Top 10 most inaccurate gun terms


A reader called me out yesterday in an email about my “Stand your ground law” story, journalistguide onewhich I had just posted.

The reader, a licensed private investigator in Florida, correctly pointed out that the “Stand your ground” wording appears nowhere in Chapter 776 of Florida Law – the Justifiable Use of Force statute.

“Why use the wording in articles. State it correctly: ‘Justifiable use of Force,'” he wrote.

He is right.

Mea culpa.

It’s time to stop using it.

There are far more inaccurate  gun terms. Most were invented or at least co-opted by the media. I strive to keep them off my blog and out of my newspaper stories.

Here’s my Top 10 list:

1. Assault weapon: Always wrong unless the term refers to a select-fire AK-47, M4, Stg-44 or similar weapon.

2. Gun violence: We don’t say knife violence, baseball bat violence or frying pan violence. How about just violence?

3. Gun control: (i.e. Gun control advocates say…) Anti-gun is a more accurate term. To me, gun control means using a bench rest, bi-pod or both hands.

4. Automatic weapon: This is often mistakenly used to describe a semi-automatic weapon. I prefer select-fire if the weapon is capable of firing more than one round with a single press of the trigger.

5. An Arsenal of weapons/stockpiling weapons: This is usually used after someone is arrested to describe their firearms collection. I have an arsenal of weapons. I also have an arsenal of pots and pans. My wife stockpiles camera gear. Our cats are stockpiling catnip toys.

6. High-capacity magazine: The standard magazine for the AR platform holds 30 rounds. Factory magazines for most defensive pistols hold between 12-17 rounds.  These are standard capacity magazines.

7. Gun show loophole: I have bought more than a few firearms at local gun shows. Every single time the seller was a licensed gun dealer, and completed a background check required by statute. Still, there are some folks who go to a show to sell their personal firearms. This is not a loophole. Unless it’s prohibited by a local ordinance, it a legal private sale.

8. Silencers: There is no such thing as a firearm silencer. There are suppressors, which can be attached to the muzzle of a weapon, or integral to the weapons design. They reduce but do not eliminate the noise of a gunshot. In many states, including Florida, they are legal to own, assuming the purchaser completes a BATF Form 4 or establishes an NFA Trust.

9. Internet gun sale: Some would have you believe that you can find a gun online, pay with a credit card, and it will magically arrive at your house – as easy as ordering a book from Amazon. This is bunk. You can find guns online and pay for guns online, but the firearm will be only be shipped to a licensed gun dealer. They’ll likely charge a “transfer fee.” They’ll also perform a background check before letting the gun leave their store.

10. Cop Killer Bullets: There are turkey loads, shells designed for dove and quail, deer and varmint rounds, but I’ve never seen a box of bullets specifically designed for shooting at police officers. This is a myth promulgated as fact. Cop killer bullets do not exist.

Did I leave any out?


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. Some good points and some silly ones here.
    Stand Your Ground is not the official name of any Fla. law, true, but so what? We rarely use the official names of statutes, usually for good reason. But SYG is the term used BY ThOSE WHO PROMOTED that legal change, and by its critics. (The critics added other names we would not use, like “Shoot First Law,” and such, designed to be inflammatory…just as you are now hoping for one designed to ignore the fact that there have always been justifiable use of force provisions. The newer thing still being debated is the part about standing your ground in situtions where, previously, the law required retreat. So, SYG is appropriate.
    Statutes are often a complex web of laws, and the SYG concept is just part of our current justifiable use of force laws. Both terms can be used well or misused. Neither should ne shunned.
    As to not using “gun violence”, don’t be ridiculous. ..or else be more consistently ridiculous. Stop using child abuse because children aren’t the abusers. Will we abandon the phrase domestic violence because domiciles never attack anyone? School violence is out, too, as schools never hit anyone. There is no thing as a playground fight, either. Right? And there is no such thing as a gun writer, so change your blog name. Guns can’t write, and you don’t write them, either. People just write about guns.

  2. “I prefer select-fire if the weapon is capable of firing more than one round with a single press of the trigger.”

    Select fire means you have a choice between at least two modes of fire, not just the ability to fire more than one round with a single pull of the trigger. Most select fire weapons give one a choice between semi, auto and burst fire.

    An “assault weapon” is any thing one uses to assault another, a baseball bat, a screwdriver, a rock, or ones bare hands. An assault rifle, however must have selective fire, an intermediate cartridge, and a removable box type magazine.

