Guest Post: The Journalists’ Guide to Guns (How Not to Look Like an Idiot When Writing About Firearms)

Ben Langlotz is a patent and trademark attorney with 24 years’ experience, and his clients include numerous firearms industry companies.  He is the author of The Bulletproof Firearms Business – The Legal Secrets to Success under Fire.

Journalists.  Bless their hearts.  As a rule of thumb, any time we read a news story about a subject or incident we already know a lot about, it turns out that about 25% of what’s reported is simply wrong.

This is why knowledgeable gun owners distrust many news stories involving guns: because too many “journalists” display an ignorance of firearms that would be laughable if it weren’t so appalling.  If they can’t get their facts straight about gun technology and shooting, then we don’t trust them on much else.

For over 24 years as a patent attorney, I’ve taken pride in my ability to explain stuff effectively.  I’m known as “The Firearms Patent Attorney” because I represent more firearms companies than any other patent attorney or law firm in the world (by a wide margin).  That means I spend lots of time explaining how guns work.  And I have to keep it simple because I’m not just writing for specialized patent examiners, but for juries and judges, in case there’s ever a lawsuit.

The best compliment I ever get from inventors about a patent application is “Wow!  You really understand my invention!”  So maybe if I’m good at making gun tech understandable, I might be the right guy to help out the technically-illiterate journalists.  Here we go:

Lesson #1: They’re “Cartridges,” Not Bullets

Bullets are little lumps of lead.  Inert, harmless little pieces of soft metal.  They’re a component of ammunition, but they’re not ammunition.

What you journalists are almost always talking about when you mistakenly use the term “bullet” is “cartridge.”

Cartridges (or “rounds”) are little units of ammunition that go “bang” when they’re hit just right.  The gunpowder burns, the bullet flies away, and the case stays behind with the gun.

Here are some correct(ed) usage examples:

“… a bill to limit magazine capacity to 10 bullets rounds…”

“…a bill to limit purchasers to no more than 50 bullets cartridges per day…”

“…bullets have been recovered as far as a mile from the rifle range…”

One classic example of how this issue can confuse the ignorant is the case when a neighbor objecting to a gun range nearby “salted” her home’s roof gutters with a few “bullets” to make it appear that they were unsafely escaping the disputed range.  She foolishly had tossed live cartridges onto the roof to roll into the gutters, and the responding deputy Sheriff rolled his eyes, knowing the guns don’t expel live rounds of ammunition.

Michael Bloomberg’s well-funded anti-gun “Every Town for Gun Safety” group created a laughable propaganda image showing a rifle cartridge shooting out of the muzzle of a gun barrel.’

speeding bullet

Anti-gun activists show their ignorance.

Lesson #2: They’re “Magazines,” Not Clips

When you journalists write about “clips” you’re always wrong.  Always.

Magazines are containers that hold a bunch of cartridges, and are inserted into a gun to load it all at once, making reloading quick.  Unless a gun looks like an old-time cowboy or a bird-hunter might use it, it probably has a magazine.  A magazine itself is just a little sheet metal or plastic box with a spring insode (much like a Pez dispenser), and presents no danger of any kind.  For pistols, they’re contained entirely in the grip, and for rifles, they usually stick out below the bottom, in front of the trigger.

A Candy Magazine?

A Candy Magazine?

If you’re curious, “clips” are archaic devices known only to gun enthusiasts, and are essentially never used by modern police or military, or by people who use guns for self-defense or sport.  They’re used with old-style military rifles (like the WWII “Garand” they carried in Saving Private Ryan).

If you must know, clips are for loading rifles that don’t take magazines.  They’re little strips of metal that hold a set of cartridges by their rear ends so they can be shoved into the rifle all at once.  But they never come up in the news, so you can simply delete the word from your journalist dictionary.  I can assure you that over all my years in the gun industry, I’ve never heard anyone use “clip” as slang for magazine.  Maybe Hollywood gangsters and anti-gun reporters still do, but no one else does.

Incidentally, worrying about large magazines giving criminals firepower is pretty silly, because the whole point of magazines is how quick and easy it is to change them.  I’ve seen live demos in which a shooter changed pistol magazines so fast it was a blur.  And rifle magazines can be changed almost as fast with a little practice.

So, if you’re writing a story that involves magazines and are still confused, my advice to journalists is to drop by any gun shop and tell the guy behind the counter that you’re working on a story, and would like to see how magazines work.  Trust me, you’ll learn all you need to know.

Lesson #3: Calibrating Your “Caliber”

This one confused me back when I started learning about guns.  All you need to know is that caliber usually refers to the diameter of the bullet (and of the barrel of the gun that fires it).

There’s no clear rule, so don’t even bother trying to explain it.  If a cop tells you the caliber of a gun used in a crime, just report it, and we’ll know what it means even if you don’t.

The cartridge designation will give you a good idea of the caliber, but can lead to confusion.  357 Magnum has a 0.357 inch diameter bullet.  But so does a 38 Special.  A kid’s 22 squirrel rifle has the same bullet diameter as the M16 military rifle but they’re otherwise different in almost every other respect.

