Are you a new gun owner? Recent socio-economic, political, and environmental conditions are reaching peaks of uncertainty, driving fear throughout the nation. As a result, more people suddenly find themselves exercising their second amendment rights.

We’re all for that. As Americans, it’s our right to bear arms. That means we have the means to protect ourselves against tyranny, and it’s what the founding fathers fought for as part of every American’s constitutional rights.

Being a responsible firearms owner, you’re taking part in the rich cultural history of our country. However, there is a world of firearms jargon that you have to learn. When you’re picking up ammo from the gun store, or taking part in your first shooting range experience – here’s the slang you’ll find gun owners speaking.

Remember – words are weapons too.

A to Z of Firearms Terminology for Beginners

  • .45 ACP – An abbreviation for the ammunition for a .45-caliber automatic colt pistol.

  • Action – The working mechanism of the firearm. This action includes items like the breech bolt, the frame, or the receiver.
  • Ammo – A slang abbreviation of ammunition
  • Ammunition – Projectiles that include a case, primer, powder, and a bullet.
  • Automatic – A firearm that offers the continuous feed of ammunition while depressing the trigger.
  • A.R. – Arma-Lite Rifle (Not Assault Rifle)

  • Backstraps – The rear part of the pistol grip. Some models of handguns, like Glocks, feature interchangeable backstraps.
  • Ballistics – The scientific study of the motion and effects of projectiles shot from firearms. Factors affecting ballistics include the trajectory, velocity, caliber, and barrel rifling relating to a shot.
  • Bench rests – A form of shooting and an accessory where competitors fire from fixed positions to get the best shot grouping on targets.
  • Bird-Shot – Referring to shot projectiles with diameters under .24-inches.
  • Black-powder – The first form of firearm projectile repellant used in the firing of ammunition in antique guns.
  • Blank Cartridges – These cartridges have primer and powder, but no projectile. They are common in movies and other faux applications for stuntwork.
  • Bluing – A blue or black finish to steel that occurs through exposure to an acid bath.
  • Boat-tails – Bullets that feature tapered edges to improve flight efficiency and accuracy over distance.
  • Body Armor – Protective armor like Kevlar or steel plates to protect you from projectiles
  • Beaver-tail – The rear of the grip of a gun that fits into the space between your thumb and forefinger.
  • Bore – The interior of the barrel of the firearm.
  • Breech – The rear of the barrels bore.
  • Bullet – The head of the cartridge, expelled through the barrel of the firearm.
  • Buck Shot – Projectiles found in shotgun cartridges.
  • Butt – The rear of a rifle or shotgun.
  • Boxer Stance – Standing square in front of the target.


  • Caliber – The diameter of the projectile, expressed in hundredths of an inch.
  • Carbine – A type of semi-automatic rifle.
  • Casing – The brass cartridge that holds the primer, powder, and the projectile (bullet).
  • Chamber – The region of the barrel where the firing pin engages the ammunition.
  • Charging Handle – The rear of the AR-style rifle where you pull back to prime the weapon.
  • Choke – A compensator near the muzzle that disperses the energy of the shot.
  • Clip – Slang for the magazine.
  • Cock – To charge the firearm and make it ready for firing.
  • Comb – The part of the stock for the shooter’s chin rest.
  • Clear – An expression describing clearing the ammunition from the chamber and feed of the firearm.
  • Competency – Your knowledge and experience in handling forearms
  • Compensator – An accessory for the front of the pistol to reduce recoil.

  • Dampeners – Accessories added to the stock of the rifle to absorb recoil shock.
  • Derringer – A short-barrel pistol named after Henry Derringer.
  • Discharge – To fire a live round through a handgun or rifle.
  • Double-Action – A trigger action that cocks and fires the firearm.
  • Double-Stack – Magazines that stack bullets in a staggered arrangement instead of directly on top of each other allow more rounds per mag.
  • Double-barreled Shotgun – Shotguns feature dual side-by-side or over-and-under configurations. These are typically breakneck models that you load at the hilt.
  • Double-Set Trigger – One trigger cocks while the other fires.
  • Dry Fire – Discharging the firearm in an unloaded state with no ammunition in the chamber or feed.
  • Dud – A cartridge that fails to fire. Ammunition malfunctions can include hang-firs, misfire, and squib loads.

  • Ejector – The mechanism in the firearm that ejects the casing after firing the projectile.
  • Eyes and Ears – The necessary PPE for your time at the range – ear muffs and shooting glasses.
  • Feed – The part of the gun that moves the ammunition from the magazine to the chamber.
  • Firearm – The term describes pistols, rifles, shotguns, and bolt-action rifles.
  • Firing Pin – The part of the trigger assembly that punches the cartridge, igniting the primer.
  • Floor Plates – The removable bottom of the magazine.
  • Floating Barrels – A bedded barrel avoiding contact with the stock of the gun.
  • Fiber Optics – A fluorescent front sight for handguns like Glocks.
  • Frame – The lower receiver of a handgun.


