Firearms for Beginners, Part Two: Nomenclature



Last week I discussed various aspects of ammunition; this week I’ll delve into entry-level firearms nomenclature and basic parts. Again, I’m not trying to dump a lifetime’s worth of firearms knowledge on you in one sitting; this is just meant to scratch the surface, and hopefully give the beginner a bit of knowledge so they can buy or use a firearm without flying blind. Let’s dive in, shall we?

First, all firearms share a few basic components. These are:






MUZZLE: The dangerous end. Bullets exit the gun through the hole in the end of the barrel, referred to as the muzzle.

BARREL: Tube the projectile travels down. The muzzle is on one end, the chamber on the other. The INSIDE of the tube is the “bore”.

CHAMBER: The part of the barrel that surrounds the cartridge once it is inserted into the barrel.

SIGHTS: When aligned properly, these will allow the shooter to accurately direct bullet placement.

TRIGGER: When the shooter presses the trigger, it sets into motion the various mechanisms that are involved to make the gun fire.

GRIP (“STOCK” IN LONG GUNS): Allows the shooter to firmly grip the firearm in his/her hand(s).

HAMMER (“STRIKER” IN SOME GUNS): – provides actuating force for the firing pin to set the primer of the cartridge off.


Yes, there are many other parts to many other various types of guns, but when you boil it down, these are the major ones, and they apply to all metallic cartridge firearms and most black powder guns. There are other controls and minutia parts, but they will vary from gun to gun (for instance, slide stops, decocker levers, safeties, takedown levers) and I decided not to waste your minds too much on these items. Since they will be firearm-specific, I recommend reading your owner’s manuals (if you do not have one, most major manufacturers will have links to their gun manuals in .pdf form or via mail.) to see what your particular gun has and how it safely works.

Most firearms (except shotguns) have RIFLING on the insides of the barrel, or “bore”. The rifling engages the bullet and imparts a spin to it. This spin stabilizes the bullet, and makes it exponentially more accurate than a smoothbore firearm. The rifling is composed of grooves or flats cut into the barrel in a spiral.

This is the rifling in my SIG-Sauer P220. As you can see, (yes, it’s dirty. Deal.) the bore of the barrel has spiral grooves cut into it. Shotguns do not have this rifling (unless it is a dedicated slug barrel), because they do not have one projectile to accurately place, it has many to spread out.


Here we go with a huge pet peeve of mine: Magazines vs. clips!




Through widespread media ignorance and laziness in general, the terms “clip” and “magazine” have become interchangeable these days. However, there IS a difference. I know it’s a silly thing to be annoyed about, but I share this rage with many other gun guys so I’m in good company. :)


A CLIP is a small piece of metal that holds cartridges together to help facilitate loading the gun. In the case of a “stripper clip”, it merely holds the cartridges in line so they can be pressed out of the clip, into the magazine of the gun, as seen below.sks_load

MAGAZINE  can be fixed or removable; however, in either case, it completely encloses and protects the ammunition for a gun. Semiautomatic handguns, AR-15 type firearms, AKs, M1As, etc. have removable magazines. Most (but not all) semi-auto shotguns, pump shotguns, lever action rifles, and bolt-action rifles have fixed magazines that have ammunition fed into them by an external source (your fingers or a stripper clip.), but in all cases, they completely enclose the cartridges except for where they feed into the chamber.


Next week, I’ll jump into types of firearm actions (bolt, pump, semi, lever, revolver, etc.). Also, be sure to check the SHTFblog Facebook page for small tidbits of info that we insert to keep your lives informed and joyful.


And remember…keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction ALWAYS and keep that finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot! Be safe!




33 comments… add one
  • Robert April 3, 2013, 9:06 am

    Nice job!

    One nit to pick, that isn’t a clip, it’s an en bloc loader. It’s different than “stripper” clips (Mauser type) and Mannlicher clips (which also stay with the ammunition in the internal magazine).

