Gunnery Network
Gun Glossary - Letter P
Index of Firearm & Gun Terminology

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Letter - P Page Updated: 06 March 2003

PAIR: Two shots fired quickly.  2. Two clay targets or skeet thrown by the launcher at the same time.

PAN: The part of a Flintlock Rifle that holds the priming charge of black powder.

PARABELLUM: From the Latin meaning "For War".  In gunnery terms, Parabellum is a semiautomatic pistol and cartridge introduced in 1900.  The Parabellum was designed by George Luger, and based on the earlier Borchardt pistol.   The official German military nomenclature was "Pistole '08" or "P 08."  At first, the pistol was chambered for the 7.65mm Parabellum round.   Soon, it was modified to use the 9mm Parabellum cartridge, which is what most people refer to today when  talking about a "9 mm."  Nine (9) millimeter Parabellum ammo is the common "standard" for 9 mm ammunition.  It measures 9x19, and is also called  9mm NATO and just 9mm.

PARALLAX: (Superposed) Occurs in telescopic sights when the primary image of the objective lens does not coincide with the Reticule. In practice, parallax is detected in the scope when, as the viewing eye is moved laterally, the image and the reticules appear to move in relation to each other.

PASSIVE SAFETY DEVICE: A passive safety device is one which automatically engages when the firearm is not in use, without any input from the user, and then automatically disengages to allow the gun to be discharged.    Examples include magazine disconnectors, transfer bars, firing pin blocks, grip safeties and personalized guns.

PATTERN: The distribution of a charge of shot fired from a shotgun.  Generally measured as a percentage of pellets striking inside a 30 inch circle when the shotgun is fired from 40 yards away.  See choke for details and types.

PATCH: A piece of greased cloth used to wrap a round ball used as the bullet in a Muzzle Loading rifle. 2. A piece of lubricated paper wrapped around the bullet in cartridges used in some black powder cartridge rifles.  In either case, the patch fills in space between the bullet and the bore, serves as a gas seal, prevents leading, and  engages the rifling.

PARKERIZING: A matted rust-resistant oxide finish, usually matte or dull gray, or black in color, found on military guns and service pistols.

PC - POLITICALLY CORRECTED: The Politically Corrected Gun Glossary - Click Here

PEEP SIGHT: A type of rear sight used on rifles and shotguns that features a thick-rimmed aperture with a small opening mounted on the firearm's receiver. It is used with a flat topped blade front sight and provides a high degree of accuracy. However, it is difficult to use in dim lighting conditions, especially if an extremely small opening "target" type aperture is used.

PELLET: 1. A single piece of birdshot or buckshot. 2. The bullet fired from an air gun or pellet gun.

PELLET GUN: A rifle or pistol using compressed air or CO2 to propel a skirted pellet as opposed to a spherical BB. Not a firearm.

PELLETS: Small spherical projectiles loaded in shot shells and more often called "shot." Also the skirted projectiles used in pellet guns.

PEPPERBOX: An early form of revolving repeating pistol in which a number of barrels were bored in a circle in a single piece of metal resembling the cylinder of a modern revolver.  Functioning was the same as a revolver, the entire cylinder being revolved to bring successive barrels under the hammer for firing. Though occurring as far back as the 16th century, the pepperbox did not become practical until the advent of the percussion cap in the early 1800's. Pepperboxes were made in a wide variety of sizes and styles, and reached their popularity peak during the percussion period.  Few were made after the advent of practical metallic cartridges.   Both single- and double action pepperboxes were made.  Single barreled revolvers after the 1 840s were more accurate and easier to handle and soon displaced the rather clumsy and muzzle heavy pepperbox.

