Beginners Guides

Gun Glossary for Beginners

Here are a list of common terms that might seem a bit esoteric for anyone unfamiliar with firearms. Hopefully, this glossary will help keep new readers informed while facilitating anyone’s search when seeking firearms training or products. This glossary will have terms and illustrations added and update to improve it as an information resource.


.22 Long Rifle
A long established variety of .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.

.223 Remington
A rifle cartridge developed in 1957 for the Armalite AR-15.

.45 ACP
A pistol cartridge developed in 1905 by John Moses Browning. Standard chambering for the Colt M1911 pistol.

5.56x45mm NATO
A rifle cartridge that serves as a standard service rifle cartridge for NATO forces. Derived from .223 Remington.

9x19mm Parabellum
A pistol cartridge developed in 1902 by Georg Luger. Widely available and popular among military, police, and civilians for its low cost, effectiveness, and versatility.


Accidental discharge
The unintentional discharge of a firearm caused by malfunction of a gun during normal handling and operation. Not to be confused with a Negligent Discharge.

The mechanism of a gun that handles ammunition, fires the ammunition, and removes spent casing once the gun has been fired. Usually contains the mechanism for extracting and ejecting the spent casing.

A measure of a firearm or a shooter’s ability to place shots fired from a gun in relation to a shooter’s intended point of aim.

Expendable material fired from a gun. This often includes the bullet, cartridge casing, primer, and propellant. Often referred to as “Ammo”.

A firearm system that fires a single bullet each time a trigger is pulled while also performing steps to prepare it to fire again.

Automatic firearm
A firearm system that continuously fires rounds as long as the trigger is pressed or held and there is ammunition available in a feeding or storage system.


A tube that contains the rapid expansion of high pressure gases to direct projectiles in a straight path. Comprised of a bore, muzzle, and breech.

Part of a firearm that blocks the breech of a barrel chamber while a round is fired. The bolt also facilitates the extraction of spent cartridges and loading of new cartridges through mechanical motion of the bolt.

The rear end of the barrel opposite from the front of the barrel (the Muzzle).

A category of firearm which the cartridge or shell is inserted or loaded into a chamber at the rear portion of the barrel (the Breech).

Break point (Trigger)
The point when adequate pressure has applied to a trigger to release a firing mechanism such as a hammer or striker to ignite ammunition loaded into a firearm.

A colloquial term for ammunition packed into a box. Most commonly used to refer to packaged .22 Long Rifle cartridges.

Bolt action
A type of firearm action where loading and extraction of cartridges is operated through manual manipulation of a bolt directly via a handle.

The projectile component of firearm ammunition that exits the barrel during firing. Part of a cartridge or a round, but distinct from the casing, primer, and propellant.


The diameter of a barrel’s bore, measured in inches or expressed as millimeters.

Pre-assembled firearm ammunition that contains the projectile (bullet, shut, slug), propellant (gunpowder), and an ignition device (primer). Held together by a metallic case.

Cease fire
A command to immediately stop firing guns and to make them safe.

Centerfire ammunition
A firearm cartridge which contains a primer located in the center of the cartridge case head. Centerfire ammunition uses primers which are separate components from the casing.

Portion of the gun barrel or cylinder that contains a cartridge before being fired.

The state of a firearm where a cartridge has been loaded into a chamber being ready to fire.

Cleaner Lubricant Preservative used for firearms cleaning and maintenance. Removes residues, gums, and contaminants while providing lubrication and short term preservation of firearms parts.

The rotating part of a revolver that contains cartridges and is integral to the firing action.

Cylinder gap
On a revolver, the gap between the barrel, frame, and cylinder. This gas will vent hot gases when a round is fired.


Detail strip
Full disassembly of a firearm down to its minute components.

Firing of a gun.

The act of removing a firearm from a holster or other form of carry with the intent of presenting and using the firearm.

Dominant hand
The preferred hand used to grip, point, and actuate the trigger of a firearm. Opposite of the Non-dominant hand.

Direction and location away from the firing position.


A spring-loaded component of a firearm action that throws a spent round out of a firearm.

A fixed component of a firearm action that removes a spent round from the chamber.

Eye relief
The distance from the shooter’s eye to the rear sights or viewing lens of a scope that provides a full, focused sight picture.


Feed system
The mechanical system of a repeating firearm that contains ammunition loaded into chamber by the firearm action.

Field strip
The partial disassembly of firearm for routine maintenance and cleaning.

Firing hand
The primary grip hand used to actuate the trigger of a firearm. Often but not necessarily the dominant hand.

Firing line
The position which a shooter are stationed to fire upon targets.

The structural portion of a firearm that serves as the structural attachment point for mechanical parts.


Grip (firearm part)
Portion of the firearm that is held by the hand and orients the firearm toward the target.

Grip (hand position)
The position of the firing hand and non-firing hand used to secure, orient, and stabilize a gun when firing.


Part of the firearm that strikes the primer or firing pin to ignite the propellant in a cartridge to fire a bullet.

Hammer bite
When the hammer pinches or pokes the web of the hand during operation of a firearm, usually due to improper grip.


The International Defensive Pistol Association, an organization that created a shooting sport based on defensive pistol techniques using service weapons and ammunition.

The International Practical Shooting Confederation, the oldest and largest sanctioning body within practical shooting sports.


Law Enforcement Officer.

A type of firearm action which uses a lever located around the trigger guard area (often including the trigger guard itself) to load fresh cartridges into the chamber of the barrel when the lever is worked.


