Words have power. Even the ordering of words can have dire consequences. As the ancient Greek philosopher George Carlin used to say, “It’s okay to prick your finger, but don’t finger your…” Well, you get the idea. Careful use of words is always prudent.

As a freedom-loving liberty champion, banning things goes against my grain. But just this once, I suppose I could take a lesson from the anti-gunners and be okay with bans as long as it’s something I agree with. A little hypocrisy never hurt anyone, right?

So if I did fall off the anti-hypocrisy wagon, I might consider supporting a ban on these gun-related words…

1. Knockdown power

A couple of months back I wrote about the fallacy of “knockdown power.” I take this term at face value as to its meaning. It implies that a gun can fire a projectile that has enough force to literally knock someone down. It works in the movies so it must be real, right?

When things are shot, they go down, drop down, spring down, fall down, jump, or do nothing at all—just to name a few of the possible outcomes. A bullet from a normal handgun simply does not have enough momentum to physically knock someone down. Try shooting a 150-pound object that contains no nerves, pain receptors, organs, or capacity for fear response and you’ll see that it does not fly across the room when struck. Heck, it won’t even fall down unless you balance it precariously.

How about if we all agree to replace the word “knockdown power” with something more accurate? Perhaps “Hey! This really hurts!” power. Or maybe “encourage someone to stop whatever bad thing they’re doing” power? If we want to be descriptive, we could use “ability to make holes” power. These are just a few ideas and I’m always open to suggestions.

2. Operator

Every time I hear the word operator I feel like I’m watching an episode of General Hospital. I get the word “operative” because it’s been used in old spy books and movies forever. Operatives are people who wear tuxedos, crash exclusive parties with style, and get all the girls. They’re sneaking around and operating spy gadgets like exploding fountain pens. But operator? I’m just not feeling the love with that one.

If any of you reading this are, in fact, operators for your full-time profession, help me understand why you’re called operators. Why not something more descriptive like warrior ninjas, Action Jacksons, or Imperial Storm Troopers?

3. Tactical

Some words have lost all rational meaning through overuse. I understand the word tactical and have no beef with its correct and original use. According to the Google machine:

tac·ti·cal (adjective)
of, relating to, or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end.

Makes total sense to me. But applying that label to things like pizza cutters, meat cleavers, and tactical balls is a bit much for me. Yes, I get that an army marches on its stomach, but is a pizza cutter really part of the tactical advantage? With all the tactical clothes, classes, and products, you’d think we were living in ancient Sparta.

Just to be really clear, I have no beef whatsoever with the name of CMMG’s Tactical Bacon. Because bacon. I said before that I was okay with a bit of hypocrisy as long as I agreed with the premise.

4. Gun violence

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you use words like “gun violence” you’re shifting the focus away from the behavior and to the object. In some way, it removes some of the blame and responsibility from the perpetrator. I think the use of terms like this insults the victims of all other forms of violence—it implies that their experience wasn’t as meaningful. “Oh, you only got killed with a cricket bat? It sure sucks for you that your death was so uninteresting to politicians and the media.”

I’ll buy into using the term “gun violence” when mainstream media reporters and politicians use equally descriptive words like “Dessert Spoon Violence.

5. Gun sense

While we’re at it, how about this one? Any time someone tells me they want to do something ridiculous because it’s just “common sense” or good “gun sense,” I tune out. Common sense is one of those fallback positions you use when facts are not on your side, so let’s lose that argument altogether. Besides, there are a lot of people out there whose “common sense” I don’t trust to help them escape from a wet cardboard box.

After all, banning this word is just common sense, right?

6. Pill

I read gun magazines by the metric ton. Yes, it’s a sickness, but that’s for another day. Sometimes I think writers get paid for using as many words as possible to describe the same thing. I can’t explain why exactly, but use of the word “pill” instead of bullet or projectile drives me nuts. Is it a “pill” because it’s delivering “medicine” to bad guys? Or is there some underhanded reference to little blue pills that enhance masculinity and, umm, power? I dunno.

I know there’s words out there in the gunny world that bug the heck out of you. What are they?

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.

Image by Tom McHale

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26 thoughts on “6 Gun Terms That Should Be Banned

  1. You got my top 5.

    I have had the “Gun Violence vs All Forms of Violence” conversation a few times and it’s like talking to my pet rabbit. There is absolutely no comprehension.

    Tactical and Operator both conjure images of overweight Mall Ninja types that spend their evenings playing Black Ops in their basements surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of gear they don’t know how to wear or use. . They have ruined the true meanings of both words for me.

    Gun Sense is a secret code that translates to “Civilian Disarmament”.

    Knockdown Power to me is someone shooting a firearm that is WAY too powerful for them, and they get knocked down… on their ass (think .700 Nitro Express or .950 JDJ Youtube Videos). Shot placement trumps muzzle energy.

    I have no real problem with “pill”. When I see that I just figure that the author doesn’t know how to spell projectile.

    1. I always thought those types of people were “geardos” in reference to Bob on the FOB rather than “operators.” Hey, what the hell do I know?

    2. Gun violence. Yeah… Like doughnut violence or car violence. Just make sure to associate the word “gun” with some other word that has a very negative meaning. “Gun suffering”. “Gun pain”. “Gun agony”. “Gun nausea”. Gun gun gun gun gun…..

  2. “Operator” is the term that Special Forces (I mean SPECIAL FORCES, not “Special Operations Forces) use to refer to themselves. If you don’t know what Special Forces is, or how it differs from Special Operations Forces, and are interested enough, look it up. Like many military terms, “operator” has bled into the gun-loving lexicon because there are millions of people out there who don’t want to serve, or who wouldn’t make the grade, but they love the look and the lingo.

