The Big Glossary of Gun Terminology A-Z

Here is your everything glossary of gun related terminology from, A to Z.

As with everything firearm-related, it's never a bad time to brush up on our information and know-how.

Sometimes the most familiar things to us seem to elude our brains when the chips are down and we want to bring that information out when we need it the most, like when we're arguing with our best buddy over terminology.

Even the most experienced shooters among us can be served by a simple read-through of all things gun-related when it comes to reinforcing our knowledge of the basics.

Having a list like this at our fingertips is a simple way of reviewing the terminology that we should all by now know, but we're sometimes afraid to ask.

Remember, not all terminology is widely accepted as having just one definition, and we certainly understand that. Take what you would like from this list as a hunter or a shooter, and add to it your own knowledge of firearms as it pertains to you.


Automatic Colt Pistol. It's used to designate specific calibers, particularly those originally designed by John Moses Browning for the Colt Firearms Company, probably the most familiar being the .45 ACP.


The working mechanism of a firearm that presents the cartridge for firing, and then removes the spent casing to introduce a fresh cartridge.

Accidental Discharge

This is an undesirable discharge of a firearm caused by circumstances beyond the control of the participant. It'll make some veteran shooters bristle, too, as many believe there are really no accidental discharges, but only negligent ones, due to failure of the shooter to follow the four basic rules of shooting.

Adjustable Stock

When a stock can extend or shorten the length from the trigger back to where the gun is braced against the shooter's shoulder. An adjustable stock is important to fit shooters of varying sizes, such as a youth hunter who will keep growing, with a compfortable firearm size.

Adjustable Trigger

An adjustable trigger is one that can be easily adjusted by the user to manipulate the amount of force it takes for the trigger to break and the shot to go off. Adjustable triggers are more common on specialized target-shooting firearms, but not on all firearms.


This is not a firearm, but a gun that uses compressed air or carbon dioxide (more commonly known as CO2) to propel the projectile.


A specialized type of very low-power smoothbore airguns designed to shoot non-metallic spherical projectiles such as BBs made from plastic or other low-tech resins.


According to Merriam-Webster, ammunition can be described as "the projectiles with fuses, propelling charges, or primers fired from guns." Ammo is perhaps more specifically known as the packaged components that are needed in order to fire in a case or shell holding a primer and its known projectile, most commonly referred to as bullets.

Aperture Sight

Sometimes referred to as peep sights, this is an iron sight system using aligned markers to assist in the aiming of a firearm that has no mounted optics.


The "AR" in AR-15 rifle is an acronym that stands for ArmaLite Rifle, after the company that developed it in the 1950s. AR does not stand for "assault rifle" nor does it stand for "automatic rifle." AR-15 style rifles are .223-caliber modern sporting rifles.


Any firearm that uses the gasses of the spent or fired shell or cartridge, blowback or recoil operation to eject it and load the next round. Also known as semi-automatic, such as a shotgun that can be fired without the need to manually chamber another round.


Any firearm that is designed to feed cartridges into the chamber, fire them, eject the empty shell cases and repeat the cycle as long as the trigger is held and cartridges remain in the feed system.


Originally a primitive firearms term to denote a spherical projectile, which can now be a full-jacket bullet with a cylindrical profile, capped with a round nose.


This is the science of projectiles fired from firearms including the cartridge discharge and the bullet's flight to help us better understand them. There are four main types of ballistics: internal ballistics, external ballistics, terminal ballistics and ballistic fingerprint.


The cylindrical metal tube through which a bullet, birdshot or other projectile travels, and serves as the purpose of aiming the firearm and, in the case of a rifled barrel, provides higher accuracy.

Barrel Shroud

A safety covering on the barrel of a long gun which encloses it in a perforated metal or sometimes plastic guard, preventing the hot barrel from burning the user.


A firearm is said to be in "battery" when it is loaded and the breech is locked and ready to fire. A semi-automatic shotgun, for instance, is out of battery when the slide fails to come all the way forward again after the gun has fired, making it impossible (and possibly dangerous) to attempt firing another round.


A safety feature on a shooting range that will safely stop a bullet and prevent it from hitting anything else beyond the target after it has been struck. It can be a natural item such as a large berm of dirt, or large, thick timbers or logs.


Even deer hunters know that this a handgun term and not a reference to our favorite cut of venison. The backstrap refers to the rearmost surface of the grip that carries the palm while handling the firearm.


Mainly a safety feature nearly always at the top part of the backstrap and most commonly found on 1911-style pistols. This feature keeps the shooters hand from getting "bitten" by the hammer.


There are two common themes here. A benchrest is a common item used to rest the firearm on while sighting in; an item made specifically for firearms that will not damage the finish while firing. Also, benchrest shooting is a competition whereby competitive shooters seek to place five or 10 consecutive shots into the smallest possible grouping on a paper target at various distances.


A backstop in the form of a large, heavily mounded pile of dirt.


One of the shooting sports where nordic cross country skiing is combined with rifle shooting, most famously in the Winter Olympics.


A bipod is a two-legged stand that is usually attached to the barrel of a rifle. There are also similar such tools as the monopod and tripod, including bipods that can be carried into the field for use in hunting or shooting.


This type of ammunition is usually associated with shotguns, specifically for bird hunting. Birdshot shells are filled with pellets of different sizes for different applications as projectiles, ranging from the smallest diameters .08 inches for simple target shooting, up to 00 Buckshot pellets, which are approximately .36-inches in diameter.