Incidentally, there’s no such thing as a “high caliber” anything.  Those are meaningless words used by anti-gun writers to make some gun sound fearsome.  Same for “high power.”  That M16 and the AR-15 fire the same round, but they’re anything but high powered.  The cartridge they fire is considered borderline weak and inhumane for a thin skinned little deer, and is actually less powerful than just about every other cartridge used by ordinary hunters.  Those 22 caliber bullets are much smaller caliber than 30 caliber (0.300 inch diameter) hunting bullets.  They’re way smaller than the 50 caliber (half inch) bullets used in hotdog-sized cartridges that cost $5 a pop, and are used on those big belt fed machine guns on aircraft and by wealthy target shooters (who Dianne Feinstein worries are practicing to shoot through her armored limousine).

Lessons #4-11: Random Thoughts You Need to Know About Guns

#4.  Guns aren’t required to be “registered” in most jurisdictions.  Please don’t write that a gun was “unregistered” if there is no law requiring it to be.  To those of us who know (there are lots of us) an “unregistered gun” sounds as absurd as an “unregistered baseball bat.”

#5.  No self-respecting gun owner uses the phrase “packing heat.”  It’s called “carrying”, whether concealed or open.  “Packing heat” is old-time gangster slang with biased connotations.  Avoid it unless you’re writing an anti-gun op-ed or a bad detective novel.

#6.  Machine guns are legal (under federal law, and in most states).  To buy one, a person must pay a $200 tax, undergo a background check, and wait maybe a year or more for the paperwork to process.  But only a limited number of specially registered ones may be bought and sold by people.  These are all older than 1986 and there are so few that what should cost $1000 new in a free market costs $10,000 or more.  (There’s something like 1 legal machine gun per 1000 adult American males).  That means that they’re only for wealthy collectors like Steven Spielberg, which explains why they aren’t used in crimes.  Ever.

#7.  Silencers are legal in most states.  They’re properly called “suppressors” and we also use the slang term “can.”  “Silencer” is OK to write, but it bothers a few gun geeks because they don’t make a gun literally silent (maybe as annoyingly loud as an air nailer – not the “phffft” or “ptew” of Hollywood movies).  In Hollywood, only bad guys use them.  In reality, it’s only good guys who passed a background check and paid a $200 tax just to make their guns a little easier on everyone’s ears.

#8.  Sinister gun collections.  When you’re reporting on some backwoods kook who was raided by a SWAT team, remember that all those guns and ammo you’re breathlessly reporting on are probably perfectly legal.  The cops know that, but they know you’ll ignorantly imply that there’s something illegal about all the guns and ammo they’ve laid out on the table for you to photograph for the evening news.  It’s actually quite normal for upstanding gun enthusiasts and hunters to own dozens of firearms (or to wish they did).  It deceives your readers and amuses gun enthusiasts when we read that “the arsenal included over 1000 rounds of ammunition.”  That’s because when we spend a weekend taking a shooting course, or just out having fun shooting at targets, we can easily shoot 1000 rounds (no it’s not a cheap hobby).  5000 rounds might sounds like a lot, but that much 22 ammo can easily be hand carried in a shoe box by a strong boy.

Also, a personal gun and ammo collection isn’t an “arsenal” unless you’re trying to demonize the owner, and strike fear in the hearts of your readers.  It’s an “ample collection,” and for most gun owners, never ample enough.

#9.  Ammunition in a burning building is no danger to firefighters.  When the powder burns, the case just pops off the bullet.  Firefighters with heavy suits and eye protection are in no danger. An excellent online video by SAAMI (one of my clients, and the organization that sets technical standards for ammunition) titled “Sporting Ammunition and the Fire Fighter” shows how surprisingly safe ammunition is in a fire and subject to other extreme stresses (and it’s cool to watch truckloads of ammo get shot up and burn up!)

#10.  An “assault rifle” is a military rifle that can shoot full auto.

“Semi-automatic” means that a single shot is fired for each trigger pull, and the gun automatically loads the next round.  Most pistols carried by police officers are semi-automatic.

An “assault weapon” is a term made up by people trying to ban semiautomatic rifles, by falsely implying that they’re full-auto assault rifles.

“Modern Sporting Rifle” is the industry standard term for the popular AR-15 and similar rifles with a military appearance.  I prefer “Sport Utility Rifle.”

#11.  The NRA isn’t the “gun industry lobby.”  They may have millions of individual members whose interests they represent when lobbying lawmakers and pursuing civil rights lawsuits.  But the real “gun lobby” is the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) that represents all the gun companies (I’m their trademark attorney, too).  The NSSF has the mission: “To promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.”  They also publish an excellent booket that not only educates journalists, but is a goldmine for gun enthusiasts looking to sharpen their firearms knowledge.

So, that’s about all a journalist who’s seeking to report the facts clearly and accurately needs to know about guns.  However, if they’re looking to “change the world” like a bunch of “community organizers” then this might not do much good.

Ben Langlotz is a patent and trademark attorney with 24 years’ experience, and his clients include numerous firearms industry companies.  He is the author of The Bulletproof Firearms Business – The Legal Secrets to Success under Fire, which is the leading book to help firearms business owners to navigate the minefields of patent and trademark law.  Mr. Langlotz also publishes the Bulletproof Firearms Business Newsletter, which reaches over 1000 firearms industry owners and executives each month.

