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Gun Versus Weapon, rifle, sidearm, or firearm


For those of you who are adding a military slant to your books, be it an active duty character or a prior service character, remember the terminology that will be used and part of that character’s vocabulary. Having your character use authentic terms when describing something adds to the overall story and assists the plot.

Active duty or prior service characters will never refer to a firearm as a ‘gun’. Not to confuse anyone but in the Navy, if said character was on a destroyer or battleship (there are no active battleships) they would refer to the weapon system on said vessel as a gun. Such as a 5” gun or a 57mm gun or a 16” gun.

For those characters that are not naval gunnery, then all firearms are referred to as a weapon or a rifle depending on what it is. Obviously a handgun is their sidearm or secondary weapon whereas a rifle is their rifle. Technically, the M-4 rifle is a carbine but you won’t hear too many military personnel refer to it as a carbine. It is their rifle or their weapon.

If you need clarification on this, I recommend you watch Full Metal Jacket and pay attention when Gunny Ermey is marching around the squad bay in the scene where they’re reciting “This is my rifle, This is my gun. This is for killing, This is for fun.” In other words, a soldier is issued a weapon, they were born with a gun. That can even work for female military service characters, they are issued a rifle. Don’t worry about the other part about not having a gun.


Magazine Versus Clip

clip and magazine cropped

Now we move onto the whole Magazine and Clip verbiage.

Modern military and civilian firearms usually take a magazine unless they are revolvers. I’m over simplifying this as there are tube magazines on shotguns and some rifles. For this purpose, we’re defining the difference between a magazine and a clip.

Thanks to Hollywood, got to love them, the term clip has become known for magazine. In the real world, a clip is not used in modern firearms. The term clip refers to the ammunition carrying device for the M1 Garand rifle of WW2 that used a metal stripper clip. If you’ve ever seen Saving Private Ryan, the US forces are using the M1 Garand as well as a plethora of other weapons. The M1 is easy to spot as soldiers are firing it like this, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, ping which is the metal clip being spit out of the weapon and letting that soldier know he needs to reload.

Today’s contemporary firearms use an enclosed container known as a magazine. There is no clip. Henceforth, there is no need to ask for another clip when in actuality the character is asking for another mag. There is a big difference between a clip and a magazine. Unless you have a character using a M1 Garand, there will be no clips involved.


Note the stripper clips with exposed rounds.


Note the enclosed magazine fully enclosing the rounds.




Silencers Versus Suppressors


I did a whole topic on this subject, Are firearms silenced or suppressed. For those of you who haven’t read it, there is no such thing as a silencer. A silencer is another of Hollywood’s firearm inventions along with revolvers sporting suppressors and screwing a suppressor onto a handgun that does not have an extended, threaded barrel.

You can’t suppress a revolver for obvious reasons. If you aren’t aware of that, please see the topic about suppressors and silencers to learn why. You can’t screw a suppressor onto a firearm without an extended, threaded barrel. For a handgun, that means you need an extended barrel that is threaded to accept a suppressor. For a rifle, same thing, a threaded barrel and in most cases, like with the M-16/M-4 family of rifles, the front sight needs to be removed. For a submachine gun, the rules are the same. You must have some kind of threaded barrel to accept said suppressor. Of course, there are other methods, like the H&K family of subguns that incorporate integral suppressors but we’re not discussing that here at this time.

Generally speaking, you can’t attach a suppressor without a threaded barrel. A suppressor is not the be all, end all to decreasing the decibels of a weapon firing. There is the sonic boom of the bullet as it breaks the sound barrier, there are the mechanical sounds of the action of the firearm as it cycles and there is the tinkle of spent brass (shell casings) hitting the deck. A suppressor is not a silencer just like a clip is not a magazine.

See Hollywood’s version of a suppressed revolver below.


Below is a picture of what it would take to actually suppress a revolver.



Note the below pictures of the H&K MK23 pistol shown with an extended, threaded barrel.




Bullet, Cartridge, and Round


What is the difference?

The term cartridge or “round” is most commonly used in reference to the complete package of bullet, casing, powder/propellant,  rim and primer that makes up the ammunition a firearm shoots. This relates to how many rounds a particular magazine will hold or what kind of round a specific firearm uses. The “bullet” is the solid projectile (that’s the pointy end) propelled from the end of the cartridge when the gun is fired.

See the diagram below for more detail.


1. The bullet, aka the projectile.

2. The case or casing, which holds all parts together, usually brass, aka spent brass once fired. Shotgun shells use plastic. There are also some steel casings floating around out there as well.

3. The propellant, gunpowder or cordite. That’s what causes all that grayish white haze that hangs in the air when there is a lot of firing. There is also a distinct smell that will get into your clothes. Think Gun Shot Residue or GSR from crime scene shows.

4. The rim, which provides the extractor on the firearm a place to grip the casing to remove it from the chamber once fired. You know you’re in the shit if you have an extractor failure that results in a misfeed or a ‘stovepipe’.

5. The primer, which ignites the propellant. With some cheap ammunition and some reloads, you can get a bad primer that will give you a misfire.



M1 in the mud

This topic is kind of a stickler for a lot of authors who want to include military vehicles in their work. With exception, and I stress this, no US military ground vehicle needs a key to start. The only exception are the official use sedans that recruiters use and the sedans that flag officers use for formal events. Those are the only exceptions where a US military motor pool vehicle will require a key.

US Military HMMWV ignition no key

Yes, that means that a military HMMWV (Hummer) does not need a key to start. Nor does the M1 tank, the M2 Bradley IFV, the M1126 Stryker/LAV, the 1078 LMTV, the 1083 MTV, or any other vehicle that is normally painted in some kind of green or camouflage pattern.


In case anyone is wondering why there are no keys, its pretty simple. Let’s look at a combat situation, several things are happening all at once. Rounds coming downrange, grenades, RPGs, bombs, artillery, basically all kinds of shit is happening. Now imagine the one person with the keys to the vehicle that your squad needs being shot or blown up or losing the key. That’s why there are no keys on vehicles that are designed for field/combat operations. The method for starting each of these vehicles are pretty simple and strive to be idiot proof.

There is one more thing to consider, and I’m not trying to pick on anyone but, there is not a whole lot of room in a Hummer. Sure, the vehicle is wide. like 8 feet wide, but that doesn’t mean that there is a lot of room inside. For all that width and space on the outside, there’s only four seats on the inside and those seats are not exactly comfortable. There is also one big ass transmission tunnel separating the seats. That tunnel usually has a large SINCGARS communication system mounted there. Looking at the seating arrangements, let’s say someone is in the left back seat and wants to move to the right back seat.  They would have to get out and walk around the Hummer to do that. There is no bench seat in the back like you might find in the average family truckster.

HMMWV LR passenger seat with storage box beneath

This is the left rear passenger seat in a military Hummer. Note the comfort level and the under the seat storage bin that the clasps are usually broken which means they rattle. To the left is the large transmission hump that usually has someone’s boots and butt when they are manning the roof weapon.



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