Firearm Slang Quiz


By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Daxus / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Every job and hobby in the world has its own lingo that people in the know like to use. Sometimes it's a word or phrase that has some history behind it. Sometimes there are clever and witty nicknames. Sometimes some terms just don't make a lot of sense at all, but they've been around forever and no one bothers to question them. You'll find it in everything from the military to plumbing to Dungeons & Dragons. Guns are no different! There's a wide array of fun and weird slang that describes guns themselves, how they shoot, what they shoot and even what you're shooting at. 

Some gun slang dates back to the Wild West or the days of old-timey gangsters in Chicago. Other stuff comes from the military or hunting or even just shooting at gophers on your farm. There's a lot to know for any gun enthusiast, as the lingo crosses a lot of the history and function of guns. You'd have to be a bit of a gun encyclopedia to know it all.  But if you think you're of the right caliber to pull it off, why don't you try out our quiz and see what you can do?

What slang term for a shotgun was made famous in the movie "Army of Darkness"?

Boomstick is a pretty common colloquial term for a shotgun these days, and the reason it became so well known was thanks to Bruce Campbell's iconic character Ash from the "Evil Dead" movies, who uses it to describe his shotgun to some primitives.


What do you call it when the hammer of your gun pinches or hits the webbing between your thumb and forefinger during recoil?

Hammer bite doesn't happen with most models of guns, but it will occur with a few where the hammer is either a little larger than it needs to be or just kicks back a bit too far and bites into the webbing of your hand.


This term is likely derived from a rapid-fire weapon that was deployed during the Civil War. What is it?

The word "gat" has been around for ages but has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in modern times thanks to it showing up in rap lyrics. It comes from the Gatling gun originally, a hand-cranked rapid-fire weapon that was pretty revolutionary at the time.


What do you call two quick shots in a row without re-aiming?

The term "double tap" refers to pretty much any time you fire off two rounds in quick succession. It's a popular one in video games, and you may also remember hearing it pop up a few times in "Wreck-It Ralph."


What's the popular name for a bullet with a concave nose?

Hollow points have a pushed-in nose that allows them to expand and fragment when they hit their target. They're incredibly damaging for anything that gets hit by them, particularly a person, as they will chew up your insides. That said, they're less likely to go all the way through a target and do damage to an innocent bystander.


What's the darkly beautiful term for someone firing an automatic weapon indiscriminately because they have no training?

"Death blossom" is a term that pops up in the military sometimes. It generally refers to local forces that the military may be working with who panic when they're under light fire and start spraying bullets willy nilly like they're in an action movie.


What does someone mean if they're talking about "fitty"?

The M2 .50-caliber machine gun, which is sometimes called a Fitty, an M2 Browning or just an M2 Machine Gun, has been a big, heavy machine gun since the end of World War 1. It's seen use in every war since WWI and is often mounted in aircraft like helicopters or on vehicles.


At a gun range, they expect you to clean up your brass. What does that mean?

If someone tells you to pick up or clean up your brass, they mean your spent shell casings. A lot of first-time shooters or inconsiderate shooters may leave spent shell casings lying around, which is essentially the same as littering.


What do you call a cartridge that has gunpowder inside but does not actually contain a bullet or some kind of shot?

A blank round is the kind of round you might see fired in a film. It has the sound of a real bullet firing because the gunpowder is present, but the casing should be empty and not have the actual bullet or shot inside so nothing escapes the muzzle of the weapon.


This term is used to describe a small, cheap, easy-to-hide gun.

A Saturday Night Special is any especially cheap weapon you can get your hands on that's probably low quality and maybe not the most reliable weapon you'll ever see. The term is very unofficial, but it's used throughout North America.


This common gun term is thought to come from an old archery term relating to shooting at bull skulls. What is it?

"Point blank" means to shoot at such a close range you barely need to aim. It's thought to come from a French term "point blanc" that archers used to refer to being so close to a bull skull target they could see the white of the bone. Is that true? Hard to say.


You can use a pump to fill your car with gas or a ball with air, but what does it mean in reference to guns?

"Pump" is a slang term for a shotgun, specifically a pump-action shotgun, which is a popular weapon in action movies because of how cool it tends to look when someone pumps it with one hand before firing.


This food term was popular in rap music as code for a gun. What was it?

"Biscuit" was a code word for guns in a lot of rap songs for a while. For instance, in "The Message" by Nas, you can find the line "Caught a hot one, somebody take this biscuit 'fore the cops come."


What's another name for the metal shell that holds the actual bullet in a projectile?

A jacket is a shell that holds a bullet and is most often copper alloy but doesn't always have to be. Sometimes it can be a steel alloy but often will be something like "gliding metal," which is copper and a dash of zinc, or cupronickel, which is copper and nickel together.


This manly slang term for a gun gained some popularity back in the day in detective novels. What is it?

Roscoe is a bit of a weird nickname for a gun, but in hard-boiled detective novels and some movies back in the day, it was a term that popped up. It came from John Roscoe, who allegedly made a gun back in around 1914.