A single-action semiautomatic pistol developed in 1911 by John Browning. Chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge fed through a magazine. Standard-issue sidearm for the United States Armed Forces from 1991 to 1986.

An ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a repeating firearm. Magazines can be removable (detachable) or integral 9internal/fixed) to a firearm.

Manual of arms
Rules and procedures for loading and firing a specific firearm, usually broken down to a structured set of motions and positions of both firing and non-firing hands.

A person who is skilled in precision shooting using projectile weapons to shoot at high-value targets at longer-than-usual ranges.

Modern technique
A method of handgun use for self-defense characterized by a two-handed grip that brings the pistol to eye level to facilitate use of the sights for accurate and precise fire.

A practical shooting event where competitors employ a combination of rifles, handguns, and/or shotguns.

The front end of a gun barrel which a projectile exits toward the target.

Muzzle discipline
The practice of keeping the muzzle of a firearm pointed in a safe direction at all times to minimize potential damage caused by an unintended discharge (accident discharges and negligent discharges).

Muzzle flash
A bright flash of light produced by super-heated propellant gases vented through the muzzle of a gun barrel. Light and radiating energy is caused by the expansion the propellant gases.

Muzzle flip
The tendency of a firearm’s front end to rise after firing.


Negligent discharge
The unintentional firing of a gun caused by operator error or negligence; not to be confused with Accident discharge.

Non-dominant hand
The opposite of the preferred hand used to grip a firearm and actuate the trigger.

Non-firing hand
The hand opposite from the firing hand. Often used to stabilize the firearm in conjunction with the firing hand.


The standing position when shooting a long gun from the shoulder without support. Generally considered to be the least stable firing position (when compared to kneeling, prone, or sitting positions.

The individual carrying and using a given firearm.


A short-barreled, stockless firearm designed to be held and fired with one hand. The non-firing hand can be used to support and stabilize the firing hand.

Point of aim
The intended point of impact within a Sight picture as determined by visual alignment of the firearm sights.

Point of impact
The location which a bullet impacts after being fired from a gun.

A synthetic plastic that is used as a primary material for non-moving components of many modern firearms. Used for being heat resistant, lightweight, and cost-effective.

The measure of a firearm or a shooter’s ability to repeat an action or placement of shots.

The act of removing a firearm from a holster or other form of carry to direct and use.

A combustible chemical used to initiate combustion of a cartridge’s propellant. Sometimes a discrete device such as a centerfire primer while sometimes contained in a specific portion of a cartridge such as the case with a rimfire cartridge.

A body position in which a shooter lies flat with chest down and back up. Considered the most stable shooting position due to maximum stabilizing contact with the ground.

A chemical substance used to create pressurized gas that propels a projectile from the breech of a firearm down the barrel and out the muzzle.


Backwards movement of a firearm when it is fired.

Recoil management
Mechanical systems and/or firearms technique used to minimize the effects of recoil.

A repeating firearm that uses a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers. Revolvers usually have one barrel for firing.

A rebound of a projectile off a surface.

A long-barreled firearm that features a helical pattern of grooves that run along the length of the barrel, known as “rifling”. These grooves impart a spin upon the bullet that stabilize its flight path.

A type of metallic cartridge where the primer is contained in a protruding rim at the base of the cartridge. The firing pin crushes this rim to ignite the primer which ignites the main propellant.


Any mechanism used to prevent accidental discharge of a firearm. Internal safeties are often passive mechanisms that do not receive input from the user. External safeties are often active mechanisms that require the user to toggle them “on” or “off”.

A firearm system that fires one bullet for an individual trigger pull while also performing steps to prepare it to fire again.

A long gun used to fire a number of small projectiles in a single shot, often with the intent of creating a wide pattern (spread) of projectiles to aid hit probability.

An aiming device used to assist in visually aligning a firearm toward an intended target.

Sight alignment
A two-dimensional arrangement observed when aligning the front sight post and rear sight of a firearm.

Sight picture
The two-dimensional arrangement formed through Sight Alignment to include the target.

Sight radius
The distance measured between the front and rear sights of a firearm.

A mechanical portion of a firearm that moves during the operating cycle. It typically contains the firing pin/striker, the extractor, and serves as the bolt. It serves to fire a cartridge and extract the spent casing before chambering a fresh cartridge into the breech from the magazine.

Slide bite
A term for injuries caused by the motion of the slide, usually sustained by the hands when an improper grip places them in the path of a moving firearm slide.

Body positions assumed to aim and fire a gun. The four main body positions are kneeling, prone, sitting, and standing.

A firearm system that uses a spring-loaded firing pins that travel on an axis in-line with a loaded cartridge that eliminate the need for a hammer.

Support hand
The hand used to stabilize a firearm that secures either a portion of the firearm forward of the grip or acts as a secondary hand upon the grip itself. Opposite of the firing hand and does not operate the trigger.


Takedown gun
A long gun designed to be taken apart to significantly reduce its length, making it easier to store, pack, transport and conceal.

A mechanism that actuates the firing sequence of a firearm.

Trigger control
The practice and technique of actuating a trigger without changing the alignment of an aimed firearm.

Trigger discipline
A safety practice of keeping the trigger finger, any part of the body, or any external object outside of the trigger guard and off the trigger until a firearm is intentionally aimed and fired.

Trigger guard
A loop surrounding the trigger of a firearm to protect the trigger from accidental discharge.


Unintentional discharge
Any event where a firearm is unintentionally discharged due to mechanical failure or user negligence. Includes Accidental discharges and Negligent discharges.

Related Topics
4 Rules of Gun Safety
The 4 Fundamentals of Marksmanship

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