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The GunGoddess Guide to The Most Mixed-Up Gun Terms

May 13, 2020 3 min read

Even if you've been shooting your whole life, there may be some gun-related terms that you're not quite sure about. And if you're a new shooter, you've probably run into several words and phrases you've never heard before. It's easy to mix up certain gun-related terms and the mainstream media often gets many of these terms wrong, which can create even more confusion.

To help you understand some of the most mixed-up gun terms, we put together a guide to help you become a more informed gun owner.

Bullets, Cartridges, and Spent Brass

These three words are mixed up more than almost any other gun term, even by seasoned shooters. A Bullet is the projectile that's shot out of a firearm, while the Cartridge is the completed piece of ammunition. The cartridge is what you load in your magazine, speedloader, or chamber and is made up of several individual components (case, powder, primer, and bullet).

Spent brass is the empty cases that are ejected from your gun after you fire it - the brass case will have a fired primer in it, but no powder or projectile.

Magazines and Clips

The words "clip" and "magazine" are often used interchangeably, but there is a very big difference between the two items. A Magazine is a storage and feeding device for ammunition that is usually unattached to a firearm. Fixed magazines do exist, but they are not as common with modern firearms.

a Clip is a device usually made from stamped metal that holds a group of cartridges and is expelled from a firearm after the last round in it is spent. You are not likely to see a clip used in a modern firearm, they are mainly used with older firearms. 

Single Action and Double Action

The "action" of a handgun is the collection of moving, mechanical parts that make your handgun go bang. With a Double Action (DAO) firearm, the mechanical parts perform two functions each time the trigger is pulled. The trigger cocks the hammer (or striker) of the firearm which prepares for the actual firing to take place and then fires the handgun.  For each single trigger pull, the gun is performing two actions, and that's why it's called “double” action.

With Single Action firearms (SA), pulling the trigger performs only one function.  The hammer or the striker moves and fires the gun when the shooter pulls the trigger. The firearm is cocked when the slide is racked and the recoil and slide movement automatically cock the firearm for each subsequent shot.

Suppressors and Silencers

The words Suppressor and Silencer are often used interchangeably and for the most part, they really are the same thing. "Suppressor" is the more correct term since they do not completely "silence" the sound of gunfire, but it's generally acceptable to use either word.

Automatic and Semi-Automatic

There has recently been a lot of controversy and confusion surrounding these two terms, even though there are distinct and easy to understand differences. An Automatic firearm is a gun that will fire more than one round with a single trigger pull, and a Semi-Automatic firearm will only fire one round per trigger pull. 

Extractors and Ejectors

Both of these gun parts live in the same part of a firearm and they work in tandem to eject brass from a firearm, so it's easy to get them confused. An Extractor is a hook or crescent-shaped part inside a gun that grabs the spent brass after a round is fired. An Ejector is a part that helps the brass leave the gun.

Is there a gun-related word or phrase we didn't mention that you're still confused about? Get in touch with us and we'll be happy to give you the correct information! 

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