Referred to as the original gunpowder, which was composed of charcoal, saltpeter and sulfur, whereas today's gunpowder is more refined and generally smokeless.

Blackpowder also produces a lot of smoke in comparison.


Blowback is a system of operation for autoloading firearms that obtains energy from the motion of the cartridge casing as it is pushed to the rear of the firearm by expanding gas created at the ignition of the discharge.

In other words, the only thing holding the breech closed on a blowback-operated gun (in battery position) is the recoil spring.

Blank Cartridge

A round loaded with gunpowder, but lacking a projectile. Used often as a tool when training dogs around gunfire.


Bluing or black oxidizing is a process of treating a gun barrel or other steel parts by creating a thin protective coating around it. It works by turning rust into black iron oxide. The metal attains a dark blue or nearly black appearance, which protects the barrel of the gun.

Boat Tail

A bullet designed to give the shooter heightened accuracy based on its design of a tapered base that creates remarkably less drag as it travels through the air.


A metal, cylinder-shaped mechanism that holds the cartridge in place during the firing process. In some firearms, it's manually moved by the shooter by pulling back on the bolt handle, thereby ejecting the cartridge.

Bolt Action

A rifle that ejects each empty shell casing from the firing chamber when the shooter draws the bolt handle back. This kind of rifle is also loaded in the opposite way, by putting a new shell into the chamber each time the shooter slides the bolt forward into place.


The hollow portion of a barrel through which the bullet travels after being fired. There are four basic types of bores: smooth, big, small, and rifled.

Bore Diameter

The diameter of the inside of the barrel after boring, but before rifling. In shotguns, for instance, the smaller the gauge of the firearm, the larger the bore diameter. 

Bore Axis

This is an imaginary line that runs through the center of a handgun's barrel and out through the back of the gun. Different handguns have a different bore axis—either a high axis (above the hand) or a low axis (near the hand)—a high bore axis tends to create greater recoil and more muzzle flip when firing the gun than does a low bore axis.


A type of cartridge whose bullet diameter is much smaller than the body diameter of the casing in which it rests.


A shooter's term for empty shell casings, as most shells are made of brass or have brass in them.


As in trigger break, which is the point at which the trigger allows the hammer to fall, releasing the striker and firing the shot.


The breech is the rearmost part of the barrel, whereas the chamber is the cavity that contains the cartridge prior to firing. There are three main parts to the breech: the breech block, which seals the rear of the chamber, the breech face, which touches the cartridge when the breech is closed, and the breech opening, which is where the cartridge or shell is loaded in a breech loading firearm.


A box of ammunition that is roughly equal in size (and possibly weight) to an actual brick.


A specific type of shotgun ammunition manufactured in much larger sizes than most birdshot, leaving less room for the load inside of the shell. Many times these loads are used for home defense.


The bullet, as opposed to a cartridge, is the single metal projectile carried inside of the case of a cartridge along with the primer and gunpowder. Bullets can be made from copper, lead, steel, polymer, and even rubber while their forms include round-nose, flat-nose, and hollow-point, amongst others.

Bullet Trap

A type of backstop that catches the fired bullet and prevents it from leaving the area. These are most commonly used for indoor shooting ranges.


A rifle configuration in which the action and magazine are located behind the trigger. This allows for a firearm smaller than your typical rifle without sacrificing barrel length.


The base of the grip and backstrap on a handgun and the rearmost portion of the stock on a rifle or a shotgun (the part that braces against the shooter's shoulder).


This is the diameter of the bore measured with a fraction of inches. Caliber numbers are used to identify the size of the bullet a gun will fire and are followed by words (sometimes letters) to create the complete name of the cartridge, such as .45 ACP or .223 Remington.


This is a groove or indentation around a bullet that permits the cartridge casing (brass) to be crimped tightly against the bullet to hold it firmly inside of the casing.


A shooting term meant to indicate tilting of the firearm to one side, so that the grip is no longer vertical, but slanted in relation to the ground.


Any rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches is considered to be a carbine.


One complete round of ammunition which includes the case, the primer, the powder and the bullet.


The empty brass casing or container that holds the primer, powder and bullet. For shotguns, the case is usually plastic with a brass "head."

Center Fire

A complete cartridge with the primer located in the center of the base of its case.


The chamber is the space at the back end of a breechloading firearm's barrel in which the cartridge or shell is inserted before being fired. The chamber throat is the area of the barrel that is directly in front of the chamber, which tapers to the bore diameter.


A speed loading device that holds multiple cartridges together in a single unit for easier loading of a firearm's magazine.


A choke is a tapered constriction of a gun barrel at the muzzle end, usually by way of an attachable, threaded choke tube, and used with modern hunting and target shotguns to improve accuracy.

Clay Pigeon

Once made from clay disks that are thrown by way of a launcher as a flying target for shotgun related shooting sports, clay pigeons are now primarily made from other materials.


Unloading a firearm and double checking to make sure that it is unloaded or "clear."


Units of adjustment used when tuning the sights of a gun. Mainly when sighting in a scope.


Another difficult and widely discouraged term used by some to identify the magazine. Maybe this definition from Minuteman Review will help: "It's reasonably straightforward when you look at these definitions: A magazine is designed as a device that holds ammo to be fed into the chamber of a firearm. A clip is designed as a device to hold ammo together to be ready to load into a magazine or cylinder of a firearm."

Closed Bolt Firing

In a closed bolt firing system, after the bolt is forced backwards by firing the gun, it ejects the empty casing and immediately returns forward, pushing a new round into the chamber.


