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Guns and Ammo

1. History

2. Artillery

3. Firearms

4. Firearms Glossary

5. References


GUNS AND AMMO: Terminology - Firearms


Not long after the first cannon, some were made in sizes that one person could hold and fire. Those hand cannon, German "Handfeuerwaffen", or handguns, are now generally 'firearms', though the term 'handgun' is now often used to mean a pistol (originally a "Faustfeuerwaffen"). There are three species (and one or two hybrids) which have developed over 7 centuries from a common ancestor (hackbut, arquebus).

Hand cannons were hard to use at all, and especially so from horseback. The rider needed at least one hand for the reins, at least one to hold the gun, and one to insert a red-hot wire into the 'touch-hole'. The first improvement was a small pile of gunpowder in a 'pan' around the touch-hole, ignited by lowering a smoldering 'slow match' into it. This "matchlock" was an improvement for foot soldiers, but not a lot of help for riders. It was followed by the wheel-lock, which used a steel wheel spinning against a flint to throw sparks into the powder (rather like a cigarette lighter). The mechanism was very expensive then. Wheel-locks were used extensively by mounted troops (and by anyone else who could afford them). Firearms began to be important on the battlefield after introduction of the much cheaper flintlocks. (Experts distinguish between a snaphaunce, miquelet, and true flintlock.) With those, the jaws of the 'cock' (or 'dog') were clamped onto a piece of flint held in a thin sheet of lead or leather. On firing, the cock scraped the flint across a rough steel 'frizzen' to throw sparks onto the priming powder in the pan. Sometimes the flash of the powder did not propagate through the touch-hole into the chamber, giving rise to the phrase 'flash in the pan'. The firearms of the American Revolution were flintlocks.

Early firearms were sensitive to rain and dew because they required loose priming powder to be more or less exposed in the pan. That problem was cured with the percussion cap, which was widely used after about 1840. The cap was a thin copper cup containing a small amount of an explosive sensitive to impact (originally mercury fulminate). The cap fit over a matching 'nipple'. When the hammer struck the cap, it flashed, with the flash being carried through the hole in the nipple to the powder charge. As the projectile was usually a lead ball, these were called 'cap and ball' firearms. They were the principal firearms of the American Civil War (1861-65), and the early 'Wild West' pistols (think Jesse James) were cap and ball revolvers.

With minor exceptions, mostly unsuccessful, firearms and artillery up to this time were muzzle-loaders. The theoretical advantages of breech-loading were known, but there had been no practical means to seal the breech to prevent escape of gas at high pressure near the shooter's face. The brass cartridge case provides such a seal. When fired, the cartridge expands enough against the inside of the chamber to keep the gas from flowing back around it, while the mechanical parts of the firearm support the brass sufficiently to prevent its bursting. The impact-sensitive explosive was moved from the percussion cap to the inside of the case, so that everything was in a single package. All that happened about 1850-1880. About 1900, black powder was mostly replaced with the much safer smokeless powder made of nitrated cellulose. Sometimes nitroglycerin was added to make a 'double base' powder and sometimes nitroguanidine for "triple base" powder.

Cartridges (German Patronen) were originally hollow wood tubes with plugs, each holding the powder and ball to fire one shot. Later cartridges were paper. Now they are metal, almost always brass. Note that cartridges are very commonly and very incorrectly called 'bullets'. The bullet (Geschoss) is only the projectile.

With a breech-loading arm, the breech is opened to load; but it is essential that it not open accidentally at the time of firing - chamber pressures are in the range of 30,000 to 60,000 pounds/in2 (20 - 40 MPa). Some low-power arms get by with 'blow-back' action (Feder-Mass Verschluss) in which the inertia of a heavy 'breechblock', with some help from a spring, keeps the breech closed until the bullet is out of the muzzle and the pressure has dropped. More powerful firearms must have a locked breech. The most common type, for rifles, is a 'bolt' (Zylinderverschluss). It is named for the common door bolt operated by raising a handle, sliding the bolt into its locked position, and lowering the handle into a notch. The firearm bolt action differs in that the force is applied longitudinally to the end of the bolt, not transversely, and extra 'locking lugs' are usually provided. The next most common system uses a 'breechblock' that slides forward and back and is held in the forward closed position by a 'breechblock lock' that slides or pivots vertically.

