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Acanthus Scroll - An engraving design patterned after any of a variety of plants of the genus Acanthus, native to the Mediterranean, with large, segmented, thistle-like leaves. Photo
Accuracy - The inherent ability of a firearm to shoot consistently to the same point of impact. Sight adjustment and marksmanship are separate issues.
ACP - Automatic Colt Pistol. Colt's proprietary designation for a type of rimless cartridge design for reliable feeding from the magazine in a semi-automatic handgun. Example: .45 ACP. Photo
Action - The receiver of a gun containing the breech-locking and firing mechanism. The serially-numbered, legal soul of a firearm. Major types are: Boxlock, Sidelock, Blitz, Falling Block and Bolt.
ADL, BDL - Suffix designations used by Remington to signify grades of various models of bolt action rifles. The ADL version is generally the basic model. The BDL version generally adds a hinged floorplate, slightly better wood, checkering, contrasting forend tip and pistol grip cap. ADL and BDL stand for A Grade DeLuxe and B Grade DeLuxe. Photo
AE or Automatic Ejectors - fittings inset into the breech end of barrels of a break-open gun that kick out fired shells, while only raising unfired shells enough to be removed by hand. Photo
Alex Henry Forend - A forend with a circumferential groove at the tip, typical of this fine Scottish maker, (for tying a rifle into a vehicle-mounted rack?). Adopted by the traditionalist Bill Ruger for his single shot Model No. 1. Photo
Alkanet Root - Alkanna tinctoria or Anchusa officinalis, related plants of the Boraginaceae family, whose root, when steeped in a solution of turpentine and/or linseed oil makes a reddish stain favored by the London gun trade to impart an underlying reddish hue to fine gun stocks. Dyers' Bugloss. Photo
Ambidextrous Safety - A safety catch that can be operated by either hand. Of benefit to left-handed shooters and in the event of an injury to the right hand. Photo
Ampersand "&" - A mark used by Colt to indicate a revolver having been returned to the factory for repair or refinishing. Photo
ANIB - As new in original box. Perhaps fired, but in virtually new condition.
Annealing - Heating [steel] to above its austenitic temperature (around 1800°F depending on the alloy; to incandescent orange; just no longer magnetic) and then letting it cool as slowly as possible in order to relax inner stresses and to make it as soft as possible for ease of machining, filing, engraving, etc.
Annulus - A tiny circular recess at the base of a cartridge case surrounding the primer pocket. Recoil from fired cartridges invariably impress a discernable ring on the breech or bolt face of a firearm, providing some evidence of the amount of use it has seen. Photo
Anson & Deeley Action - A type of boxlock action design for a break-open gun, patented in 1875, the essence of simplicity utilizing only two springs and three moving parts (per barrel). One of the most successful action designs ever, and still produced to this day by innumerable makers in many countries. Photo
Anson Forend Release - A catch for securing the forend to the barrels of a break-open gun, operated, via a longitudinal rod, by a pushbutton exposed at the very tip of the forend. Typically seen on Purdey and Boss guns. Photo
Antique Firearm - Defined according to Section 921 (a) (16), Title 18, U.S.C. as:
A. any firearm (including any firearm with matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898; and
B. any replica of any firearm described in subparagraph (A) if such replica (i) is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or (ii) uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States and which is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.
Anvil - A small metal block, inside a Boxer primer, against which the blow of the firing pin causes the priming compound to be pinched sharply---and thus detonated. In the Berdan system, the anvil is built into the cartridge case's primer pocket. Photo
Aperture Sight - See Peep Sight
APUN - Action Patent Use Number. Under patent law during the period of greatest creativity in the British firearms trade (circa 1860 - 1910) gunmakers typically numbered each patented component with its own number of use of the patent (not the number of the patent itself as registered with the patent office as in the USA)---irrespective of the serial number of the firearm. Photo
Arcaded Fences- Fences on a side-by-side gun decorated with a series of engraved crescents. A particular signature of James Woodward guns. Photo
Arrowheads - A signature stock-carving detail of Robert G Owen, renown English-born American stockmaker, active 1920s - 1950s. Photo
Articulated Front Trigger - A spring-loaded hinged front trigger, built to cushion its impact on one's trigger finger as the gun recoils when the rear trigger is pulled. Photo
Assault Weapon - A vague, emotional term, used to instill fear into the ignorant, by persons with political agenda. Any weapon used in an attack: 18th century boarding pikes, Civil War Springfield muskets, World War II Garands, Vietnam M-16s are all assault weapons.
Autoloading [Action] - A type of firearm which, utilizing some of the recoil or some of the expanding-gas energy from the firing cartridge, cycles the action to eject the spent shell, to chamber a fresh one from a magazine, and to cock the mainspring in preparation for firing with a manual pull of the trigger. Semi-Automatic. Photo
Automatic [Action] - A type of firearm which, utilizing some of the recoil or some of the expanding-gas energy from the firing cartridge, cycles the action to eject the spent shell, to chamber a fresh one from a magazine, to cock the mainspring and to fire again. Such a firearm will fire continuously as long as the trigger is held back, until the magazine is empty. A machine gun. A firearm thus activated, but which shoots only one bullet with each separate pull of the trigger, while often erroneously referred to as "automatic" is more properly termed Semi-Automatic. Photo
Automatic Safety - A safety catch on a break-open gun that resets to the "safe" position each time the gun is opened, usually via a limb attached to the toplever spindle.
%blue - Bluing is a thin surface coloring, induced either by heat or by polishing and the repeated application of an acid solution to form a type of blue-black rust. Bluing reduces the reflectivity of polished steel parts and helps inhibit further rust. The percentage of original blue finish remaining is a quick indicator of the condition of a gun. In our condition descriptions, 98%blue means raw steel is showing through 2% of the overall blued surface. We try to describe the percentage of finish neither optimistically nor conservatively but exactly as it is.
B.Blindée - A Belgian proofmark indicating a rifled barrel suitable for use with jacketed bullets; Balle Blindée being French for Jacketed Ball, or bullet. [It is not a maker's name.] Photo
Back Action - A sidelock action where the mainspring is mounted rearward towards the butt. The back action is often used in double rifles where the need for strength requires as little steel as possible be removed from the bar of the action. Photo
Backboring - Enlarging the internal diameter of a shotgun barrel beyond its proper standard (.729" in 12 gauge) by reaming, in an effort to reduce the recoil or to improve the shot pattern. Backboring removes steel and therefore strength from the barrels---possibly making them unsafe. While there is no proof law in the USA, in England, to ream out the bore of a shotgun by more than 8 thousandths of an inch would render it out of proof and illegal to sell without passing re-proof.
Backstrap - Rear, metal, part of a handgun---which together with the frontstrap, provides a mounting frame for the grips. Photo
Baker Ejectors - A type of mechanism, built into the forend of a break-open firearm, utilizing a direct-acting coil spring to kick out a spent shell while only raising an unfired shell far enough to remove manually. Photo
Balance - The handling characteristic of a break-open gun. Traditionally, the fulcrum of balance should be right at the hingepin. If the balance point is ahead of the hingepin the gun would be said to be barrel-heavy with more forward inertia; slower to swing and slower to stop. If the balance point is behind the hingepin the gun would be said to be stock-heavy with less forward inertia; whippier; faster to swing and faster to stop. Photo
Ball - A spherical projectile, normally of lead, as discharged from a firearm---as opposed to a cylindroid bullet. Photo
Ball Screw - See Worm
Ball & Shot Gun - A firearm, built to be able to shoot either a single projectile or a load of shot pellets; generally built heavier than their shotgun counterparts and fitted with rudimentary rifle sights; often either with robust rifling just at the muzzle or with Lancaster Oval Boring. See Paradox
Ballistics - The study of the action of propellant powders upon projectiles, their speeds, energies and trajectories. Ballistics can be categorized into three phases: Interior (the projectile's behavior inside the bore), Exterior (the projectile's behavior in flight), and Terminal (the projectile's behavior upon contact with the target).
Banknote Engraving - See Bulino
Bar - The portion of a break-open gun's action extending forward from the bottom of the standing breech, supporting the hingepin. In modern side-by-side guns, it is usually machined to accept the cocking limbs and the main locking bolts as well. Photo
Bar Action - A sidelock action where the mainspring is mounted forward into the bar of the action. Often more graceful in appearance than the back action and theoretically allowing faster lock times. Photo
Bar-In-Wood - A style of gun configuration of breech-loading guns, aesthetically vestigial to muzzle loaders, where the hinge-pin and the knuckle of the action is housed as far as possible in wood. Photo
Barrel - An essential component of a firearm; a tube, sealed at one end (the breech) in which a propellant is ignited, whose rapidly expanding gasses create powerful pressure to force a single or multiple projectiles through its bore, out the open end (the muzzle) and down range towards a target. Photo
Barrel Band - A steel band encircling the barrel and forestock of a rifle or musket, helping to secure the barrel to the stock. Almost universal on US military firearms from the Revolution through World War II. Inherent to the definition of Carbine, in Winchester terminology. Photo
Barrel Band Front Sight; Barrel Band Swivel Base - A front sight base completely encircling a rifle barrel at the muzzle; a loop completely encircling the barrel of a rifle into which a provision for a sling swivel is integrally machined. Both details are in the interest of a more positive and reliable joint than a simple soldered attachment. Photo
Barrel Channel - The concave groove in the forend of a rifle stock into which the barrel is fitted. Photo
Barrel Length - The length of a barrel as measured from the muzzle to the standing breech in a break-open gun or to the bolt face in a closed bolt-action rifle, including the chamber. A revolver barrel measurement, by convention, does not include the cylinder, only the barrel itself.
Barrel Shroud - A covering attached to a barrel designed to protect the shooter from burns when the barrel inside becomes too hot to touch as a result of heavy shooting. Photo
Barrel Wall Thickness - The thickness of the walls of a shotgun barrel tube.
It is reasonable to assume that guns built by responsible manufacturers are safe to shoot, when new, with the loads for which they were intended. As the decades go by, however, as barrels are drawfiled or buffed for rebluing and as occasional pits are honed out of the bores, steel is gradually removed from the barrels. The barrel walls, already built thin for lightness, become thinner still. At some point they become too thin for safety. It is important to know the minimum barrel wall thickness of an old, well-used shotgun before shooting it. While no substitute for an actual proof test, a useful rule of thumb states that the minimum barrel wall thickness as measured with a proper Barrel Wall Thickness Gauge should be .020" in a 12 gauge gun.
bbls - abbreviation for Barrels
Battery - A group of firearms selected, as taken together, to be able to accomplish a broad variety of hunting or shooting situations. A 3-gun battery for Africa might consist of a .243 bolt rifle, a .338 Win. Mag. bolt rifle and a .470 Nitro Express double rifle. One could argue ad nauseum the relative merits of various combinations.
[In] Battery - A condition of a firearm where it is loaded, with the action closed, cocked and (with the possible exception of an engaged safety catch) ready to fire.
Bayonet - A knife, optionally mountable to the muzzle-end of a rifle or musket to add the function of a spear. For close-range combat and as a last resort when the ammunition is exhausted. Photo
BDL, ADL - Suffix designations used by Remington to signify grades of various models of bolt action rifles. The ADL version is generally the basic model. The BDL version generally adds a hinged floorplate, slightly better wood, checkering, contrasting forend tip and pistol grip cap. ADL and BDL stand for A Grade DeLuxe and B Grade DeLuxe. Photo
Beaded cheekpiece - A raised-carved cheek rest on the side of a buttstock, specifically with the extra detail of a shadow line around its perimeter where it blends into the buttstock proper. Photo
Beaded Triggerguard - A thickened, rolled edge on the side of a triggerguard bow. This extra detail allows the triggerguard to be made light, thin and graceful while at the same time thick enough to avoid finger injury when the gun recoils---theoretically possible with a sharp-edged triggerguard. Photo
Beavertail Forend - A broad forend, wrapping partially around the barrel(s) to give a more positive grip and to better protect the hand from hot barrels than does a splinter forend. Photo
Beach Combination Sight - A type of front sight, hinged, to show either an ordinary bead or a very fine bead necessarily encircled by a protective ring. Photo
Beesley Action - An inherently assisted-opening action, designed by Frederick Beesley in 1880, the patent sold to Purdey who have used it for every side-by-side sidelock firearm they have built since that year. Photo
Benchrest - (1) A stout table from which to fire a rifle, removing as much human error as possible in the interest of testing rifles, loads and/or adjusting sights. (2) Both a type of rifle and the competition in which it is used. A heavy, invariably single shot rifle, made for stationary target shooting. The rifle often having a flat underside for unaided stability on the bench. An exercise for ultimate accuracy of rifle and load with the variables of human marksmanship purged from the formula. Photo
Belt - A circumferential ridgeline around the base of a cartridge case, typically found on some high powered or "magnum" rifle cartridges to aid in the establishment of proper headspace. Photo
Bend - British term for Drop.
Bent - (British) A notch in a hammer or firing-pin housing. The sear rests in this notch when the firearm is cocked. When the trigger is pulled, the sear moves out of the bent, allowing the firing-pin to fall under the tension of the mainspring and fire the gun. Photo
Berdan - Normally a cartridge case having a primer pocket with two, off-center touchholes and an integral anvil built into the center. Commonly used in Europe. Theoretically provides more reliable ignition than Boxer primers by better distribution of the flash. Berdan primers must be pierced from the outside and pried out to remove for reloading. Photo
Best Gun - A pretentious English term for a gun that must have several specific details. To qualify for the title, it must have a Sidelock action with Intercepting Sears, have Chopper Lump Barrels, be Stocked to the Fences and have its lumps concealed by its floorplate. While almost any respectable gunmaker can accomplish these requirements, the implication, of course, is that it is also built to the highest standard of quality.
Bifurcated Lumps - A locking system for over & under guns whereby the barrels are mounted to the receiver via trunnions on either side of the lower barrel and where a pair of bolts move forward into recesses on either side of the barrel-set when the gun is closed. This system makes it possible to build an over & under gun with a sleeker, lower profile than possible when mounting the lumps, hook, and locking bites to the underside of the bottom barrel. Boss and Woodward over&under guns are built with bifurcated lumps. Browning and Merkel over&under guns are built with traditional lumps under the bottom barrel. Photo
Big Five - Traditionally, the panoply of dangerous game to be accomplished by a determined, and necessarily wealthy hunter---consisting of elephant, rhinocerous, cape buffalo, lion and leopard.
Bipod - A two-legged stand, usually hinged and attached to the forend of a rifle, for use as a rest in the interest of increased stability in aiming. Photo
Bisley - Village in Surry, England, at which, in 1890, the national location for firearms competition was established, hosting the Olympic Games in 1908. The Colt Bisley Target revolver is named in its honor.
Bissell Rising Bite - A lockup design for break-open guns, usually serving as a third fastener to strengthen the lockup of a gun with double Purdey underbolts. Designed by J Rigby and T Bissell, patent number 1141 of 1879. A loop-shaped rearward extension of the rib, drops into a mating female recess in the top of the standing breech, surrounds a fixed central buttress and is secured by a rising post at the rear. Often seen on Rigby double rifles of the period circa 1880 - 1920; after which even Rigby discontinued it in favor of the Doll's Head, because it had been exceedingly expensive to build. A marvelous feat of gunmaking. Photo
Bite - A notch cut into a barrel's lump(s) into which a bolt slides to lock the barrels in battery. Photo
Black Powder- The first successful propellant harnessed for use in firearms. Composed, generally of 3 parts potassium nitrate, 2 parts powdered charcoal and 1 part sulphur. Black powder explodes---expending its energy in an instant of time, produces volumes of vision-impairing smoke, its residue promotes rust in gun bores and it is unpredictably dangerous to handle. Black powder was replaced in the marketplace by nitro-glycerin-based powders around the turn of the last century because they burned more slowly (maintaining pressure on the projectile longer during its travel through the bore, allowing higher velocities), did not blind shooters with the smoke, did not promote rust in bores and was much safer to store and to handle. For these reasons, it is dangerous to shoot modern nitro powders in vintage guns (such as those with barrels of damascus steel) originally designed and contoured for the pressure curve of Black Powder.
Blacking - British for Bluing; see below.
Blind Magazine - A rifle magazine without a floorplate. Must be loaded from the top only. While less convenient to unload, it allows for slightly cleaner lines and slightly lighter weight. Photo
Blitz Action - A design where the moving parts of a break-open gun's action are mounted to the trigger plate. Similar in construction to a Dickson Round Action. Often seen on German and Austrian guns. Identified externally by a broader-than-usual trigger plate. Photo
Blowback - A type of action in an autoloading firearm where the breech is not locked. Rather, the recoil of the firing cartridge overcomes the inertia of a spring-loaded breechblock, forcing it back to cycle the action. A simple design, but limited to relatively low powered firearms---typically pistols of calibre .380ACP or less---or an impractically heavy breechblock would be required.
Bluing - A controlled chemical rust process that produces a very dark, almost black, blue finish to the steel parts of a firearm which enhances the appearance and provides some protection from unwanted rust. Sometimes it can have a slight brownish undertone. The percentage of blue finish remaining on a gun can be a proxy for describing its condition. Photo
Blunderbuss - A short firearm with a barrel of expanding diameter and a bell-shaped muzzle. Enjoyed some popularity in the 18th century. It was supposed to fire a charge of shot with a widely dispersed pattern, suitable for stagecoach defense or for boarding an enemy ship. But, the theory didn't work; just because the barrel walls fell away from the body of discharging shot did not draw the shot pattern wider. Photo
Boat Tail - A type of bullet, tapered at the rear in order to decrease turbulence in flight and increase accuracy. More prevalent in target rather than hunting bullets. Photo
Bockbüchsflinte - German term for an over & under combination gun with one shotgun barrel over one rifle barrel. Photo
Bolstered Frame - A firearms action, most commonly on a heavily recoiling break-open weapon, in which the action forging has been enlarged with extra steel at its weakest point---the line extending downwards from the standing breech, at the beginning of the watertable. Also called a reinforced frame. Photo
Bolt - A cylindrical shaft, controlled by an attached lever, which rotates a partial revolution engaging locking lugs in complementary recesses, contains an internal spring-loaded firing pin, and becomes the breech-block of a bolt-action firearm. Photo
Bolt Action - An action type, most frequently used on rifles, perfected by Peter Paul Mauser in 1898, whereby a cylindrical shaft, controlled by an attached lever, manually feeds a cartridge into the chamber, rotates a partial revolution engaging locking lugs in complementary recesses in the front receiver ring, allows firing by the fall of an internal spring-loaded pin, opening, extraction, re-cocking and ejection with the same lever in preparation for the next shot. Photo
Bolt Stop - A displaceable flange, usually towards the rear of a bolt action firearm which in normal position, either detented or under spring tension, prevents the bolt from falling completely out the rear when cycling the action. It is readily moved aside by the bolt stop release to allow removal of the bolt for cleaning or disassembly. Photo
Bolted Safety - A secondary catch on the safety, often seen on big-bore double rifles, designed to prevent its inadvertent disengagement by a careless gunbearer. Photo
Bore (1) - The inside surface of a firearm's barrel.
Bore (2) - British term for Gauge. See Calibre, Gauge, Table
Bore Sight (v) - A process by which sights are adjusted to converge on the same line as the bore. Accomplished by placing a rifle in a rest, sighting down the open bore on a prominent distant point at an appropriate range, then aligning the sights to superimpose on the same point. Alternatively, may be accomplished with a device known as a collimator. The process should conserve ammunition when sighting-in a rifle by approaching proper sight adjustment before actually firing the rifle with live ammunition. Photo
Bottleneck - A type of cartridge with a pronounced shoulder between the body of the case and the mouth---where the bullet diameter is noticeably less than the case diameter, allowing a larger powder capacity than would otherwise be possible in an altogether more cylindrical case, and to provide a datum point to establish correct headspace. Photo
Boxer - A cartridge case having a primer pocket with one central touchhole at the center bottom. A tiny anvil is built into the primer to provide a surface against which the detonating compound may be sharply pinched by the action of the firing pin. Most commonly used in the USA today. It is simple to remove the spent Boxer primer for re-loading the shell casing with a single, central, pin-shaped decapping punch. Photo
Boxlock - A type of action (receiver) for a break-open gun where the lockwork is contained within a box-shaped housing. (see also: Sidelock). A boxlock is superior to a sidelock because although more metal needs to be removed from the action body, less wood needs be removed from the head of the stock---and wood is generally more vulnerable than metal. The Anson & Deeley boxlock, patented in 1875, the simplest, most reliable and most successful action design, is identified by two pins spanning the width of the action, one at the bottom rear and one slightly forward and higher, upon which the sears and hammers, respectively, rotate. Photo See also: Sidelock
BPE - Black Powder Express. A cartridge "as powerful as an express train."
Brass - An alloy of approximately 2 parts copper and 1 part zinc, which because of its combination of strength and ductility, is commonly used for making cartridge cases, which fit easily into the chamber of a firearm and then when discharged, expand to seal the breech. Also, slang for cartridge cases.
Break-Action - A configuration of breech-loading firearm where upon the release of some kind of latch, the barrel(s), revolving about a hingepin, drop down some 45 degrees, exposing the breech for loading/unloading. Photo
Breech - The end of a barrel where the powder charge is ignited; the end closest to the shooter. Photo
Breechloader - A firearm that is loaded from the breech end of the barrel, usually with a cartridge (as opposed to a muzzle-loader). Photo
Breech Face - The flat, normally-vertically-oriented steel wall through which the firing pin passes and which supports the base of a cartridge when it is fired. Photo
Breechblock - A moveable block of steel, sliding in a mortised raceway, or rotating on a hingepin, that seals the breech of a cartridge firearm and through which the firing pin passes to detonate the primer. Photo
Bridle - A small secondary plate, mounted behind and parallel to a sidelock gun's lockplate which supports the inside ends of the pins about which the moving parts rotate. Photo
Broadway Rib - Browning term for a particularly wide rib for their over & under target guns. Photo
Browning - An oxidation process applied to the surface of raw steel, undertaken with acids, to produce a finish that resists further rusting, providing as you might expect a brownish color, allowing the pattern of damascus barrels to show through. Popular in the 19th century and with people today desirous of evoking that time. Photo See also Bluing.