    I usually explain it to people as a “magazine” has a spring, holds and feeds the ammunition, where as a clip is used to supply (charge) the magazine. All multi-shot firearms have magazines, but not all have/use clips.

    • Ray April 3, 2013, 10:00 am

      Robert, ALL of my US ARMY- FMs and TM, use the term EN BLOCK CLIP to refer to the Garand clip. The Garand system is a modified Mannlicher that ejects from the top(Garand) instead of the bottom(Mannlicher/ Shroder/ Corrcano) with the ejection of the last round.

      • The Road Warrior April 3, 2013, 10:06 am

        Robert and Ray
        …you guys are both 100% correct; I knew I’d get busted on that one! :-) I knew the En Bloc Garand system and the bottom-ejecting Steyr clip system (like the M95) are a bit different that the standard “clip”, but I lumped them in, since I figured anyone who had one of those firearms platforms were more advanced than the beginners I’m aiming at here, and would therefore know what they were dealing with. Nice catch though!

  • Leon April 3, 2013, 9:40 am

    I was taken to task on the clips vs. magazine definition. The dictionary listed the terms as interchangeable.

    • The Road Warrior April 3, 2013, 10:07 am

      The dictionary apparently isn’t run by anal gun guys then!! :-) People often interchange “wheel” and “tire”, it doesn’t mean that they are the same thing.

      • irishdutchuncle April 3, 2013, 11:01 am

        the encyclopedia was wrong about lots of things also. just because something is in a “book” doesn’t make it so. they all just repeat the same wrong stuff, because they’re “authoritive”. if something you read “doesn’t seem right” there’s a good chance it isn’t. don’t let “them” bully you. you always need to become your own “authority”, when a subject is important to you.

        • Jason April 4, 2013, 11:11 am

          However Irish, it’s a known fact that everything you read on the Internet is true. Ha, ha :-)

      • Preamble Project October 24, 2016, 6:09 am

        From an old-tyme newspaper ebider: Webster’s 2nd International dictionary, if you can find one, is a PRESCRIPTIVE dictionary. The Last Of It’s Kind. It actually prescribes which meanings, spellings are “correct.” That was oh dear, just too difficult for our dumbed-down school customers, so out comes Webster’s 3rd International. The cowards at Websters have succumbed to the general stupidity and have come out with a DESCRIPTIVE work. It’s now a Democratic Dictionary–highest # of votes for a meaning or a spelling now carries the day. You can google your spelling, or your meaning, and see the hit-count. It’s like a rigged election.
        It’s reminiscent of “psychiatry”–the art that wishes it could be a science. The pschiatric “conditions” in the DSM 5 or so, are VOTED IN or out. Apply their technique to science, and you’d get something like this: Does gravity exist? the Ayes? Nays? The Nays have it–gravity is repealed. Actually, that happened on 9/11/2001, where gravity was suspended from 8:00am to 5:20:06 p.m., when WTC#7 was demolished. It was apparently a secret ballot, advertized to only a few select people (e.g., the fire departments weren’t notified, though Odigo employees supposedly WERE notified.

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. April 3, 2013, 1:23 pm

    Great firearm terminology primer. For many years, I’ve heard person’s buying ammunition for their annual deer hunt start with ‘ I need to buy some bullets for my gun’. Or ‘How many bullets does it hold?’ Drives me up the wall . . .

    I try to not hold it against them – we all need to start somewhere, and I guess a person who does not know the correct term at least is a gun owner exercising their right to use them – they are on our side!

  • Sadie April 3, 2013, 4:13 pm

    I like this series! I hear constantly that serious gun people are annoyed at newbies using “magazine” instead of “clip”. I originally thought “you know I’m referring to the thing you load the gun with”. Fast forward a few months and my mom used “clip” in a conversation with me. My first thought was “Mom, the correct word is magazine.” I didn’t say it as it would have just frustrated her. But I smiled because I was now one of those overly serious folks.