In spite of advances in other designs, muzzle-loading firearms using black powder (or modern versions of it such as 'Pyrodex®') are still widely used.

While those other mechanical developments were going on, the arquebus was evolving into the shotgun, rifle, and pistol.

Shotguns (Flinten) have barrels that are smooth on the inside (smooth-bores). That is, they are not rifled. They usually fire, from the shoulder, a large number of small lead pellets (shot) with a total weight of 1-2 ounces (30-60 g). They can also fire single projectiles ('slugs'). The bore diameter ranges from about 0.41 inch (410 gauge) to about 0.78 inch (12 gauge). The 'gauge' is 'bore' in British English. It is approximately, the number of lead spheres of bore diameter that would make one pound (except that the 410 gauge is really 0.41 inch). Note that smaller numbers mean larger bores. Shotgun cartridges are commonly called 'shells', and typically have brass only at the base, with the remainder plastic or paper. They are described by the gauge, the length of the case after firing, the pellet size, the total weight of pellets, and the powder charge (often in 'drams equivalent', the amount of black powder needed to give the same effect). Pellet size designations are not always consistent, but smaller numbers indicate larger pellets. The largest pellets in common use are 00 Buck, about 8 mm in diameter (about 9 pellets in one shell), and the smallest are 9, about 2 mm (about 500 in one shell). As noted above, shotguns can also fire single "slugs". In German, a shotgun shell is a "Schrotpatrone" (not a 'Granate") and the "Kaliber" is the gauge, often with the length stated in millimeters.

Some shotguns have one or, more commonly, two barrels with the breech opened by 'breaking' (unlocking and tilting the barrel forward and down) (break action; much less commonly, tilt-up action or hinge action) The two barrels may be 'side-by-side' or 'over-under'. Repeating shotguns are common in the US. They have a single barrel and usually a tubular magazine holding 2 - 5 shells under the barrel. Bolt-action shotguns exist but are uncommon. Most repeating shotguns have a slide action operated by a manual pull-push motion on a separate piece of the stock that extends forward under the barrel. These are often called 'pump' guns. In many repeating shotguns the manual operation is replaced by an autoloading ('automatic') action utilizing the force of recoil or of the powder gas to operate the mechanism. Shotguns typically have no sights, but often have a 'rib' along the top to help pointing.

Rifles are designed to be fired from the shoulder. Rifled barrels have spiral grooves (Züge) on the inside to make the single projectile spin for much better accuracy.
The parts of the barrel between the grooves are 'lands' (Felder). The caliber is (usually) the bore diameter across the lands. The projectile was originally a lead ball but, since about 1870, is commonly an elongated bullet. Early muzzle-loading rifles were slow and difficult to load. The bullet had to fit tightly enough that the rifling would make it spin, so the ball had to be hammered down the length of the barrel. The Pennsylvania (Kentucky) rifle (ca. 1700) used a smaller ball wrapped in a greased piece of cloth ('patch') and was much more practical, but still too slow to load for use in a line of battle. Most military firearms were smooth-bore (unrifled) muskets (about .50 to .75 caliber) which could be fired relatively rapidly but not very accurately. About 1840, the French Captain Minié invented a bullet which was small enough to load easily but which expanded on firing to fit the rifling. That invention was a major cause of the high casualty rate in the US Civil War because it offered the long-range accuracy of a rifle with a much higher rate of fire, making the previously standard infantry charge completely infeasible (although it took some time for commanders to realize that).