Browning, John Moses - The world's greatest firearms inventor. Born in Ogden, Utah. While he made some guns himself, normally, he licensed his designs to prominent manufacturers such as Colt, Fabrique National and Winchester. While Samuel Colt and Paul Mauser achieved fame basically as a result of one idea, John M. Browning produced dozens of the most successful firearms designs, including the Winchester 1885, 1886, 1892, 1894 and 1895 rifles; The Colt 1903, 1908, 1911 and Woodsman pistols; the Browning Auto-5 and Superposed shotguns; as well as the BAR, 1917 and M2 .50 calibre machine guns. Photo
BT or Beavertail Forend - A broad forend, wrapping partially around the barrel(s) to give a more positive grip and to better protect the hand from hot barrels than does a splinter forend. Photo
Buckhorn Sight - A rear barrel iron sight, normally used on rifles, where the open-topped viewport is formed by a pair of symmetrical crescents. Rocky Mountain sight. Photo
Bulino Engraving - Shallow, pictorial engraving designs, often of photographic quality, executed directly by hand onto the steel with a fine-pointed scribe called a burin, without the use of a chasing hammer. Also called banknote engraving. Often seen on high-grade, contemporary Italian shotguns. Photo
Bull Barrel - A general term for a large-diameter, heavy, rifle barrel, used for target or varmint shooting. Photo
Bullet - A single cylindroid projectile fired from a rifle or handgun; either loaded from the muzzle or loaded into a cartridge which in turn is loaded into the breech of a firearm. A ball is not a bullet. Photo
Bullet Mold - A hand tool, in the general shape of a pair of pliers, with a two-part cavity of specific dimension at the working end, into which is poured molten lead in order to cast a bullet for a specific firearm. Normally affixed with a sprue-cutter to trim the excess lead from the bullet. Photo
Bullet Starter - A tool fitted with a concentric plunger used for starting a bullet on a balanced path into the bore of a rifle from the muzzle. Often used in conjunction with a false muzzle built for the specific rifle. Photo
Burgess Front Sight - An excellent easily retractable front sight blade, designed and built by gunsmith Tom Burgess. Photo
Burgess Mounts - An excellent quick-detachable scope mounting system, designed and built by gunsmith Tom Burgess. Operated by turning locking levers a detented 90 degrees. Photo
Burnish (v) - To smooth a (steel) surface to a mirror finish by firmly rubbing with a hard, polished steel tool, compressing unevenness in the surface. Photo
Bushed Firing Pins - Circular steel fittings, about 1/2 inch in diameter, screwed into the breech face of a gun and through which the firing pins pass. Firing pin bushings allow the convenient replacement of broken firing pins. They also allow the renewal of an older gun where, over the decades, leakage of high-pressure gas from corrosive primers has eroded the breech face around the firing pins. In British: Disk-set strikers. Photo
Butt (1) - The end of a gun stock; the part that rests on the shoulder when the gun is mounted. Photo
Butt (2) - A fixed-position shooting station for British-style driven bird shooting, often rock-lined and partially underground, providing some effect of a blind for the shooter (the Gun) and his loader. Photo
Buttplate - A plate made of some material harder than the wood of the buttstock, fitted to the end of same to protect it. It may be made of hardrubber, horn, plastic or steel. It may be shaped relatively flat like a Winchester "Shotgun" butt on a rifle, like a crescent, or with all manner of protruding appendages in the interest of achieving consistency of mounting position as in a Swiss or scheutzen buttplate. It may be finished smooth, checkered, striated or engraved. Photo
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C-Fastener - Westley Richards' proprietary toplever-actuated bolting system for break-open guns and rifles, whereby the toplever, when pushed to the right, cams against a facet on the top of the action body and withdraws the locking bolts rearward from their respective bites. Photo
C-Ring - An internal web machined in the front receiver ring of a Mauser Model 98 and of all the proper copies of this famous action. Not only does this internal ring provide additional strength to the receiver at its most stress-bearing point, this essential part of the design provides a stop for the barrel when screwed into the receiver, allowing positive control of headspace. Because there is a cut-out for the bolt's claw extractor, it appears in the form of a "C" when viewed from the loading ramp. Being difficult to machine, lesser actions' front receiver rings are simply bored straight through. Photo
Cal. or Calibre - System of measurement for the internal bore diameter of a rifled-barreled firearm (rifle or pistol) based on the decimal part of an inch. For example, .25 calibre and .250 calibre both signify a bore size of 1/4 inch. American calibre designations refer to the distance from land to land, not groove to groove. Ammunition companies' marketing departments occasionally take liberties with exact measurements. For example, a .270 Winchester bullet actually measures .277 inch in diameter.
Call Bead - A flat gold or brass disc, mounted into the face of a front sight, seen as a crisp circle. Photo
Camp Perry - National Guard facility near Port Clinton, Ohio containing the largest rifle range in the world. Site, since 1912 of the NRA's national rifle matches. Also, in its honor, the name of a model of Colt .22LR calibre single shot target pistol. Photo
Cannelure - A crimped or knurled groove, rolled onto a bullet or the neck of a cartridge case, to help retain a bullet in its case, and/or to provide a space for bullet lubricant. Photo
Cant (v) - To tilt a gun to one side or the other, complicating sighting considerably. Can cause material loss of accuracy, particularly with a rifle at longer ranges. Some better long range target rifles are equipped with Spirit Level sights to help the marksman control canting.
Cap - A percussion cap; a separate primer; fit over the tip of the nipple of a muzzle-loading percussion-actioned firearm. Photo
Cape Gun - A two-barreled, side-by-side, shoulder-fired gun having one smoothbore shotgun barrel and one rifled barrel. Photo
Capper / De-Capper - A hand tool used in the field for inserting live and removing spent primers from cartridges. Photo
Captive Ramrod - A rod, for loading and/or cleaning a muzzle-loading firearm (usually a pistol) that is permanently connected to the gun by some sort of swivel, so as to be utilized easily, but never lost. Photo
Carbine - A general term referring to relatively short-barreled, quick-handling rifle, often intended for use on horseback. Photo In Winchester lever-action terminology, a carbine has a single barrel band. In German, a Stutzen.
Cartouche - A mark within a border. On an American military rifle it is typically stamped into the wood and shows the initials of the name of the accepting inspector and often, the date he accepted the firearm into service. Notable gunmakers have used the concept by stamping their mark onto a bit of precious metal in a small recess in the steel. Photo
Cartridge - In its definition valid from circa 1870 to the present: a small usually cylindrical packet, containing a detonating primer, a powder charge, a load---either a single projectile for a rifle or a quantity of small pellets for a shotgun---and possibly some attendant wadding. The cartridge is placed into the breech of a firearm, comprising all required consumables for the firing of the weapon. Photo
Cartridge Trap - A compartment built into the buttstock of a long gun, usually with a hinged cover, in which are drilled holes deep enough to hold several spare cartridges of the type suitable for use in the specific gun. Photo
Cast Off - An offset of a gun stock to the right, so that the line of sight aligns comfortably with the right eye while the butt of the stock rests comfortably on the right shoulder. Almost all right-handed shooters benefit from a little castoff and most custom built guns are made this way. The only question is how much. The castoff of a gun is about right when, with the gun comfortably mounted, the front bead lines up with the center of the standing breech. Photo A stock offset to the left, for shooting from the left shoulder is said to be Cast On. See also: Eye Dominance.
Casehardening Colors - mottled blue/green/brown colors on a shotgun or double rifle receiver, vintage Winchester receiver or Colt Single Action frame. The colors are the by-product of a heat-treating process that incorporates carbon into the surface molecular structure of the steel, providing a hard-wearing surface without making the entire receiver brittle. The parts to be casehardened are packed in a crucible with carbon-rich media such as bone meal and charcoal, heated to bright orange, about 1800°F, then quenched in bubbling oil. Also called Carbonizing. The colors themselves are fairly perishable both from wear and from sunlight. The percentage of original case colors remaining is therefore a quick proxy for the cosmetic condition of the gun. Photo
Guns should never be rehardened in the vain interest of restoring the cosmetic effect of the colors. Casehardening is a heat process which alters the surface molecular structure of the steel. Rehardening an action can warp it. Subsequent efforts to straighten the metalwork, either by bending or filing can only harm the fine original metal-to-metal fit and adversely alter the workings of carefully aligned internal parts.
Castellated Fences - See Arcaded Fences
Centerfire Cartridge - A cartridge with a separate removable/replaceable detonating primer pressed into the center of its base---as opposed to a rimfire cartridge.
Central Vision - A form of stock design, particularly for shotguns, having considerable cast, perhaps an inch and a half, to bring the line of sight centrally between the shooter's two eyes.
Chamber - An area at the breech end of a barrel, of about the diameter of the cartridge for which the gun was intended, and into which the cartridge is inserted. The nominal length of a shotgun chamber will accommodate the loaded cartridge for which it was intended and allow for its crimp to open fully when the cartridge is fired. Although one can easily insert a longer-than-nominal-length loaded cartridge in a shotgun chamber, it is not advisable to do so because when it is fired the crimp will open into the forcing cone. Because of the taper of the forcing cone, the crimp will not be able to open fully and the gun will develop far greater pressure than it was designed to handle. Photo
While most 12 gauge shotguns built today have nominal 2 3/4" chambers, this was not always the case. Prewar American guns and many modern English guns often have shorter chambers. It is important to know the length of a gun's chambers and to use the ammunition for which it was intended.
Chamber Cast - To pour a low-melting-point material such as "Cerrosafe" into the chamber of a firearm, let it just cool, knock out the plug and measure it with a micrometer against published dimensional specifications to determine the chambering of a possibly-unmarked or possibly-altered firearm. Photo
Chamber Depth Gauge - A cylindrical plug of hardened steel, precisely machined in relation to the standard dimensional specifications of a given cartridge, engraved with circumferential lines demarking the different typical lengths of cartridges available for that bore. By inserting the appropriate bore's plug-gauge into the chamber, one can read off the line indicating the nominal maximum length of the cartridge which should safely be able to be shot from that gun (provided, of course, the gun be in sound condition). Photo
Charger - A simple, disposable narrow spring-lined channel-rail in which cartridges are supplied for military weapons. The shooter positions the clip vertically above the firearm's internal magazine, then pressing down with the thumb, slides the cartridges from the charger and down into the magazine.. Photo
Checkered Butt - Checkering, applied to the otherwise-unfinished butt end of a gunstock. Photo
Checkering - A regular pattern of fine grooves cut into the surface of a stock to aid in gripping a gun. Originally done for utility only, checkering has become an art form in itself; craftsmen adorning the borders with ribbons, fleur-de-lys, floral carving, etc. The amount of coverage, the precise regularity, and the number of lines per inch indicate the quality of the work. Too-fine checkering, however, defeats the purpose of the work altogether. Photo
Cheekpiece - A broad, flat, raised area on the side of a buttstock. While considered a sign of a well-appointed gun, it actually may interfere with natural mounting and pointing---somewhat negating the positive effect of cast-off. The cheekpiece is carved on the left side of a stock for a right-handed shooter; it is on the right side for a left-handed shooter. Photo
Cherry - A rotary machine-tool cutting bit, in the precise shape of a specific bullet. Used for cutting the internal cavity of a bullet mold. Photo
Choke - A carefully measured constriction of the bore of a shotgun at the muzzle, designed to control the spread of the shot as it leaves the barrel. Photo
Hallowell & Co.'s descriptions of choke borings are determined by measuring with a bore micrometer, irrespective of any markings on the barrels. The internal diameter is measured four inches from the muzzle and again just at the muzzle. Subtracting gives the amount of constriction in thousandths of an inch. In our descriptions of each gun, chokes are listed in the order of the normal sequence of firing.
Measurements of muzzle constriction by micrometer are useful to predict the pattern thrown by a shotgun barrel, but they remain merely a prediction. Patterns can vary depending on atmospheric pressure, humidity, length of cartridge, type of wad, size of shot, and numerous other factors. Terms such as "Improved Cylinder" and "Full" are only words, based on relative rules of thumb. The only way to determine the actual pattern thrown by a shotgun barrel is to shoot it, by convention at 40 yards, count the percentage of pellets falling within a 30" circle placed around the visual center of the pattern, then do it a few more times and take an average. Chart
Choke tubes - Short, interchangeable cylinders, of subtly different internal tapers, that screw into a threaded recess at the muzzle of a shotgun. By inserting different choke tubes, one can alter the shot pattern thrown by the gun. Choke tubes should be tightened until snug. Guns fitted for choke tubes should never be fired without tubes in place. Photo
Chopper-lump barrels (also called Demi-bloc barrels) - A method of joining the two separate tubes of a set of barrels where the right-hand half of the pair of lumps under the barrels are forged integrally with the right barrel and the left-hand half of the pair of lumps under the barrels are forged integrally with the left barrel. Chopper-lump barrels can be recognized by the fine joint-line running longitudinally down the center of each lump. This method of jointing barrels is the best because: 1. It is the strongest in relation to its weight, and 2. Because it allows the two barrels to be mounted closest to each other at the breech end, reducing problems regulating the points of aim of the two separate barrels. Photo
Chronograph - An device with a set of sensors through which a bullet is made to pass, connected to an electronic instrument which calculates bullet velocity. Photo
Churchill Rib - A relatively tall, narrow, matted, solid, top rib on a pair of side-by-side barrels, developed by Robert Churchill. Photo
Claw Extractor - An essential design element of the Mauser 98 bolt action and its derivatives: the Springfield '03 and the Winchester pre-'64 Model 70. A large, long extractor is mounted to and revolves around the bolt shaft---or more properly, remains stationary in the receiver raceway when the bolt revolves. This claw takes positive hold of the cartridge coming from the magazine and places it in the chamber when the bolt is closed. Then, when the bolt is opened, the claw, never having relinquished its grip on the rim of the cartridge, withdraws it from the chamber with absolute reliability. Lesser bolt actions have a small clip built into the bolt face which snaps over the chambered cartridge rim when the bolt is closed. While cheaper to manufacture, this system allows the possibility of the clip slipping back off the rim of the expanded spent case during extraction. Most experienced hunters prefer an action with a Mauser-type claw extractor for its reliability, especially when facing dangerous game. Photo
Claw Mounts - A quick-detachable scope mounting system, popular in Germany and Austria. The front of the scope is fitted with a hook-shaped tentacle which is inserted into a slot in a fixed front scope base. The rear of the scope is fitted with another set of hook-shaped tentacles. When these are pressed sharply downwards into their opposing receptacles they snap into place, held by a spring-loaded clasp, locking the scope into position. When properly installed, claw mounts are generally considered the best quick-detachable system for scope mounting: the cleanest looking, the easiest to operate and the most accurate in returning to zero. But, it is not an off-the-shelf, bolt-on system; claw mounts must be custom-fitted by a skilled gunsmith. Photo
Clip - A simple, disposable narrow spring-lined channel-rail in which cartridges are supplied for military weapons. The shooter positions the clip vertically above the firearm's magazine, then pressing down with the thumb, slides the cartridges from the clip and down into the magazine. Also: Stripper Clip or Charger. See Magazine.
Cock (n) - A firearm's exposed hammer. Photo
Cock (v) - To tension the mainspring of a gun in preparation for firing, such as by pulling back the external hammer, pulling back the slide of a pistol, or opening and closing the barrel(s) of a break-open gun.
Cocked and Locked - Proper condition for active carrying of a Colt 1911 pistol: a round in the chamber, the hammer cocked, and the thumb safety engaged. Somewhat unnerving to the uninitiated. Photo
Cocker/De-Cocker - A type of action on a break-open gun or rifle where, in place of a traditional top tang safety, a somewhat more robust tab is fitted. Normally such a gun is carried in the field loaded, but with the action not cocked---an exceedingly safe condition. Then, when ready to fire, the shooter, instead of pushing a safety tab forward, pushes this larger tab forward, cocking the mainspring, making the gun ready to fire. Then, if the shot is not taken, he may simply slide this tab rearwards again, de-cocking the gun and returning it to the still-loaded, but very safe position. Or, in German: Handspanner. Photo
Cocking Indicators - Small devices attached to the internal hammers of a break-open gun and visible from the exterior of the gun to show when each lock is cocked and when it has been fired. These are usually in the form of protruding pins on a boxlock gun or in the form of engraved or gold inlaid lines on the tumbler pins of a sidelock gun. Photo
Coin-finish generally refers to a high-polish finish, bright steel on the receiver of a break-open gun. Other action-body finishes could be case-hardened, blued or French-gray (a chemical-finish, dull gray steel color). Coin-finish, when appearing typically on a modern, high grade Italian shotgun shows off the exquisite and delicate engraving better than other finishes. The term is sometimes used (incorrectly) by people dealing in old guns to describe the finish on a well-worn gun’s receiver when all the original case-hardening colors have worn or have been polished off. Photo
Collimator - An optical device, mounted to the muzzle of a rifle via a bore-sized mandrel, the purpose of which is to allow a reasonable approximation of correct sight adjustment before actually firing live ammunition. Photo
Comb - The top of a gun's stock, where a shooter rests his cheek when mounting a gun. As it is the top of the stock that determines the position of one's eye, and one's eye is the rear sight on a shotgun, the position of the comb is very important in determining the proper fit of a shotgun. Photo
Combination Gun - A firearm with various different configurations of rifle and shotgun barrels. See various specific types: Bockbüchesflinte, Cape Gun, Paradox, Drilling, Doppelbuches-Drilling, Vierling, German Combination Gun names, Compared
Commemorative - In firearms parlance, a gun that was manufactured in "limited" numbers (often into the thousands), marked, stamped or fitted with extra bells and whistles in such a way as to evoke reverence to some famous person, place or historical event. Rather than to be manufactured for honest use, a commemorative is manufactured specifically to be collected. Actually to shoot one will normally delete any supposed extra value such a questionable concept ever had in the first place. Photo
Concealed Third Fastener - An extension protruding rearward from the breech end of a set of side-by-side barrels and entering a complementary recess in the breech face. The top of the extension is locked down by a cam attached to the toplever spindle. When the gun is closed this extra fastener is not visible from the exterior of the gun. Also called a Secret Bite. Photo
Controlled Feed - Aspect of the design of the Mauser 98 bolt action and its derivatives: the Springfield '03 and the Winchester pre-'64 Model 70. A large, long extractor is mounted to and revolves around the bolt shaft---or more properly, remains stationary in the receiver raceway when the bolt revolves. This claw takes positive hold of the cartridge coming from the magazine and places it in the chamber when the bolt is closed. Then, when the bolt is opened, the claw, never having relinquished its grip on the rim of the cartridge, withdraws it from the chamber with absolute reliability. Lesser bolt actions have a small clip built into the bolt face which snaps over the chambered cartridge rim when the bolt is closed. While cheaper to manufacture, this system allows the possibility of the clip slipping back off the rim of the expanded spent case during extraction. Most experienced hunters prefer an action with a Mauser-type claw extractor for its reliability, especially when facing dangerous game. Photo
Cordite - An early form of smokeless powder, developed in England in the late 1880s, taking the physical form of little strings---or cords. Unlike black powder which preceded it, it burned a bit more slowly, enabling pressure to build in a barrel more evenly, increasing the duration of the motive force, increasing its efficiency propelling the projectile down the bore to higher velocities. And, it didn't generate nearly as much smoke---which hitherto both obscured the vision of the shooter while revealing his position to an adversary. Photo
Counterbored Cylinder - In Smith & Wesson parlance, Recessed; which see. Photo
Crane - A swing-out arm on a revolver, to which the cylinder is mounted, and when opened facilitates loading and cleaning. Also: Yoke. Photo
Creedmoor - Site, from 1872 until 1912, in Queens, Long Island, of the National Rifle Association's first national matches. Name used by several riflemakers to invoke the concept of accuracy in their products.
Creep - Sloppy, indeterminate movement of a trigger before the actual point of let-off.
Crescent Buttplate - A sturdy, cast metal buttplate fitted particularly to many early lever-action rifles with a deep curve in the center of the butt, durable under rough use, but uncomfortable in use and extremely painful when carelessly mounting and firing a powerful rifle. Photo
Crimp - The star-shaped folded closure at the mouth of a shotgun shell. The nominal length of the cartridge is measured with the crimp open---for which the gun's chamber must be long enough to accommodate. Photo
Crossbolt - A steel bolt, mounted transversely through a rifle stock just under and behind the front (and sometimes rear) receiver ring, sometimes concealed in the wood and usually against which the action is carefully bedded. When properly fitted, it helps distribute the recoil and reinforces stock at the point where wood has been removed to accept the action. Recoil crossbolts can be recognized by the flush-mounted circular steel fittings on the side of the stock, but are sometimes finished with contrasting wooden plugs and sometimes concealed completely. Also called Reinforcing Crossbolt. Photo
Crosshairs - Basic form of telescopic sight reticle, having one fine vertical line and one fine horizontal line with which to establish the point of aim.
Cross-eyed or Crossover Stock - A gunstock with extreme cast (Cast-off or Cast-on), usually custom made, for use by persons with disability so as to be able to shoot from the right shoulder using the left eye (or from the left shoulder using the right eye). Or, for a right-handed shooter with a left master eye. Photo
Cross Pin Fastener - A horizontal wedge, press-fit through the forend of a vintage gun, through a lump attached to the underside of the barrel and out the other side of the forend. To secure the forend in position. Also called a key fastener. Photo
Crown - The finish contour of the muzzle of a rifle. May be flat or rounded. Often shows effective chamfering to protect the critical rifling at the absolute end of the muzzle. Photo
Curios or Relics - is defined in 27 CFR 178.11 as follows:
"Firearms which are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons. To be recognized as curios or relics, firearms must fall within one of the following categories:
A list of acknowledged "Curios or Relics" is available from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Firearms Technology Branch, Room 6450, 650 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20226 or at: http://www.atf.gov/publications/download/p/atf-p-5300-11/atf-p-5300-11.pdf
A special Curios or Relics license is available from the BATF, which allows collectors to buy eligible firearms in interstate commerce. A licensed collector is not authorized to engage in business as a dealer in any firearms, including curios or relics.
