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Gun Glossary - Letter S
Index of Firearm & Gun Terminology

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Letter - S Page Updated: 09 March 2003

SA: Abbreviation for Single Action.  See Single Action below.

SA-7 (SA-7 GRAIL): Soviet designed, now Russian made, man portable shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile system with Soviet model designation "Strela 2M" - Strela is Russian for "arrow".  Designated "SA-7A" by the United States, and SA7 "Grail" by NATO. Entered production in 1967 with the improved Strela-2M fielded in 1970. The low -altitude missile was designed to provide tactical ground forces and shipboard personnel a man portable, easy to use anti-aircraft missile. Typically employed against low flying aircraft in the ground attack or air support role due to it's limited range. Further employed to deter enemy pilots from flying "under the radar." The SA7 has a relatively unsophisticated tracking device and is most effective when fired from directly behind a jet, or "head-on" at an approaching helicopter, as the missiles ability to lock on is thermal and determined by acquiring a heat source from the targeted aircraft. Later models include IFF - Identification Friend or Foe systems that can be fitted to the operator's helmet.


Length: approx. 5 feet
Weight: approx. 21 pounds
Propulsion: solid fuel 
Guidance: infra-red passive homing
Warhead: 2.6 lb. high explosive, impact fuse
Max. missile speed: 962 mph
Max. target speed: 582 mph receding, 336 mph head-on
Max. effective range: 11,000 - 13,800 feet
Max. effective altitude: 5,000 - 7500 feet

SAAMI: Acronym for Sporting Arms Ammunition Manufacturers Institute -    SAAMI Sets Product Standards for Firearms and Ammunition.  For example the ratings for P and +P ammo are SAAMI  specifications.

SABOT:  A lightweight carrier in which a projectile of a smaller caliber is centered so as to permit firing the projectile within a larger-caliber weapon. The carrier fills the bore of the weapon from which the projectile is fired; it is normally discarded a short distance from the muzzle.

Gunnery Speak: Sabot is pronounced "Say Boe". Pronunciation Key  (s-b, sb) A lightweight carrier or shoe that surrounds or encases a heavier projectile of reduced caliber and diameter. This system allows a firearm to shoot ammunition for which it is not chambered.  By using a small diameter and lighter weight projectile in a large bore and more importantly in a cartridge with a case capacity much larger than that of a small diameter or sub-caliber projectile, one can produce very high velocity projectiles that are inherently accurate. As in standard physics and in standard hand loading of ammunition, if the same amount of propellant is used for a light  weight projectile, the lighter projectile will have a higher velocity.

Amour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot

Amour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot  - Amour Piercing Discarding Sabot

The shoe or carrier fills the difference between the projectile and the bore diameter.  The carrier or shoe is typically made of plastic or a light weight synthetic material and is discarded shortly after the round leaves the barrel.  In the vaunted M1 Abrams Tank, high speed anti-armor ammunition is known as APFSDS - "Amour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot" - FSDS for "Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot".  

In sporting rifles, a hunter could use his .30-30 caliber rifle to shoot smaller game with .22 caliber bullets.  Since the cartridge case capacity remains the same and the weight of the bullet or projectile is smaller, the muzzle velocity is greatly increased and in most cases the trajectory is flatter and the firearm is more accurate. Sabot rounds are also commonly used in 12 gauge shotguns, where a plastic or synthetic shoe or carrier is positioned around the smaller diameter projectile. This allows a smooth bore shotgun to file a rifle like projectile and very high speeds,  since the small projectile used the same amount of powder as a full size load, the velocity of sabot rounds is normally very fast. Some places only allow smooth bore / shotguns for hunting. Use of a shotgun with a sabot round is very common in Europe, where high powered rifles may be restricted due to the small confines of the hunting area or close proximity to inhabited areas.  

With a smaller frontal area which generally means better aero dynamics, a small fast bullet is typically more accurate than a slow blunt projectile or bullet, but as in most things the specific physical characteristics of the projectile used varies as will the external ballistics.

Sabots like Rabbits - Oh my!

Gunnery Speak: - SABOT is pronounced "Say Boe" -  Pronunciation Key  (s-b, sb) This is one of the most mispronounced terms in Gunnery and in Gun Speak.  Sabot is often mispronounced "Sab Bit" - as in rhymes with rabbit, this is incorrect.  Another common mistake is to make the plural version of the word sabot into the non-word sabotted, as in a "sabotted cartridge" and also into sabots, as in I have 14 sabots.  This is also incorrect, the plural of sabot is sabot.   Again pronounced `Say Boe.  And yes, I know, some manufacturers and "Gun Writers" commonly use this term, but they are wrong in doing so and sound like dummies. 

Word Origin: Sabot is French for shoe. In Gunnery the carrier or housing around a small  sub-caliber (less than the bore diameter) projectile is called a shoe.  The French Resistance placed wooden shoes in the manufacturing machines of the German Reich under NAZI occupation during WW II,  so sabot is the root origin for the word SABOTAGE.

Hey, I don't make this stuff up. So next time you hear a person miss use or miss pronounce Sabot - Say Boe - tell them Top Stenhammar said they are talking like and Anti.

SABOT, SUPER:  Brenneke Super Sabot or Super Sabot.  See Super Sabot below.

SAFE BOLT SYSTEM: The Safe Bolt System or SBS was developed by Steyr Mannlicher, the world famous Austrian firearms manufacturer.  SBS incorporates an ambidextrous roller tang safety with three positions.  As an added measure of safety, when the safety is in the Safe position the bolt handle may be moved to the Double Lock/Safe position.  The firing pin is now locked.  For further safety, the SBS rifles feature a receiver safety bushing, front locking lugs, bolt grooves, and a drop lock magazine.

Steyr SBS - Safe Bolt System
"Performance - Safety - Reliability"

Because of the human factor, no mechanical device and no firearm is 100% safe. Firearm safety is ultimately the responsibility of the user.  In view of these facts, Steyr has incorporated safety design features into the SBS that dramatically enhance safe handling and usage.

The ambidextrous roller tang safety has three positions -

Fire, Loading and Safe:

Fire - In this position (red dot visible only), the rifle is ready to fire.

Loading - In this position (white dot visible only), the trigger safety is engaged. The rifle may be loaded and unloaded with the safety in this position.

Safe - In this position (white dot and gray safety catch visible), the safety is engaged.  Automatic set trigger deactivation on "locked safe".  The rifle will not fire and the bolt will not open.  The rifle is "Drop Safe" in this position with a round in the chamber.

Unlike any other hunting and sporting rifle, the new Steyr SBS combines the best classic bolt-action design with the ultimate in advanced safety technology.  The added safety features of the SBS system provide unparalleled protection both on and off the field.

  A mechanical device on a firearm intended to lock the firing mechanism or action to prevent discharge.  2. A state of mind and actions intended to reduce the risk of personal harm.  

Gun Safety Rules & Information - Click for more information on Firearms Safety.

SAFETY DEVICE: A device which prevents unintentional functioning. 

SAFETY SLUG: See also Glaser Safety Slug - Frangible ammunition designed to prevent over penetration and for enhanced safety in training and close quarters shooting environments.  GLASER SAFETY SLUG, Inc. developed the first frangible bullet in 1974 to provide reduced ricochet and over-penetration danger with improved stopping power over conventional bullets. 

Safety Slug
Safety Slug by Glaser Safety Slug, Inc.

In 1987, GLASER developed the round-nose frangible bullet offering guaranteed feeding reliability.  In 1988 GLASER introduced the compressed-core bullet to maximize bullet weight and the number of bullet fragments. 

This precision formed bullet also produces target grade accuracy, seldom found in a personal defense bullet. In 1994 GLASER improved fragmentation reliability to below 1000 feet per second through the use of soft, rather than hard plastic in the bullet tip.

SAKO LTD: Sako Limited is a Finish based firearms, ammunition and sporting goods manufacturer. Pronounced `Sock oh.  Sako Ltd. manufacturers fine rifles, military equipment, optics, mounts and ammunition.  Sako is also the parent company of Tikka.  In my personal experience Sako rifles are the finest quality rifle made in there price range and maybe the most rifle you can get for your money.  For more information see the detail block below.

Sako Rifle Action
Sako 75 Bolt Action



Sako Cartridges

For the record. Sako cartridges deliver  outstanding accuracy and uniform performance. 

Sako cartridges have been used to achieve more than 200 Bench Rest world records - a world record in itself.


Tikka Firearms
Bolt Action Rifles
Scope Mounts

The Worlds Great Gun Makers

Sako Limited

Sako Ltd. is one of the worlds leading manufacturers of high quality rifles, mounts and cartridges.  The Sako company was established in 1921 and is situated in Riihimäki, Finland, in a state-of- the-art design & manufacturing facility.  The Sako company has continued to play a major role in the evolution of modern hunting, sport and sharp shooting rifles with advanced  functional designs and a deep commitment to research & development.  Sako rifles are sold globally and have won the precious position as "the most accurate factory-made rifle in the world".


Sako Hunting Rifles

Sako 75 Deluxe

The Sako 75, is a totally new rifle concept launched in 1997, the Sako 75 has been acclaimed in the international shooting press as the best rifle in the world.  It combines the latest manufacturing technology with old world craftsmanship. The revolutionary basic design of Sako 75 offers all the features and options that professional shooters have ever wished for.  No gimmicks, no gadgets, just plain hard innovation and precision engineering resulting in unparalleled accuracy, safety and reliability.

Sako Rifles now include the KEY CONCEPT® a patented Safety Locking System.  Key Concept is a practically invisible lock that totally blocks the firing pin and prevents bolt movement.

Sako Military and Long-Range Competition Rifles

Sako TRG 22 .308 Winchester - 7.62 NATO

SAKO TRG 22/42 rifles are the ultimate accuracy tools for long-range competition. TRG rifles are manufactured with state of art machinery using modern manufacturing methods and perfected by skilled Sako craftsmen. Both models are available with phosphate metal parts and green stocks by  special order.

Sako TRG 42 Long-Range Competition / Sniper System

The TRG 42 chambered in .300 Win Mag and .338 Lapua Magnum is a true long-range competition rifle. It can also be equipped with various implements to fulfill the demanding duties of a tactical sniper.  Sako TRG actions and special match grade barrels (chrome-molly or stainless) are cold hammer-forged.

The sturdy bolt with three locking lugs feeds rounds reliably from the centerline of a detachable staggered magazine. The high-tech constructed aluminum reinforced composite stock can be completely adjusted to match the individual preferences of all shooters.  The target trigger is a fully adjustable 2-stage unit.  Sako's Optilock™ quick mount allows any target scope to be positioned properly on the action with a repeat zero when detached and reattached.


Information Courtesy of
Sako Limited
Riihimäki, Finland
On the Web at URL:


SALVO:  1. In naval gunfire support, a method of fire in which a number of weapons are fired at the same target simultaneously.  2. In close air support or air interdiction operations, a method of delivery in which the release mechanisms are operated to release or fire all ordnance of a specific type simultaneously.

SASR:  U.S. military acronym for "Special Applications Scoped Rifle".  The SASR is the SOPMOD version of the Barrett caliber .50, M82A1, semi-automatic rifle.  See Special Applications Scoped Rifle below.

SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL: A catchy phrase having no legal or technical meaning.  The term is typically used to refer to cheap, small caliber pistols and revolvers.  In the current political climate, which is largely anti-gun, some politicians have moved to restrict the sale and manufacturing of the so called "Saturday Night Specials".  In real life there are several inexpensive small pistols and revolvers that can be used effectively for home and self defense.  I strongly advocate using a good quality firearm for home and self defense, but for those with limited resources, these small inexpensive firearms may be the only option.

SAUER, J.P. SAUER & SOHN:  When in 1751 the company J. P. Sauer & Son was founded, no-one could foresee that in time that name would become a world-wide synonym for high quality hunting and sporting rifles. Path breaking developments in the field of hunting weapons and a substantial amount of patents document the creativity and commercial success of SAUER's company policy within the last 250 years.

Today, the complete manufacturing of the products is based on up-to-date processing and technology. SAUER's marketing policy is always focused on the different demands in our market segments. The selected SAUER products shown in the pictures, verify some steps of design and development in our history. At any time it was always a special privilege to be the owner of a SAUER small arm.

SAWAcronym for Squad Automatic Weapon.  See SAW(S) below.

SAWS:  Acronym for Squad Automatic Weapon System.

America's Great Guns

SAW - Squad Automatic Weapon
M249 Light Machine Gun (LMG)
a.k.a. SAWS - Squad Automatic Weapon System
SAW M249
When you really need to hammer something, use a SAW!

Primary function: Hand-held combat machine gun
Manufacturer: FN - Fabrique Nationale Manufacturing, Inc.
Length: 40.87 inches
103.81 centimeters
With bipod and tools: 15.16 pounds  (6.88 kilograms)
200-round box magazine: 6.92 pounds  (3.14 kilograms)
30-round magazine: 1.07 pounds  (.49 kilograms)
Bore diameter / Caliber: 5.56mm (.233 inches) / 5.56 x 45
Barrel length: 523 mm or 381 mm (see text)
Rifling: 6 grooves, right hand twist, 1 turn in 178 mm
Sights: Fore, semi-fixed hooded post Adjustable for windage & elevation
Rear, aperture, adjustable for windage and elevation
Sight radius: 490 mm
Muzzle velocity: 2973 fps - 915 m/s
Muzzle energy: ca 175 kgm
Maximum effective range: 3281 feet (1000 meters) for an area target
Maximum range: 2.23 miles (3.6 kilometers)
Rates of fire:
Cyclic: 725 rounds per minute
Sustained: 85 rounds per minute
Unit Replacement Cost: $4,087.00


Features: The Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), or 5.56mm M249 is an individually portable, gas operated, magazine or disintegrating metallic link-belt fed, light machine gun with fixed headspace and quick change barrel feature. 

Employment:   Within the rifle platoon, the M249 is used to provide fire cover during maneuvers involving assault rifle-equipped in the offence and, to cover the most likely enemy approach in the defensive positions.  The M249 engages point targets out to 800 meters, firing the improved NATO standard 5.56mm cartridge.  The SAW forms the basis of firepower for the fire team.  The gunner has the option of using 30-round M16 magazines or linked ammunition from pre-loaded 200-round plastic magazines. The gunner's basic load is 600 rounds of linked ammunition.

saw.jpg (9629 bytes)

The SAW was developed through an initially Army-led research and development effort and eventually a Joint NDO program in the late 1970s  early 1980s to restore sustained and accurate automatic weapons fire to the fire team and squad. When actually fielded in the mid-1980s, the SAW was issued as a one-for-one replacement for the designated "automatic rifle" (M16A1) in the Fire Team.  In this regard, the SAW filled the void created by the retirement of the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) during the 1950s because interim automatic weapons (e.g. M-14E2/M16A1) had failed as viable "base of fire" weapons.  Early in the SAW's fielding, the Army identified the need for a Product Improvement Program (PIP) to enhance the weapon. This effort resulted in a "PIP kit" which modifies the barrel, hand guard, stock, pistol grip, buffer, and sights.

Common term for federally restricted "short-barreled shotgun (rifle)" i.e. a conventional shotgun with barrel less than 18 inches (or rifle less than 16 inches) or overall length less than 26 inches. Manufacturing and possession of firearms of this type has been tightly controlled under federal law since 1934.  See NFA 34.

SBS: Abbreviation for Safe Bolt System developed by Steyr Mannlicher.

SCABBARD:  A leather or synthetic sheath into which a rifle is placed for carrying on horseback.

SCATTERGUN:  Synonym for shotgun.   Scattergun Technologies is a company that modifies shotguns for tactical and police use.

SCHEDULED FIRE: A type of prearranged fire executed at a predetermined time. 

SCHEDULE OF TARGETS: The predetermined order in which targets in a course of fire will be engaged.  2. In artillery and naval gunfire support, individual targets, groups or series of targets to be fired on, in a definite sequence according to a definite program. 

SCHNABEL FOREND: The curved or carved flared end of the forend that resembles the beak of a bird (Schnabel in German).  This type of forend is common on Austrian and German guns; was popular in the U.S., but the popularity of the Schnabel forend/forearm comes and goes with the seasons.  A Schnabel forend is often seen on custom stocks and rifles.  Erroneously also called Shnoble or Schnobel.

SCOPE:  A telescopic sight affixed to a firearm, which allows the user to aim more precisely over longer distances. The lines crossing inside the scope are called "reticules" and come in different styles. Some reticules allow the user to estimate range by acting as a form of "optical ruler". In order to function properly, a scope must be calibrated, or "zeroed" once it is mounted.

SCOUT RIFLE:  A concept popularized by eminent gun writer Col. Jeff Cooper. A scout rifle, generally, is a bolt action carbine firing a medium power round suitable for taking large game (e.g., .308), fitted with a long eye-relief telescopic sight mounted on the barrel, and a back up set of iron sights.

SCUD MISSILE: Soviet designed, now Russian made ballistic missile of the FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground) variety. The Soviet Union started design of the Scud following World War II, using blueprints for the German V2 Rocket. The SS-1B (Scud A) entered service in 1955 and the SS-1C (Scud B) entered service in 1962. Nuclear, chemical and high explosive warheads were designed for the Scud B. There are reports that the Soviets designed two further Scud variants, known as the SS-1D (Scud C) and the SS-1E (Scud D). The Iraqis developed their own Scud version, the Al Hussein, which was fired into Israel and Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. It is believed that North Korea and a few other countries now make and export SCUD Missile variants.

Scud C
Length: 10.9 meters (35 feet)
Diameter: .88 meters (2.5 feet)
Weight: 6,200 kilograms (13,670 pounds)
Propulsion: single-stage liquid propellant
Warheads: Chemical, high explosives, or cluster bombs
Range: 500 kilometers (311 miles)
Accuracy: Within 1,000 meters (3,300 feet)

Source: Jane's Strategic Weapons Systems

SEAR:  The part or device which serves to engage the hammer, striker, or other firing device and hold it in the cocked position until firing is desired.  A sear must be of good design and material as loads imposed on it are very high.  The sear is disengaged to cause firing by trigger movement.

SEARCHING FIRE: Fire distributed in depth by successive changes in the elevation of a gun. 

SEATING DEPTH: The depth to which a bullet is seated below the case mouth.

SEATING DIE: The reloading die that presses the bullet into the neck of the cartridge case, crimping the case if so desired.

SECTIONAL DENSITY: A bullet's weight, in pounds, divided by the square of its' diameter in inches.

