A Glossary of Terms

"The first step to understanding is to call things by their right names." - Lu Tse

This page is the complete text of a booklet entitled A Glossary of Terms Relating to Firearms, Their Use, and Possession for the Hoplophobe, the Non-shooter, or Individuals Employed by the Media, originally published and copyrighted by Fr. Frog in 1994 (with subsequent updates). It was designed to correct and to help prevent "inaccurate reporting" and dispel myths when dealing with non-shooters and media types. Whenever I spot inaccurate media references to firearms I always send a copy out.

It is available in a nicely printed handy 5˝" x 8˝" booklet form for distribution or for your library, from:

Excalibur Press
1365 S. Saddleback Drive
Cottonwood, AZ 86326-4743

The cost is $7.50 per booklet to cover production and 1st Class postage. (Quantity discounts are available.)  Overseas orders add $3 for postage.

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." - Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria

A Glossary of Terms
Relating to Firearms, Their Use, and Possession
for the Hoplophobe, the Non-shooter,
or Individuals Employed by the Media

© Copyright  2018 by Excalibur Press/John Schaefer
Revised 2018-02-01

"The first step to understanding is to call things by their right names."-- Lu (Lao) Tse, Chinese Philosopher, c. 600 BC

The following are the correct definitions of some common but often misused and misunderstood terms regarding firearms, ammunition, the shooting sports, and self-defense. Anyone writing or speaking about firearms or related topics should adhere to these standard definitions to avoid misrepresentation, misunderstanding or confusion.

Accidental Discharge (AD) - An unexpected and undesirable discharge of a firearm caused by circumstances beyond the control of the participant(s) such as a mechanical failure or parts breakage. There are very, very few firearms related "accidents" and if the "4 Rules" are followed there will hopefully be no injury. Compare with Negligent Discharge.

Action - The mechanical assembly of a firearm that contains its operating parts.

Action Shooting - A shooting sport in which the competitors attempt to hit a number of small metallic targets of various shapes in the shortest possible time using a pistol drawn from a holster.

Anti-Gun - A philosophy that guns and gun owners are bad, evil, dangerous, or even criminal.  Proponents of this philosophy believe that firearm should only be possessed only by the police or military, or at least very tightly controlled, as to the type, number, and caliber that may be possessed (only under strict supervision and registration, of course). The proponents of this philosophy generally fall into 3 types.

Group 1 These are the primitive, superstitious people. These people believe that some 'magic' talisman will protect them from bad things. A rabbits foot, a four leaf clover, a string of garlic around their neck, or a sign with a picture of a handgun with the international "no" symbol. There is ample proof that magic talismans do not work to keep people safe. Otherwise there would be no mall shootings, and no school shootings. Yet the people in this group make a decision to ignore observable reality and choose to retreat into their superstitions and ignorance and to rely on others to take care of them. Pass a law, post a sign, and we'll feel safe.

Group 2 These are the mentally ill. They are the people who actually fear guns, gun owners, or any object that makes a person able to be responsible for themselves. They think that if firearms magically disappeared that the world would be a happy place. Unfortunately I do not know of many mentally ill persons who were suddenly cured by observing reality. If anything, reality tends to drive the mentally ill deeper into insanity. It usually takes professional therapy to 'cure' the mentally ill. However, since it appears that most "mental health professionals" belong to either Group 1 or are mentally ill themselves, I don't think we'll see a therapeutic resolution in the near future.

Group 3 This group is the truly evil group in our society. They are people who gain validation from chaos. The Hitler syndrome. "I will give you safety and security if only you will surrender a few 'unimportant freedoms' and give me just a little more power. WE will take care of you." These people gain pleasure from the suffering of others. They are the bigots, the hateful people who love control for the sake of control. Many of them employ armed body guards for their safety but don't want mere common folk to be able to protect themselves. All of the anti-gun legislators are in this category, as are many business owners and college administrators who choose or lobby for "please kill us zones." 

Aperture Sight ("Peep Sight") - A type of rear sight used on rifles and shotguns that features a thick-rimmed aperture with a small opening mounted on the firearm's receiver. It is used with a flat topped blade front sight and provides a high degree of accuracy. However, it is difficult to use in dim lighting conditions, especially if an extremely small opening "target" type aperture is used. Compare with Ghost Ring Sight.

Armor Piercing (Ammunition) - Ammunition utilizing a projectile specifically designed to penetrate hardened, or armor-plated targets such as tanks, trucks, and other vehicles. Depending on the definition used for "armored" any small arms ammunition could be considered armor piercing. As an example, a target designed to resist pistol fire can be penetrated by rifle ammunition, or a target designed to resist rifle fire can be penetrated by a light cannon. Thus the term "bullet proof" is improper and the term "bullet resistant" should be used. When a bullet of such characteristics is of a pistol caliber it is referred to by the media as an "evil cop- killer bullet" although no cop has ever been killed by such a bullet penetrating his body armor.

Arsenal - A government establishment where firearms and ammunition are stored, repaired, or manufactured. The term is misused by the media to mean more than one firearm or any quantity of ammunition possessed by an individual, as in "they found an arsenal in his house."

Artillery - Large bore diameter (nominally 3" or greater) firearms designed to be operated by a crew of individuals. They are utilized to project explosive, armor defeating, incendiary, or nuclear projectiles over great distances. They are normally moved by vehicle because of their size and weight. "Cannon," mortars, howitzers, and similar are considered artillery.