To cock a firearm the shooter manually draws back the hammer against the spring until it becomes latched against the sear. Some external hammers, and all internal hammers, may be cocked simply by pulling the trigger. A cocked firearm is one that's ready to fire.

Cold Clean Bore

The first shot from a rifle that has been cleaned, and not fired recently. This first shot is referred to as being a shot from a cold, clean bore.

Cold Range

A shooting range term for when all firearms are unloaded and not being handled, to indicate it is safe to walk down range for things like target inspection and replacement.

Collapsible Stock

The stock on a long gun that can be pushed into itself to shorten its length, either for storage or to make the gun fit shooters of different arm lengths such as a youth shooter.


A device attached to or designed to be a part of a gun barrel made to reduce recoil or muzzle kick upon firing.

Concealed Carry

A handgun that is carried out of sight, usually in a holster made to be concealed somewhere on the body. Always check your local laws to fins out if concealed carry is legal in your area.

Controlled Pair

Two shots fired in rapid succession, only after the shooter has obtained a second, well-read shot with his eyes after the first.

Co-Witness Sighting

Using the peep sights even when an optic sight is mounted to the firearm. Sometimes called "see-through" sights.


A shooter who is uses a right-handed stance, but has the stronger left-eye, or left-handed shooter that is right-eyed.


The cross-shaped "hairs" seen in the center of a scope or optics, better known as the reticle.


The area inside the bore nearest to the muzzle of the firearm.


The rotating cartridge holder inside of a revolver. The cartridges are placed inside of the chamber and then the cylinder turns to align them with the barrel for firing.

Cylinder Drum

A revolver has a spring activated device attached to the bottom of the frame beneath the cylinder. This catches the notches in the cylinder to stop the cylinder's rotation and hold it in place each time a chamber in the cylinder is legend up with the barrel.


This function on double-action autoloading firearms has a lever that mechanically lowers the hammer without firing the gun.

Delayed Blowback

The delayed blowback system is not fully locked at the moment of firing, but its mechanism creates additional mechanical resistance to the action opening which initially restricts the breechblock from moving when fired.


Possibly the father of concealed carry in the United States, Henry Deringer produced the first diminutive single-shot percussion cap pistol in 1852 bearing his name. These days the term has come to refer to any small-sized handgun that is neither a revolver nor a semi/fully automatic pistol.

Double Action

In a double-action revolver, pulling the trigger does two things: First, the hammer is pulled back to the cocked position while the cylinder is being rotated to the next round. Second, the hammer is released, striking the firing pin.

There are two subsequent action models: double action/single action where it is double action on the first shot, and then single action on the second and following shots, and double action-only where the firing mechanism cannot be cocked in a single-action stage.

Double Barrel

A shotgun with two barrels, either as a side by side or as an over and under.

Double Feed

A cycling malfunction in which the spent case fails to eject from a semi-automatic firearm and blocks the chamber as the fresh round is brought forward and cannot enter the chamber. Or in manual pump shotguns, for instance, if the shooter manipulates the slide too slowly or not back far enough leaving the previous round in the chamber.

Double Tap

Two shots fired in rapid succession without realigning the shooter's sight on the target.

Down Range

The direction at a shooting range where firearms are pointed when they are fired.

Drop Safety

A mechanical safety that prevents a gun from firing if it is unintentionally dropped which is required in some states. It prevents the trigger bar from dropping down until the trigger has been fully depressed by the shooter.

Dry Firing

Operating a cleared firearm by physically aiming and pulling the trigger. Verification of the cleared firearm must be done before dry firing.


Any round of ammunition that does not fire.

Dummy Round

A fake ammunition or cartridge-shaped round that has no powder, primer, or bullet.


Shooter's slang term for any hearing protection device.


A part of a firearm that throws the spent round or a live round out of the firearm. The ejection port is the opening through which the empty or live round is ejected from of the firearm.

Ejection Rod

The rigid, sliding metal rod located near the muzzle end of a revolver cylinder. Once a round is fired, the shooter opens the cylinder and depresses the front end of the ejection rod, which forces the empty cases or live ammunition out of the cylinder.


The setting on the sights of a firearm that controls the vertical placement of the shot. On rifle scopes the elevation setting is on the top turret.


The part of a firearm that pulls the spent or live round out of the chamber.

External Safety

On firearms, an external safety or safety catch is a mechanism used to help prevent the accidental discharge of a firearm. The safety must be switched to off when the shooter wants to fire the gun.


Shooter's slang term for any protective eye covering.

Factory Ammo

Ammunition that has been assembled and created by a specific distributor and then sold in stores such as Winchester, Remington, or Nosler.

Failure to Extract

A semi-automatic firearm malfunction in which the extractor fails to pull the empty casing out of the way as the slide travels back. A failure to extract often causes the double-feed problem.

Failure to Feed

A semi-automatic firearm break down in which the slide passes over or misses the fresh round, failing to insert it into the chamber as the slide returns to battery.

Failure to Fire

An attempt that results in no shot when the trigger is pulled. Caused by a failure to feed, bad ammunition or possibly a broken firing pin.


A rifle, shotgun or handgun using ammunition made with gunpowder as a propellant.

Firing Line

A line at a shooting range, imaginary or marked, from which people shoot their firearms down range.

Firing Pin

The firing pin is a small, lightweight point, which serves to transfer energy from a spring-loaded hammer to the primer.