Ben Langlotz, Patent and Trademark Attorney

Ben Langlotz, Patent and Trademark Attorney

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • mikewest007

    …I don’t know which one sounds more idiotic, “assault weapon” or “sport utility rifle”. “Modern sporting rifle” is okay, though.

    • Cymond

      I like ‘sport utility rifle’ and I have for years. I finally put my finger on it last year. At the time, I wrote:
      “My favorite term, however, is “sport-utility rifle”. It seems like a more accurate term than MSR. First, it links to the concept of an SUV – big & scary at first glance, but generally used for mundane purposes. Second, it portrays the rifle as versatile, capable of both light duty (target), off-road (hunting), and serious heavy-duty use (defense). Just as the average SUVs never leaves the pavement, most SURs are never used for violence. Also, just like the SUV which is equally at home on the pavement or the trail, the SUR is equally qualified for sport or defense. It is a very versatile rifle, indeed.”

      • mikewest007

        Well, my distaste for the name “sport utility vehicle” comes from the fact, that 90% of those are shit (although it may be an European thing, the market’s a bit different here): they’re barely offroad-worthy, if that, and most of them are owned to compensate for something. Unless we’re talking about stuff like Toyota Landcruiser, Nissan Patrol, Mitsu Pajero, Mercedes G or the old-school Land Rovers.

        • iksnilol

          Don’t forget the soccer moms who drive SUVs to ensure that they kill you in case of an accident.

          Also, I just call them rifles. Only distinction I make is whether it is automatic, semi-auto or manual.

        • LarryEArnold

          Well, I like my Jeep. I don’t need it to go off-road to get to the range, just haul a bunch of gear and four people. But that may be a Texas thing.

          • mikewest007

            Well, Jeeps, at least the older models, aren’t bad, but stuff like the Porsche Cayenne or Lincoln Nigavator? Count me out, that’s blingy crap without substance.

    • I like the term… “Rifle”. Or “carbine”, maybe.

      • mikewest007

        Yep, simple and elegant.

    • Kivaari

      I simply like “rifle” without the other BS.

  • James in Australia

    I use clips to load my Lee Enfields magazine.

    • Cymond

      Heck, sometimes I used clips to load my AR-15 magazines. They’re a lot less common nowadays that they once were, but they’re still around.

    • Fruitbat44

      Sorry James you use chargers to load your Lee-Enfield’s magazine. If they were clips they would go into the action with the rounds and form part of the feed mechanism e.g. with the M! Garand.
      Of course some people do call chargers stripper clips . . .

      • Llewelyn

        Naw son he uses clips

      • James in Australia

        Here they are called Clips, Stripper Clips or Charger Clips. Almost never merely Charger or Stripper.
        I may well be a pedant…..

        • Fruitbat44

          PEDANTS UNITE!
          Well I guess terminology varies with geography. 🙂

        • Kivaari

          I buy plastic stripper clips that combined with a charging guide allows me to fill M16 magazines.

          • Never seen a plastic stripper clip before.

    • Graham2

      No you don’t, you use chargers. If you’re going to be pedantic, get your facts right.

  • Patrick R

    Outstanding article! Good to know that TFB is still publishing a few worthy things to read instead of turning into some bastardized version of Facebook.

    Seriously guys, the number of pictures are getting out of hand as is the posts from Nathan and Nicholas that are mostly regurgitated junk from the internet that isn’t really newsworthy. Most of it is a months if not years old. Your readers expect better, do better.

    • …Ouch, that hurt. :/

      • Patrick R

        Maybe take criticism seriously instead of being a douche? This blog has the potential to be very good, you have some very talented and opinionated people writing for you, why they are buried with posts that should be on Facebook generating traffic is beyond me. I love the reviews and the opinion pieces, the junk links not so much.

        • It wasn’t my intention to come off that way.

          As a writer for TFB, I have control over the material I put out and nothing else.

          • CZfan

            I do have to agree with patrick on this one, even though I dont agree with how he said it, there is alot of old regurgitated stuff on the site and the links at the bottom of the page are seemingly random interjecting years old information with the latest news, It could be more of an organizational issue than anything. Segregating current events and articles from old ones would be nice. but also some sort of quality control would be appreciated, I do realize this is a blog, or it at least started that way, but now its more of a disjointed collection of recycled gun magazine articles spotted with enough new stuff and amazing eyecatching headlines to keep your interest. And as if to make my point for me scrolling up to see todays “headlines” (the links after the article) I see “Man Accidentally shoots his penis”

            “The difference between a gun a stripper and a G string” next to old articles from 3 months to 3 years ago.