SECOND AMENDMENT: The second article in the United States Bill of Rights which states, "A well regulated militia being necessary for a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Note that the Bill of Rights is a statement of the rights of the all citizens accorded them by their creator and that freedoms implied by the ten articles are not privileges granted by the state nor can they be denied the citizens by   the state.

SECTOR OF FIRE: A defined area which is required to be covered by the fire of individual or crew served weapons or the weapons of a unit. 

SECURITY OPERATIONS:  A military combat mission exemplified by operations designed to obtain information about the enemy and provide reaction time, maneuver space, and protection to the main body.  Security operations are characterized by aggressive reconnaissance to reduce terrain and enemy unknowns, gaining and maintaining contact with the enemy to ensure continuous information, and providing early and accurate reporting of information to the protected force.

Types of security operations are:

-  Screening Force:  Maintains surveillance, provides early warning to the main body, impedes and harasses the enemy with supporting indirect fires, and destroys enemy reconnaissance elements within it's capability.

-  Guard Force:  Accomplishes all the tasks of the screening force.  Additionally, prevents enemy ground observation of and direct fire against the main body.  Reconnoiters, attacks, defends, and delays as necessary to accomplish its mission.

-  Covering Force:  Accomplishes all the tasks of the Guard Force and Screening Force.  Additionally, operates apart from the main body to develop the situation early and deceive, disorganize, and destroy enemy forces.

SELECT FIRE:  A firearm that can be switched from semi-automatic to automatic fire mode by the manipulation of a selector lever or switch.  Select fire guns are categorized by the U.S. government as machine guns, in accordance with the National Firearms Act or NFA.  Many modern military "select fire" weapons incorporate three-shot-burst mode in lieu of full automatic mode or a burst mode and automatic mode.  Typical "selector" positions are Safe - Semi - Burst - Auto.


SEMI-AUTOMATIC: A firearm designed to fire a single cartridge, eject the empty case and reload the chamber each time the trigger is pulled.   Semi-Automatic Pistols and Rifles are often refereed to as Automatics or Auto's but this is technically incorrect.  SEMI-AUTOMATIC 2: A type of firearm which, by pulling the trigger, utilizes the energy of recoil or the powder gases, together with a heavy counter-balanced bolt and strong bolt spring, to eject the fired case, load a fresh cartridge from the magazine into chamber, and close the breech ready to fire another round.  The trigger must be pulled for each shot.

SEMI-FIXED AMMUNITION: Ammunition in which the cartridge case is not permanently attached to the projectile. This type of ammunition is typical of large field guns and allows the rounds to be modified to best suit the specific target type.

SEMI WAD CUTTER:  A type of bullet shaped like a cylinder with a truncated cone on one end.  The base of the cone is slightly smaller in diameter than the diameter of the bullet, so a shoulder is formed where they join.  Semi wad cutters are used in target shooting, hunting, and defensive applications, especially in jurisdictions where hollow points are prohibited by law.  Also known as a "Keith-style" bullet, after gun writer Elmer Keith, who espoused their use for hunting.  Abbreviated SWC.

SEPARATE LOADING AMMUNITION: Ammunition in which the projectile and charge are loaded into a gun separately.  most black powder, muzzle loading firearms use separate loading ammunition as do large field guns and some types of artillery.

SERVICE AMMUNITION: Ammunition intended for combat, rather than for training purposes. 

SHELL: To hit or attack a target with artillery fire.  2. The explosive projectile fired from a cannon. Slang used  to describe "Ammunition Cartridge" as in "Shotgun or Rifle Shell."

SHELL HOLDER: This is attached to the top of the ram and holds the heads of cartridge cases as they are moved up and down, into and out of the die.

SHOT: Spherical pellets used in loading shotgun shells. Commonly formed from lead or steel.

SHORT ACTION: A rifle action designed for shorter cartridges.

SHOCK: The transference of the kinetic energy of a bullet to animal tissue or other mediums. Normally shock, not the wound, cause the person or animal to fall.

SHOULDER: The projection of a bottle necked cartridge case from the neck to the case body; or, the point at which the head of a projectile joins the cylindrical rear portion.

SHOULDER FIRED:  A firearm that is designed to be fired from the shoulder. Although most "Long Guns" [ Rifles, Sub Machine Guns & Shotguns ] are shoulder fired, some pistols have detachable "Shoulder Stocks" or stock like attachment that facilitate long distance target acquisition and or stability for tactical operations.

SHOTGUN: A long gun that is typically shoulder fired and with a smooth bore, though some shotgun barrels are rifled. Shotguns are primarily intended for firing multiple small, round projectiles, (shot, birdshot, pellets), larger shot (buck shot), single round balls (pumpkin balls) and cylindrical slugs. Some shotgun barrels have rifling to give better accuracy with slugs and discarding sabot rounds and with some advanced designs groove like inserts for greater pattern spread to birdshot.   Shotgun 2:  A type of long gun (appearing like a heavy-barreled rifle) that is designed to fire shotgun shells. The most common type of shotgun shell does not contain a single projectile or bullet, but rather a collection of smaller pellets similar to BB's that leave the barrel in a cluster and begin to fan out or spread as they get farther from the muzzle of the gun. This "Spread Shot Pattern" 

Shotgun 101: Shotguns and ammunition can be selected to tailor the size of the pellets, the number of pellets, and the degree to which they fan out. Because a shotgun can cover a wide area in a single shot, it has considerable appeal in hunting, law enforcement and home defense roles. Shotguns may have one or two barrels, with double-barrel variants appearing in "side by side" or "over and under" orientations. 

Shotguns are commonly available as single-shot, semiautomatic, or pump. When a pump shotgun, which is really a SLIDE ACTION is fired, the user must pull back the forearm or hand guard and pump or slide the handle (which generally doubles as the gripping surface under the barrel) to eject the empty shell case, and push the pump / slide action handle back to the forward position to load a fresh shell into the chamber and to reset the trigger or striker to the cocked position.  A complete cycle of the slide / pump returns the shotgun to the firing position.  Shotguns are also capable of firing SABOT (pronounced SAY BOE ) and riffled and smooth bore "Slug" ammunition.  They can also be used to fire various flares, noise makers, CS or so-called Tear Gas as well as flame throwing and other novelty rounds.

For specific information on the Shotgun see the detail box below.

Shotgun Stuff

Shotgun Terms

Action - the moving parts that allow you to load, fire and unload your shotgun. (See Breech, Chamber, Trigger)

Barrel Selector - determines which barrel of a double barrel gun will fire first.

Blacking / Bluing - the blue coloration applied to protect gun barrels.

Bore - in simple terms the interior diameter of a gun barrel, which will vary according to the gun's design and intended use. The size of the bore is indicated by the term gauge. Also someone who goes on interminably about shooting to the exclusion of all other subjects.

Breech - portion of the barrel into which a cartridge is loaded.

Broken Gun - in a hinge type gun, where the barrels are dropped open and clear of the action, exposing the chambers to view.

Butt - the rear of the shoulder end of the gun's stock.

Comb - the side of the stock that fits against your cheek.

Chamber - part of the barrel that contains the cartridge at the instant of firing.

Choke - the degree of narrowing or constriction of the bore at the muzzle end of the barrel, intended to increase the effective range of the gun. (See Full, Modified, and Improved Cylinder)

Ejector - the mechanism on shotguns by which spent shot cases are automatically ejected from the gun when it is opened after firing.

Forearm - the part of the stock that lies under the barrel.

Full Choke - the tightest constriction or narrowing of the bore, producing the greatest effective range.

Grip - the narrow portion of the stock held with the trigger hand.

Gauge - the term used to describe the interior diameter of the bore. The smaller the gauge number, the larger the bore size. Modern shotguns are available in 10, 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauge. An exception is the .410 bore shotgun, which is actually a 67 gauge.

Improved Cylinder - least constricted or narrowed choke causing shot pattern to widen relatively quickly.

Modified Choke - moderate constriction or narrowing of the bore.

Muzzle - the end of the barrel from which the shot exits.

Over-and-Under - a two-barreled shotgun with one barrel placed over the other.

Pump - a type of action that loads and ejects shells by "pumping" the forearm of the stock back and forth.

Recoil - the force with which the gun moves backwards into the shoulder when fired.

Safety - a mechanical device incorporated into a firearm design to help prevent an accidental discharge.

Semi-Automatic - a type of action which uses the energy from the shell that being fired to eject the spent case, cock the action and then reload a fresh cartridge without any additional action on the part of the shooter, also called self-loading. Semi-automatics are noted for minimal recoil.

Shot - round projectiles, usually of lead or steel. Depending on shot size and load, a shell can contain from 45 to 1,170 individual pieces of shot.

Shot Pattern - the concentration of shot measured in a circle at a given range, usually 30 to 40 yards.

Side-By-Side - a shotgun with two barrels sitting side by side. In Great Britain, the standard game shooting weapon.

Stock - the "handle" of the shotgun, the part held to the shoulder, comprising the butt, comb, grip, and forearm.

Shot shell or Shell - the ammunition fired by shotguns, consisting of five components: the case, primer, powder charge, wad, and shot.  A shot shell is to shotguns are a cartridge is to handguns and rifles.

Trigger - the portion of the lock mechanism which when pulled by the shooters finger mechanism releases the sear and/or firing pin to discharge the firearm.


Shotgun Safety

It's Largely Common Sense
Imagine that firearms have just been invented, and you're one of the first to be introduced to the shotgun. What precautions would you take to avoid accidental injury to humans or animals, or accidental damage to objects? What, in other words, would common sense suggest?

Because that's what safe shotgun handling and shooting largely consists of. Good old common sense, applied over and over and over again until it becomes pure instinct. And if you're an old pro to who safety rules are second nature, why not review them anyway? Like chicken soup, if it doesn't help, it couldn't hurt. And the few minutes you spend could keep you from getting careless or falling into bad habits.

Safe Handling

In simpler terms, safe handling of your shotgun is whatever prevents you from firing accidentally, or prevents injury or damage if such a discharge does occur:

  • Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Never point the muzzle at any person, animal or object you don't intend to shoot. The safest directions: upward, or toward the ground (but not toward your foot).
  • Keep your finger off the trigger. Fight the natural tendency to put your finger on the trigger when you hold a shotgun. If you must curl it around something, use the trigger guard. The only time your finger should touch the trigger is when you're ready to shoot.
  • Keep the gun unloaded, with the action open. Make it a reflex to open the action and check the chamber whenever you pick up a shotgun. And keep the gun empty and open until you're ready to use it.

Safe Shooting

Like safe handling, safe shooting depends on--you guessed it--common sense:

  • Know your shotgun. Familiarity with your gun's basic parts and how they function is a prerequisite for safe shooting. Know how to open and close the action, for example, and how to remove ammunition.
  • Don't depend on the safety. This may be the cardinal rule of safe shooting. Remember, the safety is a mechanical device and it can malfunction. The safety is not a replacement for safe handling and shooting practices.
  • Make sure gun and ammunition match. If there is any question about compatibility between shot shell and gun, don't fire! The gauge of the shell must match the gauge of the shotgun. The gauge of the gun is likely to be stamped on the barrel. The gauge of the shell will be indicated on the box, and on each shell.
  • Don't carry shells of mixed gauge. Whenever you're through shooting, immediately remove unfired shells from your clothing. It's a good way to avoid mixing ammunition. The drawings that follow illustrate the explosive--and potentially disastrous--effect of placing both a 20 and a 12 gauge shell in the same gun. Remember your fingers would have been placed directly over the blown out portion of the forearm!
  • Be sure before you shoot. If you're not absolutely certain that you've identified your target, don't shoot! And be equally aware of what's beyond your target. If it's another person, or an object that shouldn't be hit--no matter how far--don't shoot!
  • Protect your eyes and ears. Guns make noise. Noise affects your hearing. Guns also emit debris and gases that can injure your eyes. Ear protectors and safety glasses are a must.
  • If your senses are impaired, don't go shooting! Among the world's worst combinations are firearms and alcohol, and firearms and drugs.
  • Don't run the risk of a clogged barrel. Barrel obstructions can cause gun bursts. If you've stumbled and jabbed the barrel into the ground or crawled to surprise your quarry, unload and check the barrel for mud or snow.
  • Don't rest your gun on your feet to keep it out of mud or snow.

Eye & Ear Protection

Think, for a moment, of how much your vision and hearing mean to you. Then consider the effect on your life if either of these senses was impaired. How many activities that you take for granted would you have to curtail? How many daily pleasures would you have to forsake? As a shot gunner, you owe it to yourself to protect your eyes on every shooting occasion.

Field Etiquette

Etiquette is just good manners. In shooting, etiquette also introduces another element of safety. Practice shooting etiquette in the field and you'll be a safe--and popular--shooting companion.

  • Never shoot across another shooter.
  • Don't interfere with another hunter's dog. Period!
  • Never put your gun off safety until game has flushed.
  • Don't shoot if a dog is directly behind low flying birds.
  • Make sure every member of your party is wearing an article of blaze orange clothing.
  • Agree prior to going into field what are the safe zones of fire.
  • Always maintain a "straight line" when hunting with a partner and/or guide.
  • If you don't know where your partner and guide are, don't shoot!

Swing & Lead

Many shot gunners have wondered how much displacement of the pattern is caused by the motion of the barrel as the shot is fired. Everyone has noticed, when throwing an object from a moving car, that its path has both an outward component from the force of the throw and a forward component from the motion of the car.

This same effect applies to shot patterns. If, for example, a shooter fired on a target crossing 30 yards distant with a load producing a muzzle velocity of 1300 f.p.s., and swung the barrel at 10 m.p.h., the initial direction of the shot charge would be altered by about 26 minutes of angle, or about 8" at 30 yards.

It readily can be seen that this effect adds only a little to the forward allowance necessary to hit the target. In shot gunning, there is no substitute for lead.

Base & Brass

The near-universal use of plastic shot shells has rendered obsolete the old terms high and low base, but plastic shells are made in a wide variety of head designs, and even without brass heads.

During the paper-shell era, solid paper wads (in the shell base) were made in high, medium and low configurations, depending on the powder being used. A high base wad was called for when small powder volumes were used.

The brass height was inversely related to base height. If the top of the brass was at the same level as the top of the base wad, tubes would often separate at the head when the cartridge was fired. So low-base shells -- those with a large, heavy powder charge -- used high brass so the brass would be above the top of the base wad.

Conversely, in a field or target load where a high base wad was used with a light powder charge, low brass was used so the top of the brass would be below the highest point of the base wad.

Today the brass portion of the shell (more often brass-colored steel) has a primarily decorative role. All-plastic shells like Cavim, Eclipse and Activ have demonstrated that some compression-formed plastics are quite strong enough for shot shell use with no metal reinforcement (it should be noted that all-paper shells were tried, too). Tall brass is still used on high-powered shells (especially those from Italy), but its purpose is marketing appeal.

Shot Spread

Shooters often want a rule of thumb to estimate shot spread at a given range. So many variables are involved -- choke, velocity, shot hardness, etc., that a firm rule is almost impossible to devise.

A good rough rule, however, is this one. When fired from a full-choke gun, the pattern will spread roughly 1" per yard. When fired from an improved-cylinder gun, it will spread roughly 1 ¾" per yard. Other degrees of choke will spread proportionally.

It should be noted that this applies to any gauge, since extreme spread is little affected by gauge. The larger gauges simply have the ability to fill in the pattern with more shot.

Shot Size Chart

The Magnum Advantage

Many shot gunners buy 2¾" or 3" magnum ammunition under the impression that striking energy of each pellet is somehow greater. This is not the case. The advantage of magnum shells is the greater shot charge weight, and thus pattern density, they provide.

Magnum shells are generally no greater in velocity than high-velocity shells, so each pellet is driven at a similar speed. The magnum's advantage is that more pellets are thrown.

It is this increased pattern density that allows magnum ammunition to provide better performance at long range.

The figure shows how the pattern diameter corresponds roughly to the range. It should be remembered, however, that it is the area that the shot charge must cover that is important. Areas of circles are to each other as the squares of the diameters. Even a small increase in diameter results in a large increase in area, and a correspondingly severe thinning of the pattern.

For equal pattern density, the range of the 1½ oz. Load is to the range of the 1¼ oz. Load as the square root of 1.5 is to the square root of 1.25 or about 1.10. Thus the range increase for the heavier load is about 10%.

Of course, when magnum and standard ammunition are compared at the same range, the magnum provides "insurance" pattern coverage, though at a cost in expense, muzzle blast and recoil.

Ammunition & Choke Suggestions

Shot Size

Experienced Shot Gunners Say...

BB, 1,
2, 3 *
Modified--for pass shooting
Improved Cylinder--over decoys
Use BB shot for long range and pass shooting. For normal range--No. 1 or No. 2 shot while some hunters use No. 3 shot for closer range shooting over decoys.
BB, 1 *
Modified Goose hunters need wallop so they use the big loads with large shot. Many hunters prefer No. 1 shot for a denser pattern at shorter ranges over decoys.
5, 6, 7½
Improved Cylinder--for close cover
Modified or Full--for long cornfield shots
For cornfield shooting where long shots are usual - better use No. 5. On a normal rise over dogs and for all around use, No. 6 is the favorite.
Grouse or Partridge
5, 6,
7½, 8
Improved Cylinder or Modified--for brush work
Full--for open ranges
On the smaller birds such as ruffed grouse or Hungarian Partridge, use the smaller shot. The big western grouse (sage, sooty, and blue) call for heavier loads and larger shot.
7½, 8, 9
Improved Cylinder
For early season shooting on bobwhites when feathers are light, some hunters use No. 9 shot. Later they switch to No. 7½ or 8. On the running or wild flushing type of quail, such as the Gambel's, large shot is sometimes used.
Doves and Pigeons
6, 7½,
8, 9
Improved Cylinder
Use lighter loads and No. 7½ or No. 8 shot on mourning doves at normal ranges --for longer ranges use the heavy loads and No. 6 or No. 7½. Use the same load on band tailed pigeons and white wings.
7½, 8, 9
Improved Cylinder
The choice of shot size here will depend on ranges at which the game is shot. For fast shooting in the alder thickets, No. 8 shot is a good choice.
BB*, 2*, 4,
5, 6, 7½

*check local game laws
Full Choice of shot size depends on the range. If you're a good caller, No. 6 or No. 7½ shots makes a clean kill. BB's, No. 2s, 4s, 5s, are best for long shots.
7½, 8
Full or Modified In most cases, No. 7½ is used for trap. Check the Official Rulebook.
8, 9
Skeet Choke
Improved Cylinder
In most cases, No. 9 is used for skeet, check the Official Rulebook.
Sporting Clays
7½, 8, 9
Any choke (Depends on practice desired) For targets at close range use a more open choke, at longer distances tighten the chokes.

