Gunnery Network
Gunnery Network

Gun Glossary - Letter H
Index of Firearm & Gun Terminology

 1-10 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z 

HABITAT: Habitat - food, water, shelter and space to roam - is the indisputable basis of healthy wildlife populations, and its loss to subdivision and development remains the most serious threat. Once gone, it cannot be replaced.

HALF COCK:  The position of the hammer when retracted only half way. Firearms with this feature are designed as a safe carry position and to prevent release of the hammer by a normal pull of the trigger. Many old hammer equipped shotguns could be half cocked when stalking and then fully cocked with less effort and with less noise when ready to fire. The ease and quietness of the second fully cocked position was so as not to alarm game animals.

HALF COCKED: Being at the position of half cock.

HAMMER: The part of a gun's mechanism which, after being cocked, falls (usually) forward to strike the firing pin or primer, thus firing the gun.  The hammer serves to generate the energy needed to ignite the primer and fire the bullet. When the hammer is pulled back into the cocked position, it compresses the mainspring, thus generating potential energy. When the trigger is pulled, the potential energy stored in the mainspring is released, forcing the hammer down onto the firing pin. The kinetic energy generated as the hammer falls is transferred through the firing pin to the cartridge.

HAMMERLESS: A firearm without a hammer.  Some "hammerless" firearms do in fact have hidden hammers, which are located in the action housing. Truly hammerless guns, such as the Savage M99, have a firing mechanism that is based on a spring-activated firing pin or a striker.

HAND:  The part of a revolver which turns the cylinder as the gun is cocked, thus aligning a cartridge with the hammer or firing pin.

HANDGUN: A gun designed so that it may be held and fired in one hand. Synonym for pistol, revolver, sidearm.

HANDLOAD:  Term used to describe the process used to load ammunition cartridges. 

HANDLOADER: Someone who load ammunition cartridges. Though the term Handloader and Reloader are often interchanged, technically handloads use new components and reloads use cartridges that have been used.


Handloading Basics

Handloading is not only a rewarding and enjoyable hobby, it makes economical sense and allows you to produce the most accurate ammunition.

How safe is handloading?
In a word, very. Because today's smokeless gun powders are a lot different than the old black powders of our ancestors. In fact, modern smokeless powders are classified as propellants, not explosives, meaning when properly used these powders only burn when ignited. So, while common sense and certain precautions should not be ignored, handloading is by no means a high risk hobby. Always remember to wear safety glasses while shooting and handloading.

How good is handloading ammo?
The truth is, carefully handloaded ammunition is usually better than factory loaded, because it can be fine-tuned to fit a specific gun and a certain type of shooting. The result is far greater accuracy.

How complicated is handloading?
It's simple. There are only four components to a rifle or pistol cartridge: the primer, the powder, the bullet and the brass case. When a cartridge is fired, the primer ignites the powder, the powder then propels the bullet out of the barrel. All that's left is the brass case and the spent primer. And this is where the handloading comes in. The brass can be reloaded over and over. All you do is push out the fired primer, resize the brass case, insert a new primer, add the right amount of powder and seat a new bullet on the case. That's handloading in very simplified terms. More details are on the following pages.

How much money does handloading save?
A lot. Take .30-06 factory ammo for instance. At today's prices, they cost about $.90 each. Of that, the primer, powder and bullet account for about $.38. So about $.52 of every factory round is chalked up to the brass case plus the expense of loading it. Since you will be using the case over again, you save nearly 60% over factory ammo or about $10.60 per box of 20! That's why handloaders generally make better shooters, because they can afford to practice more.

How much equipment does it take?
Surprisingly little. Many non-reloaders think it takes several hundred dollars to get into handloading properly, but the truth is you can get all the equipment you need to start out with for less than $200.00. If you do much shooting at all, this amount can be saved in your first year alone.

How many types of cartridges can be handloaded?
Most any and all kinds except rimfire type, like .22's. Most brass cases can be reloaded 5 to 20 times, depending upon the caliber and powder charge. Besides the standard calibers, RCBS has the tooling to make over 3,100 custom calibers of reloading dies. So there's no limit to what can be handloaded.

Hand Load & Reloading Terminology

To flare a case mouth to receive a bullet easily.

A piece of metal formed into a projectile. Available in a variety of shapes and weights.

The forming of a bullet using pressure in a die instead of casting molten lead in a mould.

The approximate diameter of a bullet or gun bore.

A completely loaded, ready-to-fire round of ammunition.

A metal cylindrical container which holds the primer, powder and bullet. Also called brass.

To form cases of one caliber into a different caliber.

To bevel the inside of a case mouth. The bevel allows bullets to start into the case mouth without crushing the case.

An instrument used to measure the velocity of a bullet.

The parts that make up a cartridge. The case, primer, powder and bullet.

To bend inward the mouth of a case to grip the bullet. Used only with bullets having a cannelure or crimping groove.

To remove the small metal burrs from inside and outside of a case mouth.

Removal of the spent primer from a fired case.

The slim needle-like rod in the sizer die which pushes out the spent primer.

The part of a die that expands the case mouth to receive the bullet.

The hole through which the primer ignites the powder charge in a case.

Another term for reloading.

Slang term for any detectable delay in cartridge ignition.

The action of setting a powder charge on fire.