    • The Road Warrior April 3, 2013, 4:20 pm

      I love it, Sadie! Yeah, ya gotta watch out… it’ll sneak up on you! Next step: gun snobbery! :-)

  • Jarhead Survivor April 3, 2013, 8:52 pm

    Seems like everybody has a certain way of referring to fire arms. Back when I was in the Corps if a DI heard you call it a gun he’d knock your block off. It was a weapon!

    • Yikes! April 4, 2013, 2:54 am

      In the military it’s a weapon. In the current political climate it’s a sporting firearm. Civilians aren’t allowed to have weapons.

  • Yikes! April 4, 2013, 3:07 am

    Does anyone on here really not know what a gun looks like? I thought the audience was a bunch of survivalists.

    Sure , they get clips and magazines mixed up but that’s because it hasn’t really mattered since World War II.

    I’m field stripping a 1911 blindfolded as I type this.

    • Ray April 4, 2013, 7:59 am

      Yes, a Gun is a Breach or muzzle loading crew served weapon of at least one inch bore.( a cannon) It can be rifled or smooth bore. SMALL ARMS are man portable weapons.

      • Yikes! April 4, 2013, 12:21 pm

        There’s no fun in that.

        • Ray April 4, 2013, 6:37 pm

          I don’t know ’bout that, I crew a 12lb bronze smooth bore, and have crewed an 3in ord. rifle . I think they are a GAS!!!

          • Yikes! April 4, 2013, 9:51 pm

            Well that’s beside the point, really. I’m sure that blasting off artillery is a good time.

            Bitching about minor technical issues is what’s no fun. I’m the only one in the crowd I tend to shoot with who actually knows the difference between a clip and a magazine. I have corrected those guys zero times… because correcting them would be no fun.

            Apart from that, there are plenty of guys who use incorrect terminology all day, every day, but can shoot the whiskers off a midget and carve a rifle stock directly out of a walnut tree. Technical proficiency > technical language.

  • Jason April 4, 2013, 10:04 am

    …. and the beat goes on as many sit in the bleachers watching silently & in awe while the government attacks & removes our rights – one by one by one by one ….

    Why on Earth would any government fear a well armed citizenry? If you need an answer to that you are unbelievably naive.

    Some may complain that this is off topic, but is it really? Be that as it may, I can’t wait for the coming article about pink shotguns for girls or the value of a three round burst paintball gun.

    Most people are so lazy, they don’t even exercise good judgement.

    Gee, how did the law pass?

    Isn’t it ironic – a law against law abiding citizens.

    • Yikes! April 4, 2013, 12:37 pm

      Are you taking a position, or just waxing philosophic?

      Should the government confiscate all of our guns or not?

      Small arms laws in the U.S. (big up, Ray) have always been driven more by panic than logic, for better or worse. In the 18th Century everyone was panicked about King George, and King George Washington, so we got the 2nd. In the 1930’s everyone was panicked about gangsters with tommy guns, so no more full autos. On and on…

      Reason has never really entered into it. It’s an emotional issue for everyone concerned. People take sides on this because they’re afraid… either of the government, zombies, or crazy people shooting up schools. Absent fear, there’s no issue.

      • Jason April 4, 2013, 3:13 pm

        “Absent fear, there’s no issue.” That is the point AND the problem, fear is being created out of thin air.

        What the Piers Morgan, Dianne Feinstein & the militant Left camp is doing is demonizing “assault weapons” & bullying that agenda into a complete assault weapons ban while the gun owners remain numb to the issue.

        They use the dead children of Sandy Hook, while tragic, as a pulpit & leveraging tactic to ban these “killing machines”. What make NO sense whatsoever is over 99.9999% of ALL gun related deaths in the entire history of America was NOT as a result of the evil “assault weapon” yet, it is getting 100% of the Left & MSM attention to remove from the law abiding citizens.

        So here we have probably less than 100 people killed by an “assault weapon” with 100% of the shooters with mental disabilities or severe mental issues. Does it make any sense that the cause is the weapon itself? Hello, check the common detonator of the shooters.