Shot Penetration

It has been thought by some hunters that small shot penetrates better because its small cross-section will encounter less resistance.

This idea is quite incorrect. The fallacy in it is obvious when it is carried to its logical conclusion; that a round cannonball would penetrate a much shorter distance than a small shot pellet.

The belief would be correctly founded if penetration by shot pellets took place as the result of an outside force applied to the pellets during penetration, pushing them through the target. This situation does not exist.

The only force carrying a projectile through its target arises from its own velocity and weight. Assuming like velocities, then the only factors making for different penetrations by non-deforming round shot will be weight and area. The weights of spheres of the same material will be to each other as the cubes of their diameters. However, the areas they present will be only as the squares of their diameters.

With the available force varying as the diameter cubed, and the resistance varying only as the diameter squared, it is obvious that the penetration will, be as D3 divided by D2, which equals D itself. That is, penetration goes up strictly in accordance with the diameter of the shot.

This amply confirmed fact applies to penetration both in solid substances and in air, and is the reason why large shot retain their velocity in flight better than small shot.

Drop of Shot Charge

Trajectory of rifle and pistol bullets is extensively studied and is the subject of countless tables for finding drop at various ranges. Each pellet in a charge of shot drops as it flies toward its target due to the force of gravity, just as a single rifle bullet drops in its flight.

The amount of drop, however, is too small to require consideration in most real-world applications. For example, the drop of a shot charge at 50 yards, about the maximum range for most shot gunning, is about 5". Leads on flying targets at that range are a matter of yards, so the 5" drop fades into insignificance.

During market-hunting days, when professional wildfowlers used 8ga, 4ga, and even larger punt guns to flock-shoot waterfowl at long ranges; drop was a more important consideration. But since most shooters have enough trouble just calculating lead, they will do better to disregard drop.

Shotgun Gauges

The system of expressing shotgun bore sizes by gauge rather than by decimal or metric measurements is, like many things, relating to smoothbores, a result of long tradition. Numbered gauges represent the number of round lead balls fitting the bore required to make a pound. Letter gauges were used for some of the very large bore sizes.

There was originally no distinction in this connection between shotguns and ball guns, since all were smooth-bored and could be fired with either shot or ball. The gauge system was continued for rifles in gauges up to No. 1 (1.669") until recent decades, and is still correct for smoothbores intended to shoot a single bullet. Its eventual abandonment for rifles was due to the great elongation of many rifle bullets, which caused bore size to be no longer a useful indication of the weight of bullet thrown.

The use of this system was due in part to the inability of the early gun makers and other craftsmen to perform accurate measurements. Not until the introduction of precise tool making and gauging techniques by Sir Joseph Whitworth, beginning about 1840, was it possible to measure gun bores, for example, with anything like the accuracy which we now consider commonplace. By contrast, it was always practicable to classify bores by approximate weight of the ball they took. This did not then signify a precise specification of bore diameter. The present standard bore diameters, though specified on the old rule, became possible only with the ability to make accurate measurements.

English small arms gauges as given in the Gun Barrel Proof Act of 1868

Gauge No.
Bore Diameter
Gauge No.
Bore Diameter
A 2.000" 20 .615"
B 1.938" 21 .605"
C 1.875" 22 .596"
D 1.813" 23 .587"
E 1.750" 24 .579"
F 1.688" 25 .571"
1 1.669" 26 .563"
H 1.625" 27 .556"
J 1.563" 28 .550"
K 1.500" 29 .543"
L 1.438" 30 .537"
M 1.375" 31 .531"
2 1.325" 32 .526"
O 1.313" 33 .520"
P 1.250" 34 .515"
3 1.157" 35 .510"
4 1.052 36 .506"
5 .976" 37 .501"
6 .919" 38 .497"
7 .873" 39 .492"
8 .835" 40 .488"
9 .803" 41 .484"
10 .775" 42 .480"
11 .751" 43 .476"
12 .729" 44 .473"
13 .710 45 .469"
14 .693" 46 .466"
15 .677" 47 .463"
16 .662" 48 .459"
17 .649" 49 .456"
18 .637" 50 .453"
19 .626"

Note that the gauge system goes down only to No. 50, which was until comparatively recent times considered a small bore. Below that the actual bore diameter is used. So far as required, these gauge sizes are also used in the United States.

A more fundamental consideration in favor of the gauge system, however, was the fact that it rated the gun on the charge it shot. This was and is more important to the user than the mere size of the hole through the barrel. Even today, when extreme efforts are made to get disproportionately large charges into shot shells rather than go to a slightly larger gauge, the gauge system retains a great deal of usefulness in this way.

The gauge system has won out not only in the English-speaking countries but all over the world. This remarkable success is probably the best measure of its merit.

Shot shell Lengths

Shot shells once were made, both here and abroad, in an incredible profusion of varieties, with thousands of combinations of shell length, powder, wads and shot sizes available.

Today, the world has generally agreed on the U.S. 2 3/4", 3" and 3 1/2" dimensions for shot shells, but there are exceptions, especially in European target and light field loads.

These are found in lengths as short as 2" in Britain and on the Continent, but importers rarely bring in anything shorter than 65 mm (2 9/16"). Other common sizes are 67 mm (2 5/8") and 67.5 mm (2 21/32"). The standard 2 ¾" shell measures 70 mm, while the 3" Mag is designated 76 mm (dimensions approximate fired length).

Shotgun Patterning

Shotgun pattering can be as simple as firing against a painted steel plate or as complicated as using the 100-field German Halensee target. NRA has for many years used an eight-field target that provides a good deal of information without making pattering an unbearable task.

To pattern by the NRA method, set up a piece of Kraft paper at least 48" square on a framework that allows the shot to pass through freely. A sturdy barbed-wire fence will do in a pinch. Draw an aiming point large enough to be seen from the standard pattering distance of 40 yards (25 yards for .410s or skeet guns). A spray can of flat black paint makes an aiming point in one quick squirt. Mark the top of the target.

Step off the proper distance and fire, preferably from offhand and without taking deliberate aim.

For "Dope Bag" evaluations, the NRA Technical Staff fires 10 patterns from each barrel or choke tube under evaluation. This provides a very high margin of confidence when results are totaled and averaged. Most shot gunners will want to avoid the labor of shooting and counting so may patterns, but at least three or four should be fired to minimize the influence of flinching or other factors.

To evaluate the pattern, draw a 30" circle that encloses the greatest possible number of pellets. It may be necessary to draw the circle slightly off the pattern sheet. Next, draw a 21.21" circle concentric with the larger one. Then quarter the two circles with a straightedge. This divides the circle into eight equal areas.

Count each area and mark the total. Then add the totals for the inside four sections and the outer four. The total number of hits in the 30" circle is totaled next. Select five shot shells from the lot being tested and count the number of pellets in each. Then average the five totals. Divide the average by the number of hits in the 30" circle for the barrel's pattern percentage. The operation can be repeated for the 21.21" circle and the 30" ring formed by the four outer sections.

The gun's impact point is located by measuring the distance from the intersection of the quartering lines from the center of the aiming point. A properly regulated shotgun will place its pattern evenly around the aiming point (trap guns are generally designed to shoot high). Consistent pattering away from the aiming point, especially left or right, should be corrected by bending the barrel or by installation of an eccentric choke tube.

Pattern testing is one of the most tedious tasks in the firearms world. But it is the only method that allows accurate conclusions to be drawn about shotgun performance.

Shot shell Pellet Count

Nominal Pellet Counts for Lead Waterfowl And Buckshot Loads

No. 4
No. 3
No. 2
No. 1
No. 0
No. 00
No. 000
1 1/2
1 5/8
1 3/4
1 7/8
2 1/4
2 3/8
2 1/2
wt. (grs.)
Data Courtesy Ballistic Products, Inc., P.O. Box 408,
Long Lake, Minn. 55356

Metric and U.S. Shot Conversions

U.S. No.
Metric (mm)
8 1/2
7 1/2
U.S. No.
Metric (mm)

Nominal Pellet Counts for Lead Field Loads

No. 9
No. 8 1/2
No. 8
No. 7 1/2
No. 6
No. 5
No. 4
No. 3
1 1/8
1 1/4
1 3/8
1 1/2
1 5/8
1 7/8
wt. (grs.)
all counts for standard chilled shot


Nominal Pellet Counts for Steel Shot
No. 6
No. 5
No. 4
No. 3
No. 2
No. 1
No. BB
No. T
No. F
1 1/8
1 1/4
1 3/8
1 1/2
1 5/8
wt. (grs.)
Data Courtesy Ballistic Products, Inc.

Buckshot vs. Slugs

Certain states and localities prohibit rifles and require the use of shotgun slugs or buckshot for big game hunting, usually because they are considered safer for use in congested areas. Both slugs and buckshot have a very limited range in comparison with rifles.

Were it not for such laws, it is doubtful that many hunters would select slugs or especially buckshot for big game hunting. Range and accuracy are decisively inferior even to low-powered rifle cartridges, and some big-bore pistol rounds provide better energy.

Shotgun slugs should not be used at ranges greater than about 75 yards. Maximum effective range is limited as much by the slug's rapid decay of energy and velocity as by its poor accuracy. A typical shotgun slug loses 40% of its striking energy in traveling the first 50 yards. It loses 55% of that muzzle energy in traveling 75 yards, 60% in 100 yards. The substantial muzzle energy (2365 ft.-lbs. for a typical 12-ga. 1-oz. Slug at 1560 f.p.s.) drops to 1345 ft.-lbs. at 50 yards, and less than 1000 ft.-lbs. at 100 yards.

Accuracy of shotgun slugs is adequate for deer hunting at ranges up to about 50 yards from almost any shotgun, but the performance to be expected can be determined only by shooting a particular gun. Barrels vary considerably, and the type and brand of ammunition can have a considerable influence in the gun's grouping potential.

The dispersion of shotgun slugs is not inherently linear with the range. The typical dispersion of slugs at 100 yards is about 2.3 times what the same barrel and ammunition will do at 50 yards.

Shotgun slugs are made of very soft lead so they will expand to fit the bore on firing. Measurements based on spark shadowgraphs of slugs in flight indicate the axial length of a typical slug is reduced by about 30% during the few milliseconds from the strike of the firing pin until the soft lead projectile is ejected from the muzzle.

Buckshot is even more a short-range proposition than the slug. It is unreliable at ranges greater than about 25 yards, especially in the densely-wooded areas where it is most often required.

Though buckshot loads have been considerably improved in recent years by the use of harder shot, plastic wads and buffers, the improvements have been more in reliable lethality than in added range.

It has been a generally-accepted rule of thumb that 600 ft.-lbs. is the minimum energy required for reliable taking of whitetail deer. At 20 yards, this would require hits by three (of eight from a 2 ¾" shell) pellets of No. 000 Buck, or 12 (of 27) pellets of No. 4 Buck. No. 4 and No. 1 Buck are primarily used for very short-range hunting and some law-enforcement uses; the traditional 00 or 000 Buck loadings are best for deer. While No. 4 Buck has a per-pellet striking energy about equal to the .32 ACP pistol round, the energy of 000 Buck more closely resembles the usual 158-gr. .38 Special. round.

As is the case with slugs, hunters should carefully pattern several types and brands of buckshot ammunition to find the proper load for a particular gun. A load that will place all its pellets in a 19" circle at 25 yards is acceptable for most deer hunting.

Above all, keep shots within 25 yards - anything else constitutes unethical hunting.

European Choke Codes

In this country, choke designations are simply spelled out or abbreviated in some understandable way. In Europe, chokes are designated by codes. These are generally placed on the barrels or monoblock of double guns and on some visible part of choke tubes. While there are some variations among manufacturers, the general rule is: The more marks, the more open the choke. Marks are most often asterisks or stars on the gun itself, while choke tubes may be marked with a simple file cut.

The most common system is:

Full Choke
Improved Modified
Improved Cylinder

It should be borne in mind that many European guns have been made for fiber-wadded shells, and both bores and chokes are tight by American standards. Pattern-testing is essential to determine true pattern performance, especially when using U.S. ammunition in European guns

Bore & Choke Dimensions

Shotgun bore sizes and choke constrictions have changed over the years and still vary widely among manufacturers and especially among nations. European guns often have rather tight bores, while some target shotguns have large bores and very gradual forcing cones to promote tight patterning. The increasing use of steel shot likely will have an effect on choke dimensions, since steel shot requires much less constriction for tight patterns.

Gauge/bore diameter (In.)
Constriction (In.)
improved modified
improved cylinder
improved modified
improved cylinder
improved modified
improved cylinder
improved modified
improved cylinder
(actually about 67 ga.)

Information provided by BLACK'S WING & CLAY & The NRA FIREARMS FACT BOOK


SHOT SHELL: The cartridge for a shotgun.  It is also called a "shell," and its body may be of metal or plastic or of plastic or paper with a metal head.  Small shot shells are also made for rifles and handguns and are often used for vermin control as in "Snake Shot".

SHOOT: To discharge or fire a firearm or gun at a target.

SHOOTER: A person who shoots or uses firearms for sport, personal defense or recreation.

SHOOTER READY:  Interrogative range command used in some forms of shooting competition.  The command is given by the range officer prior to a course of fire.  When this command is given a shooter who is not ready should respond "No".  Some range officers will wait for an affirmative response before proceeding to the "Stand by" command, but most will continue unless the shooter indicates that they are not ready.  For more details see Range Commands.

SHOOTIST:  An expert shooter,  as in a Shooting Artist.  2. A professional gunman.

SIDE-BY-SIDE: (JUXTAPOSED)  A two-barrel shotgun where the barrels are arranged side-by-side.  The over and under two-barrel shotgun configuration is called Superposed.

SIDELOCK: A type of action, usually long gun, where the moving parts are located on side of the lock plates, which in turn are inlet in the stock.  Usually found only on better quality shotguns and rifles.

SIDE PLATES: Ornamental steel panels normally attached to a boxlock action to simulate a sidelock.

SIGHT ALIGNMENT: is the relationship of the front sight to the notch of the rear sight as seen by the shooter's eye. The top of the front sight must be level with the top of the rear sight and the light space must be equal on each side for the front sight.

SIGHT RADIUS:  The distance between the front and rear sights.  In general, a longer sight radius aids accuracy. However, during rapid fire it may be more difficult to reacquire the front sight when the sight radius is longer.

SIGHT(S): Aiming device attached to the top of the barrel, receiver or slide. They are used to align the barrel with the target. Sights may be iron, telescopic, reflex, imaging, holographic scope or laser.

SIGHT HEIGHT: The height of the sights above the barrel.

SINGLE ACTION: When applied to revolvers, a gun which must be manually cocked before firing each shot. Examples of single action revolvers include the Colt "Peacemaker," and the Ruger BlackHawk.   In reference to semiautomatic pistols, "single action" means that the gun must be cocked before firing the first shot. The gun is then cocks itself for each subsequent shot. The Colt 1911 and Browning Hi Power are single action pistols.  Abbreviated SA.

SINGLE SHOT: A gun mechanism lacking a magazine where separately carried ammunition must be manually placed in the gun's chamber for each firing.

SINGLE TRIGGER: A one trigger system on a double-barrel gun.  It fires both barrels singly by successive pulls.

SKEET:  A frangible aerial target also know as a Clay Pidgin or Clay Target as used in Skeet Shooting.

SKEET GUN:  A shotgun with an open choke specifically designed for clay target skeet shooting or close range hunting.

SKEET SHOOTING:  A shotgun shooting sport in which the competitors attempt to break frangible aerial targets directed toward them or crossing in front of them from different angles and elevations.   It is also an Olympic shooting sport.

SKELPS:   Ribbons of iron used in the forming of twist barrels.

SLOW FIRE: is a type of pistol match or a stage of the National Match Course of fire where a period of one minute is allowed for each of a maximum of 10 or 20 shots.

SLIDE: Semi-automatic pistols have a device that surrounds the barrel called a slide (Figure 5). As its name implies, the slide moves or slides backwards, opening the breech area of the handgun. Also, on many semi-automatic pistols, the backward movement of the slide cocks the hammer and loads the next cartridge. When the gun is fired, some of the energy from the discharge of the bullet is used to push the slide backwards, thus opening the breech to expel the empty cartridge case and recocking the hammer for the next shot.

SLIDE ACTION: A gun mechanism activated by manual operation of a horizontally sliding handle almost always located under the barrel. "Pump-Action" and "trombone" are synonyms for "slide-action."

SLING: An adjustable-length shoulder-strap that can be affixed to a rifle or shotgun. A sling can make a rifle easier to carry, and can also be used to help steady your aim in certain firing positions.  Slings are typically made of fabric or of leather strap.

SLING SWIVELS: Metal loops affixed to the gun on which a carrying strap is attached.

SLUG:  An individual cylindrical projectile, usually of the same bore diameter as the shotgun, designed to be discharged from a shotgun.  The term is often incorrectly used to mean a Bullet. 

SLUGGING: Usage Slugging your barrel.  A technique to determine the dimensional characteristics and exact bore diameter of a barrel.

Slugging Your Barrel

One way to obtain peak accuracy is to use a properly sized bullet.  Many rifles and handguns, especially older ones may have a non-standard bore diameter.  You can measure your bore diameter by running a soft lead "slug" through the bore, and then measure the actual diameter with a micrometer of calipers.   Lyman's 47th edition Reloading Guide recommends using a soft lead slug slightly oversized (a cast bullet should do the trick), and by starting at the muzzle end.   Drive the slug through to the breech end, and you will have a perfect mold of your barrel.  Measure the slug at the widest diameter to get your groove diameter.  Your cast bullets should match, or slightly excess the diameter of the grooves slightly ahead of the chamber.  If you do not feel comfortable doing this procedure, or have the required equipment, it is recommended that you have your local gunsmith do this.

SILHOUETTE SHOOTING: A handgun or rifle shooting sport in which the competitors attempt to knock over metallic targets at various ranges.

SILENCER: A device for attachment to a gun's muzzle for suppressing (not silencing) the rapport.  The term Silencer is widely used but technically the correct term is  "Suppresser" or "Sound Suppresser".   The BATF categorizes  them as Suppressers under federal law as well, however since most people call them "silencers" the detailed description of them under that common usage name.