The cover or "skin" of a bullet.

The failure of a cartridge to fire after the firing pin strikes the primer.

That portion of a case which grips the bullet. In a bottlenecked case, that portion of the case in front of the shoulder.

A die used to resize only the neck portion of the fired case back to approximately its original dimensions.

The substance that ignites in the cartridge and propels the bullet.

The amount of powder loaded into a case.

The small cap containing a detonating mixture used to ignite the powder charge in the case.

The cavity in the bottom of a case into which the primer is seated.

The "smoothing out" of the crimped primer pocket found in military cases.

Installing a new primer into a case.

The steel rod running through the center of the press that holds the shell holder and drives the case into the die.

The tool which performs the major tasks of reloading.

To restore a fired case to approximately its original size.

A military term for one complete cartridge.

The die that seats the bullet into the mouth of the powder charged and primed case.

The depth to which a bullet is seated in the case mouth.

The part that holds the case in proper alignment while the case is being run into the die.

A die used to resize a fired case back to approximately its original dimensions.

A primer that has been fired.

I recommend the Speer Reloading Manual for additional handload & reloading information. On the Web at URL: http://www.rcbs.com/guide.html.

Delayed ignition.  Occurs when the primer does not immediately ignite.  It is important to keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction if a click and a hissing sound is heard or just a click and no bang as a hang fire may occur.

HARD BALL: Ammunition type where the bullet is made up of a hard lead ball or hard lead projectile.  As in Hard Ball Ammunition, the term used to describe the .45 caliber service pistols type of ammunition.

HARRINGTON & RICHARDSON:  Harrington & Richardson was in business from 1871 until January 24th 1986. They were in Worchester Mass. In 1991 H & R 1871, Inc. was formed as a new company.  H & R 1871, Inc. is located in Gardner Mass. They utilize the old H&R Trade Mark and sell to dealers only. They currently make the Sportsman and Ultra Pistols as well as the Topper & Tamer Shotguns.  As far as I know they do not have a web presence.

HEAD HEIGHT: The height of a bullet from its shoulder to the tip of its point.


U.S. Military Cartridge Headstamp Codes


Military ammunition in the US is tracked so carefully, that it is only a matter of size that prevents the government from slapping a serial number on every round. Ammunition is identified by a lot number that tells where it was made and which batch it came from. This lot number is placed on every packing container that ammo is put in. From the Conex container that ships it, to the crate that it is transported in, to the stenciled waterproof can that holds the cardboard boxes or cloth bandoleers that are also stamped with the lot number. It all boils down to the cartridge, specifically, the cartridge case and its identification.

There are times, for whatever reason, when it is useful to know the source of a particular cartridge. All US military ammunition (excluding commercially manufactured ammunition purchased for Federal use) is headstamped with the year of manufacture and the factory where it was made. Sometimes this is a government arsenal like Frankford or what is called a GOCO (Government Owned, Contractor Operated) plant. WCC is commonly encountered on .45, 9mm and .38 Special ammo, but some such as RA 41 Z 300 can be confusing (WCC of course is Western; RA 41 Z 300 is Remington Arms .30-'06 manufactured in 1941 as part of a British contract. The Z is actually a sideways N indicating the  round was loaded with nitrocellulose rather than cordite).

Aside from ammunition for our own military, this country manufactured and distributed millions of rounds in 'non-US' military calibers. RA 41 Z 300 is a good example of foreign ammunition made under the direction of the US military. Some other examples would be 8mm Mauser, 9mm Luger, 7.62mmR 'Russian',  .455 Webley, 7.62x39mm, etc. This ammunition can usually be identified by the headstamp, although sometimes the case may have been marked with a headstamp indicating 'unknown' manufacture or be in an alphabet other than our own: hence, we do not recognize it. After all, very few of us would recognize the WCC mark if it was in Cyrillic or Chinese! The alternate way of identification, unfortunately, involves a bit of destructive examination. If you have a foreign round but its boxer primed, the odds are good (not great, but good) that it was made in the US.

Sometimes it can be quite fascinating to find that a company that has nothing to do with firearms or ammo, once made ammunition. Just as we get a kick out of Smith-Corona Springfields or Rockola carbines, equally amusing is Chrysler .45 ammo.

Occasionally, brass relating to a military ammunition experimental project slips out the door and causes problems. Some years ago the government was working on a program called SCAMP.  The SCAMP project was meant to produce vast volumes of ammo in a very short time. It didn't work because the process for making the brass case is already done at the best speed. They found that by trying to accelerate brass production, they were producing brass that would not stand up to the pressures of firing. This SCAMP brass was sold for scrap, and eventually worked its way into the reloading food chain. How do you identify this brass? It carried a unique headstamp xxxxxxxxxxxx FA 57 MATCH is another example of a headstamp saving us from grief. FA 57 MATCH ammo was made by a new process that reduced the number of drawing steps from 4 to 2. A result was the casehead was unusually soft. The pressures of firing would cause the primer pocket to expand and make it difficult to reload safely. For this reason FA 57 MATCH cases should not be reloaded.

SCAMP and the FA 57 MATCH are rare occurrences of headstamp ID preventing serious problems. Generally, we are curious about a headstamp because we found an unfamiliar one. I've gathered some US military headstamps below. Some are quite common and some are severely rare.