If you were a cowboy with a revolver in the Wild West, you might use this term. What is it?

"Smoke wagon" is a term no one uses much anymore, but it may have been more popular in the days of revolvers. It's also dropped into the dialogue in the excellent Western movie "Tombstone" when Wyatt Earp says "skin that smoke wagon and see what happens."


This is the exceptionally cool term for magnesium shotgun rounds.

Dragon's breath rounds are incendiary rounds usually formed from shards or pellets of magnesium in the shell casing, and they ignite upon being fired and will spray a torrent of flame up to about 100 feet. You're going to want to stand back.


This beastly-named round blasts razor-sharp tacks at a target. What is it?

Piranha rounds are illegal in most places and with good reason: They're 12-gauge shotgun rounds that are loaded with tiny sharp tacks that will shred whatever you're shooting at to pieces.


If someone said "Chicago Typewriter" to you, what would they be talking about?

The Thompson submachine gun had more than its fair share of nicknames. Tommy Gun was the most famous, but there was also Chicago Organ Grinder, Trench Broom, The Chopper, Chicago Piano and Annihilator.


Sometimes this can be mistaken for a blank, but it contains no primer or gunpowder. What is it?

A dummy round differs from a blank round in that nothing happens if you pull the trigger with a dummy round in the chamber. It's essentially just an empty casing, but it can be useful during training exercises.


What's the name for when you're shooting at random targets like cans?

"Plinking" is the term sometimes used to describe when you do any kind of informal target shooting. So basically if you line up some cans, shoot at a stump or bust some old Coke bottles, you're plinking.


This is what you call it when you practice firing a gun that has no ammunition in it.

Dry firing a gun is most often done to learn how to handle the weapon and to practice firing it without fear of any recoil. There are actually some rounds specifically made for dry firing, as not all guns can be dry fired without causing some damage to them.


This is the term for a custom-made or modified cartridge. What is it?

A wildcat round can either be made by a gunsmith from scratch or just a modification to an existing round. Modifications can be made to increase velocity, efficiency or energy to improve various aspects of shooting.


This is a nickname for a gun with a very short barrel.

A snubby is the nickname for any short-barreled gun like a snub-nosed revolver. A snubby gun is generally the sort of gun that can be easily concealed or used as a decent backup weapon for law-enforcement due to its small size.


This kind of bullet is designed to expand on impact. What is it called?

Dum-dum rounds, not to be confused with dummy rounds, are designed to expand on impact. They blossom out like a flower, which decreases the depth of penetration but increases the overall damage at the point of impact.


This term is used to refer to any small-caliber weapon. What is it?

A peashooter in real life is basically a straw that you load with a dried pea that you can blow into to shoot at someone. Not a very effective weapon, right? And that's why any small-caliber weapon gets the same name.


This simple nickname can refer to a wide variety of handguns. Do you know it?

The nickname "nine" is pretty simple and seemingly vague. It derives from 9mm handguns and can refer to any of them. If we're being honest, it's likely no one would care if you used it to refer to a gun that wasn't actually a 9mm.


If you're packing a massively powerful handgun, you might use this term to describe it.

You can't not sound tough if you're wielding a hand cannon. This catchall term is used to describe any handgun that's powerful enough to be even more intimidating than your average handgun and is most often associated with something like a .357 Magnum.


If your gun misfires and the round gets stuck in the barrel, you can describe it with this term.

A squib load, or just a squib, is what happens when there isn't enough force to actually fire the bullet out of the gun and the round gets stuck in place. This is not to be confused with movie squibs, which are fake bullet wound explosion special effects, or Harry Potter squibs, which are non-magical people born to a magical family.


If you have a problem with squirrels or gophers, this might be the gun you'd use to take care of it.

It sounds like Yosemite Sam may have named the varmint rifle, but regardless of where the name came from, it's the term for any weapon that you use specifically to get rid of nuisance animals on your property.


You can use this term when you're talking about a tool for speed loading a clip in a weapon. What is it?

A stripper clip is sometimes called a charger clip, and it's just a clip that can hold multiple cartridges together so you can load them all at one time into a weapon, rather than pushing individual cartridges into the gun.


What's the term for when a gun goes off as you're loading a round into the chamber?

A slamfire is generally not the sort of thing you want to experience with most guns, although there are actually a few that were designed to fire this way. For the most part, though, with modern weapons, this is going to be a serious misfire.


Do you know this term for the act of paying someone to buy a gun for you?

A strawman purchase is not a legal sort of transaction, and it involves paying for someone to buy a gun on your behalf for a fee. It skirts around the laws regarding who can buy guns.


What's the more common name for this device that's also called a suppressor?

A silencer goes by a few different names, including suppressor or sound moderator. Whatever the name, the purpose is to lessen the overall sound of a gun being fired. They don't work like in movies, however, and the sound of a silenced gun is actually still pretty loud.


What does a gun's kick refer to?

A gun with some significant recoil has some kick to it. Newton's Third Law suggests that the kick is equal to the forward momentum of the bullet leaving the gun. On a larger-caliber weapon, that kick can be pretty aggressive.


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