For detailed information on Suppressors / Silencers see the detail block below.




STRIKER II 9mm Silencer
by Advanced Armament Corp.


M9-SD 9mm Silencer
by Advanced Armament Corp.

How does a Silencer Work?

Silencers are more properly called sound moderators or sound suppressors and are used to reduce noise levels from the discharge of firearms, particularly sporting rifles and military weapons. A sound moderator is essentially no more than a series of baffles coupled to an expansion chamber, contained within a tubular attachment which screws on to the end of the firearm's barrel.

The noise of the discharge of most firearms is made up of two components. The first comes from the rapid expansion of propellant gases as they leave the muzzle. The second is the supersonic crack of the bullet.  It is not possible to reduce the sound level of a supersonic bullet, but a sound moderator fitted to such a rifle will have some significant effect in reducing the noise signature because it controls the rate of expansion of the propelling gases.

For a sound moderator to be really effective, it must be used with ammunition whose projectiles travel at less than the speed of sound. [1118 Feet Per Second at Sea Level]   In such cases, the noise of the discharge is greatly reduced and may not even be recognizable as a gun.

The first successful silencers were patented in 1910 by the American inventor Hiram P. Maxim (son of Hiram S. Maxim of Maxim machine-gun fame). His devices were of the baffle type, which is still in common use today.  A baffle silencer typically consists of a metal cylinder, usually divided into two sections, which is fixed to the muzzle of the firearm.

The first section, which is typically about a third of the silencer's length, contains an "expansion chamber" into which the hot gases that follow the bullet out of the muzzle can expand to dissipate some of their energy. The expansion chamber may contain a wire mesh cylinder, whose function is to break up the column of gas and to cool it by acting as a heat sink.

The second section consists of a series of metal baffles, with a central hole to allow the passage of the bullet. The function of the baffles is to progressively deflect and slow the flow of gas emerging from the expansion chamber, so that by the time the gases emerge from the silencer, their flow is cooler, at low velocity and silenced.  A motorbike silencer works on exactly the same principle.

There are also variations on this theme: some designs consist entirely of baffles, while others are based entirely on one large expansion chamber. In fact, a plastic soft drinks bottle can be made into a fairly efficient silencer that will work for a limited number of shots before it breaks up.

Silencers usually work best with cartridges that fire subsonic ammunition, since this eliminates the sonic crack which is produced by a bullet that goes faster than the speed of sound.   Some silencer designs slow the bullet to subsonic speed by means of ports cut into the barrel, with the ported section extending to protrude into the expansion chamber. These ports bleed off gas from behind the bullet, thereby reducing bore pressure and, eventually, the velocity of the bullet. In other designs, the baffles are made from an elastic material with a central hole smaller than the bullet. These "wipes" are pushed open by the passage of the bullet and close when it is past. The idea is that they further slow the exit of gas. Not surprisingly, the wipes can wear out rather quickly and can affect the accuracy of the bullet.

A second, but less common, type of silencer is the "wire mesh" design. These usually have the same expansion chamber as the baffle type, but the baffles are replaced by a column of knitted wire mesh with a central hole for the bullet.  Here, the wire mesh acts to disrupt the column of gas as in the baffle design, while at the same time acting as a heat sink to cool the hot gas and hence quiet it.  Criminals have been known to improvise this type of silencer, using wire wool or steel pan scourers to form the mesh.

The very latest innovation in muzzle-mounted silencers is the so-called "wet" silencer (or "wet can" in the US). These designs allow the use of water or a lubricating oil. On firing, the hot expanding gases are cooled, and therefore made more quiet, by the exchange of heat into the liquid. Wet silencers allow the designer to produce much smaller or quieter designs.

An alternative approach to silencer design which dispenses entirely with the muzzle-mounted silencer has appeared from Russia. Instead it uses a special cartridge in which the bullet is pushed out by a propellant-driven piston. The piston is stopped by the neck of the cartridge, trapping the hot, noisy gas entirely within the chamber of the firearm.

Silencer Ownership Information

Contrary to popular belief, silencers are legal to own under federal law. There are, however, 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, that prohibit the civilian ownership of silencers.

At this time, the following states allow private ownership of silencers: AL, AR,  AK, AZ, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IN, KY, LA, ME, MD, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI, and WY.

Of the sixteen states which do not allow civilian ownership, CA, IA, KS, MA, MO, and MI allow class 3 dealers and class two manufacturers to possess silencers.

Silencers, like machine-guns, are proscribed under the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934, and are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The procedure for owning a silencer may seem daunting at first, but actually requires less paperwork than buying an automobile.

In order to legally possess a silencer or any item which falls under the purview of the NFA, you must be at least 21 years of age, a resident of the United States, and have no felony record. The first step is to locate a class three dealer in your state who either has or will order the item you are interested in. The dealer will provide the prospective purchaser with  duplicate ATF Form 4's and two sets of fingerprint cards. The Form 4's must be filled out on both sides, with passport photos of the prospective buyer affixed to the backside of the form.

The buyer then has the chief law enforcement officer (Sheriff, Chief of Police, head of state police agency, district attorney, a judge with the power of arrest, or any other law enforcement officer approved for this procedure by the National Firearms Act branch of the BATF) sign the rear of the Form 4 attesting the prospective purchaser does not possess a criminal record and is not wanted.  The two fingerprint cards must be completed and signed by a law enforcement agency.

The completed paperwork is then sent to the Department of the Treasury with a check or money order for $200.00. The $200.00 is known as a  transfer tax, as it must be paid each time ownership of the silencer is "transferred" (in this case, the dealer to the prospective purchaser). As long as the silencer is owned by the same person, the tax need not be paid again. Only if the owner sells it will a new transfer tax need to be paid. An owner may will his silencer to a lawful heir, with no tax incurred.

Once the paper work is submitted, it normally takes less than sixty days to receive the approved, stamped paperwork from NFA Branch. It is only upon the return of the approved paperwork that the dealer can allow the prospective purchaser to take possession of his new silencer. A copy of the approved paperwork must accompany the silencer at all times (the original should be stored in a safe deposit box). Silencers can be transported to other states which allow their ownership, but to transport a silencer into one of the sixteen states which prohibit private ownership can subject the owner to serious state felony charges. 

Advanced Armament Corp.
Legal Information courtesy of Advanced Armament Corporation

Advanced Armament Corporation
Lawrenceville, Georgia - 30045
Web Site:
Tel - 770-277-4946 
Fax  770-963-6556

SLEW RATE:  The measure of speed that a gun or gun turret can move in a particular direction in a particular rate of time.  Slew Rate is typically measured in degrees per second, but can be measured in metric or with other distance and time values.  If the standard slew rate measurement is degrees moved per second i.e. 17 degrees per second, the slew rate would be indicated as 17º/s.  In Naval and armored gunnery the "slew rate" is normally given for Turret Traverse (clockwise and anti clockwise rotations of the gun), Gun Elevation and Gun Depression (up and down movement of the gun).  Slew Rates are typically given with and without tracking and stabilization. Tracking and stabilization systems can effect slew performance and typically slow the rate of movement.

SMALL ARMS: Firearms designed primarily to be carried and fired by one person, as distinguished from heavy arms, crew serve weapons, mortars and ARTILLERY, from which such weapons developed in the late 1300s. At first, small arms were nothing more than small, hand-held muzzle loading cannons (Hand Cannon). They were fired by placing a small flame at the touchhole. In the matchlock, the first modern handgun, a trigger moved the flame to the touchhole; in its successors, the wheel lock and flintlock, a spark  producing mechanism ignited the gun powder charge. 

Among early weapons of this kind were the musket, fired from the shoulder, and the pistol, held and fired with one hand. The rifle, invented in the 15th cent., is a firearm with a rifled bore (that is, with spiral grooves that impart a spinning motion to the bullet, giving it greater accuracy). Rifles first came into widespread use in the American colonies. Two major innovations of the early 19th cent. were the percussion cap, a small capsule filled with fulminate of mercury that exploded when struck and fired the gun instantly; and the gas-expanding bullet, which, after being dropped down the barrel of a rifle, would expand when fired to fit the barrel's rifling. 

Both sides in the U.S. CIVIL WAR used a rifled musket. Thereafter, all guns became rifled with the exception of the shotgun, a smooth-bored, short-range gun firing a single slug or several small shot. Practical breech-loading, or rear-loading, firearms came into general use about 1870; by the 1880s magazine loading, smokeless powder, and bolt action had been introduced. Although a crude revolving pistol existed in the late 16th cent., the modern revolver was introduced c.1835 by Samuel COLT. Colt's revolving cylinder permitted his gun to be fired six times without reloading. 

The revolver and the magazine-loading rifle were the standard small arms of the later 19th cent., but around 1900 a host of new automatic weapons were developed. The heavy Gatling gun, used in the U.S. Civil War, was the forerunner of the modern, rapid-firing machine gun, which achieved its full potential during the trench warfare of World War I and remains an important military firearm. 

The 1920s saw the development of submachine guns, notably the Thompson submachine gun (or Tommy gun), an easily portable automatic weapon that fired 450-600 cartridges per minute. During World War II the bolt-action rifle was supplanted by the semiautomatic Garand rifle-a lightweight, self-loading, clip-fed shoulder weapon; it was used by U.S. forces through the KOREAN WAR. The American M-16 rifle, still widely used, can fire accurately up to 500 yd (460 m) when hand-held and up to 800 yd (730 m) when mounted. Other effective weapons include the Russian AK-47 Kalashnikov automatic rifle and the Israeli Uzi submachine gun.

SMART GUN: So called Smart Guns are a relatively new type of handgun that prevents anyone, other than an authorized user, from firing the gun.  Unlike personalized handguns which are retrofitted modifications of standard revolvers or pistols, new Smart Guns have technology built in from the factory.   The passive built-in locking device automatically secures the trigger, preventing the handgun from being fired.  The owner of the Smart Gun may key in a code or PIN number on the built in key pad instead of wearing an identifying magnetic ring or radio transmitter bracelet. 


Since a "Smart Gun" can only discharge after the key is entered this system can reduce discharge by unauthorized persons such as children, adolescents and illegal owners.  However, after the PIN is entered anyone can use the firearm, until the timer or delay reactivates.   Personalized guns, in the form of Signet Rings and Gun Bracelets have been available in the consumer market for several years.  These firearms can only be fired when held in the proper orientation the person wearing the ring or bracelet.  They have however had many technical problems with reliability and have not been adopted by any Law Enforcement Agencies as of yet.  [Law Enforcement Officers fear being shot with their own gun if a criminal managed to take it away from them.]  This so called Smart Gun Technology will be looked at as "Officer Survival" Equipment when made available.

        SIG ARMS P229 with EPLS

SIG Arms Electronic Personal Locking System - E.P.L.S.  The SIG Arms E.P.L.S. has the key pad and locking device built in from the factory.  Several options can be set including time of use and off duty settings.   It adds the benefit of allowing the user to personally program the locking system and to assign his own individual PIN Code. In addition, the user may pre-preprogram four different modes:

  • Unlocked / Ready Mode
  • Locked / Secure Mode
  • 1 Hour Time Delay Locked / Secure Mode
  • 8 Hour Time Delay Locked / Secure Mode

SIG Arms announced that limited shipments of pistols equipped with its Electronic Personal Locking System (E.P.L.S.) will be made to selected U.S. distributors this year.   (2000)

Look from more development in this technology as the Firearms Industry responds to litigation and new regulations like the Clinton / HUD / S&W Agreement Protocol which called for all firearms manufacturers to develop so called Smart Guns.

SMITH: A metalworker, especially one who works metal when it is hot and malleable. Often used in combination: a gunsmith, a silversmith; a goldsmith.  Also short for blacksmith & commonly used in firearms terminology as slang or short for GUNSMITH:  One that makes or repairs firearms.   2. One who makes or works at something specified also used in non-gun combinations: a locksmith; a wordsmith.

SMITH, HORACE:  Co-Founder and namesake of the Smith & Wesson Firearms Company. See detail block below.

The Smith & Wesson Story
A Brief History of Smith & Wesson

HistoryThe dream became reality when Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson formed their first partnership in 1852 to manufacture a lever-action pistol that incorporated a tubular magazine which fired a fully self-contained cartridge.

This new repeating pistol could be fired as rapidly as the lever, which loaded the pistol and cocked the hammer, could be manipulated. The firepower of this lever-action pistol was so impressive that in 1854, when the gun was reviewed by Scientific American, it was nicknamed the Volcanic because its rapid-fire sequence had the force of an erupting volcano.

The original site of the Smith & Wesson Arms Co. was in Norwich, Connecticut, where the company operated until it suffered financial difficulties in 1854. During the reorganization of the company, a new investor by the name of Oliver Winchester provided additional finances to support the production of this particular type of firearm. The factory moved to New Haven, Connecticut, the site of some of Winchester's holdings, and the name of the company was changed to Volcanic Repeating Arms Co. Horace Smith and D.B. Wesson finally sold their majority interest to Oliver Winchester, who using the original Smith & Wesson patents, continued their venture. It emerged in 1866 as the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. 

HistoryHorace Smith eventually returned to his hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, and D.B. Wesson continued to work for Winchester as plant superintendent. While employed at the Volcanic, Wesson designed a small revolver that fired a cartridge that he and Horace Smith patented in 1854. Both men believed this new revolver had the potential to create a successful venture, and in 1856 they reformed their partnership to begin production of the revolver in Springfield.

This new rimfire cartridge was one of the most famous ever developed. It was originally called the "Number One Cartridge," but today it is known as the .22 rimfire. The new revolver was called the Model 1, and it gained immediate popularity due to the advantages offered by the new cartridge.

In 1859, finding the demand could no longer be met in the small 25-manshop, Smith & Wesson built a new factory on Stockbridge Street in the center of Springfield, close to the United States armory. The factory continued to improve the Model 1. In 1861 the Model 2, a larger-frame revolver that fired a .32 rimfire cartridge, was introduced.

HistoryThe demand for the Smith & Wesson product accelerated in 1861 with the advent of the Civil War. By mid-1862, the demand had so exceeded factory capacity that it was necessary to close the order books and only supply products against the heavy backlog. Wartime production helped firmly establish Smith & Wesson as one of the leading firearms manufacturers in the U.S. However, in the postwar depression, Smith & Wesson, like many other firms, suffered severe business curtailments and sales dropped to only a few guns per month. History

By 1867, the partners realized that a new approach was necessary. They had been experimenting with a new design but lacked the necessary market. They authorized Henry W. Hallot to negotiate contracts and establish a market in Europe in April of 1867, with sales agencies in England, France and Germany. One of Hallot's first functions was to organize a display of Smith & Wesson arms at a major exposition in Paris. The display included the total product line and a selection of highly engraved works to highlight the quality of the craftsmen employed by the firm.

The Smith & Wesson arms exhibit was extremely popular, and many nations expressed interest in the products. One of the most important people to view the exhibit was the Russian Grand Duke Alexis. He was so impressed with Smith & Wesson's revolvers that he purchased several small pistols for himself and his aides. This marketing approach proved highly successful, and European orders helped to relieve the effects of the domestic depression. History

The opening of a worldwide market increased sales for Smith & Wesson, and the company soon introduced its first large-caliber .44 revolver called the Model 3. The gun was a totally new design known as a "top-break" revolver that incorporated an automatic ejection system to allow for rapid unloading and reloading. One of the first customers to receive the Model 3 was the Russian military attaché, General Gorloff. 

He promptly sent this sample to Russia for evaluation, and it was so well received that in May of 1871 the Russian government signed a contract for 20,000 Model 3's, paying in advance with gold. This contract proved to be one of many signed with the Russian Government but more significantly, it influenced the total market and soon orders poured into the factory, far exceeding its ability to supply handguns. The Model 3 became extremely popular throughout the world and on the American western frontier.

One of the most interesting notes on the Model 3 appeared in an editorial in the September 24, 1876 issue of the Sunday Herald and Weekly National Intelligence shortly after the Custer Massacre. The article implied that if Custer and his men had been armed with Smith & Wesson's Model 3 Schofield, rather than the more slow-loading Colt Single Action revolver, they might have possibly survived the Indian attack.

Smith & Wesson continued to grow and expanded its line in 1880 by introducing the first group of double-action revolvers. These handguns were the result of more than four years of extensive design research.

In 1899, Smith & Wesson developed its most famous revolver, the .38 Military & Police, which was the predecessor of today's Model 10. This revolver was designed to fire another first, the .38 Smith & Wesson Special cartridge.

In 1908, S&W introduced its N-Frame (large size) line of revolvers chambered in a new cartridge called the .44 S&W Special. This line of handguns would become legendary in the hands of such famous hand gunners as Elmer Keith and Ed McGivern.

When Europe was thrown into conflict in 1914, Smith & Wesson responded to a request from the British Government by supplying an N-Frame revolver chambered in the .455 Mark II British Service cartridge. These 75,000 revolvers helped further establish, on a worldwide basis, the strength and quality of this new large frame S&W revolver.

During the 1930s, Smith & Wesson introduced two more famous revolvers, the K-22 Outdoorsman for the competitive shooter and the .357 Magnum for the law enforcement officer who needed a powerful handgun. The .357 Magnum also was significant as the beginning of the Magnum® era of handguns.

As in World War I, Smith & Wesson answered the needs of World War II fighting forces, and by 1941 its total plant production was geared to supplying arms for the U.S. and her allies. By March of 1945, when World War II production was ended, Smith & Wesson had supplied 1,110,392 .38 Military & Police revolvers to complete the war demand.

At the end of World War II, Smith & Wesson continued its progressive leadership under the management of Mr. C. R. Hellstrom. Hellstrom, who was made president in 1946, was the first person outside the Wesson family to serve in that capacity. In 1950, the company moved to a totally new and larger facility in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The Model 39 was introduced in 1955 as the first American-made 9mm double-action pistol. It was followed by the introduction of a revolver which has become a legend with sportsmen and gun enthusiasts throughout the world, the Model 29 .44 Magnum.

In 1965, two events occurred that altered the course of history for Smith & Wesson in particular and firearms in general. The first was the sale of Smith & Wesson by the Wesson family to the Bangor Punta Corp.; the second was the development of the Model 60, an all stainless-steel revolver. The Model 60 ushered in the era of the stainless steel handgun.

