A Simple Guide to Fundamental Gun Terms
The world of guns may seem simple on the outside, but the intricacies of the industry stretch far beyond the basics. When you are first introduced to firearms, there may be a few terms or words that go over your head. Not to worry — our glossary of gun terms and rifle terminology can help you better understand firearms and how they work.
Table of Contents
Basic Gun Terms
Just starting off in the world of firearms? Here’s a list of gun terms for beginners that you need to know in order to understand the basics of any firearm.
The action of a gun is the functional mechanism that loads, locks, fires, extracts, and ejects the ammunition cartridge. From the moment you put the ammo into the gun, the action will be what carries it into the chamber, keeps it in place, fires it, and extracts the leftover shell. When you see someone cock a gun, they are activating the action.
There are several different types of actions for different guns, including single action, double action, break action, bolt action, and more.
When a firearm is listed as being “automatic”, it means that when the trigger is being pulled, the firearm will continuously chamber and fire rounds. An automatic firearm is capable of continuously feeding new ammunition into the chamber, and as long as the trigger mechanism is actuated, ammunition will be fired at a high rate.
The barrel of the gun is the straight-shooting tube that the bullet exits out of. Barrels are often made of rigid high-strength metal, and they help ensure that the bullet is leaving the gun on a straight trajectory.
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A blank is a cartridge that resembles any other bullet, but has no projectile. When fired, a blank cartridge will generate a muzzle flash, the sound, and the kickback that a typical bullet will provide, but no bullet will be shot out of the barrel of the gun.
A bolt action is a type of manual action that is operated with a bolt handle. They are operated by using a rotating-bolt design, which requires the handle to be rotated upward to unlock the bolt, then pulled back to open the breech and extract any used cartridge. Then, when the bolt is pushed back forward, a new cartridge will be pushed out of the magazine into the barrel chamber, and then the breech is closed by the bolt head re-locking.
The breech is located at the end of the barrel and is attached to the action. This is where bullets are loaded into the chamber of the gun by the action.
What is a caliber? In terms of firearms, caliber is a unit of measurement that measures the interior diameter (also called the bore) of a gun barrel and the diameter of the ammunition that the gun uses.
What does carbine mean? A carbine is a long-barrel firearm that has a shorter barrel than the typical rifle. They shoot the same type of ammunition as a full-length rifle, despite being smaller in size and lighter weight than a typical rifle.
In bullet terminology, a cartridge is the pre-assembled ammunition packaging that holds the bullet, gun powder and primer — all within a metallic case that fits within the barrel and breech of the gun.
In terms of firearms, the gun chamber is the cavity at the back end of the barrel where the cartridge is inserted before it is fired.
Chokes, which are most commonly found in shotguns, are a tapered constriction at the end of the barrel of a gun. They are formed during manufacturing so that the shape of the shot cloud is more concise, which leads to better accuracy and range. These constrictions taper from the bore diameter down to the choke diameter.
In handgun terminology, a clip is used to store multiple rounds of ammunition together to later be inserted into the magazine or cylinder of a gun or firearm. This allows the user to load several rounds at once.
Ear protection, which can be anything from ear muffs to expandable earplugs, and many shooters use them to protect their eardrums when shooting.
Ear protection can also be applied to a gun in the form of a suppressor. Browse Silencer Central’s selection of suppressors to ensure that your shooting doesn’t affect your hearing in any way!Shop Now!
The firing pin is a pin built into the firearm that strikes the primer of the cartridge, sets off the charge, and shoots the bullet from the cartridge.
Also called a flash eliminator, flash guard, flash cone, or flash hider, a flash suppressor is a device that is attached to the muzzle of a gun that reduces the flash that a gun gives off when firing.
The gauge of the shotgun is a type of classification that refers to the diameter of the shotgun bore and the size of the shell that is designated for that bore. It’s the equivalent of the caliber of a handgun or rifle.
The hammer is the part of the firearm that strikes the primer or firing pin to ignite the powder and fire the bullet.
A jacket is a type of cartridge found in small guns that has a soft core encased in an outer shell of harder metal.
A gun that’s lever-action uses a manually operated cocking lever located near the trigger guard. This lever pivots forward to move the bolt, which feeds and extracts cartridges in and out of the barrel chamber and prepares the hammer for firing.
A magazine, also called a clip, is an ammunition storage and feeding device for a repeating firearm. It allows you to load several rounds at once and insert it into the firearm at once, which cuts down on reloading time.
The muzzle of the gun is the front end of the barrel, which is where the bullet or projectile will exit the firearm.
A pistol grip is any handle that is shaped like the butt end of a pistol. It’s often added to larger firearms to help the user have more comfortable control of the weapon.
A pump-action gun (usually a shotgun) is a gun that brings a new round from the magazine into the breech by a slide action that is in line with and under the gun’s barrel. Sliding the action forward puts a new shell into the chamber, and sliding it back ejects the shell.