There are several other sources, many quite obscure, who normally would not have made ammunition, if not for the immediate need at the time. When WW2 rolled around, the US had enough sources for ammunition. During WW1 seemingly anyone who could draw brass got into the act, hence some truly very odd headstamps from that era.  Certain specialty ammo was procured through 'non traditional' manufacturers and, given the nature of the groups needing such ammo, the identification will not come to light any time in the near future.

AN Twin Cities Ordnance Plant, Minneapolis, Minn - See Note #1

AO Allegany Ordnance Plant

BN St. Louis Ordnance Plant, St. Louis, MO - See Note #1

CN Lake City Ordnance Plant, Independence, MO - See Note #1

DAL Dominion Arsenal, Lindsay, Ontario, Canada - Under contract to US during WW1

DAQ Dominion Arsenal, Canada - Under contract to US (usually .50BMG)

DEN Denver Ordnance Plant, Denver, CO.

DM Des Moines Ordnance Plant, Des Moines, 10

EC Evansville Ordnance Plant, Evansville, Indiana  (The Chrysler operated Evansville Ordnance Plant consisted of 2 factories on opposite sides of Evansville. The main Plant coded its ammunition as indicated, but the other factory, the former Sunbeam Electric plant, made only .45 auto cases, first in brass, and then later in steel (I have samples dated 1943 in steel). Their cases were headstamped EC S and were trucked across town for loading at the EC plant).

EC S Evansville Ordnance Plant - Sunbeam Electric, Evansville, Indiana (See EC)

EW Eau Claire Ordnance Plant, Eau Claire, Wisc

FA (the classic) Frankford Arsenal, Philadelphia, PA

FC Federal Cartridge Co.

FCC Federal Cartridge Co.

KS Allegany Ordnance Plant, operated by Kellystone Tire Co., Cumberland, Maryland

LC Lake City Ordnance Plant, Independence, MO LM Lowell Ordnance Plant, Mass.

M Milwaukee Ordnance Plant, Wisconsin

NC National Brass & Copper Tube Co., Hastings, NY

PC Peters Cartridge Co., Ohio

PCC Peters Cartridge Co., Ohio

PC 1940 Peters Cartridge Co., Ohio for British Contract

RA Remington Arms Company, Bridgeport, Conn

RA H Remington Arms Company, Hoboken, New Jersey

REM Remington Arms Company, Bridgeport, Conn

SL St. Louis Ordnance Plant, St. Louis, MO

TW Twin Cities Ordnance Plant, Minneapolis, Minn

UT Utah Ordnance Plant, Salt Lake City, UT

U Utah Ordnance Plant, Salt Lake City, UT

W Western Cartridge Company, East Alton, Ill.

VC Verdun Arsenal, Canada - Under contract to US

WC Western Cartridge Company, East Alton, Ill.

WCC Western Cartridge Company, East Alton, Ill.

WRA Winchester Repeating Arms Co., New Haven, Conn

WSL 30 Winchester Repeating Arms Co., New Haven, Conn (.30 carbine)

(Somewhat rare, this was the unofficial name of the .30 carbine round. Winchester made up the original military test ammo and headstamped it after their line of autoloading rifles, thus WSL .30)

Western Cartridge Company, East Alton, 111. - 8mm Mauser only

(Believe it or not, as part of the US effort to arm ANYBODY who was fighting the Germans or Japanese, WCC in 1942-1944 produced 7.92x57mm ammo for the Chinese. This ammo is identified by the FMJ spitzer bullet and Boxer primer. The headstamp contains 3 elements. 9 o'clock position is 2 Chinese characters stacked over each other. Top character looks like a capital L with a small horizontal bar through it, not unlike a letter L over stamped with a letter T . 6 o'clock position is year; either 42, 43 or 44. 3 o'clock position has another Chinese character. 12 o'clock position is empty.)

Lake City Ordnance Plant, Independence, MO - 7.62x39mm only

(The Lake City Ordnance Plant produced 'sterile' (unmarked) M43

7.62x39mm ammo for use by American personnel and Allies during the Viet Nam War. This ammo differed from the usual military brass in this caliber during that period, as it was Boxer primed.  Until about 7-10 years ago, this ammo was the only source of reloadable AK/SKS ammo in the US. See note on 'sterile ammo').

Aside from the usual headstamp with the manufacturers code and year, we sometimes come across cases that have additional markings.........

MATCH Assorted Arsenals

This is found on military brass used in making ammunition for competitive shooting events. Match ammo is loaded to a higher standard and tends to shoot better than standard ammo. A somewhat more ominous note is that the MATCH ammo, because of its accuracy, is frequently used in sniper rifles.

N M Assorted Arsenals

NM stand for National Match and is on lots of ammunition made for use at the annual Camp Perry meets. Same as MATCH.

-R Frankford Arsenal, Philadelphia, PA

This is usually found on .30-'06 ammo loaded with wooden bullets and BOXER primed cases. The headstamp will read FA 22-R.

