Guns & Ammo Network

Collapse bottom bar
Gun Culture Gear & Accessories Politics Suppressors

9 Most Misused Gun Terms

by Kyle Wintersteen   |  July 22nd, 2014 100

Magazine-Clip“Assault weapon.” Sixteen-round “clip.” A box of “bullets.” When it comes to firearms, there’s no shortage of misused terminology. Sometimes the error is committed innocently, a simple mistake owing to the shooter’s ignorance. A common example is the interchangeable use of “clip” and “magazine.” However, other misused terms are more harmful. They aren’t just inaccurate; their frequent use can negatively affect the public perception of firearms. Referring to a semi-automatic carbine as an “assault rifle” — a term that implies a fully automatic action designed for purely offensive purposes — is the biggest offender. More on that later.

Anti-gun groups, politicians and biased members of the media often use such terms incorrectly — sometimes due to lack of knowledge but often with malicious intent. So, if we as gun owners don’t accurately apply firearms terminology, who will? How can aspiring shooters, genuine journalists or the public at-large hope to receive reliable information? Here are some of the most commonly misused and confused gun terms.

Clip vs. Magazine
You know that boxy rectangular thingy that holds cartridges and slides into the bottom of your semi-auto pistol? It’s not a clip — no matter how often the term is misused. It’s a magazine.

A magazine holds shells under spring pressure in preparation for feeding into the firearm’s chamber. Examples include box, tubular, drum and rotary magazines. Some are fixed to the firearm while others are removable.

A cartridge “clip” has no spring and does not feed shells directly into the chamber. Rather, clips hold cartridges in the correct sequence for “charging” a specific firearm’s magazine. Stripper clips allow rounds to be “stripped” into the magazine. Other types are fed along with the shells into the magazine — the M1 Garand famously operates in this fashion. Once all rounds have been fired, the clip is ejected or otherwise released from the firearm.

In essence, clips feed magazines. Magazines feed firearms.

Assault Rifles vs. Assault Weapons vs. Semi-Automatic Rifles
The term “assault rifle” is perhaps the most commonly misused gun term, and certainly it’s one of the most damaging to the public’s perception of firearms. Most often, the media, anti-gun groups and all-too-many gun owners incorrectly use it to describe an AR-15 rifle.

As noted by David Kopel in an article in the “Journal of Contemporary Law,” the U.S. Department of Defense defines assault rifles as “selective-fire weapons that fire a cartridge intermediate in power between sub-machine gun and rifle cartridges.” The AR-15 and other civilian carbines errantly called assault rifles do no such thing. They are semi-automatic, non-battlefield firearms.

To add further clarity, “AR” also does not stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle” — as is occasionally implied — but rather ArmaLite rifle, after the company that developed it in the 1950’s.

However, anti-gun groups have been hugely successful applying the false label to convince Americans that AR-15’s and other semi-auto rifle platforms are a fully automatic, public threat. Much of the mainstream media now uses the “assault rifle” label broadly and without question.

To further capitalize, anti-gun groups completely invented the term “assault weapons” to broadly cover everything from home-defense shotguns to standard-capacity handguns — anything they wish to ban.

In fact, according to Bruce H. Kobayashi and Joseph E. Olson, writing in the Stanford Law and Policy Review, “Prior to 1989, the term ‘assault weapon’ did not exist in the lexicon of firearms. It is a political term, developed by anti-gun publicists to expand the category of ‘assault rifles’ so as to allow an attack on as many additional firearms as possible on the basis of undefined ‘evil’ appearance.”

So, while the term “assault rifle” is frequently misused, the term “assault weapon” doesn’t even really exist.

accuracy_precision_1Accuracy vs. Precision
These seemingly synonymous terms are often used interchangeably, but they describe two distinct aspects of shots on target. Accuracy is a measurement of the shooter’s ability to consistently hit a given target; precision is essentially the tightness of his groups.

That’s the same thing, you say? Perhaps further examples are in order. The best illustration of the differences I’ve come across is courtesy of an unlikely source: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NOAA’s article “Accuracy vs. Precision” was written with surveyors in mind, but its examples include four, four-shot groups by a rifleman (who we shall assume has a perfectly zeroed firearm and is aiming for the center of the target).

In example No. 1, the rifleman’s four shots are scattered all across the target. This is neither precise nor accurate.

In example No. 2, the rifleman places a tight four-shot group in the upper left of the target. This is precise (the shots are close together) but not accurate (the shots are far off-center).

In example No. 3, the rifleman lands a fairly wide four-shot group near the center of the target. He is accurate (his shots are near the intended target) but not precise (it’s a wide group).

In example No. 4, the rifleman delivers a nice, tight, four-shot group directly to the bullseye. This is both accurate (he hit the center of the target) and precise (all four shots were close together).