PERCUSSION CAP: A small cylindrically shaped metal tube that is open on one end and closed on the other.  The percussion cap is partially filled with a chemical, fulminate of mercury a chemical compound which explodes when it is struck.  The open end of the cap is fitted over the "nipple" on the lock of a percussion cap firearm.  The Percussion Cap ignition system was developed in 1805 by the Reverend John Forsyth of Aberdeen Shire. This firing mechanism was a great step in advancement from its predecessors because it does not use an exposed flash pan to begin the ignition process.  Instead, the percussion lock ignition system has a simple tube which leads straight into the chamber of a gun barrel.  The development of the percussion cap greatly reduced lock time and resulted in greater accuracy and in enhanced dependability as the cap system is less likely to fouled or be effected by moisture and weather.

PERCUSSION LOCK:  A firearm lock mechanism using a fulminate of mercury cap as a means of igniting the charge. For additional information on the "Percussion Lock" see the detail box below.

Percussion Lock Firearms

Typical Percussion Lock
The key to the Percussion Lock system is the explosive cap which is placed on top of the tube. The cap contains fulminate of mercury, a chemical compound which explodes when it is struck. 

This is the same chemical used in paper or plastic caps in a child's cap gun. As illustrated above, when the cap is struck by the hammer, the flames from the exploding fulminate of mercury go down the tube, into the gun barrel, and ignite the powder inside the barrel to propel the bullet. 

This firing mechanism provided a major advance in reliability, since the cap was almost
certain to explode when struck. This mechanism is almost immune to dampness, though
in a rainfall one must still be cautious to avoid getting water in the gun barrel or into the
ignition system while loading the weapon. The percussion cap was the key to making
reliable rotating-block guns (revolvers) which would fire reliably, and in the early 1800s
several manufacturers began producing these multiple-shot side arms in mass
quantities. The percussion cap firing mechanism gave an individual soldier a weapon of
precision and reliability which was used to devastating effect in the U.S. Civil War. 

For information on the history & development of firearm locks  - click here.

PERSONALIZED HANDGUN: a.k.a. Smart Gun - Personalized handguns, are a relatively new type of handgun that prevents anyone, other than an authorized user, from firing the gun.  These personalized handguns are modifications of standard revolvers or pistols in which a magnetic or electronic lock has been built into the grip of the gun. When the owner is not holding the handgun, the passive built-in locking device automatically secures the trigger, preventing the handgun from being fired.  The owner of the personalized weapon wears an identifying magnetic ring or radio transmitter bracelet.  When placed next to the grip of the handgun in the proper orientation, the ring or bracelet unlocks the trigger.  The grip is customized to perfectly fit the owner's hand, allowing for easy alignment of the ring or bracelet.  

PHALANX:  From the Greek for a "Square of Spears".  An ancient defensive formation, where the soldiers would be massed in a large square formation with 12 to 18 foot spears protruding on all sides toward the enemy.   In modern gunnery terms, Phalanx is the name for Close-In-Weapons-System or CIWS employed on American military surface ships.   The Phalanx CIWS typically includes a fire direction radar and an automated high speed, high rate of fire, multi- barreled Gatling style gun.  See below.

Phalanx Gunnery on U.S. Surface Ship

Close In Weapons System - CIWS

The Phalanx is part of the Close In Weapons System or CIWS (Pronounced `See-Whiz ) is used as a close in, last line of defense anti-missiles defensive system that fires a hail of projectiles at incoming anti-ship missiles (ASM).  Most American Navy surface combatants use the Phalanx System with an automated 20mm  multi-barreled cannon, similar to the Vulcan Cannon.

A pin or a bolt on which another part pivots. In Gunnery "The pin on which a gun carriage revolves". And a hook or a bolt on the rear of a towing vehicle (Prime Mover) for attaching a mobile field gun or trailer.

PINTLE MOUNT:  A heavy metallic pin or cone used for mounting a heavy machine gun or crew severed weapon on to a tri-pod, bi-pod, fixed mounting system or vehicle mount.

PISTOL: Synonymous with "handgun." A gun that is generally held in one hand.  It may be of the single-shot, multi-barrel, repeating or semi-automatic variety and in current use includes revolvers. Traditionally the term was reserved for a semiautomatic handgun not a revolver.