This is often mistaken for a blank round. It is, in fact, a lot of 35,000 rounds made for training troops in using the French Viven-Bessiere (VB) rifle grenade. The VB grenade was fired from a cup launcher that fitted onto the barrel of a M1903 Springfield. It had a hole bored through it that lined up with the rifle bore. The idea was that a round fired would have the bullet pass harmlessly through the grenades bore and the gases behind the bullet would launch the grenade. The wooden bullets
were for use on short grenade ranges where ball ammo dropping from the skies would bother the neighbors. The bullet, by the way, is described as CAL. .30, V.B. GRENADE PRACTICE CARTRIDGE, MODEL 1921'. The R indicated that the casehead had undergone a special annealing process to make it harder than standard Service ammo.

FA 30 R Frankford Arsenal, Philadelphia, PA

This is the exception to the rule about primers. In the 1930's, tests were being done at Frankford Arsenal to find a non corrosive primer that was suitable for machinegun use. Part of the development included a small lot of BERDAN primed cases with
specially annealed caseheads that would ease extraction. The caseheads were stamped with a letter R to indicate that the casehead had undergone a special annealing process to make it harder than standard Service ammo. This round, because of the headstamp, could easily be mistaken for a VB launching round. A quick check of the primer would set things straight.

VB Frankford Arsenal, Philadelphia, PA Example: FA 22 VB. Same as -R

US FA 1906-56 with two Frankford Arsenal, Philadelphia, PA

In 1956, Frankford Arsenal produced a very limited run of dummy ammo commemorating the 50th anniversary of the .30-'06 cartridge. This commemorative dummy ammo had a chromium plated case and unique headstamp. It is a rarely encountered headstamp. 

Note #1 - Welcome to the world of deniability. In this case, millions of rounds of .30-'06 military ammo was produced in 1953 that was headstamped AN, BN or CN followed by 40 and a single digit and possessed a red lacquer seal around the primer. Although there is no official description of this ammo (it is labeled 'unknown' in the declassified Small-Caliber Ammunition Identification Guide (U) Volume 1 (DST-1160G-514-81-Vol1) and other government sources) collectors speculate that the ammo was made by the arsenals listed and was for clandestine operations.

Given the time period (Korea/Communism) and the weapons (M1 Garand, BAR, M1919) and the fact that the US did run some ops in the SE Asian quarter during the Cold War as well as equipping lots of 'friendlies' to work behind the lines........

'Sterile ammo'. The words conjure up images of secret policeman investigating an assassination and puzzling over the only evidence, an unidentifiable cartridge case. No doubt, sterile ammo may be used for that, although any police/intelligence unit worth the name is going to be able to figure out the origin of ammunition; its just a matter of time and resources, and that's the real point behind sterile ammo. Maybe the KGB will know where it came from, but some newspaper reporter or travelling congressman won't.  Some of the more mundane uses for sterile ammo are: avoiding sanctions against shipping arms to a country, avoiding political policy that prevents helping insurgents (US aid to contras for example), concealing the amount of involvement in another country, etc. 

One may notice that on military cases from before WW1, the month as well as year and maker were stamped on the case. 4 10 FA would mean April 1910 Frankford Arsenal. In June 1917, all producers were ordered to stop stamping the month. The manufacturers had dies on hand through the latter part of 1917, and it was not until 1918 that ammunition started to appear without the month stamping.

Occasionally a .30-06 case turns up that seems to be blackened and no amount of cleaning will make it shine. The reason is simple. It was made blackened. Before tracer ammo was identified by bullet tip color, it was identified by having a blackened case. This applied to US Model 1917, 1923 and 1924 tracer ammo. This practice of blackening the case was discontinued in 1930.

Up until WW1 shooting clubs could return their fired brass to be reloaded at a government arsenal. Reloaded brass was marked with a line across the headstamp to indicate that the brass had been reloaded (reloaded brass was not considered fit for certain services like aircraft machineguns, and had to be identified in some way). The practice of reloading shooting club ammunition was discontinued around WW1.

In 1943, as production was getting into full swing, all energies were devoted towards war production. Rather than take the time and material to make new headstamp dies for 1944, most makers simply ground the number 3 off the old dies. SL 43 went on to become SL 4 (indicating 1944).

There are several other sources, many quite obscure, who normally would not have made ammunition, if not for the immediate need at the time. When WW2 rolled around, the US had enough sources for ammunition. During WW1 seemingly anyone who could draw brass got into the act, hence some truly very odd headstamps from that era. Certain specialty ammo was procured through 'non traditional' manufacturers and, given the nature of the groups needing such ammo, the identification will not come to light any time in the near future. If you have an unusual military headstamp that you need identified, feel free to send me e-mail.

Original material by:

Court Information Services Co., Inc.
Weapons Research Division
340 Brooks Missoula, Montana, USA 5980

Tel 1-5017 406-721-0232  FAX 1-406-549-6082

HEADSPACE: The fit of a cartridge in a chamber measured as the distance from breech face to that part of the chamber which stops the cases forward movement. Insufficient headspace hinders complete chambering; excessive headspace permits case stretching or separation. The distance from the breech face to that part of the chamber which acts as a stop and prevents the cartridge from moving forward. Also applies to the cartridge case.

HEEL: The outer edge of the bullet base.

HISTORY:  History of the Gun.  See below.

Firearms in History


Firearms represent the culmination of man's efforts to disable his adversary in combat at a distance. The sling was probably the first weapon used for discharging missiles, but its origin is lost in history, although the biblical story of David and Goliath portrays the effectiveness of the sling as a weapon.

