gun.”

Machine Gun
A rifled firearm capable of automatically feeding, firing and ejecting high-powered cartridges. Typically only military ownership and use is permitted.

Refers to either a permanent or detachable, spring-loaded container for cartridges. It is often considered the same as a clip. One distinction is that, externally, a magazine appears to complete the firearm’s form, while a clip is an ammunition insert (or transfer device) that does not affect external appearance.

Magazine Disconnector
See “Magazine safety.”

Magazine Floorplate
The bottom of a fixed magazine.

Magazine Follower
A spring-actuated device to push cartridges in a magazine to the feeding position.

Magazine Release
A device that retains or releases a detachable magazine in a firearm.

Magazine Safety
A device that prevents a pistol from firing without a magazine from being fully inserted.

Magazine Well
The opening in a firearm that receives the detachable magazine.

Refers to a gun designed to fire heavy-load metal cartridges or shells.

A strong spring – an energy storage device that operates the striker or hammer of a firearm.

Mannlicher Stock
A slender forend that extends to the muzzle.

A treated cord (cotton or hemp) used for ignition in matchlock firearms.

An early firearm with a firing mechanism that held a smoldering treated cord (match), which would burn until it reached a barrel opening (touch hole), explode the powder, discharging a bullet.

Metallic Sight
A firearm sight to aid a user’s aim but is not telescopic.

Micrometer Sight
A sight that is finely adjustable.

Military Firearm
An informal term, generally implying a pistol with accessories that is suited for military rather than civilian use.

When cartridge fails to fire due to it or a firearm being defective.

Monte Carlo Stock
A stock with an elevated comb that is typically used with rifles equipped with telescopic sights.

A cartridge’s open end that accepts a bullet.

A gun with more than one barrel (ex. double-barreled shotgun or derringer).

Mushroomed Bullet
Describes a bullet’s nose which has expanded after striking a target.

A long-barreled, flared end firearm with a smooth bore. It was a single-shot weapon, loaded through its muzzle.

A musket with a modified barrel for use by soldiers on horseback.

A barrel’s open end that is a projectile’s exit.

Muzzle Brake
A muzzle with an accessory or a modification that acts to control gas expansion, which in turn, reduces the amount of gun recoil.

The earliest fore-runner of modern firearms. Such guns require powder and projectiles to be separately loaded through either the muzzle or, with revolvers, through cylinder chambers.

National Firearms Act of 1934
Federal act that regulates firearm ownership and sales and registration of certain classes of firearms.

Negligent Discharge
A term that is used to refer to unintended discharge of a firearm that causes bodily injury, property damage, etc. Gun advocates and proponents debate whether it should be synonymous with accidental discharge.

Needle Gun
An early rifle that was first fired using a bolt action.

The area of a firearm where flame accesses and ignites a cartridge’s powder charge.

The forward point of a bullet.

NRA (National Rifle Association)
This organization is an advocate of the public’s right to own guns, provides training related to safe gun use, and sponsors firearm competitions on a national basis.

The curved nose of a missile, rocket or projectile.

Open Sight
A commonly used sight that is located at the rear of pistols rifles and shotguns and has an open notch at its top.

Operating Handle
See “Charging Handle.”

Optical Sight
Generic reference for laser and telescopic sights.

Out Of Battery
Describes a breeching mechanism that is properly aligned for firing.

See “Spray.”

A two-barrel gun in which the barrels are vertically stacked.

A small side-mounted container found in early firearms, which held priming powder.

The word is a word coined by German arms maker Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken and is derived from the Latin saying “si vis pacem, para bellum,” meaning “If you want peace, Prepare for war.”

A gray or green, rust-resistant matted finish used on military guns.

Partition Bullet
A two-chambered, jacketed bullet. The front portion expands on impact and the rear piece remains intact to ensure penetration.

Refers either to cloth used to clean a gun’s bore or a piece of leather or cloth that is wrapped around a bullet (round ball) before a ram rod is used to load it into a muzzle-loaded gun.

Patch Box
A covered compartment in the butt stock of a muzzle-loading rifle that stores, primarily, patches.

Small round projectiles loaded in cartridge shells and/or the skirted projectiles used in pellet guns.

Pellet Gun
A rifle or pistol that fires pellets using compressed air or CO2.

Pennsylvania Rifle
See “Kentucky Rifle.”

Early form of a repeating pistol consisting of several barrels bored in a circle in a metal cylinder.

Percussion Cap
A small metal explosive-filled cup that is placed over the nipple of a percussion firearm.

Percussion Lock
An early firearm, such as a flintlock, which is operated via a gunlock that strikes a percussion cap.

Personalized Gun
A pistol that has been specially customized so that it may only be fired by an authorized user. A magnetic or electronic system is used so that only the authorized person can release the firing mechanism.

