A Gunspeak Primer

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If you read enough gun articles, hang out at shooting ranges, and peruse the gun shows enough, you find out that firearms owners and users have their own language. For the benefit of those not fully fluent, we here at Firearms Talk decided to put together this handy reference.

Clips

Get away from this word as much as possible! Of the 25,000+ firearms in existence, 24,995ish are either single shot, belt-fed, or use a magazine. Magazines, which may be tubular, rotary, drum, or box, is correct word for the reservoir that holds cartridges/shells. The only guns that use a 'clip' are the M1 Garand, the M95 Steyr-Mannlicher, and a few rare oddballs.

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These enbloc clips are inserted completely into the firearm and hold the rounds, but are not magazines. In old war movies when the GI yells, "throw me a clip" he often is talking about these 8-round clips for the Garand and is correct. There are also stripper clips, used to feed in rounds through the top of a magazine such as used with the Mosin-Nagant rifle. With these few exceptions, leave the word clip at home closing potato chip bags.

Firearms

Try to retire gatt, burner, scattergun, hogleg, heater, roscoe, room broom, strap, and other gun slang, from common speak as much as possible. Using these terms outside of a conversation with another firearms aficionado implies that you don't take the firearm seriously. Of course gunwriters often break this rule (raises hand), liberally sprinkling these terms in articles to spice up the copy. With that being said, if you have a conversation with the average person, use the term firearm, firearm, or firearm. Stay away from the term weapon unless you are in a military or law enforcement setting. The last thing you ever want to have happen is, after using your firearm in a self-defense situation, your friends and neighbors are pulled into court and regale the jury with how you always called your Mossberg 'a room broom'.

Assault weapon

This is a political term made up by gun control advocates to describe a series of constantly changing cosmetic properties of a firearm. An assault rifle is a select fire (i.e. full auto capable) short-barreled rifle that fires an intermediate cartridge. An assault gun is a self-propelled artillery piece, kind of like a turretless tank that was popular in WWII. Unless you are a senator from California, hit delete on the term assault weapon.

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Incidentally, assault weapon is not to be confused with a pepper weapon, which is a projector that shoots OC spray.

Pistol confusion

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Years ago while working with a European military unit, I was baffled when they repeatedly referred to their SIG 9mms as 'revolvers'. Likewise, whenever I teach a CCW class and a student calls their SW J-frame snubby a pistol, I frown. Revolvers, hence the name, are handguns with a revolving cylinder. These are often also nicknamed wheel guns or six-shooters. Pistols, no matter whether they are single shot or hold a box magazine, are just about any handgun besides a revolver.

Stay tuned for more gun grammar in the next installment. Keep your Roscoe, clips, and assault weapons clean and dry until then!

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2 COMMENTS
Posted: 
February 9, 2013  •  12:41 AM
Great job, Christopher. I think one of the problems in the gun debate is the confusion in terms. I think you did a nice job of setting some records straight with a bit of humor thrown in. I do have to defend the magazine/clip reference a bit. My Dad was a WWII veteran of the European theatre and a collector. I noticed as a young man that he and his friends routinely referred to their magazines as clips. I guess this was a term they picked up with their Garands and never dropped. So, whenever I hear a mag referred to as a clip, I smile, think of Dad and his WWII buddies and smile and say...well, I guess they earned the right to call it whatever they want.
 
Posted: 
February 18, 2013  •  02:53 AM
@Hightide I guess after going through that they could say basically anything. great article though
 
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