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New Shooters


There are many things to take into consideration when purchasing a firearm and we want to make sure that you choose a gun that is right for you. Guns come in many sizes and shapes with a multitude of different features. To determine the gun that will best meet your needs, there are several things to consider.

1. Examine the purpose for owning a gun. Is it for self-defense? Competition? Target practice?
2. Who will be the primary shooter(s) of this firearm? If more than one shooter is desirable, all shooters should be comfortable handling and operating the firearm.
3. How much practice are you willing to invest with this gun? Obviously, we feel that this is very important for all gun owners, but the reality is that some people are not willing or able to practice their skills regularly. This is important, because certain features on some firearms necessitate a substantial amount of practice to develop the skills necessary to use it reliably in a high stress situation.
4. Are there special considerations for the shooter? Things such as a small (or large) hand size or a left-handed shooter will influence which firearms will be most comfortable.

Finding the right gun is like finding the right pair of jeans. There is one out there with just the right “fit”. We are happy to help you explore your options. Come ask us questions and handle various models before making your decision.

Firearm Safety Rules

At Empowered Firearms & Training, we don’t believe that “accidents” happen. All unintentional discharges of a gun are the result of one or more of the basic firearm safety rules being broken. Guns don’t shoot by themselves. Becoming familiar with the firearm and safe handling practices is imperative for all gun owners.

1. Treat all guns as if they are loaded. In other words, any time you touch a firearm, you should check to see if it is loaded.
2. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
4. Know your target and what is beyond it.
5. Know how to operate the firearm safely.
6. Use correct ammunition for your gun.
7. Wear eye and ear protection while shooting.
8. Maintain your firearm and be sure it is safe to operate.
9. Store guns so they are inaccessible to unauthorized users.
10. Never use drugs, medications, or alcohol before or while shooting.


Knowing the terminology associated with firearms can help you feel more confident in discussing them and asking informed questions. Here are some of the common terms associated with guns.

ACP- an abbreviation for Automatic Colt Pistol, commonly used to designate particular calibers of ammunition designed for use in particular firearms. Most common is 45ACP.

Action- the working mechanisms of a gun that load, fire, and unload a cartridge.

Airgun- not considered a firearm because it uses CO2 to propel a projectile. This includes BB guns, pellet guns, and CO2 guns.

Ammo (Ammunition)– also referred to as a cartridge or round. This includes the case, bullet, primer, and powder. Sizes are designated on the base of the case as well as on the box. Ammunition size must match the gun.

AR-15- a widely owned semi-automatic rifle. AR does not stand for “assault rifle”, but was named for the company that first built it, Armalite.

Assault Weapon- a political term with no fixed definition, which is defined differently by different jurisdictions. Because of the lack of definition, laws passed to regulate “assault weapons” often rely on cosmetic features of the firearm that do nothing to alter the function or power. These are not machine guns, but rather, semi-automatic firearms.

Barrel- the metal tube through which the bullet or shot travels which provides direction and velocity.

Backstop- anything that will safely stop a bullet and prevent it from hitting anything else.

Birdshot- a type of shotgun ammunition with very small pellets (less than .24” diameter) designed to be discharged in quantity. The size of the shot is typically referred to as a number. The larger the number, the smaller the pellet size.

Bluing- a chemical process of artificial oxidation (rusting) applied to gun parts that gives them a deep blue or nearly black appearance.

Bolt-action- a type of firearm (usually a rifle) in which an empty shell casing is removed from the chamber by turning and retracting a cylinder called a bolt. A new casing is inserted into the chamber as the bolt is pushed forward.

Bore- the hollow portion of the barrel through which the bullet travels.

Brass- slang term for an empty shell casing.

Buckshot- a type of shotgun ammunition that contains multiple medium to large sized pellets (.24” or greater) which are discharged all at once.

Bullet- the single, metal projectile ejected from the muzzle of the gun. This is not the same thing as the cartridge which contains the bullet, powder, primer, and casing.

Cable lock- a cable with a padlock at the end designed to be threaded through the action of a firearm.

Caliber- the diameter of the bore of a firearm, measured in fractions of an inch, or sometimes referred to in millimeters. (i.e. .40 caliber or 9mm) This indicates what size ammunition the firearm can fire.

Carbine- a rifle with a relatively short barrel length.

Cartridge- a single, complete round of ammunition which contains the bullet, gunpowder, primer, and case. Often referred to as a “round”.

Case (Casing)- the container that holds the contents of the cartridge.

Center-fire- a cartridge with the primer located in the bottom center of the casing.

Chamber- the rear part of the barrel that accepts the new cartridge to be fired. In a revolver, the chambers are contained in the cylinder.

Choke- a constriction at or near the muzzle of a shotgun used to alter shot dispersion.