So, while a rifle that consistently produces tight groups is often described as “accurate,” it’s more properly an indication of good precision.

Pistol vs. Handgun
There is some gray area with this one. Some use the term “handgun” to describe any hand-held firearm, but only use “pistol” in reference to semi-automatic handguns — not revolvers. I’m of the school that believes pistol and handgun may be used interchangeably. Here’s why.

One authoritative source, The NRA Firearms Sourcebook, defines a pistol as “a generic term for a hand-held firearm. Often used more specifically to refer to a single-shot, revolver or semi-automatic handgun.”

Then there’s the historical record. Though there’s debate over whence the term “pistol” arose, by the late 16th century it was commonly used to describe any hand-held gun. It even appeared in works by William Shakespeare. Then along came Samuel Colt, who described his cylinder-firearm invention as a “revolving pistol.”

“Pistol” was an established part of the vernacular long before the semi-auto handgun. Therefore it’s safe to say all handguns are pistols, and all pistols are handguns.

North-American-Arms-22-Mag73116-1ePocket Pistol vs. Sub-Compact Pistol
Every sub-compact pistol is a pocket pistol, but not all pocket pistols are subcompacts. Let me explain.

A sub-compact pistol is simply a small, concealed-carry-friendly version of a particular full-size model. For example, the Springfield XD 9mm Subcompact is a 3-inch barrel version of the full-size 9mm XD with 5-inch barrel. There are no standard dimensions per se that constitute a subcompact, and thus sizes vary among manufacturers.

“Pocket pistol,” on the other hand, is a generic, somewhat slangy term for any small handgun suitable for concealed carry in a pocket or otherwise. The Ruger LC9, for instance, is a pocket pistol. However, it is not a subcompact. It is a stand-alone pistol, not a smaller version of a full-size gun.

Cartridge vs. Bullet vs. Caliber
Given the vast differences between the terms “bullet,” “cartridge” and “caliber,” it’s amazing anyone with a modicum of experience would confuse them. And yet how many of us have been in a gun store when someone walked in looking for “a box of .30-’06 bullets” when he obviously wanted actual cartridges?

A “bullet” is merely the projectile that exits the barrel. Specifically, it’s a non-spherical chunk of lead, copper or other material intended for use in a rifled barrel. The bullet’s “caliber” is a numerical approximation of the bullet’s diameter, often expressed in millimeters or hundredths of an inch.

“Bullet” should not be used interchangeably with the term “cartridge” — a bullet is a mere component of it. Cartridges consist of the case, primer, propellant and projectile. In the case of rifles and handguns, the bullet is seated in the cartridge case. Cartridge is also an accurate term for any shotshell.

Extractor vs. Ejector
There are two main errors with these terms: using them interchangeably or the false assumption that the extractor also ejects spent shells. Designs vary, so some generalities are in order.

In most firearms, the extractor hooks onto the head of a chambered cartridge and pulls it rearward as the action is cycled. The extractor alone does not eject the spent casing — that’s the job of the ejector.

In many semi-automatic firearms, the ejector typically looks like a small blade positioned opposite the ejection port. In a nutshell, the extractor pulls the shell rearward until it contacts the ejector, which flings it out the port.

There are exceptions. Some double-barrel shotguns, for instance, are “extractors-only.” They are equipped to slightly extract spent shells from the chamber, easing removal by the shooter’s fingers. Other double-barrel shotguns have ejectors that spring spent shells from the gun — no need for extractors.

Shells vs. Shotshells
The confusion with the term “shells” perhaps stems from its similarity to the word “shotshells.” I’ve run across folks under the impression that “shells” only refer to shotgun cartridges (shotshells). In reality, “shells” is an accurate — albeit somewhat colloquial — descriptor for any handgun, rifle or shotgun cartridge or cartridge case.

Shotshell, on the other hand, refers to a round of shotgun ammunition — most accurately one that contains pellets rather than a slug or other projectile.

suppressorSuppressor vs. Silencer
Here’s a differentiation that tends to get people fired up. Many firearm experts believe that the term “silencer” has no correct usage — rather, it’s an inaccurate slang term for “suppressor.” Suppressors aren’t silencers, they argue, because they don’t actually “silence” the firearm. Guns that fire silently exist only in Hollywood. Suppressors merely moderate escaping gases, greatly reducing but not eliminating noise.

The NRA Firearms Sourcebook makes the distinction clear, defining a suppressor as “a device attached to the muzzle of a firearm to reduce the noise of discharge. Sometimes incorrectly called a ‘silencer.’”

I believe that’s the most accurate definition. However, here’s where things get muddy: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms uses the term “silencer” in its official paperwork.

So, I suppose, either term is accurate. Still, I advise sticking with “suppressor” and avoiding use of the word “silencer.”