Firing Pin Block

The firing pin block is a mechanical device used in semi-automatic firearms and some revolvers that, when at rest, obstructs forward travel of the firing pin.

Fixed Ammunition

Fixed ammunition is when the projectile is permanently attached to a case that contains the primer and the propellant in distinction from other separate-loading ammunition.

Flash Suppressor

Any feature which attaches to the muzzle of a gun barrel to help prevent the user's vision from being temporarily effected by the muzzle flash of a fired round.

Flat Point

A bullet that is made with a flat nose rather than a rounded one.

Folding Stock

The stock of a long gun that can be conveniently double over to store or save space.

Follow Through

Follow through occurs when the shooter maintains aim, breath control, hold control and trigger control until after the shot, the recoil, and the gun has settled back into position.


The gritty leftover shot residue that the shooter scrubs out of the barrel and all areas of the firearm in order to clean it.

Fouling Shot

A shot fired through a clean rifle barrel to put that barrel into a "dirty" state from which it was fired clean. It is said that subsequent shots after a fouling shot give a better indication of accuracy from the first shot.

Four Rules

The most important rules for all shooters and hunters everywhere to know by heart:

1. Treat every single firearm as if it were loaded and ready to fire.

2. Never point a firearm at anything that you do not wish to destroy.

3. Never put your finger on the trigger until you have put your sights on the target and made the decision to fire.

4. Be certain of your target and what is beyond it.


The part of the stock forward of the action and below the barrel and intended to give the shooter a grip on the front of the gun and protect the shooter's hand from the heat of the barrel.


The part of a firearm in which is housed the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and the firing mechanism.

Front Sight

The front sight the spot at the muzzle end of the barrel, often in the form of a high-visibility dot or a metal blade and made to align with the rear sight to give the shooter their aiming point.

Front Strap

The opposite of the backstrap or the area on a pistol grip frame that faces forward and often joins with the trigger guard.


Full Metal Jacket, or a round of ammunition where the lead bullet is entirely surrounded by a metal casing or "jacket."


An acronym for Glock Automatic Pistol, which refers to an ammunition, the first commercially introduced cartridge identified with Glock.


The superheated air or "gasses" produced by burning powder when a cartridge is touched off.

Gas Operated

Gas operated firearms use a system provided by the energy of the gas release of the fired round to operate the locked breech in autoloading firearms. Used to power the mechanism to eject the spent case and insert a new cartridge into the chamber.


The gauge of a firearm is a unit of measurement used to express the inner diameter or bore diameter of the barrel. Interestingly, gauge also means the number of solid balls, the same diameter as the inside of the barrel, that could be made from a pound of lead.

Ghost Ring Sight

A type of rear aperture sight with a bigger opening and a thin rim that fades out when the shooter looks through it, hence the name ghost ring sight.


A unit of weight used for both bullets and gunpowder. The higher amount of grains, the heavier the bullet. Powder is also measured by grains, about 437.5 grains to an ounce.

Green Ammunition

Ammunition that has no lead of any kind in any component of the ammo.


The area of a gun which is grasped in the web of the trigger hand which can be placed below the top exposed portion of the trigger while firing.

Grip Panels

The interchangeable grip surfaces that are on the part of the gun that you hold, whether for a better look to the firearm or feel to the hand when using it.

Grip Safety

An external safety located on the backstrap, typically on a pistol, which must be fully depressed to release the trigger as a natural consequence of holding the firearm in a firing position.


The front strap and the backstrap of a handgun or the exposed portion of a handgun's frame.


Spiral machining in the bore of a barrel that give the bullet its rotation as it moves down and through the barrel, also known as rifling inside of the bore.


A series of shots that have been fired and have hit the target that is measured in group size by finding the furthest apart from each shot and measuring from the center of one hole to the center of the other hole.


The man-made substance which burns, rather than explodes, propelling the bullet or other projectile.

Hair Trigger

A sensitive trigger that breaks upon an extremely light touch.


The hammer is a part of a firearm that is used to strike the percussion cap or primer, or a separate firing pin, to ignite the propellant in a cartridge and fire the projectile. Not all firearms have a hammer, but some instead have a striker, such as Glock pistols.

Hammer Spur

A thumb-piece on the top rear of a firearm equipped with a hammer that enables it to be manually drawn back to its full cock.


A hammerless firearm is one that lacks an exposed hammer or hammer spur, although it may not literally lack a hammer, only one that the shooter can pull.


A pistol that is held with one or two hands such as a revolver.


Handloading or reloading is the process that gun enthusiasts use to economically make firearm cartridges or shells by manually assembling the individual components themselves.


Shooter slang for a FMJ bullet with a round nose.


At the end of the stock is the butt, and at the top of the butt is the heel. When the gun is in position to be fired, the heel is where the shoulder is placed.

Heavy Trigger

A trigger system that requires more than the normal amount of pressure to pull it past the break point.

High Kneeling

A field shooting position in which one or both knees of the shooter are touching the ground, but the shooter has an otherwise erect body posture.

Hollow Point

A bullet that is manufactured with a slight cavity in the nose to increase expansion and penetration of a target.


A compact carrying device for a handgun, typically made of leather and worn on a belt, sometimes under the arm.

Hot Range

A firing range where all firearms are presumed to be, or are in fact loaded and could be fired at any time.

Integral Lock

The Integral Lock is a safety system that allows a gun owner to lock the hammer in place so the gun can not be fired. It has a key that can be used to lock and unlock the gun, sometimes referred to as a child safety device.