Cut-Away - A firearm that has had numerous careful machining cuts taken in its exterior with a view to exposing and demonstrating the functioning of critical parts of its mechanism Photo
Cutts Compensator - A cylindrical muzzle extension, with slots on the top, designed to push the muzzle down when a gun is fired, counteracting its tendency to rise. Photo
Cylinder (1) - That part of a modern revolver that holds cartridges in separate chambers radially around a central hingepin. The cylinder revolves as the handgun is cocked, bringing each successive cartridge into position, and locked into alignment with the barrel for firing. Photo
Cylinder (2) - A shotgun barrel with no choke constriction at the muzzle.
A B C D E F G H
I K M P R S T U
Hallowell & Co., Fine Sporting Guns
DA or Double Action - An action type, typical on revolvers, where pulling the trigger through a long stroke revolves the cylinder, cocks the hammer and fires the gun---and alternatively, where manually cocking the hammer and then pulling the resulting single-stage trigger fires it also. Photo
Damascus Barrels - Barrel tubes built up by twisting alternate strips of iron and steel around a fixed rod (mandrel) and forge-welding them together in varying combinations according to the intended quality and the skill of the maker. The rod was withdrawn, the interior reamed and the exterior filed until the finished tube was achieved. Damascus barrels may be recognized by any of a variety of twist or spiral patterns visible in the surface of the steel. Before the 20th century, barrels were typically built in this manner because gunmakers did not have the technology to drill a deep hole the full length of a bar of steel without coming out the side.
Damascus barrels were usually intended for use with black powder---the standard of the day. The contour of the barrel wall thickness, intended for the fast explosion of black powder, was quite thick at the breech and tapered thinner towards the muzzle. It is not advisable to shoot modern smokeless powder in a damascus barrel. Apart from giving due deference to the age of such barrels and to the method of their construction, smokeless powder burns more slowly, lowering the pressure at the breech end, but considerably raising it further down the barrel to a level such barrels were rarely designed to handle. Photo
Damascene - A form of decoration sometimes performed on firearms whereby very thin precious metal (normally gold) is hammered in artful designs directly onto the steel surface of the gun. Cheaper to accomplish, normally gaudier, and certainly less durable than gold inlay. Photo
Darne - A gunmaker founded 1881 in St. Etienne, France, famous for its sliding-breech action. (Pronounced: darn, not darnay) Photo
Date Codes - Chart
De-Cocker - A type of action, usually of a break-open firearm, which readily allows release of mainspring tension, rendering the gun safe. In German: Handspanner. Photo
Deeley Forend Release - A latch for securing the forend to the barrels of a break-open gun, operated by a short pull-down lever mounted to the center of the forend. Typically seen on Parker and Prussian Charles Daly guns. More properly known as a Deeley & Edge Fastener. Photo
Demi-bloc Barrels - (called Chopper-lump barrels in British) - A method of joining the two separate tubes of a set of barrels where the right-hand half of the pair of lumps under the barrels are forged integrally with the right barrel and the left-hand half of the pair of lumps under the barrels are forged integrally with the left barrel. Chopper-lump barrels can be recognized by the fine joint-line running longitudinally down the center of each lump. This method of jointing barrels is the best because: 1. It is the strongest in relation to its weight, and 2. Because it allows the two barrels to be mounted closest to each other at the breech end, reducing problems regulating the points of aim of the two separate barrels. Photo
Dent - Damage to a shotgun barrel from having taken a hit from a hard object. Thinner-walled barrels are more subject to the risk than thicker ones. While dents a few thousandths of an inch deep may not be dangerous, deeper ones ought to be raised by a skilled gunsmith before firing the gun, best done using a hydraulic dent-raising tool. Photo
Deringer - A small, single-shot, percussion pistol designed and manufactured by Henry Deringer of Philadelphia. Photo
Derringer - Spelled with two rs, any very small easily concealed handgun. Photo
Diamond Grip - The cross-sectional shape at the wrist of a long gun, describing a soft diamond shape (as opposed to a circle or an oval) in the interest of comfort---and a better frame of reference for the gun's position. Photo
Die - A piece of tooling used to form a sequence of uniform parts through the use of heat and/or pressure; especially, in firearms terminology used to form brass cartridge cases accurately to their correct size for reloading. Photo
Disc-Set Strikers - Circular steel fittings, about 1/2 inch in diameter, screwed into the breech face of a gun and through which the firing pins pass. Firing pin bushings allow the convenient replacement of broken firing pins. They also allow the renewal of an older gun where, over the decades, leakage of high-pressure gas from corrosive primers has eroded the breech face around the firing pins; and replacing these bushings with new ones, slightly oversized can compensate for a situation where proper headspace has been compromised. In American: Bushed Firing Pins. Photo
Dog Lock - An early form of Flintlock, incorporating an external catch to lock the hammer. See a Summary of the development of firearms ignition systems.
Doll's Head - A rib extension on a break-open gun, ending in a circular or semi-circular shape in plan (resembling the head of a doll), mating into a similarly-shaped recess in the top of the receiver, designed to resist the tendency of the barrels to pull away from the standing breech when firing. Because an action's centerpoint of flexing when firing is at the base of the standing breech, not at the hingepin, a passive doll's head extension makes an effective extra fastener, even without additional mechanical locks operated by the opening lever. Photo
Doppelbüchs-Drilling - German term for a three-barrel firearm comprising two side-by-side rifle barrels over one shotgun barrel. Photo
Double Action - An action type, typical on handguns, where the hammer may be cocked manually prior to each shot, OR, one may pull the trigger through a long throw which cocks the hammer (and in the case of a revolver, advances the cylinder) and fires the revolver in one complete motion. Photo
Double Rifle - Two independent rifles, built on one frame, designed to allow two virtually instantaneously quick, totally reliable shots. The barrels may be arranged either side-by-side or over-and-under. The apogee of the gunmaker's art. Particularly useful against dangerous game, which may be moving, and in your direction, with vengeance on its mind. Photo Regulation of Double Rifles. Double Rifles for Sale
Doubling - The unwanted tendency for a double barreled gun to fire both barrels virtually simultaneously---the recoil from the first barrel's discharge jarring the sear for the second barrel of its notch, causing it, too, to fire. The result of worn parts, coagulated old oil or unskilled maintenance..
Dovetailed barrels - The usual way of building a set of side-by-side barrels. Two raw tubes are filed to approximate their final contour. A solid block of steel is then filed to shape, fitted between the two tubes at the breech end with about 3/4" exposed on the underside and soldered or brazed into place to form the lump(s). Photo Alternatively, see Chopper-Lump Barrels
Dram - A unit of measure traditionally used for black powder shotgun charges. Today, used for smokeless powders on the basis of the new propellant's equivalent performance to that weight of black powder. Thus, a shotgun shell marked 3 - 1 1/8 would be loaded with the smokeless powder equivalent of 3 drams of black powder, and with 1 1/8ounce of shot. 1 Dram = 1/16 ounce = 27.34 grains.
Drilling - A three-barrel shoulder-fired gun, typically with two identical side-by-side shotgun barrels mounted above one rifle barrel. Built primarily in Germany and Austria. If with two rifled barrels above a single rifled barrel, it is called a Bock Drilling. Photo
Drop - The distance from an imaginary straight line of sight extended along the rib of a shotgun rearward towards the butt---to the top of the stock at the comb or the heel. (In British: Bend). The amount of drop determines how high or how low a gun will naturally point. Browning, in its infinite wisdom, considers that 2 3/8" drop at the heel will best fit the broadest range of shooters for field use. This measurement can therefore be considered "normal." A gun with less drop will shoot higher, while a gun with more drop will shoot lower for a given individual. When the gun is comfortably mounted with the cheek snugly on the comb, the drop is about right when you can see the front bead and just a little rib over the standing breech. Trap guns usually have less drop because they are supposed to shoot a little high in order to hit an almost universally rising target. Standard wisdom indicates that the drop is about right for a mounted trap gun when the front bead seems to rest just on top of the middle bead like two parts of a snowman, or forming a figure-eight. Photo
Drop-Box Magazine - An extra-deep magazine typical of large calibre rifles for dangerous game. The line of the underside of the wrist does not carry straight forward as with ordinary rifles. Rather the rear of the magazine aligns more towards the center of the forward edge of the triggerguard, typically allowing at least one extra cartridge to be carried. Photo
Droplock - A variation on the Anson & Deeley boxlock design, introduced by Westley Richards at the end of the 19th Century, whereby the locks themselves are removable, without tools, from the action body for cleaning or repair through a hinged or a detachable floorplate. A droplock action may be distinguished from an ordinary Anson & Deeley action at sight because it has no action pins visible on the side of the receiver. Photo
Drop Points - Small, raised-carved details on either side of a double gun, behind the lockplates of a sidelock or behind the flat sidepanels of a boxlock, in the shape of a hanging drop of water. Also called teardrops. Photo
DRP - Deutsches Reichspatent. Marked on patented inventions (including guns), adopted by recently-united Germany in 1877.
DRGM - Deutches Reichs Gebrauchs Muster. In Germany, a pre-patent registration of a (hopefully) patentable idea. A simpler, patent-like document of shorter duration. "Patent angemeldet" means, patent applied for.
Dry Fire (v) - To pull the trigger and release the hammer of a firearm without having a cartridge in the chamber. While benign enough with a Mauser action, it can shatter the differentially-hardened internal parts of a break-open gun which, upon firing, are designed to have the shock of the hammer's blow absorbed somewhat by the soft brass of the primer. If you must experiment with the trigger(s) and the action of a fine double gun, be sure to use snap caps---which safely replicate the buffering effect of an actual cartridge.
DST or Double-Set Trigger - On a rifle, optionally pulling the rear (set) trigger converts the front (main) trigger to a light, hair trigger---too light and sensitive to be carried safely in the field. While the front trigger is always at the ready, if one has the time, using the set trigger feature may allow for a more accurate long-distance shot. Operates using its own miniature firing mechanism (sear, spring and hammer) when cocked, to multiply the force of a pull on the main trigger. Photo
DT or Double Triggers - one for each barrel. Double triggers are better than single triggers on a double gun because: 1. They are simpler in design, therefore making the gun lighter and more reliable. 2. They are less prone to double-firing. 3. In the hands of an experienced shooter they are faster. 4. They allow immediate selection of which barrel to fire - the immediate selection of the pattern to throw - even while the grouse is flushing. Photo
Duelling Pistols - Single shot pistols, of a design originating in England, in vogue circa 1770 - 1850, built necessarily in pairs, either of flintlock or percussion ignition, usually finely made and cased together with loading accessories. Dueling pistols tended to be lighter and sleeker than their contemporary service pistols. They tended to have smoothbore (or sometimes secret, scratch-rifling), octagon (or octagon-to-round) barrels around nine or ten inches long of some form of damascus steel, bores just over a half-inch, ramrods, rudimentary sights front and rear, single-set triggers, roller-bearing frizzens and curved grips integral with full or half-stocks. They were usually of high quality construction, sometimes with silver furniture, but normally of relatively plain decoration. Photo
Dural - An early alloy of aluminum containing 4% copper which, after being quenched, hardens over a period of several days. Often used as a substitute for steel in the receivers of German and Austrian combination guns to save weight. Photo
Dust Cover - A small hinged or sliding door covering the ejection port of a firearm to prevent detritus from clogging the works. Photo
Ejectors - Fittings inset into the breech end of a pair of barrels of a break-open gun that kick out fired shells, while only raising unfired shells enough to be removed by hand. Recognizable at a glance on the breech end of a double gun because the fitting is split in two---one ejector for each barrel. Photo
Ejector Timing - The adjustment of the ejector mechanism by gunmaker or gunsmith so that both ejectors of a double gun will fire at the correct instant when gape is sufficient as the barrels are dropped, simultaneously, and with identical force.
Elevation - Adjustment of the point of impact of a firearm in the vertical plane; the knob used on an iron sight or telescopic sight to raise or lower the point of impact. Photo
Energy - Capability to perform work. As measured in foot-pounds, the amount of force it takes to lift and object weighing one pound, one foot. To calculate the energy, in foot-pounds, of a bullet in flight at any point on its trajectory:
W = Weight of the bullet in grains. V = Velocity in feet per second
Engine Turned - An jeweled treatment on a steel part done both for a finished look and to hold oil on the surface. An abrasive-impregnated rubber bit is used to describe a circular pattern on the surface of the steel, then moved just a little less than distance of the diameter of the bit, touched to the surface again, and the process repeated until the steel surface is covered with small regular rows of circular swirls. Photo
English Casing - A style of gun case whereby all the cased components are secured into more open box-like compartments---the barrels and action secured well enough, but the accessories liable to moving about a bit. An alternative to French casing, where all the cased components---barrels, action and accessories are fitted into shaped compartments with no space around them. Photo
English Grip - A straight-wrist grip, typical on English shotguns, built for graceful aesthetics, light weight and fast handling. May be ovoid or somewhat diamond-shaped in cross-section. Photo
Erosion - Deterioration of the inner surface of a firearm's barrel due to the intense heat of a cartridge's discharge. High-velocity rifles are particularly susceptible to this wear, especially near the throat.
Escutcheon - A plate, typically of more complex outline than a simple oval, typically of brass or precious metal, inlaid into a gunstock or a gun case, upon which is engraved the initials, monogram or coat-of-arms of the owner. Photo
Explora - Westley Richards' trademark name for a Paradox-rifled gun, in 12-bore. See: Paradox
Express - Marketing term coined by Purdey around 1855 to denote a high velocity rifle---as powerful as an express train.
Express Sights - "V" shaped rear leaf sights mounted to a rifle barrel on a block or on a quarter-rib, sometimes solid standing, sometimes folding, and often mounted in a row of similar leaves, each of a slightly different height, marked with the range for which each is regulated. Photo
Extended Top Tang - A display of gunmaking skill with a possible benefit of strengthening the wrist of a heavily-recoiling rifle, whereby the top tang of the action is made extra long, shaped and inletted into the top of the buttstock, extending along the top of the wrist and up over the comb. Popularized by Holland & Holland and adopted by several of the finest contemporary riflemakers in the USA. Photo
Extractors - A fitting inset into the breech end of a pair of barrels of a break-open gun. When the gun is opened the extractor lifts the cartridges so they may be removed by hand. Recognizable at a glance on the breech end of a double gun because the fitting is solid---one extractor taking care of both barrels together. Photo
Eye Dominance - Although we have two eyes for depth perception and for spare parts, there is a natural tendency for one eye (the master eye) to take precedence over the other, regardless of the relative visual acuity of each eye. It is a fortunate condition when the eye on the side of the shoulder where one is comfortable mounting a gun is also the dominant eye.
To test for eye dominance, pick out a small object several feet away. With both eyes open, center your right index finger vertically over the object. Close your right eye. If your finger appears to jump to the right, you are right eye dominant. Then open your right eye and close your left eye. If your finger remains in position in front of the object, you have confirmed your right eye dominance. Alternatively, if in the above test, upon closing your right eye your finger remains in position covering the object, you are left eye dominant. If you close your left eye instead and your finger appears to jump to the left you have confirmed your left eye dominance.
Eye dominance problems can be treated with 1. A severely-cast, crossover stock to bring the dominant eye in line with the gun's line of sight, 2. A patch over the dominant eye, or just a small piece of frosty Scotch tape on shooting glasses intercepting the dominant eye's line of sight, 3. Fully or partially closing the dominant eye, or 4. Learning to shoot from the dominant-eye shoulder. While less convenient, methods that retain the use of both eyes better preserve the ability to perceive depth in three-dimensional space---a great benefit in wingshooting.
Eye Relief - The distance that equates the exit pupil size of a rifle scope's ocular lens to the entrance pupil of the user, in order to achieve the largest, unvignetted view. This distance must be sufficient to ensure that the ocular rim of the scope does not lacerate the shooter's eyebrow upon recoil. And, the scope should be positioned so that eye relief is suitable when the rifle is comfortably mounted.
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Facile Princeps - "Easily the Best". A proprietary boxlock action design by W W Greener, similar to the Anson & Deeley, but more easily cocked with the fall of the barrels; the forend iron pressing on a rod passing through the front barrel lump and acting upon cocking bars just below and behind the front Purdey underbolt. Photo
Falling Block - A type of action used primarily for single shot rifles whereby some kind of lever actuates a breechblock, moving it downwards in a vertical recess to expose the chamber. May have visible or enclosed hammer. For any given barrel length, it allows a shorter overall rifle length compared to a bolt action because no space is taken up by the forward-and-back cycling of the bolt. Most of the better British makers produced them in limited numbers around the turn of the last century, the Farquharson being the most iconic. Perhaps the best-known falling block action today is the Ruger No.1. Photo
False Muzzle - An attachment made for the muzzle of an individual rifle barrel in the interest of extreme accuracy. The bullet is loaded through the false muzzle, which begins to swage grooves into the projectile exactly in line with the rifle's bore, and is then ramrodded fully to the breech. Then, the rifle (which can be either breech or muzzle loading) is set up to fire a mechanical bullet, precisely pre-rifled to fit that particular bore. Often used in conjunction with a bullet starter. Photo
Fancy Back - Any of a number of different contour variations to the rear of a boxlock action abutting the head of the stock to improve the look and justify a higher price than for a plain gun. Also: Scalloped Receiver. Photo
Farquharson Action - One of the classic British falling block single shot rifle actions, patented by John Farquharson in 1872, adopted by George Gibbs and others. Photo
Fauneta - Westley Richard's trademark name for a Paradox-rifled-barreled gun, in 20 and 28-bore. See Paradox
Feed Ramp - An inclined, polished area on a repeating firearm, just behind the chamber, that helps guide a cartridge into the chamber when pushed forward by the closing bolt. Photo
Fences - Hemispherical outgrowths of the receiver of a double gun that mate with the breech ends of the barrels. The term derives from the flanges (or fences) in this position on a muzzle loading gun that were designed to protect the eyes of the shooter from sparks and escaping gasses. Photo
Ferlach - A city in south-central Austria, famous since the 1500s for its concentration of makers of fine sporting guns and rifles. Home of the Technical school and an Austrian proof house. Even if no maker's name be found on a Ferlach-built gun, his identity should be revealed by the first two digits of the serial number. Table
FFL - Federal Firearms [Dealer's] License. Under federal law, to ship a firearm, a selling dealer must have in his possession a copy of the receiving dealer's license. Photo
Field Forend - A relatively slender forend on an over & under gun (as opposed to a beavertail forend). Over & Under counterpart of a Splinter Forend. Photo
Field Grade - A generic term for a plain, functional, unembellished firearm used to hunt in rough terrain where one might prefer not to put a more expensive, deluxe grade gun at risk of damage. Photo
Field Gun - A shotgun, generally stocked to shoot where it is pointed and of relatively light weight because one often carries it a great distance for upland birds---the consequent recoil not being an important factor because one actually shoots it very little.
Figured Walnut - Every piece of walnut is different in terms of its figure or fancy, streaked, fiddleback, burled, grain pattern. It is difficult to describe a beautiful gunstock in a couple of words, but at Hallowell & Co., we use the following terms:
|[No mention]||Plain wood, perhaps with visible grain but without swirls. Straight and strong.|
|Lightly figured walnut||Some figure to elevate it from the ordinary.|
|Figured walnut||Very pleasing figure, covering about half the buttstock|
|Highly figured walnut||Beautiful figure, covering virtually all the buttstock|
|Exhibition walnut||Stunning figure, dramatically covering the entire stock. We rarely use this term.|
Fingers - The forward-most part of a sidelock gun's stock; the slender flutes of wood extending along the lockplates, heading up to the receiver body. Also: Horns Photo
Firearm - A device which, on demand by activating some sort of switch like a trigger, ignites a very-rapidly burning propellant or an explosive, expels a projectile such as a bullet, or projectiles such as shot, from a tubular barrel (or barrels) with sufficient force as to cause acute bodily harm to the target, animal, or person which it hits.
Fire Blue - A Brilliant, slightly iridescent, and perishable blue finish on highly-polished steel achieved by heating to a temperature of about 500°F. Often seen as small-part details on pre-World War I Colts and the best contemporary American custom rifles. Photo
Fire Form - The act of firing a relatively smaller cartridge in a rifle with a relatively somewhat larger chamber in order to expand the cartridge case to the larger size. This action should not be undertaken except in very particular instances or catastrophic damage may occur. It should only be done when the larger chamber is of a closely related design to that of the smaller cartridge case---such as firing a .375 H&H Magnum cartridge in a .375 Weatherby chamber, or firing a .22 Hornet cartridge in a .22 K-Hornet chamber to re-form the brass to the latter "improved" cartridges.
Firing Pin - The narrowly rounded, pointed component of a cartridge firearm that impacts and causes detonation of the primer. This may be mounted coaxially with a coil mainspring in a bolt rifle, may be a small replaceable tit mounted into the breech face of a sidelock break-open gun or an integral part of the [enclosed] hammer of a boxlock gun. Photo
Five-Screw - Four Screw - Three Screw - Terms relating to Smith & Wesson double-action revolvers. The five screws were four retaining the sideplate and one at the front of the triggerguard. From the introduction of the Hand Ejector in 1905, there were five screws. Then, around 1955 S&W deleted the top sideplate screw. Around 1961, they deleted the triggerguard screw. Collectors find cheapening of fine products irritating. Consequently, all other things being equal, with Smith & Wesson revolvers, the more screws, the better. Photo
Flaking - The tendency for blue finish to deteriorate into rust, seemingly without either wear or ill treatment. Winchester Model 1892 receivers are particularly vulnerable to this defect. But, at least the condition indicates that, almost certainly, the remaining finish at least is original. Photo
Flanged - A cartridge with a pronounced rim at the base. While not as easy-feeding in a repeating firearm as a rimless cartridge, far more reliably extracting in a break-open firearm---particularly important in a heavy double rifle for use against big game that might fight back. Photo
Flash Pan - A tiny bowl-shaped vessel, attached to the side of a flint lock, to hold the priming charge of gunpowder, which in turn is protected from wind, rain and the adverse effects of gravity by the combination hinged frizzen-flashpan cover. Photo
Flat-Point Checkering - A traditional English style of checkering gunstocks whereby the diamonds are not brought to sharp points. While not offering as firm a grip as standard sharp point-pattern checkering, it is both more durable and allows the grain structure of the wood to show through better. Photo
Fleur-de-Lys - A design element used on the French royal coat of arms, a stylized lily flower, frequently appearing in the checkering designs of American custom rifles. Photo
Flinch (v) - To jerk a firearm off target inadvertently at the instant of firing in timid anticipation of recoil.