What do you think is the most misused gun term? Vote and comment below to spread the word about common mistakes in gun terminology:

G&A Polls


powered by

  • Daniel

    What about round being called a CAP? Example: “I’m going to pop a cap in your…”

    • Carl Craig

      That is a slang term that comes from toy cap guns. The term I hear is “we’re going to go bust caps”. Which refers to shooting.

      • louie

        Carl you have it wrong–it is from the cap and ball era.

  • Dave

    You just have to love the English language. Ahem….

    Pistols and revolvers are handguns. Pistols’ firing chambers are integrated with the handguns barrel as one part (Derringer pistol, black powder pistol, and other handguns that use ready-to-fire cartridges inserted directly into the barrel’s integrated firing chamber, or breech). Revolvers’ firing chambers are rotating devices that deliver a ready-to-fire cartridge to align with the handguns barrel prior to ignition. Each cartridge-holding chamber in a revolver’s cylinder is a chamber.

    Ejectors or extractors are synonyms. They act on a spent cartridge’s casing and
    pull it from the gun’s chamber, normally after firing. If the cartridge has not
    been fired, the ejector or extractor pulls out not a casing, but a cartridge (or shotshell – see below). When that spent casing hits the ground with other spent casings, it stops becoming a casing and morphs into what is now, collectively, brass. Pick up a single piece of brass and it can morph back into a casing. Throw it back down and it becomes brass. Rarely, the pile of casings will be referred to as casings. The spent casings remain collectively brass until they are integrated once more with bullet, primer and powder into what is now an assembled, ready-to-fire

    Individual shotshells, either loaded or spent, are shotshells. Shotshells in a big pile, loaded or spent are also shotshells. Shotshells are rarely, if ever, referred to as cartridges; that term is almost always reserved for ready-to-fire assembled “rounds” to be used in handguns or rifles or artillery, not shotguns. Shotshells are sometimes referred to as simply shells (as are the massive cartridges used in artillery), and far less frequently as rounds. It goes without saying that shotguns shoot shot and rifles shoot bullets, but shotguns, whether using shotshells filled with shot, or a shotshell dispensing a single heavy bullet, “slug”, are never called rifles.

    Some “Gun Muffler” manufacturers prefer “silencer” to suppressor. I like gun muffler or “can”. Can comes from the sport motorcycling culture and originated as describing the muffler on sport motorcycles. It is now the globally accepted term for the muffler on sport motorcycles. The term is gaining wide acceptance in the shooting community, a fine example of slang evolving into vernacular.

    Pocket pistol is any small handgun (pistol or revolver) small enough for pocket carry. One should never overthink this term.

    The terms accuracy and precision do in fact confuse the heck out of everybody. I like simply “group”. But the term has to be applied to the rifle and the one using it, or the device holding it when it goes off, by reference. And the two can never be considered individually, as it makes absolutely no sense to do so. “How does the gun group at 100 yards?”. Answer: “Well with the same loads, when I shoot it, it
    groups 2 MOA. When Jim shoots it, it groups one-half MOA. When Tom shoots it,
    it groups one-quarter MOA. When we clamped it in the vise and shot it we couldn’t do any better than Tom did.” Ah. Nice rifle.

    • Dan

      An extractor pulls out a “Brass Casing” from the chamber in a rearward motion. The EJECTOR pushes the “Brass Casing” in a perpendicular direction to the chamber , and out of the breech allowing another fresh “Cartridge” to be chambered.

      • Dave

        Right you are. My bad.

  • GomeznSA

    Voted for ‘clip’ vs ‘magazine’ in the poll, it is aggravating since it tends to point out the lack of knowledge of gun owners, which fuels the hoplophobes mantra that gun owners are a bunch of illiterate red necks (one of the ‘nicer’ they call anyone who disagrees with them). Now if the question had been ‘which term is INTENTIONALLY misused’ the assault weapons/rifle should be the hands down ‘winner’. That is why it is so important for the non-hoplophobes to use technically correct terminology, by us using ‘their’ terms we are giving up too much ground in the ‘debate’ they all claim to want to have.

    • Gabriel Hazeem

      don’t say that to anyone in the marines, as most of them say clip

      • Icyou

        Five years in the Marines and anyone who said clip usually got kicked in the chest

        • waffen SS

          you little lying badass

        • Kyllein MacKellerann

          Or lower down.

      • Semper Fi Custom Works

        I served 10 years in the USMC, and the only Marines I EVER heard using the term’clip’ were Vietnam era or earlier. After the M1 Garand was taken out of use, PMIs began using the correct term of ‘magazine’, and do to this day.

        • Sarge

          I’m a Vietnam Veteran (USMC) and we never used the term “clip” while using the M-14 or M-16.

