shooting terms

Every Shooting Terms Explained For You – Must Read

If you’re diving your feet into the shooting world for the first time, you’re bound to come across a whole lot of new terms you’ve never heard before.

Some might be self-explanatory while others might sound like rocket science to you.

In this post, we’ve alphabetically compiled ALL the shooting terms you’re likely to come across on your shooting journey and their full meanings.


ACP: Automatic Colt Pistol.

AD (Accidental Discharge): the unintentional firing of a gun or rifle.

Action: the mechanism by which a gun or rifle is fired, loaded, or unloaded.

Aim: alighting your gun with your target, usually with the help of sights.

Aiming Mark: part of the target used to alight the sights onto it (think bull’s eye).

Aiming Picture: describes how the target and sight appear when they’re correctly aligned.

Airgun: a general term for all pistols and rifles that utilize compressed air as propellant.

Air Resistance: the drag effect of a projectile as a result of friction with the atmosphere.

Ammunition: the general terms for referring to all types of “fuel” used by different types of guns.

Anti-Splash Curtains: rubber made curtains that hang in front of bullet catcher to prevent backsplash of the bullets when they hit the target.

Aperture Sights: refers to the standard sight type used on .22 and air rifles for use in targeting shooting.


Bag: refers to the shot quarry

Ballistic co-efficient: a unit of measure that describes a projectiles ability to overcome flight resistance while in flight in comparison with the standard projectile used for calculating ballistic tables.

Ballistics: the study of behavior of fired projectiles.

Barrel: part of the gun along which the bullets travel through when fired.

BB: small ball bearing for use with some airgun models; also refers to a size of shot in the shotgun cartridges utilized for the big game.

BB Cap (Bulleted Breech Cap): a nearly obsolete .22 rimfire range cartridge that’s usually powered by primer alone and fired ultra-lightweight bullets.

Beaters: a group of people (or hunters) who walk in a line, with their dogs ahead to flush the game out of cover.

Bedding: describes how the long arm action and barrel are fitted to your firearm stock.

Belted Case: rimless cartridge case that features a raised integral belt right above the extractor groove to offer a positive head space surface without interfering with the extractor groove.

Bench Rest: a method of shooting that involves supporting the firearm on a “bench”- either wholly or partly- as opposed to being held solely by the shooter.

Berdan: a centerfire primer system that features multiple flash holes plus an integral anvil on the case. The case was developed by an American, Hiram Berdan, in 1858.

Big Bore: a term for all centerfire calibers that are larger than the .22 rimfire. Also known as full-bore (check below).

Bipod: a double legged support for carbine, musket, or rifle. It’s usually attached to the stock end, away from the shooter.

Black Powder: a type of gunpowder used for operating muzzle-loading guns.

Blank: any cartridge you load without a bullet is known as a blank. When fried, a blank outputs the loud bang but has little or no hazards to life.

Blow Back: a technique of operating low powered, semi-automatic guns.

Bluing or blacking: the protective coating found on the metallic sections of shotgun or rifles with distinctive black/blue color.

Bore: the interior diameter of a firearm’s barrel. Or a shotgun’s caliber.

Bore line: an imaginary that starts from the gun muzzle, alongside the center of the barrel.

Bolt Action: type of action that utilizes a manually operated bolt to load and unload a firearm.

Bore Diameter: the diameter formed by the top of lands (in rifled arms), or the diameter of barrel appearing right ahead of the chamber (for smoothbores).

Boxer: centerfire primer system designed by a Briton, Edward Boxer, in 1858. It features a central flash hole as well as an integrated anvil.

Brace: a pair of shot quarry. For instance, you can refer to two pheasants as a brace of pheasants.

Brass: the word for referring to empty cartridge cases that are reloadable.

Breech: end of the barrel that appears nearest to the shooter, where the pellet, cartridge, or bullet is loaded.

Breech loader: a gun that’s loaded via the breech end.

Brisance: the shattering characteristic of explosives.

Bull: describes the center of the target, which scores 10 when hit. Some targets might feature lower value centers, e.g., 5 or 7, and are used for specific competitions.

Bull Barrel: a gun that comes with extra-thick barrel wall as a way of adding weight to the gun- more so to the muzzle end.

Bullseye Bull’s Eye: the center of the target

Bullet: refers to the single projectile (usually cylindrical) that comes out of the gun barrel.