  3. As a veteran and having been in the community where people are considered to be “operators” I understand the term and respect it in the sense that it is almost a title of respect acknowledging their mastery of the skill set to achieve that level of perfection in the trade. That being said, I have always preferred the term “trigger man” as I feel it is a more accurate description of what you actually do in a more conventional battlefield as it was in “OIF” and “OEF” at least what I did, I can not speak for others experience. My two sense…

  4. “SOF” or Special Operations Forces encompass all 5 branches of the Military’s Elite Units as well as special units in Law Enforcement and Corrections. Hence if you are a member of one of those units, you are an “Operator”

  5. Rhetoric.. words.. are important. Indeed, words are vital to understanding and persuading. But words convey more than ideas; they convey values, ethics, character and judgment. Here’s a ‘words’ issue that bothers me. I welcome comments. Hunters using the word ‘harvest’ rather than ‘kill,’ as in I harvested an elk this season. The reality is that the elk died and it died because a hunter killed it. My main concern: some hunters and writers use the word ‘harvest’ because they have been intimidated to not use the word ‘kill’ because ‘kill’ is too brutal and too honest and that hunters don’t want to be viewed as killers. Do hunters want to be viewed as harvesters? To use the word ‘harvest’ as opposed to ‘kill’ creates a kind of moral equivalence between cutting down corn with a combine and shooting a living breathing animal. I think the word ‘harvest’ demeans the animal. I welcome your thoughts.

    1. Operators are nameless persons who connect lines of communication. Or connects some brass to somebody without getting your white gloves dirty.

  6. My opinion – make “Weapon” your number one term to be banned.
    Guns are tools, the people that use them are the “Weapons”. Try beating a liberal to death with common sense, logic, and facts – your wasting your breath. It really takes a tool to get thru to them.
    Unfortunately, most of them only learn thru intimate experience, and for many it is too late.

    1. +1 on the use of “Weapon” another pet peeve I have is “accidental” as in “Accidental discharge” Call them what they are, guns, firearms, rifle, pistol,Shotgun and please, they are NEGLEGENT discharges.

      1. When I was 16, that happened quite frequently. Fortunately, by 18, and having spent plenty of time under the tutelage of experienced tacticians…I had learned enough to keep it under control.

  7. Knock down power. Something my sledgehammer has, but your handgun caliber bullet does not. How about terminal effectiveness. Nah, it doesn’t “sing.”
    Operator. Visions of Lilly Tomlin and her “one ringy dingy…two ringy dingies…” float in my head. Look her up kids. Then look up “dialing” a telephone number.
    Tactical. Tactical briefs (skivies) makes me wonder just what tactics are involved. Tactical bacon? That is part of how I got to be twice the man I used to be.
    Gun violence. As I get older, and less able to mix it up with the young punks, I am developing a preference for using this type of violence – in theory of course.
    Gun sense. If you are using this phrase to communicate an idea to me, you just wasted time for both of us, as I don’t know what it means. So, you are a failure.
    Pill. I take 7 every night and 4 more during the day. Don’t confuse me because you are too lazy to write “bullet.” It is shorter than “projectile” already.

    * Bonus * Common Sense. A shared idea with near universally accepted merit. Such as, not sticking your tongue in various electrical outlets to see if electricity comes in different flavors. By watching an episode of shows like Ridiculousness, Worlds Dumbest, or AFV, and counting the number of groin hits, one would have to beleive the entire concept is completely lost on the young.

  8. I would add “Assault Weapon” to the list…If I hear the media or politicians use the term one more time my head might explode…

  9. Most of these terms are actually from the Military.

    Knockdown power was actually a means of describing a round that didn’t just put someone on the ground but actually killed them. The likely hood of it hitting a non-vital area and still causing enough damage that they would be out of the fight permanently. It was basically just a civilian friendly way of saying it.

    Despite all of the random shit going around about the origin of operator…it IS from SOF across the board. Each special operations unit has it’s non-combat support MOSs that help them. The one’s who actually did the missions were “operators” while the ones who stayed back were “legs”. Airborne units then stole the term because they thought it made them sound cool.

    Civilians using the term tactical makes no sense.

    Gun sense was a term used in a lot of training, basically it revolved around firearms safety…eg don’t point the weapon at anything you’re not willing to shoot.

    I’m pretty sure pill actually comes from pillbox, the old fortified machine gun nests.

    Just for shits and giggles…everyone remember people going around saying bling? It was actually a term popularized by POWs as a reference for artillery back in either WWII or Korea.

  10. So if I block my Queen with a pawn that’s not a tactical move? Or, if I choose not to rack my pump shotgun because I might loose my tactical advantage (surprise) when I know there is someone in my home that’s not “tactical?” Or if police, who, remember are not military and therefore civilians in every sense of the word, establish a perimeter around a hostage situation, that’s not a tactical maneuver? None of these examples are military issues yet I believe the term is still used correctly.

    Using the “Google machine” I found this alternate definition: (of a person or their actions) showing adroit planning; aiming at an end beyond the immediate action.
    “in a tactical retreat, she moved into a hotel with her daughters”

    Omitting all the pertinent information is as disingenuous as outright lying.

  11. “Run”. Use/fire/carry the gun, don’t run it.
    “System”. It’s a holster/rifle/sling/pair of underwear, not a system
    “Casing”. That’s what sausage is wrapped in.

    Descriptive dictionary users need not reply. 🙂

  12. Decades before Viagra, “blue pill” was known as a high pressure test cartridge, per ‘Hatcher’s Notebook’.

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