        Doctors are responsible for well over 100,000 deaths EVERY year because of botched surgeries, should we now ban scalpels?

        Four big problems occur if the government succeeds in banning assault weapons.

        1. The government by itself is telling us what we can or cannot have – that is diametrically opposed to the fundamental point of the 2nd Amendment.
        2. Citizens will end up with a bigger disadvantage to fight a government in the event they go usurpation.
        3. The rest of the guns will be taken & it will only be a matter of time – guaranteed. Because the Left knows & will sell the fact that only insane people need to own a gun.
        4. It is proven that crime goes UP when guns are removed from law abiding citizens. Criminals don’t care about the law by definition & will revel knowing their victims unarmed.

        Road Warrior misses my point when I get vocal because I truly believe he does not get the gravity of the situation of this push for the ban. I’ll get intentionally flip with the cracks about pink shotguns in an effort to wake up anybody who has a passion about firearms. While I marginally like firearms, quite frankly I could live without them BUT one of the most important aspects of the 2nd Amendment is about keeping a government in check not the stupid gun.

        On a more global & contextual point & stated above, why would any government fear the citizens being armed? History is replete with examples of how guns were removed from citizens by a government & then they oppressed the people. Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Russia & others were disarmed & the ashes of millions of people should serve as a reminder.

        While many sit fat, lazy & numb, the bullies from our government jam their anti-American, anti-constitution down those throats. Many believe it is not possible here for the government to beat down the citizens in almighty America but look at the writing on the wall in the past 30 years – our police forces have gotten far more aggressive, the Patriot Act has been passed & now drones over America. Must be a very odd coincidence.

        I am not a conspiracy guy but check this out & you tell me what weapon killed the kids at Sandy Hook.

        • Yikes! April 4, 2013, 6:00 pm

          So they shouldn’t take all of our guns. I’m with you on that.

          The gun control fanatics like Feinstein and Bloomberg want to take every last gun, and they are doing it in increments every time people get scared. I’m with you on that too.

          I’m also pretty much with you on the history of disarming people, except that allowing people to be armed in the first place is more the historical exception than the rule. It just happens that the usual preconditions for law and order are also the preconditions for oppression and the general abuse of power.

          I didn’t notice what the road guy was saying on the subject, but if he thinks that he’s a gun guy and not concerned, he’s kidding himself. They’ll be along for the en bloc clip and the whole M1 in a year or two if they manage to ban the semis with detachable mags.

          I don’t know what you’re planning, but I fully intend to take it out on the next 3 elections. People should be thinking right now about making sure that viable pro-2nd amendment candidates are running for every seat that opens up in 2014.

          By that, I don’t mean that we need to dredge up the most rabid tea party guy that we can find, but that we need moderates that can get a large swath of the middle and will defend gun ownership.

          33 senate seats, 36 governorships, and the entire House of Representatives will be in play next year. Find the voting records of everyone running in your area and and run out everyone who supports a restrictive gun measure.

          Remember what happened after the Clinton gun ban. Clinton himself said it was political suicide for the people in Congress who voted for it. I guess they forgot… and they need to be reminded.

          • Jason April 4, 2013, 6:55 pm

            OMG – we are on the same page! Ha,ha.

            Further, you get my point to ignite as many people as possible & raise the awareness to this very serious issue.

            If you want to see an excellent, well articulated argument regarding this issue watch this clip. This guy is under 30 & a Harvard Law graduate. It’s one of the best, most level headed approaches I’ve seen.


          • Yikes! April 4, 2013, 9:29 pm

            Right on.

          • Yikes! April 4, 2013, 10:19 pm

            Yeah, that was a good one. I had never bothered to watch Piers Morgan before. The Shapiro guy was right on point… except that he’s not paranoid enough.

            Everyone knows that universal background checks are just a foot in the door to a national registry. And everyone knows that a national registry is one step away from mass confiscation of firearms. I saw Red Dawn.