Bullet Catcher: part of a butt (check below) that tasked with stopping and retaining a fired bullet.

Bullet Mould: a steel/aluminum made device used for casting bullets intended for home reloading.

Bullet path: the path followed by a bullet when in flight.

Bullet puller: a device for convenient pulling bullets out of their cartridge cases.

Butt: the rear end of rifle and shotgun stock.

Butt Plate: a plate (made of plastic or rubber) that cushions your shoulder from recoil when firing a long arm.

Butts: the term for describing the part of a range containing the bullet catcher and the target frames.


Caliber: the bore of firearm or the diameter of a gun.

Calling the shot: the process of stating the position of the last shot you fired on the target, before spotting via a spotting scope or retrieving the target.

Cannelure: an indent or groove around the cartridge case base where the extractor takes hold. Bullets too feature cannelure for easy crimping into the case.

Carbon dioxide: used as a propellant for the low powered airguns.

Cartridge: used for propelling a shot towards the target.

Cast: refers to the angle of stock (either light or left) to the center line of bore, allowing your eye to align correctly with the center line of bore.

Centrefire: a cartridge in which the primer is placed in the cartridge center. Such a cartridge is used for high power ammunition.

Chain Fire: a term that explains what occurs when the revolver unintentionally shoots several cylinders at once.

Chamber: the part of a gun that holds the cartridge at the time moment of firing. Chamber also refers to the process of loading a round of ammunition into a firearm.

Chamber length: chamber length comes in different sizes- 2½, 2¾ or 3 inches. It’s important to know the chamber length of your gun before buying the cartridges. Otherwise, you’ll end up injuring yourself or damaging your weapon.

Cheek Piece: a term given to a lateral projection rising from the stock’s comb.

Choke: the restriction found the muzzle of a shotgun used for controlling the shot dispersion.

Chronograph: a device used for measuring the velocity of projectiles you fire from your gun.

Close season: the specific times of a year when shooters aren’t allowed to hunt game, to enable them to find new grazing grounds and reproduce.

Click: a click defines the smallest adjustment of the sight.

Cock/Full-cock: the process of setting the action into position for shooting.

Comb: the upper part of a stock where your cheek rests when aiming at the target.

Compensator: a muzzle brake that redirects the escaping gases to help reduce the recoil effects as well as minimize the muzzle jump during shooting (to facilitate rapid subsequent shots).

Count back: a system used for breaking the tie between several competitors having the same total score. It involves counting the number of tens shot by each of them- and the one with the highest count becomes the winner.

Cover: the area in which a quarry hides (see quarry).

Cylinder: part of the revolving firearm that holds the ammunition in individual chambers.

Cylinder gap: the gap that exists between the rear of the barrel and the front of a cylinder of a revolver.


Damascus barrels: an early method of making barrels that involved welding metal strips together around a rod and then forge welding them together.

Die: a tool used for de-priming fired cases, or for reloading metallic cartridge to resize the case to a specified dimension.

Disconnector: a mechanical device used in semi-automatic firearms to ensure only one shot is fired when the trigger is pulled once.

Dominant eye: as the word implies, this is the stronger eye that you’d use when viewing an object via the telescope.

Double Action: a term used to describe firearms in which pulling the trigger once performs two actions- cocking the gun and firing the gun.

Driven shooting: a form of hunting where beaters in a line drive game birds from the hideouts with their dogs so that they can fly over their waiting firearms.

Drop at heel; drop at comb; drop at toe: a measurement expressing how much a stock drops in given places below the gun rib.

Dry-firing: using unloaded airgun or pistol for practice purposes.

Dummy Cartridge: also referred to as drill rounds, dummy cartridges are assembled without any primer or propellant. It’s used to test the functioning of firearms and magazines without posing any accidental discharge risks.


Ear defenders: essential gear for shooters that protect the ear from getting damaged when firing shotguns or firearms.

Ears on: a command issued by the ranger officer to put on the ear defenders before firing.

Ejector: the mechanism of expelling cases or cartridges from your gun breech.

Elevation: moving the sight vertically to raise or lower point of impact on a target.

Equipment Control: the person tasked with checking all your shooting equipment and gear before you enter the competition to ensure they met the set standards.