PISTOL, ACTION:  The working mechanism of the handgun.  This determines the process by which the handgun is cocked, fired, and reloaded. Common types are Single Action, Double Action and Double Action Only.  See the definitions on specific types of handgun actions for more details.

Basic Anatomy of the Semi-Automatic Pistol

semi automatic pistol
  1. Cartridge
  2. Magazine
  3. Grip
  4. Trigger
  5. Hammer Uncocked
  6. Hammer Cocked
  7. Firing Pin
  8. Chamber
  9. Barrel
  10. Slide
  11. Frame

Semi-automatic pistols are handguns which store extra cartridges (1) in a magazine (2) usually located in the grip (3) of the gun.  When the trigger (4) is pulled, the hammer (5-uncocked position) falls from its cocked position (6-phantom), strikes the firing pin (7), which impacts the cartridge in the chamber (8), and discharges the bullet out through the barrel (9). The energy from the discharge causes the slide mechanism (10) to operate, opening the breech and expelling the fired cartridge case. This allows anew cartridge to automatically enter the chamber from the magazine as the slide closes.  These components are all attached to the frame (11).

Pistols can be designed with many intrinsic safety features including:

A. Loaded Chamber Indicator
B. Manual Thumb Safety
C. Grip Safety
D. Magazine Safety
E. Drop Safety (firing pin block)
F. Built-in Lock

table.gif (9922 bytes)
Semi-Automatic Pistol Mechanisms

PISTOL, AUTOMATIC:  The common but improperly used term to describe semi-automatic pistols. See ACTION, SEMI-AUTOMATIC for a description of how these pistols operate.

PISTOL, DOUBLE ACTION:  A pistol mechanism in which a single pull of the trigger cocks and releases the hammer.

PISTOL, SINGLE ACTION:  A pistol mechanism that requires the manual cocking of the hammer before the trigger releases the firing mechanism.

PISTOL GRIP: The handle of a handgun or protrusion on the butt stock or fore-end of a shoulder-operated gun that resembles the grip or handle of a handgun. A "semi-pistol grip" is one less pronounced than normal; a "vertical pistol grip" is more pronounced than normal.

PLINKING: Informal shooting at any of a variety of inanimate targets.  Plinking is the most commonly practiced shooting sport in this country.  Note: Plinking typically refers to casual shooting at pine cones, tin cans, or other such objects for fun and practice.

PLUNGING FIRE:  Plunging Fire is achieved by employing the Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) in an indirect fire mode, similar to artillery.  Because of the long range potential of most HMG's the barrel can be elevated so that the projectiles are highly arched above the line of sight and then plunge downward, impacting on the top of targeted bunkers and fighting positions as well as to the lightly armored roof tops of vehicles, shelters and buildings.  Light Machine Guns (LMG) and Medium Machine Guns (MMG) can not provide Plunging Fire, except when firing from high ground to low ground and when firing into abruptly rising terrain.

POINT BLANK DIAMETER: The diameter of the "must hit" zone of the target.

POLITICALLY CORRECTED: The Politically Corrected Gun Glossary - Click Here.

POLYMER:  Polymers are simply plastics that have many (poly) elements linked together in the molecular chain and are developed in the test tube.  The school answer is: Polymer: a chemical compound or mixture of compounds formed by  polymerization and consisting essentially of repeating structural units.  Also: polymer a chemical compound with high molecular weight consisting of a number of structural units linked together by covalent bonds. The simple molecules that may become structural units are themselves called monomers. A structural unit is a group having two or more bonding sites. In a linear polymer, the monomers are connected in a chain arrangement and thus need only have two bonding sites. When the monomers have three bonding sites, a nonlinear, or branched, polymer results. Naturally occurring polymers include CELLULOSE, PROTEINS, natural RUBBER, and SILK; those synthesized in the laboratory have led to such commercially important products as PLASTICS, synthetic fibers, and synthetic rubber. 

