Like so many things in the world that are admired, cherished or feared, firearms of various types have acquired nicknames over the years. SomeÂ are specific to particular styles of guns based on who designed or made them or how they look, sound or were employedâ€”a good example being the Thompson submachine gun. Itâ€™s been called everything from a â€śTommy Gunâ€ť (after the inventor John T. Thompson,) the â€śChicago Typewriter /Chicago Pianoâ€ť (because of its popularity with Gangsters in the 1920s and 30s) and â€śTrench Broomâ€ť or â€śTrench Sweeper,â€ť a more martial name it shares with the Winchester Model 1897 Trench shotgun.
Others are a bit more generic. Sometimes their derivation is obvious Â like â€śGatâ€ť Â shortened from Â the name â€śGatling.â€ťÂ Another handgun term from around the same time as â€śGatâ€ť (probably the 1910s) is â€śRoscoe.â€ť Some opine it was coined by writer Damon Runyon as a prop to be used by some of the gamblers and underworld types who populated his stories. Others feel it has a rather naughtier derivationâ€”but as Sigmund Freud supposedly said, â€śsometimes a cigarâ€™s merely a cigar.â€ť
The earliest nicknames Iâ€™ve been able to uncover date back to the 18th century. Small, large-caliber pistols were called â€śSnappers, â€śBarkersâ€ť or â€śBulldogs,â€ť the latter term coming down to this day, and along the way achieving Â trademark status.
AKAs such as â€śHeater, â€ť Â Shooting iron,â€ť â€śSmoke Poleâ€ť and Persuaderâ€ť are pretty easy to figure out, as are â€śSaturday Night Special,â€ť â€śSuicide Specialâ€ť and â€śFlyapart ,â€ť Â the latter a trio of terms to describe cheaply-made,Â inexpensive handguns intended for limited, somewhat specialized usage.
â€śLong Tomâ€ť, which has generally come to mean an extended-barreled, large-gauge shotgun (it too was ultimately adopted as an official model designation) goes back to at least the 1820s and originally described a large naval cannon. The appellation has since then also been applied to other artillery pieces.
For some time, it was not uncommon for a hunter to call his trusty rifle â€śOld Betsyâ€ť hearkening back to the name given by David Crockett to a flintlock rifle presented to him by some TennesseeÂ constituentsÂ that was builtÂ by Pennsylvania maker James Graham.Â He did not have this rifle with him at the Alamo, butÂ passed it on to his son, John Wesley, when he left for Texas. Interestingly enough an â€śInternationalâ€ťÂ cannon made from bits and pieces of parts donated by variousÂ military forces during the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of 1900 was christened â€śBetsy,â€ť supposedly a nickname for the Dowager Empressâ€”though Iâ€™ve often wondered if some U.S. Marine might have come up with a name as a tribute to Davy.
â€śHorse Pistolâ€ť originally meant a large military pistol that was carried in saddle holsters, but the moniker mutated to mean any large-caliber, generally oversized handgun.
These are just a few aliases that I came up with off the top of my head. There are others, such as â€śPeacemaker,â€ť Â Six-Shooter,â€ť that I felt were just too obvious to include, but look, I guess I included them anyway. Canâ€™t help myself.
Bet there are a bunch Iâ€™ve forgotten. Anybody else out there have some favorites?