Energy: the force of a projectile at a given distance.

English Match: a course that involves firing 60 shots from the .22 rim fire rifle at a prone position, over 50 meters.

Eye Piece: the lens of optical device situated near the shooter’s eye.

Explosive: an explosive is rated as high or low depending on its detonating velocity or the speed at which it changes its state from solid or liquid to gas or any other pertinent characteristics like shattering.

Extractor: a device used to extract/remove cartridges or cartridge cases from the gun chamber. Not the same as ejector (see above).

Eye relief: distance between the scope’s ocular lens (the lens nearest your eye) and the shooters eye.


Felt recoil: this term described how the shooter feels the recoil of their gun when it’s fired.

Felt wad: felt wads are used to seal the open ends of black powder revolver cylinders.

Ferreting: put down rabbit warrens to make it dive outside into the waiting net. Afterward, the rabbit is shot or dispatched humanely.

Fg, FFg, FFFg, FFFFg: terms used for grading of the black powder particles sizes, from the coarsest to the finest. Note that f stands for fine while g stands for grain.

Field Target: a shooting discipline that’s shot outdoors with sub-12 ft/lb air rifles at varied positions.

Filler: any inert substance used to fill cartridges or chamber space in the black powder guns, allowing the powder to be adequately compressed in cases of light loads.

Firearms certificate (FAC): a license you need to own firearms or airguns with over 12ft.lbs power.

Fireform: the process of altering the volume and shape of a cartridge case by shooting with light load in the firearm in which the cartridge is to be used.

Firing pin: part of the gun’s action tasked with striking the primer to set it off and initiate the firing of the main charge of cartridge propellant.

Firing Point: a point from which shooting takes place. They’re numbered from 1upwards, using contrasting colors.

Fixed sights: non-adjustable signs; not ideal for serious target shooting.

Flash Hole: the small diameter hole(s) via which a flash/flame that originates from the priming charge of your muzzleloading gun travels to ignite the black powder main charge.

Flinch: the nervous twist arising from firing a gun. This is due to the shooter fearing the recoil effect and can ruin your accuracy.

Follow-through: maintain your position after firing a gun or continuing with the swing (when shooting a moving target).

Forcing Cone: the tapered part of a revolver of shotgun barrel where the bullet or the pellets are directed into the bore.

Fouling: deposits that accumulated in your gun barrel after firing.

Fouling Shot: the process of firing off a shot to eliminate any oil present in the barrel and coating the bore with powder residue by before you can actually start shooting accurately.

f.p.s. (or, fps): feet per second, this is the measure of projectile velocity

Free Bore: the unrifled part of the bore.

Free Pistol: a .22 caliber target pistol with no constraints like sight radius, barrel length, weight, etc.

Free Rifle: a .22 or Centre fire rifle that’s free of constraints like those of free pistol above.

Ft.lbs: units for indicating the output energy of an airgun or a rifle.

Full-bore: a term for referring to all calibers larger than .22 caliber.

Full-Cock: to set the action into a ready to fire position

Full metal jacket: the copper covering of lead bullets to facilitates faster driving up of the bullet up the barrel.


Grain: a unit of weight used to measure bullets and powder charges.

Groove: sunken part of a rifling.

Group: refers to the pattern of shots made on a target.

Group size: describes the distance between the centers of 2 shots that are farthest apart in a group.

Gun: an individual firing a gun in the fields (letter G should be in capitals).

Gun fit: fitting a rifle or shotgun to the shooter’s body such that their eyes get directly aligned down the scope (for rifles) or rib (for shotguns).

Gunpowder: an explosive that comprises 10% charcoal, 15% Sulphur, and 75% saltpeter. It’s also known as black powder, and it’s used to fire projectiles from firearms as well as for mining and blasting operations.


Half-Cock: the safety state of wheel lock, matchlock, flintlock, and percussion guns.

Handload(ing): involves loading and reloading centerfire cartridges as way of customizing them to your specific needs or just to save money.

Hang fire: prolonged delay in the ignition of main charge after the primer gets fired. The problem mainly occurs in black powder muzzleloaders (especially the matchlocks).


Inertia Firing Pin: a firing pin that’s shorter than the guide through which it travels to strike the primer.

Inertia puller: (see bullet puller)

Inner-10: a smaller ring surrounded by the ten ring on the target.