            I do appreciate what TFB does I know its alot of work to create any sort of publication. I know there are plenty of real journalists out there, Fox, MSN,CNN and all the other “big news” outlets cant hire everyone and squash thier integrity with the political agenda of the organization, But I would still like to see some more original and meaningful articles, Ive got stacks of gun magazines of all kinds from hunting to tactical, I buy whatever gun or headline catches my eye and I have seen a number of stories that showed up first in magazines end up as bastardized versions on TFB, Sometimes like in the case of the article on the first series of AK rifles “The AK-47 Type One” the opening line says “Im sure this is something 99.9% of you have never seen before”!! well considering that the article was already in print in a magazine and a book has the whole story in it I doubt that. Also unless claymore is a pen name of a very particular person he should make sure to say “these are someone elses words”

          • Patrick R

            While it may not have been your intention, that is what happened.

            While you might not have control over the blog, you do have influence with the ones who do. Maybe saying something about how TFB is degrading and something will change.

  • Gunhead

    Claiming that the NRA actually represents most shooters (especially non-WASPs) is pretty laughable. Good article other than that though.

    • DeusMachina

      He didn’t say they did. Just that they represent millions of individual members. Not even most shooters.

    • jimmyrk3

      The NRA does represent most shooters. You don’t have to be a member of the NRA to benefit from their lobby. Members help by paying for the lobby, all shooters benefit from the lobby.

    • LarryEArnold

      Whatever you think of the NRA’s politics, 97,000 NRA basic firearm instructors are out there turning people who know nothing about guns into shooters, and the NRA Foundation is supporting youth shooting programs that are bringing young people to the range. The NRA is thereby creating the pro-gun voters who are winning the gun-rights war.

  • Blake

    Thanks for posting this excellent article.

    All we have to do now is get journalists to read it…

    • zeprin

      And that’s supposing that today’s Juorno’s are interested in facts.

    • Heinleinslostson

      And after reading it, actually comprehending it. Remember, they became reporters to change the world.

      • Kivaari

        They become reporters since it is an easy job requiring almost no skill.

  • I’ve just noticed that the best articles on here tend to be the one that bite on their own rule of “Firearms, not politics”. Yes, this article is awesome. And I would gladly show it to journalist buddies if I had journalists among my buddies. But if it’s not opinionated I don’t know what is.

    Then again… with certain topics, there is such a thing as a wrong opinion. I’ll leave it at that, though.

    With all that said? I want MORE articles like these. Seriously. This is a quality post, that’s the kind of thing I check TFB back literally every day for.

    • sianmink

      This skirts the line of ‘firearms not politics’ but it’s a good post and a good post for TFB since the focus is on journalism and he makes a valid point: If you’re writing about guns and make any of these basic mistakes, any ‘people of the gun’ are going to dismiss whatever you have to say, regardless of if you actually make any good points, because you are demonstrating that you are writing from a position of ignorance, and that’s valid whether the article is political or not.

  • mike
    • Patrick R

      Dang it! I am really annoyed that they didn’t provide the source. Yet more regurgitated content! The staff here should be ashamed!!!!

      • Hello–guest post-

        • Patrick R

          Phil, I interpret “guest post” as a guest writer putting something together for you guys. I don’t interpret it as an article that appeared on another blog almost a month ago and we are bringing it to you now.

  • wetcorps

    Good points, though I’m not entirely sure about the way they are made.

    As Hebizuka said, this post IS opinionated. The fact that it is posted on a site called “the firearm blog” would make it seem like it anyway. A lot of your sentences are clearly pro-gun and try to “demonize” anti-gunners. Of course they deserve it, but that’s beside the point.
    From the outside I’m afraid this article would appear as very pro-gun, and worth double checking. Double checking is good anyway, but it sounds like you are trying to give definitive facts about guns that should be the absolute truth.
    Yes, it is true that a magazine isn’t a clip. Diane Feinstein fearing to be shot at with a .50? That’s already a bit more debatable, and definitely politics (again, I’m on the side of those who think it is most probably the case. but I’m trying to think as a non gun savvy journalist).

    Serious journalists (the rare ones that actually bother to do research) tend to seek neutral information, or at least sources from both sides of an issue (think of how news reports protests: “they were a 10 000 according to the organizers, 3000 according to the police”).
    “Neutral” journalism (as opposed to “community managing”, as you say) is a vast subject in an on itself, which I wouldn’t dare making an opinion about without further research – maybe someone should write a blog post about it 😉

    • Mystick

      This wasn’t originally a TFB article.

      • BillC

        Sounds like most TFB articles.

  • Rufus1212

    I’m kind of upset you published this article, now I won’t be able to laugh out loud at the journalists that try to sound like they know what they’re reporting about. But on the other hand, most journalists here in NY won’t read it because they think they already know it! Anyway, nice job.

  • Nicholas Mew

    Just don’t be a dick about #2 to other people. It can be annoying but don’t annoying to others about it.

  • Marco Antonio Gonzalez

    Ahhhh journalists, once you just get some little knowledge about some subject you tend to put the most of them in the same bin that you use for Hollywood film writers.
    I still remember here in Venezuela listening to the news on the radio and the reporter said that a man fired his 40 MILIMETER pistol o.O. Or even reading the news about some aircraft accident involving a small jet trainer mislabeled as a big heavy fighter.
    Nice article i think he just missed the term “Select fire”

    • einszweidrei

      Same here in brazil, a reporter said that the police seized a 380 pistol in 9mm. Another one was speaking about the great fire power of the 7,65 mm pistol cartridge.