Internal Safety

A non-accessible safety placed within the firearm which is generally designed to prevent accidental discharges when the gun is dropped or mishandled.

Iron sights

The non-telescopic sighting system that generally comes standard with a firearm. It is typically made of metal.

Isosceles Stance

The Isosceles Stance is a two-handed approach to shooting a handgun in which the dominant hand holds the pistol while the support hand wraps around it.


A firearm malfunction which locks up the gun in such an adverse way that tools may be required in order to fix it.


A target shooting term meant to identify the hole made in a target shaped like a keyhole, showing the shooter that there may be a problem with the ammo as its flight was erratic.


Shooter slang for recoil.


A technical term for the raised portions of the bore left between the grooves of the rifling inside the bore of a firearm barrel that has been machined.

Laser Grip

An accessory for handguns that contains a pressure-activated laser pointer which enables the shooter to quickly see where the firearm is aimed.


(verb) The process of aiming at a spot just in front of a moving target, such as a bird or a clay pigeon, so that the target itself moves into the line of fire just as the trigger is pulled.


(noun) The metal from which bullets are sometimes made. Other metals may be steel, copper, tungsten or other materials.

Length of Pull

Length of pull on a shotgun is the measurement between the center of the trigger and the center of the butt. Length of pull is also meant to express distance the trigger must travel before it fires the gun.

Lever Action

Lever action rifles use a lever to load and unload cartridges and empty cases by pulling the lever down and away from the stock of the rifle.

Limp Wristing

A weak-handed or floppy, limp-wristed grip while shooting.


Any firearm that has a cartridge or round of ammunition in its chamber ready to fire. Rule number one of the "Four Rules" is to treat every firearm like it is loaded and could potentially fire the round.

Loaded Chamber Indicator

A safety device on a gun designed to alert the operator in a visual way that a round is loaded in the chamber.

Long Gun

A firearm with a long, extended barrel designed to be fired with two hands while it is in contact with the shoulder of the shooter. Includes rifles and shotguns.

Long Trigger

A trigger with an extended length of pull.

Low Kneeling

Like high kneeling, one or both of the shooter's knees are touching the ground, but in this case, the shooter remains as low as possible.

Long Recoil

In some semi-automatic pistols and shotguns, for instance, in which the barrel and breechblock or bolt are locked together during recoil, after which the barrel returns forward, while the breechblock is held back. After the barrel has fully returned, the bolt is released and forced closed by its recoil spring, chambering a fresh round.


Long Rifle, also a typo of ammunition.


A magazine is an ammunition storage device with an inner spring mechanism designed to feed cartridges into the chamber of a repeating firearm.

Magazine Safety

Sometimes called a magazine disconnect, it is a mechanism that prevents the firearm from being able to fire when the magazine is removed from the gun.

Magazine Loader

A mechanical accessory designed to make it easier to load cartridges into a magazine.

Magazine Pouch

An accessory designed to carry multiple magazines on the shooter's belt.

Magazine Well

The aperture in the bottom of a gun into which a box magazine is fed. On a semi-automatic handgun, the magazine well is at the base of the grip; on a rifle, it is usually found in front of the trigger guard.


A magnum cartridge is a round with a larger case size than a similar cartridge of the same bullet caliber and case shoulder shape.


A term used for the spring that operates the hammer.


A misfeed or failure to fire which can be cleared on the spot, usually without tools.

Manuel Safety

A safety switch which the shooter must disengage by hand in order to fire the gun.


A skilled shooter that has mastered precision shooting whether for competition or hunting.

Match Grade

A higher quality item used to increase accuracy, such as ammo and barrels, that are the most common improvements made to a firearm to improve accuracy for competitive use.


The failure of the next round to completely enter the chamber. Misfeeds and failures to feed are similar in that a failure to feed is a round that never leaves the top of the magazine, while a misfeed is a round that leaves the magazine but does not enter the chamber.


The act of a cartridge not firing when an attempt to fire it is made, sometimes caused by bad ammunition or a damaged firearm.

Moon Clip

A moon clip is a flat ring-shaped or star-shaped piece of metal designed to hold multiple cartridges together for simultaneous insertion and extraction from a revolver cylinder.

Mouse Gun

Any small-sized gun that fires a small caliber projectile that can fit in your hand (See Deringer).


Modern Sporting Rifle.

Mushroomed Bullet

The description of a bullet which has expanded after penetration of the target to a mushroom or flower shape.


The musket is a muzzle-loading long gun that was invented as a smoothbore firearm in the early 16th Century, and made famous by the Minutemen during the Revolutionary War


This is the open end of the barrel where the bullet or other projectile exits the gun.

Muzzle Control

Awareness and responsibility for which direction your firearm is pointed at all times.

Muzzle Brake

An attachment to the barrel that redirects some of the pressurized gas propellent that fired the bullet out of the muzzle to the sides and possibly rearwards from the direction of the bullet, reducing the recoil of the firearm.

Muzzle Flash

The flash of visible light created by firing a round through the barrel caused by the combustion of the gunpowder mixing with the air.


A muzzleloader is any firearm, pistol or long gun, which the projectile and usually the propellant charge is loaded from the muzzle of the gun.

Muzzle Velocity

The speed of the bullet or other projectile, measured in feet per second, after it leaves the barrel.

Negligent Discharge

When a shooter has an unplanned discharge of a firearm caused by a failure to observe the basic safety rules, and is not a mechanical failure of the gun, but a human error.

