Guns 101: Terms You Need To Know

By Michelle Cerino
Posted in #Guns
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Guns 101: Terms You Need To Know

March 15th, 2020

4 minute read

With all the talk of guns in the news, I find myself giggling at the use of incorrect firearm verbiage. Sadly, I sometimes even hear these same incorrect words during conversations in gun shops and at ranges. To avoid confusion, I’ve compiled a list of firearm terms I often hear used improperly. 

Scenario 1: You’re on the range, perhaps even at a match, and you overhear one fellow say to his girlfriend, “Hand me that 20 round clip over there.” OMG…it’s like nails on a chalkboard. 

Clips for your hair

This is a clip for your hair. At a match, it keeps your hair out of your eyes.

Moon clips

A moon clip is a flat, ring-shaped piece of metal designed to hold several cartridges together for simultaneous insertion and extraction from a revolver. 

Stripper clip

A stripper clip is a device that holds several cartridges together in a single unit for easier and faster loading of a firearm’s magazine.

Magazine for an AR

Magazines are usually detachable and refillable. They hold cartridges under spring pressure in preparation for feeding into the firearm’s chamber.

Scenario 2: Have you ever watched a movie where someone is shooting an AR or pistol that is completely silent? Ugh…the only way to make a gun close to movie quiet is by shooting a particular type of ammunition that is slower than 1050 feet-per-second. Sure, firearms can be almost silenced, with the right type of ammunition and a quality suppressor. However, that is not what’s usually seen in movies.


A suppressor attaches to the end of a gun’s barrel and reduces the sound of its discharge, making it less intense.

Muzzle brake

Two other often confused terms are muzzle brake and flash suppressor or flash hider. Although both attach to the end of a muzzle, they each have very different purposes. A muzzle brake redirects some of the pressurized gas that propels the bullet to counter recoil and unwanted muzzle rise. A flash suppressor lets hot air escape the barrel making for a smaller flash of light as the bullet exits, improving visibility for the shooter. To further explain the differences, The Armory Life published “A Guide to Muzzle Devices.”

Many people use the words round, cartridge, ammo, ammunition, bullet and shell interchangeably. This doesn’t bother me as much as the above mistakes, but I feel it’s still important to include these terms. 

Pistol and rifle round

A round or cartridge is a complete unit of ammunition. It contains a casing, primer, propellent and a projectile. 

Ammunition (ammo) is measured in rounds, which is what’s loaded into a gun. Ammo is available in hundreds of sizes, and it must match the firearm you’re using. 

A bunch of bullets

The projectile in a cartridge or round of ammunition is a bullet. 

2 shotgun shells and a rifle shell (casing)

The term shell is a synonym for casing, which is the unit that holds the gunpowder, projectile and primer for handguns, rifles and shotguns. Some people also use it as a term for shotgun ammunition. 

Feel free to share this list firearm terms with those just learning the lingo, or maybe forward it to “that friend” who consistently uses the word clip incorrectly.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Michelle Cerino and shared with us by Women’s Outdoor News. Also, be sure to check out The Armory Life Forum, where you can comment about our daily articles, as well as just talk guns and gear. Click the “Go To Forum Thread” link below to jump in!

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

Product prices mentioned in articles and videos are current as of the date of publication.

Michelle Cerino

Michelle Cerino

Michelle Cerino is the managing editor at Women’s Outdoor News and author of Gear Up, sponsored by Springfield Armory and Princess Gunslinger. She also freelances for other industry magazines including Combat Handguns, Person Defense World and New Pioneer Magazine. Michelle is the president of Cerino Consulting and Training Group LLC, a firearms training company she built with her husband Chris in 2011. They instruct both civilians and law enforcement. Her path in the firearms and outdoors industries is ever progressing. She is writing, hunting, competing and doing contract work for major manufacturers. Michelle is a proud Life Member of the NRA, and also belongs to NSSF, AG&AG and ILEETA.

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