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Glossary of firearms

Acciarino: mechanical device designed to cause the charge to be switched on. A term used mainly for flint-loading weapons, it is also used to define the percussion mechanism of rear-loading tilting weapons (overlapping, doublet, express).

Arquebus: ancient rifle with a barrel about 1,000 mm long. The term comes from the word “archibuso”, which means “perforated instrument that makes the effect of the bow”.

Front-loading: loading system that involves the introduction of dust and the ball from the mouth of the weapon or, in the case of a front-loading revolver, from the mouth of each drum chamber.

Double action: configuration of the shooting system for which pressing the trigger causes both the armament of the dog and its release.

Mixed action: configuration of the shooting system for which it is possible to shoot both in Double action, and arm the dog manually and shoot in Single action. Generally, in a semi-automatic pistol with mixed action the first shot can be exploded at the choice of the shooter, while the subsequent ones have exploded in Single Action since the cart automatically arms the dog.

Single action: configuration of the trigger system for which the trigger pressure causes only the release of the dog, which must then be armed by means of an additional and independent mechanical action (pressure of the shooter’s finger or, in a semi-automatic weapon, retraction of the carriage).

Basin: also called bowl. Small tray attached to the firing mechanism of a flint-footed front-loading weapon, intended to contain the fine dust for the ignition of the cartridge.

Bascula: it is the central part of the so-called tilting rifles (doublets, overlapping, drilling, single-barrel). Made of steel or light alloy, it has the function of supporting the barrels (which are hinged to it), the closing mechanism, the trigger mechanism and the stock. The lower part is called the chest, the lateral parts are called the hips. The bottom of the bascula is, instead, the part that houses the crampons closing the reeds. In a doublet, the bascula board is the part on which the back of the rods rests. The tilt face is the part on which the cartridge pads rest.

Drums: percussion firing mechanism; the term also indicates a grouping of several firearms entrusted to a single commander.

Bergstutzen: German term for the tilting rifle with two overlapping barrels, both with a striped core.

Shell: cylindrical container, generally made of brass, copper or soft iron, which contains and holds together the bullet, dust and ignition. Its main function, in addition to protecting the components from atmospheric agents, is to hermetically seal the breech expanding during the shot, thus avoiding dangerous gas vents towards the shooter.

Fall: Downward shift of the point of impact of a projectile relative to the targeted point with the aiming organs calibrated for a shorter distance.

Calcium: terminal part of the stock, against which the shoulder rests. The term may also refer to the removable crutch used by some guns to allow shooting from the shoulder.

Caliber: diameter of the barrel of a weapon, measured between the voids of the groove. It can be expressed in millimeters or in tenths of an inch. In smooth-bore weapons, the caliber is given by the number of spherical lead balls of the diameter of the barrel that make the weight of one pound. For example, the caliber 12 is so called because in the weight of one pound stand 12 spherical balls of the diameter of the barrel (18.2 mm).

firearms glossary

Burst chamber: cavity placed in the breech of the barrel (in the revolvers it is inside the drum), sized to accommodate the cartridge.

Dog: part of the weapon, in the shape of a hammer, fulcrated at the barrel in its lower end and free to rotate in its front end. Its purpose is to hit the trigger of the cartridge, directly or by means of a striker, causing the start of the shot.

Barrel: part of a weapon, usually consisting of a tube, crossed by the projectile driven by the combustion of dust. It has the dual purpose of allowing the projectile the propulsive thrust for a sufficient time to reach the maximum speed and to give the ball the necessary precision and stabilization to be directed at the target.

Manometric barrel: it is a special barrel used for testing the pressures developed by a given cartridge. At the chamber a side hole is drilled, which communicates with a piston. The latter, at the shot, communicates the thrust determined by the deflagration of the charge to a copper cylinder, deforming it. The measurement of the deformation of the cylinder determines the pressure (Crusher method). There is also another method, called “transducer”, which instead of the piston with the copper cylinder uses a particular quartz crystal. The latter returns an electrical voltage proportional to the pressure to which it is subjected, allowing a more precise measurement.

Carbine: this term indicates a long weapon with a barrel between 475 mm and 550 mm in length. In jargon, the term carbine is used to indicate the rifled barrel, as opposed to the smooth-bore rifle.