      • Lakekover

        There not useing the M1, stop saying CLIP, it’s a mag

      • Hunter Lee Elliott

        I am a former Marine and we always used the term magazine unless we were referring to a stripper clip.

      • Devil Dog

        I’m a Marine and never did we call it a magazine! Sorry but you are incorrect on that one.

  • Glenn Haldane

    A cartridge case is not a shell. Even calling a shotgun cartridge a shotshell is incorrect. ‘Shell’ is not a term that is in any way relevant to small arms. A shell is an artillery projectile containing explosive. Let’s be as precise as we can.

  • BobInMo

    I work part time at a gun counter for a major retailer and 9/10 customers use the term “clip” when asking about magazines. When the few intelligent ones use the proper term I actually thank them!

  • louie

    On the bullet versus cartridge issue, do realize it is common in grammar to refer to a thing by a part of that thing (the term is synecdoche), so nothing wrong with asking for a box of bullets. And to insist otherwise is a little goofy (do note we also refer to them as rounds–when there is nothing round about them at all, except their past part). Same thing with insisting that pistol is only for a semiautomatic. It is generic for all. All handguns are pistols, of which there are three basic types: single shot; revolvers; and automatics (automatic itself a shorthand slang term that quickly became common by the 1920s and 1930s to refer to any “automatically” (magazine) fed pistol. Lighten up grammar gurus; more often than not your insistence on a term is fallacious; lighten up.

    • Hunter Lee Elliott

      Until some idiots orders a box of bullets from Midway and gets exactly that and has no idea why he was shipped a reloading components. Use the correct term and don’t be an idiot.

      • General Tso

        Imagine being Arnold Schwarzenegger… he always gets boxes of boolets (yes, they’re real; cast bullets)

  • Daniel E. Watters

    Hiram Percy Maxim, the original designer and manufacturer of firearm sound suppressors, coined the term “silencer” to describe his invention. He even used it in his business name. Maxim Silencers is still in operation, but it now makes sound suppression devices only for industrial applications.

  • unhyphenated1

    I read an article recently that discussed “clip vs. magazine”. While it did agree with your assessment, it also points out that in military manuals description of the model 1911A1, the thingy that holds the cartridges is called a ‘clip’.
    Also, if you go to the S&W website, ‘handguns’ are separated into ‘revolvers’ and ‘pistols’ i.e. semi-automatics.

  • Northerner

    i voted for clip vs magazine, it just bugs the crap out of me when people use the term but i was guilty also a long time ago till i learned better. im also a gearhead and its the same thing as motor vs engine, a motor is an electrical device and an engine is a mechanical device. just know what your talking about people and use the right term!

  • Momo

    I believe the silencer and suppressor are one and the same. The only difference is, according to federal law, silencers are illegal. Call a silencer a suppressor and it becomes legal.

    • Wolfsbane

      Try that out on the ATF as they’re dragging you off to jail for having one without obtaining a tax stamp for a silencer. Be sure get a video so we can watch and laugh.

  • John

    Assault Rifles vs. Assault Weapons vs.Semi-Automatic Rifles all the other terminology miss use is just do to ignorance or just being lazy in using the correct terms. Given the
    definition of assault and the English language it can’t be use to describe an object,
    it can only apply to an action of humans. There for I don’t accnolage the
    use of the ajative assault to describe a firearm because it is incapable of acting on it’s own. Only the action of an individual that might use the firearm can be capable of assault.

    • John

      Thought I should correct the misuse of the English language!!
      Assault Rifles vs. Assault Weapons vs.Semi-Automatic Rifles all the other terminology misuse is just do to ignorance or just being lazy in using the correct terms. Given the definition of assault and the English language it can’t be used to describe an object, it can only apply to an action of humans. Therefore I don’t acknowledge the use of the adjective assault to describe a firearm because it is incapable of acting on it’s own. Only the action of an individual that might use the firearm can be capable of assault.


        But yet, the meaning of a word changes base on what society decide it is, for example awful or terrific has changed meaning. I, for one, enjoy calling my AR 15, an assault rifle even if snooty “experts” hate the term. If they don’t like it, they can bite me where my Glock is concealed.

        • RJB

          Which makes you part of the problem, your giving the Libtard nation (gun haters) more ammo for their cause.

          • Doc Holliday


        • Captain Bob

          It’s NOT an “assault rifle” UNTIL you asault someone with it. Anything can be an “assault weapon” if it’s used to do the deed. Calling your gun an “assault rifle” does make it sound like you plan on using it in that manner. i.e. you’re not helping us by calling it that.

          • Wolfsbane

            You don’t assault people with an assault rifle. You assault positions with them.

            It’s from the Anglicized version of the German developed Stoßtrupptaktik tactic developed the Germans during WW1. The tactic uses decentralized concentrated fire as a means to facilitate a movement in progress. The tactic required a movement away from the traditional long barreled infantry rifle to short barreled cavalry carbines and later to large capacity firearms like submachine guns and pistols.