During the 1970s, Mr. Gunn, Smith & Wesson's new president, soon purchased other companies to augment Smith & Wesson's line of handgun and handcuff products for the law enforcement and sporting market. Its product line was increased to include law enforcement products like riot control equipment, police Identi-Kit identification equipment, night vision instruments, breath testing equipment, and leather products. Sporting dealers were now able to purchase not only Smith & Wesson handguns but also ammunition, holsters and long guns, allowing them to sell a complete line of Smith & Wesson products.

Although Smith & Wesson's product line expanded in related products, the Springfield plant focused on the development of new handguns. Stainless models continued to evolve and develop through the 1970s, and a new 15-shot 9mm auto loading pistol called the Model 59 was produced to meet the changing requirements of law enforcement agencies.

In 1979, the company began the modernization of its Springfield facilities. It also introduced the stainless-steel Model 629 .44 Magnum revolver and the Model 547 9mm revolver, which used a special patented extractor system.

During the 1980s, the most important development was the Smith & Wesson L-Frame line of .357 Magnum revolvers: Models 581, 586, 681, and 686. These had a significant impact on both law enforcement and sporting markets and became the most popular revolvers ever introduced.

During the decade of the '80s, Smith & Wesson began to consolidate its widely diversified product line by concentrating on the products most profitable and beneficial to the company. Development began on a 9mm auto loading pistol for the U.S. Military as well as a new .45 auto loading pistol called the Model 645.

In January of 1984, Lear Siegler Corp. of Santa Monica, California, purchased Bangor Punta and acquired Smith & Wesson in the package. Lear Siegler recognized that Smith & Wesson's strength lay in the manufacture and sales of handguns, handcuffs, and police Identi-Kits. Under Lear's direction, Smith & Wesson divested itself of all unrelated lines to concentrate on the product for which they were famous.

The Lear Siegler Corp. was purchased by Forstmann Little & Co. in a friendly takeover in December of 1986. However, Forstmann Little had no interest in Smith & Wesson. Its primary interest was Lear Siegler holdings in the automotive and aerospace industries, and it sold Smith & Wesson to help finance the acquisition. For the first time since 1964, Smith & Wesson was offered for sale on its own merit.

The successful bidder for Smith & Wesson was Tomkins p.l.c. of London, England. Tomkins brought to Smith & Wesson a strong new leadership and a renewed dedication to quality in the development of the finest handguns in the world. Tomkins recognized that Smith & Wesson's reputation for quality had been tarnished during the 1980s. Under the leadership of Bob Muddimer as interim president, a program to improve the company's quality and modernize its manufacturing techniques was started. This program included a complete redesign of Smith & Wesson auto loading pistols, which had been losing market share since the early 1980s.

In 1988, the factory introduced a new line of auto loading pistols called Third Generation models. Incorporating many improvements, these pistols were ergonomically designed to improve the handling characteristics as well as the handgun's mechanical function.

In 1990, Smith & Wesson introduced a new model to its Third Generation pistol line; it was an immediate success with law enforcement agencies. This pistol, called the Model 4006, was developed to fire a newly designed cartridge called the .40 S&W. This new caliber handgun offered law enforcement agencies a high-capacity pistol that was the same size but more powerful than the 9mm.

In 1992, Tomkins appointed Ed Shultz as president of Smith & Wesson. Mr. Shultz brought to S&W a new philosophy of manufacturing, replacing the factory's century-old style of production with a modern facility that will keep S&W competitive into the 21st century. Under the leadership of Mr. Shultz, Smith & Wesson developed a new polymer semi auto pistol designed to meet the changing needs of law enforcement. The new handguns, called the Sigma Series, were introduced in March of 1994, and they have done just what they were intended to do - help Smith & Wesson maintain its competitive edge.

In 1994, in recognition of his accomplishments at Smith & Wesson, the Tomkins organization appointed Ed Shultz as Group President of their holdings in the United States. Mr. Shultz has continued to serve as Smith & Wesson's president continuing his progressive ideas leading Smith & Wesson's growth into the next millennium.

The passing of the Crime Bill in 1994, restricting the sale of pistol magazines to those having only a 10-round capacity, changed the course of sales for Smith & Wesson. The factory saw an increased interest in their long line of revolvers. To stimulate these sales, the firm announced a new seven shot Model 686 and a 10 shot Model 617 in January of 1996. To meet a growing demand in the .45 caliber pistol market, the company introduced the Model 457 - a lightweight compact pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge.

In response to the many new state firearms laws that allow concealed carry of handguns for personal protection and security, S&W expanded its line of small, compact pistols and revolvers. The first of these was the compact .380 Sigma which was announced by the firm in the spring of 1995. Smith & Wesson improved its popular Model 640 hammerless by making this gun available in .357 Magnum, the smallest and most powerful revolver available for its size.

Interest in Smith & Wesson handguns has grown during the 1990's, with an increased demand for its product overseas. Many law enforcement agencies switched back to Smith & Wesson handguns, having previously changed from the firm's traditional revolvers to competitive pistols, but they are now returning to the fold with Third Generation S&W pistols. One of the most prestigious of these agencies was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who recently purchased Model 5946 and Model 3953 in 9mm.

Smith & Wesson is continually updating its technology and has invested over $40 million in the most modern and highly sophisticated equipment since its acquisition by Tomkins p.l.c in 1987. This modernization has included highly productive computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine tools, super accurate CNC gauging equipment, new robotics applications and automated finishing processes. Major investments have also been made in the utilization of "state of the art" materials processes, including new metallic forming processes which produce highly accurate internal components very efficiently and with consistently high quality.

Substantial investments have also been made in environmental and waste management systems as the firm continues with its policy to be a good corporate citizen. These improvements have made Smith & Wesson the most modern of American firearms manufacturing companies. All of these improvements serve to make a highly skilled work force even more productive. It is still Smith and Wesson people that literally "put it all together." From the operation of sophisticated manufacturing facilities, to the computer aided planning and scheduling process, through the traditional hand assembly process where each and every handgun is fitted and checked by a skilled assembler and then test fired, Smith & Wesson products bear the mark of skilled craftsmanship.

Associates at the "New Smith & Wesson" are also learning to work in a new environment of self-directed work teams. Replacing the traditional factory organizational structure with this new approach makes associates at Smith & Wesson responsible for their own quality, productivity and work group supervision. This approach, which has been highly publicized at GM Saturn and other leading manufacturing companies, is making Smith & Wesson a company ready to meet the challenges of the future.

The Brief History of Smith & Wesson appears courtesy of Smith & Wesson. On the World Wide Web at URL:

SMG: Acronym for Sub-Machinegun.  Also written Sub-Machine Gun & Sub Machine Gun.

SMOKELESS POWDER: The propellant powder used in modern ammunition. It is not an explosive, but rather a flammable solid that burns extremely rapidly releasing a large volume of gas. Commonly called "gunpowder." It is classified as a "Flammable Solid" by the Department of Transportation. Note that small arms ammunition, unless it has explosive filled projectiles, does not explode in a fire but rather burns vigorously.  See Black Powder.

SMOOTHBORE: A gun barrel which is not rifled. The original gun and muskets were smoothbore.  Most shotguns are smoothbore. So is the 120mm cannon on the M1A1 Abrams tank.

SNUB-NOSED: Descriptive of (usually) a revolver with an unusually short barrel.

SOFT POINT:  A type of metal jacketed bullet in which the soft lead core is exposed at the tip, so that upon impact with the target the bullet deforms or flattens out to retain energy and cause a larger wound canal.  They tend to expand more slowly than a Hollow Point bullet and are used where deeper penetration and expansion are needed.  Most bullets designed for hunting large game are soft points. Abbreviated "JSP" or "SP."

SOPMODAcronym for Special Operations Peculiar Modification.  Term used to describe the SOF M4 Carbine with its ancillary equipment and accessories.

Special Operations Peculiar Modification to M4 Carbine (SOPMOD M4)

Special Operations improves M4 carbine 

Written by SGT. Nelson Mumma Jr.

FORT BRAGG, N.C., (Army News Service, Sept. 14, 1998) -- It's a lethal weapon made even deadlier.  The U.S. Special Operations Command improved the M4 Carbine, the primary weapon for most Special Forces soldiers and Rangers, by adding accessories and modifying its design. 

"The whole intent was to make this weapon more effective from close range engagements to extended ranges," said Capt. William A. Smith, U.S. Army Special Operations weapons systems integrator. "These changes will increase its operational effectiveness through improved target recognition, acquisition and hit quality during day and night." 

The M4 Carbine is like the M16A2, but is more compact and features a collapsible stock. It weights seven and a half pounds, fires 5.56 millimeter rounds, and has a maximum effective point target range of 500 meters and an area target of 600 meters.  The Carbine will eventually replace all the M16 series rifles, selected M9 pistols and all 45-caliber M3 submachine guns. 

To upgrade the weapon for special operations' soldiers, USASOC, working with the United States Special Operations Command, created the M4 Carbine Special Operations Peculiar Modification Accessory Kit, which provides the following items: 

4 X Day Scope: Allows soldiers to judge range and then fire more accurately beyond 300 meters; 

Reflex Sight: Designed for close range engagements. Only one sight, as opposed to the normal two sights, needs to be aligned with the target. The shooter can keep both eyes open while using this accessory, allowing more rapid engagements;  

Visible Laser: Places a red aiming dot on the target, much like what is seen on television. This is best used in buildings and close fighting; 

Infrared Pointer / Illuminator: Used at night and can only be seen with night vision goggles; 

Visible Light: This is a high intensity rail mounted flashlight and is best used in buildings. The light works well with the visible laser by illuminating then pinpointing a target. The visible light is used mainly to discern friend and enemy in close fighting; 

Backup Iron Sight: This is like a typical M16A2 sight and is used by itself when other sights aren't needed; 

Forward Hand Grip: Helps stabilize the weapon and helps keep the hand away from the hand guards and barrel, which become hot during use; 

Sound Suppressor: Significantly reduces noise and flash, making it more difficult to discern the direction of fire. 

Rail Interface System (RIS): Attachment point used to accommodate the SOPMOD accessories above.  The RIS is comprised of a series of rigid grooved rails, that replace the normal or stock hand guards.  The RIS grooved rails are of the Picatinny type or Mil Spec 1913.  All SOPMOD accessories, except for the sound suppressor, are designed to fit the RIS.  These rails are created with tremendous rigidity to improve zeroing capabilities.  The RIS was designed and manufactured by KAC (Knights Armament Company).

"Now, I can stick any one of the sights on, zero it to the weapon, take it off and put into my rucksack, put it back on later and it maintains its zero," Smith said. "That's something we haven't been able to say about many of our sights in the past." 

Another improvement is a quick release mechanism on the M203 Grenade Launcher attachment. The M203 barrel was shortened from 12 to nine inches for better balance and handling. 

"Most of the items aren't high tech. It's just making a convenient kit of interchangeable items that are easy to use, fairly inexpensive and available to all the operators," Smith said. 

The program to improve the M4 Carbine began in 1995 at USASOC and is a joint-service effort. Cost for fielding the M4 accessory kits to date is $25 million and includes accessories for 8,000 weapons. 

Despite the improvements, there is more to be done. 

"This is an ongoing process," Smith said. "In October we're going to get a group of operators together from throughout the command, mostly Rangers and Special Forces soldiers ... and find out if there's anything better out there and what we can do to improve the weapon. When it comes time to start replacing these weapons, in about the year 2001 or 2002, we'll try to do even better. 

"It's a continuous program to try to make the carbine as good as it can be for the soldiers." 

SGT. Mumma is with the U.S. Special Operations Command's public affairs office.

Abbreviation for "Special Occupational Tax / Taxpayer". See below.

SPECIAL APPLICATIONS SCOPED RIFLE (SASR):  The Special Applications Scoped Rifle or SASR is the SOPMOD variant of the Barrett .50 caliber, M82A1, semi-automatic rifle. Employed primarily as an "anti-material" rifle, the SASR is a semi-automatic weapon that weighs 32.5 lbs and can fire .50 caliber rounds to an effective range of 1800 meters.  SASR has a 10 round detachable magazine and with special ammunition like the SLAP "Sabot Light Armor Penetrating" and the Norwegian Raufoss ammunition it can disable armor and command and control assets from great range.

SPECIAL FORCES (SF): U.S. Army forces organized, trained, and equipped specifically to conduct special operations.  Special forces have five primary missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, special reconnaissance, and counter terrorism.  Counter terrorism or CT is a special mission for specifically organized, trained, and equipped special forces units designated in theater contingency plans.  Also called SF and know as "Green Berets". Click Here for Detailed information.

SPECIAL OCCUPATIONAL TAX (TAXPAYER): Tax paid to exempt manufactures, importers and NFA Arms dealers from paying a separate tax on each item they manufacturer, import or transfer to other SOT holders. Special (Occupational) Taxes are required to be paid for several regulated industries. In the case of firearms, the SOT is required for the classes of manufacturers, NFA Dealers and importers as listed below.



Class 1 $ 1000 Importer of Firearms
Class 1* $ 500 Importer of Firearms (Reduced) $500,000 or less in annual revenue. 
Class 2 $ 1000 Manufacturer of Firearms
Class 2* $ 500 Manufacturer of Firearms (Reduced) *$500,000 or less annual revenue.
Class 3  $ 500 Dealer in NFA Firearms

Special Occupational Taxes are for a 1-year period beginning July 1. A separate FFL (Federal Firearms License is also required for the SOT's listed above as 

SPECIAL OPERATIONS (SO): Operations conducted by specially organized, trained, and equipped military and paramilitary forces to achieve military, political, economic, or informational objectives by unconventional military means in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive areas. These operations are conducted across the full range of military operations, independently or in coordination with operations of conventional, non-special operations forces. Political-military considerations frequently shape special operations, requiring clandestine, covert, or low visibility techniques and oversight at the national level. Special operations differ from conventional operations in degree of physical and political risk, operational techniques, mode of employment, independence from friendly support, and dependence on detailed operational intelligence and indigenous assets. They may support conventional operations, or they may be undertaken independently when the use of conventional forces is either inappropriate or infeasible.  Also called SO.

SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES (SOF): Those active and reserve component forces of the military services designated by the Secretary of Defense and specifically organized, trained, and equipped to conduct and support special operations. Also called SOF.  U.S. SOF consist of elements and personnel form the Army, Navy and Air Force who are managed by a joint command in Tampa Florida, the U.S. Special Operations Command or USSOCOM.  For more information on SOF see the details block below.

Army Special Operations Forces (SOF)

U.S. Army Special Operations Forces (SOF) consist of the Special Forces, Airborne Ranger, Special Operations Aviation, Psychological Operations, Civil Affairs, Special Operations Signal and Special Operations Support elements.

Special Forces

The mission of the Special Forces Groups is to plan, prepare for, and when directed, deploy to conduct unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance and direct actions in support of U.S. National Policy objectives within designated areas of responsibility.

The units continually train to conduct unconventional warfare in any of its forms -- Guerrilla Warfare, Evasion and Escape, Subversion, and Sabotage. The soldiers are also schooled in direct action operations and special reconnaissance.  Approximately 1400 soldiers are assigned to each Special Forces Group. The 12-man "A" Team or Operational Detachment A (ODA) is the operating level of the SF Group.  Special Forces soldiers are also know as "Green Berets".


Rangers are the masters of special light infantry operations. These include attacks to temporarily seize and secure key objectives such as bridges, air fields and critical "high priority" targets and other light infantry operations requiring unique capabilities. Like their Special Forces counterparts, Airborne Rangers can infiltrate to a denied area by land, by sea or by air. Airborne Rangers are the quintessential "Commandos" of the American Special Operations Command. For more information on "Airborne Rangers" click here.

SOAR - Task Force 160

The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is a very unique unit. It is prepared to support Special Operations Forces on a worldwide basis. The unit uses at least three types of modified helicopters.

The capabilities of the aviation units include inserting, supplying and extracting U.S. and Allied SOF personnel. They also assist SOF in Search & Rescue and Escape & Evasion activities. In addition to general aviation support to the SOF community, these units provide forward air control and close air support.


The purpose of Psychological Operations Group (PSYOPS) is to demoralize the enemy by causing dissention and unrest among his ranks, while at the same time convincing the local population to support American troops. PSYOP units accomplish their mission by disseminating propaganda messages in the form of leaflets, posters, radio and television broadcasts and with audio-visual VHS tapes and DVD. Each PSYOP unit has its own intelligence, graphics and audio-visual specialists.


The Civil Affairs units are designed to prevent civilian interference with tactical operations, to assist commanders in discharging their responsibilities toward the civilian population, and to provide liaison with civilian government agencies. They are the "Nation Builders" after a conflict and assist indigenous governments in establishing a civil government with all the components of a modern western style government.


In the mid-1980's, separate units were organized to provide signal and support to Special Operations units. The 112th Special Operations Signal (SOS) Battalion (Airborne) provides communications links from forward deployed SOF assets to their higher commands and to NCA (National Command Authority) and provides secure communications service between the elements of the Special Operations Command and joint controlling agencies or theater commands. 

The 528th Special Operations Support (SOS) Battalion (Airborne) enhances USASOC's medical, maintenance, supply, and transportation capabilities by providing service and support to elements of the Special Operations Command.

For more information on U.S. Army Special Operations Forces - Click Here -

Specter M4 SMG Sub Machine Gun, Italian made, compact folding stock SMG.  Only SMG with a DA trigger. “Spectre” in Italian as well as its English equivalent means “Ghost”. 

S.P.E.C.T.R.E.: Abbreviation for "Special Executor for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion" from the James Bond 007 movies.

SPECTRE GUN SHIP: Lockheed Hercules AC-130 gunship variant also called "spooky",  For more information see "Gunship".

SPEED OF SOUND:  The speed at which sound travels in a given medium under specified conditions. The speed of sound at sea level in the International Standard Atmosphere is 1108 feet per second, 658 knots and 1215 kilometers per hour. See also subsonic and supersonic. 

SPENCER CARBINE: One of America Great Guns. The Spencer Carbine a variant of the Spencer Repeating Rifle was the most widely used and most sought after breach loader of the Civil War.  It's spring-fed tubular magazine held 7 round which could be fired as fast as the user could work the lever and thumb back the hammer. Objections were made over the time it took to reload the magazine, but this problem was solved by the use of a quick loading cartridge box holding ten tubes.  The Spencer Carbine played a pivotal role during the battle of Gettysburg, allowing General John Buford's Cavalry to hold Heth's advance.  The Spencer Rifle was one of the very few successful repeating rifles used in the Civil War, it is truly one of America's Great Guns.  For more information see the Spencer Carbine articles below.

