What are Your Favorite Firearm Nicknames?

Like so many things in the world that are admired, cherished or feared, firearms of various types have acquired nicknames over the years. Some  are specific to particular styles of guns based on who designed or made them or how they look, sound or were employed — a good example being the Thompson submachine gun. It's been called everything from a "Tommy Gun" (after the inventor John T. Thompson,) the "Chicago Typewriter /Chicago Piano" (because of its popularity with Gangsters in the 1920s and 30s) and "Trench Broom" or "Trench Sweeper," a more martial name it shares with the Winchester Model 1897 Trench shotgun.

Others are a bit more generic. Sometimes their derivation is obvious  like "Gat"  shortened from  the name "Gatling."  Another handgun term from around the same time as "Gat" (probably the 1910s) is "Roscoe." 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 derivation — but as Sigmund Freud supposedly said, "sometimes a cigar's merely a cigar."

The earliest nicknames I've been able to uncover date back to the 18th century. Small, large-caliber pistols were called "Snappers, "Barkers" or "Bulldogs," the latter term coming down to this day, and along the way achieving  trademark status.

AKAs such as "Heater, "  Shooting iron," "Smoke Pole" and Persuader" are pretty easy to figure out, as are "Saturday Night Special," "Suicide Special" and "Flyapart ,"  the latter a trio of terms to describe cheaply-made,  inexpensive handguns intended for limited, somewhat specialized usage.


"Long Tom", 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 "Old Betsy" hearkening back to the name given by David Crockett to a flintlock rifle presented to him by some Tennessee  constituents  that was built  by Pennsylvania maker James Graham.  He did not have this rifle with him at the Alamo, but  passed it on to his son, John Wesley, when he left for Texas. Interestingly enough an "International"  cannon made from bits and pieces of parts donated by various  military forces during the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of 1900 was christened "Betsy," supposedly a nickname for the Dowager Empress — though I've often wondered if some U.S. Marine might have come up with a name as a tribute to Davy.

"Horse Pistol" 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 "Peacemaker,"  Six-Shooter," that I felt were just too obvious to include, but look, I guess I included them anyway. Can't help myself.

Bet there are a bunch I've forgotten. Anybody else out there have some favorites?


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - 94 WINCHESTER

Gun Clips with Joe Mantegna - 94 WINCHESTER

Joe Mantegna talks about the origins of the 94 Winchester rifle.

Armscor Semi-Auto Shotguns

Armscor Semi-Auto Shotguns

We look at the new shotguns from Armscor - the VR80 and the brand new bullpup VRBP100.

Century Arms Introduces a Heavy-Duty AK Rifle

Century Arms Introduces a Heavy-Duty AK Rifle

Chambered in 7.62x39mm with components machined from extremely durable S7 tool steel, a chrome-moly 4150 barrel and a carburized 4140 steel bolt.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Check out these great options for Dad on Father's Day! Accessories

2019 Guns & Ammo Father's Day Gift Guide

G&A Digital Staff - May 07, 2019

Check out these great options for Dad on Father's Day!

Some guns are easier to work with than others, but the Ruger American Rifle doesn't require an engineering degree to tinker with; here's a look at some upgrade options to take your Ruger American to the next level, and make it something a bit different. Accessories

Top Ruger American Rifle Upgrades

Philip Massaro - March 15, 2018

Some guns are easier to work with than others, but the Ruger American Rifle doesn't require an...

From milled slides to optics-included packages, these pistol options are all red-dot sight ready. Handguns

14 Red Dot Ready Pistols You Must See

James Tarr - December 20, 2018

From milled slides to optics-included packages, these pistol options are all red-dot sight...

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of Mossberg, Tikka, Savage, Howa, Bergara, Weatherby and Remington. Rifles

Starter Rifles for Under $1000

Aaron Carter - May 09, 2019

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of...

See More Trending Articles

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now