POLYMER FRAME:  A modern handgun frame or receiver made of polymer or plastic.  The polymers used in modern handgun frames and receivers typically consist of high strength synthetic fibers that are mixed with hard but forgiving plastics. The combination of the materials is a little different for each manufacturer and the exact recipe is a trade secret. The key is to get a material that is of low weight and high strength, without becoming brittle. Also reduced machining time and therefore a reduced manufacturing cost.  Polymer frames actually give a little under recoil and this helps to dissipate and absorb some of the perceived recoil.  Many of the polymer framed handguns also have some steel components in them. The newer FN models actually have a serviceable or replaceable steel guide rails that can be changed after several 10's of thousand rounds.

POPE RIB: A rib integral with the barrel.   Designed by Harry M. Pope, famed barrel maker and shooter, the rib made it possible to mount a target scope low over the barrel.

PORT: The word port as it relates to Firearms has many uses and definitions. In most cases the term port refers to an opening or vent manufacturered into the firearm.  Additional uses are below. 

Barrel Port: The openings or vents cut or machined into the muzzle end of a barrel to allow gas to escape and to reduce perceived recoil. Also called Barrel Porting and Ported Barrel.

Cylinder Port: Openings in the cylinder face or frame of a revolver for the passage of loaded ammunition and removal of expended cartridges.

Ejection Port: Opening where expended cartridges and shells are removed from the action or magazine.

Firing Port: A hole in an armored vehicle or a fortified structure for observation or for firing weapons. 

Loading Port: An opening in a firearm for the insertion of ammunition into the magazine, chamber, breech or cylinder. 

Magna Port: A commercial porting process where ports are burned into the muzzle of a firearm.  The Porting is designed to reduce felt recoil and muzzle lift on all types of firearms. More information about Magna-Port and Magna-Break is at URL:

Muzzle Port: The openings or vents cut or machined into the muzzle end of a barrel to allow gas to escape and to reduce perceived recoil. 

Observation Port:  








POSITIVE PRESSURE: Force exerted on the trigger that is uninterrupted and constantly increasing when applied by the pad of the trigger finger in an effort to fire a shot. This pressure is initiated by the presence of a satisfactory minimum arc of movement in conjunction with perfect sight alignment, not perfect sight picture. A perfect sight picture is the absence of movement combined with perfect sight alignment.

POSITION: of a pistol shooter is the relationship of the shooter's body to the target. Proper or natural positioning of the shooter's body points the shooting arm directly at the target center without deviation.

POWDER: The propellant used in most firearms. It produces a large volume of gas when ignited. There are two basic types--smokeless and black powder. Note: Modern ammunition uses a variety of granular propellant that is very sophisticated in nature. You cannot readily interchange terms like powder, gunpowder, or black powder. Unless you take up reloading or black powder firearms you will never have to worry about interacting with powder. Be sure to read manuals and get qualified instruction before doing ANYTHING with any form of powder, just as you would with any other highly flammable substance.

POWDER, BLACK:  The earliest type of propellant, allegedly made by the Chinese or Hindus. First used for firearms in the 13th century, it is a mechanical mixture of potassium or sodium nitrate, charcoal, and sulfur. It makes a large cloud of smoke when fired.

POWDER FUNNEL: A helpful accessory that facilitates transfer of powder.

POWDER MEASURE: An adjustable volumetric measure that lets out uniform charges of powder.

POWDER SCALE: A device used to weigh charges of powder.

POWDER, SMOKELESS:  A modern propellant containing mainly nitrocellulose or both nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin. Relatively little smoke is created when fired.

POWER FACTOR:  Formula for determining points scored and category of competition in IPSC Action Shooting competition.  Major Power Factor is scored higher than minor power factor on all B - C and D zone hits on the target.  To determine the IPSC power factor use: Weight x Velocity 1000.


Bullet weight (grains) x Velocity (measured in feet per second) and Divided by 1000.