NFA 34

The National Firearms Act of 1934 regulates the sale and possession of a certain class of firearms such as the mandatory registration of fully automatic firearms, sawed off rifles or shotguns, and firearm silencers.

Night Sights

A kind of iron sights that glow or are visible in the dark, intended for use in low light conditions.


National Rifle Association.

Off Hand

Shooting while standing and without bracing yourself against anything.


This is a very technical term, but a bullet ogive is defined as the "curve of a bullet's forward section" and can be expressed in terms of a tangent ogive or secant ogive.

Open Frame

A revolver frame that has no top strap over the cylinder.

Open Sights

The metal sights on a gun that need to be lined up to shoot. Usually the front sight has to be "buried" in the back sight to line up the target.

Out of Battery

A semi-automatic firearm is said to be "out of battery" when the slide does not return all the way forward again after the gun has fired due to a misfeed or a dirty gun.


A double barrel shotgun configuration where the line of sight (top) barrel is located above the bottom barrel

Over Travel

A trigger term to indicate that the trigger continues to move back after the break.

+P Ammo

Over pressure ammo or +P ammunition is generally handgun ammunition that has been loaded to a higher internal pressure than is standard for ammunition of its caliber. Since not all firearms are designed to handle the increased pressure, it is strongly recommended that a gun owner consult their owner's manual or gun manufacturer before using +P ammunition.


Two shots that are fired very quickly.


When the reticle in a riflescope appears to be randomly moving when placed on the target, it is said to be in parallax. Most riflescope sights have parallax adjustments to minimize this effect.

Passive Safety

A built in safeguard, internal or external, which functions apart from the shooter's control and should only be relied on in all accordance with the Four Rules of safe gun use.


Usually a shotgun term meant to describe the group or grouping of the pellets from a shotgun shell after striking the target.

Peep Sight

Another phrase for the aperture sights on a firearm.

Pellet Gun

Either a rifle (long gun) or pistol using compressed air or CO2 to fire a skirted pellet as opposed to a rounded BB. Pellet guns are not firearms.


Small spherical projectiles loaded in shotgun shells and more often called BB's or birdshot. Also the skirted projectiles fired from pellet guns.


Synonymous with handgun, or a gun that is generally held in one or both hands. Varieties include semi-automatic, repeating, and revolvers.

Pistol Grip

The handle of a pistol that the strong hand or shooting hand grabs and controls the firearm with.


Any shooting in which random targets are set out on an impromptu firing range for simple target practice.

Point Shooting

Shooting without using the sights, or conducting point and shoot by instinct.

Point Blank

Point blank range is the close distances from which a given shot can be fired at the center or vital area of a given target and hit it without the shooter having to adjust.


The opening or ejection port in the side of an autoloader from which spent cases are ejected.


Openings at the muzzle of a gun through which some of the spent gases can escape helping to reduce recoil.


Pre-travel is any movement of the trigger system that begins before the trigger actually starts to engage.

Powder Charge

The amount of propellant gunpowder that works the best for a specific cartridge-bullet combination or shotgun shells.

Practical Shooting

Shooting sports where the competitors try to combine the three principles of precision, power and speed, while attempting the highest score.


The primer is placed in the base of a shell casing to ignite the powder of a completed cartridge which is detonated by the strike of the firing pin.

Primer Pocket

The counter bore in the center of the base of a cartridge casing in a centerfire round in which the primer is seated.

Primer Ring

This is a visible dark ring created by the primers in centerfire ammunition around the firing pin hole inside the frame after extended use.


The outline of a concealed handgun that may be discerned through the outer clothing.


The ignition of gas from a cartridge that propels the bullet or projectile down the barrel and out of the muzzle. Other propellents can be CO2 and compressed air.


The process of causing the trigger to complete its movement past the point of trigger break.

Pull Distance

The complete distance the trigger must move before it reaches the break point and fires the gun.

Pump Action

The mechanism in a shotgun or some rimfire rifles for removing a spent shell casing from the chamber and inserting a fresh cartridge into the chamber.

Racking the Slide

Racking the slide loads a cartridge in the chamber and prepares the gun to be fired in a semi-automatic handgun.


A feature under the frame and below the barrel which allows the shooter to attach accessories to the firearm such as a laser sight.


The metallic surface on which a semi-automatic firearm's slide travels back and forth as each shot is fired.


A device used to determine the range to a target usually by use of a laser.

Reactive Target

Targets that when struck fall over, blow up, emit smoke, or make a noise.

Rear Sight

The rear sight is placed at the top end of the barrel nearest to the shooter, possibly in the shape of a square notch, a "U," a "V," or a ring.


The receiver is the part of the firearm which contains all the operating parts of the firing mechanism, the chamber, and the breech.


Also known as the kick, it is the sudden rearward push made against the shooter's hands or the shooter's shoulder when a firearm is fired, depending on the firearm such as a shotgun or a handgun.

Recoil Operated

Recoil operated firearms use the energy of recoil to cycle the action.

Recoil Spring

The strong spring that cushions the slide during its rearward movement and then throws the slide forward again with enough force to drive a fresh round firmly into the chamber.

Red Dot Sight

An optical sight that uses an internal illuminated red dot for an easy to find aiming point.


Refilling the firearm with ammunition in order to continue shooting, or when an avid shooter chooses to reuse empty brass cases and fill them with new primers, powder, and bullets (see Handloading).

Repeating Firearm

A firearm, usually a long gun, that may be discharged repeatedly without reloading by means of the successive mechanical actions by the user such as the lever action Henry rifle.