Any variety of gun, including revolvers, which may be readily held and fired in one hand.

Pistol Grip
The protrusion on the handgun, or on the buttstock or front portion of a shoulder-operated gun, that allows the weapon to be comfortably held by a hand.

Describes the very common practice of firing at various inanimate targets such as cans, bottles, etc.

Poor (NRA Condition Standard)
Major and minor parts replaced; major replacement parts required and extensive restoration needed; metal deeply pitted; principal lettering, numerals and design obliterated; wood badly scratched, bruised, cracked or broken; mechanically inoperative; generally undesired as a collector’s firearm.

Pope Rib
A ribbed barrel designed to facilitate a forward-mounted scope.

Practical Shooting
A sporting activity involving the simulation of the environment in which small arms are used.

The part of a cartridge that is ignited to propel a bullet.

Refers to the source that propels a projectile such as ignited powder charge in a firearm or, in pellet guns, compressed air or CO2.

Proof Mark
A stamp applied to a firearm to indicate its passage of a proof test.

Proof Test
Testing a firearm’s barrel and action strength by firing overloaded ammunition.

Pump Action
An action that functions via a slide that moves parallel to the barrel. Rear motion acts as an ejector and forward motion loads and secures the weapon for firing.

Pumpkin Ball
A lead ball (large) that is loaded into and fired by shotguns.

Trade name for a type of blackpowder substitute.

Quaker Gun
Refers to a fake, usually wooden gun, used as a prop.

A wood or metal rod for loading a wad and bullet into the barrel of a muzzle-loader.

See “Action.”

Receiver Ring
The part of the receiver that is threaded to allow attachment of a barrel.

The reactive, often violent, backwards force that occurs after a firearm has been fired.

Refers to a firearm (usually a rifle) designed or modified to fire with minimum recoil (kickback action).

Recoil Pad
A soft material pad that is attached (or built-into) a gun’s butt end in order to reduce the impact of a gun’s recoil.

Recoil Shield
Refers to metal extensions on the frame of a gun which prevents cartridges from sliding off of a cylinder as well as protect exposed cartridge primers.

Recoil Spring
A spring that repositions a gun slide back into firing alignment (battery).

A previously used cartridge that has been reassembled with a new charge and projectile.

Repeating Firearm
A firearm capable of being fired repeatedly without manual effort by its user.

Typically a pistol with a multi-chambered cylinder that rotates to line-up each chamber with a single barrel and firing pin.

Rim Fire.

A raised surface, that is located along the top of a gun barrel and is used as a sight.

A projectile that’s diverted in another direction after initial impact.

A shoulder gun having a barrel with a rifled bore.

Rifled Slug
A cylinder-shaped projectile designed to be fired by a shotgun.

Refers to cutting spiral grooves into a gun’s bore. This results in a projectile being spun when shot, creating a more accurate (stable) flight.

A cartridge with a rim that contains primer.

Riot Gun
A term for a short barreled repeating shotgun.

See “Cartridge.” Still used and refers to a bullet out of deference to the fact that they were round until the mid 18 century.

A smaller caliber cartridge encased in a larger bore carrier. This modified cartridge allows a larger caliber firearm to shot smaller caliber ammunition.

A firearm accessory designed to prevent discharge by locking the firing mechanism.

Saturday Night Special
A pejorative term that originated as a catch-all reference to very inexpensive handguns that were used in weekend crimes and violent altercations.

Sawed Off
Generally refers to a short-barreled rifle or shot-gun; implying a firearm that’s been illegally altered for concealment.

Sawed-off Rifle
Refers to a rifle with a barrel length of less than 16″.

Sawed-off Shotgun
Refers to a shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18.”

Schnabel Forend
A beak-like curved or carved shape at the forend.

See “Telescopic Sight.”

The part of a firearm that keeps a hammer cocked until the trigger is pulled.

A firearm that, at the user’s option, can be fired automatically, semi-automatically or, sometimes, in rapid bursts.

Depending upon the firearm, it is a device that allows the user to choose among barrels or among types and rate of firing actions.

A firearm that, with each pull of a trigger, fires, ejects and reloads a single cartridge.

Semi-pistol grip
A smaller version of a “pistol grip.”

A bullet with cone-shaped nose and a sharp edge meant for carving full holes in targets.

See “Matchlock.”

The material that surrounds and holds the charge and/or projectile and which is typically made of paper or plastic with a metal head. Also the exploding projectiles fired by cannons.

See “Pellets.”

Shot Dispersion
See “Dispersion.”

A shoulder gun with smooth-bored barrel(s) that is designed to fire shells filled with multiple projectiles which vary in size. The projectiles spray out when shot, resulting in a weapon that is effective at close-range.