A form of long bow was invented around the same time. The long bow followed by the crossbow remained the principle missile launching weapons up to the time the gun took over.

Gun powder was used in China for several hundred years as a firework and for rockets.  The Indians were likely the next to put black powder to use and demonstrated the technology to the British who further developed it in Western Europe.  The composition of gun powder was first recorded in the west by Roger Bacon in 1248: whilst its first application to the propulsion of missiles in Europe is generally attributed to Bernard Schwarz, a German monk who lived in the 14th Century. 

The first use in Europe is thought to be in the year 1346, the same year as the battle of Crecy.  Small arms were introduced into the English Army in the year 1471 and were called Matchlock Muskets.  These weapons were smooth bore muzzle loaders.  'Brown Bess' the famous flintlock musket was first issued as an official British Infantry Small Arm in the 1700's and remained practically unchanged until 1842. W W Greener in the 'The Gun' says - " Little was expected of Brown Bess and she did that little well".

Development of the Lock

The lock is the name of the firing mechanism of a firearm.  On older firearms the lock includes the hinge, the arm and the head or "cock" that moves an igniter down to the pan,  the pan itself and some form of mounting hardware that attach the lock to the firearm.  In this context the term lock should not be confused with the breech locking system which closes the rear end of the barrel of a breech loading weapon.  Although there have been a number of variations and common names for similar ignition systems, the lock has evolved through six main stages.  They are in order of development and use: Cannon Lock, Match Lock, Wheel Lock, Flint Lock, Percussion Lock and the modern center fire cartridge system.

The Cannon Lock

The cannon lock is the earliest known ignition system which survived on artillery pieces long after hand guns were fitted with more advanced locks. There is no form of mechanism in this type of lock.  After the weapon had been loaded by ramming powder, shot and wad into the barrel, priming powder was placed into a touch hole at the rear of the barrel and ignited by means of a piece of smoldering tow or wood.  It is possible that the first small arms were small portable "hand cannon" fitted with a wooden staff and rested on a forked stick. During the 15th Century a great diversity of these weapons were developed. They became smaller and handier and were sometimes mounted in battle axes and maces. The cannon locks were obviously vulnerable to weather and the weapons were difficult to aim and slow to load and discharge.

The Match Lock

The first reliable description of a match-lock occurs in the early 15th Century. It retained the same means of ignition as the cannon-lock but utilized a mechanical means of applying the burning match to the touch hole. The match was secured in a curved arm and pressure on a lever beneath the butt stock would cause the arm to rotate forward and plunge the match into the primed touch hole.  This was a great step forward for now two hands were free to hold and steady the gun.  The next refinement was to improve the arm or 'serpentine' as it was called, by spring loading it and arranging a trigger and trigger release so that it moved forward into the pan and backward away from the pan by mechanical means.

The touch hole was improved by forming a pan to contain the priming powder and this pan was provided with a hinged cover to prevent the priming from getting wet or blowing away prior to ignition.  It was at this period that a certain amount of experiment was made with both rifling and breech loading methods, but did not meet with much success.

The Wheel Lock

It is generally believed that the wheel-lock was invented in about 1517 in Nuremberg, Germany.  Leonardo da Vinci wrote a description of it and claims to have fired it.  All early specimens are of German manufacture. The mechanism was similar in principle to the modern mechanical Zippo cigarette lighter.  A serrated steel wheel was mounted near the flash pan, and a piece of iron pyrites fixed in a clamp was pressed against the periphery of the wheel. A spring was attached to the shaft of the wheel and a key was supplied to wind up the contraption prior to firing. The trigger secured the wheel in the wound up position. 

Pressure on the trigger released the wheel which revolved under the pressure of the spring and showered sparks into the priming pan.  Later the pyrites were replaced by flint, but the system remained unchanged. The advantages of the wheel lock were a more positive ignition and the trigger pressure was much shorter and lighter than that of the match-lock: this was of great assistance in the steadying and aiming of the weapon. The wheel-lock was not generally put to military use as it was expensive to make and required considerable skill in maintaining it in a serviceable condition.

The Flint Lock

The flint-lock was a natural development from the wheel lock and had none of its disadvantages.  It was easily constructed, easy to maintain, safe to use and rugged in its construction.  Flint Locks first appeared in England in the first half of the 16th Century and the early form was referred to as the 'Snaphaunce'.  This word probably came from the Dutch 'Snappen' to snap and 'haan' a cock, as in  chicken. 

The most highly developed flint-locks included a cover to the pan which also incorporated the steel striking plate; the falling cock carried the flint in a small clamp, which simultaneously struck the steel striking plate and uncovered the pan, showering sparks down on the priming powder.  It was in about 1690 when the flint-lock superseded the match-lock in the British Army.  All of Marlborough's campaigns were fought with it and there was little change in it until well after Waterloo.  

The most famous example of this lock system in America was in the Kentucky Rifle, commonly used in battle and on the frontier.  Kentucky Rifles were actually made in Pennsylvania, mostly by German and Dutch immigrants.  The flint-lock remained the principal firearm ignition system for more than 200 years.  It could be aimed to hit a man at 50 yards and a trained soldier could reach a rate of fire of three shots a minute.