Inward gauging: a scoring process where the edge of bullet hole nearest to the target center determines its value.

Iron Sights: (see open sights)


Jacket: a covering of the bullets’ lead core. The coat is usually made of copper and can cover the bullet fully (see full metal jacket) or partially.

Journee's Formula: an empirical formula used for calculating the safe distances for the shotgun pellets.


Keyhole: an elongated hole made on a target by a bullet tumbling and wobbling in flight and thus striking a different point from the intended one.

Kneeling: an incredibly stable shooting position, mainly for rifle shooters.


Land: raised part of rifling.

Lapping: repeatedly passing lead slug through a gun barrel bore to lap or polish it.

Leading: deposition of lead in the gun bore as the lead projectiles pass through it. This can affect your accuracy.

Leade: a short unrifled section of a bore (if any) in front of the chamber, where you introduce the bullet nose.

Let-off: the moment when the sears release a shot in the trigger mechanism.

Lever Action: a reciprocating action which bears a reciprocating breech block that’s powered by a finger-operated lever.

Load: the number of shot pellets inside the cartridge. Also means placing a round of ammunition in the magazine or chamber.

Lock: firing mechanism of the muzzle-loading guns.

Lock and Load: a range shooting command that tells you to close the chamber/cartridge or breech before the start of shooting.

Lock, stock, and barrel: the three primary parts of a muzzleloading gun.

Lock time: time from the sear release by the trigger to the moment the primer gets struck. This usually lasts for a very short time- probably below two milliseconds.

Long-arm: any gun held using both hands, with the butt section standing against the shoulder.


Machine Rest: (see bench rest).

Magazine: section of the repeating rifles that accommodated the ammunition ready for the next shot.

Magnum (Mag): a cartridge (rimfire or centerfire) of either pistol or rifle, loaded to higher pressures than usual; or firearms that fire magnum ammunition.

Malfunction: describes any inability of your gun to discharge a shot when needed.

Martini Rifle: type of falling block action employed in the single shot guns.

Match: a string thoroughly soaked in nitro to enable it to burn steadily and slowly; used to fire the matchlock guns.

Matchlock: a muzzleloading gun fired by applying a slowly burning match to its flash holes using a trigger.

Mean Point of Impact, or, MPI: the mathematical center of a given group of shot holes on a target.

Metallic Sights: a general term for the non-optical sights; also known as iron sights.

Metplat: diameter of the tip of the projectile.

Mildot: stands for milliradian- a unitless measurement, just like degrees.

Mildot reticle: a scope reticle surrounding the measuring unit of the milliradian.

Minute of angle (MOA): an angular measurement unit that equates to radial distance represented by a 1/60 of the degree. Used as a handy accuracy reference or for sight adjustment in target shooting.

Minie: a cylindrical shaped bullet used with the muzzleloaders.

Monte Carlo Stock: a stock that comes with a raised comb to offer you elevated eye alignment when using a telescopic sight.

Muzzle: the end of the barrel.

Muzzle Energy: energy with which a projectile bolts out of the barrel (measures in ft.lbs)

Muzzle Loader: any gun loaded through the muzzle end.

Muzzle velocity: speed at which the pellet/bullet leaves the gun barrel.


Objective lens: lens of the telescopic sight situated nearest the object under observation.

Ocular lens: lens of the telescopic sight nearest the shooter’s dominant eye.

Open Sights: non-telescopic sights; also referred to as iron sights.

Over-and-under (O/U): a shotgun in which the barrels are positioned one above the other.

Over-travel: the rearward travel extent of a gun trigger after the sear release.


Pan: part of the wheel lock/ matchlock/flintlock muzzleloading gun responsible for holding the primer powder near the flash hole for easy ignition by the main charge.

Parallax error: failure of the target image and reticle to fall into the same plane leads to parallax error. The issue affects all scopes, though the modern models come with parallax adjuster that tends to minimize the error.

Patch: a small piece cloth or leather that’s greased and then placed around the bullet before it’s rammed down the barrel of the muzzleloader. This helps firmly hold it in place, preventing it from rolling out.

Peg: it describes where the gun stands as it waits to shoot at the quarry.

Pellet: made if lead, a pellet is a projectile used in the airguns. It usually bears a shuttlecock shape and is also referred to a slug.