Major Power Factor 165 or Above  -  Minor Power Factor 125 - 164

You do the Math

IPSC Power Factor = Weight x Velocity 1000 = Power Factor

Typical .45 ACP   230 x 820 = 188600 1000 = 188 Power Factor

230 grain .45 ACP @ 820 fps = 188 Power Factor - Scored as Major

Typical 9mm  125 x 1250 = 156250 1000 = 156 Power Factor

125 grain 9mm bullet at 1250 fps would make a 156 Power Factor - Scored Minor

Note: IPSC Major Power factor was changed to 165 on 1 May 2000

Note: For IDPA Power Factor use the same formula but do not divide by 1000

POWER FLOOR:  A minimum allowable power factor.   IDPA has a power floor of 125,000 calculated as bullet weight (grains) x velocity (feet per second).  This is equivalent to the minor power floor of 125 in IPSC.    IDPA does not divide by 1000 for the calculation.

PPK: Walther's Pistol Police Kriminal.



Written by Patrick Sweeney
Northwest Gunsmithing, Redford, MI


Or, how to work on and buy AR rifles without getting yourself in trouble.

  What with the Crime Bill (now the Crime Law) behind us, gunsmiths and retailers who deal in used firearms will be seeing AR's and their clones in a variety of configurations. The problem is, not all of these rifles will be legal under the very specific requirements of the current law. According to the law, a rifle is an "assault weapon" if it has a detachable magazine, and two or more of the following:

 1) A folding or telescoping stock.

2) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action.

3) A bayonet mount.

4) A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor.

5) A grenade launcher.

  This means that you can have a detachable magazine and one other of the features. Also, according to the law, you can't assemble such a rifle from parts on hand and a spare lower receiver, which I'll explain in greater detail, later. But, you can still own, sell, trade and repair the existing ones.

Can you still make them as rifles used in competition? Sure. For High Power competition, rifles without flash-hiders and bayonet lugs have been approved. For U.S.P.S.A. three gun competition, you can attach a compensator provided it isn't a flash-hider. For most compensators this isn't a problem, because they actually enhance the flash. But, some compensators (the Muzzle-Miser comes to mind) have flash-hiders incorporated into their design. You can't attach such a design to a Post-ban rifle, even if you don't use threads. A slip-on flash suppressor pinned in place would not be allowed.

  Can you use a threaded barrel and silver-solder or weld the compensator to it? Theoretically, yes. But, I wouldn't. Underneath that compensator are threads, and the law specifically says no threads. A few minutes with a torch and off spins the compensator. Welded? That would be better, but I personally wouldn't. Epoxy? Get out of here. A few minutes with a propane torch and you're in a heap o' trouble.

  Press it on, solder it, cross-pin it, use set screws, but, just to be safe, don't thread it on. Then again, a compensator isn't allowed for NRA High Power Competition, but that's a match rule, not the law.

  The same rules apply when silver-soldering on a cap to cover the threads, with some idea of uncovering them if some future event takes place and the law is changed. The thing to do, if you really want to do a Pre-ban upper to a Post-ban lower and the barrel is threaded, cut the threads off and re-crown the barrel. This is completely legal so long as the barrel was never installed onto the rifle when it had threads.

  One case I heard of third-hand, is of a shooter who had his barrel threaded for a non-standard thread (not fit - 28 tpi) to screw on his compensator on the theory that since a flash-hider couldn't be installed on the barrel, he was okay. I'm glad I don't know him personally, as I wouldn't look forward to telling him his setup is unlawful. The law says "no threads" not "you can't use the standard thread pattern".

  One approach, used by JP-Enter- prises on rifles they assemble, is to use a thumbhole-style stock to remove the "conspicuous pistol grip" and then install a threaded barrel. Hmmmmm. As enticing as it seems, stocks are too easily changed for me to be enthusiastic about this approach. If I had an okay in writing from the BATF for a particular stock design I might try it. I bet JP Enterprises does!