The Percussion Lock

The Reverend Alexander Forsyth, a Scottish Minister, invented the percussion method of discharging a firearm.  The Reverend was an avid duck hunter and was put off by the fact that ducks were spooked by the flint hitting the pan, prior to ignition of the load.  In 1805 he built a lock mechanism using a fulminate of mercury cap as a means of igniting the charge.  Research had been carried out by the French into the use of fulminates as a substitute for black powder and also ignition agents, and in 1808, Pauly from Geneva, working in Paris, did some useful work on fulminate ignition caps.  The percussion cap ignited the load almost instantaneously decreasing lock time and increased accuracy.  The advantage of percussion ignition was immediately recognized by the majority of leading British and American gunsmiths and numerous types of percussion-locks were soon developed. 

The most common type of percussion-lock consisted of a hollow nipple screwed into the barrel on which was placed a small copper cap or pellet containing fulminate of mercury, and as the trigger was pulled the hammer rotated downwards crushing the cap. The fulminate exploded under the blow producing a flame which traveled down the hollow nipple and ignited the charge in the barrel.

Conversion from flint-lock to percussion lock was a simple matter of changing the old cock with its clamp that held the flint for a slightly capped hammer and removing the flash pan and cover and replacing it with a hollow nipple. A number of British and American service flint-locks were converted in this manner until the percussion system became available in sufficient quantity.

The Center Fire Cartridge

The percussion lock led up to the development of the modern center fire cartridge. The principle is the same but the cap hitherto affixed to an external nipple on the barrel, was now mounted in the base of a metal cartridge case, containing the charge and the bullet; the original separate items: charge, wad, bullet and cap, were now all combined into one unit, called a 'round' or a cartridge.

There was, of course, intermediate stages in cartridge development.  In 1846 an efficient cartridge was developed whereby the charge and bullet were contained in a metal case; inside the base of this case at its rear end was located the cap; a pin which protruded from the outside of the case and internally to the cap, was struck by the hammer; this drove the pin into the cap and exploded it which in turn ignited the charge.  This system was commonly called the needle pin or needle fire system.

The Rim Fire Cartridge

Rim fire cartridges were developed about the same time, but instead of having the fulminate contained in a cap inside the metal cartridge case, it was distributed around the rim of the cartridge case so that as the hammer or firing pin struck anywhere on the periphery of the base of the case. the ignition charge was fired.  This rim fire system is still used on .22 caliber cartridges commonly used in small bore rifles and pistols.

Boxer Primed and Berdan Primed

The center fire cartridge originated from an 1852 design by Charles Lancaster. His principle was different from the modern although it demonstrated the immense advantages of the center fire system.  In 1861 an improved cartridge was introduced by Daw, an English gun maker (the patent of F. E. Schneider of Paris).  Colonel Boxer patented a modified form in which the cartridge case was made of thin sheet brass coiled up and mounted on an iron disc which formed the base.  This was the 'Boxer' cartridge used in the Snider rifle and still in wide use today.

About 1882 'solid drawn brass cases' were being manufactured instead of the built-up case, and in 1870 Colonel Hiram Berdan of the U.S. Ordnance Department introduced a solid drawn brass bottle-necked cartridge with the head of the case thickened to contain a recess known as the cap chamber, which formed an integral nipple in the center acting as an anvil and a flash hole drilled on either side.  The manufacture of the cap chamber is a simple punching process.  Today a rather odd situation exists with Britain using the American Berdan cap chamber, and the USA preferring the Boxer cap with a separate component for an anvil and a single central fire hole.

For the sake of reloading it is simple to remember that "Boxer Primed" cartridges are easy to reload and put back in the box.  Berdan Primed cartridges can be reloaded but require additional steps to ream the primer pocket and to re-form the case.

  The distance you aim above, or hold your sights over the desired point of impact to adjust for bullet drop.  Typically used to correct the point of impact in long range shooting.  Hold over is also used to correct for different ammunition and load characteristics in a hand gun.

HOLD UNDER:  The distance you aim below, or hold your sights under the desired point of impact to adjust for offset at a distance where the bullet is above the point of aim, where the line of sight, due to optics or sights is lower than the path of the projectile.

HOLLOW POINT: A bullet design which features an axial hole at the point. The purpose of the hole is to aid expansion on impact.  Abbreviated "JHP" or "HP." They tend to give more shallow penetration than a similar bullet of Soft Point design.  They are not more "deadly" than non-expanding bullets but are simply an attempt to make a small diameter bullet as effective as a non expanding bullet of a larger diameter.

HOLLOW POINT BULLET: A bullet with a concavity in its nose to increase expansion on penetration of a solid target.  2. A type of bullet with a hollow cavity formed into its nose, designed to expand when it hits a target. The use of hollow points is banned in international warfare by the Hague Convention of 1899 (NOT the Geneva Convention, which covers the use of poison gases and treatment of POWs.) Abbreviated as - HP.

HOPLOPHOBE: An individual with an unreasonable fear of weapons in and of themselves, or of the practice of weapon craft and gunnery.  From the Greek hoplon meaning tool or weapon and phobes meaning fear.

HIGH CAPACITY MAGAZINE: An inexact, non-technical term indicating a magazine holding more rounds than might be considered "average."  Today the term is used to identify  magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.



Under current federal law, magazines manufactured after the 1994 Crime Bill with a capacity of more than ten rounds must be marked "Restricted - Law Enforcement Only". They are refereed to as LEO.  It is illegal for individuals who are not in law enforcement to possess such restricted LEO marked magazines.