Rifles typically have a single barrel, though double rifles have been common for hunting in Africa, and there are firearms with three barrels ("Drilling"), such as two rifle calibers and a shotgun barrel. There are some single-shot breechloaders, but nearly all are repeaters, distinguished by whether the mechanism (action) is operated by a bolt, lever, or slide ("pump"). As for shotguns, manual operation is often replaced by an autoloading mechanism powered by recoil or gas.

Although rifles typically fire a single bullet, some military cartridges have been made with two or even three smaller bullets in the hope that if one misses, another might hit.

Pistols are designed to be fired from one hand, though both hands can be used. Essentially all are rifled and fire single projectiles. The major types are:

single-shot usually break or bolt action, usually used for hunting and long-range target shooting
revolver This has a 'cylinder' with several 'chambers', each holding one cartridge. When the hammer is cocked, a chamber is rotated into alignment with the barrel and locked in position. There is a slight gap between the cylinder and barrel, and some gas escapes there.
autoloaders More commonly known by the very ambiguous term 'automatic'; see below. This has a 'magazine' holding several cartridges which are fed, one at a time, into the chamber at the breech end of the barrel.
Note that some people consider that the general class is 'handgun', with only the autoloaders called 'pistols'.

has several special meanings, especially for rifles and pistols.

Action "Action" used alone means the mechanical operating parts. In old
firearms, that was the "lockwork" or "lock".
Bolt action A "bolt action" is operated by raising a "bolt handle" to unlock the breech, pulling the bolt to the rear to extract and eject a fired cartridge, and then pushing forward to feed a new cartridge, and turning down to lock the bolt to the barrel.
Lever action A "lever action" is operated by a lever behind the trigger, and a "slide" action is operated by a pull-push action on a moving piece below the barrel. Note that in some of these, the actual breechblock is still a bolt that is operated by the lever or slide mechanism.
A semiautomatic (or automatic) rifle is typically operated by the force of the propellant gas which indirectly operates a bolt, or some other kind of breechblock. In all these actions, the "breechblock" that locks the breech during firing is often (incorrectly) called a bolt even when it does not rotate to lock to the barrel.
Single action (SA) The hammer can not be cocked by pulling the trigger. The hammer must be pulled back in a separate movement, usually with a thumb.
Double action (DA) The hammer can be cocked either by pulling the trigger or with a thumb. People typically speak of firing a double-action pistol 'single action' when they first cock the hammer with a thumb, and then fire. This procedure usually gives a little more accuracy. Similarly, firing "double-action" means firing with a single pull of the trigger which first cocks and then releases the hammer. That is faster but usually less accurate. (Not always: see "Ed McGivern's Book of Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting", Ed McGivern, Follett Publishing, Chicago, 1975.)
Double action only (DAO) The hammer can be cocked only by pulling the trigger.

Automatic: this is a term with contradictory and confusing meanings.

Technically, and legally in the US, any firearm that will fire more than one shot if the trigger is pulled and held back is "automatic". A firearm which uses the force of firing to eject a fired cartridge case and load a fresh cartridge, but can fired again only after the trigger has been released and pulled again is "semiautomatic" (or an auto-loader). Historically, though, the first arms that would reload themselves were called "automatic", and the term is still commonly used with that meaning. Because of this contradictory usage, arms that are really semiautomatic are often called "automatic" (such as the 'Colt .45 automatic'pistol). Arms which are technically "automatic" may be called "full automatic" to distinguish them from semi-automatics (autoloaders). As a rule of thumb, no firearm generally advertised or stocked in a store in the US will really be automatic. Since the National Firearms Act of 1934, possession of any (full) automatic arm requires (by Federal law) a background investigation, a license from the Secretary of the Treasury, and payment of a special fee. The various states have their own laws, some prohibitive or effectively so.