The trigger's return after the break at which the gun's internal mechanisms are ready to fire another round.


The crosshairs or a dot that are seen in the center of a rifle scope.


A revolver is a repeating handgun that has a revolving cylinder which contains multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing.

Riding the Slide

Whereby the shooter racks the slide incorrectly by allowing their hand to rest upon the slide as it moves forward during the loading procedure, which can cause a misfeed.


A long gun meant to be fired from shoulder and including spirally grooved or rifled barrel intended to give a projectile greater accuracy over a longer distance.


Mechanically made spiral grooves built into a gun's bore that spin the bullet in flight to impart greater accuracy downrange.


Rimfire is a type of cartridge meant to be fired without striking the primer cap at the center of the base of the cartridge to ignite it. Instead, the firing pin strikes the base's rim.


A rimless cartridge where the base diameter is the same as the body diameter. The casing will usually have an extraction groove machined around it near the base.


The same as a cartridge and often used as a unit of measure, such as a 20-round box of ammunition.

Rough Trigger

A trigger which has a rough, inconsistent feel during the pull.

Round Gun

Shooter slang for a revolver.

Round Nose

A term for the classic shape of a bullet.

Running the Gun

Performing all necessary functions of a firearm that keep the gun functioning normally.


A device which keeps the position of a bullet or shell centered in the barrel of a gun, attached either to the projectile or inside the barrel and separating from the round as it leaves the muzzle.


A firearm is said to be on safe when the safety is engaged and off safe when it is ready to fire.


An included mechanical device used to block or stop the firing pin or trigger so that the firearm cannot be fired.


Shooter's slang for a shotgun.


A device that magnifies or brings the target in closer for the shooter to see. It includes some form of reticle for aiming.


Part of the trigger mechanism which holds the hammer or striker back. Pulling the trigger causes the sear to release the hammer or striker, allowing it to hit the firing pin and shoot the round.

Selective Fire

A firearm's ability to be fired in multiple way, such as semi-automatic or fully automatic.


Any firearm designed to fire one cartridge, eject the empty case and reload the chamber every time the trigger is pulled, using the energy from the gasses of the fired shot to eject the empty case and feed the next round into the chamber.


A bullet design that has a conical extended nose, with a flat point and a sharp edge on its shoulder.


A cartridge for a shotgun, an empty ammunition case, or in the matter of a shell casing, the hollow piece of metal that is closed on one end except for a small hole which holds a primer, and the open end holds that holds the bullet.

Shooting Sports

Competitions and other shooting games which involve firearms that are all collectively referred to as the shooting sports.

Short Recoil

A semi-automatic pistol has a short recoil when the barrel and the breechblock are locked together for only a short distance of rearward travel at the recoil, at which point the two are uncoupled and the barrel is stopped while the breechblock continues rearward, extracting the spent shell casing from the chamber.

Short Trigger

A trigger that doesn't have to travel very far before it reaches the break, such as in certain 1911 model semi-automatics.

Short Stroking

When using a pump-action firearm, the shooter is too gentle with the fore-end and either not using enough force to pull it all the way back at the beginning of the stroke, or not shoving it all the way forward at the end of the motion.


The multiple BB's or birdshot included in a shell when a shotgun is fired.


A group of smooth bore long guns that shoot pellets called shot or birdshot, and sometimes rifled slugs through a barrel with included rifling.


A cartridge for a shotgun that is filled with birdshot or slugs, with some specific rounds made for handguns and smaller caliber rifles.


Bringing the butt of a long gun's stock to the shooter's shoulder in preparation of firing the gun.

Side By Side

A shotgun with two barrels that are situated next to each other in tandem.


The aperture, mechanical or optical, that aids the shooter in aiming their firearm.

Sight Picture

What the shooter sees when looking through the sights downrange at the target.

Sight Radius

The distance between the rear sight and the front sight.

Silhouette Shooting

A firearm shooting sport in which the competitors attempt to knock over metallic multi-shaped targets at various ranges.

Single Action

A handgun or revolver in which the trigger is only used for firing the gun, and cannot be used to cock the firing mechanism.


A firearm that need one round to be loaded each time before firing.


A shooting sport for shotgun enthusiasts where shooters attempt to break aerial targets as they pass by from different directions.


The upper part of a semi-automatic pistol that houses the barrel and contains the breechblock and portions of the firing mechanism.


A mechanism for a rifle or shotgun that uses a back and forth motion of a sliding lever which ejects the empty shell case, cocks the firearm, and loads a new round.

Slide Lever

Refers to a lever possibly on the left or the right side of a pistol's frame that is used to release the slide for removal, maintenance, or to be cleaned.

Slide Lock

After all of the rounds have been fired in a semi-automatic firearm, the slide will remain open at its rearmost position and lock.

Slide Release

The slide release lever is usually located to the left side of the slide, and must be pushed down to unlock the slide and release it to move forward into its normal firing position.


A long, sometimes leather strap or other accessory meant to make a firearm, specifically a long gun, easier to carry.


Sometimes called a rifled slug or simply a shotgun slug, it is an individual conical projectile designed to be discharged from a shotgun. It is not a bullet.


Shooter slang for a gun that is specifically set up to typically fire only slugs, usually from a shotgun.

Smokeless Powder

Smokeless powder is the name given to the next generation of propellants used in firearms that produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the gunpowder or black powder that came before it.

Smooth Bore

A firearm bore that does not have a mechanically rifled barrel.