Pre Ban  - Many gun owners still have magazines that were manufactured before the ban called Pre Ban Mags, which were not marked Restricted - LEO.  The possession, buying and selling of these magazines is completely legal in most jurisdictions.   (Restrictions on the sale and transfer apply in California).

A great market exists in the sale and trade of pre-ban full capacity magazines. There is a brisk trade among people willing to pay extra for higher magazine capacity.  It is common for used high capacity magazines to sell for two to three times the price of new ten round magazines.  Many 15 round SIG and Beretta pre-ban magazines sell for $75 to $95 dollars or more.

Slang for High Capacity Magazine.  So called High capacity magazines are in fact Full Capacity Magazines, a magazine that can be loaded to the full designed capacity of the firearm.  Under the so called Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, magazine capacity was restricted to only 10 rounds of ammunition.  However, pre-ban magazines or so called "Hi Caps" are still legal to own in all but a few states.  A great market exists in the sale and trade of pre-ban full capacity magazines.  See High Capacity Magazine above.

HIGH READY:  A shooting position where the shooter is holding the gun pointed downrange at or just below the intended target.

HIT FACTOR:  A method of scoring in shooting competition based on the number of points or hits scored per second.  Some scoring systems such as Virginia Count are designed to reward a balance between speed and accuracy. They accomplish this by taking a shooter’s raw score, the number of points they have on the targets,  and dividing it by the number of seconds the shooter took to complete the string.  The resulting number is the shooters hit factor.

H&K: also HK - Abbreviation for Heckler & Koch (Pronounced HECK - LEER & COKE).

HOLLAND, HARRIS: Famed British arms maker Harris Holland (1806-1896) was the founder of the H. Holland Arms Company, established in London England in 1835.  The company was later renamed Holland & Holland when Harris Holland was joined in business by his nephew Henry Holland.  For details on the Holland & Holland company see below.

HOLLAND, HENRY: Nephew and partner of famed British arms maker Harris Holland,  Henry Holland joined his uncles firearms company as an apprentice in 1861.  In 1867 Henry became a full partner and in 1876 the name of the company was changed from H. Holland to Holland & Holland.  Henry Holland was an accomplished arms maker in his own rite and he was responsible for many designs and patents still in use today.

HOLLAND & HOLLAND: Holland & Holland a maker of fine arms, established London 1835. Holland and Holland over the many years has justly earned the reputation for producing some of the finest firearms ever manufactured.  Their Double Rifle chambered for the Large Black Powder Express Cartridges are still among the most powerful rifles ever made, while exhibiting outstanding quality and superior craftsmanship.  All H&H long guns are built per individual special order.  Most of their fine arms are made to order for the famous, the very wealthy and or royalty from many countries.  For serious and affluent sportsmen only, Holland & Holland maintains its renowned service for bespoke shooting suits, as well as made to measure sporting guns.  Many examples of their made-to-order arms cost well over $50,000 with several examples priced over $125,000.00.  Holland & Holland had a big impact on rifle making with numerous patents.  Many of the sidle lock designs were copied all around the world and are normally listed as Holland Design Side-Locks.  Holland & Holland also developed and patented the belted cartridge case in 1904. This cartridge development has led to many famous calibers, the .375 H & H Magnum Belted Rimless being the foremost among them.  The .375 H&H Magnum is still widely used as a dangerous game cartridge.

The Fine Arms of Holland & Holland
Established London 1835

Holland & Holland Sporting 12-Bore Pair Over & Under

A very fine pair of new 12-bore sporting Over & Under with detachable
trigger plate action. The richly figured stock and forend compliments a
brushed-bright finish that highlights deep relief foliate scroll engraving with the Holland & Holland name accented in gold.

Price $108,000

Holland & Holland Royal Deluxe 12-Bore Side-by-Side

A fine new De Luxe 12-Bore Royal side-by-side with double triggers and
traditional splinter forend.  A brushed-bright finish highlights game scene with foliate scroll border engraving.  Sidelock Action, Double Trigger, Straight Stock, Checkered Butt, Stock Length:15 1/4", Weight: 6 Lbs 12 Oz.  

Price $78,500

Holland & Holland Sporting 20-bore
Holland & Holland Sporting 20-Bore Pair Over & Under

A very fine pair of new 20-bore Sporting Over & Under with detachable
trigger plate action. The very well figured stock and forearm compliment the case colored Holland scroll engraving. The 28" barrels feature interchangeable chokes. 

Price $110,000

.300 H&H De Luxe Magazine Rifle

Made in the 1960's, this De Luxe model rifle with scroll engraving and a Monte Carlo stock is in excellent condition. The 24" barrel has Lloyd type mounts holding a Hensoldt scope.  It is currently valued at $12,500

 bar-blue2.gif (1458 bytes)

Great Gun Makers of the World
Holland & Holland
The History of Holland & Holland

Harris Holland

Holland & Holland factory in London circa 1875

The firm Holland & Holland was founded by Harris Holland (1806-96) in the year 1835. Although accounts of his background are somewhat sketchy, it is believed that his father was an organ builder, while Harris had a tobacco wholesale business in London. Obviously he was successful, as he was often seen at various pigeon shoots at important London clubs, as well as leasing a Grouse moor in Yorkshire.