Magazine: Part of the weapon that contains the cartridges. It is single-row when the cartridges are kept in a single column, two-wire when the cartridges are arranged on two columns.

Carriage: part of the automatic repeating weapons, it consists of a prismatic block that supports the shutter (sometimes it is a single piece with the latter) and slides inside the castle, providing for the operations of feeding the cartridge, extracting and ejecting the fired shell.

Cartridge: set consisting of bullet, cartridge case, powder and trigger.

Needle cartridge: metal cartridge case, equipped with a brass or iron plug protruding from the edge of the caseback which, hit by the dog, communicates the impact to the ignition capsule, placed inside the case. The cartridge was developed by the gunsmith Houillier in 1847 and used until the end of the xix century.

Castle: supporting structure of a weapon, which supports and connects the barrel, the handle, the firing and closing mechanisms and the tank.

Cip: acronym for International Committee for the Testing of Small Arms. It is the European body that sets the dimensional and pressure standards for commercial cartridges.

Coccia: end part of the pistol grip of a rifle.

Ballistic coefficient: indicates the lower or greater resistance offered by the projectile in crossing the air. It is obtained by dividing the sectional density by the coefficient of form, a complex variable also linked to speed. The ballistic coefficient is, generally, less than 1: the larger the value, the better the behavior of the ball in flight.

Collar: front of the box, intended to hold the bullet.

Combined: tilting rifle with two barrels, usually overlapping, one with a smooth core and the other striped.

Forcing cone: in revolvers it indicates the rear end, without rifle, of the barrel that oversees the “forcing” of the ball in the rifles.

Counterplate: brass or steel foil, often in the shape of an “L”, which in front-loading weapons is inserted into the wooden case on the opposite side of the plate. It served to ensure that the head of the fixing screws of the plate did not rest directly on the wood, damaging it.

Breech: back of the barrel, which generally houses the cartridge chamber.

Sectional density: the ratio of the weight of the projectile, expressed in pounds, to the diameter squared, expressed in inches. Standard deviation: numerical quantity used to know the constancy between several shots of the same batch of cartridges of identical caliber. It is obtained by obtaining the average of the speeds of all the shots and subtracting this data from each individual measurement. You get numbers (positive and negative) that are called scraps. If we did the …

Sectional density: the ratio of the weight of the projectile, expressed in pounds, to the diameter squared, expressed in inches.

Standard deviation: numerical quantity used to know the constancy between several shots of the same batch of cartridges of identical caliber. It is obtained by obtaining the average of the speeds of all the shots and subtracting this data from each individual measurement. You get numbers (positive and negative) that are called scraps. If we made the sum of the scraps, we would obviously get zero. All the scraps must have a positive sign, so all the scraps are squared, adding the data obtained and dividing them by the number of measurements made. Finally, by extracting the square root, the Standard Deviation is obtained. Example: three chronograph measurements gave the following values: x1=233 m/sec, x2=234 m/sec, x3=228 m/sec; the average of the results is 231.7 m/sec. Subtracting this data from each reading yields: +1.3; +2.3 and -3.7. If we had not rounded the decimal of the average, the result of the sum of the deviations would be 0.

Raising to the square, positive values are obtained, 1.69, 5.29 and 13.69, the sum of which is 20.67. It is divided by 3 (i.e. the number of surveys carried out) and 6.89 is obtained. By extracting the square root, we obtain our Standard Deviation, equal to 2.62.

Diopter: device used on carbines to precisely direct the weapon to the target, in conjunction with the viewfinder. Generally placed at the rear end of the castle, it consists of a plinth that bears a plate made of metal or other material with a central hole. To aim with the diopter, you look with your eye through the hole until you find the viewfinder in the center of the latter and colliding both to the target.

Doublet: two-shot smooth-bore rifle, equipped with two independent barrels arranged next to each other. It is said, more properly, juxtaposed barrel rifle.

Back: back of the handle, in English called backstrap.

Drilling: tilting rifle equipped with three barrels, the breechs of which are arranged to form a triangle with the vertex at the bottom. The two upper reeds, side by side, are generally smooth, while the lower one, central, is striped. It is a type of weapon used exclusively for hunting purposes, widespread especially in Central Europe.