Automatic Firearm ("Fully Automatic Firearm") - A firearm that may be discharged successively without interruption by a single actuation of its firing device until its ammunition supply is exhausted or until it is deliberately stopped by its user by releasing the trigger. Generically referred to in the media as a "machine gun." Contrast this definition with Semiautomatic Firearm. The possession, transfer, use, and transportation of automatic firearms, while perfectly legal in most states, have been tightly controlled under federal law since 1934 because "machineguns are bad." Transfers and possession require a $200 tax be paid. See NFA 34.

Assassinate - To kill a human being unlawfully but for a non-personal, political, or religious reason deemed justifiable to the killer.

Assault Rifle - A military issued Selective Fire or Fully Automatic rifle with a short overall length designed to fire a reduced power rifle cartridge. The term is popularly but incorrectly used by the media and Hoplophobes to label any semiautomatic firearm that has a large capacity magazine, especially those that look "military," and have such characteristic as a flash suppressor, bayonet lug, pistol grip stock configuration, or a plastic stock. They are no more deadly than any other firearm. There is no such thing as a "semiautomatic assault rifle."

Ballistics - The study of moving projectiles. Internal ballistics deals with what happens inside of a firearm upon discharge. External ballistics is the study of a projectile's flight, and terminal ballistics is the study of the impact of a projectile.

Bayonet Lug - A mounting point on a small arm that allows a bayonet or other accessory to be attached. While these attachment points on a small arm have caused the media and Hoplophobes to shudder in fear, and are generally considered by them to be a key identifying point of an "Assault Rifle," drive-by bayonetings and holdups at bayonet point are a non-issue in crime control.

Benchrest (Shooting) - A shooting sport in which the competitors seek to place five or ten consecutive shots into the smallest possible group on a paper target at various ranges. All firing is done from an artificially supported shooting position. It is a severe test of the mechanical precision of both the small arm and its ammunition.

Biathlon - A shooting sport that combines both skiing and rifle shooting. It is the only shooting activity in the Winter Olympics. There is also a summer biathlon which involves running and shooting but it is not yet an Olympic event.

Bird Shot - Individual projectiles of less than .24" in diameter, designed to be discharged in quantity from a shotgun. The size of the shot is given as a number or letter--with the larger number the smaller the shot size. The size designation was originally based upon the size of a mesh through which the shot would pass. The finest size generally used is #9 which is approximately .08" in diameter and the largest common size is #2 which is approximately .15" in diameter. However, bird shot is available in a range of sizes from .05" (#12-also called dust shot which is used in .22 RF shotshells) to .21" (TT).  For US sizes a quick rule of thumb states that shot diameter in hundredths of an inch is given by subtracting the shot number from 17.

Black Powder - A propellant powder once used in ammunition and as the bursting charge in artillery projectiles, made of a mixture of charcoal, sulfur, and potassium nitrate. Generically called "gunpowder." Black powder is no longer in general use except in replicas of antique firearms and fireworks. It is classed by the Department of Transportation as an "explosive." It will function in a vacuum as it provides its own oxidizer. See Smokeless Powder.

Blank (Ammunition) - A type of ammunition that contains powder but no solid projectile that is used to simulate gun fire or launch a grenade or other large projectile from a suitably equipped firearm. While a blank cartridge contains no projectile the blast and resulting debris can be extremely dangerous or lethal at close range.

(To) Bore Sight - A coarse mechanical procedure that attempts to align the bullet's path (the inside of the bore) with the sights to approximate a proper Zero.  Depending on the design of the firearm this may be done with a laser, and optical device, or by looking through the bore from the breach end.

Buck Shot - Individual projectiles of .24" in diameter or greater, designed to be discharged in quantity from a shotgun.

Bullet - The projectile(s) of bore diameter that comes out of the muzzle of a small arm. Incorrectly used to mean Ammunition.

Bullet Proof Vest - A popular but incorrect term for bullet resistant clothing. See Amour Piercing Ammunition.

Caliber - The measurement of the bore diameter of a firearm expressed in inches, although such a measurement may be frequently stated in millimeters. It is correctly expressed as ".40 caliber" (note the decimal point) or as "10 millimeter" (without "caliber" or the leading decimal point). The term is also frequently used in the military to describe the length of an artillery piece's barrel in relation to the bore diameter. (A 5" - 38 caliber naval cannon has a barrel 38 x 5" or 190" long.) See Gauge for shotgun bore measurements.

Cannelure - A groove impressed into a bullet or cartridge case to keep the bullet from loosening in the cartridge case or moving during feeding.

Carbine - Originally a shortened version of a standard rifle. Commonly used today to indicate any rifle of short overall length.

Cartridge - A complete unit of ammunition for small arms consisting of a cartridge case, primer, propellant, and projectile(s), which is inserted into the firing chamber.

Cartridge Case - A container made of metal or other material that holds the propelling charge, primer, and projectile in a single unit of ammunition.

Centerfire Cartridge - A design of ammunition in which the Primer is centrally located in the base of the cartridge case. Centerfire cartridge cases are generally reusable. See Rimfire Cartridge.

Chamber - That portion of a firearm in which the cartridge is placed for firing. In cannons, rifles, shotguns, single shot pistols, and semiautomatic pistols it is the interior of the rearward portion of the barrel. In revolvers the chamber(s) are located in the revolving cylinder behind the barrel. Used as a verb (to chamber) it means to place a cartridge in a firearm's chamber in preparation for firing.

Choke - A an area near the muzzle of a shotgun where the diameter of the bore is minutely reduced for several inches to provide a tighter pattern of shot. 