  • Gauge – The size of the bore of the barrel on a shotgun.
  • Grain – A unit of measure for powder and bullets. One grain equals 1/7000 of a pound; or 64.799 milligrams. It’s important to note that grain is not the same as a “granule” or pieces of gun powder.
  • Grip – The part of the firearm held by the trigger hand.
  • Gun Control – Something you want to vote against as a responsible firearms owner.
  • Gun Lock – A system that ens=cases the trigger, preventing the discharge of the firearm.
  • Gun Powder – The powder in the cartridge created the explosion that drives the projectile through the firearm’s barrel.
  • Gun Smith – An individual skilled in the repair, modification, design, and production of firearms.
  • Gun Belt – A specialized belts that hold your tactical holster, personal medical kit, ammo sidecars, and knife.

  • Hammer – The mechanism in the gun that launches the firing pin.
  • Hammer Block – A safety device separating the hammer and firing pin until you pull the trigger.
  • Hammerless – A striker-fired pistol with automatic reloading and no safety or cocking mechanism available.
  • Hangfire – An ammunition malfunction that’s describing delayed discharge of the primer or powder. A defective impact on the cartridge by the firing pin.
  • Heel – The base of the firearm stock.
  • Hoplophobe – A new slang for individuals irrationally afraid of firearms.
  • Hollow Point – A type of ammunition with a hollow center in the head of the bullet, filled with material designed to deform the bullet on impact, causing maximum damage to the target.

  • Jacket – The layer of material, usually brass or synthetic, surrounding the core of the bullet.

  • Lead – The substance used in the production of firearms projectiles.
  • Leading – The particles that remain in the barrel of the firearm requiring cleaning.
  • Loaded – A description of a firearm with the bullet in the chamber, ready to fire
  • Loading Gate – The spring-loaded or hinged cover on the frame, allowing you to load a firearm like an A.R. or shotgun manually.
  • Less Lethal – Firearms systems launching rubber bullets or tear gas.

  • Machine Gun – A type of military-style fully-automatic, hand-held forearm popular in movies.
  • Magazine – The component of the firearm that houses the ammunition.
  • Mainspring – The firing spring storing the striker or hammer of the weapon.
  • Misfire – A type of ammunition malfunction relating to a cartridge failure.
  • Mouth – The end of the magazine that accepts the cartridge.
  • Muzzle – The business end of the firearm that releases the projectile.
  • Muzzle Discipline – The practice of pointing the muzzle in a safe direction.

  • Negligent Discharge – The accidental discharge of a firearm when the owner does not have total control over the rifle or gun.
  • Nose – The tip of a handgun or rifle bullet.
  • NRA – (National Rifle Association) is a public organization fighting the legal battle for America’s gun rights.

  • Optic – A type of handgun or rifle sight. The optic produces a green or yellow dot on your target.

  • Partition Bullet – A dual-chambered and jacketed bullet. The front provides penetration while the rear remains unexploded to drive the round through armor plating.
  • Patch – A cloth used in the cleaning of the barrel of your firearm. You wrap it around a ball before plunging it in the barrel to clean the gun.
  • Pistol – Any variety of handguns.
  • Pistol Grip – Describes a type of grip on an automatic rifle or assault shotgun portion of a shoulder-operated gun
  • Plinking – Firing at inanimate objects like bottles and cans.
  • Primer – The part of the casing that ignites the powder.
  • Propellant – Powder or gas igniting the powder.
  • Pump Action – A cocking mechanism on a pump-action shotgun.


  • Recoil – The reaction from the explosion of the prodder and the firing of the projectile. Recoil is heavier in shotguns and least noticeable in handguns.
  • Reload – A previously exhausted cartridge repurposed as a new round.
  • Revolver – A type of pistol using manual loading and a cylinder instead of a magazine.
  • R.F. – An abbreviation for Rimfire.
  • Rib – A raised surface is located along the top of a gun barrel and used as a sight.
  • Ricochet – When the projectile deflects away from its original flight path after striking a surface.
  • Rifle – A type of automatic or self-loading firearm, also known as a long-gun.
  • Rifled Slug – A cylindrical slug designed to shoot through a rifled barrel.
  • Rifling – The spiraled grooves cut into the bore of a rifle or handgun barrel. The rifling helps to start the rotational spin of the projectile to the target.
  • Round – A slang or colloquial word for a cartridge.
  • Red Dot – A type of rifle and handgun sight.