  3. So much for thoughtfull responses.
    There are many gray areas worthy of educational discussion regarding best choice of words. Too bad there is no sign so far that those dicussions will take place here.
    Lee, yes, I have used some of those terms, and misused some, and some others, too..And also changed on some as I saw as more accurate or better or less loaded words to use, in some cases. So have you. (Even John Wayne got Lock ‘n Load wrong… and so it became right. You can’t load when you’re locked. It’s the other way round.) The industry itself has changed and adopted many terms…though sometimes for other reasons, oriented to marketing and politics, not accuracy. But they don’t get to dictate language to all. What’s so tactical about a tactical weapon? Weapons aren’t tactical..people are. But now its the cool thing to say, so you will parrot it?
    I just used that term in a column, in a way I think was useful in that context. It was your suggestion. I may or may not use it next time, but that depends.
    Point is, I will be thinking about the kind of words you are criticizing, and I recoomend the same for others. Just too bad thinking and discussion seems to be discouraged here. ..unless it is lock-step agreement.

  4. I’ve found the media also are apt to misconstrue (probably unintentionally)the notion of gun registration and gun licensing, adding to crime stories that the weapon was “unregistered” or the perp “unlicensed,” without noting (or even knowing) that registration or licensing is not required in many jurisdictions.

  5. It’s a mag or magazine; not a clip. A round is attached to a clip; a round is inserted into a magazine.

    The bullet is the projectile that comes out the end of the gun. A round is the case, primer, gun powder, and bullet fixed together.

    The grip on a pistol is the part you hold. The stock is the removable and replaceable pieces that attach to the grip such as pearl handle stocks (not grips) even though it may be called that on the box or bag it comes in.

  6. Warren Pomphrey on

    How about “point blank range” when what is really meant is “close range” Point blank actually refers to the two points where a bullet’s trajectory coincides with the line of sight.I also like “Fully Loaded” as in “the criminal entered the home with a “fully loaded weapon”….

  7. Clip, instead of magazine is probably the most misused firearm term. Maybe this side of assault weapon, that is. Its mostly innocuous, especially compared to the latter, but those arguing a topic should really not do so uninformed. Those in the know will quickly realize that you’re talking out of your ass. An no, changing the definition to suit your argument should not be a valid option.

  8. you missed a very big one IMO.


    they always say they want to ban “High capacity “Clips” i always say thats fine ill load my AR-10 Standard capacity Magazine one round at a time. they look at me confused and say well you know what i mean they are the same thing….. no they are not. a clip feeds a magazine *Stripper clips* a magazine feeds a firearm weather it is detachable or not does not mean anything. they are 30 round Standard capacity AR magazines. you can ban all the “clips” you want too

  9. Shut the hell up, Tom, whining “Just too bad thinking and discussion seems to be discouraged here.”. That’s just what you liberal nazis say when you get called out on your BS and have no recourse to rebut. You libs also like to hang your noses in the sair with such comments as “So much for thoughtfull responses.” as if you think are the only thoughtful one here you arrogant POS. Wrong, you’re just another sissy ass liberal know-nothing trying to sound like you know something. Lee is exactly right about ‘gun violence’, you’re the one being ridiculous and acting like a bratty child.

  10. Tom, Lock & Load is proper for an M1 Garand. You pull the bolt back & it locks open. Load the 8 rd clip into the M1, & close the bolt, chambering a round. Thus you have LOCK & LOAD.

  11. Hey Old Enough, same with an M16 or M4 (and likewise an AR15 for that matter); you lock the bolt to the rear, load a mag, and release the bolt.

  12. As a licensed dealer 7,8,9 are my favorites. I have been yelling about internet sales since they were included in the debate. Yes you can purchase a gun over the internet without a background check, but you can never possess it with out the check. I have guns in my safe to prove that. As for silencers, I recommend we use the term mufflers as they do in Europe. Could you imagine restricting car mufflers because pedestrians would better be able to hear the cars coming?

  13. Robin 'Roblimo' Miller on

    Tom Lyons, if you don’t favor giving free guns to psychopaths and issuing guns to violent criminals when they are released from jail, you are a communist gun-grabbing Obama-loving libtard. Yeah! No sane American Patriot (NRA member; same thing) can take anything you write seriously. Go back to your Democrat Party lair and take drugs with the rest of your pinko gang. And be glad we American Patriots are treating you with respect instead of calling you out as a weakling coward traitor lamestream media mouthpiece.

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