      • iksnilol

        Well, 380 is 9mm. Were I am from we call it 9mm short because it is 9mm and shorter than regular 9mm.

        • einszweidrei

          yes, but in brazil they never refer to the .380 as a 9mm short, they always call it 380. I know a story of some guy who was almost arrested because the police thought that his walther ppk in “9mm kurz” was a “normal” 9mm, which is illegal for civilians over here.

    • LarryEArnold

      If you go goose-eyed over a 40mm pistol, what would you do with the 7.62 caliber rifle from a report I read?

  • trapp

    Clips and mags seem to be a source of unending confusion. I have thought quite a lot about this and have come to a conclusion that might help. Let’s say a clip is a device that allows you to load several cartriges into your firearm in a single action. Let’s further say that a magazine is the part of a firearm where ammunition is stored immediatly before it is chambered.
    These definitions work pretty well for all ways the two words are currently used while being technically precise. “Clips” covers stripper- en bloc and all kinds of moon clips. Magazines can in this case be internal, detachable or combinations thereof (IIRC early lever actions had mags that required partial disassembly to load them). It would even work for the tube mags of air rifles and paintball markers while excluding external ammo boxes and disintegrating belts which are neither clips nor mags.
    Of course this would make the magazine a special and complex kind of clip but considering that quite a lot of people already see it this way this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

    The gun that fires complete cartriges with intact primers on the other hand is a misconception that has just go away.

    • claymore

      Clips don’t assist rounds into the chamber. Magazines do. It’s that simple

      • LarryEArnold

        With tubular magazines it’s the feed tray that assists the rounds into the chamber.

        • claymore

          Close but the tubular magazine MOVES the rounds a clip does NOT. And room refered to as a magazine is in a different class altogether than firearms. But parts of it do indeed lift and move the guns ammunition parts into the breech.

          • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

            moon clips. People just need to quite the gun snobbery. Clip is a perfectly fine blanket term it not being a OK term is a recent thing to bash the media. you read literature from early 1900’s clip is the common word and is the blanket term. all detachable magazines are clips with an added function, fix magazine take clips or speedloads speed loaders attach to clips or have clip function built in. belts are a type of clip.

          • claymore

            Yep belts sure are a type of clip they do nothing but hold the ammo unlike a magazine when helps feed it.

            Use what you want but this is a firearm site and we have to be succinct and precise unlike people that know nothing and call them clips when they aren’t. He did a good job of educating people that need it.

          • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

            they use a blanket term. there are plenty of gunes that do not use mags but clips, some use both. Not knowing which firearm does off hand makes clip a techniquely the better choose. How ever more fire arms use detachable magazines, few utilize a traditional clips . but really the key diffrence is as you say a clip passively aids in the feeding while a mag is active in it. Ironically i seen some proto gun that uses “springless magazine” just muddying the waters some more. but out side of the fire arm they have the same function to hold round in as a single unit.

          • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

            Ironic since the writter of this article failed to know that M1 has a fixed mag….

    • iksnilol

      I always thought it was clips feed magazines while magazines feed chambers. AKA what claymore said.

      • trapp

        This works until you consider (half) moon clips for revolvers which feed chambers. Also: The way I understand the garand action, the clip there is required to guide the round into the chamber. So it actually becomes part of the magazine when loaded.

        • iksnilol

          Your moon and garand clips can go to a place where the bluing ain’t blue.

          No, seriously, I am supes confused now.

        • claymore

          Except like all clips they themselves do NOT move any rounds it takes physical forces appled by a human to do any movement while magazines have springs to do the movement.

    • LarryEArnold

      Another delineation is that magazines you save and reload, clips you discard. Except a lot of us penny-pinching shooters reload clips, just like some of us reload cases and shells.
      To me, educating even shooters to say “magazine” instead of “clip” is a battle that can’t be won. Since the terms aren’t confusing (If you talk about your 1911 clip I know what part you mean) it isn’t worth heartburn to hassle over it.

      • claymore

        You don’t think saving M-1 garands clips was done by WWII soldiers?

        • LarryEArnold

          Perhaps occasionally.
          In my limited military experience with the Garand, and according to my father who carried them in WWII and Korea, 30.06 ammo came packaged in either clips or belts (for machineguns). The clips were usually packaged in disposable bandoliers. Given that the Garand flings the clip some distance, retrieving it during combat would have been problematic.
          Similarly, the 7.62mm and 5.56mm ammo I was issued came in stripper clips, and often in bandoliers.

          • claymore

            So they did save them LOL. And stripper clips are another subject just like moon clips. Stripper clips held ammo prior to the ammo being manually inserted into a firearm or magazine and have no function in FEEDING the mechanism.

      • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

        except m-16 mags were meant to be disposed of aswell.

        • LarryEArnold

          None of my supply sergeants would agree with that. They had to do the paperwork if one got lost.

          • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

            nor would mine, but they were intented for one time use originaly thus why they had reliablity issues specially earlier on. government atempt to save money, “Because they still functioned after intitial use”

            but after 100’s of time being used well they were a shoddy design lead to plenty of failures.