At the end of World War II, there was widespread demand for troops to be armed with rifles having the ability to fire either fully automatically or semiautomatically (selective fire). Experience has shown, for the most part, that because of recoil ("kick") only the first round fired automatically is likely to hit any specific target, and there has been a shift back to limiting bursts to three rounds. Actual automatic pistols have been attempted, but not successfully. Submachine guns (British "machine pistols"; German "Maschinenpistolen") are military automatic weapons still in use. As they use pistol ammunition, but are much heavier than pistols, they are relatively manageable, but have short range and limited accuracy.


The two most important things to remember is that most of the names should not be translated, and that the numbers are usually nominal, not actual.

Continental European designations are relatively easy to understand. They indicate the caliber in millimeters, usually in the range of 5 mm to 13 mm, and the length of the empty cartridge case in millimeters. The numbers may be followed by an 'R' to indicate a rimmed case. Some have names appended, but they are rarely needed to distinguish between cartridges. Some of these cartridges are also used in the US, where they usually retain their original names.

British and US nomenclature is more complicated. The first number always indicates (approximately) the caliber in inches (usually in the range of .17 to .50). The caliber is often followed by some further name or number. The name may be that of the manufacturer or designer, or a name given by the designer. A second number often indicates a powder charge (in grains, each about 64.8 mg), while a third number may indicate a bullet weight (in grains). Note that in American usage the decimal point in the caliber is not preceded by a zero, and is not mentioned when speaking: the caliber is .22, not 0.22, and is spoken as 'twenty-two'. Note also that the powder charge might be either black or smokeless powder (not interchangeable) and that actual current powder charges may be quite different from the number.

Some common examples:

9 x 19 mm or 9 mm Parabellum, or 9 mm Luger. A very common pistol cartridge.  Note that there are other 9 mm cartridges, generally not interchangeable.
.257 Roberts a popular US rifle cartridge designed by N. H. Roberts. .250-3000 Named  (1915) for its muzzle velocity of 3,000 feet per second.
.250-3000 Named (1915) for its muzzle velocity of 3,000 feet per second.
.30-30 Winchester ("Thirty-thirty"). A very popular, though obsolescent, US rifle cartridge, originally loaded with 30 grains of smokeless powder.
.30-06 ("Thirty ought six") The US military cartridge adopted in 1906 for the Model 1903 Springfield rifle ("ought three"); very widely used, though no longer the military cartridge.
.22 LR LR: Long Rifle. A very popular low-power rimfire cartridge. US production is about a million per day. Despite the 'rifle' in the name, this is also widely used in pistols. German: .22 Lang für Buchsen.
.45 ACP ACP is 'automatic Colt pistol', and the .45 ACP is the cartridge used in the pistol adopted by the US in 1911. There is a completely different .45 cartridge for revolvers (sometimes called the .45 Long Colt).
.45-70-505 .45 caliber, with 70 grains of black powder and a 405 grain lead bullet, originally used in the US Army rifle of 1873.

3.      Rimmed, rimless, rimfire, centerfire

When a cartridge is loaded into a chamber, something has to keep it from falling on through, or at least from moving in so far that the firing pin cannot reach it. Early cartridges were cylindrical, with the base slightly wider, leaving a rim which held the cartridge in place. When the thin brass was folded in to leave the wider base, there was a circular groove on the inside of the rim, which could hold the impact-sensitive priming compound. As the case must be thin and soft enough to be dented by the firing pin, rim fire works only for low-power cartridges such as the .22 LR. Center-fire cartridges have a much stronger base, with a 'cup' into which the primer is pressed. The cup has a 'flash hole' into the powder charge. When several cartridges are stacked in a magazine, the rims get in the way. As a rim is no longer required to hold the cartridge in modern firearms, modern cartridges are usually 'rimless'. (They have a groove around the base where they are caught by the 'extractor' which pulls the fired cartridge out of the chamber.) Straight-sided cases, usually for pistols, are held in position because the chamber is slightly larger than the bore for just the length of the case. Bottle-necked cases, common in rifles, are held in place by the 'shoulder' at the base of the 'neck'. There are also 'belted' cases which have wide rims.