          • Jason April 5, 2013, 12:11 am

            I totally agree about universal background checks – it’s the way the government can track their competition. So I say not to those checks. Besides, crazy people will still get their hands on guns if they want them.

            Piers Morgan is the puppet for the Left & CNN give him free rein to scream as loud as necessary to sway the American people. He repeats “these killing machines are the preferred weapon of mass murders.” He conveniently forgets about Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez , Jeffrey Dahmer, Charlie Manson & Jim Jones. Funny how each one of these guys had mental illness & except for Manson, did not use a gun.

          • Yikes! April 5, 2013, 10:31 am

            For the record: Mainstream media is largely responsible for the fact that no one knows the difference between a clip and a magazine.

            I had heard that about Piers Morgan, but never looked into it. I read an Economist article recently ( ) on the U.S. gun control debate in which Morgan was obliquely referenced and somewhat disowned.

            In any case, his argument in that clip was terrible. Shapiro’s argument was appealing to me because it addressed facts and emotions and presented both in a reasonable way: if the goal is to prevent shootings, we should ban handguns immediately and then work on banning all guns; preventing all shootings is not worth the loss of the individual’s capacity for self defense.

            The logic is clear. It’s the value judgment that causes all of the trouble because people’s values fluctuate with their emotions.

            Piers Morgan has one thing right. Calling every 2nd Amendment advocate a baby killer on national television does make an impression. A badly structured argument can be an extremely effective political tactic. This is all about manipulating fear.

            I’m afraid of baby killers. More to the point, I’m afraid of someone potentially tweaking out and shooting up the place where I work. It pretty much makes me want to be prepared to plug the guy with a .45 when he turns up, whether he has an AR-15 or a machete. I guess we all process fear differently.

  • Yikes! April 4, 2013, 12:23 pm


  • Yikes! April 4, 2013, 6:33 pm


    In the elections of 1994, just after the passage of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, the Democratic Party lost 9 Senate seats, 54 House seats, and 12 governorships. This gave the Republicans a majority in both houses of Congress.

    I’m technically registered as a Democrat, and have never been a Republican. I’m voting 2nd Amendment in 2014, and I’ll campaign for every Republican candidate to make the point if I have to.

    • Ray April 4, 2013, 6:58 pm

      The UN spells out the plan VERY clearly, Too; “Confiscate all weapons of military utility” and “All ammunition of whatever type, not held by government forces. ” so as to “limit the populations ability to resist government” That boys and girls is the UN Small Arms Treaty. After Civilian Disarmerment the “global Governence” plans to “downsize the global population to a managable level” . They have been printing this for 60 years -Its no secret. The only “vote” that the .GOV cares about is in the UN. They don’t give a damn what we think, or how we “vote”. This is endgame

      • T.R. April 4, 2013, 8:57 pm

        They also dont count on human nature . Human nature will make even the best laid plans turn to shit . Who is to say that all those well trained people they depend on to protect them , will not decide that once it goes down , that they are in a position to just take what they want from their employers/masters as they dont need them anymore . Greed and corruption at the top levels , there is always somebody that wants what you have or more than they have ………and will go to any length to get it . One world government only works in science fiction ………..Human nature will undo all things . I think they may be in for a rude surprise when they start culling the herd …………….think Napolion going into Russia . 500,000 went in ……………50,000 came out . Then its OUR turn for revenge , think Russians in Berlin 1945 .

  • T.R. April 4, 2013, 8:41 pm

    Clip / magazine ………….either way you KNOW what the person is talking about ……therefor they have successfully communicated . Yes there is a difference , but the same argument could be used against the word magazine , sense reading magazines existed LONG before firearms ……………….. dont be a grammar nazi … them out instead . Just sayin

  • eieio April 7, 2013, 2:12 am

    Good article on general firearm nomenclature. Your articles might need to be kept together so they can be easily referenced. If I was teaching a firearms class, I would have them read through your articles first. Very well presented.



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