America's Great Guns

MODEL 1860 Spencer .52 Caliber

Spencer Carbine .52 caliber, 7-shot repeater. 
50,000 total manufactured for Civil War.
22" barrel on the Model 1860 above.

Manufacturer: SPENCER ARMS
Date of Manufacture: C 1860
Overall Length: 39 inches [ 99cm ]
Barrel Length: 22 inches [ 55.8cm ]
Caliber: .52
Rate of fire: 7 Rounds in 12 seconds
Effective range: 2,000 Yards
Battle range: 300 to 500 Yards

Spencer Carbine
"Most Famous Civil War Firearm" 

Reporting to the Union army's chief of ordnance, Gen. James H. Wilson wrote: "There is no doubt that the Spencer carbine is the best firearm yet put into the hands of the soldier, both for economy of ammunition and maximum effect, physical and moral." Indeed the .52 caliber Spencer carbine had a terribly demoralizing effect on the Confederate soldiers and became the most famous of all Civil War small arms. 

At an overall length of 39 inches and a weight of 8 pounds 4 ounces, the carbine was 8 inches shorter and 1 pound 12 ounces lighter than the Spencer rifle. It could fire a magazine of seven copper rimfire cartridges in 30 seconds. The tubular magazine was fed into the end of the butt stock and extended its entire length to feed cartridges into the breech by means of a coil spring. Lowering the operating lever dropped the breech block
and extracted the spent cartridge. The same motion caused the magazine automatically to feed another round into the chamber; closing the breech seated the cartridge. Thus, all the soldier had to do was cock, aim, and pull the trigger. With the production of the Blakeslee Cartridge Box late in the war, the Spencer-carrying soldier had 10 to 13 extra loaded magazine tubes at his disposal, giving him extremely formidable and rapid firepower.

The Union soldiers who carried the remarkable lever-action, breech-loading repeaters must have felt themselves invincible when in combat against Confederates carrying their slow-firing muzzleloaders. Much of the South's ordnance was captured from Union soldiers over the course of the war, but since the Confederacy could not produce the rimfire cartridges for the Yankees' repeaters, the captured weapons were useless to the

The first Spencer's used by Union soldiers, which had been bought privately or by individual units, may have appeared on battlefields as early as late spring 1862. The first government-bought Spencer's were delivered to the troops in October 1863. By the end of the war, 200,000 Spencer carbines had been put into service. 

Fascinating Fact: Out of the 200,000 Spencer's in use by the end of the war, only 94,196 were purchased by the U.S. government; the rest were purchased privately or by individual units. 

Spencer History From the Springfield Armory Museum 

Manufactured by Spencer Repeating Rifle Co., Boston, Ma. -The  Standard "Civil War" Spencer carbine was a 7-shot repeater with iron sight mountings.  Sling ring on the left side of frame. The 22 inch barrel had 6-groove rifling. 

"Spencer Repeating Rifle. G.M. Spencer Patent of 1860. Made at Boston, Mass. Used the 56 calibre rim fire cartridge.  The Spencer was one of the very few successful repeating rifles used in the Civil War.  The magazine is a removable type, in the stock, which holds 7 cartridges. Over 94,000 Spencer's were supplied to the Government during the Civil War. The Spencer Company was sold to Winchester Arms Co., of New Haven, Conn. in 1870."

"Christopher Spencer was more than an inventor and a machinist. He was a mechanical genius who understood machine tools as well as their products. Spencer, twenty-seven years of age when the war came, was already a made of wide industrial experience. He had been associated with Lawrence and Robbins, and worked with Colt in arms manufacturing, and with Charles Cheney for whom he designed silk cloth manufacturing machinery. He had already been at work several years on perfecting the design for his repeating rifle.  The story of the sale and manufacture of the Spencer arms is all the more remarkable, because at the beginning of the war Spencer had no plant for their production. The early Spencer models, and perhaps the ones he displayed early in the war, were probably produced by Lawrence and Robbins at Hartford. Spencer was a good and persistent salesman. He was, as John Hay, the President's secretary, described him, 'a splendid little Yankee.' Spencer, like most other arms manufacturers, had some political friends, not the least of whom was Charles Cheney. Cheney, a close personal friend and neighbor of Gideon Wells, the Secretary of the Navy, may have been responsible for getting the early navy tests of the gun. But, essentially, it was the arm which sold itself - 'A wonderful gun,' Hay called it.

In the days when the Ordnance Bureau and the War Department were besieged with inventors and would-be manufacturers, Spencer and his chief business associate, Warren Fisher, had something else to sell. They had to market the idea that they could produce the arm quickly, economically, and in sufficient numbers. They had to convince the War Department that Spencer's superior skill as a gun designer was equaled by his skill as a
manufacturer. His quiet self-assurance surely helped. 

The Spencer Repeating Rifle Company leased quarters in the Chickering Piano Company building on Tremont Street in Boston and began to tool for the production of its rifles and carbines. The first order of 700 from the navy came in July of 1861. The army ordered 10,000 the following December. These were heavy orders for Spencer to meet at such an early time.

Spencer, with his machinist's eye for production shortcuts and design simplicity, patterned the machinery for the Boston works. The machines were designed not for the production of arms in general, but exclusively for the production of Spencer arms. This specialized machinery, Fisher later testified, could produce no other kind of arm. Failure to get contracts would have resulted in a loss of more than $75,000 in machinery alone. 

The company, wrote Fisher, recruited workers 'on account of their superior skill, to come from distant parts of the country, and to give up situations in which they might have continued had we not made them offers of permanent employment and liberal compensation.' Including the salaries of these workers, the building, and $135,000 in machinery, the company had already invested $200,000 by May of 1862. Fisher's claim that the armory was exceeded in size by only the government armory at Springfield and the Colt armory at Hartford was very close to the mark. 

Fisher had promised that deliveries on the government contracts would begin in March of 1862. This optimistic date could not be met, and the Ordnance Commission reduced the Spencer contract from 10,000 arms to 75,000 in June of 1862. All of the skill and careful preparation could not have allowed such an early delivery of these arms. "Some unexpected but unavoidable delays in the requisite perfection of our machinery,' Fisher
wrote Ripley in April, 1862, 'postpone somewhat the earlier delivery we hope to make.'

In late December of 1862, the arms for the navy contract were filled, and the first 500 on the army contract were delivered. The 7,500 arm contract with the Ordnance Department was completed in June of 1863, by which time the plant's production had risen to about 1,500 arms per month. A second contract, this one for carbines, was issued to the company in July of 1863, with deliveries to begin in October. The delay between contract date and delivery date was probably due to other contracts, perhaps with Massachusetts, which the company had to fill.

These carbine deliveries began on schedule, and the company had no difficulty in filling them. Even before the contract was completed, the Ordnance Bureau, in December of 1863, issued Spencer another contract, this one 34,500 carbines, with delivery schedules to run as high as 3,500 per month. Again, the company had no difficulty in meeting its contract obligations.

With growing demands in the army for Spencer's, and with increased approval of the arm by ordnance department, the reluctance to purchase them faded. In May of 1864 the company was given an open-end contract to deliver to the government all the Spencer carbines they could make until September 1, 1865. The company was allowed a grace period in which they were required to deliver only 1,500 per month, probably to let them fill other contractual obligations, but after September of 1864 they were required to deliver not less than 800 a month per week.

With the popularity and demand for the Spencer overwhelming, the War Department decided to give the Burnside Rifle Company a contract for up to 30,000 Spencer carbines. Burnside would discontinue the production of its own carbine and convert to the production of the repeater.  Burnside would pay the Spencer company a royalty on each gun they produced. The first deliveries under the contract were to begin in November of 1864. Burnside, too, had difficulty in retooling for the Spencer, and none was delivered to the government until April 15, 1865. 

The production of Spencer rifles and carbines during the Civil War is a remarkable accomplishment. With no plant or production facilities in 1861, the Spencer Repeating Rifle Company grew to be the largest producer of government carbines by 1864, and ranked second only to Sharps for the entire war period. 

It is not definitely known how many Spencer's were produced during the war. Some estimates run to 200,000 or better, but this seems on the basis of delivery figures to be much too high. The ordnance purchase list shows that by the end of the war the company had delivered just under 60,000 rifles and carbines. In addition, some state contracts were filled. By looking at the government delivery figures for the war, it is logical to assume that while the government contracts were in force that the government took most of the plant's production. These figures suggest that the plant's capacity for 1863 could not average over 2,000 arms per month; for 1864 it would not have averaged more than about 3,500 per month; and for the first three months of 1865, not more than 4,000 to 4,500 per month. From these figures, it must be concluded that Spencer's wartime production could not have exceeded 100,000. This figure, although falling far short of some estimates, is still spectacular, and it gave the Union, particularly its cavalry, a decided advantage in the last eighteen months of the war." 

- Carl L. Davis


Davis, Carl L. SMALL ARMS IN THE UNION ARMY, 1861-1865. University Microfilm International. Ann Arbor, Mi. 1979. 

Marcot, Roy. SPENCER REPEATING FIREARMS. Northwood Heritage Press. Irvine, Ca. 1990.

Spencer Cartridge Confusion

Written by A. M. Beck

There is a lot of confusion with regard to Spencer cartridges. This is due in no small part to their peculiar designations. Much has been printed about Spencer calibers and cartridges, a large portion of it is not correct.  At the time of their introduction, it hadn't occurred to anyone to name cartridges by the caliber of the barrel for which they were intended. Therefore the first metallic ammunition was designated simply by its body diameter.  Thus the cartridge that fits the Model 1863 rifle and carbine was called the "Number 56 Cartridge", since the weapon for which it is intended had a chamber of about .56". The actual barrel caliber is .52". When a 50 caliber round was first investigated, it became obvious that the chamber diameter designation was not going to work. The new round would also be .56" in body diameter. At that point, another designation was introduced.  This method uses the diameter at the head and mouth of the cartridge. Thus the No. 56 became the 56-56 and the new 50 cal. round became the 56-52.

To add even more confusion, Springfield was also developing a 50 cal. round for the reduced bore M-1865 Spencer and, supposedly, all future carbines. This one was a great improvement over the commercial ammunition then being produced. It featured a cartridge case that covers and protects the bullet's grease grooves. In a foreshadowing of future designations based on barrel caliber, this became the 56-50. It was also known as the 50 U.S. Carbine and, in spite of its government roots, the 50 Spencer. 

There was considerable debate during development of the 56-52 and 56-50 between Christopher Spencer and Steven V. Benet of Frankford (incidentally, father of the poet of the same name). Benet held that the bullet was better protected by a longer cartridge case. Spencer maintained that the heavy crimp used would damage the bullet's nose or even cause it to strip, thus ruining accuracy. The result was that there were two cartridges available for 50 caliber Spencer's. The two rounds are different but interchangeable. The 56-50 is the first generally issued inside lubricated rimfire cartridge. The bullet's grease grooves are covered by the cartridge case. In the 56-52, The bullet's grease grooves are exposed. The Army almost exclusively issued the Springfield designed 56-50 ammunition, even if it was commercially made. 

Civil War contract arms were all originally made in 52 caliber with 6 groove rifling. Over 11,000 of these were refinished and converted at Springfield to 50 caliber. Most also had Stabler's patent magazine cutoff added to allow use as a single shot. This work was done from late 1865 through the early 1870's. The conversions can easily be distinguished by their three groove rifled barrel liners. All other military models are 50 caliber. While
these are the two common calibers of Spencer firearms, other chamberings exist. A few very rare and valuable sporting rifles were produced just after the Civil War, mostly from condemned parts. The greater number of these used a bottlenecked 44 caliber cartridge based on the 56-52 case. There are also a very few early prototypes in various small caliber chamberings, particularly 38 and 46 straight. 

Directional stability of a projectile obtained by the action of gyroscopic forces that result from spinning of the body about its axis of symmetry. 

SPIKING: Procedure used to make a cannon or field gun inoperative.  Spiking is used to  either damage an enemy's gun or to damage your own cannon to keep them from being used by the enemy.  Spiking a cannon is similar in concept to scuttling a war ship.

Spiking and Unspiking Cannon

The Confederate Ordinance Manual gave these directions:

Drive into the vent a jagged and hardened steel spike with a soft point, or a nail without a head; break it off flush with the outer surface, and clinch the point inside by means of the rammer.  Wedge a shot in the bottom of the bore by wrapping it with felt, or by means of iron wedges, using the rammer or a bar of iron to drive
them in... 

To unspike a piece... if the spike is not screwed in or clinched, and the bore is not impeded, put in a charge of powder of 1/3 the weight of the shot, and ram junk wads over it with a handspike, laying on the bottom of the bore a strip of wood, with a groove on the under side containing a strand of quickmatch by which fire is communicated to the charge;... If this method, several times repeated, is not successful, unscrew the vent-piece, if it be a bronze gun, and if an iron one, drill out the spike, or drill a new vent.

SPLASH: U.S. DOD and  NATO term 1. In artillery and naval gunfire support, word transmitted to a forward observer or spotter five seconds before the estimated time of the impact of a salvo or round.  As some time may have expired since the initial call for fire, this "splash" alerts the observer to the impending salvo, so they can observe the target area and make necessary corrections.  2. In air interception, target destruction verified by visual or radar means, as in splash one MIG. 

SPORTING CLAYS:  Often called "golf with a shotgun," it is a sport in which shooters, using shotguns, fire at clay targets from different stations on a course laid out over varying terrain.

SPRINGFIELD, INC:  Springfield Armory is America's first arsenal.  Founded by General George Washington, who designated Springfield Armory as the country's first arsenal in 1794.  Springfield has been "America's Armory" ever since and continues to this day making some of the finest firearms, optics and accessories available.  For more information on Springfield see the articles below. 

America's Great Gun Makers

Springfield Armory

Springfield Armory is a name as synonymous with American firearms as it is with American freedom.  Founded by the premier commanding general and the first U.S. President, it was George Washington who designated Springfield Armory as the country's first arsenal in 1794.  The original Springfield Armory served the country through wars and foreign conflicts for nearly one and three-quarters centuries, before it closed its New England operation in 1968. 

In 1974 Robert Reese acquired the Springfield Armory name and identified the growing need for match-grade M1A rifles, in the civilian as well as the military marketplace. Re-located in Geneseo, Illinois, the reborn Springfield Armory stormed back onto the American firearms scene, with the superior quality .308 caliber M1A rifle, an aggressive marketing campaign and an eager and excited consumer base. 

With its rugged, battle-proven designs and unmatched reliability, Springfield Armory quickly developed its new civilian market, well ahead of any competition, successfully making the transition from military arms to sporting firearms. 

In the 1980s, brothers Dennis and Tom Reese, who'd been working for the company in various capacities for several years, officially purchased Springfield Armory from their father. One of their first additions was to begin manufacturing high-quality 1911 pistols, .45 caliber handguns popular in the law enforcement and personal protection marketplace. 

The Reese brothers also identified the growing profile of 1911 competitive shooting and the custom pistol market which it supported. Soon, Springfield Armory recruited and fielded the finest competitive shooters in the country, a reputation which continues to make Team Springfield a leader on the tournament circuit. 

While many have tried to imitate its 1911 success, Springfield Armory maintains its position as an industry leader, offering manufacturing tolerances and professional gunsmith quality unmatched in other factory-grade firearms.  

Today, from its receipt of an unprecedented contract to supply 1911s for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to its dominance in competitive shooting, Springfield Armory continues to raise the standards by which firearms manufacturers are judged. 

Springfield has also expanded its line in recent years to include patented premium quality, Government model range-finding scopes as well as a complete line of shooting accessories. For information on the full line of Springfield Armory M1A rifles, 1911 pistols, M6 Scout survival rifle, Springfield Professional optics and Aimpoint sights, contact your Springfield dealer or Springfield, Inc.

420 West Main Street
Geneseo, IL 61254
Phone: 309-944-5631
Toll Free: 800-680-6866
Fax: 309-944-5631

Email: [email protected]

On the web at URL:

SPOILING ATTACK:  A tactical maneuver employed to seriously impair a hostile attack while the enemy is in the process of forming or assembling for an attack.  Usually employed by armored units in defense by an attack on enemy assembly positions in front of a main line of resistance or battle position. 

SPOTTER: Member of a sniper team specifically trained to identify and observe targets and to assist the shooter by estimating range, crosswinds and to call "click" adjustments to the shooter during target engagement.  Also know as an observer or sniper / observer.  2. An observer stationed for the purpose of observing and reporting results of naval gunfire to the firing agency and who also may be employed in designating targets. 

SPUR TRIGGER:  A trigger mounting system that housed the trigger in an extension of the frame in some old guns.  The trigger projected only slightly from the front of the extension or spur, and no trigger guard was used on these guns.

SPORTING CLAYS: A shotgun shooting sport that combines elements of skeet and trap, and that is designed to simulate field conditions.

SPORTING FIREARM: Any firearm that can be used for sport — in other words any firearm. The term is incorrectly used by the media and anti-gunners to designate any non semiautomatic small arm other than a pistol made entirely of metal and fitted with a wood stock, which holds five cartridges or less in its Magazine.

SPRAY AND PRAY: A term often used to refer to the very poor and dangerous practice of rapidly firing many shots at a target as possible in the hope that one or more may hit the target. One Sprays bullets and Prays one hits the target.  It is often referred to as "Glocking" in deference to the 17 round capacity of some Glock pistols.

SQUADDING TICKET: is a card issued to each shooter in a pistol match that indicates the caliber of weapon, the relay of firing, and the target number for each of a succession of matches scheduled to be fired during the tournament.

SQUIB:  A round that is under loaded.   When a squib is fired there is insufficient force to push the bullet clear of the barrel. The gun must be field stripped so that the bullet can be removed (usually with a cleaning rod).  Firing another shot before clearing a squib is not safe and may cause injury to the shooter or to on lookers as well as damage to the firearm.  Most squibs occur because of careless hand loading of rounds.  They are extremely rare in factory ammunition.

SQUIB 2: A small pyrotechnic device that may be used to fire the igniter in a rocket or for some similar purpose.  Not to be confused with a detonator that explodes. 

SQUIB LOAD:  A round that is intentionally under loaded.  Typical uses would be for a Hollywood production or a cinematic effect.   Squib Loads are not blanks and can cause injury or death if not handled safely.