Flint - A hard, sedimentary, sub-micro-crystalline form of quartz, which when knapped (dressed to shape by chipping) and then struck against steel can be used to create sparks. Photo
Flintlock - A system of firearms ignition, in general use circa 1660 - 1825, whereby the pull of a trigger releases a sear from a notch in a spring-loaded hammer, which holding a properly knapped piece of flint, strikes a vertical slab of steel (called a frizzen) scraping off tiny molten particles of the steel, and pushing it forward causes an integral flashpan cover to open forward, exposing a bit of fine gunpowder below, which when contacted by the falling sparks, ignites and sends a flash of fire through the touchhole, into the loaded breech setting off the main charge and firing the gun. Photo The Flintlock system was supplanted by the Percussion system around 1820.
Floated barrel - A rifle barrel mounted firmly to the receiver (which, in turn, is mounted firmly to the stock) but not touching the forend. Done so that the stock will not adversely effect accuracy by impinging upon the natural free vibration of the barrel when the rifle is fired. Photo
Floorplate - A cover, usually of metal, usually hinged and latched, on the bottom of a bolt action rifle action which, when opened, allows the internal magazine to be emptied. Photo
Fluid Steel barrels - Barrels made of homogeneous steel (not damascus steel) --- standard practice for over a century. Photo
Fluted Barrel - A rifle or pistol barrel, into which longitudinal grooves have been milled. Fluted barrels, while more expensive to make than round barrels, dissipate heat more rapidly and they provide a better stiffness-to-weight ratio. Photo
Fluted Comb - A carved detail at the point of the comb---a concave groove---for more graceful aesthetics, and to allow a more clearance for a more comfortable position for the thumb as it wraps over the wrist than does a fatter, non-fluted comb. Photo
Follower - A smooth, sometimes contoured plate, within a magazine, at the top of a spring, across which cartridges slide when being loaded into a chamber. Photo
Forcing Cone - In a shotgun barrel, A tapered area a few inches from the breech end, providing a transition between the chamber (approximately the diameter of the outside of a shotgun shell) to the bore proper (approximately the diameter of the inside of a shotgun shell). The forcing cone provides the transition between the exterior and the interior diameters of the cartridge. Older shotguns usually have more abrupt forcing cones suitable for then-current thick-walled paper shells with fibre wads. Newer shotguns usually have more gradual, longer forcing cones suitable for thinner modern plastic shells with obturating plastic shot-cup wads. Photo
Forend - One of the three major dismountable components of a break-open gun (the others being the barrel(s) and the action/buttstock) which secures the barrels to the receiver, often houses the ejector mechanism, and for some, provides a handle for the one's secondary hand. Photo
Forend Iron - The steel skeleton of the forend (above), into which any moving parts are fitted and which mates to and revolves about the action knuckle when the gun is opened. Photo
Francotte, Auguste - A prominent gunmaker founded in Liege, Belgium in 1805. (Pronounced frauncot, not francottie)
French Casing - A style of gun case, where all the cased components---barrels, action and accessories are fitted into shaped compartments with no space around them. An alternative to English Casing whereby all the cased components are secured into more open box-like compartments---the barrels and action secured well enough, but the accessories liable to moving around a bit. Photo
French Gray - An acid etched or phosphate finish, applied typically to shotgun actions, forming a gray-colored, non-reflective matte finish which also provides some protection from rust. Also called, gray-etched. Photo
Frizzen - That part of a flintlock action that receives the blow of the flint-tipped hammer, which then yields tiny molten fragments of steel---sparks---which fall into the flashpan, igniting the priming charge and thence, through the touchhole, the main charge. Photo
Frontstrap - Front, metal, part of a handgun's grip---which together with the backstrap, provides a mounting frame for the grip panels. Photo
FTF - Acronym for Failure to Fire.
FTE - Acronym for Failure to Eject.
Fugger, Josef - Austrian-born engraver, spent most of his professional life at Griffin & Howe in New York. Photo
Full Stock - A rifle or carbine with a one-piece stock extending to the muzzle. Sometimes called a Mannlicher stock, although such a term is confusing because Mannlicher Schoenauer rifles are built with both full and half stocks. Traditional in Europe for close-range woodland hunting, but not noted for extreme, long-range accuracy. Photo
Funeral Grade - A colloquial term to describe a break-open gun, of any quality but often of the very highest, bearing the least possible decoration; having an all-blued receiver with either no engraving at all or only a simple borderline. Photo
Furniture - in British-speak, the visible small steel parts of a double gun: toplever, triggerguard, safety tab, forend release lever, etc. These parts are normally blued. Photo
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Gain Twist - A form of rifling where the helical angle sharpens progressively down the bore in the interest of maximizing the bullets ultimate rotational speed by initiating it slowly.
Gape - The degree to which the barrel(s) of a break-open gun drop down; the size of the opening space---which should be sufficient to allow for ease of loading, unloading and properly-functioning ejection. A good gape is easier to achieve on a side-by-side than an over & under where the bottom barrel is well-enclosed by the action body. Photo
Garniture - A deluxe set of several different associated weapons, being any combination of rifle, shotgun, various handguns, and possibly a knife or two, cased together with appropriate cleaning and loading tools. Photo
Gas Vent - A passage built into a firearm to allow the safe conduct of unexpected gas, as from a pierced primer, to minimize damage both to the gun and to the shooter. Photo
Gauge - System of measurement for the internal bore diameter of a smooth-bore firearm based on the diameter of each of that number of spherical lead balls whose total weight equals one pound. The internal diameter of a 12 gauge shotgun barrel is therefore equal to the diameter of a lead ball weighing 1/12 pound, which happens to be .729" (Or in British: Bore.) The Gauge/Bore system is also used, by convention, to describe the internal barrel diameter of large-bore, 19th century, English, single-shot and double-barrel rifles. Table
Gesichert - German word for SAFE. Photo
Glassbedding - Swabbing wet epoxy over the inletted portion of a stock, covering the metalwork with a release agent and pressing the barreled action into the wood. A process undertaken to compensate for imperfect wood-to-metal fit. Photo
Gloaming Sight - A second, folding or pop-up front sight bead of larger than usual size, perhaps not as accurate as a normal fine bead, but easier to see in the gloaming (twilight) or dawn. Photo
Globe Sight - A front sight assembly, primarily for target rifles, consisting of a tube, housing interchangeable beads and blades. The tube guards against imperfect aiming due to sight pictures influenced by reflections. Photo
Grain - A unit of weight widely used to express the weight of bullets and of powder charges. 1 Grain = 1/7000 pound = 1/437.5 ounce = 1/27.34 dram.
Graticule - British for Reticle.
Greener Crossbolt - A tapered round bar, operated by the toplever of a shotgun, passing transversely behind the standing breech of a side-by-side gun and through a matching hole in a rib extension; to strengthen the lock-up. Scott's crossbolt operates similarly, but is square in cross-section. Photo
Greener Safety - A safety catch mounted to the left side of a gun, just behind the receiver, which swivels fore and aft on a transverse rod. Often seen on drillings as well as on Greener's own shotguns. Photo
Griffin & Howe Sidemount - A quick-detachable scope mount system built by the company of that name. The base fits to the side rail of a bolt action. The slide locks in place on the rail with two levers. (Pre-war mounts had a single lever.) Rings of various heights and diameters attach the scope of your choice to the slide. Mounting a scope high enough allows use of iron sights. Photo
Grip - The area of a gunstock held by the shooter's rearmost hand. Also, in British: the Hand. Photo
Grip Safety - An interlock, often found on semi-automatic handguns, which helps prevent accidental discharge while adding no perceptible inconvenience when firing the arm intentionally. By the mere act of gripping the pistol in the hand, the shooter operates the grip safety, releasing its lock on the firing mechanism. Photo
Grooves - The cut-away, concave portions of the rifling inside the barrel of a firearm discharging a single projectile. See Rifling
Group - A set of holes in a target left by a succession of bullets fired from the same rifle or handgun, using the same ammunition and sight setting. Fired (within the limits of one's marksmanship ability) to determine the inherent accuracy of the rifle/ammunition combination---and to aid in the proper adjustment of the sights. Measured by the distance, on center, of the two widest-disbursed holes. Photo
"Guild Gun" - Deriving from the concept of the "Masterpiece" required of applicants to submit to their guild for formal admission to the trade, a generous (but inaccurate) term used to describe a (usually Belgian or Germanic) gun with no maker's name at all. Before World War II, thousands of provincial gunsmiths would purchase unmarked finished guns and/or semi-finished components from larger gun factories and build individual shotguns for customers, some engraved with the retailer's name, some with no makers' name to be found anywhere on the gun. Photo
Gun - (American) A firearm. (British) 1. A shotgun. 2. A person shooting a shotgun from a butt at a formal driven shoot.
Gutta-percha - A tree, of the genus Palaquium, noted for the rigid natural latex produced from its sap. An early form of "plastic", preceding Bakelite. Used to make molded handgun grips and cases for Smith & Wesson Model One revolvers. Photo
Hagn Action - A modern, strong, simple, solid, well-engineered, falling-block, single-shot action designed by Munich-born Martin Hagn, now of British Columbia and made both by him and by Hartmann & Weiss of Hamburg. Photo
Half Cock - A middle position for an external hammer that effectively provides a safety function. With a firearm with non-rebounding hammers, when on half-cock, the firing pin will not rest on the firing-pin. And, whether rebounding or non-rebounding, an inadvertent pull of the trigger should not release the hammer and fire the gun. Photo
Half grip - Round knob, semi pistol grip (Prince of Wales grip) Photo
Hammer - The part of a gun lock, which driven by a spring and released by a pull of the trigger, falls and (usually via an intervening firing pin) strikes the detonating primer of the load and discharges the gun. Hammers may be external or internal. Photo
Hammerless - A firearm with a coil-spring-actuated firing pin, or with its hammer enclosed inside the action body; i.e.. no externally visible hammer. Photo
Hand (1) - In any mechanism, a small lever that engages a notch to actuate movement in one direction only. Specifically, a small spring-loaded lever attached to the hammer of a revolver which actuates the cylinder to advance one increment and move the next chamber into battery as the hammer is cocked. Also: Pawl. Photo
Hand (2, British) - The wrist, or the grip of a long gun. Photo
Hand-Detachable Locks - The firing mechanism of a break-open gun which may be removed for inspection or cleaning without the use of tools. The release latch may be plainly visible or concealed. A feature typically seen on sidelock guns but also on the Westley Richards "droplock" boxlock action. Photo
Handgun - A small, short-barreled firearm, possibly small enough to be concealed on the person, and able to be held and discharged in one hand. The term includes antique dueling pistols, modern single-shot, semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. Photo
Handloading - The process of assembling cartridge case, bullet or shot, wads and primer to produce a complete cartridge with the use of hand tools in the interest of loading for firearms for which cartridges are not available, experimenting with loads to achieve better performance, or to save money. Not to be attempted without knowledgeable instruction and careful study of the process.
Handspanner - German for Hand-Cocking or Cocker/De-Cocker. A type of action on a break-open gun or rifle where, in place of a traditional top tang safety, a somewhat more robust tab is fitted. Normally such a gun is carried in the field loaded, but with the action not cocked---an exceedingly safe condition. Then, when ready to fire, the shooter, instead of pushing a safety tab forward, pushes this larger tab forward, cocking the mainspring, making the gun ready to fire. Then, if the shot is not taken, he may simply slide this tab rearwards again, de-cocking the gun and returning it to the still-loaded, but very safe position. Photo
Hang Fire - A dangerous situation resulting occasionally from the use of outdated old ammunition where the primer does not fire instantly upon being struck by the firing pin. The cartridge may fire in a virtual instant or some seconds later. In the event that a cartridge fails to fire immediately upon the pull of the trigger, always count out ten seconds before opening the breech.
Hanging Tag - The manufacturer's descriptive tag, tied to the triggerguard of a brand new gun on the dealer's sales rack. For such ephemera to have survived in the company of an older gun is both unusual and a small indication of the care it has enjoyed since new. Photo
Head [of a Stock] - The forward end of a buttstock, where it meets the receiver and accepts the bulk of the gun's recoil when fired. Photo
Headspace - The distance, or clearance, between the base of a chambered cartridge and the breech face (or bolt face) of a firearm. This is a critical dimension, particularly in high powered rifles. If there is too little headspace, the bolt will not close. If there is too much headspace the cartridge will not be properly supported in the chamber and the cartridge will expand upon firing and may rupture, blasting high-pressure gas into the action and possibly into the body of the shooter. Headspace should be .003" - .006" in a centerfire rifle. It can be checked with a set of "Go and No-Go" gauges specific to the calibre in question. (See below.) With a standard cartridge, the headspace is registered by the shoulder, with a belted cartridge, the headspace is registered by the forward edge of the belt.
Headspace Gauge - Plugs of hardened steel, precisely machined in relation to the standard dimensional specifications of a given cartridge, normally in sets of three: "GO", "No-Go" and "Field". By loading these plug-gauges into the chamber in succession, one can check that the action should close on the "Go" gauge. It should not close on the "No-Go" gauge---but might were enough force to be used. And, it absolutely should not close on the "Field" gauge. Photo
Headstamp - Markings impressed into the base of a cartridge case, normally identifying the maker's name, the cartridge calibre designation, and sometimes the date. Photo
Heat Treating [Carbon Steel] - A process to achieve the desired balance between hardness and resilience for the intended purpose of the metal. First, the steel is heated to above its austenitic temperature (around 1800°F depending on the alloy; incandescent orange, and no longer attracted by a magnet). Then, is quenched in water or oil to cool it as rapidly as possible. Now, exceptionally hard and too brittle for most applications, it is re-heated to a specific lower temperature than before and quenched again, relieving the desired amount of its hardness.
Heel - The top of the butt-end of a gun stock. Photo
Heel & Toe Plates - Protective plates, usually of steel or horn, covering the top and bottom of a gunstock's butt only (the heel and the toe); leaving wood exposed in the center. Photo
Heeren - A compact Germanic falling block single shot action developed ca 1880, which both opens and cocks when the front of the triggerguard is pulled downwards, and which incorporates an integral cocking/de-cocking mechanism. Photo
High Brass - By convention, powerfully loaded shotgun cartridges for hunting are generally manufactured with relatively longer brass end-caps than lower powered cartridges intended for target shooting. While different-sized brass bases are of virtually no consequence to the strength of the shell in relation to the steel breech of the gun itself, they do help the shooter identify the relative power of cartridges at a glance. Photo
Hinge Pin - A short cylindrical rod of hardened steel running laterally near the front of the bar of a break-open gun's action around which the barrel hook revolves when the gun is opened. Over the decades, this pin and its complimentary hook can wear and a gun can sometimes "shoot loose" or "come off the face." The proper cure for this condition is to replace the hinge pin with a new one, slightly oversized, to compensate for wear on both itself and on the barrel hook. Photo
Holdopen Toplever - A catch built into the receiver of a break-open gun to keep the toplever in its extreme right position when the barrels are removed. This device makes it slightly easier to remount the barrels. As the barrels are mounted and the breech closed, the barrels contact some kind of release pin and the toplever automatically returns to the center locked position. Because, however, it requires a separate act to find and to depress this tiny tab to re-center the toplever on a broken-down gun, this feature may be irritating when trying to put a gun away in its case. Photo
Hollow-Point - A bullet type with a concavity at its tip, designed to promote expansion upon hitting a solid target. Photo
Hood [Front sight hood] - A hollow cylinder fitted to a rifle's front sight ramp, both to protect the delicate front sight bead from impact, and to shade it from oblique sunlight which could have the effect of altering the sight's apparent position. Photo
Hook - A concave, semi-cylindrical surface cut into the forward lump of a barrel set of a break-open firearm which revolves about the hinge-pin when the gun is opened. Photo
Horns - The forward-most part of a sidelock gun's stock; the slender flutes of wood extending along the lockplates, heading up to the receiver body. Also: Fingers Photo
Howdah Pistol - Normally, a break-open, double-barrel, side-by-side pistol of large calibre, used by a maharaja when hunting tiger on the back of his elephant (in the howdah---the basket compartment in which he sits). The howdah pistol is the weapon of last resort in case the tiger tries to join him in the howdah. Photo
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I - J
Imports - Click for information for foreign sellers and for Americans purchasing firearms abroad.
"Improved" Cartridge - A derivative version of a basic established cartridge, typically whose shoulders have been expanded outward and forward for increased powder capacity for use in a rifle whose chamber has been enlarged accordingly, but whose bore remains unaltered. A concept promoted by P. O. Ackley. "Improved" cartridges are normally shaped by Fireforming a standard case in an "Improved" chamber. Photo
Inlay - A form of decoration performed on firearms whereby precious metal, usually gold, is hammered into recesses in the steel surface that have been undercut at the edges so that the soft gold flows under the overlapping steel and is locked securely in place. The gold is then normally engraved, carved, and chased into the image of a game animal, or linework or lettering. Photo
Inletted Swivel Studs - A type of base for detachable sling swivels whereby the steel base is inletted into the stock for a cleaner look, rather than simply being screwed onto the surface. A sign of a better custom-made rifle. Photo
Inletting - The process of carving out recesses in wooden stocks with precision, using gouges, chisels and scrapers to accept the steel components of a firearm. Photo
Intercepting Sear - A second sear, poised just behind a second notch in the hammer. It is possible that when a cocked firearm is dropped or sharply jarred, a single sear could jump out of its notch and the hammer could fall, firing the gun accidentally. In this event, an intercepting sear would engage before the hammer could fall completely, preventing an accidental discharge. On a gun with intercepting sears, only by pulling the trigger are both sears moved out of the way simultaneously, allowing the gun to fire. Intercepting sears are usually found on better sidelock actions. They are sometimes found on best boxlocks, and can be recognized by an extra screw behind the action fences, in addition to the usual two screws (or pins) along the lower rear of the receiver. Photo
Interrupted Thread - A screw with about half of its threading removed in longitudinal sections. Often used at the breech end of a takedown firearm's barrel. When the barrel's interrupted female threads are inserted into the receiver's complementary interrupted male threads, only a partial rotation is necessary for assembly rather than many full turns. Photo
Involuntary Pull - The primary obstacle to the development of a successful single trigger for double barreled guns. When a gun is fired and it recoils, as a reflex, the shooter grips the gun tighter, inadvertently pulling the trigger again. The first attempts at single trigger design, therefore tended to double-fire. The first reliable single trigger, accommodating the involuntary pull, was patented by John Robertson of Boss.
Iron Sights - A set of two metallic protuberances fitted normally to the top of a firearm; one near the muzzle and the other near the breech, which when adjusted and aligned properly with the target, aid in the placing of the projectile in the desired location---as opposed to a telescopic sight. Photo
Island Lock - A sidelock, inletted into the wood at the side of a (vintage) gun, in its own recess, independent of the steel receiver. Photo
Island Rear Sight - A rear barrel sight base, more articulated than having the sight simply dovetailed into the barrel, but not requiring as much gunsmithing as having it mounted onto a proper quarter-rib. Photo
J-Bore - In reference to variations of the German military cartridge, 8x57. This cartridge was originally manufactured using a bullet with a diameter of .318 inches. It is known in Germany as the 8x57I or in the USA as 8x57J. (I and J are interchangeable.) In 1905, the German military adopted a slightly larger bullet diameter, .323 inches, also with a slightly larger neck diameter, and named it 8x57S. Commercial sporting arms makers adopted the new cartridge at a glacial pace. Rimmed versions of both these cartridges are available for use in break-open and single shot rifles, denominated respectively 8x57JR and 8x57JRS. Often, it is difficult to ascertain which bore size a vintage rifle might have. Markings can be confusing and rifles may have been altered. The only safe way to determine the exact bore size is to take a cast of the chamber extending a bit into the bore proper and measure it with a micrometer. It may be safe to shoot a .318 inch bullet in a .323 inch bore, but accuracy will be unpredictable. To shoot a .323 inch bullet in a .318 inch bore is dangerous.
Jacketed Bullet - A (normally) lead bullet, with a full or partial sheath of copper, nickel or steel, designed both to withstand rotational stresses during its travel down a rifled bore and to control expansion upon contacting the target. Photo
Jeweled - An engine-turned treatment on a steel part done both for a finished look and to hold oil on the surface. An abrasive-impregnated rubber bit is used to describe a circular pattern on the surface of the steel, then moved just a little less than distance of the diameter of the bit, touched to the surface again, and the process repeated until the steel surface is covered with small regular rows of circular swirls. Photo
Jones Underlever - A lever, mounted to the underside of the receiver of a break-open gun, extending half way around the trigger guard and ending in a knob the shooter can grasp. When the lever is turned 90 degrees to the right, a pair of tapered, opposing lugs move out of mating bites in the barrel lumps, allowing the barrels to drop open on the hingepin. While not the fastest-opening design for the lockup of a break-open gun, it is amongst the strongest and most durable. Photo
Jug Choke - A form of choke boring sometimes performed on an older gun with less constriction than now desired---achieved by reaming the bore to a larger internal diameter a few inches back from the muzzle so that the existing diameter at the muzzle becomes, de facto, a constriction. Recessed choke. Photo
Jurjevic - The finest and most reliable of the retrofit single triggers for double guns. Operating by the principle of a sprung, sliding inertia block, invented and installed by Austrian master gunsmith, Josef Jurjevic, resident upstate New York, 1970s and 1980s. Photo
K - L
Keeper's Gun - General term for a plain, sturdy, functional, economical gun---as provided by a landowner to his gamekeeper.
