A Nurse with a Gun

Friday, January 02, 2009

Pistols vs Revolvers

I was reading one of James R. Rummel's blog posts on the fanatical application of terminology in the gun world. James had written about a new shooter who was turned off at a gun store by a clerk who wanted to display his vast knowledge of the English language. I felt compelled to post a few words. Here is my comment (after the miracle of spell checking and a bit of revision):Click to enlarge

The problem wasn't the definitions of words, but the contempt and arrogance of the counter clerk, which was based on ignorance, towards the customer.

A revolver is a pistol, but not all pistols are revolvers. I'm occasionally called to task on this, as Matt G (correctly) did in the comments of this post.

The thing is, using the terms as indicators of separate objects can enhance the message you are trying to convey. In that particular article, I explained my usage up front because I believe the Smith & Wesson J frame, particularly the Bodyguard type, is one of the best fighting handguns ever designed, assuming all you need is five shots. And most of the time, for a civilian, five shots is sufficient. I simply did not want to say that the new Series 90 Colt 1911s such as the Defender and New Agent were superior fighting handguns to the Smith & Wesson J frame. Yet, I was still taken to task because I quantified definitions in my blog post.

The stubborn usage of definitions works both ways. Perhaps we should just use the terms spinny thing guns and reciprocating thing guns. Heaven help us if we start talking about slides and bolts, or clips and mags. Then there are guns, as opposed to rifles, as opposed to artillery.

Our fanatical usage of terminology turns off new shooters by the droves. They see past this verbal malarkey, and just want to learn to shoot. Click to enlargeThey want to learn to shoot something, and most don't care what it's called. Perhaps they are smarter than those of us who seek to refine the terminology, painting ourselves into an ever smaller corner with stubbornness.

The truth is, every object has descriptive terms that define them more and more specifically. For example: instrument, pointy thing, sharp, knife, blade, scalpel, #11 on a flat. Used properly, the terms are inclusive or exclusive to convey the meanings we wish to communicate. It's all about communication, and gunnies tend to suck at communication when they get all wrapped up in self aggrandizement over esoterica.

When dealing with a person new to firearms, we need to communicate on their level, not arrogantly look at them with contempt because they have not yet learned the jargon that allows them to communicate on ours.
Let's not alienate people new to shooting sports with misguided attempts to prove our intellectual superiority. If we do that, we will fail.


Blogger Cossack in a Kilt said...

As long as you don't inadvertently refer to a magazine as a "clip." Man, that's just crossing the RUBICON! That's a declaration of semantic war, right there.

(Now let me pull my tongue back out of my cheek, and yes, I do know the difference between stripper clips, en bloc clips, and detachable magazines.)

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, a lot of folks who are not intellectually accomplished, but who have a certain level of expertise in firearms, find it necessary to amplify their self-regard by being snotty, sarcastic, and/or arrogant toward newbies to the realm of firearms and the Second Amendment.

Yes, they win their "clip vs. magazine" and "pistol vs. revolver" debates, but they cause us all to lose the larger battle for cohesion and for creating a unified front against the depredations of the anti-gun folks.

Worst of all, these one trick ponies, whose only claim to cognitive development is expertise in gun-related matters, make gun folks look like bullies.

Causing the pro-Second Amendment movement to look like a bunch of bullies--whether intellectually or bodily--is the best way to bring the movement down from within.

I hope we can all resolve to be more patient in our pursuit of perpetuating the fullest, most free, and most informed exercise of the Second Amendment in the year 2009.

The recent election has left many of us feeling very angry, wounded, and afraid (of an anti-gun, anti-America, pro-socialist domestic hegemony).

Let's not lead with our worst side just because of all that.

Let's lead with as much tact as we do expertise.

Expertise without tact is a turn off.

We cannot afford to turn off newbies.

Be yourself, but be your best self.

5:55 PM  
Blogger DouginSalcha said...

Agree 110% - couldn't have said it better. Thank you. I think I will book-mark this post in case I ever have to explain this to a neophyte (or to remind myself to be patient with someone who only wants to learn something new and exciting about guns)...

6:06 PM  


We run 300 to 500 people a year through concealed carry training courses. In big round figures, I would say 50% of them are below rank amateur in usage of handguns.

