Letter S Firearms Glossary

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Sabot

An oversized, lightweight housing that allows a sub-calibre projectile to be fired in a larger-diameter bore, usually in the interest of increased velocity. The sabot falls away from the actual projectile upon exiting the muzzle. For example, a hunter could use his .30-30 deer rifle to shoot small game with .22 centerfire bullets.

Saddle Ring

A steel ring, around an inch in diameter, mounted to a stud, usually on the left side of the receiver of a carbine, to which may be tied a leather thong to secure it to a saddle or a scabbard so as not to lose the carbine when riding a rambunctious horse.

Safe

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

Safety

A device, incorporated into the design of most firearms actions that, when engaged, should prevent the discharge of the firearm. Some safeties are more positive than others. A safety device is not a perfect substitute for the general principles of responsible gun handling. Never point a gun in a direction you do not intend to shoot

Safety Lug

An extra flange behind the bolt handle, at the rear of a bolt action receiver (notably the Mauser Model 1898), which uses the bolt handle as an extra locking surface in the extremely unlikely event of forward bolt lug failure.

Saturday Night Special

A slang term for a small inexpensive handgun. Saturday night specials have been defined as compact, inexpensive, small-caliber handguns with perceived low quality; however, there is no official definition of "Saturday night special" under federal law, though some states define "Saturday night specials" or "junk guns" by means of composition or materials strength. Low cost and high availability make these weapons attractive to many buyers despite their shortcomings.

Sawed-Off Shotgun

Common term for federally restricted "short-barreled shotgun (rifle)" as with a conventional shotgun with barrel less than 18" (rifle less than 16") or overall length less than 26.

SBS

Abreviation for short-barreled shotgun.

Scattergun

A slang term for a shotgun.

Scope

A magnifying tube through which the shooter may see the target and aim the firearm. Scopes contain a reticle, commonly in the shape of a cross, which must be properly centered upon the target for accurate aim.

Scope Blocks

A pair of small dovetailed steel bases, screwed usually one to the barrel and one to the front receiver ring of a rifle, to accept mounts for target scopes such as the Unertl where the scope is allowed to move forward in the rings under the recoil of the rifle and which typically carry the windage and elevation adjustments in the mount.

Scope Blocks

A pair of small dovetailed steel bases, screwed usually one to the barrel and one to the front receiver ring of a rifle, to accept mounts for target scopes such as the Unertl where the scope is allowed to move forward in the rings under the recoil of the rifle and which typically carry the windage and elevation adjustments in the mount.

Scout Rifle

A concept created by eminent gun writer Col. Jeff Cooper. A scout rifle, generally, is a bolt action carbine firing a medium power round suitable for taking large game (e.g., .308), fitted with a long eye-relief telescopic sight mounted on the barrel, and a back up set of iron sights.

Sear

The part of the trigger mechanism which holds the hammer or striker back. Pressure on the trigger causes the sear to release the hammer or striker, allowing it to strike the firing pin and discharge the weapon.

Second Amendment

The second article in the United States Bill of Rights which states, "A well regulated militia being necessary for a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Sectional Density

The relationship between a bullet's weight and its diameter. A long bullet, such as the original 7.62x54R loading for the Mosin Nagant 91/30, will have a high sectional density and consequently greater penetration than a shorter bullet of similar construction. A shorter bullet with less sectional density will have relatively less penetration, but greater knockdown power.

Selective-Fire

A firearm's ability to be fired fully automatically, semi-automatically or, in some cases, in burst-fire mode at the option of the firer.

Self-Opening

Attribute of a break-open gun whereby the barrels drop down simply by pressing the toplever without muscling them open manually. The Holland & Holland system utilizes a coil spring within a cylindrical housing mounted just ahead of the forward lump to urge the barrels open. The Purdey system utilizes residual energy remaining in the mainspring after the gun has been fired. Both systems enable a shooter to load more quickly when birds are coming fast.

Semi-Automatic

A firearm designed to fire a single cartridge, eject the empty case and reload the chamber each time the trigger is pulled. It uses the energy from the fired shot to eject the empty case and feed the next round into the chamber.

