The Guns Quiz

By: Torrance Grey
Image: David De Lossy/DigitalVision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The Guns Quiz: Punchy title, eh? But what you read is what you'll get: a test on types of guns, their parts, their uses, and history. 

The story of the firearm goes back a lot longer than most people realize -- long before the American Revolution or the student rebellions in early 19th-century Paris, which is when guns start turning up in artworks commemorating these events. Firearms are so old that the earliest ones were made of hollow bamboo! Wisely, the shooters didn't hold them in hand, but mounted them on longer wooden lances, for safety's sake. 

Metal "hand cannons" followed not too long after. This was the beginning of the true era of the gun. It ushered in early muskets, muzzleloaders, and breechloaders - the tools of hunting and weapons of war that we read about in history books. Fast-forward about 200 years, and guns are almost unrecognizable, including automatic rifles that can fire dozens of rounds in less time than it took for one of Washington's soldiers or a Redcoat to tamp down his powder and drop a single ball in his rifle!

This also opened the era the mass shootings, many of them, tragically, in schools. Attitudes toward guns are changing, which is probably a necessity. Don't worry, though - the issues surrounding gun control are a bit beyond this quiz. We're just going to test your knowledge about this powerful, history-changing weapon. Good luck!

"Caliber" is a measure of what?

While we think of caliber as referring to the power of a gun and/or its ammunition, it's simply the diameter of the gun's bore. Of course, the wider that diameter, the larger the ammunition, and the greater the power ... you can see why "40 caliber" sounds like more than a mere geometric term!

True or false: Caliber is always measured in millimeters.

Many modern guns do measure caliber in millimeters (often, they're European-made) But some famous guns are in inches, like the .357 Magnum, which is .357 of an inch.

"Gauge," in shotgun shells, is a measure of what?

Gauge is a shell's weight. It is expressed as a fraction of a pound. So a ten-gauge shell weighs one-tenth of a pound.

"Scattergun" is another name for what?

The shotgun got this nickname because of the way the shot scatters when ejected from the barrel. This is in comparison to the single projectile fired from a handgun or rifle.

If a salesman at a gun store refers to "cartridges," what is he talking about?

What the novice refers to simply as "bullets," are often called "cartridges" by more experienced gun users. This name reflects the fact that a "bullet" is a whole package: the slug, the powder and primer, the rim, and a casing that holds all of it together.

The clay discs used in skeet shooting are also called clay _______.

This name reflects the fact that skeet shooting is practice for, or a replacement for, shooting at flying birds. The pigeons probably appreciate the substitution!

True or false: There is a greater than 1-to-1 ratio of guns to people in the United States.

There are about 125 guns to every 100 people in America. The United States outpaces nearly all other countries in gun ownership.

A "smoothbore" gun lacks what?

Rifling is a series of spiral ridges on the inside of the bore or barrel. These make the slug spiral as well and thus travel in a straighter line. The classic analogy is to a football thrown with a spiraling action.

The skill and practice of hitting a target with a gun is called _______.

Marksmanship refers to skill at hitting a target. It is practiced on firing ranges, and commonly taught in the military and in police academies.

A cartridge with no projectile, just powder and casing, is called what?

Because they still have a casing and powder, blanks - often used in TV and film - create a realistic simulation of a gun being fired. (Because, technically, it is being fired). At close range, though, blanks are dangerous, because they eject wadding and casing material with some force. In the 1980s, a young actor died when, clowning around, he put a gun to his head and fired a blank directly into his temple.

Which nation is credited with inventing the first firearm?

The Chinese developed "black powder," and then made makeshift guns from hollow bamboo. Later, they created a metal version.

How does the barrel length of a handgun affect aim?

We should clarify that it's not so much "aim" that's at issue - which depends on the skill of the shooter - but "range." The shorter a handgun's barrel, the more quickly the slug will go off the intended course.

What does "squib load" mean?

For several reasons, a gun might fire without the projectile leaving the barrel. This becomes dangerous when a second round is fired, which can result in a powerful explosion that might ruin the gun altogether.

What letter often appears before the model number of a military rifle?

An "M" number usually denotes a military rifle. The M16, and the related M4 carbine, is one of the more popular military rifles around the world.

What is the inside of a gun's barrel called?

Casually speaking, there isn't much difference between the barrel and bore. But you'd refer to whole piece, seen from the outside, as the barrel, whereas when you're talking about the path the slug takes, you're talking about the bore.

