What is Assault Rifle? What's the Advantage of Multi-Barrel Gun? Gun Terms

By Xah Lee. Date:

While playing in Second Life, people have made guns that have multiple tubes arranged in a circle, when fired, the circle of tubes rotates. I've been curious about what's the name of such gun, its general history, technical reasons for their existence, and if such desigen is still relevant today.

Such type of gun is called Gattling gun. Today, we have single barrel guns that fires continuously and rapidly. (e.g. Machine guns and we have what's called assault rifles. Technically, all these are called Fully automatic.) The technology of guns with multiple barrels that rotates, is still used today. The main advantage is that, single barrel guns that fire too rapidly would get too hot, by the mere fact of too many bullets going thru it too fast. So, there's multiple barrels that take turns, which solves the overheating problem. Multiple barrel system also provide simultaneous ejection and installation of bullets, which is necessary when the firing rate gets high.

Some other things i learned about guns. For average civilians, we use the term “gun” to mean any of pistols, rifle, tank cannon, all guns. But in military parlance, each term has more definite meaning. They don't say “gun” when they mean a rifle, handgun, or grenade launcher. The word “gun”, is usually used to mean cannons, such as those on war ships and tanks. Rifle also has a more precise definition. Typically it means a firearm that is longish and designed to be fired with shoulder. The etymology of rifle is interesting. Rifle originally means “rifled gun”. A firearm is “Rifled” when its barrel has spiral grooves that makes the projectile spin, which improves accuracy and stability. [see Rifling] A gun without such spiral groove is said Smoothbore.

sl firearms 008-2
Some of the firearms in Second Life modeled after real life military firearms.

Ok, a little terminology overview.

barrel is the tube that the projectile shoots out.

Projectile is the thing that gets fired. Small ones are called bullet. Large ones, from tank guns, are called shell. Projectile can be explosive or non-explosive. Pistols, shotguns, rifles, machine guns, typically use non-explosive projectile.

Iron sights is the protruded ridges on a long gun for the purpose of aiming (without a more elaborate system such as scope or laser) Long gun is those long firearm, usually just means rifle or shotgun.

Caliber is the inside diameter of the barrel, often the same as the diameter of the bullet. This is one of the most important quality that measure the power of the firearm. Usually measured in unit of milimeter.

Magazine is the device that stores and feeds bullets. Detachable magazines are sometimes called a “clip”. For fast, continuous firing firearms, such as machine gun, they use a Belt system.

Youtube video explaining Difference Between a Magazine and a Clip.

Barrel shroud. Some machine guns, has a outer metal tube that is holy that covers the barrel. That's called the barrel shroud. The purpose is to protect the user from touching the barrel, because the barrel gets too hot.

Some firearms load its ammo from the back of the barrel (think of shotgun or revolver). Some from the front (think of Mortar (weapon) or early guns such as the Musket). Those that loads from the back is called Breech-loading, and those from front is called muzzle loading. Modern weapons are mostly breach loaded and automated.

For overview of the parts of a firearm, see: Category:Firearm components.

Relation of firing rate and trigger pull defines the firearm as non-automatic, semi-automatic, automatic, fully automatic. For non-automatic guns, it fires one shot per trigger pull, then you have to reload the gun manually. Semi-automatic is one-shot per trigger pull, but the reloading is automatic. Automatic typically means when the trigger is pulled, usually a number of bullets will be fired one after another. Fully automatic usually means when the trigger is pulled, the gun fires continuously for tens of rounds or till the ammo is out, such as machine gun.

Guns that fire continuous may be automatic pistol or automatic rifle. When they are largish, they are called Machine gun.

Assault rifle typically means a long firearm that can fire continuously in some way (i.e. semi-automatic or fully automatic), and typically has what's called Selective fire. Selective fire means the gun has modes so that it can be made to fire single bullet per triggering, or several bullets (said “burst mode”), or continuously. Assault rifle is typically standard firearm for infantry.

For a overview of the types and definitions, see Firearm.

In Second Life combat, another term i learned is “breeching”. From just hearing how it is used, it means something like throwing a grenade or some explosive so that you can pass thru walls or floors. After reading Wikipedia: Door breaching, the term “breeching” basically means ways to force open a door, or some other entrance or fortification that is otherwise locked, sealed, or impossible to enter, in military contexts.

RPG, refers to anti-tank rocket propelled grenade launcher. The name is made famous because of a particular model: RPG-7.

Other familiar military terms: Bunker.

Zip-line is a thin wire that lets a solder climb from building to building.


Also of interest: Fog of war My god, i've playing Gor in Second Life and this term describes it well!

In Second Life Gor, basically we are tribes and constantly engage in battle. (using swords and arrows) After a while a battle is engaged, things often become one bag of confusion. You don't know where your teammates are, or how many still alive, you don't know how many or where enemies are, and you receive contradictory information or commands, including from your leaders (often missing), and sometimes you don't know which group is foe. In such a situation, either you run (flight), which pretty much ensures the likelihood of your team all get captured, or you keep shooting, which often result in you dying shortly. (because you are aimless and have little support)