Kentucky Rifle - A long-barreled, small calibre, flintlock or percussion, muzzle-loading rifle of the period ca 1750 - 1850. Usually stocked to the muzzle with maple and with a decorated patchbox in the right side of the butt. Something of a misnomer, as the form developed in Pennsylvania from the jaeger rifles imported there by immigrants from Germany. Photo
Kersten lock - A crossbolt running laterally, just behind the breech face, through the top of the standing breech of a break-open gun which passes through a complimentary hole in a flange extending rearward from the top side of a barrel. Double Kersten locks: two such locks; one on either side of the barrel set. A system of lockup usually found on German over & under shotguns such as Merkel and Simson. Photo
Key Fastener - A horizontal wedge, press-fit through the forend of a vintage gun, through a lump attached to the underside of the barrel and out the other side of the forend. To secure the forend in position. Also called a crosspin or a wedge fastener. Photo
Keyhole - The undesirable tendency of a bullet to tip in flight and hit a target sideways, leaving a distinctly oblong hole. This destabilization of the spinning bullet in flight is typically caused by a bullet aspect ratio inappropriate for the rate of twist of the rifled barrel, an out-of-balance bullet or its having nicked an impediment such as a twig, in flight. Photo
King Cockeyed Hammer - A custom hammer with a sidewards-extending spur, as fitted to revolvers by the King Gunsight Company. Photo
King Sights - Sights made and installed by the King Gunsight Company, noted for their elegant target enhancements to Colt and Smith&Wesson revolvers---particularly, their mirror-lit front sight. Photo
Kipplauf - German term for a break-open gun. From the words Kippen (tilt) and Lauf (barrel). (Courtesy, Dietrich Apel.)
Kipplaufbüchse - German term for a break-open single shot rifle. Photo
Knife Terminology - Drawing
Knuckle - The curved, forward end of the bar of a break-open firearm's action, about which the mounted forend iron revolves downward. This area should be kept lightly greased to avoid galling the bearing surfaces. Photo
KO or Knock-Out Value - An attempt by Englishman, African hunter and gun writer John "Pondoro" Taylor to compare the relative effective power of various cartridges. Calculated by: (Bullet Weight in Grains x Bullet Velocity in feet per second x Bullet Diameter in inches) ÷ 7000. Chart
Rudolph Kornbrath - Born in 1877 in Ferlach, Austria. Emigrated to the USA in 1910. Engraved guns in Hartford, Connecticut as an independent artist until suffering a debilitating stroke in 1937. Died 1946. Did much of his work for Colt and for Hoffman Arms as well as private commissions. Photo
Krupp - The pre-eminent family-owned steelmaking company founded in Essen, Germany around 1587 as a blacksmith shop, manufacturers since of every manner of heavy industrial production, but particularly noted for firearms barrelmaking and cannon production, aided in its continuity until 1968 by a German law exempting the family from inheritance tax. The Krupp name may appear on guns with no other maker's name. But, that will not indicate them as the gunmaker; only the barrel maker. Photo
Lancaster Oval-Bore. No obviously visible rifling. Rather, an oval-shaped bore cross-section that spirals as it proceeds down the barrel. Photo
Lands - The raised, convex portion of the rifling inside the barrel of a firearm discharging a single projectile that remains of the original smooth bore after the grooves have been cut. See Rifling
Lanyard Loop - A ring, often swivel-mounted, usually at the butt of a handgun to enable securing the firearm to a holster or to a belt with some kind of cord, or lanyard. Photo
Lap - (v). To polish with a fine abrasive paste, as to remove machining marks. Bores may be lapped to improve velocities and minimize fouling. Bolt actions may be lapped to improve the smoothness of operation.
Leaf Sights - Folding blade sights, similar to express sights, but hinged essentially from one position instead of in a long row. Photo
Lefaucheaux, M. - Patented one of the first practical breech-loading shotgun actions, using his proprietary Pinfire cartridge. The action operated by a forward-facing lever on the underside of the forearm, which when moved 90 degrees to the right, caused the barrels to slide forward and then to drop down exposing the chamber. Photo
Lever Action - A type of action especially for repeating rifles where cycling an underlever down and forward extracts and ejects a spent cartridge and cocks the mainspring. Then, cycling the lever rearwards and back upwards feeds a fresh cartridge from the magazine into the chamber, closes and locks the bolt in preparation for firing again with a manual pull of the trigger. Photo
Lever Forend Release - A latch for securing the forend to the barrels of a break-open gun, operated by swiveling a lever to the side. It provides a very positive lock; primarily used on double rifles. Photo
Lifters - Another name for Extractors.
Limb - A component part of a gun's mechanism---particularly an internal moving part, such as a transfer bar, plunger, sear, cam, lever, hammer, etc. Photo
Loading Gate - A sprung trapdoor, often seen on the side of the receiver of a lever-action repeating rifle having a tubular magazine. Photo
Loading Tools - A selection of hand tools included with a properly cased vintage gun to ensure its usefulness in the outer reaches of the Empire, far from reliable sources of ammunition. Photo
Lock - Part of the action of a gun; the mechanism by which a pull of the trigger causes a blow to be struck to the detonating primer, firing the gun. It can have an internal or external hammer, be a flintlock, percussion lock, Boxlock, Sidelock, blitz lock or of any number of different designs.
Lockplate - The plate on the side of a sidelock action (or a blitz action) to which the components of the lock mechanism are attached. Photo
Loop - A bored-through projection beneath the barrel(s) to secure them to the forestock of a muzzle-loading gun via the pass-through of a key fastener. Or, the lug by which the detachable forend of a break-open gun is secured to the barrels by means of an Anson, Deeley, lever, or other mechanism. Photo
Low Brass - By convention, lower powered cartridges intended for target shooting are generally manufactured with relatively shorter brass end-caps than powerfully loaded shotgun cartridges intended for hunting. While different-sized brass bases are of virtually no consequence to the strength of the shell in relation to the steel breech of the gun itself, they do help the shooter identify the relative power of cartridges at a glance. Photo
Low Number Springfield - Receivers of US Model 1903 rifles built at Springfield with serial numbers below 800,000 and at Rock Island with serial numbers below 286,506 have a reputation for having been improperly heat-treated and consequently dangerous to shoot. There were 68 documented failures between 1917 and 1929. More information.
LTFK - Long Tang, Flat Knob, full pistol grip. (A term used by Browning shotgun collectors) Photo
LTRK - Long Tang, Round Knob, semi-pistol grip. (Another term used by Browning shotgun collectors) Photo
Lug - A protuberance from a major component of a firearm for attachment to another part, such as a forend fastening lug fitted to the underside of a set of shotgun barrels, a recoil lug fitted to the underside of a heavily recoiling rifle's barrel and inletted into the forend, or a bayonet lug attached near the muzzle of a military rifle. Also, an extra mass of steel machined integrally with the barrel of a revolver to provide resistance to upward barrel flip and to reduce overall recoil. Photo
Lumps - The projections extending downward from the breech end of a side-by-side gun. Into the lumps are machined the hook (to swivel around the hingepin) and the bites (to accept the locking bolts). Also called underlugs. Photo See also Bifurcated Lumps and Chopper Lumps
Lumps Concealed by the Floorplate - One of the attributes of a "Best" gun. Photo
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Machinegun - A firearm which, utilizing some part of the energy from a discharging cartridge to eject the spent shell, re-cock the gun and chamber the next cartridge, is designed to shoot continuously until either the trigger is released or the magazine is empty. Photo
Magazine - A spring-operated reservoir for cartridges for a repeating firearm; often removable. Photo
Magazine Follower - A plate, mounted to the top of a spring, inside a magazine, over which cartridges may slide smoothly as they are guided into the chamber of a repeating firearm. Photo
Mag. or Magnum - A marketing term for a cartridge of greater than normal power or velocity---and of the firearm designed to handle it safely.
Magna - Smith & Wesson term for a revolver grip design introduced in the 1930s where the top of the grip extends higher than it had in earlier configurations, to provide a more comfortable hold. Photo
Mainspring - The spring in a firearm which powers either the hammer, or the firing pin directly, to strike the priming charge and fire the gun. Photo
Mannlicher Stock - An (incorrect) term used to describe a Germanic-styled rifle or carbine with a stock extending all the way to the muzzle. The term came into use because the Steyr Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles, so styled, were many American's first introduction to that configuration. Photo
Manton, Joseph - Born in 1766, founder of the London gun trade, perfector of the flintlock action; inventor of a cannon rifling system, the shot cup, the self-contained artillery cartridge/shell, the platinum touchhole, the tubelock (precursor of the percussion system) and even a marine chronometer. Employer and mentor to subsequently-famous gunmakers Thomas Boss, William Greener, Charles Lancaster, Joseph Lang and James Purdey. Photos of his guns: Flintlock Duellers, Flintlock Coach Pistols
Manual Safety - A safety catch that does not re-engage itself automatically each time the gun is opened; one that simply remains in the position as set.
Marksmanship - The ability of an individual to place shots consistently at the desired point of impact. Having an accurate firearm helps.
Martini - A hammerless single shot action type whereby a breech-block, hinged at the upper rear, operated by an underlever, tilts downward to expose the chamber. Photo
Matchlock - An early system of ignition for muzzle-loading firearms where a priming charge is loaded into a flashpan with a separate, manually-operated cover. To fire, the cover is opened and then a slowly smoldering wick, held in the nose of the curved arm, is lowered by means of a lever (precursor to a trigger) to ignite a priming charge which then ignites the main propellant charge inside the barrel. Photo
Mauser Model 1898 Action- The premier bolt action, whose design by Paul Mauser coalesced in 1898, and from which were derived the Springfield 1903, the Winchester Model 70 and many others. Some of its salient features are: dual opposing forward locking lugs, web inside the front receiver ring, hollow bolt housing a coil-spring-loaded firing pin, non-rotating large claw extractor and safety which locks the firing pin. Photo
Mauser Action Lengths - The Mauser 98 action was available, basically, in three action lengths, as measured from the front of the front receiver ring to rear of the top tang: Kurz: 8 ¼”, Standard: 8 ¾”, Magnum: 9 ¼” Photo
Mauser Extractor - An essential design element of the Mauser 98 bolt action and its derivatives. A large, long extractor is mounted to and revolves around the bolt shaft---or more properly, remains stationary in the receiver raceway when the bolt revolves. This claw takes positive hold of the cartridge coming from the magazine and places it in the chamber when the bolt is closed. Then, when the bolt is opened, the claw, never having relinquished its grip on the rim of the cartridge, withdraws it from the chamber with absolute reliability. Lesser bolt actions have a small clip built into the bolt face which snaps over the chambered cartridge rim when the bolt is closed. While cheaper to manufacture, this system allows the possibility of the clip slipping back off the rim of the expanded spent case during extraction. Most experienced hunters prefer an action with a Mauser-type claw extractor for its reliability, especially when facing dangerous game. Photo
Mauser Safety - A small lever mounted to the cocking piece of a Mauser 98 action (and its copies such as the Springfield 1903), rotating on a longitudinal axis from left (Fire), up to the top (Safe, but allowing bolt movement), and over to the right (Bolt and firing pin locked Safe). While commendable for locking the firing pin instead of just the trigger, its up-and-over arc of operation requires a scope to be mounted awkwardly high. Paul Mauser is not to be blamed; when his safety was developed, telescopic sights were in such infancy as not to be worthy of mainstream consideration. Photo
Mercury Recoil Compensator - A device fitted inside the buttstock of a heavily-recoiling gun or rifle, usually containing mercury and a valve. As the gun recoils, the mercury is displaced temporarily, increasing the duration, and thus diminishing the perceived impact of the recoil. The added half-pound of weight doesn't hurt either. Photo
Minute of Angle; MOA - A 1/60th part of a degree, the unit of measure used in adjusting rifle sights. As it turns out conveniently, a minute of angle translates almost exactly to one inch at 100 yards (actually 1.047 inches), to two inches at 200 yards and three inches at 300 yards.
Mirage - A tendency for layers of air of different temperatures near the warm ground to cause refraction in the line of sight and disturbance of the perceived point of aim. Photo
Misfire - A dangerous situation resulting typically from the use of outdated old ammunition where the primer does not fire upon being struck by the firing pin. The cartridge may fire in a virtual instant or some seconds later---a hangfire. In the event that a cartridge fails to fire immediately upon the pull of the trigger, always count out ten seconds before opening the breech.
Model 70-type Safety - A small lever mounted to the cocking piece of a Winchester Model 70 rifle, rotating fore and aft on a vertical axis from front (Fire), halfway back (Safe, but allowing bolt movement), and fully back (Bolt and firing pin locked Safe). While, like the Mauser, commendable for locking the firing pin instead of just the trigger, its fore and aft movement is both easier to operate and it allows lower mounting of telescopic sights, reducing parallax between the line of sight and the line of the bore and increasing the range of distances for which the scope may be reliably sighted-in. Photo
Monoblock barrels - A method of building a pair of barrels where the entire breech end of both barrels and the lumps together are machined from one solid piece of steel. The barrel tubes are then fitted separately into this monoblock and the ribs attached. Often identifiable by a distinctive ring around the barrels about three inches in front of the breech end. The favored jointing method of the Beretta company. An incorrect euphemism for sleeved barrels. Photo
Monogram - An personalized marking consisting of initials, often artistically engraved or inlaid in which the letter for the surname is central and prominent. Photo
Monolithic Solid - A bullet made of one homogeneous material, the implication being bronze or some material harder than lead, which while of lower specific gravity, being much harder and able to penetrate dangerous game deeply, with little or no expansion. Photo
Monte Carlo Comb - An elevated gunstock comb which drops to a normal height at the heel. Useful on rifle stocks to align the eye with a telescopic sight better, and on trap guns to raise the point of impact. Photo
Monte Carlo Cheekpiece - A cheek rest, built onto the side of a gunstock, which also extends upward to raise the comb of a stock, then falls sharply to a normal height so as not to affect the drop at the heel. As above, useful on rifle stocks to align the eye with a telescopic sight better, and on trap guns to raise the point of impact. Photo
[Half] Moon Clip - A metal stamping, vaguely in the shape of a half-moon, which holds three cartridges, typically .45ACP, for use in revolvers, particularly those originally manufactured for .45 Colt or .455 Eley whose cylinder has been subsequently milled down at the rear. In WW2, to allow the use of the ubiquitous .45ACP cartridge with a variety of different revolvers. Also acts as a speed-loader. Photo
Motor Case - A English style of carrying case for a breakdown gun, where compactness for convenient carrying in a motorcar is more important than display. Photo
Mullered Borders - A borderline at the edge of a checkered area on a gun stock. It is made by using a convex cutting tool which is slightly larger than the normal pointed checkering tool used for the body of the pattern. Typical of better English guns and of fine American guns built to evoke an English style. Photo
Musket - An older form of military long arm. Usually with a long barrel, a long forestock with barrel bands and a smooth bore, designed normally to shoot a single projectile.
Muzzle - The end of a barrel, pointing towards the target, out of which the load is discharged. Photo
Muzzle Brake - A fitting attached to the muzzle of a firearm, with a series of perforations designed to deflect some of the forward-rushing gasses and pull the firearm forward off the shoulder, reducing recoil. While muzzle brakes can be effective in reducing recoil, their resultant blast is at least mildly offensive to anyone else standing nearby. Photo
Muzzle Energy - The power of a projectile or a load of shot at the point that it exits the muzzle of a firearm, normally expressed in foot-pounds.
Muzzle Velocity - The speed of a projectile or a load of shot at the point that it exits the muzzle of a firearm, normally expressed feet per second.
N - O
New. - New from the manufacturer or distributor. Never sold at retail.
NIB - New, unfired, in original box, although possibly previously owned.
Nicht fur Kugel - A German proof marking for shotgun barrels meaning "not for ball", that is, the barrels have too much choke. To fire a ball would cause dangerous pressure at the muzzle.
NID - New Improved Design. An improved version of the Ithaca shotgun: the "Knick" model---stronger and more reliable than its predecessor, the "Flues" model.
Nipple - A small, tubular protuberance, screwed into the breech end of a percussion-system firearm's barrel, upon which is fitted the percussion cap and through which, at the moment of the hammer's impact the detonating flash passes to the main propellant charge. Photo
Nitro - Refers to the chemical composition of the smokeless powder used to propel shot (or a bullet) from a firearm. It is a solid form, based on nitroglycerine. Generally adopted in the very late 19th century, it very quickly replaced traditional gunpowder (Carbon, Sulfur and Potassium Nitrate) because it did not generate nearly as much smoke, because it was safer to handle, because it did not promote rust in bores and because it burned slower---allowing the projectile to accelerate longer as it moved down the barrel and consequently reach a higher muzzle velocity. It is dangerous to shoot nitro-based ammunition in vintage firearms originally designed for black powder.
Nitro Express - A marketing term dating from the early days of nitro powders, non-specifically denoting a more powerful cartridge than the black powder cartridge it might be compared to. "As powerful as an express train."
Nitro Proof - A marking on a gun meaning that it is safe for use with nitro-based powders and has been successfully tested at an official proof house with a special extra-heavy charge. The specifics of the test depend upon which proof house undertook the test, what pressure they tested the gun to and upon what extra data is included amongst the proofmarks. The safety of shooting any gun depends not only upon its original construction but also upon its current condition.
Non-Rebounding Lock - The lock of a hammergun where the hammer, in the lowered position, rests on the firing pin---which, in turn, rests on the primer of a chambered cartridge. Photo
NRA - National Rifle Association - Since 1871, promoter of firearms knowledge, marksmanship and safety. Defender of our right to own and to use firearms. Everyone with an interest in guns, and in freedom should be a member. Please see: NRA
Obturating Breech - A design of breechloading action whereby the breech slides forward to the barrels (or vice versa) and the one overlaps the other to form a better seal. Ordinarily, modern firearms do not require special obturating breeches because ductile brass cartridges swell slightly when fired, effectively sealing the rapidly expanding gas within the breech. Photo
Obturating - The effect of the base of a bullet expanding under the pressure of the detonating powder charge to make a better seal within the bore of a firearm and to make for more efficient utilization of the propellant's energy. And, the effect of a soft brass cartridge case to expand fully against the walls of the chamber to seal against loss of expanding gas everywhere but for propelling the projectile through the bore.
Offhand - The standing position for shooting a rifle from the shoulder. A stance generally not resulting in as fine accuracy as the other positions, kneeling, sitting and prone; but usually faster. Photo
Off the Face - A condition of a well-used break-open gun where, when in battery, the breech end of the barrels no longer has tight contact with the standing breech. By holding the receiver in one hand, the end of the butt in the other, and giving the gun a good shake, one should be able to detect the looseness---especially with the forend removed. The condition is caused by wear to the hingepin and/or the barrel hook. If left to persist, now that there is motion between the gun's main components, with further shooting that wear will increase more rapidly. It should be addressed by a skilled gunsmith by fitting a new, appropriately oversized hingepin.
Oil Bottle - A small vessel, one of many accessories often found in the case of a fine gun; its cap normally fitted with a small dipper for application of the tiniest amount of oil to individual bearing surfaces. Photo
Open Sight - A metallic attachment to a firearm, designed as an aid in aiming; an iron sight---as opposed to an optical or telescopic sight. Photo
O/U or Over and Under [barrels] - Over and under barrels are better than side-by-side barrels because they have a narrower sighting plane. They allow more precise aiming and allow slightly better peripheral vision. Over & under guns are more suitable for shooting clays, where one generally knows where and when the target will be presented. Consider the analogy that fine crosshairs in a rifle scope may be harder to see, but when one has time, allow for a more accurate shot than the broad crosshairs of a hunting scope.
Oval - A small oval plate of nickel, silver or gold, usually inletted flush into the underside of the buttstock of a fine gun on which the owner's initials, monogram or coat of arms my be engraved. Photo See also: Escutcheon.
[Lancaster] Oval-Bore. No obviously visible rifling. Rather, an oval-shaped bore cross-section that spirals as it proceeds down the barrel. Photo
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P - Q
+P - A marketing term for a commercial (usually handgun) cartridge loaded a bit more powerfully than its dimensionally-interchangeable, standard counterpart.
Pair (of Shotguns) - Two shotguns of a matched Pair are identical in every way---same barrel lengths, same chokes, stocks of the same dimensions cut from the same piece of wood, identical weights, balance, etc. They should be consecutively numbered and all the readily-detachable components should be numbered 1 and 2 respectively. Usually, they are cased together. Ideally, in the heat of a driven shoot when the birds are coming hard and fast, working with a loader, the shooter shouldn’t be conscious at all of which gun of the pair he has in hand at any given moment. A "pair' of guns ordered with different chokes or other differences, in the interest of increasing their range of utility, defeats the entire concept of a matched Pair. Most makers will charge an extra 10% over the cost of two single guns for their trouble insuring the precise matching of the two guns. A Composed Pair of guns is one where two separate guns, made individually, are subsequently stocked or altered to match as closely as possible. Photo
PG - Full Pistol Grip, with flat knob, with or without pistol grip cap. Although less sleek in appearance than a straight English grip, a more naturally fitting handle allowing the human hand to hold the gun in a more relaxed position. Considered by many to be more suitable for target guns, where one shoots somewhat deliberately. Photo
Palm Rest - A handle, mounted to the underside of the forend of a rifle built for off-hand target shooting. In use, a right-handed person would place the butt to the shoulder, grasp the wrist with the right hand, cock the left elbow to the left hip and by triangulation of his forearm support the palmrest with the palm of his left hand. Photo
Palm Swell - A bulge in the side of the pistol grip of a stock designed fill the palm of the hand and offer the shooter a more comfortable, repeatable hold on his gun. Wundhammer Swell. Photo
Pan - See Flashpan.
Pancake Cheekpiece - A cheekpiece confined completely to the side of a buttstock---as opposed to one in which the forward borderline flows into the wrist or one that flows up and over the comb. Photo
Paper-Patched Bullets - In the early cartridge era, in the interest of improving the accuracy of cast lead bullets, they were normally first swaged, then wrapped precisely two times with a parallelogram-shaped piece of tough, moistened paper. Photo
Paradox - A barrel boring system invented by G V Fosbery to allow use as an ordinary shotgun and also to be able to fire a single projectile with reasonable accuracy approaching that of a rifle. The barrel is smoothbore for most of its length. Then, about three inches from the muzzle, a normal shotgun choke begins its smooth constriction. Finally, about an inch and a half from the muzzle, a deep, robust series of spiral rifling lands and grooves are cut. Shot is not unduly effected by the rifling. A conical bullet or a slug is given a real spin by the rifling---achieving far superior accuracy to that of a modern “rifled” slug shot through a normal shotgun bore. Sometimes referred to as a "Ball & Shot Gun". Photo
Parallax - A condition, when looking through a telescopic sight, when a movement of the eye, up, down or sideways, changes the position of the reticle with respect to the target. This condition is caused by the reticle not being in proper focus with the objective lens. It is difficult to achieve reliable accuracy while there is a parallax problem. And, the higher the magnification, the more likely parallax will be an issue. The cure is to focus the scope for the range it is to be used. Most scopes may be focused by rotating the ocular bell. Many high-powered scopes have a parallax adjustment---the ability to focus via the objective bell. Photo
Parkerizing - A chemical phosphate process developed during the second world war to provide an economical, durable and non-reflective surface finish to military firearms. Photo
Patridge Sights - A relatively thick, flat-topped front blade sight and a square-notched rear sight, used normally on handguns. Designed by E. E. Patridge in the 1890s. Photo
Patch - A small piece of cloth, wrapped around a ball when loading a muzzle-loading firearm, or attached to a rod for cleaning the bore of a firearm after use.