An inert ammunition-shaped object, used in practice to simulate misfeeds, while also used during dry fire practice to cushion the firing pin.


A description of a revolver with a very short barrel, also known as a "Snubby" in shooter slang.

Speed Strip

An accessory that is basically a flat piece of rubber which holds revolver cartridges, making it easier to load them into the revolver's cylinder.

Soft Point

A metal jacket bullet that is designed so that the nose of the core of the bullet is exposed to ensure the expansion of the bullet upon impact. Used for deeper penetration of the target.

Speed Loader

Similar to the speed strip, and speed loader is a circular device that holds a complete set of cartridges that are aligned to be inserted into all chambers of the cylinder simultaneously.


In most cases, the spotter reports the location of the bullet impact at a target on a shooting range, but in some cases it is an instructor giving guidance and shooting tips.

Sporting Clays

Sporting clays is a clay pigeon shooting competition. A typical course includes from 10 to 15 different shooting stations and is designed to simulate field conditions.


A round of ammunition which is found to have less powder than it should, often causing the round to stay inside the barrel, resulting in a rare but very dangerous situation.


How shooters positions their bodies while shooting. Some familiar stances are known as the Weaver, Chapman, and Isosceles.


A firearm term with more than one meaning. It can be the back end of a rifle or shotgun, usually made of wood, metal, or sometimes plastic. Also refers to a factory built firearm which has had no alterations. Additionally, the grip panels on a handgun are sometimes called stocks.


A term that refers to the failure of a spent case to eject from a semi-automatic firearm, leaving it standing on end while lodged in the ejection port.

Stripper Clip

Firearm clips, usually made of metal or sometimes plastic, that hold several rounds of ammunition in a row and used to quickly fill a magazine.


Tang is the portion of a firearm on a rifle or shotgun which extends rearward from the receiver that may be short or long and most of the time its purpose is to attach the receiver to the butt stock.

Tap, Rack, Bang

Shooter slang for the procedure to clear a misfeed. Sometimes a misfeed is cleared by tapping the base of the magazine to be sure that it is properly seated, racking the slide to eject an empty case or feed a new round, and then fire when safe, hence the bang.

Telescopic Sight

Such as with a scope, a magnifying tube through which the shooter may better see the target and aim the firearm.

Thumb Safety

An external, manual firearm safety which is usually disengaged with the thumb of the firing hand.

Toe of the Stock

The bottom of the butt when the gun is in firing position on the shoulder.


The portion of a revolver frame which extends over the top of the cylinder and connects the top of the breech with the forward part of the frame, which is where the barrel is mounted.

Total Metal Jacket

A different type of bullet than the FMJ in which the lead core is encased in a copper jacket on the front and sides together.


Ammunition that utilizes projectiles that contain a phosphorous or magnesium mixture in its base that burns during its flight to provide a visual reference of the projectile's path.


The arc that a projectile is described as having while traveling from the muzzle to the point of impact.


One of the shotgun shooting sports in which the competitors attempt to break aerial targets whose trajectory is going away from them at different angles and elevations.


The release device that initiates the cartridge discharge. Usually a curved, grooved or sometimes serrated piece that is pulled rearward by the shooter's finger.

Trigger Bar

An intermediate piece connecting the two parts of a semi-automatic pistol or any other firearm in which the trigger is at some distance from the sear.

Trigger Control

The act of not putting your finger on the trigger until your sights are on target, then pulling the trigger smoothly, and following through with the shot.

Trigger Group

The entirety of the moving parts which work together to fire the gun when the trigger is pulled, including the trigger springs, return springs, the trigger itself, and the sear.

Trigger Guard

The circular or oval band of metal, horn, or plastic that goes around the trigger itself to provide both protection and safety when shooting.

Trigger Jerk

Pulling the trigger back much too hard, thus yanking the muzzle of the gun downward at the moment the shot fires.

Trigger Lock

A locking device for the trigger mechanism whereby it cannot be fired without first removing it with a key.

Trigger Pull Weight

The actual amount of pressure that the trigger finger must put on the trigger before the gun will fire, measured by the number of pounds and ounces of pressure required to pull the trigger past the break.

Trigger Safety

An external, passive safety which can be found on the face of some trigger designs that is intended to prevent the trigger from being pulled by objects that should not be inside of the trigger guard.

Trigger Scale

The technical term for the specialized type of hanging scale designed to test trigger pull weight.

Trigger Slap

The uncomfortable feeling caused by the trigger springing back into the shooter's trigger finger after breaking the trigger seal and firing the gun.


Any variety of materials such as felt, paper, cardboard or a plastic disk that are used in a shotshell. In muzzleloading, it's a piece of cloth used to seal the bullet in the barrel.


A bullet designed with a full diameter flat point for use in a target competition.

Weaver Stance

A two-handed pistol shooting position named for its inventor Jack Weaver, a Deputy Sheriff in the 1950s.

Wheel Gun

Shooter slang for a revolver.


Windage refers to the sight adjustment on a firearm used to compensate for the horizontal variation of the projectile's trajectory from the intended point of impact due to wind drift.

Youth Rifle


A shorter, lighter weight rifle made more for a person of smaller stature, such as a child.

Youth Stock

A shorter stock, often ideally sized for teenagers or average-sized women.

Zero In

A firearm is said to be "zeroed in" when its sights have been adjusted so that the bullet will hit the center of the target when the sights are properly aligned, and the shooter does not trigger jerk. This is best obtained from a bench rest.

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