The receiver of a gun (also called the frame) is the part of the gun that provides housing for all the internal action components such as the bolt, hammer, and breech — basically, it’s the part of the gun that holds everything together.
The recoil of a gun is the backward motion a shooter feels after firing a bullet. Also called a kickback, the force of the recoil is directly related to the force of the bullet as it is launched forward.
A round (also called a cartridge) is the pre-assembled firearm ammunition packaging. One round contains one bullet, and every time you pull the trigger, you will fire off one round.
The safety is a mechanism used to prevent the accidental firing of a gun. Before firing a live round, a gun user has to make sure that the safety is switched off so that the gun can fire. If the safety is switched on, it will prevent the trigger from being pulled and the hammer from coming down on the primer.
If a firearm has selective fire, it means that the user can toggle the gun to fire it in semi-automatic mode, burst mode, or a fully automatic firing mode. This allows the user to decide how rapidly the bullets fire out of the gun.
Also called a self-loading or autoloading gun, a semi-automatic gun is a repeating firearm that has an action mechanism that automatically loads the next round into the chamber and prepares it for firing, but requires the shooter to manually pull the trigger each time to fire off a shot. It allows for rapid shooting, but the trigger must be pulled each time for a round to go off.
A suppressor (also called a silencer) is a muzzle that is attached at the end of the barrel and reduces the sound that a gun makes when discharging.
The stock (or butt) of a gun is the back portion that provides structural support to the gun. This is where a shooter will place their shoulder to allow for maximum comfort and the steadiest shot possible.
Advanced Gun Terms
Are you familiar with the basics of gun terminology, but still come across some words or phrases that you aren’t familiar with? Take a look at our glossary of advanced gun slang to find the answers you need!
Many non-pistol users may ask “What does ACP stand for in pistols?”. An ACP is an Automatic Colt Pistol, which is a straight-walled and rimless handgun cartridge designed for use in a Colt semi-automatic pistol.
Ballistics is the study of how a projectile or bullet travels while in flight. It includes how the bullet travels through the barrel, through the air, and into the target.
A bipod is an attachment that you use to help support and steady your firearm. It provides you with two “legs” that you rest underneath the barrel so that you can have stability along two axes of motion — side to side and up and down.
Blowback is the operating system for self-loading firearms that takes the energy from the motion of a cartridge case being pushed backward by expanding gas created by the ignition of the primer charge.
Centerfire is a type of ammunition in which the primer is located in the center of the casing base. It’s used in rifles, shotguns, and handguns, and more often than not, it’s reloadable ammunition.
A collimator sight (also called occluded eye gunsight) is an optical sight that allows the user to look into it and see an illuminated aiming point that is aligned with the gun, regardless of the eye position and with little parallax.
A compensator is a device attached to the end of the barrel of a gun, and it is used to take the propellant gases and redirect them to counter recoil and muzzle rise in a way that helps the shooter get a better shot.
Direct impingement is a firearm’s gas operation that directs any gas from a fired cartridge indirectly through the barrel, into the bolt carrier or slide assembly to cycle the action.
To discharge a weapon is to fire it. This is often how shooting is referred to in a formal setting.
Every time you fire your gun, you leave metal and plastic residue throughout the gun. Fouling is the result of all this residue and moisture being exposed to the gun. If fouling is left unchecked for too long, it can lead to corrosion, rust, and further damage to your weapon.
Bullet grain is the basic weight of a bullet. One grain is equal to 1/7000th of a pound, and it refers to the weight of the projectile that fires from the barrel — not the entire cartridge. It is used to help shoppers determine which bullet is made for their gun.
A muzzle brake is a device that utilizes any escaping gases in order to reduce the force of recoil. It’s attached to the muzzle of the gun tube.
Point of Impact
Point of impact, or POI, describes the relationship between the place where you are aiming vs. where the bullet actually hits. This is determined by the distance of your shot, the optics, conditions, and more.
Rifling describes the helical groovings that are built into the internal surface of a gun’s barrel. This exerts torque and spins a projectile around the longitudinal axis during shooting, which leads to a straighter, quicker shot.
Rimfire ammunition is a type of cartridge that has the primer contained in the ammunition casing, which limits it to low-pressure loads. Compared to centerfire ammunition, rimfire cartridges are not reloadable.
A telescoping stock (also called a collapsible stock) is a firearm stock that can retract and shorten itself, making the weapon more compact and transportable.
Windage is a sight adjustment done to compensate for any horizontal deviation of a bullet’s trajectory due to wind drifts, distance or the Coriolis effect.
Any rotation of the nose of a bullet away from the line of flight is the bullet’s yaw.
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As you can see, there is plenty to learn about the world of guns and firearms. However, when you shop at Silencer Central, our team of experts will walk you through all these firearm terms and get you the exact materials and tools you need to make you the best shooter possible. Learn more about Silencer Central today!GET STARTED!