Pattern - The shape of the shot cloud as it deploys from the muzzle of a shotgun. While choke determines the degree of concentration of the shot, it is primarily skilled boring of the barrel that determines the highly-desirable evenness of the pattern. Cartridge design can also effect evenness and concentration of pattern. Adjudged, traditionally, against a 30 inch circle, fired at a range of 40 yards at a paper target or a metal plate painted white.
Pawl - A small hinged lever used to push a moving part in steps, in one direction only---such as advancing a revolver's cylinder by one increment. Also: Hand. Photo
Pedestalled - A stockmaking detail where a small metal component such as a sling swivel stud is mounted to a raised flat area of wood. Photo
Peep Sight - A type of gunsight, mounted towards the rear of a rifle through which one simply looks, placing the front sight on the target. Also called an aperture sight. With a small aperture, it can be very accurate. With a larger aperture, it allows faster target acquisition. Typically adjustable for windage and elevation. It is superior to the open rear buckhorn or express sight because it requires the shooter to focus on two planes only (the front sight and the target) instead of three (the open rear sight, the front sight and the target. The attribute is especially beneficial for older people who have trouble focusing at near distances. And, the small aperture, by bending light rays at the edge of its metal-to-air interface, effectively acts as a lens. Photo
Pellet - A small, individual ball of lead, steel, bismuth or other material, which together with a small handful of its kind, comprises a charge for a shotgun. Pellet Size Chart
Pennsylvania Rifle - A long-barreled, small calibre, flintlock or percussion, muzzle-loading rifle of the period ca 1750 - 1850. Usually stocked to the muzzle with maple and with a decorated patchbox in the right side of the butt. Developed in Pennsylvania from the jaeger rifles imported there by immigrants from Germany. Photo
Pepperbox - An early form of muzzle-loading revolver wherein, instead of the current practice of having one barrel mated to a multi-chambered rotating cylinder, multiple joined barrels revolve together around a central axis. Photo
Percussion Lock - Based on a discovery by the Rev. Alexander Forsyth, patented in 1807, that a blow to fulminate of mercury will detonate it, through several designs to utilize the concept with limited success, culminating in the adoption of the copper priming cap. This small, cup-shaped cap, containing a bit of fulminate, after the hammer is cocked, is placed upside-down on the tubular-conical nipple. To fire the gun, one pulls the trigger, releasing the spring-loaded hammer which falls on the head of the percussion cap, detonating the fulminate, sending fire through the hole in the nipple to the main charge inside the breech (having been loaded from the muzzle) touching it off and discharging the weapon. The percussion system superseded the flintlock system generally around 1820 because it was more reliable in the wind and the rain, quicker to load, of faster lock time and because it was cheaper to manufacture. Photo
Picatinny Rail - A metal bar, available in a variety of lengths, with a continuous row of Weaver-like scope mount base slots, which when attached to a firearm, allow convenient attachment of a variety of sights, lights, slings, bipods and other accessories designed to fit this standard system. Photo
Pigeon Gun - A double-barrel shotgun, with relatively tight choke boring and a relatively high-combed stock used for shooting live pigeons (euphemistically known as flyers) which normally rise when released. To better absorb recoil, a pigeon gun is normally heavier than a field gun as one shoots heavy loads and walks only a little. Complementing the inevitable expense of this shooting discipline, pigeon guns are often built to a high standard of quality and reliability in deluxe grades with highly figured walnut stocks and fine engraving. Photo
Pillar Bedding - In the interest of accuracy, a method of fitting a bolt action to a stock whereby carefully-sized metal cylinders sleeve around the action screws and act as spacers, precisely controlling the dimensional relationship between the action and the bottom metal, reducing its dependence on a wood stock---which can expand or contract with fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Photo
Pin - British for Screw.
Pinned - In Smith & Wesson parlance, a pin (in its American definition---a small-diameter cylinder of steel) fitted through the top front of a revolver frame and through the breech end of the barrel, to lock it into position after it has been screwed in place. The extra expense of fitting this pin was generally deleted during the early 1980s. All other things being equal, most people would rather have this feature than to see their revolver cheapened in such a petty way. Photo
Pinfire - An early form of complete, self-contained cartridge. It included bullet, powder and ignition primer, all in one package. The primer was located towards the base of the cartridge, but completely internally. The pin, shaped like a little finishing nail, pointed on the inside end and resting on the internal primer, projected radially about a quarter-inch to the outside of the base of the cartridge. When loaded, a pinfire gun showed the tips of the pins exposed through small slots in the tops of the breech faces of the barrels. To fire, hammers fell on the pins, driving them (through the wall of the cartridge) into the internal primer. The exposed pins made the cartridges vulnerable to surprise ignition when dropped or knocked about in one’s pocket. As a system, it was rather short-lived. Photo
Pipe - A cylindrical loop affixed to the underside of a barrel, to retain a ramrod. Photo
Pistol - A short-barreled firearm, often concealable, normally held and discharged in one hand. In today's vernacular, especially a semi-automatic, repeating handgun---as opposed to a revolver. But, the term can actually mean any one-hand-held firearm: matchlock, flintlock, percussion or the latest technology from Heckler&Koch. Photo
Pistol Grip - The generally-vertical part of the stock of a rifle or shotgun held by the trigger-finger hand---as opposed to a straight English grip---resembling the grip on a handgun. Photo
Pistol Grip Cap - A decorative disk of metal, contrasting wood, horn, plastic or other material finishing off the pistol grip of a better gun. Photo
Pit - A small void---particularly in a firearm's bore---caused by the loss of steel to oxidation (rust). If evident, usually found in the plural. May be removed by reaming, honing or lapping the inside of the bore---but at the considerable danger of making the barrel walls too thin for safety.
Pitch - The angle of the butt of a gun in relation to the line of sight. In America, pitch is measured by resting the gun with its butt flat on a floor, the top of the receiver against a wall and its muzzle pointing up. The distance of the muzzle from the wall is the gun's pitch down. In England, pitch is determined by measuring the length of pull, separately, to each of the heel, the middle of butt and the toe. Photo
Polygonal Rifling - A further development of Lancaster Oval-bore rifling where, instead of an oval-shaped bore cross-section that spirals as it proceeds down the barrel, that cross-sectional shape is a soft hexagon, octagon or other multi-lobed shape. Advocated in the modern period by German manufacturer Heckler & Koch as offering slightly lower bullet resistance within the bore and consequently slightly higher velocities than with more common Enfield rifling. Photo
Ported barrels - Barrels with a series of holes or slots drilled near the muzzle. When a ported barrel is discharged, gasses moving violently down the barrel hit the forward edge of the holes and pull the gun forward off the shoulder, reducing felt recoil. Porting holes, when cut along the top of the barrel also work to depress the barrel under discharge, counteracting muzzle jump. Ported barrels may provide some benefit to the shooter, but the sideways blast of gas is somewhat obnoxious for others nearby. Photo
Postal Proof - A Winchester mark, stamped at the factory on barrels supplied mail-order to independent gunsmiths, who then fitted them to customer's rifles. An indication of a re-barreled rifle. Photo
Pre-'64 - A collectors' term, specific to Winchester firearms. In 1964 the Winchester board took a decision to cheapen their entire product line in a vain attempt to compete with their imitators on price. On their Model 70, the Mauser-based controlled-feed claw extractor was deleted. On their lever action guns, the forend was no longer dovetailed into the front of the receiver. Collectors resent the accountant's power over the engineers and craftsmen and the watershed erosion of quality that occurred in that year. Consequently, all other things being equal, Pre-'64 Winchesters are worth more than Post-'64 Winchesters.
Prewar - Before World War II (with all due respect to those who served in other conflicts).
Primer - A small capsule of soft metal containing a detonating compound, press-fitted into the head of a cartridge. When the primer is struck by the firing pin, the small charge explodes, touching off the main powder charge inside the cartridge, launching the bullet or shot charge. Photo
Prince of Wales Grip - A sleek, elongated pistol grip for a gun; a compromise between a straight English grip and a full pistol grip. Photo
Proof - The test-firing of a gun with an extra-heavy load, at an official establishment, to verify the safety of a gun, which is then marked with formal stamps showing, among other things, the loads for which it is intended. Proof date code table.
Most civilized countries have proof houses, run either by the government or by the trade association under the imprimatur of the government. In these countries, every new gun must pass proof before it is sold. The United States, the most litigious country in the world, has no proof house. Perhaps for these reasons, American shotguns are often built heavier and sturdier than their European counterparts. In the UK, any gun with internal bore measurements in excess of .010 inches larger than that for which it was proofed is out of proof---and illegal to sell. Photo, typical Proofmarks
Pull - The length of a stock, as measured from the center of the trigger to the center of the butt, including any recoil pad, buttplate or simply to the end of the wood if finished with a checkered butt. Pull measurements are not exactly comparable between double-trigger and a single-trigger guns. At Hallowell & Co., pull is measured from the front trigger of a double-trigger gun and from the only trigger of a single-trigger gun. The length of pull is about right for a shotgun when, with the gun comfortably mounted, there are about two finger-widths between the meat of your thumb and your cheekbone. Any less, and you might hit your face with your hand when the gun recoils. Any more, and you might catch the butt on your clothing when you hastily mount the gun. Photo
Pull-Through - A string with a weight on one end and a small mop on the other, conveniently carried, and used for swabbing the bore of a gun in the field. Photo
Pump - A type of action for shoulder-mounted, repeating firearms, whereby pulling the forend rearward ejects the spent shell and re-cocks the mainspring, and sliding the forend forward again chambers the next cartridge and locks the breech, preparatory to firing again with another pull of the trigger. Photo
Punt Gun - Typically, a large, smoothbore, gun of between 1 and 2-inch bore, and with perhaps a 10-foot-long barrel, mounted in the bow of a punt (a small, low-lying rowboat). Used, particularly by market gunners to shoot waterfowl by the flock. Photo
Purdey Underbolts - A sliding bar, running longitudinally through the watertable of a break-open side-by-side gun's action, with openings through which the lumps of the barrels pass when the gun is closed. Under spring tension, this bar moves forward when the opening control is released and its two locking surfaces engage complementary slots (bites) in the rear of the two barrel lumps. Originally operated by a hinged tab in front of the trigger guard. Now invariably operated by a cam from Scott's [toplever] spindle. Most modern side-by-side guns lock closed in this manner. Photo
QD - Quick-detachable, as in scope mounts or sling swivels.
Quarter Rib - A raised section of top rib, running from the breech end of a barrel or barrel set, partly towards the muzzle, found on better quality rifles, to act as a base for express sights, and possibly for scope mounts, as well as in itself an aid for quick pointing. Photo
Quarter sawn - A pattern of cutting a [walnut] tree that results in its annual rings being oriented horizontally across a gunstock blank, resulting in crisply defined grain figuring in the completed stock. See also, Slab sawn. Photo
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Rail Gun - A heavy rifle, normally single-shot, without a traditional stock, with adjustments for windage and elevation, mounted on a stationary base which allows the rifle to slide rearward to absorb recoil. Used for testing the accuracy of ammunition as well as for competition. Photo
Rail Mount - A telescopic sight with an integral rail on the underside. The rail provides rigidity to the scope and it provides a convenient point of attachment for a typically European quick-detachable mounting system. Longitudinal positioning is more flexible because the rail is less obstructed by objective or ocular bells and windage/elevation turrets. Photo
Rainproof Pan - A late development during the flintlock period where the frizzen/flashpan-cover is rounded at the top, fits so well, and incorporates drain passages for the flow of water that it can be expected to function properly, even in the rain. Photo
Ramrod - A long, slender, dowel-like tool used to force powder and shot down the bore of a muzzle-loading firearm. For hand-fired weapons, normally retained in some kind of receptacle attached to the gun's barrel. Carried separately for muzzle-loading cannon. Photo
Recessed - In Smith & Wesson parlance, a revolver cylinder whose chambers have been counterbored to accept the cartridge's rims---the base of the cartridges then resting flush with the rear of the cylinder. In later guns, the expense of counterboring the chambers has largely been deleted. All other things being equal, most people would rather have a revolver with recessed chambers. Photo
Rebounding Lock - An action design developed by John Stanton in 1867 wherein the released hammer comes to rest slightly rearward and out of contact with the firing pin. Previously, with non-rebounding hammers, unless the hammer was kept on half-cock or cocked and on safe, the hammer would rest on the firing pin---which in turn would rest on the primer; a decidedly perilous condition. Photo
Receiver - The frame or action body of a firearm. The housing that contains the mechanism that fires the gun. The serially-numbered part which legally constitutes the firearm. Photo
Recessed Choke - A form of choke boring sometimes performed on an older gun with less constriction than now desired---achieved by reaming the bore to a larger internal diameter a few inches back from the muzzle so that the existing diameter at the muzzle becomes, de facto, a constriction. Jug choke. Photo
Recoil - The tendency of a firearm when fired to move backwards, and a little upwards as a reaction to the force of the projectile moving down the barrel. As Newton says, to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. The mass of the firearm provides some inertia to counteract the momentum of recoil. What remains is absorbed by at the shoulder or the hand. The heavier the gun, the less the recoil. The more powerful the cartridge, the more the recoil.
Recoil Compensator - A device fitted inside the buttstock of a heavily-recoiling gun or rifle, usually containing mercury and a valve. As the gun recoils, the mercury is displaced temporarily, increasing the duration, and thus diminishing the perceived impact of the recoil. The added half-pound of weight doesn't hurt either. Photo
Recoil Crossbolt - A steel bolt, mounted transversely through a rifle stock just under and behind the front (and sometimes rear) receiver ring, sometimes concealed in the wood and usually against which the action is carefully bedded. When properly fitted, it helps distribute the recoil and reinforces stock at the point where wood has been removed to accept the action. Recoil crossbolts can be recognized by the flush-mounted circular steel fittings on the side of the stock, but are sometimes finished with contrasting wooden plugs and sometimes concealed completely. Also called Reinforcing Crossbolt. Photo
Recoil Lug - A stout flange, invariably incorporated into the underside of the front receiver ring of a bolt action, and also frequently incorporated into the underside of the barrel of a heavily-recoiling rifle, which when properly bedded, transfers recoil to the stock. Photo
Recoil Pad - A soft appendage, usually of some kind of rubber, often fitted to the butt end of a shoulder-mounted firearm to reduce the sensation of recoil. A recoil pad has the additional benefit of being less vulnerable to damage than a checkered wood butt or a brittle horn or plastic buttplate. Photo
Recoil Shields - Flanges protruding laterally from the sides of a revolver frame, flush with the standing breech, that prevent cartridges from slipping out of the rear of the cylinder. Photo
Registration - An attribute of the visible screws in better quality guns such that all their slots are made to line up in parallel. Photo
Regulation of Double Rifles - If the two barrels of a double-barrel shotgun shot 3" apart at 25 yards, not many people would notice because the pattern from each barrel, spreading two feet across at that range, would largely overlap. If, on the other hand, the two barrels of a double rifle shot 3" apart at 25 yards, it would probably shoot 6" apart at 50 yards and 12" apart at 100 yards, limiting its utility.
One cannot build a double rifle, using sophisticated mass-production machinery with barrels perfectly parallel and expect both barrels to shoot to a common point of impact. While the bullet is traveling down the right barrel (of a side-by-side double rifle) the rifle will be pushed up and to the right, throwing the bullet up and to the right when it exits the muzzle. While the bullet is traveling down the left barrel, the rifle will be pushed up and to the left, throwing the bullet up and to the left when it exits the muzzle. To compensate for the movement of a double rifle while bullets are traveling down the barrels, it must be built with the barrels converging towards the muzzle (by a mysterious amount). Because different powder charges, bullet weights, rifle weights, shooter body weights, ambient temperatures, etc., all effect the way a rifle moves under recoil, the only way to balance these factors is by trial and error. This process is called regulation.
The goal of regulation is to make the rifle shoot both barrels to a common point of impact at a range appropriate for the calibre.
One can proceed generally in either of two ways: adjusting the relative position of the barrels or adjusting the load. If one has a fixed load in mind, the former method must be used. It involves repetitive unsoldering and resoldering the barrels until the required convergence is achieved, then relaying the ribs and finally refinishing the barrels.
A simpler method is to vary the load. The longer the time a bullet spends traveling down the barrel, the greater the force is exerted on the rifle to cause it to move while under recoil. If bullets from the left and right barrels strike the target too far apart at the desired range, and have crossed before they reach the target, the velocity is too great. The bullet weight must therefore be increased or the powder charge decreased. If bullets from the left and right barrels strike the target at the desired range too far apart, but have not crossed before they reach the target, the velocity is too slow. The bullet weight must therefore be decreased or the powder charge increased.
The construction of an effective double rifle is the apogee of the gunmaker's art. If, however, one comes into possession of a double rifle for which the original load is unknown, one can often make it shoot well by adjusting the load to the rifle. Double Rifles for Sale
Reinforced Frame - A firearms action, most commonly on a heavily recoiling break-open weapon, in which the action forging has been enlarged with extra steel at its weakest point---the line extending downwards from the standing breech, at the beginning of the watertable. Also called a bolstered frame. Photo
Release Trigger - A trigger mechanism which sets when pulled, and then fires when released. Sometimes fitted to competition shotguns for shooters who are bothered by flinching, but perilous in the hands of someone not expecting such an arrangement.
Repeater, Repeating - A type of firearm capable of discharging multiple individual shots in sequence, fed from a magazine, via the operation a lever, bolt, slide or some other form of manual operation for each individual shot. Photo
Restrike Capability - A feature of some modern semi-automatic handguns whereby if it fails to fire upon the pull of the trigger, the shooter may simply pull the trigger again for another chance, without manually operating the slide to re-cock and chamber a fresh round.
Reticle - A matrix of dots, posts or lines, visible inside a rifle's telescopic sight, normally adjustable via exterior knobs for windage and elevation. After careful adjustment at a known range, the shooter aims the rifle by superimposing this matrix onto the target. With good estimation or range, cooperation from the wind, a clear eye and a steady hand, he may have a reasonable expectation of hitting his target. Also, less correctly: Reticule. Or, in British: Graticule. Photo
Revolver - A firearm (normally a handgun) with a multiple-chambered cylinder which rotates incrementally to bring each successive loaded chamber into battery. Photo
Rib - A steel strip, often fitted down the top centerline of a firearm's barrel, or between the two barrels of a side-by-side gun to aid in pointing. Rib design can be as varied as its different proponents' creativity allows---solid or ventilated, swamped, polished, matted, broad, tall, narrow, quarter-length etc.
Rifle - A shoulder-mounted firearm, having a series of spiral grooves (rifling) cut inside the barrel that impart a rapid spin to the single projectile, gyroscopically stabilizing it in flight for greatly improved accuracy over that of a smoothbore gun. Photo
Rifling - Spiral grooves cut into the inside of a barrel that impart a rapid spin to the single projectile, gyroscopically stabilizing it in flight for greatly improved accuracy over that of a smoothbore gun. Photo of rifling design types.
Rifling Methods -
Hook Rifling - A single-toothed tool is repeatedly pulled through the bore in a spiraling twist, cutting one groove at a time to a slightly greater depth with each pass. It is then incremented to the next groove, the process repeated until all grooves are cut to the required depth.
Broaching – Similar to hook rifling, but with a succession of multiple-toothed tools in which all grooves are cut simultaneously to a greater depth with the passage of each incrementally larger cutter.
Button rifling – A multi-headed tool of extremely hard steel or tungsten carbide is either pushed or pulled through the bore, in one pass, forge-pressing grooves by displacing the barrel steel rather than removing it.
Hammer Forging – Using heavy specialist machinery, a slightly oversized barrel blank is hammered-swaged externally over a pre-contoured mandrel having the desired spiral lands and grooves, and sometimes even the chamber, already machined in place.
Rifle Cartridge Designations - Although proprietary variations abound, a few general principles follow:
19th Century American: Calibre in inches - Grains of black powder - (and sometimes weight of bullet in grains). i.e. .30-30 means a .30 calibre bullet driven by 30 grains of black powder.
European: Diameter of bullet in millimeters, by length of empty case in millimeters. i.e. 7x57 means a 7mm diameter bullet loaded in a 57mm long case. An "R" suffix denotes a rimmed cartridge.
Vintage English: The basic case diameter - the neck diameter, then the case length. i.e. .450-400 3 1/4" means a .450" diameter case, necked down to .400" 3 1/4" long, unloaded.
Rigby Flat - A raised, machined detail at the breech end of a round barrel; a vestigial quarter-rib. Photo
Rim - A flange at the base of a cartridge case that provides purchase for the firearm's extractor to grasp and remove or eject the spent case. Photo
Rimfire firearms cartridges have their priming compound spun by centrifugal force into the crevice of the hollow rim on sophisticated equipment in factories. Rimfire cartridges, such as the .22 Long Rifle, cannot be reloaded with consumer equipment, at home. Rimfire cartridges are detonated when the firing pin hits the edge of the base of the cartridge and pinches the priming compound between the folds of the rim. Photo
Rising Bite - A lockup design for break-open guns, usually serving as a third fastener to strengthen the lockup of a gun with double Purdey underbolts. Designed by J Rigby and T Bissell, patent number 1141 of 1879. A loop-shaped rearward extension of the rib, drops into a mating female recess in the top of the standing breech, surrounds a fixed central buttress and is secured by a rising post at the rear. Often seen on Rigby double rifles of the period circa 1880 - 1920; after which even Rigby discontinued it in favor of the Doll's Head, because it was exceedingly expensive to built. A marvelous feat of gunmaking. Photo
Rivelled - A shotgun barrel damaged by having a series of slight ring-bulges or wrinkles. Caused by heavy loads or the reflected shock from a minor obstruction in the bore. Best detected by viewing along the outside of the barrel at a very shallow angle against a point-source of light. Very difficult to repair satisfactorily.