Percussion: the method of firing a gun by placing a percussion cap over the flash hole (see above).

Picking-up: the job of collecting the fallen/shot game as well as track down the wounded birds, usually carried out by the gundogs along with their handlers.

Pistol: a relative;y short (usually 24 inches) barreled gun that can be held in both hands with no need for additional support.

Plinking: informal target shooting using an airgun.

Position: refers to the body position when you’re firing. The acceptable positions under the ISSF rules include prone, kneeling, or standing.

Possible, Poss, Highest possible score, HPS: all these names describe the highest possible scores on shooting competitions.

Priest: an instructed used to humanely dispatch the injured game.

Primer: a small charge attached around a rimfire rim or the center of a centerfire to facilitate ignition of the main charge in the cartridge.

Primer Pocket: the recess found in the base of a cartridge case that accepts the primer.

Progressive: one of the several types of preloading presses available on the market today.

Proof: the process of confirming that your gun is safe. And it involves firing some special test cartridges which excess your gun’s tolerance by up to 30%.

Proof mark: a mark that proves a particular gun is safe and has passed the proof test.

Prone: a shooting position for rifles that involves lying with your face down, while supporting your upper body on the elbows.

Prone, Standing and Kneeling, PSK, Three Positional, 3P

Propellant: any substance used to control the gun by burning in a controlled way.

Proving safe: to demonstrate that your gun isn’t loaded.

Pyrodex: this is merely a substitute for the black powder.

Quarry: refers to the target of your shot; it could be clay pigeon, rabbit, bird, vermin, game, or deer


Range: distance between the firing point and the target. Also means the location (can be indoors or outdoors) where the shooting takes place.

Range Commands: instructions issues by the range officer on how the course of fire ought to be carried out.

Range Officer, RO/Range Conducting Officer, RCO: refers to the officer in charge of shooting on a given range.

Rate Of Twist: the distance over which the rifling grooves in the gun barrel make a complete 460 degrees revolution.

Receiver: part of the breech-loading gun that’s made up of the barrel’s chamber end with the loading and unloading port.

Recoil: rearward motion of a rifle or shotgun when it’s fired.

Regulate / Barrel Regulation

Reloading: the process of refilling the already used cartridges for so that you can use them again.

Reticule: the crosshairs on the telescopic sight.

Revolver: a pistol with revolving cylinder that usually holds around 5-6 rounds

Rifle: any long gun featuring a rifled barrel (marked with grooves) and you hold it using both hands as well as support it with your shoulder. The grooves make the bullet spin, allowing it to move even further and hit more accurately.

Rim: the lip/flange surrounding the cartridge case head, and it provides the purchase for extractor claw.

Rimfire: cartridge case priming system that involves holding the primer at the rim of the case and setting it off by striking and crushing the cartridge case rim. Such cases can’t be reloaded; the system is ideal for low-pressure ammunition.

Rough-shooting: (see walked-up shooting).

Round: the term for a complete ammunition item, with all the necessary components present to facilitate firing of a single shot.

Round nose: a bullet that features a rounded head, e.g., the ones used in most of the .22 rimfire target cartridges.


Sabot: a lightweight carrier for carrying a sub-caliber projectile. The name comes from French name for shoe or clog.

Safety (Safety Catch): a mechanical device that minimizes possibilities of accidental discharge of the gun it’s fitted to.

Sear: part of the firearm’s action “tripped” by a trigger to release the firing pin or hammer and initiate the cartridge firing process.

Semi-automatic: a shotgun in which the cartridges are in magazine which then automatically loads them into the waiting chamber.

Semi-wadcutter: this is a term used to refer to a bullet show shape falls somewhere between the wadcutter and the round nose. It’s usually used in semi-automatic for smooth feeding of ammunition from the magazine to the chamber.

Serpent: part of the Matchlock gun action that involves carrying the match to the pan whenever you pull the trigger, igniting the primer power and ultimately firing the gun.

Set Trigger: an ultra-lightweight trigger set by manipulating the gun trigger or by operating another lever.

Shot: the discharge of a firearm. Usually made from lead, shot pellets come with varying sizes/diameters (from 2mm to 8.4mm). The larger a shot is, the fewer the pellets contained in the cartridge. Note that larger shots fly with higher energy amounts and travels farther.