Semi-Wadcutter

A bullet design featuring a conical extended nose, with a flat point, and a sharp edged shoulder that serves to cut a full diameter hole in the target. This design also may be found with a hollow point to facilitate expansion. A modified wadcutter bullet design with slightly sloping edges, designed to load smoothly in a semi-automatic pistol.

Shell

An empty ammunition case.

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.

Shooting Range

A specialized facility designed for firearms practice.

Shooting Sports

There are a lot of different competitions and other games which involve firearms. These are all referred to collectively as the shooting sports.

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.

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.

Short Recoil

A semi-automatic pistol in which the barrel and breechblock are locked together for only a short distance of rearward recoil travel, at which point the two are uncoupled, the barrel is stopped and the breechblock continues rearward, extracting the spent casing from the chamber. Upon returning forward, the breechblock chambers a fresh round and forces the barrel back into its forward position. Most modern recoil operated semi-automatic pistols use short recoil.

Short Trigger

A trigger that doesn't have to travel very far before it reaches the break. In a 1911 semi-auto pistol, a short trigger is a different part than a long trigger, and (in addition to providing less motion) it features a shorter reach which may be of benefit to a small-handed shooter.

Short-Stroking

On a pump-action firearm, being too gentle with the fore-end and either not pulling it all the way back at the beginning of the stroke, or not shoving it all the way forward at the end of the stroke. Which may result in the old case or shell failing to eject and a misfeeds, or the gun will not fire when the trigger is pulled. The term is used most often to refer to pump-action shotguns, but it is possible to similarly short-stroke any type of firearm which requires the user to manually cycle the action (lever action rifles, for example).

Shot

In shotgunning, multiple pellets contained in the shell and sent downrange when the shotgun is fired.

Shot Size

The size of the pellets in a shotgun shell.

Shotgun

A smooth bore long gun that shoots a group of pellets called shot instead of bullets. Depending on the bore size and the size of the pellets there may be from less than 10 to two hundred or more pellets in a single shotgun cartridge. Shotguns are designed for shooting moving targets (such as flying birds or running rabbits) at close range.

Shotgun Shell

The cartridge for a shotgun. It is also called a "shell," and its body is usually made of plastic (metal shotgun shells are very rare, paper shotgun shells are extinct) with a metal head. Small shotshells are also made for rifles and handguns and are often used for vermin control.

Shotshell

Same as a Shotgun Shell.

Shoulder

To bring the butt of a long gun's stock to the shooter's shoulder, preparatory to firing the gun.

Side-By-Side

A shotgun with two barrels which are situated next to each other. Somtimes also abreviated as SxS.

Sight Alignment

The manner in which the sights are lined up properly in front of the shooter's eye, to form a straight path to the target.

Sight Picture

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

Sight Radius

The distance between the rear sight and the front sight. As a longer lever provides greater mechanical advantage, the greater the distance between the two sights, the more inherently accurate they will be.

Sights

The device that aids the eye in aiming the barrel of a firearm in the proper direction to hit a target.They can be a mechanical, optical, or electronic device. Iron sights or sometimes as open sights, consist of specially-shaped pieces of metal placed at each end of the barrel. The sight closest to the muzzle end of the gun is called the front sight, while the one farthest from the muzzle (and nearest to the shooter) is called the rear sight.

Silencer

Improper term for a device that cuts down on the noise a firearm makes when it is shot. The correct term is suppressor. Silencers only exist in the movies.

Silhouette Shooting

A handgun or rifle shooting sport in which the competitors attempt to knock over metallic game-shaped targets at various ranges.

Single Action

An action type that when the trigger is pulled, the only thing the trigger does is drop the hammer (or striker). This applies to both revolvers, semi-automatic and automatic guns. On a single action revolver, the gun must be manually cocked before it can be fired. With semi-automatic and automatic guns that are single action, the only thing the trigger does is drop the hammer, striker or firing pin onto the cartridge. Then the firearm is cocked again when from the recoil of the fired round. A firearm that the gun is cocked and the hammer drops when the trigger is pulled is a double action gun.

Single Shot

A firearm that is only capable of holding one shot at a time. Each round must be loaded into the chamber manually by hand before each shot.

Six Gun

A slang term for a revolver that holds siz rounds. Usually referring to cowboy style revolvers.