          • iksnilol

            Same problem plagued the FAMAS. At first they wanted it to have disposable mags for some reason + they would be cheaper to make. Later on they realized that it was cheaper to reuse mags (and they didn’t have the budget for disposable mags). That caused a cluster**** to put it mildly. Luckily for them the new versions use AR mags.

  • Pete Sheppard

    A friendly quibble on #8. A place where guns are stored is properly an ‘armory’, as in the common ‘National Guard Armory’.
    ‘Arsenal’ is a gun factory, usually government owned, as in ‘Springfield Arsenal’ or ‘Watervliet Arsenal’.

    • Mystick

      “Armory” can also be used as a term for a place where weapons are modified, serviced, and maintained.

      • iksnilol

        So Bubbas garage is an Armory?

        • Mystick


  • Ron

    Assault Weapons is in fact a valid term and has existed in the military since the Second World War, they are weapons designed to penetrate defensive positions through the usage of high explosives. Normally they are recoilless or rocket based. A current issued assault weapon for the US Marine Corps is the Mk153 Shoulder fired Multipurpose Assault Weapons (SMAW).

    • Scott P

      You are mixing up the terms.

      Assault rifle is what you MEAN to say.

      Assault weapon is the anti-gunner/ignoramus term.

      • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

        assault riffle has been used since the end of ww2. But it s a select fire fire weapon that shoots an intermediate round. that is all. nothing to do with how it looks but is function and design.

        • Kivaari

          Our first was the m2 carbine.

          • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

            I been say that for a couple years

  • Mystick

    I read this exact same article somewhere else, about a week or so ago. BearingArms, I believe… didn’t realize he was syndicating his work.

  • Mr. Fahrenheit

    Thanks for the SAAMI link. Very informative.

    I found the article read a bit condescending, but feel free to ignore my opinion.

  • jacqueshacques

    When I was a reporter, I corrected a lot of my colleagues about firearms terminology – just like I did about lots of other things, from the difference between rafters and trusses to what makes sandstone different from limestone, to what a pH reading actually means, to the difference between slot machines and table games. The main difference between us was that I didn’t spend my time getting a journalism degree, but that’s neither here nor there. While firearms are a hot issue, I can say from experience that at least 75% of the time (in print media, anyway, the TV stuff was always a little more sensationalist) nobody was out to move an agenda forward, they just didn’t know they weren’t saying the right thing. This, of course, touches on the whole idea of journalism and responsibility and specialization in undergraduate studies, which is an issue for another day and another forum.

    My beef with the article is pretty much all contained within the last paragraph. By saying “they’re,” you imply that a journalist isn’t reading an article that you claim to have prepared specifically for them. The addition of the whole “change the world” (who wouldn’t make the world a better place if they could?) and “community organizer” bits also seems more than a little antagonistic. An editor would have made you cut it.

    As I’m sure many of you know, lots of people in our everyday lives have some seriously misinformed ideas about firearms. The trick, I’ve found, isn’t to attack people for their lack of knowledge, but rather take them to the range and show them what an enjoyable hobby the shooting sports can be. Who are you more inclined to write good stuff about, a person who took you to the range and showed you the difference between respect and fear, and that shooting isn’t any crazier of a hobby than bowling or growing hot peppers, or someone who made some snippy remarks about your personal politics? We don’t win this fight by making enemies, we win by forming allies.


    • BuzzKillington

      That’s my problem with most journalists. As he mentioned in this article, the more subject knowledge you have about a topic highlighted in a news article, the more you realize how clueless the journalist writing it is. Even just making trivial Facebook posts to people I know, I simply cannot bring myself to cite a story and discuss the topic with the intent to inform, and inject an opinion (no matter how subtle I try to make it) without first understanding WTH it is I’m actually writing about. Whether it’s sheer laziness, or simply not caring, many journalists don’t give a shite to actually learn and grasp a basic understanding of what they’re literally writing to INFORM others about. I find integrity to be a core value that is NOT an element of that industry.

  • Matt Bumguardner

    Two mistakes here – 30 caliber is actually .308 inches not .300. Second is the cartridges in a fire. Yes usually they do not fire off dangerously. However my house burned down recently and the 7.62×39 stored in a 50 cal ammo can shot holes in the ammo can. So in some cases burning cartridges can be dangerous.

    • iksnilol

      What about .311? Isn’t that 30 caliber too? According to Wikipedia it is 0.30 inches.

  • Mountain

    Good article. I have to nitpick, though.

    Machine guns are mostly not owned by wealthy collectors. Most cost less than a fishing boat or an ATV; both of which are commonly owned by the middle class. The MG entry price, right now, is about $5,000 (M10s & M11s, Reisings, STEns, etc). HK fans will pay more than that for authentic HK94.

    Also, silencers are properly called silencers. That’s what is says on your Form 1/ Form 4 and that is what Hiram Maxim, the inventor, dubbed them. Two major can manufacturers, AAC and SilencerCo, call them silencers. The only people I’ve met who didn’t like the term silencer didn’t own one or were mall ninjas. The term is good to use along with the others mentioned.