See “Shell.”

Side-By-Side Shotgun
See “Double-barrel Shotgun.”

Short Action
A rifle designed to use shorter cartridges.

Side Plates
Ornamental metal plates that simulate a side lock gun.

A misnomer for an illegal firearm accessory that, when attached to a muzzle, substantially reduces the noise made by the discharge.

Silhouette Shooting
A competition where participants fire at (usually animal-shaped) metal targets that are placed at different distances. May involve either pistols or rifles.

Single Action
See “Single Shot.”

A gun mechanism that requires ammunition to be manually loaded in the gun’s chamber before each discharge.

A competition where participants, armed with shotguns, test their ability to hit fragile clay targets that are launched into the air at different angles, planes, and heights.

See “Barrel Liner.”

See “Pump Action.”

The strap attached to a rifle to aid in carrying the weapon.

Sling Swivel
The metal part that attaches a sling to a rifle.

See “Rifled Slug.”

Small Arms
Firearms designed for use by an individual or individuals.

Smokeless Powder
See “Gunpowder.”

Another name for a .22 caliber firearm.

The interior of a barrel without rifling.

Typically refers to a revolver with an unusually short barrel.

Soft Point
A bullet with a metal jacket but an exposed nose which allows it to expand upon hitting a target.

Abbreviation for a Soft Point bullet.

Spitzer Bullet
A sharp-pointed, long ogived bullet.

Sporting Clays
A shotgun firing competition that simulates field conditions. It is a combination of skeet and trap shooting.

Attempting to hit a target by rapidly firing a large amount of ammunition.

A cartridge with a missing or inadequate powder charge, that fires the bullet only partway down the barrel.

Staggered Column Magazine
A magazine consisting of two staggered columns of cartridges that increases a magazine’s capacity but not its length.

The firearm component to which a barreled action is attached. It allows a firearm to be held and used.

Stripper clip
See “Clip.”

Submachine Gun
A firearm that automatically fires pistol ammunition and that is designed for close combat.

See “Firing Pin.”

Abbreviation for semiwadcutter.

Take Down
A gun which can be easily taken apart for carrying or shipping.

The portion of a receiver that extends behind the hammer and fits into a stock.

Tang Safety
A device that is connected to a receiver in order to bar the use of a gun’s firing mechanism.

Target Holder
Any item used to secure other items that are used as targets for practicing shooting.

Refers to metal bullets that are coated with this trade name synthetic or similar materials. The coating is merely to protect a firearm’s rifling rather than affecting the efficiency of the bullets.

Telescopic Sight
A small arms sight that uses optical lenses that provides a magnified view.

The slender portion of a chamber that connects to a firearm’s bore.

The bottom of a rifle or shotgun butt.

Top Strap
The exposed upper part of a revolver or pistol frame.

The curved, aerial path traveled by a projectile.

Trap (shoot)
An event where shotgun-armed participants fire at fragile targets that are launched away from them at different angles and heights.

Trap Stock
A heavier, elongated shotgun stock designed for trap shooting.

The manually operated firearm component that causes its discharge.

Trigger Locks
Devices such as blocks or covers which deny access to a pistol’s trigger.

Trombone Action
See “Pump” or “Slide action.”

Tube Or Tubular Magazine
A tube-shaped magazine (ammunition holder) where cartridges are stored end-to-end.

A measurement of a barrel’s rifling referring to the length of barrel (in inches) it takes before the rifle spiral forms a complete turn.

A measure of a projectile’s speed in the direction it has been fired.

Vertical Pistol Grip
A larger, more pronounced version of a regular pistol grip.

Very Good
All original parts; none to 30% original finish: original metal surfaces smooth with all edges sharp: clear lettering, and numerals on metal; wood slightly scratched or bruised, bore disregarded for collector’s firearms.

A flat-headed bullet designed to “punch” out holes in paper targets, making it easier to score target efficiency.

Abbreviation for Wadcutter

Winchester Center Fire.

Refers to an object’s use, rather than nature; so a weapon is any item that is used in offensive or defensive combat.

Weaver Stance
A special shooting style where pistols are gripped with both hands to minimize the effects of recoil, increasing accuracy.

An early firearm mechanism where a spring-actuated wheel with serrated edges is spun against a piece of iron pyrite. The resultant sparks then ignites the charge held in the firearm’s pan.

Wildcat Cartridges
Cartridges that are made and used by private parties.

Refers to horizontally adjusting the aim of a firearm to account for the effect of wind.

Winchester Rim Fire.

Youth Dimensions
A firearm that is lighter or smaller to accommodate its use by women or youth.

The farthest distance at which a projectile accurately hits its target or the practice of properly aligning a firearm’s sights.

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