Here are some typical figures for firearms ammunition. Actual figures vary
substantially with powder charge, bullet weight, barrel length, and other factors,
perhaps including the optimism of the manufacturer reporting the figures.
I have not attempted to state effective ranges in the table, as they are very dependent on the training of the user. As a very rough rule of thumb, the pistol cartridges listed are effective to about 25 yards for an average trained shooter, though some individuals can do much better. The .22 Long Rifle is good to about 100 yards when fired from a rifle.


Bullet weight

Muzzle velocity

Muzzle energy







.22 Long Rifle

(rifle or pistol)







.38 Special








9x19 mm








.45 ACP








.44 Magnum









5.56 mm

US M16 Rifle








US M1 Rifle







The effective ranges of the M1 and M16 rifles are arguable; somewhere in the range of 200 to 500 yards, with the M1 toward the longer end of that range and the M16 toward the shorter end. The cartridges used in the two rifles are effective at greater ranges in rifles designed for long-range accuracy, when used by well-trained shooters.


Assault rifle (Sturmgewehr):

Here, 'assault' is not the crime, but the military term: the final advance over the
last 50-100 meters to take an objective held by the enemy. Most of the original
designs appeared about the time of World War II. An assault rifle is a military
rifle which can be fired selectively either semi-automatically or fully
automatically. It uses a relatively low-power cartridge and is generally designed for low-cost production, light weight, and use by minimally trained personnel. In the US, all actual assault rifles, having the potential to fire fully automatic, are subject to the National Firearms Act of 1934, as well as to state laws on automatic weapons. However, numerous state and federal laws define many semiautomatic rifles as "assault rifles" on the basis of certain features considered important by politicians, such as presence of a lug that might be used for mounting a bayonet.

Assault gun:

Typically a large-bore cannon mounted on an armored vehicle for close-up assault on fortifications. Mostly of German design.
Assault weapon:

A political/legal term variously defined in laws, ordinances, and speeches.
It usually includes semiautomatic arms more or less resembling assault rifles, but is also often defined to include some pistols and shotguns.


1. Spherical bullet
2. Bullet (or cartridge containing it) that is all metallic (that is, not blank, tracer, etc.)
3. Military: fully metal jacketed bullet (or cartridge containing it)


Fitting the metal parts of rifle to a wood or plastic stock. Often uses a glass fiber - epoxy resin combination ('glass bedding').

Bench rest:

1. A heavy table from which a rifle or pistol can be fired.
2. A heavy rifle made to be fired only from a bench rest.
3. Target competition won by the shooter who puts several bullets into the (single) smallest hole.


A cartridge made without a projectile (bullet) to produce only sound. It uses a special fast-burning powder that must not be used with a bullet and is dangerous within a few meters distance.


1. A zinc-copper alloy ('cartridge brass')
2. Slang for a cartridge case.

Browning, bluing:

Producing a thin layer of iron oxide on iron or steel to protect against rust. Usually done by immersion in hot salt solutions, but there are 'cold bluing' methods. A metal part to be blued later is "in the white". But note that John M. Browning was a major US designer of firearms, and that 'Browning' is a major current manufacturer.


A rifle in which the action and magazine are behind the trigger (effectively, in the stock, making a relatively short rifle).


The diameter of the bore; but for artillery and naval guns, the length of the barrel in numbers of diameters. For instance, a 5 inch 38 caliber gun would have a barrel 190 inches long.


(German: Karabiner). Typically a variation of a military rifle with a shortened barrel, used especially by mounted troops. Some carbines, though, do not have a longer version. The US M1 carbine, for instance, was not a shortened M1 rifle.


It was originally the part of the barrel that held the gunpowder. Now it is the part that holds the cartridge at the time of firing. The chamber is at the breech end of the barrel and may be enlarged somewhat to hold the cartridge. Revolvers have several separate chambers in a 'cylinder'.