Clip- a term that is often incorrectly used to refer to a magazine. This is a device used to store ammunition in groups.

Collapsible stock- a stock on a long gun that can be pushed into itself to shorten the length. This can be used for storage or to adjust the length for different sized shooters.

Cylinder- in a revolver, the rotating cartridge holder which contains the chambers into which the cartridges are loaded.

Decocker- a mechanism on a double-action semi-automatic firearm that is used to manually lower the hammer without firing the gun.

Double-action- the type of action in a pistol in which pulling the trigger both cocks and releases the hammer to fire the weapon.

Double-action/single-action- a firearm that operates as a double action on the first shot, and single action for all subsequent shots.

Double feed- a malfunction in which the spent case does not eject from the chamber. As the fresh round is brought forward, it cannot enter the chamber. It is cleared by locking the slide to the rear, stripping the magazine, racking the slide several times, inserting a fresh magazine, and racking the slide again to put a loaded round into the chamber.

Dry firing- the operation of a firearm without the use of ammunition. This is a training method to increase familiarity with the firearm and its functions and to improve shooting skills. Guns must ALWAYS be verified to be sure they are unloaded and ammunition should never be present in a room where dry practice is being conducted.

Dummy round- also referred to as a snap-cap- an inert, ammunition-shaped object designed for use in practicing certain shooting skills such as malfunction clearance or dry firing drills.

Ears- slang for ear protection worn while shooting. Hearing protection should be worn at all times by shooters or those in the vicinity of shooting.

Electronic hearing protection- hearing protection with internal electronics which amplify human voices while excluding noises above a certain decibel rating. This greatly enhances communication on the range while shooting.

External safety- a safety feature located on the outside of the firearm, accessible by the shooter.

Eyes- slang for safety glasses or other eye protection. All shooters must wear eye protection while shooting.

Failure to extract- a failure of the extractor to eject the spent casing from the chamber as the slide travels backwards.

Failure to feed- a malfunction where the slide passes over a fresh round and fails to pick it up and insert it into the chamber.

Failure to fire- a malfunction as a result of no shot being fired when the trigger is pulled.

Firearm- a handgun, shotgun, or rifle that uses gunpowder as a propellant.

Front sight- the sight placed at the muzzle of the gun. This sight should be what the shooter is focusing on while shooting to help ensure accuracy.

Full metal jacket (FMJ)- a type of cartridge in which the bullet is completely encased in a harder metal material.

Green ammunition- ammunition that contains no lead.

Grip panels- interchangeable surfaces on the part of the gun you hold that are designed to change the look or feel of the gun, often to accommodate various hand sizes or for aesthetic purposes.

Grip safety- a passive, external safety found on the backstrap of some handguns which must be fully depressed in order for the gun to fire.

Handgun (pistol)- a firearm designed to be held in one or both hands while firing as opposed to against the shoulder.

Hollow point bullet- a bullet with a concavity in its nose that is designed to expand or fragment upon impact, reducing over-penetration. Often used in self-defense ammunition.

Holster- a gun holder that covers the trigger to help prevent an unintended discharge, allows easy access, and/or aids in concealing the firearm by obscuring the outline. Usually made from leather or plastic and designed to be strapped on the body, affixed to the inside of a purse or bag, or placed in a pocket.

Internal safety- a safety located within the gun and inaccessible to users, commonly designed to prevent unintended discharges if the gun is dropped or mishandled.

Iron sights- the mechanical sighting system commonly found on firearms.

Jam- a serious malfunction that can only be remedied with the use of tools. This is different from a malfunction.

Kick- slang term for recoil

Loaded- a gun is loaded when there is ammunition in the chamber, with or without the magazine in the gun. All firearms should be considered loaded at all times per safety rule #1.

Long gun- a firearm such as a rifle or a shotgun, with an extended barrel, designed to be fired while in contact with the shoulder.

Machine gun- a fully automatic gun that rapidly fires continuous rifle rounds with a single pull of the trigger. Illegal in California.

Magazine- a container which holds cartridges under spring pressure to be fed into the chamber of the gun. Often incorrectly referred to as a “clip”.

Magazine disconnect- a mechanism that prevents a gun from firing if the magazine is removed, even if there is a round in the chamber. Sometimes referred to as a magazine safety.

Magazine loader- a mechanical device designed to make magazines easier to load.
Magazine well- the opening in the bottom of the gun into which the magazine is fed.

Malfunction- a misfeed or a failure to fire that can be cleared on the spot.

Manual safety- a safety that the shooter must deliberately disengage in order for the gun to fire. Usually a switch that allows or prevents the pull of the trigger from firing the gun.

Match grade ammo- a higher quality ammo used to increase accuracy in competition shooting.

