Common Firearm-Related Acronyms and Lingo Guide

Just like my last post, I see this article as an ever-growing list as I can only think of so many commonly-used terms and acronyms off the top of my head.  That being said, I would like to educate everyone, especially those new to shooting.  With that said, let’s dive right in . . .

When people are describing a type of handgun you may hear the terms “Single Action” (SA) or “Double Action” (DA) or “Double Single Action” D/S A) and sometimes “Double Action Only” (DAO).  What they are talking about is the trigger, and more specifically the type of pull the trigger has.

Single Action” is when the act of pulling the trigger performs only one action, dropping the hammer or releasing the striker.  Think about a 1911-style pistol when trying to picture this.  You could also picture the old western movies where the cowboy or lawman has to cock the hammer on his revolver with his thumb before every shot (also referred to as “Cowboy Action”).  The trigger pull is typically very light as compared to other actions, usually around 3 pounds of force and usually requires the trigger to move a shorter distance (referred to as “travel”).

“Double Action” and “Double Action Only” can mean the same thing, but not always.  “Double Action” is when the act of pulling the trigger performs 2 actions, pulling the hammer or striker back and then releasing it.  Think of a semi-automatic handgun with a hammer or a revolver with a hammer when trying to picture this.  When pulling the trigger you can visibly see the hammer being moved backwards until the point when the trigger releases the hammer onto the firing pin.  This is the same thing that happens when pulling the trigger on a striker-fired pistol as well as hammerless revolvers.  “Double Action Only” was something developed at the request of law enforcement and means that every pull of the trigger is double-action.  The trigger pull with “Double Action” is typically heavy as compared to other actions, usually between 7 and 10 pounds of force and requires the trigger to move a longer distance.

Double/Single Action” is used when the handgun (usually a semi-automatic with a hammer) has the initial trigger pull of double action and subsequent follow-up shots of single action.  The act of the slide moving rearward cocks the hammer back while also cycling the handgun.

If you’ve watched any training videos or had someone shooting next to you at the range have a malfunction you may be familiar with the acronyms “FTF” and “FTE”.  I would like to stress that there are really two (2) different uses for both of these acronyms, they don’t just have one meaning.

The first, “FTF”, can mean “Failure to Feed” meaning the next round did not cycle properly.  This could have been caused by a bad spring in the magazine, a bad feed ramp, improper or defective ammunition, as well as a number of other things.  The second meaning is “Failure to Fire”.  This term is used when the firearm cycles properly, the trigger is pulled, and the gun does not go off.  This could be caused by a worn or broken firing pin, a broken trigger, defective ammunition, as well as a few other things.

I cannot stress the importance of this next part enough.  If you ever experience a Failure to Fire (you pull the trigger and the gun goes “click” instead of “boom”), please follow these steps EXACTLY!

  1. Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. Take your finger off the trigger.
  4. Remove the magazine and lock the slide back, ejecting the bad round. (Semi-Automatic)
    1. Open the cylinder and eject all rounds. (Revolver)
    2. Open the bolt and eject the bad round. (Bolt-Action)
    3. Work the pump action to eject the bad round. (Shotgun)
  5. Inspect the round that did not go off to determine the cause of the Failure to Fire.
    1. Light primer strike
    2. Defective round
    3. Etc

The second, “FTE”, can mean “Failure to Extract”.  This means that the extractor on the firearm failed to pull the spent casing from the chamber.  The extractor goes over the rim or lip of the casing as it is placed into the chamber.  It can also mean “Failure to Eject” which simply means the spent casing came out of the chamber but did not come fully out of the gun (this can also be referred to as a “Stovepipe”).  The ejector is usually a stationary piece of metal that the spent casing hits as it is being extracted, causing it to be thrown from the gun.  In a revolver, the ejector is usually a ‘plunger’ of sorts that, when depressed, pushes the spent casings from the cylinder.

The term “Misfire” is usually used incorrectly initially and then becomes a correct term.  How the heck can that be possible?  Simple, let me explain.  When a gun fails to fire (click instead of boom), the reason you should always follow the steps listed before is because of the danger of a “Hangfire”.  A “Hangfire” is the term used when a round’s primer is struck but there is a noticeable delay before the round goes off.  Typically this is not a long time, but to wait the full 30 seconds allows any slow-burning primer to have the time to ignite the rest of the powder.  EVERY ROUND THAT DOES NOT GO OFF INITIALLY SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A HANGFIRE UNTIL THE 30 SECONDS HAVE PASSED!  Once this time has passed the round is referred to as a “Misfire”, meaning the round did not go off at all.  These rounds should be inspected before trying to use the firearm again to ensure there is nothing wrong with the gun itself.

A “Group” or “Grouping” is a term used to describe the impact points of the rounds on the target.  A “Flier” is a term used to describe a round that struck a noticeable distance from the rest of the group.  These are usually caused by flinching or poor trigger control.

The next three terms are used to describe the location and style of carrying a holstered handgun.  “OWB” is an acronym meaning “Outside the Waistband”, “IWB” is an acronym meaning “Inside the Waistband”, and “SOB” is an acronym meaning “Small of the Back” (not ‘son of a bitch’ in this case).

If you have any others that are common, please place them in the comment section below!  Be sure to describe them as best you can.

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