Six O'Clock Hold

A sight picture of when the center of the target rests on top of the front sight when the sights are properly aligned. Also see center hold and cover hold.

Skeet

A shotgun shooting sport in which the competitors attempt to break aerial targets directed toward them or crossing in front of them from different angles and elevations. It is an Olympic shooting sport.

Slamfire

A premature, unintended discharge of a firearm that occurs as a round is being loaded into the chamber.

Sleeved Barrels

An economical method of bringing new life to a damaged pair of barrels, regardless of their original method of jointing. The ribs are removed. The barrels are cut off 3" - 4" from the breech end and discarded. The bores of the remaining breech-end are reamed out oversize. New tubes are fitted down into the original breech section and filed down to fit flush. The original ribs are then replaced. Sleeving is considerably less expensive than building a completely new set of barrels. Much of the time required to build a set of barrels is concentrated in the fitting of the breech end to the receiver; this work is salvaged through sleeving. Sleeving can be recognized by a pair of circumferential lines around the barrels a few inches from the breech; the more invisible, the finer the job. A sleeved gun should always be identified as such amongst the proof marks, and if done in England must be properly reproofed. Photo Sleeving is not the same thing as Monoblocking.

Slide

The upper portion of a semi-automatic pistol that houses the barrel and contains the breechblock and portions of the firing mechanism. Ejecting the spent case as it moves to the rear and loading a fresh cartridge into the chamber as it moves forward again. As its name states, it slides along tracks in the top of the frame during the recoil process providing the linkage between the breechblock and barrel.

Slide Bite

A phenomenon which is often grouped with hammer bite. In this case the web of the shooting hand is cut or abraded by the rearward motion of the semi-automatic pistol's slide, not by the gun's hammer. This most often occurs with small pistols like the Walther PPK and Walther TPH that have an abbreviated grip tang. This problem is exacerbated by the sharp machining found on many firearms.

Slide Catch

Sometimes also known as a slide lock, slide release or slide lever. On a semi-autmatic gun, the lever or catch that holds the slide open (after the last round is fired or when racking an empty gun). Typically they are located on the left side of the frame about mide barrel. Some of the newer semi-automatic pistols have an internal slide lock. Even though on pistols with an external slide catch, you can push down on the lever to release the slide, it should never be used in such a manner. The proper way to release the slide is to rack the slide.

Slide Lever

A slang term for slide catch.

Slide Lock

A slang term for slide catch.

Slide Release

A slang term for slide catch.

Sling

A long strip of leather, plastic, or nylon which is fastened at the fore and rear of the gun for the easy carry of long guns.

Sling

A strap, usually of leather or sturdy webbing, fitted to the fore and aft (usually) of a rifle as an aid to carrying over the shoulder and as an aid to holding the rifle steadily while aiming.

Slug

More correctly a "rifled slug" or "shotgun slug." An individual cylindrical projectile designed to be discharged from a shotgun. The term is often incorrectly used to mean a Bullet.

Slug Gun

Slang for a shotgun which is set up specifically to fire a slug (a large, single projectile) rather than shot (multiple projectiles contained within a single shell).

Small Arms

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

Small Bore

Generally refers to a .32 calibre or smaller firearm.

SMLE

Abbreviation for Short Magazine Lee Enfield. The standard British Army rifle from around 1895 to 1957.

Smokeless Powder

The propellant powder used in modern ammunition. It is not an explosive, but rather a flammable solid that burns extremely rapidly releasing a large volume of gas. Commonly called "gunpowder" and usually made from nitrocellulose, or nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin. It is classified as a "Flammable Solid" by the Department of Transportation.

Smooth Bore

A barrel without rifling. Smooth bore barrels are commonly used in shotguns and in large bore artillery that fire fin stabilized projectiles.

Snap Cap

An inert ammunition-shaped object, used in practice to simulate misfeeds and other malfunctions. Some folks also use them during dry fire practice to cushion the firing pin as it strikes.

Snap Caps

Dummy cartridges with spring-loaded "primers" used to test the mechanical functioning of a firearm, particularly the trigger pulls, hammer-fall and ejector-timing of a break-open gun. It is not advisable to dry-fire a break-open gun on an empty chamber. Hardened steel parts can shatter without the soft brass primer to act as a shock absorber. Snap caps cushion the blow of the hammer and firing-pin when the use of a live cartridge would be impractical.