Chronograph - A device used to measure the velocity of a projectile by mechanical or electrical means.

Clip - A device for holding cartridges together before inserting them into a firearm's magazine. It may or may not remain in the magazine. Incorrectly used to mean a detachable Magazine.

Closed Bolt Firing (system) - A type of firearm in which the action is closed and locked, with a cartridge in the chamber prior to firing. When the trigger is pressed the cartridge is fired, and the action cycles loading another cartridge into chamber and when firing is stopped the bolt remains closed and the chamber remains loaded. Most full power firearms utilize this type of action. Contrast with Open Bolt. 

Combat Shooting - A generic reference to a shooting sport (generally using handguns) that seeks to simulate the use of small arms as an instrument of personal protection. Depending on the particular type of match and equipment used it may or may not provide a realistic simulation. It is often used for training purposes. Contrast with Practical Shooting.

Compensator - Also call a Muzzle Brake. A device attached to or made as part of a firearms barrel designed to reduce recoil or muzzle movement on firing by means of directing the propellant gases.. They generally increase muzzle blast. The may also, but not necessarily so, diminish muzzle flash.

Cowboy Shooting - A shooting sport using period firearms and costumes of the "cowboy"/"wild west" era.

Crime Control - Correctly, controlling the actions or possible actions of a Criminal. Unfortunately this term is used by the media to mean taking firearms away from honest citizens while doing nothing to stop or punish actual criminals. Since only a moral person's behavior is controlled by the laws of society, the passing of laws making a certain behavior, or the possession of certain items illegal has no effect upon crime and the criminal. What does control crime is to make criminal behavior a very risky business. This best done by means of swift, sure, and severe punishment, either meted out by their intended victims at the time of the act or by the courts upon conviction, followed by the removal of the criminal from society.

Criminal - Correctly, an individual who as a course of normal behavior disregards their moral duty, the rights of others, and the laws of the land, for personal gain. Many people feel that the term is synonymous with "politician." It is incorrectly used by many politicians and Hoplophobes to mean anyone who owns a firearm, who disagrees with their ideas, or who has at one time committed an infraction of a malum prohibitum state promulgated law.

Decimate - To reduce by a tenth. The term properly refers to the Roman practice of disciplining a military unit by selecting a tenth of its force by lot and killing them. It is incorrectly used by the media to refer to a large number of casualties in a group.

Double-Action - A type of firearm that may be discharged either by manually cocking the weapon and then pulling the trigger or by using trigger action to both cock and fire the weapon. This term is commonly (although incorrectly) used to indicate the operation of a weapon using the trigger cocking mode, or to describe a firearm capable of being operated in the trigger cocking mode.

Double-Tap - Two very quick shots fired from a handgun with both directed by the sights. Also referred to as a "controlled pair." The two shots are fired at a slower cadence than a "Hammer" which is fired at close to the cyclic rate of the firearm.

Dud - A popular term for a cartridge that fails to fire after its primer is struck by the firearm's firing pin. (See Hangfire)  Also used to describe a worthless idiot.

Dum Dum - (Sometimes seen as dumdum.) A stupid individual. The term is incorrectly used by the media and Hoplophobes to mean any bullet that is designed to expand upon impact, which somehow makes it "evil." The concept was originally thought up at Dum Dum Arsenal in India when they found that the normal fully jacketed bullet was not effective on drug crazed enemies. They modified their fully jacketed service rifle bullets by clipping off the closed nose, or loading the projectile backwards, so they would expand on impact. Apparently they also eventually manufactured an expanding bullet design that was also called the "Dum Dum bullet" in reference to the place of manufacture. 

Dummy Ammunition - Cartridges assembled without any powder or primers that are used for familiarization, and testing of a firearm.  They are normally marked to easilly distinguish them from live ammunition

Dry Firing - The operation of a firearm without the use of ammunition, as a means of obtaining or retaining operational familiarity and technique. Dry firing must be done very carefully since the primary rule of firearm safety is that all firearms are always loaded.

Execute - To kill a human being under jurisdiction of the sovereign law of the place of death.

Expert Marksman - A person who can hit anything they can see—within the effective range of their weapon.

Explosive (Ammunition) - A type of ammunition that utilizes a projectile that contain a small explosive charge designed to detonate upon impact. Small arm ammunition of this type cannot contain enough explosive to do anything worth while and this type of ammunition is for all intents and purposes obsolete, except for use in large caliber (.50 BMG and larger) ammunition.

Fire (To) - To begin an artillery bombardment. Also, the act of discharging any artillery or firearm.

Firearm - Any instrument that projects a missile by gas pressure generated by the combustion of a propellant. Thus, Airguns and electro-magnetic Rail Guns are not, by definition, firearms.

Firepower - A volume of fire delivered by a military unit. Incorrectly used by the media to mean the ability of a small arm to be discharged many times without reloading.

Firing Pin - That part of a firearm that strikes the cartridge's primer when hit by the hammer. Contrast to Striker.

Flash Hider (Flash Suppressor) - A device attached to the muzzle of a firearm designed to eliminate or reduce the incandescent flash of the firearm's discharge. Although they can reduce the visibility of the firearm's location when fired they are primarily designed to prevent the shooter's vision from being blinded by the flash at night. Many flash hiders also act as a Muzzle Brake.

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) - A bullet design that is completely encased in a hard metal jacket, which is not intended to expand upon impact. They are utilized in military small arms ammunition where bullet expansion is proscribed by the Hague Accords (and not the Geneva Convention) and in hunting ammunition where extremely deep penetration is required. Sometime called a "full metal cased" bullet.