Shotgun muzzle design or attachment to reduce spreading of shot.


Not a magazine. A clip is either:
(a) a device which holds a set of cartridges and is inserted as a whole into the
magazine (Patronenrahmen) as in the US M1 rifle, or
(b) a device which holds a set of cartridges which are pushed by the shooter out of the clip and into the magazine, as in the US M1903 Springfield rifle. This kind of clip is also a 'charger' (Streifenlader).

Colt automatic:

Commonly means the US Model 1911 or 1911A1 pistol, adopted in 1911 and
used until the recent adoption of a 9 mm pistol.


A kind of muzzle brake which diverts powder gases upward to reduce the upward recoil.


A British type of smokeless power made in long thin cords. Often encountered in fiction as "the smell of cordite". No longer in production.


Refers to a primer which contains potassium chlorate.


A kind of rifle or shotgun barrel used until the late 19th century, made by a
process giving a beautiful finish but strength insufficient (or at least questionable) for modern cartridges.


The part of a semiautomatic firearm which prevents a second cartridge being fired until the trigger has been released and pulled again.


A three-barreled firearm, primarily European, with both rifle and shotgun barrels.


An early form of expanding bullet made at Dumdum Arsenal, India, in the 1890s, in an attempt to make the small bullets (.30 caliber) used in modern rifles as effective as the much larger and heavier bullets (up to .75 caliber) used with black powder muskets.


Generally, a ‘gun’ carried and used by one person. Note, though, that US legal definitions are variable and inconsistent, often using “firearm” to refer to a specific prohibited or specially regulated item.

Free rifle, free pistol:

A firearm designed solely for extreme accuracy in 'international' target shooting


(German): a firearm, usually a rifle. A 'Maschinengewehr' is usually a 'machine gun', not an 'automatic rifle'.


Hammer position, held away from the primer but with not enough spring
compression to fire the primer if the hammer should fall. Pulling the trigger
should not drop the hammer, and certainly not with enough force to fire the
primer. (Source of the phrase "go off half-cocked").


The process of putting a fresh primer, powder charge, and bullet into a used brass cartridge case (the most expensive part).


Perceptible delay between hammer or firing pin impact and actual firing


(Verschlussabstand): The space available for the cartridge between the face of the breechblock and the part of the chamber that keeps the cartridge from going forward. A critical dimension. With insufficient headspace the breech cannot be closed and the arm will not fire. With excess headspace, the cartridge is not supported adequately and may separate into front and rear segments when fired. Then the arm cannot be reloaded until the front segment has been removed from the chamber.

Machine gun:

(Maschinengewehr). Generally, an automatic weapon with ammunition
fed from a belt, mounted on a tripod for firing from a fixed position. Early
machine guns had water-cooled barrels, but essentially all now are air-cooled.
'Heavy' machine guns were water-cooled; 'light' ones were air-cooled.
Some air-cooled machine guns are mounted on bipods for better mobility (less

The term is also often used generically for other automatic weapons, such as:

An 'automatic rifle' (automatische Gewehr) is generally a rifle designed to fire
automatically from a 'box magazine' holding perhaps 20 cartridges. It usually can be fired from a bipod or from the shoulder or waist (not very accurately), and generally uses 'full-power' cartridges such as the US .30-06 or 7.62 mm (a
distinction from an 'assault rifle'). The best US example is the Model 1918
Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR).

Assault rifle: see the separate definition above. A military assault rifle (but not the commercial versions commonly called assault rifles) typically offers ability to select either semiautomatic or (full) automatic operation.

A submachine gun (British: machine pistol; German: Maschinenpistole) fires
pistol cartridges, usually with blow-back action, and is designed to be highly
portable. Range is typically short, and accuracy is not a major consideration.

Use dictionaries, and glossaries, with particularly great care on this subject! Do not trust political statements at all.