Rolled Triggerguard - A thickened, beaded edge on the side of a triggerguard bow. This extra detail allows the triggerguard to be made light, thin and graceful while at the same time thick enough to avoid finger injury when the gun recoils---theoretically possible with a sharp-edged triggerguard. Photo
Rolling Block - A type of action, normally confined to 19th century single shot rifles, especially by Remington, where cocking the hammer releases a hinged breechblock to be swung back easily and to expose the chamber. When the hammer moves forward, its underlying cam locks the hinged breechblock in battery just prior to discharge. Photo
Rook Rifle - English term for a light, usually single-shot, usually break-open design rifle, firing a centerfire cartridge of power similar to a pistol cartridge, and used to shoot rooks, crows and other vermin. Photo
Roper Grips - Fine classic American custom target grips for revolvers; recognizable by their distinctive scalloped ribbon pattern within the checkering. Photo
Rose & Scroll Engraving - A traditional English engraving pattern where areas of tight scroll are interspersed with bouquets of roses. This pattern developed as much to impart a texture to the raw polished steel which would remain after the color hardening had worn off, as it was an art in its own right. Photo
Rough Shooting - A British term for the quaint pastime of hunting upland birds in the field, usually with a dog---instead of the normal arrangement of having fifty proletarians walk in a line over a section of an estate driving birds and other game towards a half-dozen or so emplaced shooters standing in wait.
Round Action - Name commonly used to describe the MacNaughton / Dickson / McKay Brown Triggerplate Action ---Which see.
Rounded Action - Not truly a Round Action; one of ordinary (boxlock or sidelock) design, whose sharp edges have been comfortably radiused and, perhaps, the exterior of whose lockplates have been subtly curved. Photo
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S-Bore - In reference to variations of the German military cartridge, 8x57. This cartridge was originally manufactured using a bullet with a diameter of .318 inches. It is known in Germany as the 8x57I or in the USA as 8x57J. (I and J are interchangeable.) In 1905, the German military adopted a slightly larger bullet diameter, .323 inches, also with a slightly larger neck diameter, and named it 8x57S. Commercial sporting arms makers adopted the new cartridge at a glacial pace. Rimmed versions of both these cartridges are available for use in break-open and single shot rifles, denominated respectively 8x57JR and 8x57JRS. Often, it is difficult to ascertain which bore size a vintage rifle might have. Markings can be confusing and rifles may have been altered. The only safe way to determine the exact bore size is to take a cast of the chamber extending a bit into the bore proper and measure it with a micrometer. It may be safe to shoot a .318 inch bullet in a .323 inch bore, but accuracy will be unpredictable. To shoot a .323 inch bullet in a .318 inch bore is dangerous.
Sabot - An oversized, lightweight housing that allows a sub-calibre projectile to be fired in a larger-diameter bore, usually in the interest of increased velocity. The sabot falls away from the actual projectile upon exiting the muzzle. From the French, for Shoe. Photo
Saddle Ring - A steel ring, around an inch in diameter, mounted to a stud, usually on the left side of the receiver of a carbine, to which may be tied a leather thong to secure it to a saddle or a scabbard so as not to lose the carbine when riding a rambunctious horse. Photo
Safety - A device, incorporated into the design of most firearms actions that, when engaged, should prevent the discharge of the firearm. Some safeties are more positive than others. A safety device is not a perfect substitute for the general principles of responsible gun handling. Never point a gun in a direction you do not intend to shoot. Photo
Safety Lug - An extra flange behind the bolt handle, at the rear of a bolt action receiver (notably the Mauser Model 1898), which uses the bolt handle as an extra locking surface in the extremely unlikely event of forward bolt lug failure. Photo
Salt Wood - An unfortunate issue suffered by Browning in the late 1960s where a supplier had accelerated the drying of gunstock wood blanks by lacing them with [hygroscopic] salt. While the salt did draw out moisture, its residue reacted with the subsequently-fitted metal parts, causing corrosion---commonly known as rust---where they joined. Photo
Scalloped receiver - Extra detail on a boxlock gun where the rear edge of the receiver is carved into any of a variety of curved shapes where it joins the buttstock instead of being left in a simple straight vertical line. Also called Scroll-back or Fancy-back. Photo
Scheutzen Rifle - A single-shot rifle of German conception for off-hand target shooting. Typically heavy, with long (often fluted octagonal) barrel, high comb with prominent sculptured cheekpiece, palm rest and extended-curve buttplate. Photo
Schnabel - Stock detail, typical of German and Austrian rifles, where the forend tip flares out to an enlarged knob. Photo
Scope - See Telescopic Sight
Scope Blocks - A pair of small dovetailed steel bases, screwed usually one to the barrel and one to the front receiver ring of a rifle, to accept mounts for target scopes such as the Unertl where the scope is allowed to move forward in the rings under the recoil of the rifle and which typically carry the windage and elevation adjustments in the mount. Also, Target Blocks. Photo
Scope Mounts - Fittings designed to attach a telescopic sight to a firearm---normally a rifle. They may be fixed or quick-detachable. Photos of various major types of scope mounts.
Scott's Crossbolt - A tapered square bar, operated by the opening lever of a break-open side-by-side gun, passing transversely through the standing breech and a matching square hole in a rib extension; to strengthen the lock-up. Photo
Scott's Spindle - A type of fastening actuator for a break-open gun consisting of a vertical shaft, rotated by a lever on the top of an action body, operating a cam fixed to its bottom, which when rotated, withdraws (typically) a Purdey bolt which unlocks the barrels allowing the gun to open. Patented by William M Scott in 1865. Photo
Sear - A sharp bar, resting in a notch (or in British: "bent") in a hammer (or in British: "tumbler"), holding the hammer back under the tension of the mainspring. When the trigger is pulled, the sear moves out of its notch, releasing the hammer and firing the gun. Photo
Sectional Density - The relationship between a bullet's weight and its diameter. A long bullet, such as the original 6.5x54mm loading for the Mannlicher Schoenauer Model 1903, will have a high sectional density and consequently greater penetration than a shorter bullet of similar construction. A shorter bullet with less sectional density will have relatively less penetration, but greater knockdown power. Photo
Select Fire - A firearm with a switch allowing a choice of either semi-automatic operation or fully-automatic [machinegun] operation. The State of Connecticut tried to write a law prohibiting machineguns, but they thought they were being sophisticated by using the term Select Fire in stead of the more plebeian Machinegun. Consequently, firearms that operate in fully automatic mode only, are not prohibited in Connecticut. Photo
Self-Opening (Assisted Opening) - Attribute of a break-open gun whereby the barrels drop down simply by pressing the toplever without muscling them open manually. The Holland & Holland system utilizes a coil spring within a cylindrical housing mounted just ahead of the forward lump to urge the barrels open. The Purdey system utilizes residual energy remaining in the mainspring after the gun has been fired. Both systems enable a shooter to load more quickly when birds are coming fast. Photo
Selous Plates - Form-fitting panels of thin sheet steel inletted and screwed onto both sides of the wrist of a shoulder-fired weapon, either as a reinforcement or repair. Named for the famed African hunter Frederic Courtney Selous. Photo
Semi-Automatic [Action] - A type of firearm which, utilizing some of the recoil or some of the expanding-gas energy from the firing cartridge, cycles the action to eject the spent shell, to chamber a fresh one from a magazine and to cock the mainspring, placing the gun in position for another shot with nothing more needing to be done than to provide another pull on the trigger. Autoloader. Often erroneously referred to as automatic---but automatic actually refers to a machine gun. The Colt Model 1911 pistol and the Browning Auto-5 are semi-automatic designs. Photo
Shadow-line cheekpiece - A raised-carved cheek rest on the side of a buttstock, specifically with the extra detail of a crisply carved bead line around its perimeter where it blends into the buttstock proper. Photo
Shoe Lumps - A method of jointing a pair of barrels where the two barrel tubes mate with, and are brazed or silver-soldered to, conforming concavities in the top of a steel plate having integrally-machined lumps extending from the underside. Also called platform lumps. Photo
Shooting Sticks - A pair of slender and easily-carried wooden dowels or sticks, which when held, crossed, in the fingers of the left hand while also supporting the forend of a rifle, usually shooting offhand, provides somewhat enhanced stability for a more accurate shot
Shot - Small pellets, formed by pouring (traditionally) molten lead through a sieve over a tall column of water, then graded for size by passing over an inclined plane perforated with holes of successively increasing diameter. Loaded in small handfuls into a shotgun, either directly through the muzzle or more commonly at the breech via cartridges, which when fired throw a cloud of pellets for more effective results hitting a (usually) moving target.
Shot bag - A soft tube, normally of leather, fitted with a dispenser mechanism at one end and with a strap for carrying over the shoulder. Used to facilitate swift loading of a muzzle-loading gun. Photo
Shot Sizes - Table
Shotgun - A shoulder-mounted firearm with one or two (or very occasionally more) smoothbore barrels through which is fired a charge of a small handful of tiny pellets, usually at flying birds or other moving targets. Photo
Shoulder - The steeply angled area towards the mouth of a bottleneck cartridge demarking the general transition between the diameter of the cartridge body proper and the diameter of the bullet. And, the registration point for establishing proper headspace. Photo
Side by Side (barrels) - Side-by-side barrels are better than over & under barrels because they have a broader and more quickly-acquired sighting plane. Although one should always concentrate on the target and not the gun, in field shooting, having subliminal consciousness of the position of the barrels is a real aid to throwing the shot towards a suddenly-appearing moving target. Although not as precise, it is quicker to find the broad crosshairs of a hunting telescopic sight than the fine crosshairs of a target scope. Side-by-side guns are easier to load than over & under guns because the barrels do not need to be opened to as wide an angle (gape) for cartridges to clear the standing breech. Side-by-side guns traditionally have been considered more elegant of line than over & under guns.
Sideclips - A pair of small beveled flanges extending forward from the sides of the standing breech of a shotgun, mating with similarly beveled edges of the breech end of the barrels; reinforcing the barrels against lateral movement while firing. Photo
Sidelock - A type of action on a break-open gun where the lockwork (hammer, sear, mainspring etc.) is mounted to the back side (inside) of a plate (or pair of plates for a double gun). A sidelock is superior to a boxlock because: 1. Less steel needs be removed from the bar of the action; the action is therefore stronger. 2. The lock plates provide a larger canvas for the engraver's art. 3. Sidelocks have generally been considered a more aesthetically pleasing form. 4. They are often made with secondary, or intercepting, safety sears. 5. Trigger pulls theoretically may be adjusted more precisely. 6. Because of all the above, most makers building a range of guns have usually reserved the sidelock action for their better grades of guns; this last being the most relevant reason why sidelocks are generally considered superior to boxlocks. Photo See also: Boxlock
Sidepanels - Flat protrusions along the side of a rifle stock, to reinforce the stock in the area weakened by wood having been removed to receive the action. Or, A flat area on the side of the head of a stock of a break-open gun. This sidepanel allows more wood in the area in contact with the receiver, allowing a stouter wood-to-metal connection, without resulting in an ungainly bulky line to the wrist. Photo
Sideplates - Decorative steel plates mounted to the sides of a boxlock break-open gun, inletted into the receiver and into the wood just behind it, to make the gun resemble a sidelock in appearance and to provide a greater area for engraving. Sideplated guns, usually, can be recognized by the lack of action pins visible in the sideplates (although some sideplated guns are built with fake pins). Photo
Sight - Small accessory(s) fitted to a firearm, (either open iron, or optical telescopic) as an aid to aiming.
Sight Radius - The distance between the front and rear sights. As a longer lever provides greater mechanical advantage, the greater the distance between the two sights, the more inherently accurate they will be. Photo
Silver's Pad - A very traditional English recoil pad made of solid orange/red rubber with smooth sides and face, bonded to a black base. Two conspicuous matching flush-fitting rubber plugs cover the mounting screws. Originally made by S. W. Silver & Co., the name is often used to describe both the original and several veritable facsimiles. Photo
Single Action - An action type, typical on handguns, where the hammer must be cocked manually prior to each shot (if it be a revolver) or prior to the first shot with an already loaded chamber and de-cocked hammer (if it be a semi-automatic). Photo
Single Set Trigger - A single trigger, operating at a normal 4 - 6lb pull, which when pushed forward converts to a hair trigger. This trigger is usually fitted with a small set screw to adjust the weight of the hair trigger. Photo
Skeet - A game of competitive clay pigeon shooting on a formally designed layout. In plan view, two launching machines are located at the corners of a semicircle, firing targets across and slightly forward of the front line; one machine firing targets higher; one firing targets lower. Competitors shoot a menu of 25 targets from stations at various positions along the circumference of the semi-circle, and finally from the centerpoint of the front line. Although each target is presented throughout the progress of the game in an absolutely predictable geometry, skeet emphasizes a broad variety of shots, outgoing, incoming and crossing. Photo
Skeet Gun - A double-barrel shotgun with relatively short barrels and relatively open chokes, used for the game of Skeet, which requires crossing shots at clay pigeons at relatively close range that can travel with high angular velocity. A skeet gun is normally heavier than a field gun because one shoots a lot but walks only a little. Two barrels are required because the game calls for shooting doubles---but, theoretically an infernal contraption repeater could be used.
Skeet Set - A shotgun built for the sole purpose of competition in the specific game of skeet where one must shoot the course separately with four different gauges: 12, 20, 28 and .410. By using four different interchangeable barrel sets on the same receiver/stock, the dimensions of the stock remain constant and all the barrel sets can be weighted identically. Photo
Skeet tubes - Interchangeable sub-calibre, full-length liner tubes that fit into the barrels of a shotgun to reduce the gauge without using a different gun or a different barrel set. Skeet tubes allow one to shoot the required different gauges in competition skeet without having to invest in a set of guns, invest in a Skeet Set of barrels or adjust to using different guns. While not as good as a Skeet Set because the barrels with tubes fitted will have different weights than the primary 12 gauge barrel set alone, such an arrangement is less expensive. Photo
Skeleton Buttplate; Skeleton Grip Cap - A steel rim, surrounding and protecting the edge of the butt (or of the pistol grip) of a long gun allowing the wood to show through---which is normally checkered. Popularized by Parker Brothers. Photo
Skelp Twist - A rudimentary pattern of damascus forging for shotgun barrels. Photo
Slab sawn - A pattern of cutting a [walnut] tree that results in its annual rings being oriented vertically through a gunstock blank, resulting in amorphously flowing grain figuring in the completed stock. See also, Quarter sawn. Photo
Slack - Idle movement of a trigger prior to its engaging the sear. Common in military rifles. A sign of poor attention to detail in a sporting arm.
Sleeved barrels - An economical method of bringing new life to a damaged pair of barrels, regardless of their original method of jointing. The ribs are removed. The barrels are cut off 3" - 4" from the breech end and discarded. The bores of the remaining breech-end are reamed out oversize. New tubes are fitted down into the original breech section and filed down to fit flush. The original ribs are then replaced. Sleeving is considerably less expensive than building a completely new set of barrels. Much of the time required to build a set of barrels is concentrated in the fitting of the breech end to the receiver; this work is salvaged through sleeving. Sleeving can be recognized by a pair of circumferential lines around the barrels a few inches from the breech; the more invisible, the finer the job. A sleeved gun should always be identified as such amongst the proof marks, and if done in England must be properly reproofed. Photo
Sleeving is not the same thing as Monoblocking. Monoblock barrels are built that way from new, using a solid homogeneous machined lump of steel for the entire breech end of the barrel set. Sleeved barrels involve fitting new tubes into what may look at a glance to be a monoblock but which most likely had been assembled from two separate tubes and lumps by a variety of different methods.
Slide Action - See Pump
Sling - A strap, usually of leather or sturdy webbing, fitted to the fore and aft (usually) of a rifle as an aid to carrying over the shoulder and as an aid to holding the rifle steadily while aiming. Photo
Sling Swivel - A slender steel bale about which a carry sling is folded. May be permanently affixed or quick-detachable. Photo
Sling Eye - A small donut-shaped loop mounted to the underside of a gun's butt and to either the underside of the barrel or to the forend, designed to accept a metal hook, or, through which a silent thong of rawhide ties on a carry sling. Photo
SMLE - Short Magazine Lee Enfield. The standard British Army rifle from around 1895 to 1957.
Smithson Mount - An elegant, well-engineered and well-built quick-detachable scope mount system, developed by gunmaker Joseph Smithson. Male dovetails on the underside of the scope rings, unlocked by a button on the left side, slide forward into complementary female dovetails, either in the bases or directly into cuts made in double-squarebridge receivers. Photo
Smokeless Powder - A nitro-based propellant introduced around the beginning of the last century, an improvement over black powder (which see) because it burned more slowly (maintaining pressure on the projectile longer during its travel through the bore, allowing higher velocities), did not blind shooters with the smoke, did not promote rust in bores and was much safer to store and to handle.
Smoothbore - A gun, or its barrel(s), without rifling; a shotgun.
Snap Action - An early break-open action design whereby one pushes forward on a spring-loaded underlever to drop the barrels. One then closes the gun simply by raising the barrels and the action snaps closed. Easier to operate than a Jones Underlever which normally must be locked manually. Photo
Snap Caps - Dummy cartridges with spring-loaded "primers" used to test the mechanical functioning of a firearm, particularly the trigger pulls, hammer-fall and ejector-timing of a break-open gun. It is not advisable to dry-fire a break-open gun on an empty chamber. Hardened steel parts can shatter without the soft brass primer to act as a shock absorber. Snap caps cushion the blow of the hammer and firing-pin when the use of a live cartridge would be impractical. Photo
Snaphance - An early type of ignition system for muzzle-loading firearms; a spring-loaded lock whereby upon pulling a trigger, a hammer holding a flint falls, striking a steel frizzen and while pushing it forward scrapes particles from its surface, which as sparks, fall into a flashpan containing a priming charge of fine gunpowder, igniting first it and then, through a touchhole, the main propellant charge. A separate pan-cover would allow the gun to be carried loaded, but for safety, not cocked. Photo
Snapping Block - A flat-faced lump of rather tough, but not dead-hard material, such as dense wood or horn, used against the standing breech of a break-open gun, after having dismounted the barrels, when pulling the trigger to release the tension on the mainspring. It absorbs the impact of hardened firing pin in order to avoid breakage, Photo
Snider - An early type of breech-loading single-shot action whereby a block, hinged at the side, is manually rotated to expose the breech. Although designed by an American, Jacob Snider, it was first mass-produced by the British army in 1866. Photo
Solid Rib - A strip of steel, often fitted to the full length of the top of over and under firearms' barrels or to the top centerline of side-by-side firearms, matted or smooth, normally hollow for lightness, as an aid to pointing. Made without ventilation slits, the solid rib offers a cleaner look and no susceptibility to collecting grass, twigs and other effluvia. Photo
Soper - An early type of breech-loading single-shot action whereby a block, hinged at the side, is rotated via a sidelever to expose the breech. Although considerably faster to operate, it lost out to the Martini action in British Army trials because of its complexity and high cost of production. Photo
Southgate Ejectors - A type of mechanism, built into the forend of a break-open firearm, utilizing a spring and an over-center cam to kick out a spent shell while only raising an unfired shell far enough to remove manually. Photo
Spindle - The vertical rod inside a break-open gun's action connecting the toplever to the underbolt. Photo
Spirit Level Front Sight - A front sight with a bubble-level to allow careful orientation of a rifle in a level position, avoiding canting. Seen in better quality long range target rifles and "buffalo" guns. Photo
Spitzer Bullet - A bullet with a pointed nose, designed to lower aerodynamic drag and to maintain velocity longer than earlier round-nose types. Also: Spire Point. Photo
spl or Splinter Forend - A slender English-style forend on a break-open gun, designed to retain the barrels on the receiver when the gun is opened and to house the ejectors---not necessarily to provide a hand-hold. Splinter forend guns are more properly grasped by the barrels just ahead of the forend. The closer one's hand is to the line of the bore and to the line of sight, the better one's hand-to-eye coordination. Many people consider the splinter forend more graceful than a beavertail forend on a classic double gun. Photo
Sporting Clays - A game of clay target shooting where the competitor walks along a usually-picturesque course of different stations, where at each one an altogether different type of target is presented, designed to replicate a variety of live hunting situations, the difficulty of which is limited only by the devious creativity of the course designer. Often described as golf with a shotgun---however unkind that simile may be to the shooting fraternity.
Spring Compressor - A small tool which, via the mechanical advantage of a screw, is used to compress a leaf spring for ease of its installation or removal from a gun lock. Photo
Sprue - The extra casting material, usually lead, remaining on a ball or bullet, residual to the opening in the mold through which the material is poured. Photo
Sprue-Cutter - An attachment to a bullet mold for trimming off the excess after molten lead has been poured into the cavity of a bullet mold. Photo
Squarebridge - The shape of (most often) the rear receiver bridge of a bolt action. Popularized by Mauser on their Model 98 commercial sporting actions, providing an extra mass of steel onto which or into which a skilled gunsmith could integrate a (typically quick-release) scope mount. Mauser supplied integral scope mounts on their commercial rifles, to order. When the front receiver bridge is also enlarged square, it is a double-squarebridge. Such rifles are rare---beware of fakes. Often incorporated into the design of quality bolt actions made for the custom gun trade today. Photo
Squib Load - An underpowered powder charge, an old deteriorated cartridge, or a cartridge with primer fitted but no powder at all, caused by a fault in cartridge loading, often insufficient to expel a projectile from the muzzle of a firearm. If such a blockage is not noticed because of the greatly reduced recoil, and then cleared, the bullet from the next attempted shot could be blocked, the extreme pressure causing the barrel at least to bulge, and very possibly to burst.