Gauge - Sometimes (incorrectly) spelled gage, which means a measuring device. The measurement of the diameter of a shotgun's bore expressed as the number of lead balls of bore diameter that weigh one pound. The sole exception to this is the .410 shotgun, which has a diameter of .41 inches (i.e., .41 caliber) and which would be called a 64 gauge. See Caliber.

Geneva Convention(s) - A set of international agreements to provide for "civilized" behavior between nations at war. It is most frequently referenced for it's banning of the use of expanding bullets in small arms ammunition by warring parties (which is actually proscribed by the Hague Accords of 1899 and 1907, et. al. ). In actuality this "ban" is very misleading for while expanding projectiles are proscribed, the use of mines, explosives, and flame weapons which indiscriminately shred and maim their victims are not. In fact, an expanding bullet is simply an attempt to make a small diameter projectile as effective as a large diameter non-expanding one. The conventions only apply to a declared war against national enemies by signatory parties.  

GCA 68 (Gun Control Act of 1968) - The set of federal regulations that govern the sale and possession of firearms. It, among other things:

Ghost Ring Sight - A type of rear sight used on rifles or shotguns. It features a thin-rimmed, large-opening rear aperture (as opposed to a small aperture "target" or "peep" sight) mounted on the firearm's receiver. Used together with a flat topped front blade sight it allows extremely fast target acquisition while still allowing precise aiming under all kinds of lighting conditions.

Gun Control - Hitting what you shoot at. Incorrectly used by the media to mean "Unilateral Personal Disarmament."

"Gun down" (To) - To manifest a disrespect for the English language.

"Gun Free Zone" - A designated area where no law abiding citizen can legally possess a firearm. In fact the term is a political euphemism for a "please kill me zone," since only law abiding people will obey such rules, while criminals simply ignore them and consider these zones a safe haven to commit crimes. There is no such thing as a "gun free zone". If there were, then there would not be tragedies like VA Tech, Columbine, etc. 

Gun Lobby - A term used by the media and Hoplophobes to describe the National Rifle Association, other Pro 2nd Amendment groups, or anyone else who does not like anti-gun legislation or who fights against useless and restrictive firearms laws. Often called the "powerful gun lobby that goes against the will of the people" when anti-gun legislation is in fact voted down by the people.

Handgun - An alternate term for a Pistol.

Hangfire - The discharge of a cartridge after an appreciable interval when its primer is struck by the firing pin. This condition can be caused by a deteriorated or defective primer or from a weak firing pin blow.

Hammer - The pivoting mechanical part of a firearm that causes the firing pin to ignite the cartridge's primer. The term is also used to describe two very quick shots fired from a firearm with the first directed by the sights and the second held on target by the power of the shooter's grip. 

Headstamp - Various markings pressed into the base of a cartridge case that can denote the manufacturer, date of manufacture, caliber, and type of cartridge

High Capacity Magazine - A "high capacity magazine" is a magazine that holds more rounds than the standard capacity magazine normally furnished with the firearm. An example is the 33 round 9 mm Glock magazine, as opposed to the 17 round magazine furnished with the pistol. The 20 and 30 round magazines for the AR-15 and AK-47 type firearms are "standard" capacity magazines.  Incorrectly used by the media and hoplophobes to refer to any firearms feeding device holding more than (take your pick) 1, 5, 7, 10, or whatever number of cartridges they fear.

Hollowpoint - A metal jacketed or unjacketed bullet design in which the core of the bullet is exposed by means of a cavity in its nose to ensure the expansion of the bullet upon impact. Often abbreviated "JHP" or "HP." They tend to give more shallow penetration than a similar bullet of Soft Point design. They are not more "deadly" than non-expanding bullets but are simply an attempt to make a small diameter bullet as effective as a non expanding bullet of a larger diameter. Some bullets of hollow point design, known as "open tip match" (OTM) utilize this method of construct because it allows a more accurate bullet, but one not specifically designed to expand. OTM bullet are Hague Accord compliant.

Hoplophobe - An individual with an unreasonable fear of weapons in and of themselves, or of the practice of weaponcraft, and who refuses to be properly educated about the subject out of such a fear. From the Greek hoplon meaning tool or weapon and phobes meaning abject paralyzing fear.

Incendiary (Ammunition) - A type of ammunition that utilizes a projectile or projectiles that contain a compound in its base that burns upon impact with a target, and which is designed to deliberately start combustion of the target. 

Jam - A sweet fruit spread you put on toast. The term is commonly used to describe a Malfunction or a Stoppage.

Kill - To cause death, period. Note that the correct translation of the Hebrew language of the Sixth Commandment is: "You shall do no murder" and not "you shall not kill."

"Laser Sight" - A small laser device attached to a firearm that uses the laser "dot" to indicate where the projectile will hit.  They suffer from several short comings including the dot being difficult to locate at anything but close range; the laser giving away YOUR position; and no trajectory reference other than at the zeroed range.

Lethality - The ability of any item to cause eventual death by its use or misuse. Contrast with the term Stopping Power or Wound Trauma Incapacitation.

Loaded - A firearm is loaded when a cartridge is in its firing chamber. However, for safety reasons all firearms are always considered to be loaded at all times. See The 4 Rules. The term is also used to describe individuals who has consumed too many alcoholic beverages (which has the potential to make them much more dangerous than any loaded firearm).

Machine Gun - A fully automatic firearm using a cartridge designed and intended for use in rifles or larger firearms. Incorrectly used by the media to describe any repeating firearm, especially if it looks "military."

