Clinton A. Love

Writer, Musician, Mortician

Clint's Author Blog

Firearms Education for Noobs

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 9:40 PM

May 5, 2014 at 8:37pm

Originally titled, "That's Not a Machine Gun, Dumbass" In this note I explain some basic stuff about different types of firearms so you can discuss them and not sound like an idiot (like Piers Morgan and 99% of the talking heads on the news).


Since I'm running into more and more people lately who know less than dick about firearms yet somehow think they are qualified to tell me what is wrong with mine, I decided to clear up a few misconceptions about firearms that I frequently encounter. If you read this and understand it you will already be 100x more informed than your average media drone. Gun guys will accuse me of oversimplification here, but in light of recent conversations I've seen, I'm doing well not to resort to crayons and a puppet show.


I'll start with the basics.


Bullet- Originally just a round lead ball, the bullet is the actual projectile that goes flying down-range when a weapon is fired.


Cartridge- This is the entire unit of the bullet, the gunpowder and the cartridge case (the brass thingy that holds the bullet), along with a primer that is used to ignite the powder when the weapon is fired. Sometimes cartridges are referred to as "rounds". After the round is discharged, the leftover spent cartridge case is not dangerous and is not a weapon. You'd be amazed at how many people are freaked out by an empty cartridge case.


Calibre- In firearns, calibre refers either to the Internal Diameter of the weapon's barrel or to the approximate external diameter of a bullet in inches. A .22 calibre bullet has an external diameter of .223 inches. Notice the decimal. A .45 caliber bullet is a much fatter bullet. The relationship of calibre to the amount of pressure generated by the gunpowder in a cartridge help determine the round's capabilities in terms of muzzle velocity and transfer of energy.


Stopping Power- If you want to watch a bunch of gun guys get in a tizzy, start a stopping power discussion. It's a bit of an erroneous term and it refers to the ability of a particular type of round to incapacitate (stop) a particular living target.


Muzzle Velocity- Essentially how fast the bullet can fly. Rifle bullets are typically much faster than pistol bullets.


Clip- a metal strip with cartridges attached, designed to assist in loading them into a Magazine. A clip is not a magazine and the terms are not interchangable. If you call a detachable magazine a "clip" you are wrong.


Magazine- The weapon's magazine is the place inside the weapon where rounds are stored in preparation for firing. A magazine can be attached, as is in the case with many rifles or detachable, in the case of semi-auto pistols and carbine type rifles. Detachable magazines do not make a weapon more dangerous. It is just easier to drop an empty magazine and insert a full one than to have to load each individual round one at a time into the weapon.


Gun- A large piece of artillery, such as a cannon or the main guns on a battleship. It is improper to refer to small arms, such as pistols and rifles as a gun. In the military, calling your rifle a "gun" can get you in trouble and hilarity often ensues.


Rifle-A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves ("rifling") cut into the barrel walls. Also called "long guns", a rifle fires a single bullet over a longer distance with accuracy than a pistol. Rifles can be semiautomatic, automatic or manually cocked using a lever or bolt action.


Shotgun- A shotgun (also known as a scattergun and peppergun, or historically as a fowling piece) is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug. It is generally, used for high power and wide coverage at short range, such as hunting for birds, where the scattering of the shot gives the shooter a better chance at hitting a small, flying bird. Shotguns are also popular for home defense because a short-barreled shotgun can be quickly pointed at an intruder, rather than aimed like a rifle(which takes time) and the shot will cover a greater area (such as a hall or doorway). They are also preferred because smaller shot will be less likely to penetrate a wall than a bullet, thereby reducing the risk of harming an innocent person in an adjacent room or building.


Pistol- A handgun. Usually this is a short firearm that is designed to be fired with one hand. Usually refers to semiautomatics, but can be used for revolvers, too.


