Bullet Points: Straight Shooting On Firearms Terminology

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So, with all this talk going on about guns, there are a lot of terms being thrown about. A lot of those terms are meant to evoke fear, prejudice, emotional reaction, and bad juju. For those of us in the know, a lot of those terms are being misused, and some are just down right idiotic. That's why I've put together this little review on terminology. Now, you can be armed with knowledge and facts (not just your concealed carry piece), so you can triumph intellectually over those who would have you be an unarmed victim. Now you can know if the words mean what you think they mean

(Please click the hyperlinks, for an interactive and fun learning experience).

ASSAULT: First, there's a lot of throwing around of the term "assault weapon." Assault is something that is committed by a person; a weapon can be used to modify the intensity or type of assault, or to make an assault more effective. If any weapon of mine can not be used to assault someone - then it is defective, and I don't want it. Also consider that everyday objects, things not designed primarily as weapons, can be used as weapons in an assault. These could be things like baseball bats, automobiles, curling irons, a bottle of wine, knitting needles, or your breasts. Heck, there's a whole host of ways to kill people, or yourself, that you don't need a firearm for, and it's way more than the 50 listed in that Train song.

ASSAULT RIFLE: keeping the above in mind, you might wonder what constitutes an assault rifle.  In the last ban, as in the current proposals, function has nothing to do with this definition, it's pure cosmetics. These outward features do not effect how the gun performs its primary function. A pistol grip and telescoping stock may serve to fit the gun better to different frames (like for a smaller woman, sort of like how you can adjust a bike seat and get different styles of handle bars based on the type of cycling you do), but they don't make more bullets come out the barrel per trigger pull. Basically, if it looks scary and is painted black, it's an assault rifle.

AUTOMATIC: the term is being bandied about quite a bit. In the world of firearms, you have three kinds of gun: automatic, semi-automatic, manual. An automatic firearm is one in which you pull a trigger once, and hold it down, and the bullets will cycle and leave the barrel of the gun until the bullets are gone or until the gun jams. Here is an excellent video of an automatic shooting device in action  (disclaimer: do NOT put your firearm in the dishwasher).  Automatic firearms are already effectively banned for personal use as they can no longer be manufactured.

SEMI-AUTOMATIC: is a weapon where, after you have chambered a round, you pull the trigger and one bullet fires. The magazine then feeds another bullet into the chamber, but the trigger must be pulled again to deploy the bullet through the barrel. You can repeat this one-pull-one-bullet action until the bullets run out or the gun jams. Here is a "grate" video on the one-to-one action of a semi-auto.  The majority of pistols and a good deal of long guns are semi-automatic. 

MANUAL: this type of firearm is one where the chamber of the firearm must be loaded after the bullet has been fired: you chamber a round, pull the trigger, the bullet is fired, and the user must take another action to chamber another round before the trigger can be successfully pulled again.  Revolvers are the most obvious manual firearm: a hammer has to be pulled down (cocked) to place the next round in front of the firing pin to be fired.  The majority of long guns fall into the manual class of firearm: lever-action rifles (like a 30-30), pump-action shot guns, bolt-action rifles, and - on a grander scale - the cannon.  Even this is manual, as a new round much be loaded manually every time. But, this is probably a better example of a manual firearm.

CLIP: The firearm-ignorant crowd uses this term when they actually mean to say "magazine." A clip is actually a device used to hold rounds together. Generally, clips do not go directly into a gun. They are used to organize the rounds so you can speedily reload your magazine. As for what the heck a "magazine clip" is, this is what's out there.

MAGAZINE: (not just for reading in the waiting room of your ObGyn): A magazine is a device where you put your rounds then place it inside the gun, the magazine has a spring which allows the cycling of rounds into the chamber of a weapon. All classes of weapons- automatic, semi-automatic, and manual (except single shot long guns), have and use magazines. Magazines can accommodate as little as two rounds (only really practicable for hunting elephant), and upwards of 100 rounds (but these magazines are unweildy and testicular). The most popular handguns generally come with standard magazine that carry 8-10 rounds, on average. However, the majority of one of the world's most recognizable handgun brand come with standard magazines that hold 10 rounds or more, including the models they recommend for women, and  the gun that I carry

HIGH-CAPACITY: This term is highly subjective. What is high-capacity, and who decides? If you have a smaller caliber, like a .22 or 9mm, standard magazines generally hold more than 10 rounds (and why shouldn't they, the bullet is smaller and you might need more to get the job done). Larger caliber guns, may hold less rounds, like my Glock 38 which holds 8 rounds of  .45GAP, but that is a bigger round than the other two. Still, I prefer more bullets, which is why outside of the house I carry a Glock 21 Gen 4 which holds 13 rounds of .45 ACP in the standard magazine. High-capacity is subjective, and differs with the size of the round, the size and the ability of the person carrying the weapon, and personal preference.

Congratulations! You're now more informed than most of the talking heads and politicians bloviating and blubbering on this subject. Now that you've been armed with the knowledge of what the 2nd amendment means and some basic terminology, next time we meet, we'll talk about the actual firearms you should consider for home and personal defense. Until then, you can watch Piers Morgan's show and have a good laugh.

(Questions on a term here, or one not listed? Ask in the comments, and I'll be happy to answer!)

**Come join us for the first ever national Armed and Fabulous event at a Smart Girl Summit 2013. Lets fill that gun range with strong armed women!**

Maya Grim is a military wife, mom, gun-toter, coffee-guzzler, Catholic, runner, dental professional, has a B.A. In History, and enjoys a good kettlebell workout - because she likes to throw her weight around! Maya also serves as SGPA District Coordinator in Tuscon, Arizona. 
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Showing 6 reactions


commented 2013-02-12 01:24:45 -0500 · Flag
Um, revolvers are mostly dbl action, not single action as you describe in your article. Please let’s at least be accurate within our own pro gun writings!
commented 2013-02-06 23:04:37 -0500 · Flag
the gun is a walther P380. Charter Arms, Taurus, S&W, Walther are some makers of pink guns off the assembly line. But your local competent gun smith can pinkify anything – don’t forget the sparkles!
commented 2013-02-05 22:42:30 -0500 · Flag
Love the links!! Great information with humor!
commented 2013-02-05 19:31:22 -0500 · Flag
I might have just answered my own question…Is it the Glock 21?
commented 2013-02-05 19:14:41 -0500 · Flag
Thanks for the post! Quick question…what is the gun shown in the picture?
commented 2013-02-05 14:02:58 -0500 · Flag
Another great post, Maya!
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