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Cartridges go in. Bullets come out. A writer’s guide to terminology

May 18, 2012

Novelist Collen Collins wrote this blog post on the “Top Five Mistakes Writers Make at a Crime Scene.” Her number one pet peeve? Using the terms bullet and cartridge interchangeably.

As gun people know, a cartridge contains a bullet, powder, case and primer  ̶  the complete ballistic package necessary to send lead downrange. A bullet by itself is just a hunk of metal. It’s what shoots out of the barrel and causes damage. You don’t load bullets into a gun. You load cartridges or rounds. Possibly shells, if it’s a shotgun or artillery piece.

And to rehash another common mistake, that metal box that holds the cartridges is a magazine, not a clip. A clip is just a piece of metal that “clips” rounds together for storage or for loading  ̶  perhaps into a magazine. So when hero cop expends the 50 rounds from his Beretta 92FS, he’ll reach for a spare magazine, not a clip.

And you can’t switch off the safety on a revolver because revolvers don’t have safeties. Neither do Glocks. And Glocks don’t have hammers, so no cocking the hammer back for dramatic effect. And if you’ve been in a gunfight with a semiautomatic, you wouldn’t do that anyway because the hammer’s already been cocked by the slide action. And so it goes.

Are there any terminology mistakes that make you want to blow your wad?


From → Commentary, Firearms

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