    I get this article is sourced from elsewhere but food for thought…

  • noel

    Remind me. Why would we want to help journalists deliver their anti-gun message better? If they actually took your advice, then it would give them credibility. Why do you want this again???

    • Noel, as the author, I enjoy all the interesting and kind comments here. But yours deserves an answer. While it’s unlikely that we can transform journalism, if we did get them speaking correctly, our cause would be helped by the fact that people would be better informed. Misinformed people can be swayed to give up their rights, but well-informed people are tougher.

  • Laserbait

    Thanks for a great read. I loved the “Unregistered Baseball Bat” analogy!

  • bfreeordie


  • Ge

    One of the things that’s always been on my mind: aside from the bread and butter buzzwords (“Assault weapons”, “high capacity magazine clip” and whatnot) Journalists LOVE to put in the buzzword: “High Powered Rifle”. Everything that’s not a handgun (as well as some handguns) is a high powered rifle. So, to them, what is a low powered rifle?, or medium powered for that matter?

    • iksnilol

      Check the damage rating.


      High-powered = pointy bullet (7.62, 5.56 etc) or has “magnum” in name.
      Low-powered = wimpy non-pointy bullets (pistol cartridges).

      • Ge

        I recall during the Canadian school shooting, the [9mm] Beretta CX4 was referred to as a high powered rifle

        • iksnilol

          It has a long barrel, that increases the damage rating enough for it to be high-powered.

          Ah, I don’t know anymore.

  • iksnilol

    Ben, with all due respect you are wrong. I am a self-respecting gun owner and I use terms like “packing heat” or “Glock brand Glock” or words like “gat”, “strap” or “heater”.

    All in all, well written and true. Though it could be simplified: Step 1: go to a gun range and ask the RO. Or have have him/her read your article before sending it to print.

  • Fruitbat44

    Good article although given the debate about “Assault Rifle” vs. “Battle Rifle” a little while back it comes across a little heavy on semantics.
    That said, Journalists can really benefit from getting the terminology correct and – this goes for journalists of every political persuasion – from learning to distinguish between reporting what happened and not what they would have liked to have happened.

  • Guest

    Local paper doing an article on women and shooting mentions an “AR-16” and a “hunting riffle” (sic).

  • cristo52

    To most “journalists” just reading this posting is a deadly frightening experience. Can you hear them crying?

  • Ckh88

    Whoa whoa whoa… .308 caliber bullets, friend. And Enfields have detachable magazines and feed from stripped clips. HAH!

    Well written article, just giving you a hard time 😉

  • bfmusashi

    I could take this a lot more seriously if gun sites didn’t print the same article on a regular basis trying to spread a universal grasp on jargon. But, hey, then we couldn’t mock the journalists for not speaking our nerd tongue right?

  • Panzercat

    This article makes the mistake of assuming reporters A) Don’t Know, B) Actually Care.

  • engjin

    Lesson 12- try to retain some of your humanity by not waving the bloody flag and sensationizing your article by using firearm terminology as adjectives in order to get a few more page hits.

  • SM

    This is well written and informative! Stuff like this is why I came to TFB.

  • Hilariously, the “rifle round” in that Bloomberg ad is actually a 25mm cannon round.

  • Myweaponsdon’tassault

    My only disagreement with this article is about clips and magazines. Clips aren’t for guns that don’t have magazines, just ones that don’t have detachable ones. M1s and SKSs have internal magazines. A 4 shot hunting rifle has an internal magazine. The military loads M4 detachable magazines from clips. The way I explain it is “Clips feed magazines, magazines feed guns”. Probably still too much for a “journalist” to wrap their narrow mind around though!

  • Mike the Limey

    Unfortunately a not insignificant number of journalists use incorrect or misleading terms not through ignorance but rather in an attempt to influence their audience towards an anti firearms ownership position.
    Those so-called “journalists” care not one whit for accuracy – only for the message it portrays.

  • MrApple

    Damn fine article!

  • Guy


  • Strangely Sane

    “The gunpowder burns, the bullet flies away, and the case stays behind with the gun.”
    It’s a small thing I know but unless the journalist is writing about ye olde firearms utilizing black powder then the correct term is ‘propellant’. Gunpowder is an explosive, and, for a journalist, that equates to possession of bomb-making components which means the capacity to become terrorists thus leading to Shock! Horror! Probe! stories.

    The gunpowder burns, the bullet flies away, and the case stays behind
    with the gun. – See more at:

    The gunpowder burns, the bullet flies away, and the case stays behind
    with the gun. – See more at:

  • Msgtdubb

    Well done, I have been shooting all my life and a lot of the terminology wasn’t clear. Now it is.

  • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

    “If you must know, clips are for loading rifles that don’t take
    magazines. They’re little strips of metal that hold a set of cartridges
    by their rear ends so they can be shoved into the rifle all at once.
    But they never come up in the news, so you can simply delete the word
    from your journalist dictionary. I can assure you that over all my
    years in the gun industry, I’ve never heard anyone use “clip” as slang
    for magazine. Maybe Hollywood gangsters and anti-gun reporters still
    do, but no one else does.”
    Actually clips are a better blanket term then magazine. Virtually Any type of gun has had design that used a type of clip. All detachable able magazines fall into the basic definition of a clip. A clip is a device that holds round in place and is load into a firearm or magazine.