            The tactic was further developed in WW2 and spawned the assault rifle. An m that combined the length f a carbine with a capacity approaching submachine guns but with more powerful cartridges. The firearms they used took their name from the tactics, sturmgewehr. Or in English, “storm rifle” as in “to storm “assault” an enemy position,

  • Bowserb

    PLEASE…Send this article to ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN! Fox, AP, Reuters, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Huffington Post, Boston Globe, and all the other news agencies you can think of. Maybe one will read it. Worth a try?

  • Rosen Otter

    I’d say the most misused term is ‘tactical’.

  • sam sullenberger

    The number one misused term is “Gun Violence”. My guns are peaceful, and sit quietly in their safe, never engaging in any acts of violence. They are incapable of any act. If somehow some depraved person got them and committed an act of violence, as he may with any weapon, they would be the responsible party.

    • Anne Davis

      I completely agree. This term aggravates me every time I hear it! Just to clarify you last phase “they” should be “he” as the human is the responsible party.

    • Wolfsbane

      I agree. There’s no violence involved with the use of guns. It’s all physics and chemistry. They’re the great equalizer.

    • Phil P

      I am in agreement here. I am a police officer and when I visit my parents, both senior citizens, they expect me to leave my sidearm in my car because they are against ‘gun violence’. I must wear it on my ankle when I visit so they don’t see it and get upset.

      • Zipp

        It’s unfortunate that they don’t understand the fact that you are a trained professional. They only see you as their son.

        • XPO117

          Not to nitpick, but being a trained professional is not the only justification for carrying a firearm. With the poster’s parents, it’s not a lack of understanding on their part, but a choice to not have firearms around their presence, occupation has nothing to do with it.

      • OldEnuff2KnoBetr

        Good call. You just never know when one of the old farts might get lippy on ya.

      • Susan P

        Perhaps a bit of education of the parents is called for. I was a police officer in the 1970s and my dept required that I carry 24/7 if I left my home. My Mom was visiting from another state and objected to the snub nose .38 I tucked into an inside waistband holster just before leaving the house for a shopping trip. I patiently explained that I could NOT leave the firearm at home or I would risk a suspension from my job. I further explained that I was a well trained adult and this was a part of my responsibility to my community. She still didn’t like it, but she never again mentioned her “aversion” to firearms. Perhaps it would be better to get them to accept your reasons to carry instead of continuing to attempt to hide if from them.

      • patriot 86

        Nice job’ since you are a peace officer let me get your take on what’s going on with the police getting military vehicles to go after constitutionalists ‘ are you in favor of disarming the law abiding citizen and what do you think is the percentage of cops who will fire on their own townspeople if obama orders them too.

    • patriot 86

      yup mine are non violent as well except to varmints and deer .

  • Paladin

    A note on the silencer vs. suppressor bit, the original Maxim sound moderator was called the Maxim Silencer, thus the term silencer predates the term suppressor, even though suppressor may be a more accurate description of the effect of such a device.

  • Rickus Rockus

    I am a shotgun instructor and avid duck hunter. It drives me CRAZY when someone asks for bullets for their shotgun! Grown men that have hunted for years do this! That is as bad as someone saying they put STRING on their fishing rod and reel. It is LINE not string!

    • jim

      i agree,but you don’t re-line your reel you re-string it! lol

      • Sarge

        Jim…you “Respool your fishing line” lol.

  • Fieldkorn

    If “assault weapon” is the catch phrase for anti-gun extremists than “clip” verses “magazine” and “suppressor” verses “silencer” are what gets the goat of hardcore gun cranks. In truth, Clip and Magazine are routinely and fairly attributed interchangeable words. Even the “NRA Firearms Factbook” second edition (page 89) says as much. As for silencer verses suppressor, the author correctly notes how the ATF deals with the subject and I have frequently seen manufacturers of the devices use the term both ways with their on-line catalogs. It’s all very similar to what crossbow owners say is a “bolt” when the absolute correct term is still “arrow.” Firearms manufacturers and even owners don’t help the cause when they refer to such firearms as the old Browning A5 as the “Browning Auto 12″ or the .410 as a gauge when it’s actually a caliber. Oh, and just how often have you heard a deer hunter use the term “horns” when he or she really means “antlers?” And what’s this about the use of the word “magnum?” What makes the 7mm Remington a magnum but not the .30-06 or the .223 or, well, any other caliber? And only until recently when the marketing gurus at Remington and the National Shooting Sports Foundation began labeling “black rifles” as “Modern Sporting Rifles” these firearms were simply lumped together as ARs. As for “pistol,” I only have to refer to the “NRA Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting” which states “Today, the term ‘revolver’ universally refers to a type of pistol with a rotating cylinder.” Okay, then, what makes one shooting piece a “weapon” and the next a “weapon?” Confused? Don’t be; just remember: You say “toe-mah-toe” and I say “toe-may-toe.”