Snap Shot

A quick shot taken without deliberate aim.

Sniper

A military person designated as a special marksman who is used to shoot designated targets of opportunity at long range.

Sniper Rifle

A specialized, highly accurate rifle, fitted with an optical sight used by military snipers to engage personnel and hard targets at long range.

Snub-Nose

Slang word for short barreled revolver.

Snubby

Slang word for short barreled revolver.

Soft Point

A metal jacketed bullet design in which the nose of the core of the bullet is exposed to ensure the expansion of the bullet upon impact. Often abbreviated "JSP" or "SP." They tend to expand more slowly than a Hollow Point bullet and are used where deeper penetration and expansion are needed.

SP

Abbreviation for soft point

Speed Loader

A device used to load magazines or revolver cylinders quicker than by hand.

Speed Strip

A flat piece of rubber which holds revolver cartridges preparatory to loading them into the revolver's cylinder. Similar to a moon clip

Speedloader

A device used to reduce the time and/or effort needed to reload a firearm's magazine.

Sporterizing

The practice of modifying military-type firearms either to make them suitable for civilian sporting use. Common sporterizing includes changing the stock or sights.

Sporting Clays

A shotgun shooting sport that combines elements of skeet and trap, and that is designed to simulate field conditions.

Sporting Firearm

Any gun that can be used in a sport.

Spotter

The spotter is a helper who gives the shooter guidance on how to hit a particular target. In some cases the spotter may just report the location of the bullet impact. In other cases they may judge the speed and direction of the wind, determine the range, and give the shooter the settings to be used on the sights.

Spray and Pray

A term often used to refer to the very poor and dangerous practice of rapidly firing many shots at a target as possible in the hope that one or more may hit the target. This practice is a danger not only to bystanders but also to the shooter.

Squib

An underpowered powder charge, usually caused by a fault in cartridge loading, often insufficient to expel a projectile from the muzzle of a firearm. If such a blockage is not cleared, the next attempted shot could cause the barrel at least to bulge, and very possibly to burst.

Stalking Safety

A safety catch fitted to a hammer gun where a sliding bar moves into a slot in the inner wall of the hammer base, locking it in place in the cocked position. The safety can then be released silently by sliding the tab, avoiding the game-startling sound of the hammer cocking.

Stance

How the shooter positions her body while shooting. The three most widely used handgun stances are Weaver, Isosceles and Chapman stance.

Standing Breech

The face of the action of a break-open firearm which houses the firing pins and receives the direct recoil of the fired round.

Stock

The back part of a rifle or shotgun, excluding the receiver.

Stopping Power

A popular but imprecise term used to refer to the ability of a small arms cartridge to cause a human assailant or an animal to be immediately incapacitated when shot with it. A more precise term is be Wound Trauma Incapacitation (WTI).

Stovepipe

Failure of a spent case to completely eject from a semi-automatic firearm. The case usually stands on end while lodged in the ejection port.

Straddle Floorplate

A hinged plate covering the bottom of a rifle magazine and extending rearward on either side of the triggerguard. This design allows it to be more securely fastened for one more imperceptible step towards total reliability.

Striker

In a handgun that does not have a hammer, the striker is a linear driven, spring loaded cylindrical part which strikes the primer of a chambered cartridge. The striker replaces both the hammer and firing pin found in hammer driven pistols.

Stripper Clip

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

Stutzen

German for a short rifle or carbine.

Submachine Gun

A machine gun that fires pistol caliber rounds such as .45 acp or 9mm Luger (Parabellum)

Submachine Gun

A fully automatic firearm that fires pistol ammunition.

Suppressor

Incorrectoly sometimes referred to as a silencer, it is used to reduce the sound of a firearm's discharge. They do not actually silence most firearms but rather lower the intensity of the muzzle blast and change the sound characteristics (works similarly to an automotive muffler by disrupting and spreading out the sound waves). The possession, use, and transportation of silencers have been tightly controlled under federal law since 1934. Any device which reduces the sound of discharge by more than 2 dB is considered by the BATF to be a suppressor.

SxS

Abbreviation for Side-By-Side.