  • Safety – The most important part of firearms ownership.
  • Scope – A telescopic sight, commonly called a scope, is an optical sighting device that is based on a refracting telescope for magnifying a target.
  • Sear – The part of the firearm keeping the hammer cocked until you pull the trigger.
  • Semi-Automatic – A firearm that discharges a round with each trigger pull, without the need to cock the gun between shots.
  • Shotgun – A firearm that relies on cartridge ammunition that disperses and versatile range of the projectile, from buckshot to rubber pellets.
  • Silencer or Suppressor – A fitting screwing into the barrel of your gun. The suppressor dampens the noise of the shot, saving your ears. Suppressors are useful in hunting to stop the shot alerting animals nearby.
  • Single-Shot – A firearm that requires manual loading between each shot.
  • Skeet – A shooting competition involving participants attempting to shoot clay discs with shotguns.
  • Slide-Action – A type of semi-automatic firearm action where the slide moves with the explosion of the cartridge.
  • Sling – Found in 2-point, 3-point, and single-point variations to suit user comfort. The sling reduces operator fatigue when on duty for extended periods.
  • Sling Swivel – The metal loop on the rifle that connects to the sling.
  • Small Arms – Firearms with small calibers.
  • Snub-Nosed – Handguns with short barrels.
  • Soft Point – A bullet featuring a metal jacket with an exposed nose. As a result of this configuration, the bullet expands on hitting the target.
  • Spray – Firing multiple shots in an erratic pattern to hit a target.
  • Squib – When the cartridge propellant is only sufficient to move the projectile partially down the barrel.
  • Stock – The part of the gun attaching to the tang or handle of the weapon.
  • Scope – The sights on a rifle, referring to telescopic and red dot sights.
  • Slide – The top of a semi-automatic pistol that moves along the barrel. You pull the slide to cock the gun.
  • Slide Release – The levers on the side of the gun returning the slide to the firing position after inserting a new magazine.
  • Safety catch – The catch on a double-action pistol preventing it from firing. Most striker-fired guns don’t have this feature.
  • Shooter Ready – A call during competitive shooting signaling the start of your round.
  • Stippling – A type of grip enhancement.
  • Stove Jam – when a cartridge fails to eject and sticks in the ejection chamber.
  • Safe – A gun safe is where you store your firearms.

  • The Wall – The part of the trigger pull where you feel the tension as the firing pin is ready to release.
  • Tang – The part of the receiver that fits into the stock behind the hammer.
  • Trigger – The part of the frame that causes the gun to fire when depressed
  • Trigger Guard – The part of the frame surrounding the trigger
  • Trigger-Lock – Prevents the accidental discharge of a firearm.
  • Takedown Levers – The levers on the gun or rifle help you separate the frame and slide or upper and lower receivers.

  • Velocity Feet-Per-Second (FPS) – A measurement of the projectile’s speed as it’s leaving the barrel of the firearm.

  • Weapon – Referring to a rifle, handgun, or any type of gun that causes injury.
  • Weaver Stance – A type of shooting stance where the dominant foot is in the rear.

  • Zero –The farthest distance at which the firearms projectile hits the target accurately. Also known as the practice of aligning a rile or handguns sights.

The Four Golden Rules of Firearms Safety

Now that you have a firm understanding of the terminology involved with the use of firearms let’s give you dome information on the safe handling and use of these deadly weapons.

Treat Every Firearm as If It’s Loaded

Whenever you see a handgun or rifle, assume it’s loaded. Treat the gun like it’s a live gun, and always respect the power of a firearm and its capacity to take life. Whenever you pass a gun to someone, make sure you both clear the weapon before handling it.

You clear the gun by racking the slide back into the locked position. Lock into the feed and the chamber to ensure there is no live round accidentally sitting there.

Many accidents happen by not clearing the chamber and feed before cleaning your firearm. Always clear before you do anything with the gun.

Point the Muzzle of the Firearm in a Safe Direction

Muzzle discipline is an essential part of responsible firearms ownership. Where you point the muzzle, is where the projectile goes when you fire the weapon.

Therefore, always have your muzzle pointing towards the floor and away from your body. Always carry the weapon in this manner, even if it’s not loaded.

Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger Until Firing

Trigger discipline is as vital as learning proper muzzle discipline. Your finger can take a life if you don’t have the right trigger discipline.

Striker-fired pistols don’t have a safety, and the trigger is always live. Plus, the poundage required to move a striker-fired trigger is only a few pounds, and incorrect trigger discipline could result in a negligent discharge and a lengthy explanation to the police.

Know Your Target and What’s Behind It

The last of the four golden rules are as important as the others. Always know what you are shooting at, and what’s behind it. For instance, shooting at your wooden fence in your backyard with your AR-15 will kill your neighbors enjoying their cookout in the backyard.

The Importance of Training with Your Firearm

Owning a firearm doesn’t mean it will save your life. You need to train with the weapon if you want to learn how to control it during a crisis. Don’t make the mistake of using your firearm for the first time in a pressure situation, you risk being disarmed and having the firearm stolen.

Book a session at the range, and try and get 1,000-rounds through your firearm for experience handling the weapon.


A Patriot, Life-Long Survivalist & now full-time editor at Vinjatek

Write A Comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.