    • Phil P

      My dad carried a .45 caliber semi-auto handgun during WW 2, and he is damn certain that the thing that holds the projectiles inside the grip is a ‘clip’. He has a M of H and a few Purple Hearts so I just thank him for correcting me.

      • matthew

        Good man. Even if he’s wrong, he’s earned it, and that’s the right thing to do.

  • John

    “Tactical” undefined in terms of clothing and firearms. Denotes a “wannabe”. However, millions of GIs were specifically taught that the things that held cartridges in the firearms they carried were called “clips”. Normally usage is accepted as a means of making an addition to a definition. There is no discernible harm done by referring to that piece of gear as a clip. Note:
    from Webster’s New World College Dictionary-
    magazine noun

    1.a place of storage, as a warehouse, storehouse, or
    military supply depot
    2. a space in which ammunition and explosives are stored,
    as a building or room in a fort, or a section of a warship
    3. a supply chamber, as a space in or container on a rifle
    or pistol from which cartridges are fed, or a space in or container on a
    camera from which a protected roll of film is fed
    4. the things kept therein………………………….

  • Skip McGarvey

    My term I hate is KICK, A mule and your wife kicks, a gun recoils.

  • TruthNLogic

    I had to vote for Assault Rifle vs. Assault Weapon vs. Semi-automatic rifle. The deceitful misuse of the term Assault Rifle and the use of a made-up phrase like Assault Weapon, a phrase deliberately crafted to mislead an uninformed segment of the populace, all in an effort to erode the rights of free people has got to be the worst possible misuse of terms. The widespread use and dissemination of this deception by the press, whose ethics require the reporting of the news without distorting the facts, only adds to the evils created by the deceit propagated by the misuse of these terms.

    • eric thees

      An Assault weapon is any weapon a criminal uses to assault someone it could be a baseball bat. For the rest of us law abiding citizens they are Defense Weapons.

  • petru sova

    I would suggest the gun writer pay attention to history and recently Mark Keefe of the National Rifle Association. The two words Clip and Magazine are 100 per cent interchangeable had have been for over 100 years. Army manuals describing the original 1911 pistol in 1911 state that it had a 7 round clip. Today Magazine has come to mean a fixed feeding device like a tubular magazine in a .22 rim fire or a tubular magazine in a pump or auto shotgun. Clip had come to mean a detachable feeding device weather it has a spring or not.

    • Theodore

      Thanks for the distinction, this is the most helpful thing I’ve read on the subject. So I guess this means when I reload my M1 Garand I am stuffing the clip into the magazine? That is funny.

      • petru sova

        It might indeed be somewhat humorous but it is an accurate description.

    • G Alexander

      Army manuals can’t be wrong. Sometimes a ship’s ‘clip’ explodes (remember, ’100% interchangeable’). You even contradict yourself by defining each term differently in your post.

  • steelshooter

    I believe it is “assault rife” the media call almost everything an assault rifle. An assault rifle is one that can be fired in full automatic mode.

    • Kyllein MacKellerann

      And an assault weapon is that lump between your ears. Another assault weapon is on the end of your arm.
      The Anti-’s don’t care, they just want their Hoplophobia out and in the air.

  • BubbysGrampa

    the first “assault weapon” in a real sense was probably the trapdoor Springfield, but our LSM seems bent on scaring the crap out of the general public over us ‘gun-nuts’ who use clips to put bullets in our automatic AK-47s and AR-15s

    • Captain Bob

      Actually, the first “assault weapon” was the stone that Cain used to kill Abel.

  • Al

    News media saying auto for semi-auto!

  • Michael

    The uniformed press calls semi-auto guns “auto”. Implying that they are fully automatic. I never hear the term semi used.

  • DerMann

    Maxim Silencers were first made during the early 20th century – making suppressors for everything from civilian .22LR rifles to the M1903 Springfield. To this day they produce silencers for various other industrial applications. While it’s not technically as correct as suppressor, silencer is not a modern contrivance nor is it purely slang. That being said, I do prefer suppressor, but I don’t think it’s fair to say linguistically that the term silencer is purely slang.

    • ABeagleKnots

      “Silencer” is a historical trademark for sound suppressors, which is arguably misleading (except tht the misleading is by Hollywood, not the term) and has a legitimate use as a nickname for suppressors. Much like “escalator” is a former trademark, now a proper generic term for moving staircases.

  • Tobey Blanton

    I don’t care whether people call it a clip or a mag…..the important thing is we are talking about my favorite subject, firearms !!! The silencer thing is pretty important…..silencer brings up visions of mobsters and hit men to the people not in the know…..suppressor sounds more loveable ………

  • ABeagleKnots

    “Packing Heat” is the most abused phrase. I have never seen it used by a objective source, only by those hostile to the right to carry.

