A Gun Lingo Glossary For New Rifle Shooters

posted on April 9, 2020

This article is meant as a reference where you can turn to get answers for questions about commonly used competitive shooting terms and equipment. Check out the glossary of shooting terms in alphabetical order. Links to relevant articles are located in parentheses at the end of each entry.

  • Action—The group of moving parts used to load, fire and unload a gun.
  • Air Gun—A gun that propels a projectile (such as a pellet or BB) through its barrel by use of compressed air or carbon dioxide gas (CO2). (Link)
  • Aperture—The circular opening in a sighting device.
  • Bullseye—The round black center of a paper target, sometimes called the aiming bull or bull. Also, a term used to indicate striking the target in the highest scoring ring or 10-ring.
  • Butt—The portion of a gun stock that is placed against the shoulder when firing.
  • Buttstock—The stock of a gun to the rear of the breech mechanism.
  • Caliber—A measurement referring to the approximate diameter of a bullet, or the distance between the lands of a rifled barrel.
  • Cant—To tilt a gun inward while it is being aimed and fired.
  • Centerfire—A type of cartridge in which the priming compound is contained in a primer cup centrally located in the base of the case. (Link)
  • Cheekpiece—A raised area on the stock against which the shooter's face can fit with comfort.
  • Classification—A skill-level designation based on average match scores. (Link)
  • Click—A unit of movement in a rear sight.
  • Course of Fire—The number of shots at each distance and/or in each position which make up a match.
  • Dry-firing—Shooting an unloaded gun. (Link)
  • Fore-end—The part of a gun stock under the barrel forward of the trigger.
  • Group—A series of shots fired at a target using the same point of aim and sight setting.
  • Handicap—Extra points to be added to the actual fired score of some shooters to allow them to compete on an equal basis with more experienced shooters.
  • International—Courses of fire or shooting programs based on the rules of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF).
  • Mat—A thin pad used for comfort and cleanliness in the prone, kneeling and sitting positions.
  • Match—A complete competition. Scores from several matches are sometimes combined and called an aggregate match or tournament. (Link)
  • Metallic sight—A mechanical aiming device that does not use optical or electronic components.
  • National—Courses of fire or shooting programs that are shot only in the United States and are based on the rules of the National Rifle Association and other major governing bodies. (Link)
  • Offhand—Another name for the standing position.
  • Pistol grip—The small part of the gun stock behind the trigger guard.
  • Preparation area—The designated area behind the firing line where the upcoming relay of shooters gathers.
  • Priming compound—An impact-sensitive chemical compound used for ignition of the powder charge in a cartridge.
  • Relay—The group of shooters scheduled to fire at the same time in a match.
  • Rimfire—A type of cartridge in which the priming compound is contained in the inside rim of the case's base. (Link)
  • Score—The total value of the shots fired in one match. (Link)
  • Sighting shots—Shots taken at designated sighting bullseyes for the purpose of checking sight settings before firing record shots.
  • Sling—A fabric or leather strap used to hold the rifle in the prone, kneeling and sitting positions.
  • Sling swivel—A metal loop through which the sling passes.
  • Smallbore—A .22 cal. rimfire cartridge or a rifle designed to shoot that cartridge. (Link)
  • Spotting scope—A small telescope used to observe hits on a target. (Link)
  • String—A series of shots, usually five or 10, fire at one target as a part of a match.
  • Telescopic sight—An aiming device which uses an optical magnification system.
  • X-ring—A smaller circle within the 10-ring on some competition targets. It is used to break ties in the event of identical scores for two or more shooters. The larger number of Xs wins.
  • Zero—To adjust an aiming device so that the projectile will impact the center of the target at a specific distance. (Link)

Learn the fundamentals of three rifle shooting positions: Standing, Prone and Kneeling.

See more: Mental Techniques For Shooting: Cognitive Rehearsal And Progressive Relaxation


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