An Incomplete Dictionary of Gun Terms for Beginners

gun dictionaryIn my last article I used some “slang” terminology and paid a price for it. While people understood what I was saying, they didn’t like how I said it. I was imprecise in my wording, thus giving “the other side” (check the comments: “ammo” to use against “us”. Well, lah-ti-dah.

Considering the “don’t say anything even slightly wrong so that they won’t have anything to use against us” crowd, I thought I’d help the beginners out (those who the fussy pants worried would be misinformed) by writing an incomplete beginner’s gun terminology dictionary. Now when you want to refer to a “magazine” you won’t use the slang term and say “clip”. After all, we don’t want to be imprecise, now do we? I wanted to help you remember the terms easier, so I wrote some of it in poetry. Difficult? Sometimes, but I managed.

(Except as noted, all definitions with quotes around them come from this book I purchased in 2008: “Firearms Encyclopedia” by George C Nonte, Jr., 1973, Outdoor Life, Popular Science Publishing Company, Inc., A Times Mirror Subsidiary; Library of Congress Catalog Number 73-80712)


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A is for Ammo the thing for the gun
It goes in one end and out the other one.
Though not all comes out that end of the gun,
It still makes the bang that ends someone’s fun.

Ammo (Ammunition): “The components of the cartridge: primer, case, bullet, powder, etc.”

Assault Rifle another word of “A”
It’s all the rage to love or to hate,
It looks quite mean in its enemies’ dreams;
Another case of lefties’ extremes.

Assault Rifle: A semi-automatic rifle with a barrel under 20 inches and with the capability to have high capacity magazines; individual trigger pulls are required for each shot.


B is for Barrel where the bullet comes out
Never look down it, or you’ll hear a shout,
“Don’t do that! It’s not safe! Hey, put that down!”
Better obey if you want to stay ’round.

Barrel: The cylinder that the projectile travels through to exit the gun.

B is for Bullet, not ammo, cartridge nor case
Don’t mistake the terms, or they’ll get in your face.
It’s all about the terms that we use to avoid
“The other side” hammering us as though they’re annoyed.

Bullet: The projectile portion of the cartridge that actually hits the target and does the damage.


C is for Caliber (or Calibre) its spelling matters not
It’s a measure of size for the barrel or of your shot
For it’s a measure of cartridge, too,
Match, they must, or your gun goes “Kablew!”

Caliber/Calibre: Originally it referred to the measurement of the barrel opening, not to the cartridge size. It is now used to refer to the size of the diameter of the cartridge, too. You must match them, so it makes sense.

C is for Cartridge now let’s get this right
It’s not interchangeable with bullets in sight.
“Cartridge” is the right term when loading,
A magazine (not a “clip”) or others shall be moaning.

Cartridge: “a small usually cylindrical packet, containing a detonating primer, a powder charge, a load” (

C is for Chamber the barrel part closest to you
As you hold the gun ready to use.
OR in a revolver it’s the holes in the cylinder
One cartridge each, no need for reminder.

Chamber: The part of the barrel closest to the trigger of the gun, or in a revolver, the individual recesses cut into the cylinder of the gun.

C is for Cleaning the gun of your choice
It’s important to do so, or it’ll lose its voice.
It won’t shoot for beans if you don’t clean it oft
Its important to do so, and oil with rag soft.

Cleaning: Cleaning the gun powder residue, dirt, dust, and other debris that accumulates on the weapon. Clean your gun after each use at the range and if your weapon gets wet or dirty.

C is for Clip the slang for “magazine”
But not to be used if you want to stay “genuine”
When others are watching who worry ’bout words
It’s better to be safe than argue with nerds.

Clip: “A metal device for holding a series of cartridges to permit their easy insertion into a magazine in older weapons.” Also, “Clip is also used indiscriminately to describe a detachable magazine and a charger.”


E is for Eject when the gun spits it out
The empty, used casing, of cartridge jumps ’bout.
That casing sometimes goes down your blouse,
It’s hot so remember, button up, or explain to spouse!

Eject: When the weapon empties the used cartridge case clear of the chamber on a semi-automatic or automatic weapon. In revolvers or other weapons, the used cartridges must be hand-ejected.


G is for Gauge the shotgun’s designee
Of a barrel’s diameter, Biden’s “Come help me!”
In shells you’ll be buying twelve, ten or others,
Shotguns have gauges like the president’s half-brothers!

Gauge: Measures the diameter of the barrel of the shotgun. Originally speaking of the spherical balls used in firearms, it was “actually the number of balls suitable for a given bore that could be cased from one pound of lead.”

G is for Grip the handgun’s handle for hands
It’s where you take hold as you take shooters’ stand,
Grip firm, but not white knuckles’ demand;
Don’t try to shape it like clay from the land.

Grip: “a handle or grip, as of a rifle or saw, shaped like the butt of a pistol.” (


H is for Hammer the “sticky-up thing”
At the back of the gun that makes your ears ring
When it strikes the pin, and it makes the loud “Boom!”
Before it strikes cartridge cover ears, or your hearing’s doomed.

Hammer: “A pivoted, spring-driven member which rotates with force to strike and drive forward the firing pin to fire the cartridge.”


M is for Magazine do not call it “clip”
Or some others out there will give you fat lip.
It holds the cartridges, stacked up and ready
To load into chamber but wait ’til you’re steady.

Magazine: “The container carrying cartridges that are forced under spring pressure into position to be fed into a gun’s chamber.” In most semi-automatic handguns, it is inserted into the grip of the handgun.


R is for Recoil the physicist’s proof
Every action, reaction: control this or “Poof!”
Your hands will lose control of your gun
And, believe me, I’ve seen it. It is no fun.

Recoil: “The rearward thrust produced against one’s shoulder or hand when a gun is fired.”


S is for Sight used to get your aim
It’s best if your eyes are not wild but tame.
Line them up properly for your best shot,
Otherwise left, right, high, low: perfect it’s not.

Sight: “an optical instrument for aiding the eye in aiming, as on a firearm or surveying instrument”


T is for Trigger a steady, smooth squeeze,
Control your aim, your breath: do not sneeze.
It’s guarded so you should only touch
When you’re serious about shooting, it doesn’t take much.

Trigger “The part of a gun against which finger pressure is brought directly to fire the

So that’s the end of my “Dictionary”,
If you wish to comment, don’t be contrary.
Remember: shooting is serious, but it’s also fun;
Too nit-pickey and snarky and from this sport newbies will run.


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