Let me say that again: 150-250 people a year take the training, and know next to nothing about handguns, and frequently little about shooting. We take them from ground zero, and teach them to be safe and proficient shooters.

The watchword in our classes is "Confidence, not Competence." I can't make them practice, but when they leave, they know how their gun works.

Most all of them are simply interested in learning enough to qualify for a permit. Most are surprised and pleased at how much fun they are having. Women are shocked, and leave telling us how much more confident they feel, much more in control of their lives.

I joke that if you want Woman Power, see me--I give 'em Smith & Wesson.

And I agree with you--the 5-shot J-frame S&W is the finest choice for dependable concealed carry a novice or non-shooter can make.

A gun store clerk sells them a semi-auto because it is "sexier" or a boyfriend or husband buys his significant other the gun HE likes, with no thought that she is the one who has to learn to shoot it, probably isn't going to shoot it enough to become really proficient with it, and the first time she really needs it, she "limpwrists" after the first shot and the damn thing malfunctions on her--and of course, no one has taught her emergency drills to clear it--so she has a $600.00 brick.

Stick to your guns (hows that for a metaphor for you)--I carry all the time--most of the time it's a small J-frame revolver because it's light, fits well on my ankle or in my belt holster, and I KNOW it will work every time.


P.S. Sorry to run on so, but you really scratched a running sore with this one.

P.P.S. Usage generally determines definition. I still refer to them as "pistol" or "revolver."

P.P.P.S. The forum, Right to Keep and Bear Arms, has initiated a drive to send a message to the lawmakers in Washington over the next few months that should be immensely effective. Read about it here:http://righttokeepandbeararms.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=327

7:55 PM  
Blogger Glenn Bartley said...

I already saw the piece in question. I agree totally that we should not make it more difficult than need be for a beginner, although telling them something as basic as the definition of a pistol is something they ought to learn early on. Nomenclature is important when learning how to handle and shoot firearms, very important.

Now mind you I am making no excuse for the clerk's behavior. The thing with the store clerk was totally uncalled for, he should have been harshly admonished by the store management for his terrible reaction to a good and intelligent question. Yet he was not admonished, and as a matter of fact the reaction by Mr. Rummel and the student was probably one that will sadly tend to perpetuate the clerk's inappropriate response.

I say that last because to me it seems the problem was not just the cljerk behind the counter but that apparently neither the student nor the teacher proverbially ripped open up a new orifice for the store clerk when he got nasty. I think they should have respectfully told the manager or owner of the problem clerk and tell him how they lost any sales to the student, to the teacher and to other students he teaches as long as the cljerk, err clerk, still worked there or until he apologized. If he was the manager, they should have respectfully told him likewise about his own behavior making sure to be just loud enough for others in the store to hear them. Instead they just took the abuse and left.

It is amazing how people will allow themselves to be abused by others without seeking redress, and their allowing for such just perpetuates the problem because the offender will feel as if he was in the right. To have just put the firearm down and to have left was, I think, a less than desirable thing to do. Gun store types often feel vindicated when they treat customers like this because they often have a superiority complex while often knowing less than the customer about guns. They sometimes figuratively need to be hit in the head with a sledge hammer because their heads are often thick as bricks and that is what it takes to get them back to earth.

I recently was treated with less than respect by a gun store clerk/owner (I am pretty sure he was the owner). When I explained that the trigger pull on an AK he sold to my son was extremely light and maybe unsafe he told me, in an extremely smugly arrogant manner, that I needed to learn trigger control. He did so with a smirk on his face and that slightly raised voice so others could hear. I then gave him a lecture on my qualifications regarding trigger control including the fact that I have been shooting since I was about 9 or 10 (in other words over 4 decades), that I shoot for work, that I shoot for pleasure, and that I was a firearms instructor for over 14 years. He quickly shut up and actually listened to me when I told him this, and actually appeared embarrassed. He then checked the trigger pull, but did so in a manner so he was hunched over the device while he checked it. Then he said it was 5 pounds but refused to show me the reading on the meter. My son and I left, because had I continued I might have become verbally abusive, and I do sometimes try to control myself especially in front of my son (though he probably would not believe that if I told him so). While leaving, I made sure to turn to the owner to give him a well known internationally understood finger signal to indicate what I thought of him, his BS sales, and the fact that he was less than a desirable dealer in my viewpoint. I am pretty sure he understood that I would not be back. For a rare change his other clerks were dumbstruck as was he. I can assure you he has lost me as a customer, and I had been shopping there for over 14 years. I can also assure you he will probably think before he next insults a customer with his superiority act.