Being a very accomplished shot, his friends convinced him to start his own gun making business. At first the guns bore the inscription H.Holland, without an address, and it is probable that these were built in the trade to his design. It is not known when Harris started his own manufacturing operation, but it is estimated to be in the 1850's. This start makes him very unusual among the London Best makers, as others such as Purdey, Boss, Lang and Lancaster had apprenticed with Joseph Manton, while others such as Beesley, Grant and Atkin apprenticed with Purdey or Boss. 

Having no children of his own, Harris Holland took on his nephew Henry Holland as an apprentice in 1861.  In 1867 Henry became a partner and in 1876 the name changed to Holland & Holland.  Although Henry was a full partner, Harris kept strict control and was the only one who could sign a check until he died in 1896.

A major date in the history of the company is the year 1883, when Holland & Holland
entered the trials organized by the magazine The Field, and won all the rifle categories with flying colors. This set a new standard of excellence for the competition among London gun makers, which they scrambled to catch up to. In 1885 the rights to the trade name Royal were granted, and in the same year the patents were granted to Holland & Holland for the famous Paradox gun, a shotgun with the front two inches of the barrels rifled. 

Holland & Holland had another major impact on rifle making when they developed and patented the belted cartridge case in 1904. This has led to many famous calibers, the .375 H & H Magnum Belted Rimless being the foremost among them. 

In 1908 the well known detachable lock feature with the small lever was patented and the last major development in the sidelock side-by-side occurred in 1922 when the self-opening spring in the fore-end was patented. This gun, the famous self opening Royal side-by-side, has since been copied by most gun makers in all parts of the world, usually described as a "system Holland & Holland" shotgun. 

Holland & Holland was very active for the Ministry of Defense in both world wars. In WW1
they were especially well known for the duplex choke Zeppelin guns that fired a ball and
chain, while in WW2 they produced 23,177 of the highly accurate No.4 (T) the Sniper Rifles. 

Prudent business decisions helped the company through lean times in the gun making
industry. During the depression years, Colonel Jack Holland, son of Henry, sold the very valuable school property in Wimbledon and purchased the land in Northwood, which is still in use by the school today. In the period after WW2, under the leadership of new owner and Managing Director Malcolm Lyell, the company made many sorties to India where guns from the famous collections of the Princes were bought back, which made for excellent business in used guns. Today the company is still thriving. All outstanding shares were purchased in 1989 by the Chanel Group. 

Since then the factory building, in use since 1898, has been extensively renovated and equipped with the latest technology. The Royal Over & Under was improved and reintroduced and is now built in 12, 20, 28 and .410 Gauge, while the new Sporting Over &
Under was introduced with a removable trigger plate lock. Of course the Royal side-by-sides are still built as shotguns and double rifles, as well as bolt action rifles on the Mauser 1898 action.

In the 1990's Holland & Holland has started on a program of major expansion. An exclusive
line of clothing and accessories has been introduced, both for the shooting public and for
discerning ladies and gentlemen to combine quality and fashion. New stores have been opened in Paris on Avenue Victor Hugo and Faubourg St. Honore', in New York at 50 east 57th Street, in Beverley Hills on Rodeo Drive and in London on Sloane Street, while the London flagship store at 31-33 Bruton Street has been completely renovated and expanded. The Shooting Grounds in Northwood have been beautifully modernized and a Sport & Travel Division was added.

Holland & Holland Founded by Harris Holland as a gun making business in 1835, this quintessentially British company’s heritage of superb craftsmanship has formed the basis of its transformation into a global luxury goods brand.  While retaining its country roots, Holland & Holland has - under the guidance of Véronique Leblanc, General Manager since 1998 - developed a younger, more urban and more fashion-oriented signature. 

Holland & Holland celebrated their 165th anniversary in the year 2000.

Information courtesy of Holland & Holland

Holland & Holland
50 East 57th Street
New York NY 10022
Tel: (212) 752-7755


1. A range that allows shooters to carry (usually holstered) loaded weapons away from the firing line.  For safety and liability reasons this is an unusual practice.  The vast majority of ranges in the US are cold ranges.  2. When there is no one downrange from the firing line and a shooter is on the line (preparing to shoot, shooting, or clearing and stowing their weapon) there is a hot range.  At events, declaring the range "cold" or "hot" is at the discretion of the range officer.  Once the RO has called the range hot, no one should pass the firing line.

HOT ROUND:  A nonspecific term describing a round that is more "powerful" than the usual load specification for a round or cartridge of its caliber. In this context "powerful" might mean greater muzzle velocity, greater felt recoil, or a greater power factor.

HOWITZER: An artillery piece which is used to fire projectiles over medium ranges on high trajectories.

HP:  Abbreviation for Hollow Point.

H&R: Harrington & Richardson was in business from 1871 until January 24th 1986. They were in Worchester Mass.  In 1991 H & R 1871, Inc. was formed as a new company.  H & R 1871, Inc. is located in Gardner Mass. They utilize the old H&R Trade Mark and sell to dealers only. They currently make the Sportsman and Ultra Pistols as well as the Topper & Tamer Shotguns.  As far as I know they do not have a web presence.

Translate This Page

International Gun Terms


 1-10 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z