Machine Pistol - A fairly compact, fully automatic or selective fire Small Arm using a cartridge designed and intended for use in pistols. Commonly called a "submachine gun."

Magazine - A removable or fixed device designed to hold cartridges for feeding into the firing mechanism of a firearm during its operation. They contain a spring and a follower (or pusher) to move the ammunition into position for feeding. Magazines can be in the form of a box, drum, or tube depending on the particular firearm.  

Malfunction - When a part of a firearm fails to operate according to the specification. Anytime a firearm has a malfunction it will need to be fixed by an armorer or a qualified individual.

Marksman - A person who can make their weapon do what it was designed to do—most of the time.

Massacre - To kill those who have surrendered without due process of law.

Magnum - Properly, a large bottle of wine holding about 2/5 of a gallon. The term is popularly used to mean a small arms cartridge loaded to higher than "standard" power levels. (The .357 Magnum cartridge is actually the .38 Special cartridge loaded to about twice the normal pressure level using a slightly longer cartridge case.)

Master Marksman - A person who can shoot up to the mechanical capability of their weapon.

Meplat - The flattened area of a bullets tip.  It can range in diameter from very small to the full diameter of the bullet.

Militia - As defined by the framers of the US Constitution in their original writings, the body of all citizenry who are armed.  Incorrectly used by the media to mean the either the National Guard or supremacist and separatist paramilitary groups.

Military Firearm - Any firearm that is or has been used by the military services (which includes just about every commercial small arm ever made). Incorrectly used by the media and Hoplophobes to label any small arm that is equipped with a flash suppressor, bayonet lug, large capacity magazine (over five cartridges), black plastic stock, or any combination of these items. See Sporting Firearm.

Misfire - The condition of a cartridge not firing when an attempt to fire it is made. It can be caused by either a defective cartridge or a defective firearm. The term is frequently misused as a politically correct term to indicate a Negligent Discharge of a firearm.

Murder - To kill a human being unlawfully, or without morally or legally adequate cause. Note that the correct translation from the Hebrew of the commandment is "You shall do no murder," and not "You shall not kill," the Hebrew word being ratsach {raw-tsakh'} which is translated as murder (the unjustifiable taking of a human life) and not the words katal {kah-tal'} which is translated as simply "kill," or muwth {mooth} which is translated as "to be put to death" or "executed."

Muzzle Brake - See Compensator

Negligent Discharge (ND) - The unplanned discharge of a firearm caused by a failure to observe the basic safety rules. See The 4 Rules. Firearms related injuries or property damage are almost 100% due to negligent discharges, not accidental discharges. See Accidental Discharge.

NFA 34 (National Firearms Act of 1934) - The set of federal regulations that govern the sale and possession of certain classes of firearms. It among other things:

NRA - The National Rifle Association. Referred to by the media and hoplophobes as "THE gun lobby." This organization coordinates shooting events on a national level, provides firearms training to civilians and law enforcement, fights useless harassing and restrictive firearms legislation and supports the constitutional right of law abiding citizens to own and carry firearms, and the swift and sure punishment of those who criminally misuse firearms.

Open Sight - A type of rear sight characterized by an open topped notch. It is mounted on the rear portion of the barrel on rifles and shotguns or on the rear portion of a handgun, and used in conjunction with a blade type front sight. This is the standard type of sight on handguns. When fitted to rifles and shotguns, it is imprecise and slow to acquire due to the distance between the sights and the distance of both the front and rear sights from the eye.

Open Bolt Firing (system) - A type of firearm in which the action is in the open position and the chamber empty prior to firing. When the trigger is pressed the bolt moves forward, chambering a cartridge and firing it, and returning to the open position. When firing is stopped the bolt remains open and the chamber empty. Most submachine guns and many machine guns utilize this type of action for cooling purposes.  

OTM (Open Tip Match) Bullet - A rifle projectile made with the tip of the bullet open as a means of increasing accuracy as compared to standard military bullets that are made with a closed tip and an open base. They are not designed to expand like a hollow point bullet but may fragment. In regards to the use of "open tip match" bullets by the military the Hague Convention IV of 1907 prohibits the employment of, "arms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering," the "unnecessary suffering" is not defined. Bullets which yaw and fragment in tissue were specifically not prohibited. This position was not disputed by the 1978 UNCCW Conference and was reconfirmed during its’ review in 1994 - 1996. Thus the JAG decision to authorized certain OTM (open tip match) projectiles, which yaw and then fragment just like many FMJ bullets, for unrestricted land warfare use is perfectly legal under international law; neither the UN nor any other organization have any grounds to protest.

Overshoot (To) - A term used in artillery to indicate a projectile impact beyond the designated target. It is euphemistically being used in law enforcement circles to refer to the tendency of many officers to rely on a semiautomatic pistol's ability to fire many shots to secure a possible hit on a target rather than marksmanship. See Spray and Pray.

Pair - Two shots fired very quickly with the use of the sights.

Peep Sight - An alternate name for Aperture Sight.

Permanent Cavity - The final, permanent hole left by a bullet's passage through tissue.  It is the primary cause of Wound Trauma Incapacitation.

Pistol - A non-repeating, repeating, or semiautomatic Small Arm designed and intended to be efficiently discharged by a single individual, using one or both hand, without any shoulder contact. Also called a Handgun.

Pocket Pistol - A small compact handgun that can be carried in a pocket.  They are normally of a reduced caliber.  Incorrectly referred to as a "Saturday Night Special."