  • ABeagleKnots

    “Packing Heat” is the most abused phrase. I have never seen it used by a objective source, only by those hostile to the right to carry.

  • Philip McMillen

    The local news loves to use the term “high caliber” when referring to anything bigger than a .22. Thereis no such term. There are high powered and low powered firearms and large caliber and small caliber ones but no high caliber. They usually use it to describe so-called “assault rifles” which the media must believe fire high powered cartridges, which, of course they don’t. The media sometimes uses the “high caliber” tag to refer to handguns used in crimes. I wonder if any of them know that the average deer rifle is much more powerful than the ARs or AKs they seem to fear so much.

  • adverse

    Some days it gives me a headache. My pistol has a magazine, my shotgun has a tubular magazine, my revolver has chambers, all I really need to know, is the sucker loaded?

  • Hauptmann

    It irks me when I hear someone refer to a semi auto as a “revolver”. I’ve even heard attorneys say this in court.

  • Curt

    Seriously….? This is not worth the 60 seconds it took me to read it. Assault Rifle vs Assault Weapon…? Who the heck cares if someone inadvertently missuses the terms. I’m an engineer and I hear people misuse engineering technical terms all day long. I don’t get my panties in a wad or hold it over their head as if I am superior. My suggestion is to grow up and realize nobody knows everything. I misused the word clip and magazine for years as a youth. Does that make me an idiot or firearms stupid? If so, then I’m sure I can find a topic I can make you look like an idiot. Put your big boy pants on please. Then, go practice your aim.

  • Shane Adams

    Gun vs rifle. If somebody calls a rifle a gun they are wrong. There is a distinct difference between a rifle and a gun. A gun is a general term used to describe all firearms. But a rifle is a spacifice firearm called such do to the lands and groves in a barrel of such

  • 243WIN

    Ive had too many people mistake firearms for weapons. That is a huge concern to me as i own lots of firearms.

  • bigjpop

    You forgot “30 clip magazine” “ghost gun” and “illegally produced firearm.” Terms we are all too familiar with here in California. By “30 clip magazine” the anti-gunners are referring to 30 round magazines which are already banned in California, yet they all think people just run down to the local gun store and buy 30 round magazines. By “ghost gun” and “illegally produced firearm” the anti-gunners mean legally produced home-made firearms which have no serial number or registration (which is currently legal in most states). It’s important to know the anti-gunners lexicon so we can fight them in the legislatures and in the court of public opionion.

  • Tacitus X

    A pistol is a handgun with an integrated firing chamber and barrel. A revolver is therefore not a pistol since it has a revolving cylinder with multiple chambers.

  • david broxson

    great article

  • RonCade

    At the risk of being called a wise guy or something similar, “Other” gets my vote. The most misused gun term is The Second Amendment. Every gun control “law” is an illegal infringement on our ordained right to keep and bear a gun. It is a lengthy writing to prove all gun laws are illegal so everyone should read each complete thought in The Constitution. The axioms are abundant throughout the reading. We all should live with a high level of fear until every one of these oppressive laws are repealed. We in the U.S.A. are not free with any of these laws in effect. Cheers! Long live The Republic.

  • Wolfsbane

    This is bullshit. I was hearing semiautomatic rifles that resembled their military weapon counterparts referred to as assault rifles in the late 1970s when I was in elementary school by my friends and other people who were into guns. Both by adults and kids.

    “Prior to 1989, the term ‘assault weapon’ did not exist in the lexicon of firearms. It is a political term, developed by anti-gun publicists to expand the category of ‘assault rifles’ so as to allow an attack on as many additional firearms as possible on the basis of undefined ‘evil’ appearance.”

  • NickG

    In the UK military the term gun only pertains to a shotgun or a machine gun. Describing pistols or rifles or assault rifles as guns, is seen as naff. A machine gun team – usually 2 man – is referred to as a ‘gun group’.

    Collectively the term small arms or weapons would be used. Though of course weapon can refer to pretty much anything in the military arsenal.

    Clips are things girls put in their hair. Though when I was in the cadets in the 70s we were issued 303 No4 rifles and the 10 round magazines of these battle rifles were loaded from two, five round clips.