What does "S&W" stand for?

"Smith & Wesson" is a gun manufacturer. Clint Eastwood's character "Dirty Harry Callahan" name-checked them in "Sudden Impact," when he suggests that a robber is outnumbered by "Smith and Wesson ... and me."

The protective coating on the exterior of a gun is called what?

"Plating" is something protective, like the "plates" of an armadillo. In guns, either nickel or silver plating is common.

A person who makes guns is called a _____.

There aren't too many individual gunsmiths practicing any more. Today, it's an industrialized process, dominated by big companies.

Which of these gun manufacturers is American?

As you might expect for a nation with a significant gun culture, the U.S. has a lot of gun makers. This also includes Colt, Springfield, and Winchester.

Which of these gun manufacturers is German?

We know, this is a bit of a trick question. But Glock is Austrian, not German. Other German gunmakers include Walther and Swiss-German Sig Sauer.

Which of these guns is commonly carried by U.S. law-enforcement officers?.

Beretta is an Italian gunmaker. Its guns have featured prominently in every modern European war and are used by branches of the U.S. military, but not much in American law enforcement.

What is a gun's "breech"?

This isn't a very specific term - "breech" just means the back end. It was important in the days when guns were either "muzzle-loading" (from the front) or "breech-loading" (from the back).

True or false: A gun's hammer and its safety are the same thing.

The confusion over this comes from the fact that the hammer must be cocked before a gun will fire. However, many modern handguns are "double action," meaning that pulling the trigger both cocks the hammer and fires the gun. This requires a separate safety or lock.

The curved metal strip around the trigger is called the _______.

The guard is a very basic protection against accidental trigger pulls. Obviously, the real work is done by the hammer on a single-action gun, or a safety.

An attachment that suppresses the sound of a gun firing is called a _______.

Of course, the answer is "silencer." The other two hide the bright flash at the muzzle created when a gun fires.

A round ready for firing is said to be in the _______.

Don't confuse the "chamber" with the "clip." A clip contains all the ammunition that has been loaded. Only one round advances into the chamber when the gun is cocked. There, it's ready to be struck by the hammer or firing pin, which causes ignition of the powder.

True or false: Muzzle-loading guns are very rare today.

Muzzle-loaders were common in past centuries, when powder had to be put down the barrel of a rifle, then tamped down, and then the bullet (or "ball") had to be dropped in after it. Gun battles were slower affairs in those days!

What does "handloading" usually refer to nowadays?

A "handloader" is a nickname for a revolver with a cylinder instead of a clip. However, among gun enthusiasts, "handloading" is repacking spent cartridges for re-use. It's not something that casual shooters do.

A delay between trigger pull and powder ignition is called what?

The word "dud" is closely related - it refers to a cartridge or shell that won't fire at all, often because of inferior powder. However, "hang fire" is a lot more fun to say. It kind of sounds like something they'd say when mad in the Old West!

The type of ammunition called a Minie ball is most associated with which war?

The Minie ball was named after its French maker, Claude-Etienne Minie. Both sides used it in the Civil War.

Which of these is famously the weapon favored by James Bond, Agent 007?

This gun has a storied history. Not just literally, as part of the fictional Bond stories; it's also the weapon that dictator Adolf Hitler shot himself with in his bunker, in the final days of WWII.

The Kalashnikov rifle is better known as what?

Okay, there are other Kalashnikov rifles besides the 47, but that's the one that is legendary. It is very popular among insurgents and freedom fighters in Third World countries because it performs under extremely rough conditions: when wet, when desert sand gets in the inner workings, etc.

Which of these gunmakers created the first mass-produced revolvers?

Samuel Colt improved on an early revolver design to make his Colt Paterson, the first really viable revolver. Samuel Walker was a Texas Ranger who was an early proponent and purchaser of Colt guns.

A short-barreled rifle is known as a ______.

Carbines are usually less powerful than full-size rifles. However, they are easier to transport and handle.

Which TV show, apparently enamored of guns, has made homages to both gunmakers Winchester and Colt?

"Buffy" had a notable anti-gun slant, but "Supernatural," a similarly-themed show about monster fighters, has been unabashed in its support of gun culture. The two main characters are brothers named Winchester, and American gunmaker Samuel Colt is re-visioned as a hero of the paranormal, who forged a gun that could kill any demon. Colt was even a character in one time-travel episode.

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