SR-47: Modified M-4A1 carbine that can fire ammunition designed for a common type of Soviet rifle. Designed to increase interoperability for former Warsaw pact (Soviet) ammunition since magazines for the AK-47 Kalashnikov, fielded in 1949 and used by 50 armies, are sometimes left behind by fleeing terrorists. To enable its new SR-47 to fire these "battlefield pickups," Knight's Armament of Vero Beach, Fla., modified the M-4A1 by extending the upper and lower receivers, bolt carrier and firing pin. They also modified the magazine release to handle the Avtomat Kalashnikov or AK's distinctive curved magazine. The designers are looking into a similar modification that would allow the M-4A1 to fire ammunition from the newer AK-74 assault rifle.

SSG:  German abbreviation for "Scharfschutzen Gewehr" or Scharf Schutzen Gewehr which translates to Sharp Shooters Rifle.  More literally used to indicate a "Sniper Rifle".  The Steyr SSG is one of the worlds great guns. See Steyr SSG below.

SSG-P: Abbreviation for Scharf Schutzen Gewehr Polizi or Sharp Shooters Rifle Police from the German.  More literally a Police Sniper Rifle.  Variant of the famous Steyr SSG "Tactical Rifle".  For Special Operations and security work a silenced version, the SSG-SD and a short version SSG-K (short) are available by special order. See Steyr SSG below.

STABALLOY: Designates metal alloys made from high-density depleted uranium with other metals for use in kinetic energy penetrator for armor-piercing munitions. Several different metals such as titanium or molybdenum can be used for the purpose. The various staballoy metals have low radioactivity that is not considered to be a significant health hazard. 

STAND BY:  One of the commands given by the range officer prior to a string of fire.    "Stand by" follows "Shooter ready" in the command sequence and is the last command given before the signal to start firing.  For more details  see Range Commands.

STANCE:  The posture assumed by a shooter or marksman while firing a shot.  Proper stance is important in competition and in tactical or defensive uses of firearms as the shooter is more stable and has the ability to move and engage targets properly from a steady and efficient shooting position.   Some common stances include the Weaver Stance and the Isosceles Stance in hand gunning and the Supported and Unsupported Stance in rifle marksmanship.

Shooting Stances
 by Janis Cortese

The Isosceles Stance

isosceles stanceThe Isosceles is the basic stance that most people will take instinctively -- thrusting the gun forward with both arms straight out, shoulders perpendicular to the target, and elbows locked. The arms and shoulders make an isosceles triangle, hence the name. This stance is the fastest to assume and does not depend on handedness and eye dominance, a crucial factor, if like myself, you are cross-dominant. (To be cross-dominant means that you are left-handed, and yet rely on your right eye to aim, or vice versa. It is more common to be left-handed and left-eyed, or right-handed and right-eyed, but it is not unheard of to be cross-dominant as well. And switching eye dominance is no simpler than switching hand dominance; if your brain is wired to rely on your right eye, there is little you can do to change this.) It is important not to merely thrust the gun forward and shoot, but to lean your entire upper body forward and curl your hips to flatten out the curve of your lower back. This allows for maximum recoil absorption, even with large caliber handguns, but I have found that it also results in a disconcertingly random-feeling bounce in the recoil that the last stance I will discuss cures handily.

The Weaver Stance

Weaver StanceThe Weaver stance seems odd at first, and can be tricky if you are cross-dominant, but it allows for excellent recoil control and reacquisition of the target in your sights. This means that, after the gun bounces up a bit from firing a round, it is much easier to align it with the target again very quickly. In Weaver, you are standing with the shoulder of your gun hand back a bit from the target and your dominant foot back a bit as well. You hold the gun toward the target with your upper body at a 45-degree angle to it, and bend both elbows. At first, this seems very unstable, but the secret to the Weaver is the isometric nature of the stance. When you grip the gun, push forward with your gun hand, and pull back with your other hand; this push-pull grip makes the gun bounce down from the recoil and end up right back on target! It also makes for extremely strong recoil control, and would allow even a small woman to handle a .38 easily.

It is very difficult to describe the Weaver stance in words, so please ask someone to demonstrate it to you before you try it. The most important part of the stance is the push-pull isometric grip, so as long as that is understood, the rest should come quite easily.

The Chapman or Modified Weaver Stance

Chapman StanceThe Chapman stance is related to the Weaver and may be a better alternative for most women. In this stance, the body is held identically to the Weaver (at a 45-degree angle to the target with the dominant hand and foot back), but the gun hand is locked out straight like a rifle stock. This reduces trembling, and allows me -- with a very weak upper body -- to shoot .357 Magnum rounds with no problems whatsoever, as long as I maintain the push-pull nature of the grip. (Truthfully, I can manage the recoil in Isosceles stance as well, but there is a disconcerting bounce to it that I don't like.) If you are cross-dominant as well, the Chapman may be easier for you since it allows you to lay your cheek across your arm and line up your right eye with a gun in your left hand, or vice versa. Again, proper use of these stances should allow a woman to shoot just about any round she desires.

Most people state that the Isosceles stance allows for greater recoil control, but I have found that the Chapman, with the rifle-stock gun arm, is far and away the best stance when shooting powerful rounds. The disconcerting random bounce from recoil is mostly eliminated, and doesn't make you feel as if the gun is trying to kick its way out of your hand, as with the Isosceles. Also, target reacquisition is a breeze.

Keep in mind, though, that all of this must be put into practice before you make a decision. Ask someone to demonstrate the stances to you.

Editors Note: Like any other martial, mental or physical skill, to master a stance and to become fast, accurate and natural with any shooting technique you must practice.

Safety Note: Practice your draw and presentation with an unloaded firearm or a dummy gun.  It is a good idea to remove the ammo and magazine from the training area.  Do a chamber check and verify empty, every time you pick up the gun.  Someone else or even you may have loaded it. 

** To be cross-dominant means that you are right-handed, and yet rely on your left eye to aim, or vice versa.  It is more common to be left-handed and left-eyed, or right-handed and right-eyed, but it is not unheard of to be cross-dominant as well.  And switching eye dominance is no simpler than switching hand dominance; if your brain is wired to rely on your right eye, there is little you can do to change this.

An exact value, a physical entity, or an abstract concept, established and defined by authority, custom, or common consent to serve as a reference, model, or rule in measuring quantities or qualities, establishing practices or procedures, or evaluating results. A fixed quantity or quality.  Usage "standard load" & "range safety standard".

STAND FAST:  A range command to stop what you are doing immediately and stand by for further instructions.  In artillery, the order at which all action on the position ceases immediately.  

STEVENS, J. ARMS COMPANY:  J. Stevens Arms Company was founded in 1864 in Chicopee Falls Mass. as J. Stevens and Company.  In 1866 the name was changed to J. Stevens Arms and Tool Company.  In 1916, the plant became New England Westinghouse, and tooled up for both Browning machine guns and Moisin-Nagant Rifles.  In 1920, the plant was sold to the Savage Arms Corporation and manufactured guns were marked "J. Stevens Arms Co.".  This designation was dropped in 1940, and only the name Stevens was used until 1990, when Savage Arms discontinued the manufacture of all firearms, rifles and shotguns, bearing the Stevens trademark.  All guns currently manufactured by Savage Arms bear the Savage trademark only.

Stevens Info

For some Stevens firearms information, dependent on the remaining factory data, a factory letter authenticating the configuration of certain Stevens firearms can be obtained by contacting:

Mr. Roe S. Clark
184 Otis Stage Road
Blanford, MA 01008

The charge for the authentication service is $5.00 per gun. Please allow 2-4 weeks for adequate response. Be as specific as possible when describing the firearm and include the serial number and any identifying marks and model numbers.

STEYR: Famous Austrian firearms maker located in Steyr Austria.  Steyr is part of the world wide company of Steyr-Daimler-Puch and the European company Steyr Mannlicher Group or SMG.  See Steyr Mannlicher below.

STEYR MANNLICHER:  Famous Austrian firearms maker, located in Steyr Austria.  For the past 135 years Steyr Mannlicher Group (SMG) has known how to combine highest precision, ergonomic design and aesthetic form into fire-arms of utmost quality. Steyr Mannlicher not only continues the age-old tradition of the town of Steyr to gather know-how in the art of arms manufacturing, it is also a state of the art production company with innovative manufacturing methods. Steyr Mannlicher Group or SMG is part of the world wide company of Steyr-Daimler-Puch.

History of Steyr Mannlicher
The Chronicle of the Company

Josef Werndl

Josef Werndl

The Industrial Pioneer

On 16th April, 1864 Josef Werndl founded the company "Josef and Franz Werndl & Comp. Waffenfabrik und Sägemühle in Oberletten" (="Josef and Franz Werndl & Partners, Weapons Factory and Sawmill in Oberletten"); from which later emerged the "Österreichische Waffenfabriksgesellschaft" (="Austrian Arms Manufacturing Company"), and subsequently the companies "Steyr Werke AG", "Steyr-Daimler Puch AG" and the today's group subsidiary "Steyr Mannlicher Group" SMG.

Werndl and Holub (technical director) managed to submit their concept of a reliable, simple and at the same time cheap breechloader to the central military administrative authority who decided to procure the "rifle with tabernacle lock". On 28th July 1867 Werndl got the order, to produce 100.000 rifles with wave stock at caliber 11 mm. Already in autumn of the same year, the order was increased by another 150.000 pieces.

In order to be able to execute this high quantity of orders it was necessary to expand the production plant and to give employment to a larger number of factory workers. In course of this development, the conversion into the "Österreichische Waffenfabriksgesellschaft" (="Austrian Arms Manufacturing Company") took place in the corporate form of a joint-stock company. The subsequent period was characterized by a giant upswing in arms production. Werndl succeeded extremely well to establish business connections abroad, and therefore he got many orders from many different countries. During the period of boom, up to 6.000 workers were employed and the weekly production reached 8.000 rifles.

After 1877 a sluggish period followed. But already in 1885, with the development of a repeating rifle according to the "Mannlicher System" with straight line pull-locking and center stock magazines for 5 cartridges, the company was successful again, receiving orders from all over the world.

With the new repeater and the food reputation of the arms factory in few of its high production capacity, the precision of its products and the interchangeability of equal parts, the company received a lot of large scale orders.  In 1989, the number of workers exceeded 10.000 for the first time. 

The Time after Werndl

Josef Werndl died unexpectedly from pneumonia on 29th April 1889. Werndl's longstanding and dogged negotiations with clients from foreign countries came to full fruition only after his death.

After the turn of century, the company could acquire the exclusive producing and selling rights for the machine gun "System Schwarzlose". So the company managed to supply bigger quantities of this weapon to nearly all European countries and also to overseas countries.

But the acquisition of the exclusive producing and selling rights by the two designers, Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher and Otto Schönauer, proved to be especially important. Precision, durability and reliability, as well as an attractive design resulted in the world famous "Mannlicher-Schönauer Hunting Rifle".

The First World War 

The objects in the military trench of Steyr could no longer meet the requirements of modern arms production, so a new location had to be found. It was decided to take the Plattner-grounds in the district Ennsleiten from Steyr.  There, an absolutely new and ultramodern weapons factory was built from scratch within a period of only two years (1912 - 1914), resulting in an ascendancy over arms production which could stand up against any competing firm.

The number of factory workers rose to more than 15.000. Steyr became the most important arms manufacturing site of the Central Europe powers. 

Post War Reconstruction and Decline

In spite of all armaments efforts in World War I the company did not forgot that production had to go on also after the end of the war. Therefore they have bought up the "Austrian Fiaker Automobil Gesellschaft (=Austrian Cab Automobile Company) (ÖFAG)" in Vienna.

After the end of the World War I (1918), the arms factory was on the verge of ruin because of the peace treaty of Saint Germain, that practically prohibited any arms production. In this critical situation, the firm management decided to adapt the works and switch from weapons production to the production of vehicles.

When the provisions of the treaty of Saint Germain could be loosened a bit, they also got down to looking for a new partner for the traditional weapon production in Steyr. This resulted in a cooperation with the arms factory "Solothum AG" . This almost unknown arms factory from Switzerland had to find a partner as well, in order to survive on the international market. They started a cooperation, which on the one hand, gave fresh impetus to weapons production in Steyr and, on the other hand, earned the Swiss company a world famous brand name.

After Austria's union with the German Empire, the history of independent arms production was interrupted. In Steyr and St. Valentin, and also in many other out housed smaller production plants, some important products and parts for the armament industry, like rifles, ammunition, caterpillar tractors, all terrain vehicles, team transport vehicles, plane motors, tank parts, ... were then manufactured . Besides, it was tried to maintain the civil production for the period after the war, which failed, however, due to the enormous air raid damages and the dismantling of the works by the Russian occupying power in 1945.

It's the period between the two world wars that shows clearly that in the 130 years' company history there were times of gleaming success again and again, but also periods full of sorrow and even decline. Despite all difficulties, the old "spirit of Steyr" has prevailed, that determination to be successful which already in the days of Josef Werndl helped the old iron town Steyr overcome any setbacks. 

The Time after the Second World War

As happened in the time after 1918, also after the World War II, in 1945, arms production was again at a standstill.  Only in 1950 Steyr could start producing hunting rifles with the approval of the US high-commissioner, General Mark

Modern Mannlicher Stocked Rifle

From that time on, Steyr again manufactured the well-known Mannlicher Schönauer hunting carbines and small-bore rifles.  With the reintroduction of the Austrian Armed Forces in the Second Republic the production of military weapons started again. 

At first the assault rifle STG58, caliber 7,62, was manufacture with a FN Belgium license. Subsequently, the well known assault rifle STG77 in caliber 5.56 was developed and manufactured in Steyr. 

Modern Steyr Mannlicher Sporting Rifles

Steyr Mannlicher

In 1987 the small arms production was set up, by the mother company Steyr- Daimler-Puch AG as a separate, independent company.  There have been successes with Australia and Malaysia as regards granting of licenses for producing the Steyr AUG (STG77).

In the sector of hunting weapons, a general sales decline has come about due to the world-wide decrease of hunting possibilities, and also because of the stricter laws and regulations. In this environment, Steyr Mannlicher Hunting
Rifles & products have stood their ground well.  

Realizing that the market of hunting rifles can hardly be increased, Steyr Mannlicher decided a few years ago to produce also competition weapons. In 1987, after a short period of research and development the air Match Rifle
"Steyr LG87" was launched on the market.

Steyr Mannlicher finally made its breakthrough in competition weapons only after the revolutionary Steyr Match Air Pistol "LP1". By steady development of the competition weapons sector, the company created an additional standing leg of weapons production in Steyr. 

Steyr Mannlicher Group

In 1992, Steyr Mannlicher moved to it's present location at Mannlicherstraße 1,
Steyr, Austria. 

In order to complete the previous range of supplies, Steyr Mannlicher took over the majority of the traditional "Suhler Jagd- und Sportwaffen GmbH" or Suhler Hunting and Sporting Weapons Inc.  in Suhl, Germany in January 1994.

In July 1994 Steyr Mannlicher achieved the "Quality Certificate ISO 9001" award. As regards precision and quality, products from Steyr Mannlicher are unrivalled.

Steyr Pro Hunter SBS (Safe Bolt System)

In June 1996 Steyr Mannlicher presented a new and innovative hunting rifle - Mannlicher SBS96 - based on the Steyr SBS96 system (Safe Bolt System), which is front locked. The main features of this new hunting rifle are :
security, quality, precision and attractive design.

The Mannlicher SBS96, was honored by two magazines, "Deutsches Waffen Journal" and "Visier" with the price for innovation, the "Flint 96" and the "Volltreffer 96".

Particularly for the American market, the Steyr SBS96, the Steyr SBS96 Pro Hunter and the Steyr SBS96 Forester were developed based on the Steyr SBS96 system.  By using new constructions, modern materials and modern
manufacturing methods, weapons from Steyr continue to enjoy the world-wide fame which they deserve, thereby securing the future of the enterprise. 

Innovation from tradition in combination with highest quality and precision continue to be the strong points of the products from Steyr Mannlicher. 

Information Courtesy of:

Steyr Mannlicher AG & Co KG
P.O. Box: 1000
Mannlicherstraße 1
A-4400 Steyr
Tel: (+43 7252) 896 - 0
Fax: (+43 7252) 786 21
Email: [email protected]


STEYR SSG:  World class "Tactical Rifle" manufactured by Steyr Mannlicher Tactical Systems. Also know as the Steyr SSG69.  Since its first development in 1969, the Steyr SSG family has emerged as the premier sniper / counter sniper rifle in the world.  Used by more than fifty countries worldwide, the SSG family has proven to be the benchmark in performance and reliability.   The SSG69 now called the SSG P1 was the world's first synthetic stocked center fire production rifle. The Steyr SSG69 is also know simply as the "Green Gun".  SSG is the German abbreviation for Scharf Schutzen Gewehr or Sharp Shooters Rifle.  More literally a Sniper Rifle.

Steyr Austria
Great Guns of the World

Steyr Model SSG 69
Steyr SSG 7.62 NATO .308 Caliber Tactical Rifle

Technical Data

Steyr SSG (Scharf Schutzen Gewehr)
Country of Origin: Austria
Manufacturer: Steyr Mannlicher of Austria
Steyr Daimler Puch of America
Caliber: 7.62 mm NATO - .308 Winchester
Barrel Length: 508mm to 647mm
20 - 25.5 inches dependant on model
Barrel Twist: Right-hand twist of one turn in 10 inches
Chamber & Bore: Hammer Forged - Chrome Plated
Overall Length: 977mm -1,114mm
35.5 - 45.5 inches dependant on model
Without Magazine
8.5 pounds

SSG Tactical Rifle

Scharfschutzen Gewehr 69 - SSG 69

To the Austrian Army it's the Scharfschutzen Gewehr 69; the Sharpshooter's Weapon Model 1969.  To the rest of the world it's simply SSG or the Green Gun.  But whatever you call it, Steyr-Mannlicher's popular sniper-competition piece may well be the most accurate .30 caliber production rifle in the world. 

Chambered for .308 Winchester (7.62mm NATO), the SSG offers a variety of options and accessories ranging from single or set triggers, five- or ten-round magazines to exotic Kahles scopes.  None of these items are cheap, but most serious shooters by now will have arrived at the decision that you generally get what you pay for.

The SSG's accuracy has become almost legendary. This is due to a variety of factors, but the superb hammer forged barrel and synthetic cyclolac stock are both partial explanations. The 25-1/2 inch barrel is fully free-floated, and of course the plastic stock is immune to warping. Its faded green color seems well chosen for blending into a variety of topographical colors, and the flat black finish of all metal parts (except the double triggers) adds to the SSG's conceal ability. 