Misfeed- a failure of the next round in the magazine to fully enter the chamber. Similar to a failure to feed. In a failure to feed, the round never leaves the magazine, while in a misfeed, it leaves the magazine but does not enter the chamber correctly.

Misfire- a condition that occurs when a cartridge does not fire when an attempt to fire it is made. This can be a result of defective ammunition or a defective firearm.

Muzzle- the open end of the barrel from which the projectile exits the firearm.

Muzzle control- being aware of the direction the muzzle of the gun is being pointed at all times and making sure it is always pointed in a safe direction. Critical to safe gun handling.

Negligent Discharge (ND)- the unintentional discharge of a firearm as the result of not following one or more of the basic firearm safety rules.

Night sights- a type of iron sights that glow or shine in the dark and are typically made from tritium or phosphorous paint. Useful for low light conditions.

NRA- National Rifle Association. An organization that coordinates shooting events on a national level, provides firearms training to civilians and law enforcement, fights restrictive gun control legislation, and supports the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms.

Out of Battery- a condition on a semi-automatic firearm where the slide fails to come all the way forward again after firing.

P+ ammunition- small arms ammo that has been loaded to a higher internal pressure than standard, producing more power and pressure than standard rounds. Many calibers are available in +p or +p+. Not all firearms are designed to handle the increased pressure. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s owner’s manual for your firearm before attempting to fire this ammunition.

Primer- a tiny impact-sensitive metal cap in the base of a case that is filled with a small explosive charge. When struck by the firing pin, it ignites the powder in the cartridge which causes gas to expand and force the bullet from the casing and out the barrel.

Racking the slide- in a semi-automatic gun, this involves pulling the slide back to its rearmost position then letting it return forward under its own spring tension. This loads a round from the magazine into the chamber and prepares the gun to fire.

Reactive targets- targets that do something when hit, such as fall down, burst, make a noise, or send up smoke.

Rear sight- the sight placed at the rear of the barrel, closest to the shooter. These come in different configurations and are used to align the front sight to ensure accurate shots.

Recoil- the rearward push against the shooter when a gun is fired. Remember Newton’s 3rd Law? For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The heavier the bullet and the faster it leaves the barrel, the more recoil.

Receiver- the portion of a rifle that contains the serial numbers. The stock, barrel, and other components are attached to this. Some rifles have both an upper and lower receiver.

Reticle- typically crosshairs or a dot seen in the scope that assist in aligning the shot.

Revolver- a gun with a rotating cylinder that lines up a chamber with the barrel.

Rifle- a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder which fires a single projectile at a time.

Rimfire- a type of cartridge where the firing pin strikes the rim of the cartridge where the primer mixture is located, rather than the center of the case (known as centertire).

Semi-automatic- a firearm designed to fire a single cartridge, eject the spent case, and load a new round into the chamber each time the trigger is pulled.

Shell- an empty ammunition case

Shotgun- a smooth bore long gun designed to shoot a group of pellets instead of bullets. Depending on the bore size and the size of the pellets, there can be anywhere from a single slug to 200+ pellets in a single shotgun cartridge.

Single action- a revolver or pistol in which the action does only one thing- fire the round. In single action revolvers, the hammer must be cocked manually between each shot fired. In single action semi-automatic pistols, the hammer is often cocked by the rearward motion of the slide after the gun is shot.

Skeet- a shotgun shooting sport in which competitors attempt to hit aerial targets that are moving toward them or crossing in front of them at different angles and elevations. It is also an Olympic event.

Thumb safety- a safety lever present on some firearms that must be manually disengaged prior to shooting. It is often depressed using the firing side thumb.

Trap- a shotgun shooting sport in which competitors try to hit flying targets moving away from them at different trajectories and angles. It is also an Olympic event.

Waiting period- a legally mandated delay in some states between the time a firearm is purchased and the time it is delivered to the customer. In California, it is ten, 24 hour periods, for a minimum 240 hours.

Common abbreviations related to firearms:

CCW- Carry Concealed Weapon- a permit issued by the county in which the resident resides allowing the individual to carry a gun concealed on their person. Rules vary from county to county and state to state as to how and to whom permits are issued.

DOJ- Department of Justice

DROS- Dealer Record of Sale- a system used by the CA DOJ to conduct background checks on individuals purchasing firearms and record registration information. It is required for all handgun, shotgun, and rifle purchases.

FFL- Federal Firearms Licence- a license that enables an individual or company to engage in the interstate and intrastate sale of firearms and is necessary for the manufacture of firearms or ammunition.

FSC- Firearm Safety Certificate- a certificate required for the purchase of any firearms in the state of CA. It requires passing a 30 question test with a minimum of 23 correct. Click here for information on how to obtain a FSC from Empowered Firearms & Training.