The thing is, if we do not put gun store cljerks in their places when they act inappropriately then they will just continue to do so. Of course they may continue to do so, but if we let them know why we are leaving or not shopping there any longer, at least they may someday get the idea if enough customers complain to them. Without telling them, they think it is us who are the jerks. I would rather buy my next gun at WalMart instead of using that gun store again, but also wanted to make sure they realized I would not be back..

All the best,
Glenn B

8:05 PM  
Blogger Tom McHale said...

Well said. I really don't care if a new shooter calls my Single Six a "pistol" or a "revolver" or a "cowboy gun." I consider it a win if they have fun!

9:38 PM  
Anonymous TJP said...

Duly noted.

11:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many people get their initial exposure to the hand gun world and CC by taking an NRA course where by they are taught:
"Many differnt types of pistols exist, including revovers, semiautomatics, muzzleloaders, hinged actions, bolt-actions, and air pistols. Although the word pistol is frequently associated only with semi-automatic handguns, it is proper to use pistol to refer to all types of handguns."

Basics of Pistol Shooting. NRA 1991 page vii

11:59 PM  
Anonymous ditto said...

The trick is determining what level of experience the new shooter has. Some are sleepers that have been studying firearms for years. Some have never handled a handgun, ever, but have been shooting rifles and shotguns all their lives.
And some have never touched a gun period.
Just interacting with someone will help determine where they are as far as knowledge of handguns.

This post pulls together two very important topics. Guns and interaction with people.

4:41 AM  
Blogger James said...

Whenever I introduce someone to guns and shooting, I warn them about such people. It is better to inoculate them than try for damage control later.

4:50 AM  
Blogger James R. Rummel said...

"The thing with the store clerk was totally uncalled for, he should have been harshly admonished by the store management for his terrible reaction to a good and intelligent question. Yet he was not admonished, and as a matter of fact the reaction by Mr. Rummel and the student was probably one that will sadly tend to perpetuate the clerk's inappropriate response."

My students are crime victims, and a fair number have been through some harrowing experiences. They can be rather sensitive to emotionally charged scenes.

If I had been alone, things would have turned out differently because I'm a take-no-shit kinda guy even at the best of times. But I had other, more important considerations on my mind, such as the comfort level of my student.


6:39 AM  
Blogger Ed Rasimus said...

I agree with your basic premise, but offer one mild consideration--maybe the gun store clerk wasn't being pedantic or obnoxious or egotistical. Maybe he/she was simply trying to insure that the newbie would learn a bit of the terminology as well as experience the joys of shooting and gun ownership?

Often we get so close to problems we think they are a whole lot bigger than they are. Ever consider the high dudgeon and artificial indignance of those who continually cry "racism"?

There is a certain similarity here.

10:37 AM  
OpenID williamthecoroner said...

I don't just like semantic arguments, I enjoythem. That having been said, you should always remember your audience. And it's not about YOU, it's more important to be kind. You can correct all sorts of bad habits politely and patiently. Just remember which ones are of critical importance (4 rules) and which aren't.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't we all get along and call it a "roscoe"?

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Connor said...

In times like those, I tend to revert to non-verbal communication. A fist to the gut is surprisingly understandable...

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Rush baby said...

I thought the debate was "revolver vs. automatic"

I still remember explaining to my brother the difference between an "automatic gun" and "machine gun"

The "automatic" refers to the next round automatically being chambered. (Wheelguns were single action; hence the semi's original moniker)

The "machinegun" worked as a sort of miniature and complicated assembly line, where the operation came from holding the "button" (trigger)

Thanks to that 1911 image, it brought that back up.

(I like "1911 automatic" better than "1911 single action")

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The customer may not be always RIGHT, but the customer must always be served...

6:58 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

I'm sorry, but "clip" for "magazine" still drives me nuts. Just call me a pedantic vocabulary snob.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Dr. StrangeGun said...

I carry a J frame.

Mine has *six* shots.

11:06 PM  
Anonymous E said...

handguns were called pistols before there were repeaters.


12:49 AM  

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