    M-1 had magazines they were not detachable when the clip was inserted it became part of the magazine. A magazine ruffly the same thing it hold ammunition in place, but it actively aids in the loading of rounds into the chamber. IE self loaders.”
    one can make the assertion that detachable magazines are clips with a little extra functionality”

  • Chase Buchanan

    You may not have known this, but the Everytown picture with the rifle cartridge turned out to be fake. Newspapers have actually done this before, though.

    Also, the “community organizer” bit was counterproductive.

  • Kivaari

    I have shot a few suppressors lately that pretty much give us the sound so familiar to movie goers. Some new designs are simply great.

  • Marshall Eubanks

    Quick correction: the NRA is the concealed carry permit training industry lobby. The permit training racket is big business, thanks to government mandates, and the NRA lobbies to ensure that remains the case.

    Civil/human rights should not (rightfully cannot) require licensure.

  • JDon357

    Send to all the universities with Schools of Journalsim.
    Wait. No! It’s more fun letting them write about 16 year old boys who had an arsenal of 1000 pneumatic copper bullets under his bed.

  • Daniel O’Brien

    My S&W 940 snub revolver uses clips. Full moon clips. LOL.

  • 427cobraman

    One small correction for this excellent and accurate article: the term “assault weapon” was not “made up” in this country or era. Adolf Hitler renamed the then newly minted Machinepistole ’43, the “Sturmgehwer ’44”. It means assault weapon in German. It was the first single-man carried machine gun in a rifle caliber. Hugo Schmeisser’s development team did this by shortening the 7.92 Mauser cartridge case from 57mm to 33mm and shortening the bullet as well. This made the ammo a lot lighter. The rifle was revolutionary because before this weapon you only had submachine guns (which fire pistol ammo) or crew served rifle caliber heavy machine guns. Now you could equip every paratrooper with a machine gun that they could readily jump with.
    The Ak-47 is pretty much a copy of this weapon.
    Conclusion: any weapon that is called “Assault Weapon” must fit the criterion. Therefore ar-15s and semi-auto ak-47s are not assault weapons.
    And this just in……why is the left only concerned about “gun violence”? Seems like they are good with things like bludgeoning deaths and knife murders, right? Because there is no shrill and righteous multilevel billion dollar effort to eradicate violence. Only “gun violence”.

  • Tom Armstrong

    Thank you!

  • Manimal

    #7. It actually is a silencer as defined by law, not a suppressor.

  • Spork Star

    #12 – Restricting firearms so that they cant be carried in public, or owned without a justifiable reason, tends to Increase the crime rates in those areas. This is readily apparent when checking the facts, both nationally and internationally.

    The reason is because criminals buy their guns off the street and a large percentage of them come from somewhere else, so they are effectively “importing” guns into a restricted area. Because of their lawless attitude they dont care about registering their weapons or applying for permits. So local or state gun restrictions aren’t going to affect firearm availability for criminals, and the guns they buy are sometimes much cheaper than ones bought on a perfectly legitimate basis (if a revolver has been used in the past to kill 5 people it may sell for as low as $50, for example).

    If they are ever Caught they might face greater penalties because of their weapon use, but it is a fantasy to think that criminals are going to be deterred by harsher sentences, since they wont face jail time at all if they get away with their crime (and a good number of them do so getting caught does not enter their mind).

    One thing that a criminal is deterred by – is the chance that their victim is going to pull out a gun and blow them away. Fear will make a person pull the trigger even if they dont have the guts to do so, and an inexperienced woman may panic and just fire all of the shots in the gun. Taking a trip to the big house is easier than taking a trip to the cemetery, or the wheelchair. You cant get away with it, if you dont even get away with it. So criminals love the idea of getting guns out of the hands of their would-be peace abiding victims.

    In a similar way school shooters can travel out of state to buy their guns, bring them back and shoot up the school. The activity is going to result in their death and they dont care if they have to drive 12 hours and save up $5000 to get the job done, it is their life’s work as far as they are concerned.

    Local or even state restrictions on firearms have no effect on this phenomenon. Gun Shows are held all over the country on rotating schedules and anybody can come there. Even if the gun show is taking place in a state that has firearms restrictions, people residing out of juristiction aren’t subject to those regulations in many cases (eg, if the state requires a firearms permit card, someone out of state can probably still buy a gun there without a firearms permit card since their own state may not require it and thus not even have them available).

    And whether it was a gun show or a regular gun store, if the location where they are being bought doesn’t have waiting periods or require permits that wouldn’t restrict the person from buying one or multiple firearms in a single visit.

    Also when it comes to gun stores a firearm purchase may be possible to arrange in advance of actually showing up – it is a fact that when you order a gun online it almost always has to be sent to an actual gun dealer, who will conduct the sale and background check themselves. If someone was going to travel 2 states over to buy multiple firearms and a collection of ammunition or likewise dangerous weapon materials, they would be smart enough to set it up so they could conduct the visit efficiently.