  • miker

    ONLY criminals and soldiers have weapons…we only have guns…some of our guns were weapons, my M1 was a weapon in WWII, then went to Korea and continued as a weapon, then, was rebarreled, reimported to my fav gunshop and sold to me for $300 as a GUN, not a weapon, Most of us have never owned a weapon which could be anything, please do object for the record when you are accused of ‘possession of a weapon’ by saying something like, ‘What makes you think my gun is a weapon, where is the victim?’ You might want to also say ‘Objection your Honor, ADA may not testify for the record without firsthand knowledge, I move everything she just said be stricken from the record, is it stricken your honor?’ …look it up in Blacks…Weapon…victim…warrant…witness…ect
    Learn legalise…it may save your hyde…

  • Bob

    According to Wikipedia, an assault rifle must have selective firing, so in terms an assault rifle can be fired in single, burst, or automatic. A worst mistake is people who mis-used the term automatic, semi-automatic and manual fire guns without knowing the difference between them.

  • Kyllein MacKellerann

    I voted the “Assault Rifle etc” because it is the most misused term I’ve heard. Simple fact: the Anti-Firearm people don’t know the difference, even if it has been explained to them. Call it deliberate ignorance.
    FACT: The original Assault Weapon is nestled between your ears; the second most original assault weapon is at the end of your arm. Firearms are a distant fifth or sixth; and it’s FIREARMS, not Guns. GUNS the large bore weapons found on ships, sized in multiples of inches, not fractions of an inch. Also called Naval Rifles/ Cannon
    (Had to get that off my chest)

  • Lydell Brown

    Lol “Assault Weapon” that’s pretty redundant.

  • MildBill

    I think the term “silencer” is totally inaccurate. . . Nothing I have seen silences a live round going off even if it is a subsonic round below 1150 FPS (I think), and definitely not any supersonic rounds. . . The term “suppressor” should never be used as a stand alone description and should be superseded by “noise” or “flash” suppressor, which are two totally different functions.. . The term “clip” used instead of mag or magazine should be used as a early warning device for others not to be around those folks with live ammo !

  • a-a-ron

    How about .45 LC? There is no 45 long colt or 45 short colt just 45 Colt.

  • brian

    guns….smooth bore ? Rifles…lands and grooves..etc.. now everything is a gun.

  • Juli Weatherhead

    I enjoy introducing “newbies” to shooting. Yesterday, I took an experienced shooter, and his younger brother clay shooting. I showed him all the parts of my shotguns, proper terminology, use etc. He began shooting clays, and did really well. Had a great time. In October, my wife and I took a young couple out to shoot clays. They were new to it. She (who was 9 months pregnant!) had been a college b-ball player, he was a college rugby player. They picked it up quick. (athletes seem to). Then in November (when her baby was barely 3 weeks old), we had a clay target shoot, for our church group. It was a best out of 5 competion. This new couple won. He shot 5/5, she shot 3/5. I believe that we, as shooters, need to expose the sport to others, not keep it all to ourselves. This includes teaching proper ettiquette, safety, and terminology. Mike Weatherhead, Safford AZ

  • Mazakdude

    I would also like to “caliber” to the list of misused terms. For example a .38 caliber bullet. The bullet is Hebert .354-.357. The groove diameter is generally the same as the bullet ar maybe just a smidge different. The bore diameter is considerably smaller. It is the cartridge case that is closest to .38 at .379. Perhaps the caliber designation is related to the parent case the .38 long colt.

    • Mazakdude

      Disregard the Herbert. Don’t know where that came from.

  • Robert

    You people continue to whine about people ‘mis-using’ terms…(it happens in every industry), stop making a big deal about it. Why don’t we make a bigger deal about real data that supports owning a firearm. It’s embarrassing to be around pro-gun people who correct every minute point. We will lose if we keep arguing irrelevant information.

  • Michael R

    In Suppressor Vs. Silencer, I refer to what the creator called it. The “Maxim Silencer”.

  • Hunter Lee Elliott

    Well, they almost got it right. The correct term for silencer is silencer. American inventor Hiram Percy Maxim, the son of Maxim gun inventor Hiram Stevens Maxim, invented the silencer and his company was the Maxim Silencer Company. If you invent it, you get to name it. Also, the ATF considers pistols are not revolvers.

  • Dan Marchildon

    How about “gun deaths?” Not that it really matters how someone is killed plus is the gun the reason someone was killed or would the victim have ben killed even if no gun was present. I argued this with an anti-gun friend who yammers about the percentage of domestic violence cases where a spouse was killed by someone with a gun. I always ask – if no gun was present would the spouse still have been killed? Was alcohol involved? That usual gets them to sputter and shut up.

  • Jeff Frichette

    The internal diameter or bore of a gun barrel is actually the definition of “caliber”.

  • louie

    Dan, wrong again. If it were so gangsta why then would Frank Hamer have said, regarding Bonnie Parker, I never busted no cap on no woman before (then he would just slowly smile).

  • Mickey

    Robert Johnson in the 1936 song “32/20 Blues” refers to rounds for his firearm as “caps”. So the slang goes back at least that far. He also calls his “pistol” his “Gatling Gun”, later “gat”. So new isn’t always new.

back to top