Obviously, if you have a mixed inventory NEVER mix uppers between Pre-and Post-ban rifles. Installing Post-ban uppers on Pre-ban lowers is allowed, but why would you? But, how can you tell just which kind of rifle you have? Suppose a customer comes in your shop with an AR-15 clone in need of repair or modification. How can you tell if it's a Pre- or Post-ban rifle. In some cases this would be easy, but if you're not familiar with the particular manufacturer it may not be so easy because AR-15's and clones fall into three broad groups. Pre-ban, middle group, and Post-ban.

  When the law was signed, the various manufacturers were caught with shop floors full of rifles in some stage of assembly and the BATF made a slight change in how the law would be interpreted. Previously, a rifle was a serial numbered receiver. After the Crime Bill became law, they defined a rifle as an assembled rifle, or a parts kit together as a package. That means, if you were making AR's and had 5,000 finished receivers in inventory, but had only enough parts to assemble 1,000 receivers into complete rifles, you now had 1,000 Pre-ban rifles and 4,000 Post-ban receivers in your shop, even though the receivers were manufactured before the bill had been signed into law. To make things even worse for identification purposes, the serial numbers may not have been in strict numerical order.

  Also, add in this additional complication: if you as a retail customer or dealer had a lower receiver on hand that was manufactured before the law was signed, but you didn't have all the parts on hand to assemble it into a complete rifle, you could not now assemble it into a legal, Pre-ban rifle. If you had all the parts on hand before the bill was signed into law, you could still assemble it into a legal, Pre-ban configuration.

  If someone comes into your shop with a box full of parts, and wants you to assemble it into a rifle, you had better see the invoices for the parts so you can verify that they were all purchased before September 13, 1994. Without invoices to prove when the parts were purchased, it would not be legal to assemble it into a Pre-ban rifle. However, if he has invoices to prove all parts were in his possession prior to the signing of the Crime Bill, then it's okay to build it. Can you fit a new upper to a Post-ban rifle? Sure. If it is a parts kit with a threaded barrel you'll have to cut off the threads and grind or file off the bayonet lug.

  Can you still buy a barrel that's threaded? Yes. Just don't put it on a Post-ban lower. You can put a threaded barrel onto a Pre-ban rifle that needs a replacement barrel. Pre-ban guns were grand fathered in as part of the law.

  If you are offered a bare lower that shows no signs of ever having been assembled, be cautious. You never know when it may be a test. Also, closely inspect every magazine of an over-10 round capacity that shows up in your shop. We've already had one wholesaler send us a pistol with a pair of "law enforcement only" marked magazines. Needless to say, we didn't even wait for the UPS truck to show up to get those back on their way to the factory. Hidden in that box of bargains someone is selling you from his dead Uncle's collection may be potential headaches.

  My thanks to Reid Coffield, head of Brownells Technical Support Group, for his sage advice, encouragement and the opportunity to add to the collective knowledge of the Gunsmithing community. I sincerely hope this keeps all gunsmiths out there out of trouble!


I've assembled a short list of many of the manufacturers of AR-15 rifles and clones. Also included is the person that you can speak with if you need information on a specific serial number. If you are in doubt as to just when the rifle you're dealing with was manufactured you might want to make a phone call and find out. Just to be on the safe side.

Armalite/Eagle - Armalite
P.O. Box 299
Geneseo, IL 61254
(800)-336-0184 "Krista"

Post-ban cutoff right around 30,000. Because of the jumbled numbers, call Krista and she can tell you what status the rifle had when they last saw it.

Colt - Colt's Manufacturing
P.O. Box 1868
Hartford, CT 06144
(203)-236-6311 "Randy"

All "Match Target" rifles are Post-ban. Colt actually has serial number cutoffs, these are the last Pre-ban numbers in each series: CC001616, NL004800, TA10100, CHOI 9500, SL027284, BD000134, GCOI 8500, SP380200, LH011326, ST038100, MH086025


Defense Procurement Manufacturers Service, Inc.
13983 Industry Ave.
Becker, MN 55308
(612)-261-5600 "Alicia"

Jumbled serial numbers, call to get the history of suspect receivers.