Steyr SSG Product Features
Steyr Mannlicher Stands for Innovation, Quality & Safety

Stock Spacers
Removable butt spacers allow length of pull to be adjusted between 12.5 and 14.0 inches.
Military-Type 2-Position Safety
In the rear position, bolt and firing pin sear locks; in the forward position, it is ready to fire.

Tactical Bolt Handle
The SSG PII, PIIK and PIV feature a larger bolt handle affording sure action when you need it. Loading and reloading is faster and easier.


The 5 round detachable rotary magazine, made of durable synthetic material, is standard with all SSG rifles. This magazine is specially designed to hold the cartridges (at the shoulder) to allow for smooth feeding and to prevent damage to bullet tips during the recoil of the rifle. The magazine also features a clear backing to allow for a visual count of rounds.


Optional Double-Set Triggers
Double-set triggers allow the shooter to "set" the front trigger to fire with a pull from 2 to 8 ounces.


Quick Detachable - QD Scope Mounts
Parkerized NATO-standard quick-detachable return to zero mounts can accommodate any U.S. or foreign made 1", 26mm, 30mm, tube optics.

All SSG rifles feature a cold hammer forged match grade barrel. The barrel is mated to the receiver in a special process. In this process the receiver is heated to an expansion temperature and seated onto the barrel. The receiver immediately cools and shrinks over the barrel, thus solidly mating the barrel to the receiver. This process provides a solid 2.5" barrel-receiver bearing surface which maximizes stability and minimizes vibration during firing.

Recoil Pad Stock Spacers

Tactical Bolt Handle

5 Round Rotary Magazine

Double Set Triggers

QD - Quick Detach Rings

Steyr SSG Variants

SSG PI -- Overall Length: 44.5"
The SSG PI was the first of the SSG counter sniper rifles developed by Steyr Mannlicher.  It also has the unique distinction of being the world's first synthetic-stocked center fire production rifle. Originally called the "SSG 69", this rifle has served as one of the world's premier counter sniper rifles for over 25 years. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and the front sight is adjustable for elevation.

SSG PII -- Overall Length: 44.5"
The SSG PII has many of the same characteristics as the PI but is tailored specifically for the police marksman and target shooter alike. The SSG PII features a heavier barrel without sights and a larger, knob-style bolt handle.

SSG PIIK -- Overall Length: 38.5"
The SSG PIIK (SSG Police Kurz), differs only from the SSG PII in barrel length. This 20" barrel version of the PII meets the requirements of the urban police marksman who requires a short overall length in a very accurate rifle.

SSG PII McMillan -- Overall Length: 45"
SSG PII McMillan
The SSG PII McMillan combines the optimum interface- the renowned Steyr SSG PII fitted to the world class McMillan stock, a black hand laminated fiberglass stock custom designed and produced by McMillan for Steyr. Features include an adjustable cheek piece and the capability to accept Steyr SBS type stock spacers to adjust the length of pull. A forearm rail is provided for the attachment of bi-pods, hand stop assemblies or special sling swivel attachments.

SSG PIIK McMillan -- Overall Length: 39"
The SSG PIIK McMillan combines the optimum interface- the renowned Steyr SSG PIIK fitted to the world class McMillan stock, a black hand laminated fiberglass stock custom designed and produced by McMillan for Steyr. Features include an adjustable cheek piece and the capability to accept Steyr SBS type stock spacers to adjust the length of pull. A forearm rail is provided for the attachment of bi-pods, hand stop assemblies or special sling swivel attachments.

SSG PIV -- Overall Length: 39.5"
The SSG PIV also uses the PII design but incorporates a 16" barrel with a removable flash hider. This rifle also was designed for the urban police marksman who requires accuracy in a short rifle. With the flash hider removed, the barrel is threaded for the use of suppression devices.


Information Courtesy of:

Steyer Mannlicher Logo

Steyr Mannlicher AG & Co KG
P.O. Box: 1000
Mannlicherstraße 1
A-4400 Steyr
Tel: (+43 7252) 896 - 0
Fax: (+43 7252) 786 21
Email: [email protected]


The part of the firearm that is used to hold it securely.  Stocks are used on long guns, grips on handguns.  Stocks can be made of wood, plastic, a composite, or even metal.

STOPPING POWER: A popular but non-specific non-scientific term used to describe the defensive effectiveness of a particular type of ammunition.  Usually stopping power is quantified as a number expressing the percentage of times a first hit stops a threat (not necessarily kills).   Most published writings on this including the popular pulp fiction by Marshal and Sannow have been completely discredited by medical professionals, scientists and ballistics engineers.  There are many factors in determining a rounds effectiveness, primarily penetration depth, weight retention and bullet expansion have the greatest influence stopping power.  Penetration and expansion are determined by muzzle velocity, bullet design, and shot placement.  Because of this stopping power or the terminal effect varies greatly, even within a single caliber.  The end result and terminal effect of any particular bullet varies greatly based on the target hit, to include the targets clothing, body position relative to the shooter, their mindset and whether drugs are involved.  Anecdotal evidence exists on both extremes of bullet performance, but generally COM "Center of Mass" hits with defensive type hollow point ammunition is the most effective combination for stopping an aggressor. 

STOVE PIPE:  Term used to describe a firearms feeding malfunction.  Occasionally, semi-automatics firearms fail to fully eject a spend cartridge.  When this happens, the empty shell can be trapped as the slide closes.  Usually the shell will protrude from the slide open end up, giving the appearance of a stove pipe, hence the use of the term.  A good firearms instructor can provide training on how to quickly clear a stove pipe.  The correct procedure allows shooter to return the gun to operational status very quickly.

STRATO FORTRESS:  An all-weather, intercontinental, strategic heavy bomber powered by eight turbojet engines, designated the B-52.  The B-52 "Strato Fortress" is capable of delivering nuclear and non nuclear bombs, air-to-surface missiles, and decoys.  Its range is extended by in-flight refueling.  Also know as the "BUFF" for "Big Ugly Flying Figure" it out. :)

STRATO TANKER: A multipurpose aerial tanker-transport powered by four turbojet engines. It is equipped for high-speed, high-altitude refueling of bombers and fighters. Designated as KC-135. 

STRELA 2M SAM: Soviet designed, now Russian made, man portable shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile system. Strela is Russian for "arrow". System designated "SA-7A" by the United States and SA7 "Grail" by NATO. Strela SAM entered production in 1967 with the improved Strela-2M fielded in 1970. The low -altitude missile was designed to provide tactical ground forces and shipboard personnel a man portable, easy to use anti-aircraft missile. Typically employed against low flying aircraft in the ground attack or air support role due to it's limited range. Further employed to deter enemy pilots from flying "under the radar" and to force them to altitudes where advanced anti-aircraft systems were employed. The SA7 has a relatively unsophisticated tracking device and is most effective when fired from directly behind a jet, or "head-on" at an approaching helicopter, as the missiles ability to lock on is thermal and determined by acquiring a heat source from the targeted aircraft. Later models include IFF - Identification Friend or Foe systems that can be fitted to the operator's helmet.


  An attack which is intended to inflict damage on, seize, or destroy an objective.  To hit something.

STRONG HAND:  In shooting, the primary usage or dominant hand.  For a right-handed person, the strong hand is the right hand. For a left-handed person, the left hand.  In some forms of competition and in good tactical training, the shooter is required to use both "Strong Hand" and "Weak Hand" for scoring.
The shooters "Weak Hand" is the non dominate hand and the opposite of the strong hand.

STRONG SIDE:  Then side of the shooters body of the dominant or primary hand.  For a right-handed person, the right side.   For a left-handed person, the left side.  Sport shooting competitions may require a shooter to wear a strong side holster.

STRYKER: A family of eight-wheel drive combat vehicles, transportable in a C-130 aircraft, being built for the US Army by GM GDLS, a joint venture set up by General Motors Defense of Canada and General Dynamics Land Systems Division of USA. Stryker is based on the GM LAV III 8 x 8 light-armoured vehicle, in service since early 2001. The LAV III is itself a version of the Piranha III built by Mowag of Switzerland, now owned by General Motors Defense. GM Defense and GDLS are sharing the fabrication and final assembly of the vehicles among plants at Anniston, Alabama; Lima, Ohio; and London, Ontario.

GM Defense and GDLS were awarded the contract for the US Army's Interim Armoured Vehicle (IAV) in November 2000. The vehicles are to form the basis of six Brigade Combat Teams. The contract requirement covers the supply of 2,131 vehicles. Deliveries of Stryker infantry carriers began from General Motors London, Ontario, plant in March and General Dynamics Anniston, Alabama, facility in April 2002.

Stryker Brigade Combat Team: (SBCT) combines the capacity for rapid deployment with survivability and tactical mobility. The Stryker vehicle enables the team to manoeuvre in close and urban terrain, provide protection in open terrain and transport infantry quickly to critical battlefield positions.

The US Army's requirement is for about 2,500 Strykers

The United States Army first deployed 14 Stryker vehicles as part of its forced entry package for Millennium Challenge 2002, the Joint Forces Command field experiment and demonstration in July and August 2002.

The Strykers were deployed from C-130 and C-17 aircraft during the exercise.



Stryker variants include the Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV) and the Mobile Gun System (MGS). There are eight configurations of the ICV including Nuclear, Biological, Chemical Reconnaissance Vehicle (NBC RV); Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM); Medical Evacuation Vehicle (MEV); Mortar Carrier (MC); Engineer Squad Vehicle (ESV); Command Vehicle (CV); Fire Support Vehicle (FSV); and the Reconnaissance Vehicle (RV). They have parts commonality and self-recovery abilities and are equipped with a central tire inflation system.


The Stryker is a full time four-wheel drive, selectively eight-wheel drive, armoured vehicle weighing approximately 19t. The vehicle can attain speeds of 62mph on metalled roads and has a maximum range of 312 miles.

The basic infantry carrier vehicle (ICV) provides armoured protection for the two-man crew and a squad of nine infantry soldiers. The armour provides integral all-round 14.5mm protection against machine gun rounds, mortar and artillery fragments. RPG-7 protection is optional.

The ICV has a Kongsberg Remote Weapon Station with a universal soft mount cradle, which can mount either a 0.50 caliber M2 machine gun, MK19 40mm grenade launcher or MK240 7.62mm machine gun. It is also armed with four M6 smoke grenade launchers.

The vehicle's commander has an FBCB2 (Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below) digital communications system that allows communication between vehicles through text messaging and a map network, as well as with the battalion. The map shows the position of all vehicles on the battlefield and the commander can mark the position of enemy forces on the map which can then be seen by other commanders. FBCB2, "the tactical internet", includes the Raytheon AN/TSQ-158 Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS).

The Stryker driver has three M-17 periscopes and a Raytheon AN/VAS-5 Driver's Vision Enhancer (DVE). The vehicle commander has seven M45 periscopes and a thermal imager display with video camera.


GM GDLS delivered the first of eight pre-production Stryker Mobile Gun Systems to the US Army in July 2002. Production of 72 additional mobile gun variants begins in 2003 at General Dynamics Anniston, Alabama, facility.

The Stryker Mobile Gun System variant consists of the basic vehicle with a General Dynamics Land Systems fully stabilized shoot-on-the-move Low Profile Turret. The turret is armed with a M68A1E4 105mm cannon with muzzle brake and an M2 0.50 calibre commander's machine gun. The Stryker Mobile Gun System can fire 18 rounds of 105mm main gun ammunition, 400 rounds of 0.50 calibre ammunition and 3,400 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition. Two M6 smoke grenade launchers are also fitted.

The Mobile Gun System has the same C4ISR communications and driver's vison equipment as the ICV, but the gunner has three periscopes and a compact modular sight with dual field of view day and thermal channels. The MGS also has detectors for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

An advantage to the Brigade Combat Teams in having the mobile gun vehicle of the same Stryker family of vehicles is the commonality across the entire capability and the reduced logistics requirement. The Stryker mobile gun does not require a track-vehicle mechanic as would be required for example for the deployment of an M-8 mobile armoured gun system.


Stryker can be transported on the ground using trucks or by air on C-17, C-5 and C-130 aircraft. The C-5 and C-17 aircraft can carry seven and four Strykers respectively. The C-130H can fly safely carrying a maximum 38,000lb load for up to 1,000nm. The Stryker's weight, 36,240lb, and size are within the payload limit of the C-130H. The C-130 can operate from smaller airfields in more remote locations. All configurations of the Stryker can disembark from the C-130 in combat ready status.


Key Data   ICV = Infantry Carrier Vehicle
 MGS = Mobile Gun System
Crew  ICV - 11 : Driver, Commander + 9 Troops
MGS - 3 : Driver, Commander + Gunner
Length  275in 
Width  107in 
Height  104in 
Fully equipped weight  36,240lb (ICV)
41,300lb (MGS) 
Road speed  62mph 
Range  312 miles 
Max trench crossing  6.5ft 
Acceleration  50m <8.0sec 
Forward Slope  60% 
Side Slope  30% 
Step Climbing  23in 
Air transportability  C-130, C-5, C-17 
ICV  0.50-caliber M2 machine gun, MK19 40 mm grenade launcher or MK240 7.62mm machine gun; 4 x M6 smoke grenade launchers 
Mobile Gun System  M68A1E4 105 mm cannon, M2 0.50 calibre machine gun; 2 x M6 smoke grenade launchers 
Communications (C4ISR)   
SINCGARS (Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System) radios   
Raytheon AN/TSQ-158 Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS)   
Squad leaders video display terminal   
FBCB2 Computer (Commander)   
Navigation  Rockwell Collins AN/PSN-11 PLGR precision lightweight GPS receiver 
Engine  350hp 
Transmission  6 speeds forward, 1 reverse 
Transfer case  2 speed 
Differentials  4 automotive 
Suspension  8 wheel hydropneumatic 
Tyres  Central tyre inflation system with runflats 
Brakes  Power brakes with ABS on rear three axles 

German for "Storm Weapon" or "Assault Rifle".  As in Sturmgewehr 44 or Stg. 44. STURMGEWEHR is abbreviated Stg. See also: assault weapon.

SUB MACHINEGUN: An automatic firearm commonly firing sub-caliber or pistol ammunition intended for close-range combat. Also written "Sub Machine Gun" & Sub-Machinegun. Abbreviated SMG.

SUB MACHINE GUN: Alternate spelling of the SMG or Sub Machinegun. Abbreviated SMG.

mp5.jpg (23571 bytes)
Heckler & Koch MP5A3 - A caliber 9mm Sub Machinegun

SUB SONIC:  Pertaining to speeds less than the speed of sound.  Speed less than 1118 feet per second at sea level, or in metric 340  meters per second.  Typical caliber .45 ACP bullets travel at subsonic speeds.  See also speed of sound.

SUBSONIC: Below the speed of sound.  Sound travels at 1108 feet per second (340 meters per second) at sea level, an object such as a bullet) moving at a greater speed generates a sound-wave (the sonic crack).  Thus a firearm that is silenced or suppressed may specify sub-sonic ammunition to decrease the sound and so the noise of the bullets sonic crack will not be heard.

SUBMUNITION: Any munitions that, to perform its task, separates from a parent munition. A sabot round uses a submunition in a discarding shoe or carrier. Some submunition is referred to as a "Sub Caliber Device". Common among these are barrel inserts that allow a rifle or pistol chambered in a large caliber, to fire a smaller .22 caliber rim fire cartridge. This is common in indoor training ranges used by the U.S. Army's Reserve and National Guard forces, and by military forces over seas who use small indoor range facilities that are not engineered for high velocity cartridges. It also reduces the cost of ammunition used in training and qualification. In the case of a pistol, it is used as a training device, and as a second small caliber and for plinking. It also allows the use of a full sized hand gun for Olympic Style shooting where the caliber .22 is mandated by regulation.

SUICIDE SPECIAL: A mass-produced variety of inexpensive rimfire single action revolvers, usually with a spur trigger.  So named because many suicides were committed with this type of inexpensive handgun.  They were also poorly made and therefore dangerous for the shooter. These guns carried many fancy names; those in good condition have become true collector's items.

SUPER SABOT:  Modern high performance, advanced technology "Super Sabot" round developed by Brenneke, inventors of the shotgun slug and who have literally reinvented sabot technology from the ground up.   See Sabot above.

The Brenneke Super Sabot

Super in more ways than one

  • .63 caliber provides 58% more frontal area than standard .50 caliber sabots

  • Powerful one-ounce, 400 grain projectile in devastating "wad cutter" design

  • Unique piston design allows the use of more powder

  • Higher velocity while keeping chamber pressures down

  • Completely lead-free design

  • Created specifically for 12-gauge, 3-inch rifled shotguns

  • Incredible speed and power.

  • Muzzle velocity of 1542 feet per second - 2240 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy

  • Pinpoint Accuracy.
    The Super Sabot is easily capable of five-shot groups under 2.5 inches at 100 yards

    There's never been a sabot like the Brenneke Super Sabot.  I was amazed with the  accuracy and power, yet they are very pleasant to shoot and don't cost a fortune.

SUPERSONIC:  Pertaining to speed in excess of the speed of sound.  Speed greater than 1108 feet per second at sea level, or in metric 340  meters per second. See also speed of sound. 

SUPERPOSED: (Shotgun) Refers to a two-barrel shotgun in the over & under barrel configuration.

SUPERPOSED: (Parallax) Occurs in telescopic sights when the primary image of the objective lens does not coincide with the reticules.  In practice, superposed (parallax) is detected in the scope when, as the viewing eye is moved laterally, the image and the reticules appear to move in relation to each other.

SUPPORTING ARMS: Air, sea, and land weapons of all types employed to support ground units. 

SUPPRESSER: A device for attachment to a gun's muzzle for suppressing (not silencing) the report.  Often refereed to as a silencer.  Also know as a "Can".

For More information on Firearm Sound Suppressers click here more.gif (2255 bytes)

SUPPRESSIVE FIRE:  Fires on or about a weapons system or shooter to degrade its performance below the level needed to fulfill its mission objectives, during the conduct of the fire mission.  In civilian terms, laying down enough fire to keep the opposing shooter from returning effective fire.  See also fire. 

SUSTAINED RATE OF FIRE: Actual or practical rate of fire that a firearm can continue to deliver for an indefinite length of time without seriously overheating. 

SWAGE: To pressure-form by forcing through or into a die.


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International Gun Terms


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