SRC or Saddle Ring Carbine - A carbine with a ring fitted to the side of the receiver. Such a firearm may be attached to a saddle with a lanyard. Photo
SST or Single Selective Trigger - A single trigger with some sort of switch to change the order of firing of a pair of barrels. Photo
ST - Single [non-selective] Trigger - Single triggers are better than double triggers because with the trigger always in a constant position one does not even have to consider changing one's hand position and because there is one less thing to think about when concentrating on the target. A single trigger is usually easier for people used to pump, semi-automatic and bolt-action guns. A plain single trigger is simpler and usually more reliable than a selective single trigger. Photo
Stadia Lines (1) - Fine engraved lines, usually in pairs, incised into the steel of a gun's barrel(s) or receiver as a guide for the straight layout of lettering. So faint they are not intended readily to be seen. But, if still present, unworn, they are an indicator of a gun that has seen relatively little use and almost certainly has not been refinished. Photo
Stadia Lines (2) - Fine, secondary lines in the reticle of a telescopic sight to aid in rangefinding. Photo
Stalking Safety - A safety catch fitted to a hammer gun where a sliding bar moves into a slot in the inner wall of the hammer base, locking it in place in the cocked position. The safety can then be released silently by sliding the tab, avoiding the game-startling sound of the hammer cocking. Photo
Standing Breech - The face of the action of a break-open firearm which houses the firing pins and receives the direct recoil of the fired round. Photo
Star - A five-pointed Star - A mark used by Smith & Wesson to indicate a revolver that has been returned to the factory for repair or refinishing. On the face of a Colt cylinder, it indicates "Machine Gun" steel. On the top tang of a Marlin rifle it indicates a product as near perfection is it can be. Photo
Star Gauged Barrels - Barrels made for US Springfield Model 1903 rifles by Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal, measured internally for precision of boring and rifling, by hand, throughout their full length with a special feeler gauge and subsequently marked at the bottom of the muzzle with a circular six-pointed star. Used first on National Match rifles, this star is reputed to be the sign of a particularly accurate barrel---although noted authorities William Brophy and E C Crossman had their doubts. Photo
Steel Shot - Shotgun shot pellets of steel, designed as a non-toxic substitute for traditional lead shot. Unlike lead, steel pellets do not deform as they pass through the choke of a shotgun barrel. Steel shot should not, therefore, be fired through a tight choke (anything more than .015" constriction in a 12 gauge) or greater pressure will be generated than the gun was designed to handle. The result will be a ring bulge near the barrel's muzzle. Thankfully, also because steel pellets do not deform, fewer pellets are lost from the bulk of the pattern so steel shot patterns more tightly than lead. Although steel shot has less specific gravity than lead and therefore does not carry as far, within its effective range less choke constriction is needed for steel shot to achieve the same pattern density as lead. Click for relative physical characteristics of lead and steel shot.
STFK - Short tang, flat knob pistol grip (Browning collectors' term). Photo
Stith Mount - A brand of scope mount from San Antonio, Texas, noted for utilizing a rifle's existing slots and holes, requiring no extra holes to be drilled or tapped. Photo
St.m.G. - Stahlmantle Geschoss. German proofmark indicating a rifle barrel suitable for use with steel-jacketed bullets. Photo
Stock - That part of a firearm a person holds when shooting. The term normally applies to rifles and shotguns, but can also refer to the grips on a handgun. Usually made of walnut or other wood, but increasingly of fibreglass and other synthetics. Photo
Stocked to the Fences - A detail, typical of traditional London "Best" guns, whereby the head of the stock comes fully up to the fences. On lesser guns, a bit of receiver forging is visible just behind the fences. Photo
Stovepipe - Especially in a semi-automatic pistol, the tendency of a cartridge to fail to chamber properly because it has approached the loading ramp at the wrong angle and to become pinioned by the rear edge of the ejection port, causing a jam. Or, the event of the fired case failing to clear the ejection port and becoming caught between the rear of the port and the breech end of the barrel. Also: Smokestack.
STRK - In Browning parlance, Short Tang, Round Knob, semi-pistol grip. Photo
str or Straight English-style grip - Considered by many to be sleeker and more aesthetically pleasing than a pistol grip. It helps reduce the weight of a gun. Some consider it faster to use in field-shooting situations where the opportunity for a shot may come unexpectedly. Photo
Straddle Floorplate - A hinged plate covering the bottom of a rifle magazine and extending rearward on either side of the triggerguard. This design allows it to be more securely fastened for one more imperceptible step towards total reliability. Photo
Strike (v) - To draw-file and polish a barrel, or a pair of barrels, lengthwise, for bluing.
Striker - British for Firing Pin.
Stripper Clip - An expendable retainer for a small quantity of cartridges suitable for filling the magazine of a repeating firearm. Photo
Stutzen - German for a short rifle or carbine. Photo
Submachinegun - A fully-automatic weapon---a machinegun---designed to fire pistol ammunition. Photo
Swage - To extrude a bullet through a die under pressure in order to achieve more precise dimensions than would likely be accomplished by casting alone. Also, the die used to accomplish this task. Photo
Swamped Rib - A minimalist, smooth, concave, practically hidden, top rib on a side-by-side gun that connects the two barrels together, but provides no obvious extra aid to pointing---leaving the whole silhouette of the barrels themselves as the shooter's frame of reference. Photo
Swiss Buttplate - A prominent buttplate, usually cast of brass and then plated, with prongs at heel and toe to help stabilize the butt of a rifle on one's shoulder. Often fitted to Scheutzen target rifles. And, also known as a Scheutzen buttplate. Photo
Swivel (1) - On a sidelock action, a connecting shackle fitted between the lower hook of the mainspring and the forward arm of the tumbler. This layout allows a faster lock time than with a Boxlock. The swivel causes the angle of the force applied to the hammer to change as the hammer falls, maintaining pressure and even increasing it as the mainspring's energy is released. Photo
Swivel (2) - Normally one of a pair of loop fittings attached to either the barrel or the forend of a rifle, and to the wood of the toe, sometimes permanently, sometimes quick-detachable, through which is woven a carrying strap or sling made of leather or fabric. [Sling] swivels are often found on European shotguns as well as rifles. Photo
SxS or Side by Side (barrels) - Side-by-side barrels are better than over & under barrels because they have a broader and more quickly-acquired sighting plane. Although one should always concentrate on the target and not the gun, in field shooting, having subliminal consciousness of the position of the barrels is a real aid to throwing the shot towards a suddenly-appearing moving target. Although not as precise, it is quicker to find the broad crosshairs of a hunting telescopic sight than the fine crosshairs of a target scope. Side-by-side guns are easier to load than over & under guns because the barrels do not need to be opened to as wide an angle (gape) for cartridges to clear the standing breech. Side-by-side guns traditionally have been considered more elegant of line than over & under guns.
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Take-Apart - Most anything that has been assembled by man can be disassembled by man---often with the aid of tools. A "Take-Apart" firearm is one designed to anticipate relative ease of disassembly, but which may still require the use of a tool. Example: A bolt action rifle, the barreled action of which may be easily removed from the stock, with the barrel still affixed to the action. Photo
Takedown - A firearm that can be separated into (at least) two subassemblies in order to make a shorter package than when put together---without tools. There is no specific requirement regarding how this disassembly must be accomplished; the mechanical design is up to the creativity of the maker. This arrangement allows for more convenient transportation of a firearm, but with rifles, where the action normally separates from the barrel, usually at a small sacrifice in accuracy. Photo
Tanegashima - A Japanese matchlock firearm with a very short buttstock, adopted from Portugese technology introduced there in the 1540s, used by the Samurai class with disdain, gradual abandonment, and no technological advancement until Admiral Dewey's arrival in Tokyo in 1853. Photo
Tang - An extension of a firearm's metalwork, for securing it to the stock. Photo
Tangent Sight - A style of rear sight, typically used on rifles for either slow-moving bullets or for long ranges, whereby a ladder may be raised from flush with the barrel to a vertical position, and which incorporates a sliding crossbar which may be moved vertically in order to achieve significant elevation. Photo
Target Blocks - A pair of small dovetailed steel bases, screwed usually one to the barrel and one to the front receiver ring of a rifle, to accept mounts for target scopes such as the Unertl where the scope is allowed to move forward in the rings under the recoil of the rifle and which typically carry the windage and elevation adjustments in the mount. Also, Scope Blocks. Photo
Teardrops - Small, raised-carved details on either side of a double gun, behind the lockplates of a sidelock or behind the flat sidepanels of a boxlock, in the shape of teardrops. Also called drop points. Photo
Telescopic Sight - An optical sight, offering some magnification, often variable, with some kind of adjustable aiming grid inside (a reticle), which when mounted on a firearm, usually a rifle, makes sighting easier. Photo
Tempering - A phase in the heat treatment of metals, particularly steel. After hardening, re-heating to a lower temperature than before, then re-quenching, to draw out brittleness and to achieve the desired balance between hardness and malleability for the purpose intended.
Throat - The beginning of the bore of a rifled firearm. The transition between the chamber and the rifling. The area most vulnerable to erosion from high velocity cartridges. Also, Leade.
Through Bolt - A simple method of attaching a buttstock to a break-open firearm's receiver. Rather than using the traditional English method of upper and lower tang screws, augmented by positioned triggerplates, action screws and triggerguard screws---one long bolt only, extends from a longitudinal hole in the end of the butt, through the wrist to the rear of the receiver. The steel bolt has the advantage of reinforcing the weak wrist area as well as snugging the stock tightly against the receiver, even in the case of less than totally perfect inletting. It has the disadvantage of making it more difficult for a gunsmith to bend a stock for better fit to the shooter. Common on Browning Superposed and Perazzi shotguns. Normally built with a short triggerguard tang for ease of disassembly. Photo
Thumbcut - Detail on a left receiver rail of a Mauser Model 1898 action to facilitate rapid loading of the magazine from a stripper-clip. As a military affectation, under US law it is currently illegal to import any rifle having such a detail. Photo
Thumbhole Stock - A rifle stock, with a sculptured throughole at the wrist for the thumb, said to be more ergonometric to hold than a traditional stock. Apart from being slower to mount, totally useless for a counter-dexterous person, it is so unmitigatedly graceless as to be beneath consideration. Photo
Timing - The proper adjustment of the various interrelated moving parts of a gun so that every operation works in proper sequence, such as that the two ejectors of a double gun kick out the spent cases at the same instant and with the same force.
Toe - The bottom of the butt-end of a gun stock. Photo
Toplever - A lever on a break-open gun mounted to the top of the receiver which, when pushed with the thumb (normally) to the right, operates (usually) a Scott Spindle, which in turn withdraws (usually) a Purdey Underbolt from the bites in the lumps of the barrels, allowing them to hinge downwards and the gun to open. Photo
Topstrap (1) - The rearward steel extension from the top of a break-open gun's action, normally mounting the safety tab, and by which the action is fastened to the head of the stock. Also: Top Tang. Photo
Topstrap (2) - The part of a revolver's frame connecting the recoil shield to the barrel-mounting recess; adding considerable strength compared to that of early black powder Colt revolvers, and providing a base for a rear sight. Photo
Touch Hole - A small orifice at the breech end of the barrel of a muzzle-loading firearm through which the exploding priming charge is conducted from the flash pan to the main charge. Photo
Touchmark - A craftsman's signature stamp, discretely placed to identify his work. See: A selection of Touchmarks and other identifying marks.
Trademark - A company's signature stamp, discretely placed to identify its work, even if the name of another maker or retailer appears more prominently. See: A selection of company Trademarks.
Trajectory - The arc described by a projectile (or a load of shot) after it exits the muzzle of a firearm. Falling objects accelerate downwards at a rate of 32 feet per second, per second. The faster a projectile travels, the greater the distance it can cover in a given time before dropping too far. Hence, the higher the velocity of a bullet, the flatter the trajectory it will achieve.
Trap - A game of competitive clay pigeon shooting on a formally designed layout. In plan view, one launching machine is located 16 yards in front of a straight line, firing rising targets perpendicular to and away from that line. Five competitors shoot five individual targets at each of five stations along that line. Although each target is presented at slightly randomized vectors, trap emphasizes generally a single type of shot---outgoing and rising---and targets are broken at generally longer ranges than Skeet. Photo
Trap Gun - A shotgun, often with only a single relatively-long barrel, with relatively tight choke boring and a relatively high-combed stock used for shooting clay pigeons in the game of Trap, where the birds are launched at least 16 yards ahead, usually rising and going away from the shooter at relatively low angular velocity. To better absorb recoil, a trap gun is normally heavier than a field gun because one shoots a lot but walks only a little. Photo
Trapdoor - As in Trapdoor buttplate or Trapdoor Pistol Grip Cap---one of these articles of furniture including a hinged plate, covering a small compartment below in which may be stored several extra cartridges, sight bits, extra springs or pins, cleaning rod, etc. Photo
Treble Wedge-fast - Greener's name for the combination of Scott spindle toplever, double Purdey underbolts and his own rib-extension round crossbolt
Trigger - The small lever on a cartridge firearm, which one pulls to cause the spring-loaded firing pin to impact the primer, causing the gun to discharge. Normally, the trigger simply connects to the sear. Pulling the trigger moves the sear out of its notch, releasing the spring-loaded hammer to strike the firing pin which in turn strikes the primer; or the coilspring-loaded firing pin directly. Other, often-Germanic systems have their own miniature lockwork which, when cocked, allows an exceedingly light trigger pull to discharge the firearm---a setting that would be perilous to carry in the field. Photo See also: Single Set Trigger, Double Set Trigger and Release Trigger.
Trigger Group - The complete action, entirely removable from the receiver of a break-open gun without the need for tools. Often seen in better competition guns, allowing rapid replacement with a backup set in the event of a malfunction. Photo
Triggerguard - A bow-shaped flange, normally made of steel, but sometimes of horn or other material, designed to cover the trigger well enough to reduce the possibility of accidental discharge, while not being so obtrusive as to prevent the firing of a quick shot. Photo
Triple-Lock - An early centerfire revolver design of Smith & Wesson, more properly named the .44 Hand Ejector 1st Model or New Century, identified by a third lock at the front of the cylinder pin. Photo
Triggerplate Action or Round Action - Originated by MacNaughton, furthered by Dickson and then by David McKay Brown. The lockwork is behind the receiver, mounted to the triggerplate. Little steel needs be machined from the bar of the action, allowing it to be smaller and more streamlined than Anson&Deeley or Sidelock actions---truly rounded on the underside---while maintaining required strength. And, less wood needs to be removed from the head of the stock, strengthening the wood-to-metal connection. Photo
Trunnion - In pairs, cylindrical protuberances on the side of a set of barrels or within the receiver of a break-open gun, comprising part of a hinge about which the barrel(s) rotate. Photo
Try Gun - Typically a shotgun, a firing model or not; typically English or pre-war American, built with multiple adjustments for length of pull, drop at comb and heel as well as cast-off. Not built for retail sale, but used by custom gunmakers to establish the proper stock dimensions for a client ordering a custom fitted (or bespoke) gun. Photo
Tumbler - British for Hammer; particularly inside a "hammerless" gun. Photo
Tunnel Claw Mount - A claw [scope] mount with openings through which a shooter can use a rifle's iron sights without removing the scope. Photo
Turk's Head - A tip for a cleaning rod---a jag---with spirally-radial wires for vigorously scrubbing a gun's bore. Photo
Turnscrew - An expensive English screwdriver. Photo
Twilight Sight - A rifle front sight with a extra-large, folding bead. Typically, in addition to the normal fine bead (which allows for more precision) the larger bead, while at a cost of potential accuracy, is more readily acquired in marginal light. Also called a Gloaming sight. Photo
Twist - Or, Pitch. The length, within a rifled barrel, required for a bullet to accomplish one full rotation. 1:12 Twist means a bullet passing down the bore would complete one revolution in twelve inches. Generally, the longer the bullet in relation to its diameter, the higher the rate of twist is indicated. The long, slender 6.5x54MS bullet might stabilize best at a fast 1:8 rate of twist. The short, fat .505 Gibbs bullet might stabilize best at a slow 1:16 rate of twist.
Two-Tone Magazine - A feature of early Colt semi-automatic pistol magazines. Colt, at the time, was concerned that the bluing process could alter the hardness of the steel at the critical point of the lips at the top of their magazines, causing durability problems, ultimately affecting their reliability in feeding properly. Photo
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Underbolts - A sliding bar, running longitudinally through the watertable of a break-open side-by-side gun's action, with openings through which the lumps of the barrels pass when the gun is closed. Under spring tension, this bar moves forward when the opening control is released and its two locking surfaces engage complementary slots (bites) in the rear of the two barrel lumps. Originally operated by a hinged tab in front of the trigger guard. Now invariably operated by a cam from Scott's [toplever] spindle. Most modern side-by-side guns lock closed in this manner. Developed by Purdey. Photo
VC Case - A Very Compact trunk case with a wood frame, covered in leather or cloth, typically for a taken-down double shotgun, wherein to save space, the toe of the stock slides under the muzzle end of the barrels. Also called a Toe-Under case. Photo
Varmint Rifle - A relatively heavy rifle, firing a relatively small-bore, high-velocity bullet, with precision optical sights and great accuracy, (often single-shot), used to kill vermin such as prairie dogs and gophers with no thought to harvesting the meat. Photo
Vented Breech - A passage built into a firearm to allow the safe conduct of unexpected gas, as from a pierced primer, to minimize damage both to the gun and to the shooter. Photo
Vernier Tang Sight - A tall (usually folding) aperture/peep sight, mounted to the upper rear tang of a rifle, adjustable over a wide range of elevation (and sometimes windage) suitable for long range shooting with a long screw-adjustment and stadia lines for accurate adjustment and repetition of settings. Photo
Vierling - A four-barreled gun, typically with two identical shotgun barrels and with two rifle barrels of differing calibres. Built primarily in Germany and Austria. Rare. Photo
VR or Ventilated Rib - Designed to help cool and more particularly to direct the shimmering hot air that rises from hot barrels away from the line of sight in order to reduce disturbance in the view of the target. Ventilated ribs are useful on target guns, but less desirable on field guns where small twigs and other detritus can become lodged in the openings under the rib. Photo
Wad - An inert substance such as fibre or plastic that acts as a buffer, filler and/or a seal between a powder charge and a projectile or shot. Photo
Wadcutter - A cylindrical bullet with a flat face, designed to cut a clean hole in a paper target making scoring more precise. Photo
Wad Punch - A steel tool with cylindrical bore, chisel-shaped outside surface and a striking face extension, which when driven with a hammer through a suitable material such as leather, card, cork or fibre, will produce a cylindrical shaped wad of suitable diameter for the firearm for which it was made. Photo
Walnut - The type of wood most commonly used for gunstocks because of its combination of attributes: lightness and resilience to shock, its close grain, ease and predictability of working, stability, and its handsome appearance. Several different types of walnut are English/French/Circassian (Juglans Regia), American Black (Juglans Nigra), Bastogne and Claro. Photo
Watertable - The top of the bar of the action, the flat projection on the front of the receiver of a side-by-side gun, perpendicular to the standing breech. The cocking arms, hingepin and locking bolts are typically mounted inside the bar, below the watertable. The Table, or the Action Flat. Photo
WCF - Winchester Center Fire. Winchester's designation for many of its proprietary cartridges, mostly their rifle/revolver crossover cartridges such as the .44-40 Winchester, also known as .44WCF; and the .32-20 Winchester, also known as .32WCF.
Webley-Fosbery - A semi-automatic revolver patented in 1900, whereby the recoiling upper frame cocks the hammer and causes the cylinder to index one half-step, and its return forward completes the movement of bringing the next cartridge into battery. Photo
Wedding Band - A ring-shaped transition between the octagon and round sections of a gun barrel. Photo
Wheellock - An early system of ignition for muzzle-loading firearms where a steel wheel is wound up a partial turn against a spring and set with a catch. An arm, holding a flint, is manually lowered to the edge of the wheel. Upon the pull of a trigger, the wheel revolves smartly, producing sparks which ignite the main propellant charge. Photo
Whip - The tendency of a barrel to rise at the muzzle under the recoil of firing---because the line of the bore is normally above the axis of rotation around the point where the firearm is held against one's shoulder or in one's hand. Photo
Whitworth Steel - An early form of fluid steel for gun barrels, hydraulically forged from molten to prevent air inclusions. An expensive product, of which gunmakers were justifiably proud. Apart from being so marked literally, identified by Whitworth's trademark wheat-sheaf. Photo
Widow's Peak - A pointed detail where one material joins another. As at the top of a buttplate or under a forend tip. Photo
Wildcat Cartridge - A specially-designed cartridge, usually conceived by an individual in search of the proverbial better mousetrap, often derived from an existing design, not available off the shelf through ordinary channels of commerce, but which must be custom loaded with custom dies.
Windage - Adjusting the point of impact of a firearm in the horizontal plane; the knob used on an iron sight or telescopic sight to move the point of impact in traverse, right or left, to compensate for the effects of wind. Photo
Worm - A screw-like attachment to a ramrod or cleaning rod, designed to bore into a lead ball previously loaded into a muzzle-loader's barrel, with which to extract the ball and unload the gun without firing it. Also: Ball Screw Photo
Wrist - The thinnest section of the stock of a long gun between the receiver and the butt, gripped by the trigger-hand. The part of a gunstock most vulnerable to breakage. (British: Hand) Photo
Wundhammer Swell - A bulge in the side of the pistol grip of a stock designed fill the palm of the hand and offer the shooter a more comfortable, repeatable hold on his gun. Palmswell. Named for the American custom riflemaker who promoted it, Ludwig Wundhammer, 1854-1919. Photo
X-Ring - A smaller ring inside the 10-ring bullseye of a rifle or pistol target. Counting the number of shots within the X-Ring is used to decide the winner of an otherwise tied match. Photo
XXV - Roman numeral designation used by Robert Churchill when promoting his signature 25-inch shotgun barrels. He maintained that 25 inches was the ideal barrel length because they utilized all of the energy of modern powders, and because they provided a gun of livelier handling characteristics than more traditional, longer barrels, particularly when fitted with his high, narrow, matted, tapered rib. Photo
Yoke - A swing-out arm on a revolver, to which the cylinder is mounted, and when opened facilitates loading and cleaning. Also: Crane. Photo
Zero (v) - To adjust the sights of a firearm so that, with competent marksmanship, the projectile should hit the desired target.
Zimmerstutzen - A smallish single-shot rifle, rather like a miniature scheutzen rifle, of very small calibre, with the firing mechanism around five inches from the muzzle, but operated by a normally-positioned trigger, for use in indoor target shooting, particularly in Germany and Austria.. Photo
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