The part of a repeating (including semiautomatic) firearm that
holds cartridges for use. In the magazine, a spring forces cartridges into position to be fed into the chamber by operation of the action. In many firearms, the magazine is an integral part. In others, separate magazines, each with its own spring, fit into the 'magazine well'. Those separate magazines are often incorrectly called 'clips'.


Refers to a primer composition containing a mercury compound. Non-mercurial primers are desired because traces of mercury in a fired cartridge case make it brittle and less useful for reloading.


Angular change in aim that moves the point of impact of an artillery projectile one meter at a range of 1000 meters.

Minute of angle (MOA):

In this context, angular change in aim that moves the point of impact of a rifle bullet one inch at 100 yards; only approximately a true mathematical minute of angle.

It has long been a rule of thumb that a rifle should be accurate within one minute of angle (within a reasonable range). Good design and careful production can provide accuracy to about 1/8 minute.

Muzzle brake:

An attachment to the muzzle which diverts powder gases backward to reduce recoil.


The pistol, and especially the 9 x 19 mm cartridge for it, designed by George Luger and adopted by the German army in 1908.


Used in the German sense of test (Prüf) (but the German word for it is 'Beschuss'). Testing a firearm with a particularly heavy charge to make sure that the firearm is strong enough for use.


A single cartridge.


(British 'safety catch'). A mechanical device used to prevent a cocked rifle, shotgun, or semiautomatic pistol being fired by an accidental pull on the trigger. In spite of much English and American mystery and adventure literature, revolvers and single-shot pistols do not need or have safeties because they are not cocked until one is ready to fire. As a rough estimate, rifles and shotguns with exposed (visible) hammers do not have safeties, while those with concealed hammers or spring-loaded firing pins do. Other even less well-known safety devices, particularly on semiautomatic pistols, include a grip safety which will not allow firing unless one is holding the pistol grip firmly; a trigger safety which prevents a firing pin striking the primer unless the trigger has been pulled, and a magazine safety that prevents firing when there is no magazine in the pistol. Firearms are typically right-handed, and a semiautomatic pistol safety that can be operated with either the left or right thumb is "ambidextrous".


(British 'sawn-off'). A shotgun (very rarely a rifle) with a barrel cut down to a  few inches. In US law, the minimum barrel length is 18 inches for shotguns and 16 inches for rifles.

Schützen (Schuetzen)

German: to guard or protect; or to shoot, especially at targets. In US English, a particular kind of rifle target shooting, and the rifle used for it, introduced by Americans of German descent.


Competitive shotgun shooting at 'clay pigeons' thrown from two different  locations.


Military shooting at specific enemy personnel at long range, typically 400-1000  meters. The term is commonly misused in the US media.

Telescope sight:

An optical sight which shows the shooter a magnified image of the target, with an indication (cross-hairs, for instance) of the point of aim. Because that display is in a single plane, a 'scope' sight does not require the shooter's eye to focus on both the front sight and the target at the same time - particularly useful for anyone above middle age.


Competitive shotgun shooting at 'clay pigeons' thrown from a single location.

Trigger weight:

(Abzugswiderstand). The force which must be applied to the trigger to fire; measured by hanging a weight on the trigger. It is typically around 4 pounds (2 kg) if the arm is cocked. About 12-18 pounds (5-8 kg) must be applied to cock a double-action pistol.


(Drall) Pitch of rifling, expressed as one turn in a distance along the barrel.


Variant of 'vermin', meaning small animal(s) considered pests and often not protected by game laws. They are not only small but very alert so that a hunter cannot get close. A "varmint rifle" is generally of small caliber (.22 - .25) but must be very accurate at 200-400 yards.


German. The sighting system, including both front and rear sights.


(Flachkopfwettkampfgeschoss) A cylindrical pistol bullet with a completely flat
nose; used in target shooting to make clean-cut holes which are easier to score. The "wad" in this case was originally a circular card (or other material) used to hold loose powder and shot in place.


To adjust sights for a specific range by firing several trial shots at that range.

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