Glossary of firearms E-G

Ejector: this term generally indicates the automatic extractor of an overhead weapon. This, after extracting the case from the chamber by a few millimeters, violently expels it out, by the action of a spring.

Elevator: metal or plastic insole that communicates the thrust of the tank spring to the cartridges.

Elsa: Part of the handle of a semi-automatic pistol that covers the portion of the hand between the thumb and forehead.

Ejector: device designed to project the shell fired out of the weapon.

Extractor: lever hinged to the shutter or barrel that extracts the fired shell or cartridge from the burst chamber.

Express: tilting rifle with two juxtaposed or overlapping barrels. Compared to the doublet or the overlapping has the peculiarity of having both striped rods.

Power factor: parameter used in Dynamic Shooting, it is expressed by the formula PxV/1000, where P is the weight of the projectile in grains, V the standing speed per second. In the Standard, Modified and Revolver categories, Major is considered a factor greater than 170, Minor a factor between 125 and 169.9. For the Open, on the other hand, the Major factor is starting from 160, while for the Production the factor is unique and as long as it is not less than 125. The difference is important, because if hitting the zone “A” (the central one) of the paper silhouettes used in the races you assign 5 points in any case, shooting at Major factor you assign 4 and 2 points by hitting the outermost areas “C” and “D”, while shooting in Minor the points are respectively 3 and 1.

Focone: small hole that connects the seat of the ignition with the powder chamber of the box. It is also called a vamp hole. In forward-loading weapons, it is the narrow channel that connects the breech of the barrel with the bowl (flint weapons) or with the capsule (percussion weapons).

Caseback: the back of the case, including the grip hem of the extractor.

Rifle: this term generally means a long weapon with a barrel longer than 550 mm.

Needle rifle: first developed by the Prussian gunsmith Johann Nikolaus Von Dreyse in 1848, it consists of a rifle with the barrel closed at the rear by a sliding cylindrical shutter, inside which a thin steel stem (needle) snapping pushed by a spring, through a small hole in the shutter, hits the trigger of the cartridge. The latter consisted of a paper or silk casing that enclosed the ball, the dust and the trigger. The latter, generally, was placed between the ball and the powder, so the needle had to go through the entire throwing charge. To prevent gas from leaking to the shooter, the shutter was equipped with a gasket made of leather, rubber or other elastic material.

Smooth-bore rifle: long weapon intended mainly for the use of multiple projectile ammunition (pellets, pallets), since the barrel, being devoid of scratches, cannot stabilize a normal single bullet. For single ball shooting, special projectiles are used with special helical reliefs which, by the action of the air, provide for the rotation on the longitudinal axis essential for stabilization in flight.

Rifle rifle: long weapon intended mainly for the use of single-projectile ammunition which, by forcing in the rifle, receive a rotational impulse around its longitudinal axis, which stabilizes its motion in flight. The use of pellet ammunition is not recommended in a rifled barrel, because the scratches deform the pellets causing an abnormal enlargement of the rosé.

Rightness: attitude of a weapon to hit exactly the targeted point. Generally, a weapon with perfectly calibrated aiming organs is defined as “right”.

Trigger: lever of more or less arched shape that implements the release of the percussion system under the pressure of the index finger, causing the start of the blow.

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Glossary of firearms I-M

Hardening – fragility of the metal due to excessive rigidity, caused by a large number of deformations. It can be eliminated with annealing.

Trigger: a device that causes the cartridge launch charge to ignite as a result of a collision or rubbing.

Kipplauf: German term with which it is customary to indicate the single-barreled tilting rifle with a rifled core.

Luminello: hollow luminaire, screwed to the breech of a percussion firearm, on which the capsule is placed. When the dog beats on the capsule, the flame is transmitted through the inside of the luminello to the charge placed inside the barrel.

Hammer: steel plate in the shape of an “L” that, in flint-shaped front-loading weapons, is hit by the stone fixed to the dog, uncovering the basin and generating the sparks that ignite the ignition dust.

Sight: a small protrusion placed at the front end of the barrel of a weapon, made of metal, plastic or optical fiber, which serves to precisely direct the weapon towards the target. In smooth-bore rifles it is generally the only aiming device present, while in rifled barrel weapons it is used in conjunction with the aiming notch.