Point Blank Range - This is the farthest distance at which the bullet's path stays within a given distance above or below the line of sight. In other words, the maximum range at which you don't have to adjust your point of aim to hit specified size target. Unless there is some over riding reason to the contrary shots should not generally be attempted much past this distance. Incorrectly used to mean shooting something at a very short distance.

Practical Shooting - A shooting sport that simulates the use of a small arm in its intended role either as a tool for hunting or personal defense. True practical shooting limits the small arms, ammunition, and accessories used to those items that would actually be used in the role simulated. However, for the most part, practical shooting has degraded into a sport requiring all kinds of specialized firearms with the competitors using every rule beating gadget they can.

Primer - That component of ammunition that ignites the propelling charge when struck by the firearm's firing mechanism. Some military cannon ammunition primers are electrically fired.

Pump Action - A rifle or shotgun that is manually operated by a sliding handgrip that works the action to feed ammunition.

Rail Gun - A device that launches a projectile (s) by using electromagnetic force rather than by gas pressure generated by the combustion of a propellant, and thus is technically not a Firearm, although generally grouped with them. Extremely high velocities (8,000 to 25,000+ feet per second) can be obtained at the expenses of very high electrical power use. The concept is currently limited to very large weapon systems because of the power requirements.

Receiver - The portion of a firearm that contains the operating parts and into which the barrel is fitted. Sometimes referred to as the firearm's "action."

Red Dot Sight - An optical sight that uses an internal illuminated dot (normally red in color) as an aiming point. While not particularly accurate because of the size of the dot, they provide for fast target acquisition. They may or may not offer magnification.

Registration - A political course of action that claims that by maintaining a list of a particular class of law abiding citizens and/or their possessions (normally the owners of privately held small arms) that crime or misuse will some how be reduced. In fact, throughout history registration has always led to harassment and taxation of honest citizens and the eventual confiscation of their lawful property by the government. It serves only to facilitate the control of a country's citizens by the government. It has been proven repeatedly by historical evidence to have absolutely no effect on crime and criminals.

Regulate - Regulate originally used to mean "to make it work right." As an example, when one regulates the barrels on a double barreled rifle or shotgun, they shoot together to the same point at a desired range. In the case of the 2nd Amendment's comment regarding the militia, it means that the militia would be well drilled, equipped, and able to perform on demand as a military unit. Today liberals/socialists incorrectly think it means to be well controlled by the government.

Repeating Firearm - A firearm that may be discharged repeatedly without recharging by means of deliberate, successive mechanical actions of the user.

Revolver - A repeating pistol characterized by having a revolving cylinder separate from the barrel, that contains a set of chambers that rotate into line with the barrel for firing.

Rifle - A Small Arm characterized by spiral grooves cut on the inside of its projection tube or barrel, which is designed and intended to be operated by a single individual, using both hands, in contact with the shoulder. The barrel length of a rifle is restricted under federal la, for some silly reason, to not less than 16 inches with a minimum overall firearm length of 26".

Rifling - A series of spiral grooves cut or impressed in the bore of a firearm designed to stabilize a projectile by spinning it.

Right to Bear Arms - An unalienable right (not a given privilege and not deniable) of all  people, and affirmed in the Second Article of the US Bill of Rights, to possess and use personally owned firearms for sport, recreation, personal protection, and the defense of the nation. Contrary to many claims by uneducated individuals it has been proven from historical documents that this is an individual right and not restricted to any organized body of citizens. Note that the Bill of Rights does NOT grant any rights but merely states what some of the inherent rights of people are.

Rimfire Cartridge - A design of ammunition in which the Primer is located around the outside edge of the base of the cartridge case. Currently used only in .22 caliber and smaller ammunition. Rimfire cartridge cases are not easily reusable. See Center Fire Cartridge.

Riot Gun - A popular term for a short barreled repeating shotgun as frequently used in law enforcement and personal protection.

Round - An artillery projectile or a complete unit of artillery ammunition. The term is commonly used to mean an individual small arms cartridge.

Sabot - From the French word for shoe. A type of ammunition used in small arms or artillery in which a cylindrical projectile of less than bore diameter is encased in a bore diameter sleeve that is discarded in flight after discharge. It is commonly used in large (.50 caliber or greater) diameter military ammunition to provide high velocity armor defeating capabilities. The common term for this kind of ammunition is "SLAP" (Saboted Light Armor Penetrator). The concept has found commercial application with shotgun slugs and some other specialized use hunting ammunition.

Saturday Night Special - A $9.95 steak and salad weekend special at your local pub. Incorrectly used by Hoplophobes and the media to designate any small concealable (but not necessarily inexpensive) handgun.

Safety - A state of mind or action intended to reduce the risk of personal harm. It also refers to a mechanical device on a firearm intended to impede the firing mechanism to prevent discharge. See The 4 Rules.

"Sawed Off" - A generic term used to describe a rifle or shotgun with an overall length of less than 26 inches, or a barrel length of less than 18 inches in the case of a shotgun or less than 16 inches in the case of a rifle. Possession of firearms of this type has been controlled under federal law since 1934 as a "SBR" (Short Barreled Rifle). See NFA 34.

Second Amendment (The) - The second article in the United States Bill of Rights which states, "A well regulated militia, being necessary for a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Note that the Bill of Rights is a statement of the rights of the all people accorded them by their Creator and that freedoms implied by the ten articles are not privileges that are modified, granted, or denied to the citizens at the whim of the state. It has been confirmed by the Supreme Court as an individual right of a citizen as are all the other rights, but this fact is usually ignored by the liberals in the government.

