Commonly misused gun terms

Media is a main culprit when it comes to distortion of original firearms terminology. Sometimes it is an honest mistake owing to the shooters ignorance or confusion. People who are new to firearms could get carried away by this and use the obvious terms unknowingly.


For example, “clip” and “magazine” has been misused a lot. This could negatively affect the public perception as well. Are you guilty of misusing any terms? If so, this is a great place to start correcting firearms terminology.

Clip vs. Magazine

No. They aren’t the same thing. It has always been used synonymously. They both are used for holding the ammunition, but these look entirely different and it does not function in the same way either. The rectangular storage box like a feeding device which goes into the bottom of the pistol is called the magazine.

It moves the cartridges that are stored into a position which can be loaded into the firearm’s chamber by spring pressure. While some are detachable, some are fixed and integral to the firearm. The clip, however, has no spring and is only used for holding the cartridges in sequence for charging a magazine. Some are fed along with shells. Once all the cartridges are used, the clip is released from the firearm.

Pistol vs. Handgun

This term is one of personal preference. While some people like to call any firearm that is hand held a “handgun”, some people refer to any semi automatic handguns as “pistols”. This is a debate on a gray area. A reliable source, The NRA Firearms Sourcebook defines a pistol as “a generic term for hand-held firearm. Often used more specifically to refer to a single-shot, revolver or semi-automatic handgun. In historic records, the term ‘pistol’ was used to describe hand-held guns and then came Samuel Colt describing his cylinder-firearm invention as a “revolving pistol”. It would be wise to call all handguns as pistols and all pistols as handguns.

Suppressor vs. Silencer

There are millions of people who can argue on the usage of these terms. There are numerous sources that have different opposing views on the terms. Many experts believe that the term ‘silencer’ is a slang word and an incorrect usage of the term ‘suppressor’. Guns that fire silently only exist in movies and the suppressors aren’t silencers as they do not really silence the firearm.

For clarity’s sake we will refer to the definition in the NRA Firearms Sourcebook: “a device attached to the muzzle of a firearm to reduce the noise of discharge. Sometimes incorrectly called a ‘silencer.’” It is safe to remove the word ‘silencer’ from your vocabulary while referring to firearms as guns that fire silently does not exist.

Kick vs. Recoil

The proper term is ‘recoil’ as guns literally do not have legs to kick the person using the firearm back. The force due to gases expanding usually exerts pressure which pushes back towards the hand of the firearm user.

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