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Firearm & Shooting Nomenclature from Bolt Action & Semi Auto Rifles to Bullets & Cartridges

As with almost every endeavor the shooting world has its own vocabulary. Sometimes this is confusing. Take cartridge firing and breech loading (loading from the rear not the muzzle) weapons. There are the single shots. Break open have tilting barrels that allow for loading. Others like the Martini-Henry us a tilting block operated by a lever. Pull down the lever and it opens the breech activating the ejectors that throw the case clear of the action. Insert a fresh cartridge pull up the lever tilting the rear hinged block sealing the breech and firing. The hammer is internal and cocked on opening the breech. The creates probably the fastest loading single shot ever adopted by a national military. The Sharps and modern Ruger No. 1 using a vertical breech block, with internal hammers on the modern Ruger and an external hammer on the Sharps. Both use a lever under the stock that doubles as the trigger guard. Winchesters lever action rifles use a rear locking breech toggled by the lever action. The Winchester 94 adds two locking lugs forward that drop into the frame. Marlins use a round bolt with a rear locking lug.

Bolt Action Rifles

Bolt actions are so ubiquitous that they need little explanation. Most have locking lugs near the front of the bolt. The British Enfield however was a rear locking lug, producing a very smooth a relatively fast action. An accomplished rifleman was good to go for up to 15 aimed shots per minute. In World War I, the Germans at times thought they were facing a machinegun when a squad would open-up for the ‘mad minute’ of rapid fire. Almost all modern bolt actions have at least two lugs forward some utilize more.

Semi Auto Rifles

Semi-autos are also called self-loading can fire one shot per trigger pull until empty. Most use a turning bolt with forward lugs, some use a tiling bolt and the H&K use a roller delay system. Low pressure .22 rimfires just depend on the bolt mass with no locking at all.

Types of Bullets

Bullets, we have round nose lead, truncated lead, jacketed bullet, ball ammo (fully jacketed non- expanding projectiles used by the military), hollow points, soft points, spitzer (anglicized German word for pointed), flat base and boat tail which is a tapered base bullet that helps to reduce turbulence and the area reduction for turbulence to affect. Turbulence creates a low pressure area at the bullet’s base acting to increase drag slowing the bullet down quicker.

Cartridge Nomenclature

Then you have cartridge nomenclature. The European method is the bullet diameter and the case length. 7.62 x 63mm is the European designation for the 30-06. 30-06? Well that is a 30 caliber cartridge adopted in 1906. Now how about some of the older cartridges of the black powder era? Well the 45-70 was a 45-caliber cartridge containing a nominal charge of 70 grains of black powder. The 45-70-405 was a 45-caliber, 70 grains of black powder pushing a 405-grain bullet, the standard military loading for the 45-70. The .56-52 Spencer was the case diameter just ahead of the rim and at the mouth in inches. As can be seen there is a lot of vocabulary to master. As far as cartridges go it came down to describing something and relating to the muzzle loaders before cartridges. Caliber and powder charge dominated in the US during the black powder cartridge era.