Selective-Fire Firearm - Any firearm that may be operated in either the fully automatic or semiautomatic mode at the selection of the user. Selective fire firearms are legally classed as fully automatic firearms.

Semiautomatic Firearm ("Self-Loading" Firearm) - A firearm that may not be discharged more than once at a single actuation of its firing device and that reloads automatically, from a self-contained magazine, one round at a time, until its ammunition supply is exhausted. Incorrectly called a "machine gun" by Hoplophobes. Contrast this with Automatic Firearm.

Semiwadcutter - A bullet design featuring a conical extended nose, with a flat point, and a sharp edged shoulder that serves to cut a full diameter hole in the target. This design also may be found with a hollow point to facilitate expansion. Often abbreviated "SWC."

Shell - To hit a target with artillery fire. Also the explosive projectile fired from a cannon. Incorrectly used to mean "Cartridge" or "Cartridge Case."

Shoot (To) - To discharge a small arm at a target.

Shot - Individual projectiles of less than bore diameter designed to be discharged in quantity from a shotgun.

Shotgun - A Small Arm with a smooth unrifled bore designed to project multiple missiles of less than bore diameter at one discharge, which is intended to be operated by a single individual using both hands. The barrel length of a shotgun is restricted by federal law to not less than 18" in length with a minimum overall firearm length of 26".

Sights - Mechanical or optical devices used to align a firearm's bore with a target. "(To) sight" is to physically bring the sights to bear on the target, while "sight in" means to regulate the sights to ensure hitting the intended target. Incorrectly spelled "site" by some journalists.

Silencer - Properly called a suppressor, it is device used to reduce the sound of a firearm's discharge. Contrary to what is portrayed by the media, suppressors are neither very compact nor efficient, and they generally adversely affect the accuracy of a firearm. They do not actually silence most firearms but rather lower the intensity of the muzzle blast and change the sound characteristics. They do not affect the supersonic crack of a bullet. The possession, use, and transportation of silencers have been regulated under federal law since 1934 for some idiotic reason and purchase or possession requires a $200 tax stamp. Any device which reduces the sound of discharge by more than 2 dB is considered by the BATF to be a "silencer." Restriction on silencers is odd considering that hoplophobes always complain about the noise shooters make.

Silhouette Shooting - A handgun or rifle shooting sport in which the competitors attempt to knock over metallic game-shaped targets at various long ranges.

Single-Action - A type of firearm that may be discharged solely by manually cocking the weapon and then pulling the trigger. This term is commonly (but incorrectly) used to indicate the operation of a weapon using this mode.

Skeet - A shotgun shooting sport in which the competitors attempt to break frangible aerial targets directed toward them or crossing in front of them from different angles and elevations. It is an Olympic shooting sport.  The term is sometimes used to mean the round, frangible, targets used.

Slaughter - To kill for meat. Incorrectly used to me a mass killing of anything.

Slug - More correctly a "rifled slug" or "shotgun slug." An individual cylindrical projectile, usually of bore diameter, designed to be discharged from a shotgun. The term is often incorrectly used to mean a Bullet.

Small Arms - Firearms designed to be carried and used by an individual or a group of individuals.

Smart Gun - A fanciful firearm design envisioned to be only used by its registered owner by mean of biometric data, magnetic rings, or the like. No design has ever proven reliable enough to be used for personal protection or law enforcement, and this is acknowledge by the fact that states that have considered them automatically exempt police and government agents from having to use them.

Smokeless Powder - The propellant powder used in modern ammunition. It is not an explosive, but rather a flammable solid that burns extremely rapidly releasing a large volume of gas. Commonly called "gunpowder" and usually made from nitrocellulose, or nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin. It is classified as a "Flammable Solid" by the Department of Transportation. Note that small arms ammunition, unless it has explosive filled projectiles, does not explode in a fire but rather burns vigorously. It will function in a vacuum as it provides its own oxidizer. See Black Powder.

Smooth Bore - A barrel without rifling. Smooth bore barrels are commonly used in shotguns, and in large bore artillery that fire fin-stabilized, as opposed to spin-stabilized,  projectiles.

Sniper - A military or other person designated as a special marksman who is used to shoot designated targets of opportunity at long range. The term is used by the media and Hoplophobes to describe any anyone shooting at another person from hiding.

Sniper Rifle - A specialized, highly accurate rifle, generally fitted with an optical sight used by designated marksmen to engage personnel and hard targets at long range. The term is incorrectly used by the media and Hoplophobes to demean any rifle fitted with an optical sight.

Solid (projectile) - An alternate term for a fully jacketed bullet.  It is also used to describe a solid metal (non-lead core) bullet used for either barrier defeating properties or very deep penetration in big game.

Soft Point - A metal jacketed bullet design in which the nose of the core of the bullet is exposed to ensure the expansion of the bullet upon impact. Often abbreviated "JSP" or "SP." They tend to expand more slowly than a Hollow Point bullet and are used where deeper penetration and expansion are needed. They are not more "deadly" than non-expanding bullets but are simply another attempt to make a small diameter bullet as effective as a non expanding bullet of a larger diameter.

Sporting Clays - A shotgun shooting sport that combines elements of skeet and trap, and that is designed to simulate field conditions.

Sporting Firearm - Any firearm that can be used in a sport—in other words any firearm. The term is incorrectly used by the media and Hoplophobes to designate any non semiautomatic small arm other than a pistol made entirely of metal and fitted with a wood stock, which holds five cartridges or less in its Magazine.