Revolver- a repeating firearm that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. Sometimes called a "wheel gun" or "six shooter". In modern revolvers, the rotating cylinder that holds the cartridges is hinged to the frame and can be manipulated to extract spent cases and reload with new cartridges after they have all been expended. Typically, the two types are Single Action, which require the shooter to pull the hammer back into a locked position (cocked), and rotating the cylinder before the trigger can be pulled, expending ONE round. This must be repeated each time the shooter wants to fire. Think Clint Eastwood's revolver in the Spaghetti westerns. There are also double actionrevolvers in which pulling the trigger also draws the hammer and simultaneously cycles the cylinder, placing a new round into firinf position. Think dirty Harry for this one. Most Double Action revolvers can be fired in single action mode, though, if desired.


Semi-Automatic- This is where people get all fucked up. A semi-automatic, or self-loading (autoloader), firearm is a weapon that performs all steps necessary to prepare the weapon to fire again after firing—assuming cartridges remain in the weapon's feed device or magazine. Typically, this includes extracting and ejecting the spent cartridge case from the weapon's firing chamber, re-cocking the firing mechanism, and loading a new cartridge into the firing chamber. Although automatic weapons and selective fire firearms do the same tasks, semi-automatic firearms do not automatically fire an additional round until the trigger is released and re-pressed by the person firing the weapon. This is true in terms of both pistols and rifles.


A fully automatic firearm is a firearm that will continue to fire so long as the trigger is pressed and there is ammunition in the magazine. Both "semi automatic" and "fully automatic" weapons are "automatic" in that the firearm automatically cycles between rounds with each trigger pull. the difference there is with a true automatic, rounds continue to fire at a rapid rate until either the trigger is released or the weapon's ammunition supply is exhausted. NOTE: iT IS ALREADY ILLEGAL TO PURCHASE OR OWN A FULLY AUTOMATIC FIREARM IN THE UNITED STATES. tHE ONLY EXCEPTIONS ARE PERSONS WITH A FEDERAL FIREARMS LICENSE AND THE PROCESS IS EXPENSIVE AND RIDDLED WITH RED TAPE.

Automatic Pistol- When a shooter refers to his pistol as an "auto" or "automatic", it typically is a Semi-Automatic, not full auto. Confused yet? The media are because they fuck this up constantly. The Colt 1911 and Glock handguns are popular semiautomatic pistols. Not to be confused with a machinepistol or sub-machinegun which is a short carbine-type rifle or pistol designed to fire in fully automatic mode.

Assault Rifle- An assault rifle is a select-fire (either fully automatic or burst capable) rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard service rifles in most modern armies. Assault rifles are categorized in between light machine guns, which are intended more for sustained automatic fire in a light support role, and submachine guns, which fire a pistol cartridge rather than a rifle cartridge. THESE CAN NOT BE PURCHASED BY CIVILIANS IN GUN STORES! IT IS AND HAS BEEN ILLEGAL FOR A LONG LONG TIME! The AK-47 and American M-4 are Assault Rifles. Although you can buy and AR-15 or an AK-47 in a gun store, they are civilian models that are only capable of semiautomatic fire. Those weapons are not assault rifles, because they are not capable of automatic or burst firing.


Assault Weapon- There is no such animal as an assault weapon. This is a term dreamed up by the media to describe ordinary civilian firearms that are cosmetically similar to actual assault rifles. Other than looks, the two have nothing in common.


Machinegun- A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire bullets in quick succession from an ammunition belt or magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute. Machine guns are generally categorized as submachine guns, machine guns, or autocannons. Submachine guns are hand-held small portable automatic weapons for personal defense or short-range combat firing pistol-caliber rounds. A machine gun is often portable to a certain degree, but is generally used when attached to a mount or fired from the ground on a bipod, and generally fires a rifle cartridge. Light machine guns are small enough to be fired and are hand-held like a rifle, but are more effective when fired from a prone position. The difference between machine guns and autocannons is based on caliber, with autocannons using calibers larger than 16 mm. The Browning M-2 and the M-60 Light Machinegun (think Rambo) are examples of machineguns.

Categories: Firearms, Random

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