Patridge Viewfinder: viewfinder used mainly on academic shooting weapons, it is characterized by the blade shape with the square rear end and the rounded front end.

Miniskirt: oversized end of the handle of a semi-automatic pistol intended for dynamic shooting. It aims to improve the grip and, thanks to a special flare, to facilitate the insertion of the charger at speed.

Musket – long weapon with a barrel of less than 475 mm in length.

Broken ammunition: cartridge loaded with multiple bullets, usually pellets or pallets.

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Glossary of firearms O-R

Shutter: prismatic block designed to seal the cartridge within the burst chamber.

Dry ball: single bullet (Brenneke, Gualandi, etc.) used in smooth-bore rifles. The term is used to distinguish this loading from the pellet or pallet one.

Pallettone: lead ball larger than 5 mm, used in the loading of cartridges for smooth-bore rifles. From a legislative point of view, the pallet cartridge is assimilated to the pellet-loaded one.

Pellet: small lead ball with a diameter between about 0.7 mm and 5 mm. It is used in loading shotgun cartridges.

Striker: component made of steel or titanium that transmits the impact imprinted by the dog to the trigger of the cartridge, causing the start of the shot. When the shot is caused by the only striker who, pushed by a spring, generates the impact necessary for the shot, it is said that the weapon works with a fired striker.

Plate: steel foil that, in front-loading weapons, supports the components of the firing mechanism.

Accuracy: the ability of a weapon to concentrate several distinct shots in a narrow area of the target, regardless of the targeted point.

Forced test: test carried out by the Test Bench to verify the robustness and safety of use of a weapon. Normally, the test involves firing a special cartridge dispensing 25% more pressure than a normal commercial cartridge.

Rear charging: principle of operation that involves loading the weapon from the breech.

Revolver: also called revolver. A short repeating weapon generally equipped with a single barrel and a drum containing four or more shots. The armament of the dog causes the drum to rotate by a fraction of a turn, so that a chamber is always aligned with the breech of the barrel.

Recalibrating: refill operation that involves the passage of the case within a special matrix (die) to restore the original dimensions possessed before the shot.

Annealing: process used in refilling, which consists in heating the collar of a case to eliminate hardening, that is, excessive rigidity due to repeated deformations.

Rifulation: groove of the core of the barrel with two or more helical grooves. The rife has the purpose of giving the projectile a rotary motion around its longitudinal axis, to stabilize its flight. The rifcing is generally identified by the number of grooves, called principles, and their pitch, or the length of a complete turn.

Rosata: set of multiple impacts of shots from a single weapon. It can be determined by the explosion of a single shot with multiple bullets (broken ammunition) or by several shots with a single bullet each.

Glossary of firearms

Glossary of firearms S-V

Saami: acronym for Small arms and ammunition manufacturers institute. It is the body that, in the United States, sets the standard of size and pressure of the cartridges, similarly to the European CIP.

Safe: manual or automatic insertion device that, when activated, precludes firing. It can act on the trigger device, the striker, the dog or several elements at the same time.

Release: this term indicates the instant in which, following the pressure of the trigger, the dog or the striker is released from the action of the trigger tooth and breaks down, causing the start of the shot.

Shoulder: tapered portion of connection between the body of the box and the collar, narrower. If the shell is cylindrical or conical with a constant trend, the shoulder is not present.

Overlapping: smooth-bore rifle equipped with two independent barrels arranged on top of each other.

Aiming notch: metal or plastic plinth, generally placed in the back or median part of a rifled barrel weapon, bearing a notch that serves to precisely direct the weapon on the target, in conjunction with the sight. The aim is performed by looking with the eyes through the carving of the aiming notch until you find the viewfinder in the center of the latter and collimating both in the center of the target.

Calibration: Adjusting the aiming organs of a weapon to make it hit the targeted point, or a point that is a predetermined length from the targeted point.

Breech live: back end of the barrel.

Live sprint: front end of the barrel, also called mouth.

Sprint: front of the barrel.

Glossary of firearms


You don’t have to learn the glossary of firearms all at once but you can break them down by number or letters and give yourself an achievable goal.

Stay Tuned!

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