Spray and Pray - A term often used to refer to the very poor and dangerous practice of rapidly firing many shots at a target as possible in the hope that one or more may hit the target. This practice is a danger not only to bystanders but also to the shooter, as relying on luck to stop an assault can get one killed. This practice became common in law enforcement circles with the advent of large magazine capacity 9 mm semiautomatic pistols. It is often referred to as "Glocking" in deference to the 17 round capacity of some Glock pistols.

Stoppage - When something interrupts the cycle of operation (hence stoppage). A stoppage can easily be fixed by the shooter and does not require an armorer or qualified individual to fix it.

Stopping Power - A popular but imprecise term used to refer to the ability of a small arms cartridge to cause a human assailant or an animal to be immediately incapacitated when shot with it. It has nothing to do with Lethality. A more precise term is Wound Trauma Incapacitation (WTI).

Striker - That part of a firearm driven by a spring, that strikes the cartridge's primer when when released by the firing mechanism of a firearm. Compare to Firing Pin.

Stun Gun - A device that generates a high voltage pulse either on contact with the target, or via a dart the is launched at the target, and which temporarily interrupts the nervous system. The dart versions are launched either by compressed gas or a small powder charge.

Submachine Gun - A popular but somewhat incorrect term for Machine Pistol.

The 4 Rules - If these four basic safety rules are established and scrupulously followed, safe firearms handling will be assured and negligent discharges will be avoided.

  1. All firearms are loaded. Always! Period.
  2. Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  4. Be sure of your target and what is in front of and behind it.

There is also an unwritten but implied fifth rule which applies not only to firearms safety, but also to tactics: Take nothing for granted. Check everything by sight and touch.

Telescopic Sight ("Scope" Sight) - A small arms sight that employs optics to provide a magnified view of the target. A telescopic sight does not make a small arm more accurate, but rather helps the shooter to distinguish a distant target from its background.

Temporary Cavity - The temporary space created by the hydraulic pressure and stretching of tissue due to the passage of a projectile through tissue.  It returns to the permanent cavity size once the projectile has passed.  It has very little, if any, affect on Wound Trauma Incapacitation.

Tracer (Ammunition) - A type of ammunition that utilizes a projectile or projectiles that contain a compound in its base that burns during its flight to provide a visual reference of the projectile's trajectory. While it may produce an incendiary effect on a target it is not expressly designed to do so.  There are 3 basic types of tracers; bright, which start burning at the muzzle, subdued, which ignites at some distance from the muzzle, and dim, which are only visible with night vision goggles.

Trajectory - The path that a projectile takes through the air in reference to the line of sight. Contrary to popular misconception it is not a straight line but rather a parabolic curve that crosses the line of the sight twice.

Trap - A shotgun shooting sport in which the competitors attempt to break frangible aerial targets going away from them at different angles and elevations. It is an Olympic shooting sport. The term can also refer to the device used to throw the frangible targets.

Twist - The pitch of a firearm's rifling expressed in a ratio of turns per distance. A 1:7 (1 turn in 7 inches) twist means that the rifling makes 1 complete turn in 7 inches. The optimum twist rate is determined by the projectile's length, diameter, density, and velocity.

Unilateral Personal Disarmament (UPD) - A political course of action that seeks to deprive the citizens of a country or state of their right to keep and bear arms. This course of action is always put forth by the state under the guise of "crime control." However, it is actually done to facilitate the control of its citizens by the state and has been unequivocally proven to have no effect on preventing crime despite what the hoplophobes claim. In fact, it tends to increase crime because the criminals then know that their victims are unarmed. Euphemistically called "Gun Control."

Wadcutter - A bullet designed with a full diameter flat point. It is primarily used in target competition because it cuts a clean round hole in paper targets that aids in scoring the target. Often abbreviated "WC."

Waiting Period - A legally mandated delay between the purchase of a firearm and its delivery to the customer enforced in some jurisdictions. Waiting periods are believed by some people to prevent "crimes of passion" since the purchaser must wait the specified time before obtaining the firearm. Those that have instituted such periods have simply neglected to realize that: a) most people who purchase a firearm already own others; and b) if someone wishes to harm another a delay in getting one particular weapon will have no effect--they will simply perform their evil deed with something else. Another reason put forth for a waiting period is that it allows a background check to be done where mandated thus keeping firearms out of a criminal's hands. The problem with this is that a criminal will not go through normal channels to obtain a firearm. (See definition of Criminal.)

Weaver Stance - A specialized form of two-handed pistol shooting with the arms in tension that provides enhanced recoil control, mobility, and accuracy. It was developed by Jack Weaver and refined and popularized by Jeff Cooper. The term is frequently but incorrectly used to refer to any style of two-handed pistol shooting.

Weapon - Any tool that can be used to apply or project lethal force. Can also be called "arms." (Actually, anything from a rolled up newspaper to a nuclear bomb can be considered a weapon.) The term "lethal weapon" is popular but redundant.

Wound Trauma Incapacitation - The correct technical term for the ability of a projectile to incapacitate an animal or human. Incorrectly called Stopping Power.

Zero - The farthest distance from a firearm at which the bullet's path and the point of aim coincide. This term is also used to mean the process of ensuring that the sights of a firearm are properly aligned so that where they indicate the bullet will strike is in fact where it strikes.


A bullet comes out of the barrel
A cartridge goes into the breech
As you carefully choose your apparel
Take equal pains with your speech.

Jeff Cooper

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Updated 2018-02-01