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Scary words

This page is a primer on scary gun terms. We provide this as an educational tool to inform and encourage all people -- especially representatives of the media -- to avoid using these loaded words, as they are inaccurate, misleading, incorrect, and in some cases, racist.

Reporters: If you consult your AP Stylebook on some of these terms, you’ll find that even your book is wrong. Please think twice before using loaded, biased, or racist terms. Many of these words were created by (or misconstrued by) anti-gun lobbyists and politicians (well, more accurately, their PR staff and speechwriters), to sway public opinion. 

To understand these loaded linguistics, it is essential for us to include the history and politics behind most of the words. So onward we go into the glossary of anti-gun terms . . .

Assault weapon | Cop killer bullets | Junk guns | Plastic guns | Pocket rocket | Saturday night special | Sniper rifle

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Assault Weapons

“Assault weapon” is an invented term. In the firearm lexicon, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon”. The closest relative is the “assault rifle”, which is a machine gun that fires a medium power rifle cartridge. The authoritative source is the Department of Defense Small Arms Identification and Operations Guide: Assault rifle is defined as “short, compact, select-fire weapons that fires a cartridge intermediate in power between submachine gun and rifle cartridges” – i.e. a machine gun.

Firearms often referred to as “assault weapons” have no greater firepower than a hunting rifle or handgun. They are styled to look like military weapons, but have no greater killing capacity than other civilian weapons. By coming up with a name for guns that appear menacing, anti-gun groups have promoted confusion in the public, and to some extent legislators, and the media, about common firearms. With this confusion, they were able to push through laws that banned certain firearms based only on their appearance, not on the basis of its use in crime, its ability to inflict injuries, or any other semi-logical reason. Because of this, you will often hear people in the gun rights movement refer to the “ugly gun ban”.

Probably about five to ten percent of the rifles used at the Boomershoot qualify as “assault weapons” under federal law. These firearms were manufactured before the ban was signed into law and are legal to own and use.

We encourage you to visit the web site www.ClintonGunBan.com for the history and truth about “assault weapons”.

See also the "assault weapon" section of The Gun Facts Book.

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Cop killer bullets a.k.a. Teflon-coated bullet.

This term is a falsity. It was created by the anti-gun lobby for a fast media sound bite. Most people bit on it, without realizing the fact that a “cop killer bullet” has never killed a cop by penetrating a Kevlar vest. KTW rounds, wrongly labeled as “cop killer” bullets, were designed by police officers for police to help penetrate hard targets. KTWs have never been sold to the general public.

(Some excerpts taken from Leroy Pyle, a retired policed officer and current director of the Second Amendment Police Department)

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Junk guns.

Used in reference to inexpensive handguns, “junk guns” is not only a deceptive term, it is also elitist. Affordable guns are an accessible means of self-defense for those with low incomes, especially people who live in poor, unsafe neighborhoods. Please note that politicians commonly talk about banning “junk guns” yet they themselves are typically afforded the luxury of armed guards. Again, it is elitist. See also “Saturday Night Special”.

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Plastic guns.

Used in reference to the light yet durable Glock handguns, a favorite firearm of law enforcement officers. Politicians commonly claim that a “plastic gun” is easily passed through metal detectors. This is false. Glocks are mostly metal in the same way a Corvette is metal. The average Glock contains over a pound of metal. They are made of both plastic and metal. Furthermore, common sense dictates that there is virtually no way a bullet could pass through a plastic chamber. The plastic would instantly melt.

(Some excerpts taken from Leroy Pyle, a retired policed officer and current director of the Second Amendment Police Department)

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Pocket rocket.

Anti-gun Democratic former U.S. Congressman Rod Blagojevich (now governor of IL) capitalized on this term in 2000, in an attempt to push for more handgun control laws. His publicity blitz backfired, as knowledgeable gun spokespeople immediately pointed out the term “pocket rocket” was actually the name of the nation’s most popular vibrator.

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Saturday night special.


Anti-gun slang for an inexpensive handgun. A deceptive, elitist, and racist term, the so-called "Saturday night specials" are small, inexpensive, low-caliber handguns, commonly used by poor people for self-defense. Gun confiscators typically associate this term with criminals. However, from a commonsense perspective, if a criminal were a criminal, s/he’d despise this type of gun (logically assuming they’d prefer a more powerful gun to fight the police).

As for the history of the term, "Saturday night special", David Kopel, Research Director at the Independence Institute, explains:

[The] “Saturday night special” is in part a linguistic descendant of the racist phrase "Niggertown Saturday Night." The obvious implication of the phrase "Saturday night special" is that it is a gun used by "niggers" to shoot each other with during their wild Saturday nights. No one denies that the people disarmed by a "Saturday night special" ban would be predominantly poor and non-white.

Again, as with “junk guns”, affordable guns are an accessible means of self-defense for those with low incomes, especially people who live in poor, unsafe neighborhoods. Politicians commonly talk about banning these cheap guns, yet they themselves are typically afforded the luxury of armed guards. The term “Saturday night special” is elitist and racist. See also “junk guns”.

Click here for more history on the racist roots of gun control.

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Sniper rifle.

This menacing term is meant to incite fear. By referring to rifles as “sniper rifles”, it implies that all rifles are used for killing humans. This is not the case, as precision rifle shooters (such as those at the Boomershoot) and hunters do not aim at humans. According to Dictionary.com, a sniper is “one who shoots at other people from a concealed place.”

What precision shooters, hunters, and snipers have in common is that they all are aiming at a small target from a long distance. To suggest that all are using “sniper rifles” is inaccurate and misleading.

The only thing that precision rifle shooters, hunters, and snipers have in common is that they all use rifles. Similar gun. Similar ammo. Different intent.

Gun confiscators use this term so loosely that some people even call it sniping when a handgun is used. The term “sniper rifle” is virtually meaningless (yet very scary sounding, and very effective in inciting fear, which is very effective in passing anti-gun laws) because sniping has more to do with the actions and the objectives of the shooter, rather than with the firearm used.

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Email: Joe Huffman
Last updated: January 22, 2009