3 Commonly Mixed-Up Gun Terms

Most people are exposed to guns in some popular media, be it a Hollywood blockbuster, first-person shooter game, or some other medium. This doesn’t necessarily lead to an unjustified sense of confidence in one’s gun knowledge. Some people may realize that Hollywood isn’t exactly the best representative of reality. However, other people may not be savvy to this reality (or lack thereof): many popular media take several liberties with how they represent guns. With that in mind, here are some of the most commonly mixed-up gun terms.

Clip vs Magazine

You can trace this confusion to multiple sources, but one of them must be the popularity of World War 2 as a muse. Clips are instruments that hold ammo and are used to quickly reload a magazine. Important, a clip does not feed the gun, it only loads the magazine. A magazine, in contrast, both holds ammo and feeds the gun.

Clips were commonplace in World War 2 because most guns had internal, non-detachable magazines. The difference between life and death in the war was a matter of seconds, so clips were of the essence for reloading. However, with the development of detachable magazines, clips aren’t as commonplace (but still quite common). In sum, both magazines and clips hold ammo. If the device feeds the gun, it’s a magazine, and if the device loads the magazine, it’s a clip.

Assault Rifle vs Semi-Automatic Rifle

An assault rifle is a compact, selective-fire weapon that fires a cartridge with power between a rifle and submachine gun. Select fire means the gun has semi-automatic and full-automatic shooting modes.

In contrast, as the name suggests, a semi-automatic rifle only has a semi-auto fire mode. An example of the former is an M4 Carbine and of the latter is an AR-15.

Bullet vs Cartridge

While defining an assault rifle, note the use of “cartridge” as opposed to “bullet.” Cartridge refers to a single round of ammunition in its entirety. A bullet is a component of a cartridge. A cartridge is made of a project (i.e., the bullet), a case (i.e., the shell), a primer, and gunpowder. If you’re calling a cartridge a bullet, you might as well call it a primer or gunpowder (sounds awkward, doesn’t it?).

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