Olympic - Olympic Arms
620 Old Pacific Hwy.
Olympia, WA 98513
(206)-459-7940 "Tom"

Post-ban production is year-prefixed, but they too, had receivers in the "float". Non-prefixed serial numbers are not a guarantee of actual Pre-ban status. Newer Post Ban Oly Lowers are labeled PCR for "Politically Correct Rifle".

Bushmaster- Quality Parts Co.
999 Roosevelt Trail
Wingham, ME 04062
(207)-892-2005 "Pam"

Serials above 1063000 are positively Post-ban, otherwise call to be sure.

E.A.Co. - Essential Arms Co.
P.O. Box 121
Krotz Springs, LA 70750

All receivers were manufactured before the Crime Bill was signed. Almost everyone shipped before the signing. E. A. never assembled or sold complete rifles, so all receivers were shipped as receivers only. You're on your own. Closed up, and quit manufacture as of March 31, 1996.

PWA - Pac-West Arms
2729 Glenmore Ct. SE

Definite serial cutoff. Last Pre-ban lower is #35,222. All PWA Post-ban receivers are given a year prefix.

PRESSURE: Force per unit area, measured in interior ballistics terms of pounds per square inch. The force exerted by a burning charge of powder in the chamber of a firearm. Expressed normally in pounds per square inch.

PRIMER: A small metal cap containing the detonating mixture which is used to ignite the propellant charge. The ignition component of a cartridge, generally made up of a metallic fulminate or (currently) lead styphnate.   The primer is the tiny nub in the center of most ammunition (or along the rim of .22-caliber ammunition). When struck it will cause a small spark inside the cartridge, igniting the powder and firing the bullet.

PRIMER POCKET: The cavity in the base of a cartridge which receives and supports the primer.

PRISM: A solid figure of optical glass whose bases or ends have the same size and shape and are parallel to one another, and each of whose sides is a parallelogram. A transparent body of this form, often of glass and usually with triangular ends, used for separating white light passed through it into a spectrum or for reflecting beams of light.

PRISM SIGHT:  An optical instrument or "Scope" that uses a prism for optical clarity and differential range finding. Also used for spectrographic analysis. Differential Range Finding is made possible by a looking or sighting through different widths of the prism and comparing the distance from two know points.

PRISMATIC SIGHTING SYSTEM:  Prismatic Sighting System are used in range finding equipment and inclinometers. The typical Prismatic Sighting System has a clear, open to light, parallax-free prismatic magnification system on top of an aluminum or metal housing, making it extremely easy to obtain accurate range and distance readings even in dark conditions. The Silva Combi Compass uses a prismatic sighting system that is extraordinarily accurate

PROJECTILE: A ball, shot or bullet fired from a firearm. The projectile is typically a metallic object, like a bullet or a contact or proximity fused artillery shell or mortar shell, that is "Propelled" down range by the ignition of the gun powder or "propellant".   

PROOF MARK: A stamped or engraved symbol.   Proof marks are usually applied to all parts actually tested, but normally appear on the barrel (and possibly frame), usually indicating the country of origin and circa of proof (especially on European firearms). In the U.S., there is no federalized or government proof house, only the manufacturer's in-house proof mark indicating that a firearm has passed its internal quality control standards per government specifications.

PROOF MARK:  On European guns, is quite specific, indicating proof house and all proofs performed, sometimes also date of proof.   Proof marks are applied to all parts actually tested, usually on the barrel, and that in the white that is, not blued, and without sights. In the U.S., there is no federalized or government proof house, only the manufacturer's in-house proof mark indicating that a firearm has passed their internal quality control standards per government specifications.

PROPELLANT: In a firearm the chemical composition that is ignited by the primer to generate rapidly expanding gasses. In most firearms, the propellant is typically a form of "Gun Powder" or in primitive arms a variant of "Black Powder". In air guns or pellet guns, the propellant is typically compressed air or CO2.

PUMP GUN: Common name for a slide action repeating firearm.  As in a "Pump Shotgun".

