Firearms Definitions You Need To Know

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Shooting Sticks

A pair of slender and easily-carried wooden dowels or sticks, which when held, crossed, in the fingers of the left hand while also supporting the forend of a rifle, usually shooting offhand, provides somewhat enhanced stability for a more accurate shot.

Small Arms

Firearms designed to be carried and used by an individual or individuals.

Carry

Slang for a gun or the action of carrying a gun concealed, e.g "The Bersa Thunder .380 is a fantastic gun for carrying" or "Do you carry?".

Pinfire

An early form of complete, self-contained cartridge. It included bullet, powder and ignition primer, all in one package. The primer was located towards the base of the cartridge, but completely internally. The pin, shaped like a little finishing nail, pointed on the inside end and resting on the internal primer, projected radially about a quarter-inch to the outside of the base of the cartridge. When loaded, a pinfire gun showed the tips of the pins exposed through small slots in the tops of the breech faces of the barrels. To fire, hammers fell on the pins, driving them (through the wall of the cartridge) into the internal primer.

Fouling

The accumulation of unwanted material on solid surfaces. The fouling material can consist of either powder, lubrication residue, or bullet material such as lead or copper.

Blown Pattern

A shotgun pattern with erratic shot distribution, generally caused by gas escaping past the wads and getting into the shot.

Magazine Follower

Same as Follower. A plate, mounted to the top of a spring, inside a magazine, over which cartridges may slide smoothly as they are guided into the chamber of a repeating firearm.

Shell Casing

A hollow, piece of metal (or plastic in the case of a shotgun shell) that is closed on one end except for a small hole which holds a primer. The open end holds the bullet. The hollow portion holds the powder. Together the assembled unit is called a cartridge.

Firearm

A firearm is a portable gun (pistol or rifle), being a barreled weapon that launches one or more projectiles often driven by the action of an explosive force.

Magazine Well

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

Trigger Break

The point at which the trigger allows the hammer to fall, or releases the striker, so that the shot fires. The ideal trigger break is sudden and definite. "Like a glass rod" is the cliche term shooters use to describe the ideal crisp, clean break.

Windage

The setting on the sights used to accommodate the wind or adjust for horizontal (side-to-side) errors in the alignment of the sights with the bore of the firearm.

NFA

National Firearms Act of 1934. Enacted on June 26, 1934, currently codified as amended as I.R.C. ch. 53, is an Act of Congress in the United States that, in general, imposes a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandates the registration of those firearms. The Act was passed shortly after the repeal of Prohibition. The NFA is also referred to as Title II of the Federal firearms laws.
The NFA includes:

  • Requires the registration of all fully automatic firearms.
  • Requires the registration of all "sawed off" rifles and shotguns.
  • Requires the registration of firearm silencers.
  • Imposes a $200 transfer tax on the above items.

Pump Action

A type of mechanism for removing a spent shell casing from the chamber of a firearm and inserting a fresh cartridge into the chamber. This type of mechanism is most commonly used in shotguns and rimfire rifles.

Recoil Spring

The recoil spring is the powerful spring that cushions the slide in its rearward travel and then sends the slide forward again with enough force to drive the fresh round firmly into the chamber. The strength of the recoil spring is calibrated to run the slide without any outside assistance.

Mirage

A tendency for layers of air of different temperatures near the warm ground to cause refraction in the line of sight and disturbance of the perceived point of aim.

Every Day Carry

Term used for a firearm that a person uses as their usual daily carry gun. It is also used to describe a gun that is good for carrying concealed on a regular basis. Factors for determining an EDC may include caliber, physical size, number of rounds, accuracy and/or other factors.

Breech Pressure

The amount of rearward force exerted by the propellant gases on the bolt or breech of a firearm action or breech when a projectile is fired. The applied force has both magnitude and direction, making it a vector quantity. This is also known as Bolt Thrust on firearms that are Bolt Action

Bolt

The mechanism of some firearms that holds the cartridge in place during the firing process. It must be moved out of the way to load and unload the gun; this action may be manually performed by the shooter pulling back on an exterior knob called the bolt handle and then sending it forward again, or the action may be performed by other moving parts within the firearm. When the user must move the bolt manually, the firearm is called a bolt-action firearm.

Parallax

This occurs in telescopic sights when the primary image of the objective lens does not coincide with the reticle.Telescopic sights often have parallax adjustments to minimize this effect.