Shotgun: a firearm that comes with single or double barrels. It fires shots contained in cartridges (which are then placed in the gun chamber).

Shotgun certificate: a certificate to show that you legally own a shotgun.

Side-by-side: a model of shotgun that involves the barrels being placed side by side.

Sight: a device attached to the gun to facilitate target aiming.

Sight adjustment: involves moving the site adjuster in a direction where the shooter wants the shot to hit the target.

Sighting picture: appearance of the sights when aligned correctly with each other before the target gets in view.

Single Action: a firearm action that involves pulling the trigger once to carry out only one function of firing the firearm.

Six Shooter: another name for all six shot revolvers.

Skid shot: a shot that hits a turning when it’s actually turning, resulting in an elongating hole.

Small bore: refers to the .22 rimfire.

Smokeless powder: another term for nitro powders. While nitro isn’t 100% smoke-free, it’s way better compared to the black powder.

Smoothbore: a gun with an utterly smooth barrel, right from the breech, all the way to the muzzle. In other words, it refers to a gun that’s not rifled.

Snapcap: an inert cartridge that helps release the tension on the shotgun’s firing pin spring. It can also be used for dry-firing rifles.

Spotter: a shooter companion to the firing site, tasked with recording of the shooting accuracy and can offer advice on wind directions (especially for long range shooting).

Spotting Scope: an optical device that lets you get a better view of your target from a distance.

Standing: shooting from unraced, standing position. This is the hardest and most unstable of all the shooting positions.

Swaging: the process of manufacturing bullets from lead wire by using high pressure to cut and swage the bullets into the right shape.

Swiss: extremely fine black powder- used as a primer for muzzle loading guns.


Target: the object that’s shoot at in competitions (to enhance scoring or results) or during practice.

Telescopic sight: a sight that acts like a telescope and magnifies your target.

Throat: the unrifled part of bore situated right in front of the chamber.

Throat erosion: simply the erosion of the throat area resulting from propellants’ hot gasses burning the metal away.

Tipping: the act of tipping the keeper after spending good day in the fields. The more productive your day was, the more generous your tip should be.

Torque reaction: tendency of a gun to turn in an opposite direction to rifling after firing.

Trajectory: see bullet path.

Trigger: the device operated using the shooters index finger to initiate the gun firing.

Trigger blade: a device controlled using the shooter finger to activate the system trigger to fire the firearm.

Trigger mechanism: a device that uses sears to release the gun’s firing pin. Or an airguns trigger mechanism for shooting/firing.

Trigger stop: a device that prevents over-traveling of the gun trigger when released (see over-travel).

Trigger Weight: the weight a trigger is required to support in order to comply with the competition rules.

Turning Targets: a device for rapidly twisting the target through 90 degrees in an effort to present it to the shooter. It’s usually electronically operated (but can also be pneumatic).

Twist: the turning of the rifling.

Two-stage trigger: type of a trigger whose half of the total weight goes to shooting the firearm taken up by long rearward movement (the remainder goes to the crisp sudden let off).

Wad: packing (made from fiber, plastic or felt) for keeping a shot in the cartridge.

Wadcutter: pellet or bullet featuring a flat nose. Mainly used for target shooting as it produces perfect holes on targets.

Walked-up shooting: comprises hunting dogs, handful of guns, and shooter(s). The group walks across the hunting fields and along edges, with their dogs leading and flushing out any game out of their hideouts. This offers the shooter a shot opportunity, after which the dog retrieves anything hit.

Weight: this is simply the weight of a gun. Heavier firearms absorb recoil better.

Wheel Lock: refers to an earlier muzzleloader lock system type that came before flintlock.

Wildcat: a cartridge designed from an existing cartridge case by a hand loader to improve its speed.

Windage: lateral sight adjustment.

Wind-doping: ability to read varying wind conditions while at long range outdoors.

Wiping-out: describes the removal of oil from the muzzleloading gun before loading it for the first time.


X-Ring: the smaller inner ring enclosed within ten ring; acts as a tiebreaker.


Yaw: motion of a bullet in flight where it erratically spins around its axis.

Young Shots: a collective term for referring to shooting youngsters who are below 18 years.


Zero: refers to the range at which your point of aim and point of impact coincide.

Zoom: the magnification of the scope.

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