PUMP SHOTGUN - PUMP ACTION SHOTGUN: A slide action shotgun.  The type of "Action" typical of a shotgun,  where the action is cocked, cycled and unlocked with the cartridges or shells being loaded and ejected by way of sliding or "pumping" the Fore-End Grip from its forward (locked) position to its rear most (unlocked) position. See illustration below.


Pump Shotgun

Cartridges or shells are typically loaded through the magazine loading port on the bottom of the receiver and stored in the magazine or magazine tube located under the barrel.  When the trigger is pulled or the slide release button is depressed, the action is cycled by sliding or pumping the for-end grip to the rear,   all the way back until it stops.  This action slides the bolt to the rear, opens the ejection port and ejects the spent cartridge or shell.  As the for-end grip is slid or pumped forward, the bolt moves forward, the ejection port closes and a shell is lifted up from the magazine and inserted into the chamber of the barrel and the trigger is reset.   The action must be manually cycled by pumping or sliding the for-end grip from front to rear and back to front after each subsequent round is fired.

A very large flint or percussion lock rifle used during the early 1800's to the mid 1900's to shoot game birds and water foul.  See below.

Punt Gun
The Worlds Largest Sporting Arms

Punt Gun and Gunning Punt
 Punt Gun in Gunning Punt

Punt Guns are very large flint or percussion lock firearms, used during the early 1800's to the mid 1950's to shoot large parties of game birds, typically water foul. 

Punt Guns were usually single barreled and were made in form and function very similar to any number of muzzle loading percussion lock guns, but on a greatly larger scale.

Punt Guns were typically 8 to 14 feet long, weighing upwards of 150 to 200 pounds, with a barrel length of 9 to 12 feet and with a bore diameter of up to 5 inches.  

Because of their size they were normally mounted or lashed to a small "Gunning Punt" or canoe, similar to a shallow draft kayak, after they were loaded.  Some were yoke mounted near the water front or spiked to a ground mount and simply laid on or near the ground at the waters edge.

The loading process was very complicated and it often took the "punter" more than an hour to load a single shot.  One shot could hold between 6 ounces and 1 1/2 pounds of shot.  Punt Guns would be loaded with black powder and shot and then attached to a stand setting on or near the water or lashed on to the small punting boat.  

Gunning Punt - Punting Boat with small Punt Gun

The punter, hunter or commercial gamer would then use small paddles to quietly row the "Punt" into an area with several game birds.  The birds were "pot shot" while they sat upon the water.  The punt boat would absorb the massive recoil, typically moving the boat backwards several feet.  When fired the Punt Gun was capable of falling 20 to 40 game birds or water foul with one shot.  There are reports of a Punt Gun falling over 100 birds with one shot.   

In the late 1800's Punting was fashionable with rich armature hunters and a demand for breech loading punt guns produced fine examples of breech-loading punters, several of which are still in use by British Gaming Clubs and displayed in museums today.  The most famous punt guns  being made by Holland & Holland and Sir Thomas Bland, both of London.  Bland still occasionally make a six-ounce screw breech gun as well as a double four bore, designed so that both barrels can be fired at ounce with the pull of a lanyard.  The four bore shoots a total charge of six (6) ounces.

Many hunters, naturalists and sportsmen believe that Punt Gunning is simply "murder" and is not sporting or humane.  Punt guns were banned in 1910 and finally disappeared in the 1930s. Punt Gunning is still illegal in the United States and was restricted in Great Britain by the Wild Birds Act of 1954, to a Punt Gun with a barrel diameter smaller than 1 3/4 inches.  Even today, Punting and Punt Guns are listed as prohibited in American Hunting Regulations such as the example taken from the North Carolina Game Bird Regulations that follow.  " No person shall take migratory game birds with trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than 10 gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, fishhook, poison, drug, explosive, or stupefying substance."

One who hunts with or other wise uses a "Punt Gun".  Today in Great Britain the term refers to a sportsman, a gambler or more commonly a "bookie".

PYRODEX: A trade name for a black powder substitute, the only such safe substitute known at this time.

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